Saturday, February 9, 2013

Nemesis


Merlin
The post name says it all.  Birders use a lingo phrase known as "Nemesis bird". "What is it?", you may ask? Well it's a bird that for some reason or another "hides" or evades our own birder radar.  And yet, others will see it everywhere, often, or sometimes while the poor one singular birder(that would be moi) won't see it at all! Every birder has their own "Nemesis" bird. On our hunt for birds this month, I hoped to find my own Nemesis bird....the Merlin.
Ferruginous Hawk
Now the problem with my Nemesis bird is that it is surrounded by similar looking birds.  I would get excited if some new behavior was observed and think....."Is that it?"  I had several false moments of excitement that turned quickly into disappointment as I realized I had been looking at a Juvi Cooper's Hawk or Sharpie(Sharp-shinned Hawk)!  So I thought I'd share with you several of those moments. .
Cooper's Hawk(Juvenile)
A Merlin is a small bird that has a few markings that are similar to falcons and the smaller hawks.  I saw the Cooper's Hawk in the river and thought.....maybe?  But it turned out to be too large and the markings weren't right.  At all.  In fact, now that I've actually observed the Merlin, I can tell you that the flight patterns are very different.  The Cooper's flies low.  When I saw the Coopers take off, I knew immediately that I wasn't dealing with a Merlin.  Bummer. Meanwhile reports were coming in....Merlins everywhere!  Everywhere?  Really? Then pictures would follow and I'd sigh....
Peregrine Falcon
Off in the distance, I see dark markings and a face mask.  But it was too large and the markings were too dark and different. But still.....a Peregrine(above).  A very nice find.
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Quick movement or no movement at all made me suspicious.  I always imagine where I'll find a new bird. There's never "if" in my vocab. But I will say this.  It's always unexpected!
The American Kestrel is an easy bird to ID, but if you're new to birding and haven't done much observation on these various birds, it can be difficult.  The Kestrel is the smallest(and most colorful).  But as you can imagine, when something flies over my head quickly, I have to do a quick snap with the camera and then observe behaviors.
Prairie Falcon(thank you Jeff for the ID correction!)
I don't take anything for granted and I stop at every location just so I can find my Nemesis bird.
Cooper's Hawk
I go to the places where it was reported.  Instead of finding the Merlin in the spot it should be; I find a Sharpie.
American Kestrel
Or a Cooper's, Kestrel.......
The big hawks, like Red-tail or Ferruginous, grab my attention because they are such incredible birds. But then something unexpected would happen.
Red-tail Hawk
On an outing with Kathie after a day of birding(we had called it quits), she noticed a strange bird high high up in the trees.  We were driving quickly as the sun was setting......so how she spotted this Merlin is beyond me!  But she did and said in her excited tone, "Oh my gosh Chris, I think it's a Merlin." Merlin whisperer, I thought. After so many attempts, I was like, "Yeah right."  We stopped the car and I looked closely.  I had gotten my hopes up so many times before.  What if this was another Sharpie or Coopers looking different because of the sun angle?  But I saw the marks and cautiously became excited.  And I observed and observed and observed.
Solitary. Dark underwing.  Angular pointed wing.  Flight very different. Short and quick wing flaps. Wingtips do not reach tail tip.  And very weak mustache.
And then I knew.  It was the Merlin. One cannot go on tail alone.  Even though it's "square", the Sharpie has the same feature. So that's not always a reliable field mark.  This bird is difficult here because it is lighter in color than it's much darker Pacific siblings. To celebrate, we headed to Peña Blanca lake to end the day!

So now I have to find a new Nemesis, but I'd much rather not:)  If it's one thing that birding has taught me this past year, it's that it's better with friends who help one another and work as a team.  There is no time to focus on the negative anymore.  Life is short.  Keep away from the bad energy and just let things unfold as they do.  I am a completely different person than I was when I first began this journey.  And because of it, I'm finding a renaissance happening in my own life.  With all of this comes a singular and powerful focus that I haven't felt in years.  I'm not just seeing birds anymore; I'm seeing animals and other critters.  And it's my job to keep their secrets safe, but I'll snap a pic first:)  More soon.....

