photo by Jeremiah Trimble
On August 8, Vern Laux spotted a Mississippi Kite at Katama Airport on Martha's Vineyard. Or was it? Something was nagging in the back of Vern's mind. Vern issued a Good Bird alert to island birders, and as people were admiring it Sally Anderson got some photos. Vern couldn't open Sally's digital photos, so emailed them to Miah Trimble at the Harvard MCZ, which got Miah's attention. He was on the next boat and captured some wonderful photos (including the one at the top of the page). It was a Red-footed Falcon, the first appearance of this species in the Americas.

On August 18 I went to the Vineyard with my birding partners Renee LaFontaine and Alan Ankers. The three of us are generally local birders. We all have special lists we work on - Renee lists birds she's seen on Mystic Lake. Alan lists birds he's seen in Medford. I list birds I've seen on the topographic map around my house. We don't typically chase birds.

But this was different, an event, an adventure. We decided to go.

Despite the mid-week date, the edge of the road was already crowded with birders from all over the country. But they weren't looking at the airfield. Not a good sign. The bird was not being seen.

Finally someone yelled out "over the flagpole, flying right!" and everyone (including us) jumped to attention. There it was flying, with long, powerful wings, pausing midair to snatch a dragonfly and eat it on the wing, then soaring, flying, kiting again to survey the airfield. Swallows strafed it as it poached in the insect flock they were exploiting. It was wonderful.

Alan, Renee, and I were three happy people. The falcon landed several times, but on the west side of the airfield and we were on the east side. As the sun swung toward the west, we decided to relocate to the other side for the better light and hopefully better views.

On the other side there was a television crew filming birders.

We also ran into Vern, who was being interviewed by the television crew.

Peter Alden has his turn being interviewed, and he shows pictures of the falcon to the camera and bystanders.

After settling in to some excellent views, Alan and Renee pulled out their lunches. I ate one of Renee's cookies and a handful of Alan's blueberries. It may look as if there weren't many people at this end of the airport, but we had stationed ourselves at the end of the line. I walked up the road:

There were plenty of birders.

Finally, after three hours of admiring this beautiful bird - perching, flying, hunting, eating - I was fading fast, so we walked to the airport restaurant so I could get a sandwich and Alan and Renee could get cold drinks. We ran into Vern and Peter and their group there.

Peter and his friend decided a biplane ride would be an interesting view of the falcon (note Peter's binoculars).

and I guess they enjoyed their trip.
We spent another half hour watching the bird, but running out of steam, caught the ferry back.

We had a nice day.