Monday, September 26, 2011


Fall is definitely here on Roundtop Mountain, though the temperatures are still swinging back and forth between summer and fall. Rain still falls every other day or so, and though the temperature is lower, it's every bit as humid and muggy as midsummer.

This region has now already broken the yearly record for rainfall. Records have been kept here since around 1888, and the record was last set in 1972, thanks mostly to Hurricane Agnes. Since 2011 has more than three months until it's over, this is likely to be a record that stands for a long time. And more rain is in the forecast. Everyone I've talked to is sick of rain. Sunlight has been in very short supply.

Another sign of the new season is that I'm seeing fall migrants on the mountain. Today's photo is a merlin, a perched merlin, which is even more uncommon. It's a bad photo, I know, but it's the only photo of a merlin in the wild I've ever been able to get. I see this medium-sized falcon fairly regularly on a hawkwatch, but even there they can be hard to see. By the time one person shouts, "Merlin!" the bird is already someplace else. Small, dark and fast as a bat out of hell is a good description.

I saw this bird as I was leaving the mountain on Saturday morning (without my camera). I immediately turned around, raced back up the hill and grabbed the camera, not really expecting the bird to still be there. It was, obviously, but the bird was also now surrounded by three crows, come to mob the raptor, a favorite game. The local crows are usually left to mob red-tailed hawks or maybe a great horned owl. Mobbing a merlin must have been a thrill for them. The light was poor, but at least I got a quick shot.

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