Wednesday, August 28, 2013 Merlin

Seward Alaska Sporadic Bird Report

Happy Birthday, Seward! 110 years old today!

Sunrise 6:43 am, sunset 9:12 pm for a total of 14 hours and 28 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 23 seconds shorter.

Well, the other shoe dropped* this evening with hard rain. After an extraordinarily warm and sunny July, the back to normal cool and cloudy with the occasional cloudburst and sunburst of August is quite a contrast! Mushrooms are loving the rain, leaves are green heading to yellowish green, and many fruits, such as Mt ash, devil's club, red elderberry, bunchberry, trailing raspberry, and raspberries are ripening to red.

The temps are in the mid 50s to low 60s with more overcast and sprinkly days in the forecast. Summer is fading to fall quickly.

The birds know it too. But unlike their spring migration, when the birds flock en masse in a short time, fall migration is a generally a stealth operation over a much longer period. 

Yesterday, I watched a single SPOTTED SANDPIPER, sans spots, walk nervously along the shoreline. Bam! Out of nowhere, a MERLIN struck and flew off. I didn't see any feathers, but didn't know the outcome until the lucky sandpiper poked its head out of the sedges and then quickly flew away, counting its lucky stars. I found the Merlin not far away, perched on an observation stump, watching, watching for its next opportunity.

Last Saturday, there were a few more peeps around, feeding quietly in a small flock of about 20, mostly WESTERN and LEAST SANDPIPERS with a few SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS on the side. In a flash, a Merlin shot through the flock, grabbed one and flew off to dine. The surviving peeps exploded in a frenzy, crying loudly in alarm and grief over the loss of one of their relatives as they erratically spiraled up and away. It was a spectacular and touching sight. I appreciate not being on the menu or radar of the small but fierce Merlin.

On a rare sunny day in mid-August, I was fortunate to spy on a Merlin, maybe the same one, resting on a stump. She (or a juvenile) stretched and preened, aware of me, but not too concerned. The bright yellow legs, spots and dots under the wings, banding on the tail, creamy white chin, and blending of patterns on the breast were stunning. Nature is a Master Artist! After a thorough pre-flight check of her tail and wings, the expert pilot blasted off on her next mission. Bon appetite!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Uber-Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

* Origin and Meaning of "Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop"

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