A Utah Gyrfalcon Lifer and cruddy photos

/, Birds, Gyrfalcons, Utah/A Utah Gyrfalcon Lifer and cruddy photos

Fuzzy fly by GyrfalconFuzzy fly by Gyrfalcon

Yesterday was a bit exciting when Ron Dudley and I found a large falcon along the causeway to Antelope Island State Park. It first flew over us heading east and we turned around to try and catch up with it. When we got turned around and headed east after the bird I was able to get a better look at it and I knew (or was almost certain) that we had found a Gyrfalcon.

Nikon D810 LCD ScreenNikon D810 LCD Screen

After flying several miles the falcon landed on a mudflat and I was able to get some very long distance images of it then captured the blown up images with my cell phone and sent them to my friend Jerry Liguori for his ID expertise. I was 95% certain of the ID but I really wanted to be sure before sending out an email to the UBIRD birders group. Jerry ID’d it as a juvenile Gray Gyrfalcon.

The image above is a cell phone capture of my Nikon D810 LCD screen that shows just how tiny in the frame the gyrfalcon was after it took off from the mudflat.

Way off in the distanceWay off in the distance

And this is the image at 100% resolution, really crappy but enough to help with the ID though.

Gyr on the wingGyr on the wing

The Gyrfalcon showed no signs of jesses or bands in any of my cruddy images so we don’t believe at this point that it is an escaped falconry bird. There are six previous records accepted by the Utah Bird Records Committee, the most recent of which was in 2001.

This could be the seventh record of a Gyrfalcon in Utah, we will have to wait and see if it accepted. I hope the bird sticks around so that other people can see it. Me? Well I would love another chance with it to get much higher quality images of this feathered wanderer who comes from the frozen tundra of the far north.

An exciting morning for sure! I came away with a Utah Gyrfalcon lifer and cruddy photos. I’d love to get more images of gyrfalcons in Utah but of much better quality! One day perhaps.

Life is good.


Update: The record was accepted and this became the seventh record of gryfalcons reported in Utah.

By the way, the light was horrible and the bird looks more brown than gray partly because of that.


  1. Sarah Mayhew February 12, 2015 at 1:19 pm

    Great siting! I have only seen falconry Gyrfalcons.

  2. Grace Dunklee Cohen February 12, 2015 at 12:26 pm

    Mia – How fortunate for you to be in (almost) the right place at the right time to capture these images. I call these ‘reference’ photos.I hope they provide the authorities with enough to credit your sighting! I hope you find and shoot this elusive bird again under more photo-friendly conditions. I will keep my fingers crossed for you and stay tuned!

    My philosophy is ‘First, get a shot. Then – if you can get better shots, do your best.’ Sometimes we can’t get close enough, something is moving too fast or lighting conditions are all wrong and we can’t get the shots we want. But for my own reference, and to study critter behavior, I shoot anyway. Even if I would never show the image to anyone, there is often something I can learn that may help me shoot better in the future.

    This was the case for me with my first Snowy Owl shots on the coast of New Hampshire last year. I learned enough from some of those ‘reference’ shots the first time out to get some great shots on my subsequent shooting trips.

    Happy shooting!

  3. Susan Stone February 12, 2015 at 11:43 am

    The idea of seeing such a rare bird for your area gives me goosebumps. Even if the photos aren’t great, I’m sure the memory is, and will remain so. Hope you get to see the bird again.

  4. Patty Chadwick February 12, 2015 at 8:51 am

    WOW!!! How exciting to see!!!…the quality of your photos are at least good enough for an ID….and to verify that you teally did see that elusive bird…one of the most beautiful….

  5. Jane Chesebrough February 12, 2015 at 9:13 am

    Very exciting, hope he sticks around, at least for a while.

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