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Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Merlin and a Pec

Well, when you're trying for a photo a day, you don't always end up with a great photo.  But these two species are relatively uncommon in this area, so I thought it would be worth mentioning them.

I was watching shorebirds on the harbor side of Doran Beach today.  The mixed flocks of sandpipers and plovers were acting pretty nervous.  A Peregrine Falcon dove at them first, and just after they had settled down on the tidal flats again, a Merlin (Falco columbarius) decided to take aim.

Merlins are uncommon migrants and winter visitors in Sonoma County.  They actively hunt shorebirds and songbirds.  They're smaller than Peregrine Falcons and larger than American Kestrels, and they always seem like they're up to some sort of mischief.

When the shorebirds took off, their vocalizations revealed the presence of a few Pectoral Sandpipers (Calidris melanotos).  [A Pectoral Sandpiper is sometimes casually abbreviated as a"Pec"].  Pectoral Sandpipers are uncommon migrants in this region.  I heard and observed at least three individuals today.  Two are in the image below.

The call of Pectoral Sandpiper is a good one to know, as it's often your first clue to their presence.  It's a quiet, subtle call, but I'm hoping you can hear it on the recording below.  Although there are other birds in the background, listen for the soft churrt notes.  It's the first call you hear and then is repeated 7-8 times.

Pectoral sandpiper by nhbh

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