Merlin in Potter Valley
- Mon, 5 Aug 2002 -- At about 10:00 this morning I found a MERLIN perched
near the pond near my home on West Road, Potter Valley. The earliest that I
have seen Merlin previously in Potter is 29 Sep. I have 27 records between
29 Sep and 15 Apr.
I had a scope-filling view at about 50 feet for 20 minutes, but I
agonized over the ID with books in hand because it seemed too big for a
Merlin. There was an Acorn Woodpecker frozen quite near it and it looked
nearly twice the length of the woodpecker. A Mourning Dove tried to land
beside it, then thought better, and the Merlin was maybe 1.5 times as long.
It was definitely shorter than a Green Heron that landed nearby. This
might put it in the 16-18 inch range, too big for a Merlin? Wheeler and
Clark indicate that the top length for a Taiga female is 12 inches, and
that the Prairie form is larger. I interpreted it to be an adult female of
the Prairie form: adult because of wear and fading of some feathers, female
because of brown upperparts, Prairie because of near absence of moustachial
stripe, some spotting on the upper side of the primaries, lack of buff or
rufous in the underparts, and large size. However, the overall coloration
was a little darker than most Prairie Merlins I have seen.
Assuming that it had been on the breeding grounds this year, the
nearest breeding population would be in eastern Oregon. Some older
references I have call these _F.c.bendirei_. What are they like? They're
Taiga types, aren't they? Grinnell and Miller state that there is
inconclusive evidence that a few _bendirei_ remain in California through
the summer, and they were skeptical of any breeding records. Are there any
subsequent breeding records in California?
Later in the day I was over on Lakeshore Blvd. in Nice and saw an
immature BAIRD'S SANDPIPER on the boat ramp at the Featherbed Railroad Co.