Why do they call it a White-Tailed Kite? And why do I take my camera EVERYWHERE?
Really, both of the questions in the title are easily answered. It's called a White-tailed Kite (Elanus leucurus) because it has a white tail, and it kites. If you are unfamiliar with the term, it's maybe more related to kites that you fly with a string and all because the appearance is much the same. Kites are known for their habit of flying in place without moving as if they were attached to a string, watching for prey in the grassy fields below. A few other birds do it, but these birds are real masters. And they are my favorite raptors.
Strangely enough, today's pictures happened because another bird was kiting in the pasture-lands along Bentley Road east of Modesto. I couldn't see it well because of the sun angle, so I stopped to get the binoculars. It turned out to be an American Kestrel, but then I noticed there was a Kite on the fence post not forty feet from my car.
The camera was on the seat beside me, but the windows blocked a good angle for getting photos. I inched the car forward and raised the camera, but just as I clicked it flew away. I said to myself "of course" because that's what always happens, but to my great surprise, it simply flew across the road and landed just a bit behind me, no more than eighty feet away. And it was contentedly munching on lunch, which was some kind of small rodent. I took around 35 pictures because no Kite has ever allowed me to be so close. These are the best pictures I've ever been lucky enough to capture. It actually took me several minutes to realize there were two more Kites out in the meadow beyond the first.
And that brings up answer to the second question: Why do I take my camera EVERYWHERE? Because you never know what will happen when you are out and about. I was simply out to get a few things at the grocery store. If I had not brought the camera, I would have missed these shots.