THE MERLIN ATTACK
Note: This article appeared in the October 2013 issue of Racing Pigeon Digest
On Aug 15th, my wife and I took our young bird race team to Vina to fly the eastern route of our South to North race course for the forth-coming 2013 yb races. I released the first crate of nine birds from a location just east of the Vina Fire Station after spending about 10 minutes scanning the sky for any falcons. The Vina Plains are notorious for having Prairie Falcons year around.
The first nine headed north flying an S pattern until they were out of sight. Fifteen minutes later the next eleven birds were released and started north flying the same S pattern but abruptly veered to the east and two birds left the flock, one to the west and one to the east. The western bird came due south just west of me and was joined by another bird that I at first thought was another pigeon. The closer they got to my location the faster they flew and it dawned on me that a Merlin Falcon was in hot pursuit of one of my birds.
NOTE: My location was on a slightly elevated county road with fencing on both sides of the roadway which put the fence top only a couple of feet above the roadway.( I released right off the road) The nearest power line was at least one half mile away and the nearest tree was probably a mile distant. The highest point in the surrounding area was my dodge van. The following action took place within no more than 250 yards of our vehicle.
The Falcon would close the gap and just at the right instant, the pigeon would veer off and the falcon would get right on it again and this scenario continued eight or nine times until the falcon made closed talon contact and the pigeon started down about 100 yards south of us—-then an amazing thing happened. The pigeon with the falcon in hot pursuit headed directly at us. As they approached, I raised my arms and yelled. The falcon went skyward and the pigeon landed on the top of the van for a moment and then dropped to the ground and got into the undercarriage of the vehicle.
My wife and I stared at each other is disbelief. We had just seen an event that most pigeon breeders will never see in their lifetime and more important, my bird was safe, at least for the present. Now the challenge was to retrieve the bird. We could see her in the undercarriage and she was obviously traumatized. My wife suggested that we give her time to calm down.
While we were waiting for her to calm down, we reflected back on why she didn’t flare off when I yelled, like the falcon did. Obviously, the falcon was a bigger threat than I was. The pigeon had seen and heard me do the same thing when I want them to get off the roof at home, and I was wearing the same clothes I always wear, and she was very familiar with the van. Regardless, she was safe under the car. Now, how do I physically get my hands on her without her flying out and again encountering the Falcon.
The van sits too close to the ground to crawl under and I couldn’t see endangering either of us crawling under a jacked up car. My wife finally kept reaching under with a lug wrench until I could reach her in the front wheel suspension. She didn’t resist at all. The only damage to the bird is that her new ninth and tenth primary flights have very small V notches at the end of each flight, apparently from the pressure exerted on those flights to escape the falcon. The remaining 20 birds were transported farther north and released. My little pigeon ( hen #0258) rode home in the comfort of the van and all the others made it home none the worse for wear. The little hen will dictate her own future. If she wants to resume flying then that is what she will do. If she doesn’t want to venture out of the loft, so be it. On thing is certain, she provided quite a show and left us with an appreciation for the will to survive that is found in every bird in our sport.
Churn Creek Loft