Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Rest in Peace, Merlyn Felton

I was deeply saddened to hear about the death of my old friend, Merlyn Felton, who passed away on November 11, 2016. (Most of his friends, including me, first heard about his death this week.) Merlyn and I worked together in the late 1970s at the Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group, where we cared for the Peregrine Falcons in the captive-breeding project and did field work. But Merlyn did much more than that. At a time when the Peregrine Falcons at Morro Bay were one of the last known breeding pairs of the species in California, Merlyn spent countless hours, night and day, for months each spring camping at Morro Rock, guarding the nestlings from anyone who might harm, harrass, or take them. In the years he did this, the birds always fledged successfully, adding to the peregrine population at a time when the species was critically endangered. Now there are many nesting peregrines in California, and Merlyn played a vital role in bringing them back.

Merlyn wrote an interesting 1994 memoir about his experiences on Morro Rock, titled Falcons of the Rock, writing under the pseudonym, Donovan Lavender. If you can find a copy at a used book dealer, I highly recommend it. 

Merlyn Felton, Tim Gallagher, Danny Verrier, and Bill Murphy in the 1970s. Photo: Brian Walton

Merlyn was an avid falconer, and we had some great times flying our peregrines in the Salinas Valley and other places in Central California. He was one of the most dedicated people I've ever met. He will be greatly missed. 

Merlyn Felton and his Peregrine, 1978.   (c) Tim Gallagher


  1. If anyone who knew Merlyn would please contact me, I would be very grateful.
    Carollyne (Carol Fisher) cleighland@dccnet.com 604-886-2010 in British Columbia, CANADA.

  2. I am deeply saddened to read this today. Many times over the years I have searched the Internet with hopes of finding out what my old friend was up to. Especially on our birthdays, which we shared. Not surprisingly, he remained elusive. I will always treasure the 5 1/2 years we spent together so long ago. Memories of Peregrines, the Big Sur coast, discovery, and adventure. Rest in peace dear Merlyn.

  3. I was a friend of Merlyns. I met him in 1976 when I dated his goodfriend Johnny Glassburn, who passed in 1977. The last time I saw Merlyn, I traveled with him to Washington, to return Peregine Falcon chicks to their nest...amazing experience. I regrettably lost contact with Merlyn. I adored him and he I. I will forever treasure our friendship and memories.

    1. Yes, Merlyn was a great guy and so was John Glassburn. It was such a tragedy when John died so young.