Monday, May 3, 2010

life and death in the Central Hillside

The merlins eventually decided against my spruce, but they are definitely nesting in the neighborhood, I think in a little grove of conifers about four blocks (as the merlin flies) from my house. A few weeks ago on a neighborhood walk I saw one perched at the very tippy-top of one of the trees, and the other flew out from the interior of that tree to another tree, and they seemed to be calling back and forth to each other.

In my yard, a pair of house finches have commandeered an old nest on one of the beams on my back porch, and a robin built a nest on the bat house I put up above my kitchen window. (That was not the intended effect of the bat house, but I guess wildlife is wildlife.) (I actually haven't seen a live bat in a long time, not this year yet and I don't recall seeing one last year, either.)

Today I was coming back from the dentist, and decided to cut through the alley and into the backyard so that I could check on my recently planted fruit trees. Just as I turned the corner into my yard, I saw one of the merlins fly up from my garden, not far from where I planted my spinach, with a dark bird not much smaller than him in his talons. I couldn't see any details of the victim, just a splay of black-grey feathers as the merlin flew off. There was a deeply distressed robin calling from my neighbor's chokecherry, and grackles and starlings making a ruckus in my spruce. I checked the garden, but there were no clues, not one feather or a drop of blood. But I'm guessing it was a robin, since they like to pick around the compost in my garden for grubs.

Ten minutes after I went inside, the backyard was quiet and idyllic again, pigeons and grackles at the birdfeeders, a robin singing and the house finch chirping to her mate. Forty five minutes later I went back outside, and there was a robin back on the bat house nest. So if it was a robin that got killed, it might not have been one of "mine." If I hadn't witnessed the merlin fly off with his prey, I would have had no idea that it had happened. I wonder how often the merlins are hunting in my yard.

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