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Last fall I was lucky enough to sit-in on one of our nature center’s popular falconry classes. During the class, the instructor talked about the different kinds of birds that are commonly used by falconers. As she rattled off the list: red tailed hawks, red shouldered hawks, kestrels, and merlins one of the class participants stopped her and said, “Merlin? Like the wizard?”

As much as I would like to imagine a mythical Arthurian figured perched on the glove of one of our naturalists, the merlin is in fact a small bird of prey in the falcon family. And while they may not technically have any magical powers, their power and adaptability are incredible to behold.

W. Brooks Paternotte took the helm of Irvine Nature Center as executive director in July 2013 and immediately began building on the strong 35-year foundation. Brooks is a Baltimore native who was a teacher, coach, advisor, dean and Head of the Middle School during his 13 years at Boys’ Latin School in Baltimore. He is also an instructor and ambassador of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) and is a Leave No Trace Master, as well as an avid outdoorsman and a features writer for FlyLife Magazine.