21 comments:

  1. Great post, Chris! I wonder how many Nemesis birds a birder can have. I enjoyed all your raptor photos and congrats on the Merlin sighting. Right now, my nemesis bird is the Common Redpoll and it is driving me crazy. Awesome photos, happy birding! Have a great weekend!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Eileen! You do the same and stay warm!

      Delete
  2. Congrats on your Merlin! Great pictures. I've still got many a nemesis bird. I can relate to the end of day special bird find. Many years ago a friend and I were just finishing up our big birdathon day and were driving out on a dirt road in Empire-Cienega after sunset when our headlights lit up a Montezuma quail crossing the road, our first (and only actually). We got great looks at it and smiled all the way back to Tucson. I've learned, but have to keep reminding myself, to never say the day is over and put away the binoculars / camera.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are incredibly lucky!!! A Montezuma's Quail is my list and they are SO elusive. What a wonderful find. It's the best feeling driving home feeling like something major was accomplished for the day:) Congrats to you! I'm loving the break today with all the rain in Tucson. Good day for getting chores done:)

      Delete
  3. Wcale nie muszę znaleźć tego wymarzonego i poszukiwanego ptaka, bo wszystkie są piękne. Wspaniałe zdjęcia i kolejny piękny pokaz ptaków. Pozdrawiam serdecznie.
    You do not have to find that dream and looking bird, because they are all beautiful. Great photos, and another beautiful show birds. Yours sincerely.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Giga:) Hope you are enjoying your Sunday!

      Delete
  4. how awesome for you! stay close to that kathy! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If we hadn't met, I don't think I would have become this addicted. Plus now because of blogger, we've become friends. And for that I am so grateful.

      Delete
  5. Oh well done (Kathy..?) on spotting the Merlin Chris, you have a fine series of predator birds here and btw your new header shot is stunning!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gracias Grace:) And yes a BIG THANK YOU to Kathie for spotting this bird on our way home:)

      Delete
  6. Congratulations on your Merlin! I love the raptors and especially seeing the Merlins during the winter months in Utah. You have a nice flight shot of a Prairie Falcon (listed as a Kestrel) as well. That's another awesome falcon. You can see the dark axillaries (arm pits), which are great marks for identifying Prairie Falcons in flight.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello! Thanks for stopping by and for the help and tips. Now you know why the Merlin was a tricky one for me:)

      Delete
  7. Such a wonderful post with so many birds of prey.I'm so pleased for you Chris that you saw and captured the illusive Merlin,... credit to Cathy for spotting it first.
    It's a beautiful bird:) I have soooo many Nemesis birds!!

    ReplyDelete
  8. What a great new header you're giving us.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hola!!!.. Bonitas imágenes de esta rapaz. Qué pases un buen fin de semana.. saludos.

    ReplyDelete
  10. All beautiful birds of prey. I really like the Kestrel on the branch, he looks like he has a mouse in his sights and is ready to pounce.

    ReplyDelete
  11. º° ✿彡
    Olá, amigo!
    Através de suas belas fotos tenho conhecido muitas aves diferentes, que nunca vi antes.
    Obrigada pelas explicações sobre cada uma delas.
    Bom fim de semana.
    Beijinhos do Brasil.
    ✿ °•.¸
    ¸.•°♡⊱彡

    ReplyDelete
  12. This series of shots are among your best Chris. Great job!!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Wonderful post Chris and some great photos :) So glad you finally caught up with your Nemesis bird :) I have several - Brambling, Hawfinch to name but 2! Keep enjoying your wildlife :)

    ReplyDelete
  14. Nice post Chris. I love the anticipation. Become one with nature...and the birds with come!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Glad you overcame the nemesis of your nemesis bird! Hope you don't get another one any time soon. OK...I am even more confused about raptors (some of my FAVORITE birds!) than I was before. I had never heard of a Merlin, and to me it looks SO MUCH like a Coopers! I have had a Grey Hawk come to my yard. That was exciting. And we have a small bird that comes that I can just assume is a kestrel, because I've never gotten a photo and I can't identify him properly. Of course, the Coopers come. I guess they are Coopers! :-) Anyway, have to tell you something funny...I actually had a crash course in some of the basic differences in the raptors by watching Wild Kratts with my grandson! It's his favorite show and he has always been a "naturalist in training" so I know he will enjoy birding with us. And he learns a lot about animals from that show. I learned several very helpful things that day! Whatever it takes, right?! :-)

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for stopping by!