Merlin Nest Success 2018

In Brief.
              During each of the preceding 3 years I monitored 7 Merlin nests 
near Ithaca that collectively had about a 50% nest success. This is quite low 
according to other surveys and probably would not produce enough young that 
survive to breeding age to replace the annual mortality. Most of the nests were 
discovered by others and reported to me. Thanks to all who were involved, 
especially Anne Clark and all the crow people, and Debbie Mahoney.
              This year I monitored 4 nests, all of which fledged young.
                Freeville, 3 fledged young. Sorry but I forget who told me that 
there was a Merlin heard in Freeville, which started me on this search.
                Tioga Point Cemetery, Sayre, PA, 2 young. Thanks to Bill Howe.
                Near corner Pinewood Place and Sycamore Drive in at 112 
Sycamore, 3 fledged young. Thanks to Brad Walker and the crow people
                Hanshaw Rd, about 20 m south side of road, west of Blackstone 
Ave. 4 fledged young, Thanks to the Doerr family.

Some detail

I had a terrible time this year tracking down nests of reported pairs of birds.
I made about 15 visits to Dryden to find a nest. On several visits the male and 
female were conspicuous. One the female sat on a potential nest, but never 
nested there.
Kevin McGowan forwarded to me a report of a pair at a tree with a last year's 
crow nest at Hancock and Dey. After 3 or 4 mornings of 1 to 1.5 hours walking, 
I never found the pair again. I'm sorry but I have forgotten who told Kevin, 
but thanks.
I made 5 visits to Wells College campus, but never pinned down the nest.  The 
pair were fairly conspicuous and several people reported seeing/hearing the pair
I made a trip to Endicott for a definite nesting tree with nest, only to have 
the pair disappear from there,  and another trip to Whitney Point area to a 
road where Merlin had been seen twice this spring, once carrying prey, but no 
luck. Thanks Victor and others for all the help.
I chased a pair around Christopher Circle, Brandywine, Winthrop, Sandra Place 
and that area, probably 6 or 7 times, frequently seeing both birds, sure that I 
had found the nest on one occasion, only to have the pair disappear. But, 
hiking with your dog is good for you, isn't it.
Even with the successful  Freeville nest. it turned out to be not easy and was 
frustrating. I watched the female sitting in a nest  in Freeville for ten 
minutes and was certain I had the nest tree, which provided great joy. Only, 
for no known reason I knew she was gone the next two visits. Eventually I 
picked up flight into another  tree and found the nest. The tree was on the 
edge of an elementary school playground and for a few hours every day there 
were a lot of noisy Kids nearby. Eventually they did fledge at least three 

Birchwood then Sycamore then Salem then Sycamore nest.
                Brad Walker told me about a male calling north of his house on 
Hanshaw and south of Birchwood. Indeed it was there several times in the nest 
three days including the morning when I spent an extra hour there waiting for 
AAA  to open my car that had the keys inside. Then the pair called and flew 
around and landed in a spruce on Sycamore. Then the pair wasn't seen in two 
visits. Then the pair was seen on two days with the female going into and out 
of a spruce in the backyard of a home on Salem, close to Hanshaw. Then the pair 
finally selected a nest in a spruce on Sycamore.  Anne Clark and her students 
spent a great deal of time looking for crow nests in this area last year, and 
other years as well. She was fairly certain that she knew all the crow nests  
in that area, and raised the possibility that it was a Cooper's Hawk nest. 
Certainly not known, but interesting.

 Tobias and Venu  Doerr reported via someone at the lab and I forget who, but 
thanks, a nest in the yard adjacent to there's on Hanshaw. I was feeling a 
little frustrated on nest finding when I got the email, and suspected some 
mistake in identification. I drove into their driveway, looked up into a spruce 
tree, saw a nest, got the scope on it, and there she was. The entire family 
(i.e., human family) provided enthusiasm, nice observations including a feather 
collection from prey with a probable Bobolink, and incredibly easy access (a 
park in their drive and watch the Merlin nest.
To add insult to injury for the birds that evaded me, Nancy Cusomano contacted 
me that Morgan Hapeman, who runs the Finger Lakes Raptor Center had attained 
two nestling Merlin via the Cornell  Vet School . One was found north of Argos 
Inn off MLK street and the other in bushes in downtown Ithaca. They were both 
of the same age, and probably from the same nest. Now how in the world did I 
and all the rest of the Ithaca birders miss a Merlin nest near MLK Street in 
downtown Ithaca. Considering the time I spent in that area looking/listening 
for a Merlin, it is a bit embarrassing.

Occasionally, I have had birds that "tested" one or another nest, only to leave 
it and nest in another in previous years. This year the birds seem to do a 
major amount of trial and reject. I've not had this much difficulty before.

Obviously, I need help finding nests. Maybe next year?

thanks so very much to all how helped,   John


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