A priceless gift to an avid birder

Choices We Make

Story and photos by Donald Casavecchia

Two summers ago, a passing midday thunderstorm produced a very loud lightning strike that hit the tallest tree bordering our front lawn, sending slabs of bark flying in all directions.  As the year progressed, it was obvious our black cherry tree was a goner.  Because the tree didn’t pose any danger to our home, and I had plenty of windblown trees down, I chose to leave it standing.

Since making that decision, I’ve watched, cursed, and hauled off large limbs that other windstorms have fallen.  I’ve also observed many species of birds perched, preening, just enjoying the mere height of the remaining bare trunk.

Early morning visit by the juvenile.

This last week of August that dead cherry tree brought a priceless gift my way.  A family of four Mississippi Kites have been perching, preening, and hawking cicadas from the few remaining branches.  As an avid birder, I knew that such a gift would be tough to beat. In retrospect, the unlikely decision to leave the tree was the right one — it gave me the opportunity to see birds that are extremely rare in Virginia.

The kites have moved on, but the priceless gift of their visit remains fixed in my mind and with over a hundred photos taken. Climate change may have an affect on the migration of Mississippi Kites; experts predict them possibly moving into the Virginia area by 2080. So maybe these were just “early birds.” My hope is that our dead black cherry tree stands for a few more summers and my welcomed visitors return.

About Mississippi Kites

This small raptor [a member of the hawk and eagle family] is usually seen in graceful flight, gliding and swooping acrobatically as it pursues large insects in midair. It breeds in the southern United States, from northern Florida to central New Mexico and very locally in Arizona, but its main population center is now on the southern Great Plains… More of a long-distance migrant than most raptors… large numbers are seen in fall migration in eastern Mexico, Panama, and Bolivia.”

Information from National Audubon Society

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