The Gyrfalcon as a Milestone
by Bryce W. Robinson
Today I ventured north into Idaho with Jerry Liguori and Caitlin Davis. We were in search of a Gyrfalcon, the largest falcon in the world, a dweller of the arctic. I really didn’t hold my hopes too high for finding any Gyrfalcons, mostly to curb any disappointment, but really we were on the hunt for a wandering creature on wings, in a vast and open land. In my eyes, the odds were stacked against us.
We made our heading to the area where the bird had been reported, and upon arrival, began our diligent search for what was truly a needle in a haystack. Not thirty minutes following the inception of our search, we spotted a perching raptor some telephone poles down the line. My excitement quickly grew, as I realized I was approaching what was to be the first falco rusticolus of my life, a veritable holy grail to my raptor watching.
How quickly we found the bird was remarkable. It went far better than expected. The bird turned out to be an adult, not the juvenile we were after. That meant that two Gyrfalcons were in the area. Quite spectacular to me, but perhaps something more common than anyone is yet to realize. Or maybe it is just this winter, as it seems many species of the north have ventured in large numbers to our lower lands.
I feel I dropped the ball as they say, so far as photography goes. I did my best for good photos of the bird, but honestly, the photo was not what the experience was about for me. It was a first in my life. I saw a bird on a long journey, from a harsh landscape far to the north, escaping a place so frigid and formidable it chose a winter setting in Idaho to ensure its survival. This bird is rare, it is beautiful, it is tough. This bird is wild. And today marks a great milestone in my exposure and education in the world of birds. I finally, with the help and direction of Jerry, saw Falco rusticolus, the Gyrfalcon.
I got facemelt just reading this post and seeing your images Bryce! Wow, what a lifer!
I can hardly describe my excitement Mia. It was a striking bird.
We have a beautiful adult Gyrfalcon on the Samish Flats in WA this winter as well as a juvenile GYRF on the Skagit Flats. This is a record year for us for wintering raptors. They are everywhere! More Rough-legged hawks than we have ever seen. And of course a few of the elusive Harlan’s hawks too. It is a spectacular winter to be a hawk watcher.
Wonderful! It really is a great year. You seem to have it all up there. I have heard of a few Snowy Owls your way as well. Lucky us, don’t you think?
So jealous, Bryce! A spectacular bird and wonderful report.
Thank you Ron. It was quite the experience.