I discovered this Female Merlin flying like a rocket to the top of this bare tree. She looked like a Peregrine Falcon as I watched her from a distance. I was photographing in Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge and had seen a Peregrine the preceding day and was eager to see it again. As I got closer, I realized this falcon was too small to be a Peregrine. When I got close enough to photograph her, she was scanning the area below her from the top of this tree. I learned later (after I identified it as a Female Merlin), that they can fly 30 plus mph and even faster and they eat smaller birds. They catch these small birds in midair with a high-speed attack. Even though the Merlin looks just like a miniature Peregrine, Merlins are prey for Peregrine Falcons!
Posts Tagged: Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge is one of my favorite birding spots. I was visiting this Delaware wildlife refuge this spring and saw this Mute Swan in the sunset light. I photographed the Swan as it started flapping it’s wings and then started running along the water surface and took off in flight. Mute Swans are beautiful and graceful and very exotic looking. They are also HUGE with a wing span up to 94 inches and weighing up to 30 pounds.
Mute Swans take off from the water by running really fast and flapping their wings until they build up enough speed to take off. They can fly up to 50 miles per hour! I had no idea until I read about Mute Swans that they are not native to the United States. They were all imported from Europe in the 19th century to “adorn” parks and large estates. The Mute Swan has flourished in the wild and are seen as “invasive” in some areas because they are very aggressive and also because they eat as much as 8 pounds of aquatic vegetation per day. Some references state that they can displace native bird species and can also be a danger to humans because of their fierce defense of their nests.
It is hard to believe that this beautiful, graceful Swan can be a hazard. I’ll be sure to always observe from a safe distance!
Last spring I was driving around Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge and out of the corner of my eye, way back in the dark marshy woods, I saw a pair of Wood Ducks. Of course when I stopped to try and photograph the pair of Wood Ducks, they immediately flew away. I trudged through the marshy swamp trying to find them without success. Over the next few days I went back to that same spot multiple times and waited and waited and waited and finally was rewarded with some images of Wood Ducks. They seem to frequent dark areas that are very difficult to photograph and are very shy.
The Wood Duck is one of the most stunningly beautiful birds ever created and I feel fortunate to finally have seen and photographed these colorful waterfowl.
These small birds with their large heads, long pointed beaks and rapid flight are incredibly challenging to photograph in flight. On a trip to Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge last fall I watched several of these little speedy fliers zip around over the water. They are so quick I can understand why they are called Kingfishers as they swiftly catch fish and dart back to safety to eat their meal.
I was intently focused on photographing Belted Kingfishers in flight as they darted by my camera one evening at Bombay Hook Wildlife Refuge. The sun was quickly setting and I turned around and this “jewel” sat on a dead limb directly behind me! I thought it was a Juvenile Black-Crowned Night-Heron because I had seen several flying around earlier but something was very different. It was the seldom seen Juvenile Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron.