Yesterday, a new observation was made on the Lonesome Duck Ranch. It was a Merlin; the first one seen here since we came here seven seasons ago. It flew from a low roost and swung across the north pasture as I was showing a group of the owner’s friends some of the birds and other sights of the ranch.
The Merlin is the next to smallest falcon in the U.S. It was formerly called the Pigeon Hawk. However, it is a true falcon and is known for flying fast and straight. They are predators of other birds, catching them by diving and/or overtaking their victims by great speed, usually in more open areas. They are not common and often give you only a fleeting glimpse. And thus, I did not get any pictures of it.
Snipe were also seen with owner’s group yesterday. It was a flock of about 10 Common Snipe, formerly called Wilson’s Snipe. They were in the same place as reported in my catch-up summary a few days ago- 8/26/2012: “Wilson’s Snipe seen in wetland in north pasture on Sunday. Yes there really are snipe, and there is a hunting season (in the daytime, with shotguns!!). I saw a pair of them about a week later…and Muskrats foraging in the tules.”
People have a lot of fun joshing other people about going on “Snipe hunts” for the “legendary” creature that glows in the dark and can be captured late at night with a paper bag. This, however, was the real thing.
And, we did see muskrats again.
Since I did not get any pictures of the Merlin (or the Common Snipe) I am including pictures of a bird seen many times at the Lonesome Duck late this summer and this fall:
9/4/2012 and ff …: “Deadly tag” – at least 2 Sharp-shinned Hawks and Steller’s Jays have been harassing each other in the yard. I found a headless Pine Siskin on the 4th and since then the remains of a Mourning Dove, an unidentified sparrow, and several jays. That’s nature too! The hawks are very impressive too.
First is an adult Sharp-shinned Hawk feeding on an immature Mourning Dove on the river side of our cabin on September 11. It did not seem to “play tag” so much:
Sharp-shinned Hawks are small but deadly bird predators but have a much different mode of operation than the Merlin. They are experts of ambush and the chase. They are equipped with relatively stubby wings and long tails designed for quick bursts of speed and the ability to make sharp turns as they chase their avian prey through the trees and branches.
Here’s an immature Sharp-shin that was “playing chase” back and forth with the Steller’s Jays at our cabin this morning:
There was another observer beside myself:
It is a Western Grey Squirrel. The squirrels just ignored the Sharp-shinned Hawks most of the time; even when they darted at the squirrels and hovered over them. Their size looks somewhat similar to the hawk’s but the squirrels greatly outweigh the diminutive hawks, and, squirrels are quite “tough” (perhaps from all the tree climbing).