Often times the best birding at Forsythe is on the 'way to Gull Tower'....Now my daily sage; Get out of the car and walk. While the car might be a shield against those green flies, there aren't any now, so get out of the car and walk. Work your eyes, look for movement...scan the skies and yes, look for blobs on branches that might otherwise go un-noticed. While a few cars skipped on by, I happened to see one of those blobs.
It was a small hawk..... sitting on a dead tree and facing me. It was in that dead patch of trees damaged by Hurricane Sandy, right as you begin the Gull Drive length. How lucky was me. I 'returned to the car' and pulled out the scope, set up the legs and viola, a perfect image of a hawk. Did I mention that cars were skipping on by?
Now I wanted to ID this hawk so I mentally checked off from my list. But one amazing thing that graced me was the hawk was fanning its' tail like a peacock but only 'down'. But the bars were jagged. Hmmm.... I pulled out my Kaufman ( in the field I prefer a Kaufmann for my Sibley is too big to fit in any pocket I have) and flipped to pages 125 or abouts. Not the Sharpie, nor the Cooper...But let's see, it has a nice white eyebrow. Could it be a Goshawk? Jagged barring on tail, grey overall on back, eyebrow....Could it? But it looks too small.
Hmmm...a volunteer from the Center came meandering by and we looked at it. He suggested a Peregrine since it had a bit of a facial marking. Nah...I didn't agree...but maybe a juvenile Goshawk. That might explain the lesser overall size.
Then a lady, this time from California came wandering by a few minutes later and we began to look it over. Again ,cars skipping on by. See?...if you are in a car you miss things. She agreed, no Peregrine, no Sharpie, no Coopers. But she too brought up the size as too small for a Goshawk although other characteristics fit.
A Merlin? .... hmmm..Page 126. yes, a smaller facial marking, an eye brow, and perhaps jagged barring in underside of tail as well and gray on back. But only 10". Too small especially when compared to the Blue Jay floating around it which is closer to 11" and this bird seemed larger than the jay. So maybe a juvenile Goshawk still not grown to full size? Not sure, but the Merlin is too small. Sounds like Goldilocks.
What is the perfect fit here? ...wait. wait...we finally arrived at a yet unobserved feature. While the bird had moved back aways so the spreading of the tail was no longer a factor to observe, the scope provided a good shot of the eye...yes the eye.....the eye. Aye Aye man...the eye. It was black, not colored.... And that fits the Merlin. Both birds shared much the same characteristics with exception of size and eye color, especially if you consider the juvenile aspect of the Goshawk. The Merlin it was...and it made sense since this is migratory time for them and they are here in numbers. The eye color was the kicker.... . So an 'enlarged version of a Merlin'....that was how we left it.
I moved on and walked the remainder of Gull Pond Road...while cars skipped by me.