[CT Birds] Gyrfalcon thoughts

kmueller at ntplx.net kmueller at ntplx.net
Mon Jan 12 13:55:46 EST 2015

That's an excellent accounting of that Gyrfalcon Steve, Thanks for  
sharing and posting.

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?

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.

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.

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!

Keith Mueller

Quoting Stephen Broker via CTBirds <ctbirds at lists.ctbirding.org>:

> 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
> 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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