Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Magic and Mystery of Merlin

From Bellville, Ohio, Kim writes: Kenn and I led a field trip for the 2008 Audubon Ohio State Assembly this morning. This was actually a "Kim is so selfish" field trip. What exactly do I mean by that? Here’s the scoop…

The organization that I work for -- Black Swamp Bird Observatory -- was one of the Assembly partners. During one of our early planning meetings, Jerry Tinianow, Director of Audubon Ohio, suggested that someone really should do a trip to Ohio Bird Sanctuary (OBS) because, for one - it was close to the Assembly location in Bellville, Ohio; two - OBS is a really wonderful place that’s doing great work; and three - he felt that participants would really enjoy it. Well, I immediately volunteered to lead that trip. I mean, yeah, I had the best interests of our participants in mind, of course! But, mostly I had KIM in mind, because I had never been there myself, and I've always wanted to go. Whew...true confessions are so liberating. Now that I've got that off my chest...On with the birds!

Acting on a tip from Cheryl Harner, President of Greater Mohican Audubon Society, we stopped en route to the Sanctuary in this sweet little piece of habitat to do some birding. Lots of great birds here, including Yellow-rumped Warblers, Rusty Blackbirds, and Red-shouldered Hawk. But the scene stealer was Merlin himself. Arriving in, for me, a very magical way.


I felt like I was in a scene from some birding movie. Just picture this.....
There we were on this icy fall morning; a group of birding compatriots, standing in tight formation to combine body heat. The marsh we were searching was washed in misty fog, and absolutely everything looked stunning bathed in the golden light of early morning. We explored the scene before us in unison, longing for something to appear. From my left I heard Kenn utter one word so softly that I wondered if I had imagined it. "Merlin," was all he said. Several seconds of intense searching brought the bird to me, but it would be several more seconds before its approach would break the barrier of my identification skills and place it firmly on my birding radar. It was indeed, a Merlin. Handsome. Glorious. FAST. He was a total scene stealer. And he wasn't done with us yet. As he began to pass overhead, he seemed to pause, reconsider, and then drop down to investigate this odd group of mammals looking up at him. Even sitting still, somehow, magically, he never really seemed to be at rest at all. Baptized in golden light, he gathered up our collective breath and held it for several seconds before winging off into the morning.

God, I love birding!

Thank you, Jerry Tinianow and Audubon Ohio for putting us out there to experience that moment!

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