Driving quite fast along the A39 towards Wembdon today, I noticed an 'interesting looking' bird hunched down on a fence post on the far side of a field. A convenient turn-off allowed me to approach and locate the bird which confirmed my hunch and turned out to be an adult female Merlin - see record photos at website link below.
After 45 minutes of preening in a nearby Ash tree, she took off and flew fast and direct high up into the cloudy sky. After almost one kilometre of power-flying she intercepted and attacked a passing Skylark. The lark rose higher and the Merlin switched to a classic ringing flight and quickly caught up. Despite three attacks, the lark evaded the falcon, at least for the moment.
The birds parted and I lost sight of the lark. The Merlin rose up and up, higher into the sky, drifted back almost overhead and then moved high Eastwards. She then accelerated and engaged the same (or another?) Skylark at high altitude. There followed an incredible skydance with the Merlin making approximately 30 stoops at the lark.
Initially the contest remained at a high level but then the lark began to descend, perhaps due to tiredness? The tenacious Merlin was still flying fast and the near misses got closer and closer. Just before the performance dropped to below my line of sight, I saw the lark plummeting to earth like a stone with the Merlin in a vertical stoop rapidly closing in.
Despite not observing the ending of the hunt, this incredible 15+ minute performance surely ranks in my 'top twenty' falcon flights of all time.