Saturday, October 3, 2009

Damn damn damn damn damn

After a week or so of looking, and hundreds of miles on the new Subaru, I finally found a merlin this afternoon—in a favorable location for trapping, and just a few miles from home. I deployed a phai trap baited with a sparrow, then a short distance away dropped two more sparrows in a bal-chatri, and finally parked and settled in to wait.

Seemingly out of nowhere—actually from between two buildings—came a passage redtail intent on the sparrow fluttering in the phai. Almost immediately, a spike kestrel (no idea where he came from) made a slashing stoop at the redtail, but the bigger bird continued undeterred and took the sparrow, mauling the lightly-built (but fortunately weighted) phai in the process; she managed to carry the trap and weight over a chain-link fence before being grounded for good. Cursing, I sprinted around the fence to release the redtail as the kestrel departed for points unknown. The redtail was caught in a single noose, and once I'd draped her in my overshirt (good thing it was a cool day, as I have been wearing just T-shirts) it was easy enough to let her go—but what a show for the merlin.

I carried the mangled phai back to the car and drove off, hoping against hope the merlin might still hit the bal-chatri. To my surprise, she hadn't flown off straight away.

Instead, she scanned the area from her lightpole for ten minutes, and then flew away.


Anonymous said...

I hear you. I spent 3 of the last 4 days watching a merlin make short, productive sorties at dragonflies, totaly ignoreing the obviously distressed sparrow so carefully placed for her. Now the weather has turned and she has moved on. grrrr


Mark Churchill said...

I remember a time or two in Florida when dragonflies were the bane of our existence...