Saturday, February 2, 2013

Taiga Merlin: Series of Preening (Yoga?) Images

I've happened upon some choice birding experiences recently as a result of deciding to veer slightly from my typical driving routes. Friday, for example, I was almost home when I decided to take a short half-mile detour that took me between our local high school and one of my favorite little quick-fix birding parks. I was delighted and disappointed at the same time when I spotted a Taiga Merlin perched in a lone tree right beside the road--delighted to be so close to a Merlin, disappointed that I left my camera at home earlier that day after wondering if I should take it.

Merlin's are in the falcon family of raptors and come down to Utah from the far reaches of Canada during our winter months.  It may not sound very nice, but Merlin's are essentially bird-eating birds with amazing speed and agility in flight. I observed Friday's bird for a few minutes without the aid of my usual optical tools and then took a picture using my phone camera. The resulting image did not do justice to what I was watching so I made the decision to drive home, grab my camera, and return to the scene with fingers crossed that it would still be present.  About seven minutes later I had my camera in tow and was heading back toward the school.  I began to cast my bird photography spell on the subject.  "Be there! Be there! Be there!" And...it was there!

I spent about 20 minutes photographing the Merlin while it stretched, shrugged, rotated, contorted, reached, plucked, and fanned various parts of its compact yet powerful little body. The Merlin looked down at me in a curious manner several times throughout it preening session. What a fascinating experience!

The talons that are capable of taking birds nearly twice its size in a mid-air attack and the bill that is capable of shredding its prey, are used in a more delicate manner as they gently separate and condition very supple feathers.  I watched as it balanced on one leg while using the other to complete a tail fan and a wing stretch. Some movements and poses reminded me of more human moments. I'll forgo including the funny human thoughts that crossed my mind and let you approach these images with your own perspective. Feel free to share some of your human impressions of the bird's actions in the comments at the bottom of this post.

Ready? Begin! 

Taiga Merlin at Highland Glen Park in Highland, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)
Taiga Merlin at Highland Glen Park in Highland, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)
One leg for standing and one leg to aid in the stretching process.

Taiga Merlin at Highland Glen Park in Highland, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)
Taiga Merlin at Highland Glen Park in Highland, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)
Taiga Merlin at Highland Glen Park in Highland, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)
Taiga Merlin at Highland Glen Park in Highland, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)
Taiga Merlin at Highland Glen Park in Highland, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)
Sorry, but I have to interject something here. That bill can shred meat. Look how gently it preens that tail feather. Click here if you want to read how various birds preen and why.

Taiga Merlin at Highland Glen Park in Highland, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)
Taiga Merlin at Highland Glen Park in Highland, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)
Taiga Merlin at Highland Glen Park in Highland, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)
Taiga Merlin at Highland Glen Park in Highland, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)
Taiga Merlin at Highland Glen Park in Highland, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)
Taiga Merlin at Highland Glen Park in Highland, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)
Taiga Merlin at Highland Glen Park in Highland, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)
Taiga Merlin at Highland Glen Park in Highland, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)
Sorry to interject again, but there is something really fascinating in how that fierce bill and deadly talon come together in a very gentle and calculated way.

Taiga Merlin at Highland Glen Park in Highland, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)
Taiga Merlin at Highland Glen Park in Highland, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)
Taiga Merlin at Highland Glen Park in Highland, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)
Taiga Merlin at Highland Glen Park in Highland, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)
Taiga Merlin at Highland Glen Park in Highland, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)
Taiga Merlin at Highland Glen Park in Highland, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)
Taiga Merlin at Highland Glen Park in Highland, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)
Taiga Merlin at Highland Glen Park in Highland, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)
Taiga Merlin at Highland Glen Park in Highland, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)
Taiga Merlin at Highland Glen Park in Highland, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)
Taiga Merlin at Highland Glen Park in Highland, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)
Taiga Merlin at Highland Glen Park in Highland, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)
Taiga Merlin at Highland Glen Park in Highland, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)
Taiga Merlin at Highland Glen Park in Highland, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)
Taiga Merlin at Highland Glen Park in Highland, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)
Taiga Merlin at Highland Glen Park in Highland, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)

8 comments:

  1. These are awesome shots dad! Love you :)

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    1. Thanks, Chelsea Girl! I love you, too!

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  2. Wow! So cool Jeff! Thanks for sharing! I'm in pleasant grove too. I hope I can meet up with you sometime!

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    1. Thanks, Jonathan, for visiting my blog and leaving a nice comment. Let's get out and see some birds soon!

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  3. Replies
    1. Thanks, Oliver. What's the forecast for Tooele County this weekend? Might be a good time to check out your county's raptors.

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  4. What a great preening session you captured! Lovely!

    ~ Sherrie (Bird Lady)

    http://www.birdladyblog.blogspot.com

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Sherrie! It was a privilege to spend so much time watching that Merlin. I wonder where it might set up home in Canada in the next month or two. It's crazy to think of where these migrants came from and where they are headed.

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