The kite fight

John James Audubon drawing of the Swallow-tailed Kite.

John James Audubon drawing of the Swallow-tailed Kite.

Published: Wednesday, June 11, 2014 at 12:50 PM.

So, I called Lois Swoboda ‘cause she’s my avian consultant. She’s one of only two folks I’ve ever known with a Ph.D.; I can’t remember the other one’s name. She wrote her dissertation on the Argentina ant in Apalachicola that came in here on a boat from Argentina (that’s how it got its name). Now she exterminates fire ants, already here. She does it ergonomically or some word like that that PhDs use. If she had written a Ph.D. dissertation on how to keep yellow flies from bitin’ you, she would be worth multi-millions. But here’s how you do it, drink a couple of ounces of Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar each morning and they will let you alone (so will everybody else, get it at the Pig).

Was I tellin’ y’all why I called Lois? I guess I lost track. We both love the swallow kite, the most beautiful bird that graces the Forgotten Coast . Supposedly, it’s really rare. I had some bird folks on my boat who told me if I could find a swallow kite nest to show them bird folks, I could make a million dollars. (Lois thinks she might have seen an ivory billed woodpecker. If so, she’ll have a lot more millions than I. I thought I saw Elvis up in Johnson’s Creek one time but I didn’t have my camera but as I rounded the slough I saw a hound dog chasing a wild hog so he might have really been there).

Anyway, I was out at Rivercrest Lodge gassing up “Lily,” my tour boat, because I thought I had a trip with some folks from Brazil who work for BASF, but they use different ways to write the date so I think maybe I got it wrong. As from “Cool Hand Luke,” I think we had a failure to communicate.

I was pouring gas in the tank of my boat. I use non-ethanol gas because regular gas can ruin your engine, but that’s getting into politics and we are talking about the swallow tailed kite, one of the greatest treasures of the Forgotten Cost.

I heard this really shrill chirping sound that I have never heard before. I have seen many of them but I have never heard their call. I have a Sibley app on my iPhone. I was blessed to have couple on “Lily” from the ornithology lab at Cornell University and they identified 38 different species of birds in the 246,000-acre Apalachicola Estuarine Reserve, that in fact makes the Apalachicola Bay the most productive estuary in the Northern Hemisphere; they told me to get the app.

So I was trying to put gas in my boat and I head this loud chirping and I looked up, but my cap has a long bill so I couldn’t see anything so I took my hat off and there were two swallow kites chasing a Mississippi kite. The one swallow kite was taking the lead and raisin’ hell. Now Lois thinks it was probably a territorial dispute. The kites chased each other for maybe 10 minutes, then the Mississippi kite landed in the top of a tree to rest and the two swallow-tailed kites kept dive bombing him for some time, then he took off with the others in hot pursuit and went behind the tree line and gone.

Of course, I didn’t have my camera, neither did Lois. If we had, I guess you would think you could find us on the French Rivera sunbathing, or on some exotic island, but no, you would find us right here on the Forgotten Cost, alive and tryin’ to keep folks from invading our nest on the Forgotten Coast , our real treasure.

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