Merlin in the Don Valley: September 15, 2021

I’ve taken to carrying a long lens on my back during walks just in case we see an interesting bird which is fairly far off.

This morning at Beechwood / Don Valley we did. We spotted a Merlin high in a dead tree and I worked quickly to remove my normal camera lens and replace it with the long lens. “Is it still there?” I kept asking the group. And it was still there until the moment when I was ready to take its photo. The photography gods were not with me as the bird chose this moment to wing away.

Fortunately I have taken other photos of this uncommon species which feeds almost entirely on small birds but which also takes dragonflies in midair.

Merlin showing yellow cere

Species list: merlin, red-tailed hawk, ring-billed gull, belted kingfisher, blue jay, black-capped chickadee, American robin, gray catbird, warbling vireo, common grackle, northern cardinal, American goldfinch. (12 species)

Some valley scenes:

Today’s group:

Some botany:

New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)
Swamp White Oak (Quercus bicolor)
White Spruce (Picea glauca)
Common Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia)
Horseweed (Conyza canadensis)
Silver Maple (Acer sachharinum)
Common Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia)
Black Walnut (Juglans nigra)
Beggar-ticks (Bidens frondosa)
White Spruce (Picea glauca)
Spearscale (Atriplex patula)
Mullein (Verbascum thapsis)
Spearscale (Atriplex patula)
Evening Primrose (Oenothera)
Phragmites (Phragmites australis)
Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus inserta)
Flat-topped Goldenrod (Euthamia graminifolia)
Spotted Knapweed (Centaurea stoebe)
Manitoba Maple (Acer negundo)
Brown-lipped Snail on Ragweed
Panicled Aster (Symphyotrichum lanceolatum)
Red Ash (Fraxinus pensylvanica)
Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis)
Chicory (Cichorium intybus)
Tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima)
Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron rydbergii)
Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis)
Tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima)
Hawthorn (Crataegus)
Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica)
Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)
Xanthium strumarium (cocklebur also called clotbur)
Lamb’s-quarters (Chenopodium alba)
Teasle (Dipsacus fullonum)
Canada Thistle (Cirsium pratense)

Thanks to Gary Chang for this photo of today’s Merlin.

Merlin (photo: Gary Chang}


I saw a star slide down the sky, 
Blinding the north as it went by,
Too burning and too quick to hold,
Too lovely to be bought or sold,
Good only to make wishes on
And then forever to be gone.                               – Sara Teasdale (1884–1933)

Miles Hearn

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