Ben Gelber, NBC4 meteorologist (L) and Buzz the camera man bask in the presence of a very extroverted female Merlin in Columbus, Ohio's Green Lawn Cemetery. The bird is perched in the gnarled boughs of a Kentucky coffee tree, only 30 feet above Buzz's camera.
NBC4 and Ben are great about airing short natural history segments, and I've worked with Ben on several of these episodes. After our last shoot, I suggested going after this Merlin and seeing if we could manage any footage of her. Ounce for ounce, this particular Merlin must be one of the world's most fearless birds. She's been in residence at Green Lawn all winter, and has been seen by hundreds of people. You can walk right under her perch, and she'll not even bother to give you a glance.
To our astonishment, Mrs. Merlin suddenly dropped from her perch and came sailing right at us. As if in slow motion, she flutter-glided a mere 20 feet over our heads, and swooped up onto a branch only 30 feet away. She was clearly checking us out; I could see her cocking her head sideways to better scope us out as she soared overhead. Once on the branch, she cast a few more disdainful looks our way, then set about grooming herself. This was just too cool - FAR better than I could have hoped for! Buzz got some great footage of her in flight, and once she was perched on the nearby branch he was frame-filling her.
John Pogacnik documented the first modern nesting of Merlin in Ohio in 2009, in Lake County. The following year, Danielle McCament found a nest in the middle of the city of Mt. Vernon, in Knox County. I think Green Lawn will soon be added to the registry of Merlin nesting sites.
If you'd like to read a bit more about these interesting little falcons, HERE is a brief general interest article I wrote about them a few years back. For today's NBC4 video of today's Merlin adventure, CLICK HERE.
Thanks to Ben Gelber and NBC4 for their efforts to bring natural history to a wide audience. And major props to this Diva of a falconiform. I hope her TV appearance nets some new nature enthusiasts.