The Merlin seen perched atop the birch tree was spotted from a distance. I crept ever so cautiously toward her, expecting her to fly away at any second. I usually only see Merlins on the hunt, a dark silhouette torpedoing through the air. She was surprisingly very tolerant of my presence, allowing me to stand quietly under a tree observing her fierce beauty as she continuously scanned the surrounding landscape.
Merlins are a small falcon with a distinct robust shape. They are sometimes confused with Sharp-shinned Hawks for their similar feather patterning but Sharpies are more gangly in shape than Merlins. The Merlins small frame belies that fact that they are powerful, yet deft, hunters and can snatch songbirds mid-air. While filming the Merlin, two Bluejays took note of her. One even alighted on an adjacent branch. Not a good idea as Merlins regularly hunt Pigeons and have even been known to hunt small ducks.
Like so many species of raptors, Merlin populations are rebounding since DDT was banned in 1972. DDT interfered with the bird’s calcium production, which had the devastating effect of weakening their eggshells. Since the pesticide was banned, Merlin numbers are bouncing back in North America.
We are currently experiencing a wave of beautiful creatures migrating through and stopping over at our shores. Merlins travel through New England in the spring and fall. Fortunately, the Merlin’s breeding areas don’t overlap with Plover nesting sites along the Atlantic Coast. We don’t see Merlins on Cape Ann during the summer months. Why do I write fortunately? Because, like Peregrine Falcons, Merlins find nesting shorebirds easy prey (see article here).