[Tweeters] Merlins on Rooftops in Wedgwood - 7/12/13

Barbara Deihl barbdeihl at comcast.net
Sat Jul 13 12:11:38 PDT 2013

Rounding the cottage-garden corner in search of the vocal and 'low-down' Merlin kids, we came upon a captivating scene at which we watched and shared views of for 3 hours ! Jessica and I had come to the Wedgwood site to see if we could detect ANY of the quick-growing, fast-flying juveniles, and did we score big ! Started at the corner of 87th and 32nd and saw some prey delivery (by parents) and flitting about in the trees near Bob & Sue's place, but the main noise and action seemed to concentrate on the street to the south. So we left Bob to his pruning, and relocated in front of Shirley and Mike's place, where Shirley was doing her garden clean-up.

Across the street was the hub of Merlin activity - the recently-fledged (a week ago) Merlinettes gathered on a couple of rooftops and one chimney. Out in the open, they were very visible and audible to the parents in search of a hungry juvenile. A parent would fly into the area, the kids would clamor and chase around. Ultimately one youngster would succeed in winning the prey-of-the-moment, and would fly with it in its talons, to a spot away from its begging siblings, to spend the next hour (or so it seemed), plucking and finally eating, the little bird (a chickadee, in the case of the Merlin on the chimney). There were aerial prey transfers going on, fairly low-down and near the perch on which the selected recipient was sitting - nice to see the young are starting to 'catch on' to this important life skill !

Before and after feeding, as well as while waiting their turns, the young Merlins sunned on roof ridges and chimneys, their 3rd eyelids slowly covering those beautiful black eyes long enough for a quick nap. We watched one of the kids try to spread its wings on a roof slope, but it was too steep and the bird slid down a bit and tried to run back up and try again, with no success - thus, there were often 3 of the fledglings in a line, sunning along the relatively flat, albeit narrow, ridge. They would gape occasionally to diffuse some of the heat they were absorbing in those dark back and wing feathers (purpose? to fry out parasites?). Once in awhile 2 youngsters would do a little 'beaking', gentle rubbing or picking at another's beak. Preening and picking were also common activities in which these engaging birds were engaging.

Other neighbors walked by and asked what we were looking at, and then marveled in surprise when they saw through the scope, a most beautiful bird. I predict a run on spotting scopes soon at the Audubon Nature Shop :-)

It was surprising to see how much down some of these young still had on them - we also seemed to be seeing one that was a bit smaller than its siblings - the "runt of the litter"? The ones with only a sprinkle or 2 of down left on their noggins, were often the ones scoring the prey. No tussling over prey was observed, but there was always one juvie who would continue begging calls awhile after the parent had passed off a snack and sped away to look for more.

An afternoon of "The Best" in Merlin watching.

Who knows what these birds will be up to this weekend, but it might be worth a visit to Wedgwood to find out.

For some photos of what these Merlins were up to:


Barb Deihl

N. Matthews Beach - NE Seattle

barbdeihl at comcast.net

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