In my previous post I shared images of the backyard beauty my wife and I have been blessed to see and photograph this year. Since then I’ve continued hanging out on that back patio in the mornings, big telephoto zoom in hand, waiting for more beautiful Florida birds to grace me with a flyover. I was not disappointed a few days ago when I caught a squadron of Roseate Spoonbills, one of my favorites creatures of the air, gracefully sailing through the blue sky.
And a great little adventure developed recently around the chase to capture (photographically) another variety of bird.
As I was pounding out some miles on my road bike along the Upper Tampa Bay Trail, I thought I heard someone call my name. Suddenly another cyclist was alongside me wearing a big grin, and I realized it was my friend Cody. He was on his bike commute home and was excitedly telling me about witnessing ahead on the trail a kite plunging into the canal to grab a fish. After a brief moment envisioning someone flying a kite and crashing it into the water, I realized this must be some sort of Florida bird I did not yet know about.
I finished my ride but did not spot the kite, and back at home I Googled for info about this mystery bird. When I saw the image search results on my computer screen I immediately recognized the distinctive profile as one I had seen a few years ago at Florida’s Sanibel Island and I recall at that time how I was completely fascinated by the forked tail silhouette in the sky. The full name of this bird of prey is a Swallow-tailed Kite, and it returns to Florida each spring to nest after spending winters in Brazil.
Now my obsession with this stunning raptor was sparked, and I was driven to find one and photograph it.
In the days that followed my wife & I would take off in the car when we had spare time and drive the neighborhood surrounding the nearby bike trail, scanning the sky with binoculars. We came up with nothing. On a couple of other days we took to the trail on our bikes with the heavy photo backpack along for the ride, and again came up empty handed. But then on a subsequent bike ride when I had no camera with me, there were not one but three kites circling high above the trail! Thrilled as I was to view them, I was disappointed from not bagging my trophy photo.
After returning home from that bike ride I noticed a shadow flicker briefly on the wall as something momentarily blocked the light of the evening sun out in the back yard. Walking to the doors and peering out the glass, there was a majestic Swallow-tailed Kite diving in and out of the greenspace just a few dozen yards from the back of our house!
That evening I snagged my first ever shot of this amazing raptor, and since then he’s visited my backyard a couple more times. On his last visit he took a spectacular dive straight down into the bushes, emerging with a loud cry and a frog in his talons for supper.
It’s certainly not difficult to see the glory of God displayed in the spectacular design of the Swallow-tailed Kite, and other fantastic birds we all are privileged to admire wherever we may live or travel.
And there is another aspect of God’s great glory that has come to mind as I’ve been delighted to watch and photograph these creatures – the fact that he soveriegnly rules over all his creation, and provides the food to sustain not only these big birds of prey but also the common little sparrows. If this Creator cares for the birds, must he not even more so care for us, who he made in his image? Jesus assured his disciples that indeed he does:
“What is the price of two sparrows–one copper coin?
But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.
And the very hairs on your head are all numbered.
So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.”
(Matthew 10:29-31, New Living Translation)