Yesterday, a few of my fellow Ohio Ornithological Society board members - Cheryl Harner, Gabe Leidy, and Bob Placier - darted into Columbus's Green Lawn Cemetery for a quick look. We had a board meeting later in the morning, but couldn't stand the thought of not getting at least a little birding in.
Upon arrival, we spotted the resident Merlin quicker than you can say Falco columbarius. No shrinking violets, these little death-dealers. This bird, which looked to be a young male, was teed up on one of the most prominent perches available.
Green Lawn is the 2nd largest cemetery in Ohio at 360 acres, and it essentially replicates a savanna. There are scores of large scattered trees, and no shortage of songbird prey. Merlins have wintered here for several years, and they are found in many other Ohio cemeteries as well. I suspect that many a golf course hosts them as well, but birders don't tend to bird such places.
Merlins have become far more common in Ohio in recent years. Their overall population is increasing, and the feathered speedsters are reclaiming former breeding areas, and seemingly expanding into new turf. I feel it is just a matter of time before they begin breeding in large urban Ohio cemeteries such as Green Lawn. Merlins don't build nests; they appropriate stick nests of species such as American Crow, Cooper's Hawk, and other raptors. We were wondering if an artificial stick platform placed high in a conifer might lure them to nest. Worth a try, perhaps.