I took this while I was scanning the stubble along Reach Road, in the hope of finding a good migrant, like the Stone Curlew that was at Sandwich this morning.
I've met Con before and each time he has been flying a Merlin. It isn't an activity that particularly appeals to me, but he is a proper falconer, knowledgeable and properly licensed. We had a long chat and all the time the Merlin sat contentedly on his hand. It was bred in captivity this year and looked bright eyed and very healthy.
I can fully understand the attraction of getting close to a bird like a Merlin and developing a trust and relationship with it. This is a male or "Jack" and being a young bird, Con was training it for flying this winter. The part of the hobby that I find difficult to accept is that when it is flown in the winter it will hunt its normal quarry species, such as Meadow Pipits. While this is normal in the wild and prey- predator incidents are part of the nature of things, it seems to be quite different to artificially introduce a predator into the scene. It is a difficult subject and an ancient art. I certainly can understand the thrill of watching this beautiful bird in full flight.
Chaffinch numbers seem to be increasing, probably because of the amount of stubble fields currently available. Inevitably they have joined the list of birds on bales this year.