Merlin: Lawrence General Hospital Helipad

February 27, 2018 in Merlin

_W7I0884-001With sunset closing in just after 5:30pm, under clear skies, golden late day light, wind: W 10MPH, and temperature in low fifties, had a very nice surprise!

While departing the hospital, an unmistakable falcon-like flight pattern caught my attention; spotted a small falcon in the distance, lost sight of falcon, stopped and scanned all rooftops and other possible perch locations; zoomed in on one distant perched bird….a Dove…..then one last scan….found the falcon perched overlooking the hospital helipad…..a Merlin!

The Merlin is a small, dashing falcon that breeds throughout North America. Only slightly larger than the more common American Kestrel (Falco sparverius), it is heavier and in flight often appears considerably larger. The sexes differ in adult plumage, with females noticeably larger than males. This falcon was previously called the “Pigeon Hawk” because in flight it can be mistaken for a member of the pigeon family; its species name (columbarius) also refers to pigeons.

_W7I0911-002Primarily monogamous, the Merlin raises one brood each breeding season, laying its eggs in the abandoned nests of crows or hawks. It feeds predominantly on small birds, which it generally catches in short, quick flights.

Reference cited:

Warkentin, I. G., N. S. Sodhi, R. H. M. Espie, Alan F. Poole, L. W. Oliphant and Paul C. James. 2005. Merlin (Falco columbarius), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Peregrine Falcon pair: Haverhill, MA

February 13, 2018 in Peregrine Falcons Eastern Massachusetts, Peregrine Falcons Haverhill, Peregrine Falcons Massachusetts

_W7I7691-001Made a pass through downtown Haverhill and found both adult falcons atop the apartment building at 170 Washington St. They were perched facing east and into the morning sun. After 12 minutes they both departed, a few minutes apart, for another regular perch, atop the Post Office and the Bank of America building to the east.  To the right is the unbanded female.

The male falcon  ‘black/green 72/AB’ – color-banded in NH in May 2012, and now approaching  6 years old.

This wild-hatched male was one of two chicks fledged from the falcon nesting box located at the Brady-Sullivan Tower in Manchester. Christian Martin banded him as a 25-day old chick, along with his 21-day old sibling, who later died after falling into an uncapped chimney at the nearby National Guard Armory, and was trapped out of sight in a basement boiler room.


Black/green 72/AB has been present in Haverhill since at least December 2014, when he was spotted and identified by local resident, and well-known NH birders, Steve & Jane Mirick.

Bald Eagle: Incinerator Rd., Lawrence, MA

February 12, 2018 in Bald Eagle

_W7I7005-001An adult Bald Eagle in regular perch on a tree branch overhanging the Merrimack River.  Mostly Cloudy morning with hardly any wind and temps in low 20’s!

Lawrence Peregrines: pair bonding underway!

February 12, 2018 in lawrence peregrines, Near the Clock Tower, Peregrine Falcons Eastern Massachusetts, Peregrine Falcons Massachusetts

_W7I7077-001Made a morning run by the Clock Tower in search of the Lawrence Peregrines. Mostly cloudy, wind from NW at 9MPH, and temp around 42F.

The female was perched on the short but prominent steel beam on south side of Merrimack Street near intersection with Union Street. This is a very regular perch location in the morning, as the weather warms up.

 _W7I7129-001She was midway through a morning snack, when the male zoomed in and snatched the goodies….pair bonding underway!

Peregrines chasing Ravens: Woburn

February 7, 2018 in Peregrine Falcon Woburn, Peregrine Falcons Eastern Massachusetts, Peregrine Falcons Massachusetts

_W7I6848-001The peregrines reacted to calls and activity of nearby Raven pair; the female made a number of flight loops out and around area of Ravens and back to a ledge perch each time. No direct approach towards the Ravens, but a gentle and firm message of territorial warning!

According to Tom Cade’s proposed model, with nesting cliff as center: there are a series of threshold perimeters surround eyrie with decreasing defense as distance from eyrie increases. Inner perimeter may be only 200 m; within that, attacks always occur. In outer perimeter, attacks only occur over food or favored perches.

_W7I6947-001The peregrines may be seen making flight patrols of area around nesting cliff.  This may take place when adults fly along cliff face or top to a given distance, turn, and repeat course, frequently in seemingly relaxed, but intentional flight. Often intruders, including Ravens, Red-tailed Hawks, and others are stooped at, sometimes jointly by pair, and loud, assertive cack calls are given.  The message of territorial boundaries is being conveyed loud and clear!

Literature cited:

White, Clayton M., Nancy J. Clum, Tom J. Cade and W. Grainger Hunt. 2002. Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.