Take Me To The River

Peregrine bathing in the Monongahela River (photo by Michelle Kienholz)

Yesterday, while the Christmas Bird Counters were absent from Duck Hollow, Michelle Kienholz stopped by to take a run on the Duck Hollow Trail.  Surprise!  From the parking lot she saw a peregrine falcon taking a bath in the Monongahela River.  Very cool!

A long time passed — at least 10 minutes — and the peregrine continued to stand in the water.  Michelle noticed a fisherman in waders standing further out than the peregrine but the falcon didn’t leave.  Why was it staying there so long?  Was something wrong?  She emailed me with a snapshot.

Peregrine bathing in the Mon River, 28 Dec 2013 (photo by Michelle Kienholz)

Peregrine bathing in the Mon River, 28 Dec 2013 (photo by Michelle Kienholz)

I was at home logging the 6,000 crows I counted over my house at dawn when I received her message so I drove down to Duck Hollow to take a look.  No peregrine in sight but there was a merlin in the river near the fisherman!

The fisherman left the water, the merlin flew to a dead snag overlooking the river, and my phone beeped with another message from Michelle saying the peregrine had flown upriver after 20 minutes in the water.

I looked at the snag again.  The merlin was gone, a kestrel was standing in its place, and the merlin was in the river taking a bath.  Michelle came back from the trail and I showed her the other two birds.

Here’s the merlin bathing. Quite a different bird!

Merlin bathing in the Mon River, 28 Dec 2013 (photo by Michelle Kienholz)

And then the merlin left…

Wet merlin leaving the river, 28 Dec 2013 (photo by Michelle Kienholz)


I wish I’d been there earlier.  In Pittsburgh there are only three possible falcons — American kestrel, merlin and peregrine falcon — and Michelle saw all three within half an hour.  A Falcon Sweep!   Her sightings were added to the Pittsburgh Christmas Bird Count.


p.s. One of Michelle’s photos showed the peregrines’ bands. The USFW band is pinkish and shows ‘160’ or ‘760’ (right leg, left side of photo). The color band (left leg, right side of photo) is black/green and the black seems to end in ‘5’. Who might this be?

Peregrine bathing in the Mon River at Duck Hollow (photo by Michelle Kienholz)

Dorothy, the matriarch at the University of Pittsburgh nest, has a pinkish USFW band with the number 1807-77607. Her black/green band is 5/*A.   Hmmmmm!

(photos by Michelle Kienholz)

11 thoughts on “Take Me To The River

  1. I was there earlier in the day (came down from the Frick Park CBC) and talking to the CBC folks there about a merlin another birder and I had seen at Duck Hollow after Christmas (January?) previous year! What wonderful sightings!


  2. I had a possible Merlin sighting this past week along Chartiers Creek…the bird I saw was pursuing what looked like a Mourning Dove in midair; the sun’s angle cast them both in silhouette, so identification by color or markings was not possible. I read the Merlin is the only falcon to frequently chase it’s prey on the wing…is this true?

    1. Carolyn, the merlin is famous for chasing birds on the wing. Though other falcons & hawks do too the merlin is amazingly fast in straight out flight. Don’t be a sparrow when a merlin is by!

  3. I have, what I have finally found out, is a Merlin, that frequently visits my yard hunting the sparrows. I live in NW Rochester in W NY. Why are the birds not migrating this year?

    1. Kathy, Not sure which migratory birds you are referring to. The merlin himself has migrated from the north (Canada) to your yard.

  4. Meanwhile I anxiously await the Washington county bird count. After hearing about kestrils and Merlins I looked at my audobon app. And found both birds had been sighted at Washington recently cemetery. I’m there a lot bird watching hope I get to see one.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *