Name this raptor UPDATED with photos

A family of 4 or 5 raptors has nested in Tahoe Park above the playground, and I need help identifying them. I’ll have to go back with a better camera, but in the meantime if anyone who has been there recently can shed some light, my kids and I would be grateful. All I know is it is not a red tailed hawk; we see enough of those to spot them. It is a small raptor with a white belly and grey back and hood, and a striped tail. I have concluded that they are Merlins, a small falcon breed that apparently is becoming common in urban areas. Whatever they are, they are neat! Today we found a bird carcass below the nest; I imagine one of them fell and died and stray dogs ate it? Or perhaps they killed and ate a pigeon–would birds do that?

UPDATE Monday 1:00 PM: Mrs Cool and the kids snapped some awesome photos today, including some that add an air of mystery to the proceedings.

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Fairfield teenager attacks raccoon with sword

Nom Nom Nom!
I suppose you would have us
exhaust all diplomatic options first?

Creative Commons License photo credit: smysnbrg

Perhaps you’ve heard the story of Marquel Dawson, the Fairfield teenager who attacked a mountain lion with a samurai sword (Video clip) to protect the family dog. Or at least he thought it was a mountain lion: Fish and Game officials now believe the animal was actually a raccoon.

You may chuckle, and I’m sure that Dawson’s rep has taken a hit back home. He’s probably lucky he’s not in high school anymore. But I would like to point out that when Dawson armed himself with a sword he thought he was attacking a mountain lion. He thought, “Should I attack a mountain lion? Yes, this is a great idea, this cannot possibly be a bad idea.” The guy held a samurai sword over his head and swung it at what he thought was a mountain lion.

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Heh heh, you said “Humpback”…

whalesNothing shows our Sacramento like whales accidentally swimming upriver. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is about this occurrence and the news it generates that amuses me so. I think it has much to do with the fact that it is a completely random natural anomaly — like a hermaphroditic sheep or Lindsey Lohan — but since we live on the river and have the news 24/7 we have kind of come to expect it. It is given the sort of seasonal reverence that the cicadas get back east. But it’s really more akin to sap on a maple tree in the shape of a Saint, if you think about it. Anyway it amuses me. I hope these gentle giant idiots get the technical assistance they need to find their way back into the ocean.

(By the way, I kid the whales. I do really hope they’re not in danger and I think I probably would go see them in Rio Vista.)