This is so exciting I have to post it before the umpteen other posts that I have in mind for today. Oh yeah, serious bird nerd here.
I was just in the kitchen watching a pair of White Tailed Kites doing some nifty aerobatics over the pasture, and it was like oh yeah DUH I just happen to have The Beast camera with the super mondo telephoto lens sitting on the couch. So I dashed outside to shoot some photos, but in that time they psychically knew I was coming, and high-tailed it (okay, birds don't really high-tail it I guess) behind the neighbor's house and away. Sigh.
Dejected, I turned the camera off and walked back around the house. And I happened to look up into the mulberry tree on the far side of the yard and think "I don't recognize that bird." Almost a kestrel, but something in that split second told me it was different. In the same moment, it flew and I turned the camera on and hefted The Beast up to my eyeball. All I got was a crappy photo as it rocketed off across the field in the distance, behind a tree where I was standing. But it was enough to tell me (thanks to the Sibley bird book that I keep on the desk and never put away) that it was indeed not a Kestrel, but instead a Merlin! An adult female Merlin, to be specific. Woot! That's the second Merlin I've ever seen.
Here's the whole photo:
And then if I zoom in... sorry it's all grainy and stuff. It's pretty dark and gray out today anyway: