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Nature in it's glory

Nature in it's glory

Feb 9, 2010

Merlin and the rewards of persistence

Persistence  really does pay off.

Merlin in flight
I had seen this little Merlin at this particular park once or twice before, although never for more than a blink in time, but I had high  hopes of  doing so again, which is why I took to haunting this particular park as  often as I could.   Sometimes even several  times during one day, hoping of course that  this little raptor had a consistent  habit of  doing so.

After some time passed, it  became apparent that he did not; that his visits to the park were in fact random events even though he hunts the neighborhood all the  time.  The problem with trying to get pictures of this small falcon around the residential neighborhood is off course the number of obstacles in the way of the camera.  As the months went by, I was beginning to feel more and more disappointed, as well as frustrated.  But I tend to be a tad stubborn, if not patient, and so I persisted in visiting the  park.

Merlin harassed by Magpies
Then in a rush of surprise I succeeded in my quest, just past sunrise one morning in a way that exceeded all my expectation.  For about fifteen or twenty minutes, that day I was treated to the most spectacular aerial display of this Merlin's flying ability and speed, as it hunted  the park, while battling constant harassment by magpies.  This particular raptor might be small, but he makes up for it with fearlessness and agility.

Magpies are are slightly larger than the Merlin, are somewhat heavier and tend to work in groups.  When they harassed this particular Merlin however, he responded with both extreme and shocking aggression.  So much so that he went after the group of them all at once. Darting  in amongst them with talons outstretched like a small bullet, while they scattered, desperate to escape.  It was almost as if he lost his temper, attacking even much larger seagulls who had the misfortune to be in close proximity to a magpie.  In mere moments after my arrival at the park, it was transformed  from a serene and peaceful space to the loud and  chaotic scene of a battle for survival.  With birds of all sizes calling out in alarm, scattering, dodging, diving, ducking, defending and attacking everywhere and anywhere.

Merlin above
It was an amazing thing to witness and I was instantly, captivated, positively thrilled and elated.  I know of course that the Merlin hunts birds to survive and have since seen it take down a pigeon in winter, a bird  that is somewhat larger than  it's own size.  I have also witnessed it trying to escape the talons of a the slightly larger Sharp Shinned Hawk, so I know that they in turn are hunted as  well.   Still, this is not something that you witness every day after all, and doing so allowed me to see quite clearly some of the Merlin's survival skills and instincts.

Merlin speed of a bullet

Unfortunately the little Merlin was eventually overwhelmed by the sheer number of Magpies and forced  to abandon the park.  It didn't have any allies after all, and so would need to hunt elsewhere.  I however, learned  another thing about this event.  While my persistence had been more than richly rewarded, it was rewarded in more than one way.  That is, in watching for this particular bird I was also given the opportunity  to photograph other birds rarely sighted in the city, which is an additional and awesome reward, and I truly feel that I have been blessed. That being the biggest reward of all, I think.  Information about the Merlin can be found at the following sites.  Enjoy:



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