Monday, July 3, 2017

Merlins

Merlin [Photo: Barb Deihl]
Merlins

Guest blog by Barb Deihl

Right now, at the end of June and into July, the young Merlins are getting bigger and bigger and almost ready to head out of their reused crow nests, mostly in 100-foot firs or pines.  Fledging has started for some of the broods.

How do you find them?  Listen for loud, persistent calls high up in sky or tree and, with the help of binoculars and even better, a spotting scope, you may be treated to views of a swift-flying, 11-inch adult falcon.  Following its flight, you may see it engage with another and execute a prey transfer (usually a small bird), deftly execute a small bird, or chase away a crow or an eagle.

You can often follow an adult to the spot where it enters the nest tree and then find the nest after that, and a few young standing on it or jumping or flapping or racing around in the nest.  Soon (in about 2 weeks), you'll notice dark lumps out on branches (still coated with some sprinkles of down).  Then, in the first weeks of July, they will be taking short flights, playing and learning some important life skills.  The parents now provide and even prepare their food.  By late July, the fledglings will have to start using their own hunting skills, often first on small 'summer birds', dragonflies!

Numbers of suburbanizing Merlins living among us have certainly increased in the past decade up an down the coast, from northern California to British Columbia. They adapting well to living around humans.

Click here to view a set of photos of nestlings, fledglings and adults, most of which were taken by me, and one by another person.

Kee-kee-kee!

Writer and photographer Barb Deihl is a Neighborhood Merlin Liaison, naturalist, educator, and environmentalist.

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