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Tuesday, 21 September 2021

The magic of Merlins

Every now and again as a birdwatcher, you happen upon a bird you haven’t seen before, referred to as a lifer among birdwatchers. This can be an exciting find and if you are lucky enough, a photo or two is the result. If you are exceptionally lucky, you can observe the bird for a time, which is rare indeed. Recently, my husband and I were fortunate enough to experience such an exception and we marvelled at the happenstance which brought us to the experience.


It was a average day on the boardwalk. The approaching low tide brought us down to the beach to search for shorebirds, however, none were around that morning. We headed along the boardwalk for some exercise when I spotted what I thought from a distance was a crow in a snag. As I approached the area, I realized this wasn’t a crow.





The bird moved to another branch and settled in there for a time, facing the boardwalk rather than the beach. This gave us the opportunity to take some photos from various angles. Later, I identified it as a Merlin, probably a female from the look of the chest and abdominal feathers. 





The bird with its hooked beak, the markings on the feathers and the orange feet was fascinating to observe. 





It scanned the area below but was turned away from the beach where its prey would have been. Like us, it knew there weren’t any small shorebirds on the beach that day.


Merlins are small falcons, once known as pigeon hawks since they resemble pigeons in flight. In the Middle Ages, they were used in falconry to catch Skylarks in flight as the ladies of the court watched. 


A close-up of the head shows the external nares, nostrils, on the upper part of the beak and those all-seeing eyes.





A look at the tail shows the small band of white which rims its feathers.




Two days later, we were back on the beach again, this time, small shorebirds were there too. 





I watched for sometime and heard the calls of raptors in the area. Scanning the trees, I spotted another Merlin, in an old snag bordering the beach.





It was focussed on the shoreline this time. It saw those tiny birds too. It flew to an nearby stand of trees as I watched.


A look at the tail feathers of this one makes me think this is a different bird from the last one we saw, maybe a male, with darker feathers. It looked smaller than the female as well.


I didn’t stay around to watch the Merlin pick the Plovers and Sandpipers out of the air when they flew off. It’s one thing to know about the possibility, another to actually witness it. It’s not realistic but I like to think they all survived.















28 comments:

Goldendaze-Ginnie said...

Absolutely amazing, Marie. You are so lucky to have come
across a Merlin and we are lucky to have you share it with us.

Boud said...

We have these pretty commonly around here. But I've never succeeded in getting pictures like these, with all the features clear. This is great.

William Kendall said...

Beautiful shots.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Well, Merlins gotta eat too.

bill burke said...

Fantastic shots especially the head shot.

Pam said...

Amazing....I had to look Merlin up though to see if it feel in the Falcon or Hawk family. Thanks for sharing.

Beside a babbling brook... said...

Love the name and he is a handsome fellow...

πŸπŸ‚πŸŒ»πŸ‡πŸŒ»πŸ‚πŸ

Rose said...

How wonderful to get to see the Merlin and actually take photos. I would have loved to be there.

Debbie said...

oh how exciting, your images are fantastic. and those talons are extraordinary!!

Elephant's Child said...

How wonderful to see (and bloodlessly capture) these beautiful birds - and on different days too.
My wimpy self agrees with you - but wouldn't willingly see our own species catch/kill/eat their food either.

Mage said...

The word for him is sleek.

Helen said...

What an exciting 'happenstance'! [I love that word but I've not heard of it before.]
Exceptional photography!

Ruth Hiebert said...

What a special moment to be able to watch this Merlin!

The Furry Gnome said...

Superb lifer! And spectacular photos!

Joanne Noragon said...

Great pictures of the Merlin.

Red said...

The merlin is a very neat bird. No wonder you didn't see any shore birds the first day. We have merlins here all winter. They feed on the large flocks of bohemian waxwings that winter here.

peppylady (Dora) said...

It interesting how yellow there feet are.
Coffee is on and stay safe

David M. Gascoigne, said...

Always a great bird, and it is thrilling to watch the aerial chase when they are zeroed in on prey.

photowannabe said...

Stunning photos of the Merlin. This is a new one to me too. If I ever saw one I probably thought it was a hawk.
That close up of the bird and his eye is wonderful. Thanks for sharing.
Sue

Catarina said...

Nice sequence of photos!

Anvilcloud said...

Yes, it must have been magical sighting the merlins.

Anvilcloud said...

Am I the only one who caught the merlin and magic association?

Marie Smith said...

AC,

You were the only one who commented about it.

Marie

eileeninmd said...

Hello,
Wow, wonderful sighting and photos of the Merlin.
Take care, enjoy your day. Have a happy weekend!

At Home In New Zealand said...

What a thrill. Seeing a bird for the first time is so exciting. Wonderful that you were able to get such good photos :)

judee said...

I love spotting interesting birds too- but my photography is not good enough to capture them up close. Your photos are wonderful and allowed you to really identify the Merlin. I once saw an alligator grab an Ibis.. the shrieks form the bird were chilling and we just couldn't look...

baili said...

your frequent visits with various parts of this beautiful island make you familiar with vastness and diversity of Nature dear Marie
these photos of falcon are mesmerizingly captivating!

thank you so much for sharing different angles of the bird such a splendid beauty .

more blessings to you and loved ones !

John's Island said...

Your photos of the Merlin are simply wonderful. The close ups ... wow! Great photography Marie!