Every day on my way to work, I drive by a bunch of low-lying pastures and fields in an area that I now know is called Arcata Bottoms. (What a great descriptive name.) I didn't pay much attention to this area -- except to admire its views -- until early November when I began to occasionally glimpse a big white bird hovering over the fields as I drove past....
I really, really wanted to see one of these birds up close, so on Saturday, November 21, I brought my camera with me and drove down some side roads in the bottoms. It was a gray, overcast sort of day, but sure enough, I found the big white hunter. It's a White-tailed Kite!
White-tailed Kites (and kites in general, for that matter) are entirely new for me, and I'm super impressed by these birds. They're white raptors! And they hover! This bird ended up hovering very near my car as it looked for a furry meal in the grass below. I love those dark wing patches:
At times it was hovering almost directly above my head (boy would I not want to be a rodent with this creature lurking above):
After a few seconds of hovering, the kite would wheel and dive; gah, look at those talons:
I made a brief video of the hovering kite in action; I'm still so impressed by this gorgeous raptor's skills:
At least one of the kite's dives was successful, and it ended up perched on a fence post with a furry morsel in its grasp, giving me a new (if distant) view of this awesome creature:
Mmm, small mammal meal:
The White-tailed Kite drew me onto these back roads, but then once I started exploring the area, there turned out to be an amazing amount of wildlife here. Flocks of sparrows and blackbirds foraged in the shrubs and farmland, a tiny American Kestrel hunted from a power line, and the many small waterways were dotted with ducks and shorebirds. Two little Pied-billed Grebes were diving up and down in the water:
A large flock of Cackling Geese (like Canada Geese with strangely shrunken heads and necks) flew around calling before finding a suitable field in which to land:
And although I'm not normally a cow person (and they're hardly wildlife), I was charmed by several of these big creatures. Like this lady, who kept an eye on me the whole time I was nearby:
And this calf, who demonstrated both the definition of cuteness and the usefulness of prehensile tongues:
With all the rain we have been getting in recent weeks, waterways and pools are even more numerous in Arcata Bottoms now, and I know there are many, many birds out there. After some research on eBird, I also now know that this place has owls. I have a feeling I will be returning to Arcata Bottoms soon!