Great Kiskadee bird chase at McPherson SFL. 29 September 2013
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Mon, 30 Sep 2013 21:29:50 -0500
Great Kiskadee bird chase at McPherson SFL. 29 September 2013
McPherson SFL Great Kiskadee
29 September 2013
A vagrant bird, the Great Kiskadee, was first reported to the Kansas birding community earlier in the month, creating a big buzz. At first, I scoffed at the idea of trying to photograph this bird, because I figured for sure it would not stick.. plus the fact, McPherson SFL is just under 3 hours from Dodge City. This would be a day-long commitment. Well, I had the weekend of September 27-29 off, but I had plans to storm chase on Friday 27th, so that ruled out the bird chase. A strong cold front with widespread storms was going to move through Kansas Friday Night, and figured that this would be the weather system that would finally move the vagrant bird out. Then came Saturday and the bird was still there, based on email and Facebook reports. I had a free day Sunday and the weather was going to be perfect -- very little wind and clear skies -- perfect birding and photography weather. I studied the Kiskadee call the night before so I knew what to listen for. Reports were that it would all infrequently, but that when it did, it could be heard from just about anywhere at the small lake. I left Dodge City shortly after 4am in order to get there by daybreak. After a couple hours of hearing its infrequent call and trying to find and see it, I finally had success (along with three other birders from Manhattan who I ran into). The 4 of us got a brief, clean look at it high in a tree at the campground on the west side of the lake. After its brief perch out in the open and some good images, it flew off into a denser woods not to be seen again. It was getting later in the morning and I decided to end the morning pursuit and head to Wichita to grab lunch at one of my favorite restaurants. I drove back to the lake early in the afternoon and resumed the search. The bird was still rather inactive, but it would occasionally call, this time on the east side of the lake where it seemed to favor during its 2+ week stay. I set up shop with some other birders who were already there on the west shore looking across the lake to the other side. Beginning around 4:45pm, the Kiskadee started to show more regularly, perching about 10 to 15 feet above the water. It then began to feed by making quick dives into the water then right back up into overhanging brush. It was during this brief feeding episode that I managed to get some in flight shots. The Kiskadee then flew across the lake back in our general direction, however it decided to remain hidden in some nearby brush. The light was getting low with longer shadows, and by this point I was getting tired and I had got the shots I was hoping to get (albeit distant). I am pleased that the D7000 and 600mm lens combo was able to bring the Great Kiskadee into view despite it being some 75 yards across the water.
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My one good shot from the morning chase. Unfortunately, the bird was facing away, but did manage this brief head-turn in my direction with some catch light in theeye.

Late afternoon the Kiskadee was across the lake on the east side as seen here

Another image as the Kiskadee had its head up. Note its small yellow crown

The Kiskadee took off, skimming the water only to land on another perch just a few yards away

This is my favorite in-flight image. I used Photoshop to blur out the horribly distracting background that was right behind the bird. This is also a 100% crop as the bird was so far away

Another perch shot of the Kiskadee.

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