Visitors 39
Modified 2-Nov-17
Created 2-Nov-17
26 photos

White-tailed kites (Elanus leucurus) live mainly on California voles (Microtus californicus). The voles live underground in the grassland, coming out at dawn and dusk to gather grass for their food. So the kites hunt at dawn. (I'm not sure about dusk -- as a photographer, I hunt at dawn too.) This morning I enjoyed the company of one (or more?) kites, doing what they do best. Flying high above the grasslands, looking for a good spot on the ground, and above it, a good point in the heavens. Hovering motionless in that one spot, beating their wings, eyes fixed on the grass below, waiting for a vole to appear. Descending rapidly, wings locked overhead, tail bent downwards to guide the drop, eyes fixed on the vole. If all goes well (and it doesn't always go well), turning suddenly for a deadly plunge into the grass. Grabbing the surprised vole with its talons, spending a little while wrestling in the grass to get a good grip (and to snuff it out? I don't see this part, it is buried amongst the grass stems.) Then rising suddenly, beating its wings a few times to begin moving through the air, flying to a high perch at the top of an oak. Time for a leisurely breakfast, dismantling the vole piece by piece, ending with a gigantic neck-stretching gulp to polish off the remains.

Most of this is captured here, from afar of course. I watched the final gulp through a spotting scope, so did not capture it for your interest.

I hope you enjoy this sequence.
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) Whispers ByWhite-tailed Kite (Elanus leucurus) in FocusWhite-tailed Kite (Elanus leucurus) in FlightKite KitingKiting above Windy HillKite Kiting (2)White-tailed Kite (Elanus leucurus) Regaining AltitudeWhite-tailed Kite Begins Another DiveDescending KiteFinal PlungeSuccessful CatchTaking OffTaking Off (2)White-tailed Kite (Elanus leucurus) with Vole, in FlightWhite-tailed Kite (Elanus leucurus) with California Vole (Microtus californicus), in FlightWhite-tailed Kite (Elanus leucurus) with California Vole (Microtus californicus), in FlightHunter's RewardA Safe Place for a MealA Safe Place for a Meal (Detail)Gradual Dismemberment