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Environment : Notes about your surroundings.

Rare Birds--The first Orange County record of a Mississippi kite was a highlight of the recent spring migration, according to Doug Willick, who collects reports of rare sightings of birds in the county.

Unlike previous state sightings of the Mississippi kite, which have usually lasted for a day or less, the 1-year-old Orange County bird was spotted for seven straight days, June 5 to 11, at Huntington Central Park. Locals were joined by birders from Los Angeles and San Diego counties and as far away as the Bay Area who flocked to see the bird.

The adult Mississippi kite is a gray-and-white bird related to hawks and eagles, which feeds primarily on insects (including dragonflies) that it catches on the wing. There is a small breeding population of the bird in southeastern Arizona, but most occur farther east.

The kite was the most notable of a string of rare vagrants--birds that somehow strayed from their normal migration paths--that straggled through the county at the tail end of the spring migration.

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Some unusual species can turn up after most of the usual migrants have already passed through the county. Birding can be hit or miss, Willick said, but “if you do have something, it can be pretty rare.” Some other recent sightings:

Hooded warbler, a singing male, June 12 to 18 in a Villa Park flood control basin.

Eastern kingbird, June 12, along the Santa Ana River at the Talbert Avenue crossing.

Black-throated blue warbler, June 12, at Mason Regional Park in Irvine (first spring record for Orange County).

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Rose-breasted grosbeak, June 2 to 14, in Laguna Hills.

Tennessee warbler and black-and-white warbler, June 3, at Environmental Nature Center in Newport Beach.

Bank swallow, July 2, at Doheny State Beach.

The spring migration has barely ended, but the fall migration is already beginning. A trickle of migrating shore birds is already starting to arrive in the county from breeding grounds in the north. In some shore bird species, one sex will incubate the eggs while the partner of the other sex will fly south to wintering grounds.

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