Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Fluffy Merlin

John Lusby, Aonghus O'Donaill and myself ringed this clutch of Merlin under license on 20th June just gone. We had initially searched the island we thought they were on without success about a fortnight previously. I had the female going back to the same location subsequently so after a few dawn watches I was fairly confident of the exact nest location. We had found only one old Hooded Crow nest the first time round but on the second visit we discovered a well hidden second nest with these lovely ladies inside. On measurements all three were judged to be females.
Roundstone Bog along with two other adjacent areas of lowland blanket bog was recently designated as a Special Protection Area primarily for Cormorant, Merlin, Golden Plover and Common Gull. It covers a total of 19,214 hectares. Connemara would be one of the strongholds of Merlin in Ireland.
As Merlin don't make their own nests they are reliant on old Hoodie Crow nests (we had one nest that was predated by Hoodies this year). By the end of the season the nest is left in a shambles so they have to find a new nest the following year. So there is no guarantee that they will even be on the same lough the following year. This combined with their incredibly secretive nature during the breeding season makes for a very difficult bird to monitor. To counteract this we put nest baskets over the winter which had hoped would be used by Merlin and due to their more solid construction could be used for a few  years in succession. They have been used to good effect in other countries in the past. The uptake so have has been zero but it's all in trial stage at this point.
I think I can say that getting to ring these Merlin was one the highlights for all three of us this summer. As far as we can make out it was the first time that pulli Merlin have been ringed in the county which isn't all that surprising as unitl very recently very little research has been undertaken on the species.

John Lusby with one of the chicks.

Aonghus and John comparing weight vs. length of the tenth primary to determine the sex of one of the chicks. The males actually take a smaller ring than females.

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