[Tweeters] Bellevue-Eastgate MERLIN report

Pterodroma at aol.com Pterodroma at aol.com
Fri Jul 4 07:21:37 PDT 2014

Happy July 4th all. Hope the "fireworks" in your yard and neighborhood is
as all jazzed up non-stop as it is around here at the moment. Merlins,
Merlins, Merlins galore, holy smoke!!

Wow, what an entertaining Spring season around ye old 'homestead' here in
Bellevue-Eastgate (0.5 mi south of I-90 as a Merlin flies) this year. The
big time and always most conspicuous players again have been the MERLINS
(3rd year in a row, maybe 4), and this time better than ever since I've had
such a spectacular ring-side seat full on view every single day since
mid-March of all the raucous shenanigans and going-ons simply from the simple
luxury of my deck recliner on the patio. The nest is in a presumed old
crow's nest in a dense spot of Douglas Fir canopy ~15 feet from the top and tree
located about 50 yards away directly across the street. Too perfectly
situated actually, for me and them, and you can't beat just simply kicking
back and starting the day with a mimosa (champagne + orange juice) in hand and
just gaze into the nest tree with no strain or effort at all, bins always
at hand, scope too, ooh, way too easy peasy and always great fun, and why
not simply enjoy the Merlin show in style, eh. But my goodness, these
Merlins sure have been noisy birds all season long going all the way back to
mid-March when courtship began, a little quieter in April-May (incubation),
ramping up again through late May-June (feeding nestlings), and now,
fledging, at least 5. The Merlins have been consistently the noisiest and most
conspicuous of all my yard birds and the best morning alarm clock ever, even
from inside the house the constant 'ki-ki-ki-ki-ki....' penetrates pretty
loud to overly excessive at times.

The first to "fledge" (leave the nest) were two on July 1 and as of this
morning (July 4), for certain five, and early this morning (5:30-7am and
still going nuts as I sit here and type this) all are out and about making
their first flights. Generally short and kind of clumsy sorties, they don't
go far, remaining tight with the nest tree and adjacent ones including the
ones across the street in my yard, so still mostly confined to this
half-block square area, always noisy and staying in close contact with each other.
The adults drop in periodically to drop off the latest catch whatever that
may be for the constantly hungry youngsters. For the past two to three
weeks and prior to July's first flights of fancy, when the adults were not
actually off hunting somewhere and/or present feeding the youngsters, both
spent much of the day just flying around and around and around right
overhead, calling constantly and presumably demonstrating the "art" of flight.
Once the juvs were out of the nest and clambering around in the boughs and
perching conspicuously, they would watch the adults performances very closely,
bobbing their heads, eyeing, and taking in every move.

After a nesting failure last year when the crows pilfered the nest and
nestlings at a most vulnerable moment, there was to be none of that this year!
This season, the adults have been relentless and totally successful at
keeping the opportunistic marauding crows at bay and driving away even the
slightest threat with the potential offender giving off an annoyed 'croak'
each time as it fled the 'hood. During these crow eradications, sometimes I
would also spot a tiny little hummingbird up there in the sky show fray,
Merlin chasing the crow and hummingbird hot on the tail of the Merlin, all in
tandem and cool little novelty to note. In fact the Merlins have been so
relentless and successful deterring the crows this season that the crows
themselves have been relatively scarce in this neighborhood. No loss really,
welcome in fact, and maybe Merlin induced crow extirpation around here
isn't such a bad thing, but the best news ever in all the 20+ years I've lived
at this location, no obnoxious baby crows in the trees and sitting on the
roof, begging begging begging begging all day every day all summer long. I
soon grow to loath that tiresome hideous noise which drives me crazy. I
can throw rocks and pine cones at them all day long, never hitting any of
course, and it never does any good anyway. They just shrug, "ha ha, missed
me you missed me", and continue being the perpetual annoyance they are. But
now that the nesting period has survived the most vulnerable period, the
crows are making their way back (still no cry-baby crows though, yea!!), and
the Merlins pay little mind now and it's too late now for the crows to
even bother.

This Eastgate location must be quite ideal for this pair of local nesting
Merlins, north facing slope and atop moderately tall Douglas Firs which
affords a long range commanding view to the north over I-90 and the "Eastgate
Pass" to the Lake Hills Greenbelt, and beyond. The occupied nesting area
is quite small and so far over these three seasons confined to the exact
same half-block square area but nesting in a different tree each time, thus
speaks highly to site fidelity. The Merlins certainly haven't had to go that
far afield for prey. My yard and feeders have been the source for some, a
risky place to hang out actually, and I have seen several snags right out
of the air. Feathers and heads of everything from aerially transiting and
then instantly vulnerable juncos, chickadees, nuthatches, to towhees,
grosbeaks (wiped out now), to robins have been found scattered about the yard
and on the roof, driveway, and street throughout the season.

As I've watched these Merlins all Spring long, I've come to learn and
appreciate that they have quite a repertoire of calls ranging from the familiar
'ki-ki-ki's to a number of other things on various pitches and levels and a
neat little quiet 'tick' note repeated over and over and over, maybe a
simple contact call or something. I often wonder what they all mean and this
place could have been a killer spot to have collected a season's worth of
depth Merlin recordings this Spring. Anybody speak Merlin? Any good web
sources for information or recordings? I know of some (Cornell, xeno-canto)
but there may be others or better sources?

I have never even heard a Merlin call anywhere else in the world or in my
life outside of right here in and around my yard and their presence now has
been a continuing thing for 3 years having never missed a month in all that
time, and most of the time I know when one is around by the now familiar
call rather than first by sight. They aren't around much during the 'off
season' (fall, winter) but still make appearances at least two to three times
a month during that period, and almost ALWAYS detected first by the
familiar 'ki-ki-ki' calls. What these 'off season' visits mean exactly I can
only guess is them just doing a flyover checking up on the territory and
making sure everything remains intact and available for the next nesting
season. If things go anything like the 2012 nesting season which fledged 5 or 6,
the youngsters should hang around pretty close for most of July and little
by little thereafter start ranging further and further afield as they grow
in confidence and can start fending for themselves.

Richard Rowlett
Bellevue (Eastgate), WA
Pterodroma AT aol.com

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