Date: 2/25/18 10:47 am
From: Hopkins, Jeff A. <Jeff.Hopkins...>
Subject: Jersey Gyrfalcon in PA

I spent some time up at the Morgan Hill Golf Club south of Easton (Northampton Cty.) looking for the gyrfalcon. After about 45 minutes in the pouring rain, I decided to start exploring some of the other roads which looked down to New Jersey and also see if I could get a better look at the cell tower up there. Eventually while driving south down Morgan Hill Road, about half-way between the Golf Club and Raubsville Rd. I had a large dark raptor fly across the road then turn and head south. It could only have been the gyr!

What I saw was definitely a raptor. It was buteo-sized, and all dark. The wings were pointed, not blunt like a buteo or eagle. Although the light was horrible, when it turned its head I saw the hooked bill, not a pointed bill like a corvid. The tail didn't strike me as especially long, but it was blunt and squared-off. It had a direct, powerful flight, with continuous strong, slow wingbeats from the shoulder. It did not soar at all. The flight was absolutely nothing like that of a red-tail.

Because it was flying away from me, and I was too busy trying to see field marks to get my camera out, I didn't get any pictures. But I watched it fly south down Morgan Hill Road and over the distant tree line. So I then drove the rest of the road all the way down to Raubsville Rd. hoping I could find it perched somewhere. No luck. So I drove back up to the Golf Club just in case it had doubled back. I made another pass around that area just in case, but there was nothing there to be seen.

It wasn't the greatest of looks, but in my mind there wasn't anything else it could have been. But to be 100% sure, I decided to head over to New Jersey to verify that it wasn't over there at the same time. I arrived at Oberly Rd. about 40 minutes after my sighting, and spoke to a couple women parked there. They told me I just missed it. It flew over their car and headed down the road towards Snyders Rd. . When I asked them where it came from, they pointed back to PA and Morgan Hill. A good sign. Further along Oberly Rd. I ran into Jason Horn. He had been there a while and confirmed that nobody at Oberly had seen it that morning - he was also unaware that it was just seen further up the road.

That was all the confirmation I needed. I made a loop around the area there, not seeing any raptors (though I did have a raven). So I headed home to get out of the rain.

Good birding,

Jeff Hopkins


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