New Year’s Day dawned with a falcon alighting on top of the antenna perch a long block away. I assumed it was our old friend the male American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) who hangs out there a lot. But it was a Merlin (Falco columbarius), which are not as common here in the city.
A Merlin is a very fine bird to start your year with. As a historical note: Bull’s Birds of the New York Area (1964) notes that there was only one (1903) definitive record (i.e. a specimen) of Pigeon Hawk, as Merlins were then known, in winter in the area.
Before I left the house for the 9am Brooklyn Bird Club Coast of Brooklyn walk, the male American Kestrel was up there on the antenna. Two falcons in one morning! During the walk, we saw a female American Kestrel perching on the ballfields fences at Bush Terminal Park. I haven’t seen a female in ages. She lacks the blue on the wings and has more subdued rufus on the back, less blue on the head.
Then, in the afternoon, back home, I spotted AMKE again on the antenna. This time he flew closer, landing on a chimney pot that rippled the air with heat distortion. (That’s Ellis Island in the right background; it opened as an immigration entrepôt 125 years ago.)At one point the bird turned around so that his tail was hanging down inside the chimney. A little winter warmer? Not that the high 40s are all that wintery.
I’ll be giving a presentation on the wild nature of New York City at Brooklyn Brainery on the 11th. What did I choose to illustrate the Brainery description with? Why, an American Kestrel, of course. (By the way, Bull says they — “Sparrow Hawks” — were already noted for nesting in cities in his day.)