The Merlin Has Landed

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(Photo by LSSU fisheries and wildlife management student Jacob Northuis, Grandville, Mich.)

While walking to work recently, LSSU President Tom Pleger was pressed into service when he met students in Dr. Tom Allan’s ornithology class as they were netting birds on the north side of campus. Here, Pleger holds a merlin — a small falcon — while Emma Fowler, a fisheries and wildlife management major from St. Joseph, Mich. puts a band on its leg. Prof. Allan is standing at far left. The students capture birds in mist nets to survey the population during spring migration and to get practice working with the birds. They band the birds and release them immediately.

The merlin was chasing juncoes when it was caught in the net. The students banded about three dozen juncoes, a few common redpolls and some tree sparrows on this day. They also re-captured a black-capped chickadee that the students had caught and banded last year in the same location. Merlins, which are very vocal and known for their chattering shrieks, have been nesting on the LSSU campus for the past several years and their numbers appear to be increasing around the Sault Ste. Marie area.