Skip to main content

Avast! Merlin on the Mast!

On the last blog post, I discussed our recent Lake Erie pelagic boat trip, and the port of entry problems that we encountered. The fair city of Cleveland allowed one of its massive railroad drawbridges to rust shut in the down position, effectively preventing our triumphant return up the Cuyahoga River.

But, in a classic case of making lemonade from a basketful of lemons, we were delighted to stumble into a wonderful bird upon boating into Plan B destination - the Edgewater Yacht Club.

A lovely female Merlin. Wonderful compensation for any inconveniences caused by the uncooperative bridge. This particular bird is outfitted with all of the latest electronic gear from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology as part of their ongoing studies of this charming little falcon. Our individual is equipped with live-time DNA sensors; high-precision radio telemetry hardware; infra-red nightime detection optics; several bands on each leg; and a weathervane. Collectively, all of this gear weighs over 9.3 lbs.. Strong little buggers, these falcons.

Just fooling - the Merlin is perched high atop the mast of a dry-docked sailboat, and the mechanicals go with the boat.

Merlins are becoming increasingly common, and are on their way to becoming fixtures in urban haunts such as this. With the overall increase in population breeders are turning up in new places, or areas where they haven't nested in decades. Just this year, John Pogacnik - one of our guides on the pelagic - confirmed nesting Merlins in northeast Ohio. They probably hadn't bred in our state for 70-80 years.

Our plucky little falcon had no fear of us birders. We spotted her from the boat, some ways off, and looking like a pack of fools no doubt, proceeded to "sneak" up on her en masse. The Merlin had probably seen us when were still two miles out at sea, and just watched the throng creep ever closer. She merely gazed about, occasionally glancing down at us commoners. We all eventually assembled in a large semicircle in the parking lot under her boat, and unbelievable looks were had by all. The above video documents the new-found celebrity of this fearsome killer of dragonflies and small birds, and the experience was one of the trip's many highlights.


Popular posts from this blog

The Pinching Beetle, a rather brutish looking bug

The world is awash in beetles, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Few of them can match the intimidation factor of a Pinching Beetle, Lucanus capreolus, though. Those formidable looking mandibles look like they could slice off a finger.

Today was one of those coolly diverse days. I started off down in Fayette County, visiting the farm of a friend. He has restored about 25 acres of wetlands, and the response by the animal community has been nothing short of phenomenal. Blizzards of dragonflies of many species, amphibians galore, and nesting Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, and Sora. Among MANY other things. And all in a short two years. Add water and they will come.

Then, working my way home, I ducked into a Madison County cemetery that has a thriving population of Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels, and shot images of our native prairie dog. Then, I stopped at a spot along Little Darby Creek, waded on in, and procured some pretty nice shots of various stream bluets and dancers. …

Calliope Hummingbird in central Ohio!

A hatch-year male Calliope Hummingbird strikes a pose. Small but tough, the hummingbird was feeding actively yesterday in 39 F temperatures. It frequents feeders and gardens at a home in Delaware County, Ohio, about a half-hour north of Columbus.

Fortunately, the wayward hummer appeared at the home of Tania and Corey Perry. Tania is a birder, and knew right away that the hummingbird was something special. For a while, the identification was up in the air, which isn't surprising. The Calliope Hummingbird used to be placed in its own genus, Stellula, but has recently been submerged into the genus Selasphorus, which includes Allen's, Broad-tailed, and Rufous hummingbirds. The latter two, especially, are quite similar to the Calliope in subadult plumage. Rufous is the default "vagrant" hummingbird here, with dozens of records and birds turning up annually. There is but one Ohio record of Allen's Hummingbird, from late fall/early winter 2009. Ditto the Calliope Hummi…

Snowy owl photography tactics - and things NOT to do

A gorgeous juvenile female snowy owl briefly catches your narrator with its piercing gaze. It's doing its Linda Blair/Exorcist trick - twisting its head 180 degrees to look straight behind. Owls have 14 neck vertebrae - double our number - which allows them such flexibility.

These visitors from the high arctic have irrupted big time into Ohio and adjacent regions, with new birds coming to light nearly every day. Probably 80 or so have thus far been reported in the state, and some of them have stuck around favored spots and become local celebrities.

I went to visit one of these birds this morning - the animal above, which was found last Friday by Doug Overacker and Julie Karlson at C.J. Brown Reservoir near Springfield. In the four days since its discovery, many people have visited as is nearly always the case when one of these white wonders appears near a large population center or is otherwise very accessible.

And as is always the case, people want to photograph the owls. And th…