A recent Starbucks run took an exciting turn for an Edmonds man.
Liam Fitzgerald was sitting at a table inside the Starbucks at the Greenwood QFC. He was finishing up his work and sipping a cup of tea when a large bird flew by and landed on a nearby ledge.
"It was about a foot from my face. The talons and the beak were huge. I was scared for sure," he laughed.
Fitzgerald couldn't resist taking out his phone and snapping a photo of the majestic bird.
He sent it to KING 5 News. Viewers had fun posting photo captions on Facebook.
I'll have a Grande Field Mouse Caramel Machiatto. - one said.
How Seattle can we make a photo? Cold day...check, Starbucks...check, Random Hawk flying into Starbucks out of nowhere...check!
Researcher Kim McCormick just happened to be scrolling through her Facebook feed that day, and the photo made her do a double take. She immediately recognized the bands that the bird had on its legs.
"I knew that she was part of a research study that we're doing on Merlins," McCormick said.
McCormick is a bird watcher who became interested in Merlins around 2005 when she started noticing them around her northeast Seattle neighborhood. In 2008, she found a nest not too far from her house.
"It ended up being the first known nests for that particular subspecies of bird," McCormick said.
In 2013, she hooked up with a research partner and began doing a formal study on Merlins.
"They didn't use to nest in cities. That really only started happening in the early 2000's up north - like around Bellingham. And they seemed to have worked their way south," said McCormick.
She and her partner track about 12 to 20 nests in the greater Seattle area. They know about nests as far south as Federal Way.
McCormick says she likes compiling the data because there isn't much known or published about this particular subspecies of Merlin that nest in the Pacific Northwest.
"It's kind of fun to try and figure out how they're adapting to living in an urban environment. Visiting Starbucks is a little unusual, but they nest in people's backyards and use houses and other structures as part of their day to day lives."
McCormick thinks the Merlin that ended up in the Starbucks was probably hunting at the time, and maybe missed the prey and just kept going.
As for the Merlin, Fitzgerald says another customer picked it up and got it outside, where it flew off toward Ballard.
Click here if you've had a Merlin sighting, or would like to learn more about the research study.