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Sunday, 6 January 2013

HEMEL MEGA: MERLIN at Piccotts End Pools!


At about 14.50, stood on the footpath at Piccotts End Pools trying to pick out anything interesting from the grey scene before me, I was alerted by the rather desperate calls of a GREY WAGTAIL. I needed Grey Wag for my Hemel Year List so I scanned across the pools to try & find the bird. As I scanned the horizon left to right, looking for the Wagtail in the air, I noticed a fast moving bird enter my field of view from my left, which in that instant appeared to be a Thrush, in fact I expected it to be a Fieldfare. At this moment small birds that I hadn't noticed were scattering everywhere, alarm calling, & as the bird snapped into HD in my binoculars I instantly realised this 'Thrush' was infact a MERLIN!

It was flying very fast & straight along the hedgerow heading S downstream, over the far edge of the pools. It flew with almost constant, very quick, 'hurried-looking' wing-beats the whole time, & only very short glides, quite unlike the Male Sparrowhawk's more controlled wing beats & long glides. It appeared incredibly small for a raptor, very much larger-Thrush-sized, looking more compact overall in comparison to a Male Kestrel, appearing more stocky-bodied (more like a mini-Peregrine in build but more 'sharp-edged'), less long-tailed & less long-winged, in fact the wings looked very triangular, appearing to almost stick straight out from the body with next-to no wrist, almost like a Starling or Skylark! Unfortunately the poor light meant that colour-wise it just appeared overall grey/brown & a bit paler below but judging by the very small size & compact shape of the bird it had to be a Male.

It carried on S at about hedge-top height, then lower as it flew over the rough grass of the sheep field to the S, up over the Three Valleys Water water treatment site, then out of view. It was heading straight for the rough fields to the S which has potential be a decent hunting area for a Merlin, but on searching I had no more luck. The sighting was in all only about 10 seconds, but they were 10 brilliant seconds & a fantastic addition to my local list.






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