Thursday, September 26, 2013

Boundary Waters Birding

Last week we had a surprise visitor across the street from Piragis Northwoods Company.  A Merlin.  It is of the Falcon family of birds of prey and sometimes seen in town, so it wasn't a huge surprise, but an unexpected one.  Perhaps most appropriately its colloquial name of Pigeon Hawk describes it well, but not accurately as it is not a hawk.  This one stood over the pigeon it had caught and alternated between keeping an eye on me and a lookout for escape.  The dilemma was clear, he wasn't finished with his lunch and I seemed intent on walking past him down the sidewalk.

He resembles the American Kestrel and that seemed appropriate as well since we have a few of those sleek Kestrel kayaks for sale in the canoe barn opposite his picnic site.  He hunts by flying very fast and low, utilizing speed and agility, typically less than a meter above the ground using trees and shrubs as cover.  You may see Merlins "tail chasing" other confused birds like a jet.  They actually capture most of their prey in the air.

Merlins are one of the most agile and able aerial predators and in North America they are well known for fiercely attacking other birds of prey that they encounter (reportedly even adult eagles).  Breeding pairs of Merlins will frequently hunt together, with one bird flushing prey (not unlike a good bird dog is trained to do) towards its mate.

It was a cool way to end my week and I thought you might enjoy hearing the story and seeing the pictures.  After calling Nancy and Steve Schon over, I accidentally spooked him and he flew off, leaving lunch behind.  Schoney drug the pigeon over into the protected brush where the Merlin could return to it later in a more protected setting.

Fall has come to the Northland with some amazing weather.  The reds are popping out of the landscape, but only in rare appearances.  The cool nights should take care of that soon, though, and the horizon will be painted with reds, oranges, yellows, browns and greens soon enough.  Please accept our invitation to come up and visit and bring your cameras.  The paddling, we promise, will be great!

Have a great day from Your Friends in the Great Northwoods,
At the End of the Road,

Tim Stouffer, Marketing Director and
The Staff at Piragis Northwoods Company

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