I have monitored nesting success of Merlins for four previous years. This year neat finding has been really slow. I know of a probable nest near Freeville and a probable nest near the Ithaca swim club and a third in Endicott. The adults are flying around the probably nest, but not yet incubating. From other years my earliest incubation date has been 1 May with some nests considerably later.
This year I have made probably 2-6 trips to every report of a Merlin sighting, either those sent to me (at <confergoldwing...>) or posted to eBird. Boy, either they are getting more sneaky, or my skill is dropping. Well, my hearing isn't as good, and I can't get out at daylight, which I have found to be the most fruitful time.
I have used the observations for science publications and popular science education. I don't tell people about nests if the only access is on private property, and I don't tell people about a nest until the nestlings are fairly old, at which point the adults are very unlikely to desert. I have found nests on the border of school grounds, in branches over roads and even highways, and adjacent to really busy sidewalks. I followed one nest adjacent to another conifer that was cut down as the adults fed the nestlings in order to make way for the installation of an above ground swimming pool. And the young fledged. I don't like to take any chances with disturbing nesting birds, but I think Merlin are extraordinairly well adapted to humans.
I find it interesting that I have never found a really rural Merlin nest. Surely nests in urban/suburban areas are morel likely to be ofund. But none out of 24 in rural areas. Not sure why that should be.
Love to hear about any probable Merlin nest, thanks.