Thursday, 14 October 2010

The Merlin.

Kestrel. Phil Slade.

No not a Merlin but as good a photograph of the Kestrel that you could wish for, you won't need me to tell you this is a female with thanks to Phil who's website is HERE

I'm hoping a Merlin will take up winter residence at perhaps Conder Green/Glasson Dock or Cockersands where it has done in past years. This favourite of mine of all the raptors - along with the Peregrine Falcon - never fails to have its presence made known by thousands of waders and gulls taking to the wing en-mass and in sheer panic, if you were a wader or a gull amongst these masses and you fell victim to one of these impressive hunters in an attack you'd have to be regarded as being the ultimate of misfortune, just imagine being the one taken from 20,000 birds....Oh dear!!

It's pretty depressing when you read the history of this smart little raptor to see that the breeding population in Britain steadily declined during the 20th century, all down to persecution, egg thieves, habit loss, and general disturbance. In the early 1950's the decline was accelerated by the effects of pesticide poisoning, and as I see it the Merlin doesn't appear to have benefited from the withdrawal of these substances to the same extent as other raptor species have.

Today the status of the Merlin is still understandably shrouded in secrecy, like all raptors the bird continues to suffer the attentions of people - do they deserve to be called people - like the very nice Mr Aaron Kisiel who made his claim to fame with a lucrative business in stolen eggs and got away with it with no more than the equivalent of a slap on the wrist with our inadequate justice system.

Merlins can begin to appear in coastal Lancashire as early as the end of July/early August - though I'm not sure I ever collected a record on the coast at that time of the year - they winter regularly in south Fylde and around Morecambe Bay, whilst Marshside - Crossens has had up to four birds annually since the early 1970's, it is thought likely that some wintering birds on the coast of Lancashire come from other parts of the north of England and from Scotland and Wales, Icelandic birds are also thought likely to be fairly frequent. A couple of interesting ringing recoveries were those of a bird ringed in Bowland in June 1989 and was found dead in Brittany in January 1990, and another ringed in the Pennines in July 1995 was also found dead in Calais in October 1997.

The Merlins begin to leave their wintering grounds in Lancashire in March and all have usually left by the end of April, but some late migrants are recorded in the lowlands up to the middle of May. I'm now looking closely across the marshes and fields of Glasson, Cockersands, Cockerham, and Pilling and feel guaranteed I'll find one of these charismatic creatures once again this winter.

Sparrowhawk. David Cookson.
No this isn't a Merlin either but is another excellent photograph with thanks to David who's website is HERE  

And how about this then....My latest flag which I collected yesterday on the counter is from CHILE.


Warren Baker said...

Merlin. Its on my list of possibles this winter Pete, a patch tick to shout about indeed :-)

Pete Woodruff said...

I'll be keeping my daily look out on Pittswood Birds to see if the 'possible' becomes a reality Warren.