Merlin Falco columbarius in SE Worcestershire

By Mark E Turner

Although this species over-winters in our area annually it is often overlooked and I suspect regularly mistaken for Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus.

09.15 hrs on 29th January 2001. Whilst driving along Broadway to Leamington Road, a fast moving, ground-hugging bird of prey caught my eye as it sped across a large lawned area. Its tiny size instantly narrowed the possibilities to male Sparrowhawk or Merlin. Although the observation was brief, the image was clear. Underparts appeared pale and not barred and short pointed wings angled back. There was no suggestion of flickering wing-beats, interspersed with short glides as per Accipiters, but continuous purposeful, powered flight. The plumage was not coarsely patterned, therefore I ruled out female/juvenile Merlin. In conclusion I am happy my bird was an adult male Merlin.

The same week I received a report of a "small blue bird of prey" with pointed wings flying across the road ahead of the observers near Saintbury.

Interestingly on 5th February at 07:35 hrs, Christine, my wife, described a fast, hedge-hopping, thrush-sized bird of prey near Childswickham, which she is convinced bore no resemblance to a Sparrowhawk.

Other sightings I have made in recent years have been Harvington February 1996, Bretforton December 1996 and March/April 1997, and Harvington October 1997.

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