Baylands Nature Preserve
Palo Alto, CA
November 2023

This merlin was engaged in a typical merlin activity: perching at the top of a tree surveying the landscape for prey. It was dusk.

It is a small falcon who primarily feeds on smaller birds. This merlin is a female; the male has a grayer back and a redder front. The merlin has been popular with falconers since the Middle Ages, especially among noblewomen. The bird’s name does not come from the Arthurian wizard but has a totally different etymological origin. But I still like to imagine Merlin the Magician traveling with merlin the bird. Those of you in the eastern U.S. might only see one as it is migrating to its seasonal grounds north or south. Along the California coast, merlins overwinter. I rarely see them and have never photographed one before.

Two days later I returned to the same area and looked up to see a merlin on the hunt streaking across the dimming sky. It was probably the same individual.

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