[Tweeters] Merlin seen with starling flock on Capitol Hill, Seattle

Kevin Purcell kevinpurcell at pobox.com
Wed Dec 16 16:07:34 PST 2009

Another sighting of a perched Merlin on Capitol Hill, Seattle.

On top of a tall Sitka Spruce on Federal Ave East (300 midblock) at
3:40pm. On one of the tallest trees around here - with the Deodar
Cedars in my parking lot being the next highest. Both are favorite
perches for Cooper's Hawks hunting pigeons on Broadway.

I earlier noticing a large group of starlings who were feeding earlier
in an adjacent parking lot and on the ivy on my building. Later,
working on the computer, I saw the 50ish starlings in a compact ball
wheel around the tree pulling the tightest formation turn I've ever
seen from starlings around the tree. Then heading off downwind. Hmmm,
group mobbing?

That drew my attention to the Merlin perched, rather like a Christmas
tree ornament, on the top of the tree facing the gusty SW breeze. He
stayed around for a few minutes even though the starlings having made
their point had left the scene. After being blown around for a while
he took off with the wind heading northeast.

Slightly more neutral light and higher magnification bins this time
gave a better view: dark back, probably bluish (i.e. probably male);
light streaked underside; dark cap. Quite blown around in the wind
both when perched then when flying off with the wind (on clearly
falcon wings).

Probably would have dismissed him (when perched) without the help of
the starlings.

I'm beginning to suspect we have a wintering Merlin "resident" on the
Hill having two sightings at Volunteer Park, one at Cal Anderson Park
and now in-between in the past month or so. Like our "resident" (and
slightly more predictable - pigeon hunting around breakfast time)
Coop(s) Broadway is the place to be for "fast food".
Kevin Purcell
kevinpurcell at pobox.com
twitter: @kevinpurcell

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