It’s been a few weeks since I posted images from any photoshoots at the TR Audubon Sanctuary in Oyster Bay, mainly due to the fact that I haven’t been back to do another photoshoot! I just remembered that I never processed one group of photos, and so here are some photos of the male Merlin at the TR Sanctuary.
This Merlin came to the Sanctuary, like many others, due to a wing injury. It’s hard to guess how this Merlin might have injured his wing, but when Merlins hunt, they often fly incredibly fast and low to the ground. It’s quite possible that he may have gotten confused in pursuit of prey and crashed into a window. Alternatively, he may have been hit by a car. Despite his healthy appearance in these photos, his wing really is damaged and the result is that he is simply unable to achieve the high speeds that he would need to hunt. Thankfully, this Merlin is well cared-for at the Sanctuary, and you can frequently see him in person at the many raptor presentations put on by the staff.
Merlin, Falco columbarius, is a member of the falcon family, and its range stretches across the entire Northern Hemisphere. It bears a strong resemblance to the Peregrine Falcon, although it is substantially smaller. Like its larger cousin, it is an incredibly strong, fast, and aggressive flyer which permits it to subsist chiefly on other birds. This particular Merlin is of the nominate “Taiga” or “Boreal” subspecies, F.c. columbarius, which breeds across the northern portion of the entire North American continent (Alaska to Maine) and winters in Central and even South America.
If you want to see a wild Merlin, Cape May is known to have the greatest numbers of fall migrating Merlins in the Western Hemisphere. It is known as “Merlin Madness” and I’ve heard stories of seeing dozens of Merlins together in a group. The best time to go is between the middle of September and the end of October – don’t miss it!