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Nature Watch, with Trevor Beer

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: May 01, 2014


Trevor Beer

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Back in a favourite haunt, a male merlin watching us from the top of a stone wall and a buzzard soaring majestically overhead. It pays to stand still to scan along fence tops and stone walls, for often there’ll be birds of some kind perching atop. Indeed Stone Falcon and Rock Falcon are old country names for the little merlin and very apt they are too, males only being the size of a blackbird. Interestingly the name merlin is said to derive from the French emerillon, for the Latin merula, for blackbird. The scientific name for a blackbird is Turdus merula.

There is a school of thought that some raptors such as the merlin and goshawk were named after the largest prey they were likely to be able to take, hence the blackbird name for merlin, and goshawk referring to goose, the goose hawk. And, when on wandering rambles in the countryside, we are on peregrinations and it may well be that the peregrine falcon’s wanderings to find food outside its breeding season is linked to this. Tiercel, the name given to male goshawks and peregrines, is from the fact that they are about a third or “tierce” smaller than the female.

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