I was sat around the camp fire this morning at 06:30hrs having a cup of Dandelion coffee, Merlin having eaten was settling down for the day, when suddenly he was surrounded my around 30 song birds, consisting of blue tits, great tits, long-tailed tits, chaffinch and sparrow.
I did not pick up on the initial alarm call; it may have been very subtle and to be fair I was still prising the sleep from my eyes. As I sat and watched how they responded to Merlin’s presence, it was clear that some of the birds stayed well up in the canopy which was around 15-20 metres in height. The closest one went to around 2-3 metres from Merlin and this was a Blue Tit.
Merlin in the meantime was completely un-interested in them, perhaps he thought they presented no threat to him, or maybe because he is captive breed his responses may be somewhat different to that of a wild bird?
At one point Merlin ruffled his feathers, trapping air between them and shaking of any loose feathers. This year Merlin has had the biggest and longest moult I have ever experienced with him, I checked with some friends and their birds were moulting heavily as well. We concluded it was due the weather we are having, I decrease, immediately after Merlin ruffled his feathers the parabolic flock of birds suddenly went wild. The warning calls change to scalding headed up by the long-tailed tits mainly. In fact I had the sense that the Long-tailed Tits were the main guys in the group, I will need to check this out further to see if there is a lead role here for some birds.
Notably absent were the Blackbirds that said I had only observed one or two Blackbirds in the area that I am working in. After my brew I headed off to check on my client, and as I returned I became aware that two Magpies had now moved in on Merlin, the song birds had settled down and started to move away from Merlin as I left camp.
Again Merlin paid the Magpies no attention, and the Magpie’s left as I entered the camp site. Having merlin presents me with a great opportunity to observe how other birds respond to him and it allows me to pay close attention to their calls and how they change given different situations.