On a Wing and a Prayer

In search of the Merlin falcon

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

David Drummond is for the birds. In a big way.

Drummond is the founder and executive director of the Merlin Falcon Foundation, a Bellingham-based nonprofit organization dedicated to research, education and preservation of these lesser-known relatives of the Peregrine Falcon.

Why the Merlin? Because, according to Drummond, little was known about this member of the falcon family that inhabits western Washington and British Columbia. Our temperate rainforests have been home to this reclusive bird for millennia, but it is rarely seen, a phantom among the cedars. The Merlin, you should pardon the expression, flies under the radar.

Back in 1983, Drummond was a wildlife biologist working on a Peregrine Falcon Study for the Lummi Nation.  In the course of his fieldwork he became enamored with the Peregrine’s smaller cousin, the Merlin. Less well known then the Peregrine (an endangered species), the Merlin “has a fearless presence and regal élan,” according to Drummond. The more he observed the Merlin, the more entranced he became.

“I am passionate about raptors,” he explains. “I seized the moment and dove in!”

As a wildlife biologist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), he felt there was a need to learn more about this songbird hunter.

“I requested support from the WDFW in 1988 to initiate an in-depth study of their breeding life history,” he recounts. “The lack of interest left me with an important career decision. I did not hesitate to leave my best job ever with this agency to begin a pioneering investigation ranging from Washington to Alaska on the west slope of the Cascade and Coast Mountains.”

Drummond founded the Merlin Falcon Foundation in 2003 and subsequently has launched the Coastal Forest Merlin Project (CFMP), a research and education program about the Merlin and its environment, living as a little-known backyard and wild lands neighbor. “Through the metaphoric Merlin’s eye we can see our shared ecology and survival needs,” Drummond says.

“No natural resource agencies were addressing the paucity of information about this fascinating falcon,” he says, “so I started the CFMP. Unless people notice and pursue their curiosity about kindred life forms and their communities, they will fall through the natural resource agency wildlife cracks.”

These days, Drummond wears two hats. “At the Foundation, as executive director, I perform most of the management and supervisor duties,” he explains. “As the Coastal Forest Merlin Project principal investigator, I conduct the majority of the field- and lab-work related research.”

He is quick to point out the work would not be possible without the efforts of volunteers and interns, who contribute to scientific papers and create power point presentations and videos for educational purposes.

According to Drummond, the foundation is looking for additional volunteers, as well as monetary donations. He’d like to make the Merlin a cause célèbre. “Only when the community is involved—and vested—with their ‘backyard’ will there be real change to our business-as-usual approach to the environment.”

To learn more about Drummond and his work, visit http://www.merlinfalconfoundation.org

More Outdoors...
Night Shine
Escape from Devil’s Canyon

When my supervisor at Bighorn National Forest informed me that I was about to spend my final scheduled workday of the season retrieving two government-issued chainsaws from a tool cache at the bottom of Devil’s Canyon all by myself, I accepted her directive compliantly, but with a caveat.…

more »
Spooky Sojourns
Of gore, lore, ghosts and more

What do a graphic murder mystery, Depression-era tales of darkness and despair, and spooky voice recordings have in common? They’re all part of what can be experienced by getting in on the Good Time Girls’ seasonal “Gore & Lore” tours taking place in downtown Bellingham every Saturday…

more »
Fall Fungi
Mushroomers gone wild

When perusing the astounding array of toadstools that will be on display at the Northwest Mushroomers Association’s 27th annual Wild Mushroom Show Sun., Oct. 16 at Bloedel Donovan, keep in mind that the spore samples weren’t purchased at a grocery store—they were carefully collected by…

more »
Handling the truth


Creepy Cabaret

6:30pm|Bellingham High School

Costume Party

6:30pm|Blaine Library

Scream Fair Haunted House

6:30pm|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

Berlin is My Paris

7:00pm|Village Books

Arsenic and Old Lace

7:00pm|Lynden Pioneer Museum

MBT Once Artifacts Wine Bar
Handling the truth


Scream Fair Haunted House

6:30pm|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

Arsenic and Old Lace

7:00pm|Lynden Pioneer Museum

Wild Things

9:30am|Stimpson Family Nature Reserve

Parkinson's Dance Class

10:00am|Ballet Bellingham

Spanish Storytime

10:00am|Lynden Library

Ferndale Farmers Market

1:00pm|Cherry Street

Final Ferndale Market

1:00pm|Cherry Street

Scary Bake Sale

1:30pm|Blaine Library

Gates and Fires

4:00pm|Village Books

Artist Talk

5:30pm|Syre Student Center

Gore and Lore Tours

6:00pm|Historic Fairhaven and downtown Bellingham

Art Party

6:00pm|Tillie Lace Gallery

Hamster Ball

6:30pm|Bellingham Cruise Terminal

Panic Squad

7:00pm|Lynden Middle School

Ben Folds and a Piano

7:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Our Town

7:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

Back to School Catechism

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall


8:00pm|Upfront Theatre


8:00pm|Old Main Theater

Rocky Horror Picture Show

8:00pm|Walton Theatre

Ghosts of Concrete

11:00pm|Skagit County Community Action Center

Andrew Subin Swinomish 2016
Handling the truth


Scream Fair Haunted House

6:30pm|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

Gore and Lore Tours

6:00pm|Historic Fairhaven and downtown Bellingham

Our Town

7:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

Rocky Horror Picture Show

8:00pm|Walton Theatre


8:00pm|Old Main Theater


8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Ghosts of Concrete

11:00pm|Skagit County Community Action Center

Fall Family Fun

8:00am|Fairhaven Bicycle

Pancake Breakfast

8:00am|Lynden Community Center

Run Wild Bellingham

9:00am|Whatcom Falls Park

Anacortes Farmers Market

9:00am|Depot Arts Center

Hummingbird Class

9:00am|Garden Spot Nursery

Twin Sisters Farmers Market

9:00am|Nugent's Corner

NSEA Work Party

9:00am|Birch Bay Bible Church

Family Activity Day

10:00am|Whatcom Museum's Lightcatcher Building

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Harvest Happens

10:00am|Bellewood Acres

Chuckanut Writers Workshop

10:00am|Village Books

Blaine Gardeners Market

10:00am|Peace Portal Drive

Youth Symphony Fall Concert

1:00pm|McIntyre Hall

Gravestone Primer

1:00pm|Sedro-Woolley Museum

Writing Workshop

2:30pm|Lynden Library

Closing Reception at i.e.

3:00pm|i.e. gallery

Walk the Stars

4:00pm|Village Books

Artist Talk in Edison

4:00pm|Smith & Vallee Gallery

Ghost Stories on Bellingham Bay

4:30pm|T.G. Richards Building

BAAY Haunted House

6:00pm|Boundary Bay Brewery

Irish Concert

7:00pm|Littlefield Celtic Center

Halloween Contra Dance

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Rocky Horror Picture Show

8:00pm|Lincoln Theatre

Saturday Night Spookeasy

8:00pm|Secret locale

see our complete calendar »

MBT Once Village Books Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Everybody’s Store Andrew Subin Artifacts Wine Bar Northwood Steak and Crab Lydia Place Swinomish 2016 Bellingham Farmer’s Market MBT Ben Folds