Wizard of the Woods

Yesterday I was enjoying my morning cup of coffee at the edge of the woods in my backyard.  While I was standing there enjoying the forest, a bird swooped into the tree above my head.  I couldn’t get a very good look at it, but from what I did see I could tell it was not a bird I normally see.

Taking a closer look, it was obviously a bird of prey.  My first thought was a Sharp-shinned Hawk since it was a pretty small bird.  Then it flew over to my walnut tree and I was able to get a better look.

It’s a Merlin!  It’s a first for me in my yard.  Merlins are small falcons that are only 10 inches tall.  As I was watching it, I saw it pecking at something near its feet on the branch.

Food!  I can’t tell what poor creature it was devouring, but it was probably a bird since that is their most common prey.  According to The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior:

True falcons are specialized for chasing and catching their prey in flight…They either grab their prey in flight or deliver a stunning blow to a flying bird with their feet and then quickly return to snatch the tumbling prey from the air…Falcons dispatch their prey quickly by biting through the neck and breaking it…

That sounds to me like the stuff that nightmares are made of.

I stood there for some time admiring this impressive bird.  I guess I stood there a bit too long- it looked at me and decided to fly away.

  1. I like the way the eyes stare right into you. It’s been so long since I’ve seen a bird of prey. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a falcon of any kind. It must be wonderful to see one so close.

    1. It was pretty cool- I had just walked out there and happened to be standing under the tree when it quietly landed. It makes me wonder about how many interesting birds and animals pass through my yard without me ever knowing.

  2. Lucky you! Do you always bring your camera with the cup of coffee 😉 seems to be a good idea! Cool lock that it gives you in that last photo.
    I saw my first Merlin just a month ago and was happy to have an experienced birder with me who knew what it was. But the bird flew away before I had my camera handy…

    1. Ever since I was caught outside in my backyard without my camera when a Great Horned Owl landed in a nearby tree and posed perfectly for me, I swore I’d have it nearby just in case it ever reappeared. I’m still waiting for it, but at least I get other rewards in the meantime!

  3. Wizard in the Woods! Now that is a great title for your post. This is the kind of exciting experience we live for and the fact that you were camera ready is unbelievible. I agree with your comment that we generally walk around half aware and notice few of the wonders that swirl around us. Not this time though! ;-)WBW

  4. I now have a full blown case of yardbird envy Mike. A Merlin in your yard? Exceptional! To me, the Merlin is one of the most elusive falcons in my realm. Whenever I see one, I feel most magical. I have yet to get a photo of a Merlin and the fact that you had your camera with you to snap these photos is brilliant. Whenever I bird an area where I know these magical creatures call home, they are my primary photographic interest. Your final photo of this Merlin staring at you shows us what a beautiful bird it is.

    1. Thanks Larry- every morning since then I look up in my trees hoping that I’ll see it again. Who knows, maybe I’ll get luck again one day…

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