Monday, April 25, 2011

Merlin's Song

Merlin (Falco columbarius)

Through the open window yesterday there came a familiar high pitched song, a springtime cantrip of staccato cadence, kee-kee-kee-kee-kee. The song was cheerful, but our feelings on hearing it were ambivalent.

Down went books and cups of tea, up came the camera, and out to the garden we went, Himself and Spencer and I.   A young male merlin (Falco columbarius) was perched in the top of an old corner maple and was announcing his fierce and lusty presence to the world at the top of his lungs.  A merlin's song in springtime carries for some distance, and within a few minutes a second male arrived on the scene.  There was a brief frantic tussle and the interloper flew off toward the river with dejection in every plume and pinion.

Once called "pigeon hawks", the little falcons are fast moving, agile and deadly predators and fearless - they don't think twice about attacking anything that moves.  Somewhat elusive, they have never been numerous here, but a few pairs nest in a nearby wooded park, and we suspect our visitor was a member of that community. Several years ago, plans to turn part of our park into a traffic circle were derailed when a small colony of nesting merlins was discovered in it, and the birds have been nesting there ever since. The decision to leave the park and its residents alone was one of those rare occasions when Mother Nature wins a round, and we were absolutely jubilant when it was announced.

Yesterday's sighting was a wonderful thing, but having been photographed, we hope our falcon departs and stays away for several weeks.  Cardinals and house finches are nesting in our hedgerows, and merlins, as much as we admire them, are not particularly welcome at this time of the year.  Their continued presence does not bode well for our blithely parenting songbirds.

I often wonder why it is that my elderly noggin cannot retain the names of television programs and popular celebrities but remembers the names of plants, animals, insects and birds every single time - even the Latin names.

4 comments:

Cindy said...

Good Morning, Cate. Have a wonderful week!

the wild magnolia said...

We have hawks in our area, one is Red Tail. They are predators, as you say, but I still love them.

Thank you for sharing.

Wishing you a good week.

Cathy said...

Love the way your "elderly noggin" works!

One Woman's Journey said...

my aging brain is the same..
yesterday a beautiful rose breasted grosbeak outside my bedroom window - could not get my hands on my camera quick enough..