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