[CT Birds] Gyrfalcon thoughts

Townsend Dickinson tpdphoto at optonline.net
Mon Jan 12 15:21:27 EST 2015


The two Gyrfalcons, in a rock quarry north of Leacock, PA in the winter of 1982 is one of my birding highlights. Both were seen at the same time for an extended period of time at rest and in flight, one was a large white phase and the other was a smaller gray phase bird. I joined Tom Burke and Tom Baptist  for a day trip to see those birds. They perched in and around an immense quarry and apparently dined off the large flock of Rock Pigeons who also took refuge there. At least two different birds were observed on and off in the quarry and vicinity from late November 1981 through February 1982. I don’t know if it was concluded that these birds were a pair or if both were simply attracted to the same suitable winter grounds coincidently.

This observation also suggests that if they find a comfortable location, a Gyr may hang for an extended period. Keep eyes peeled around Harbors with tall buildings and Cliffs. Norwalk Harbor comes to mind as a place to keep an eye open around food and tall structures.

Towny Dickinson


> On Jan 12, 2015, at 1:55 PM, Keith Mueller via CTBirds <ctbirds at lists.ctbirding.org> wrote:
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> That's an excellent accounting of that Gyrfalcon Steve, Thanks for sharing and posting.
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> I never saw that Gyr in West Haven, but I did hear about it. That may have also been the bird that was sighted many times in Nell's Island in Milford around the same year?
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> The only sighting I have a Gyrfalcon was in Rhode Island in early January 1994 off Island Rocks at Sachuest Point. I was in a boat in the early morning, and this bird flew just a few yards over my head. It came from the upper Sakonnet River and it's full attention was focused on a Snowy Owl that was settled in on the back side of the large boulder. The Gyr made a couple of harassing dives at the Owl while the Owl kept its eyes intently focused on the diving Gyr. The Owl laid almost flat on the edge of the rock when the Gyr passed. The Gyr did this a few times and then flew off to the South towards the Sakonnet Lighthouse and out of sight. It was over in just a few minutes.
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> I was fairly sure that I was looking at a Gyrfalcon, it was quite large and bulky and just didn't say Peregrine to me. Unfortunately, I was looking directly into the rising sun, and the bird was backlit most of the time. When I got home later that day I called Jan and Stewart Mitchell and described the encounter to them right down to the profile and anatomical details of the bird, wing shape and its "gull-like" flight and overall behavior.
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> They told me that without a doubt I was watching a young Gyrfalcon and it was "playing" with the Owl.....probably sharpening up its hunting skills. That was one birding encounter I will never forget!
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> Keith Mueller
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> Quoting Stephen Broker via CTBirds <ctbirds at lists.ctbirding.org>:
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>> The Gyrfalcon present in New Haven and West Haven during the winter of 1987-88 was observed by many as it hunted for Starlings and other birds at the then-active West Haven Landfill.  The bird often was seen perched in a tall dead tree immediately adjacent to the Crematory at Evergreen Cemetery along the Boulevard.  It had the pattern of beheading starlings and dropping the bloody heads onto the drifts of previously white snow below.  Given the setting for the bird’s meals, it was a very surreal sight, to say the least.  The Gyrfalcon’s evening roost site was determined by Ray Schwartz (and perhaps others) to be on the southern terminus of West Rock Ridge, visible also from my back steps when I lived in the Beaver Hill section of New Haven.  The cliff site was marked by a distinct smear of whitewash, much as the peregrine roost site elsewhere on West Rock’s cliff face has been marked since 1999 by a build-up of whitewash.  On April 7, 1988 from the top of the abandoned West Rock Ridge quarry above Konold’s Pond, I observed the Gyrfalcon winging its way north along the West River corridor, the last sighting of this bird during its remarkable 3 1/2 month stay in our region.
>> Steve Broker
>> Cheshire
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>> From the ARCC pages at ctbirding.org <http://ctbirding.org/>:
>> GYRFALCON (Falco rusticolus) West Haven and New Haven, 22 Dec. 1987 until 7 April 1988, N. Currie*, R. Schwartz, et al. (87-48). Photos on file. See American Birds 42:228.
>> 
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