A merlin
Little hawk, big appetite
Jan. 2003


Sue softly called me: I should come to the living room. There was a hawk perched in a nearby tree.

Unfortunately, the best tree for bird photography died and was cut down several months earlier; the present favorite bird-sitting tree is about 60 feet from the window, so I put my longest lens on a camera and proceeded to shoot a roll. I figured I'd be steady enough for at least one photo to come out well, and, sure enough, one photo in particular had terrific detail:
This particular falcon is a merlin (falco columbarius), not much bigger than a mourning dove is, but the doves apparently are her favorite meal. Yes, this svelte merlin is probably a female since the back of its wings are brownish (or the brownish wings could mean that "she" is an immature male).

The merlin stayed in the tree for about a half hour before resuming a meal on the ground. I don't know whether it intends to take up residence at Saddle Rock or is on a migratory path. For the time-being, there is a very large population of mourning doves here; that would be a factor for whether she stays or leaves.

Photography note: The photo was taken with a Pentax LX, a 300mm A* lens, and rear converter-A 2x, to reach 600mm. I was shooting at a fifteenth of a second (there being not much light), which is why I used a whole roll. Perhaps six photos came out very well, with the above being very sharp (at its original size before being cut down for the web). An advantage of manual lenses is the easy focusing between branches, although some of the "out-of-focus" branches interfered with the image.  

Merlin in Pennsylvania  |   Sharp-shinned hawk   |   Nuthatch and kinglet

Look Out!   |   Contact