Report on Gyrfalcon
Continuing Gyrfalcon first found by Todd Easterla on Dec 31st. I first noticed the falcon north of Foster Ave. a good 1/4 mile north up on a telephone pole at 1315. The overall color tone of the falcon was a warm gray-brown, I would say a shade or two darker than the sandy brown color of a Prairie Falcon. The other characteristics I noticed were the long tail extending way below the primaries, also the breast color was pretty much the same color as the overall back color making the whole falcon a uniform color. There was heavy streaking throughout the whole breast extending into the belly. The face was also unique; I could see a thin mustache stripe that looked like a dark supercillum stripe and a pale colored cap and nape to the head. When the falcon would look directly at me it almost looked like it was wearing a thin mask, giving it a black face look. I think it looked dark because of poor light at times at distance with scope pretty much at full zoom. After about 20 minutes, the falcon took off flying NE further from my view. It didn't go far, but I was able to get significant characteristics in flight. Once the bird got below the horizon, it appeared dirty brown, and on the downward stroke of the wing beats showed me dark wing tips to the primary. The wing beats were slow and lazy-looking but very broad. The falcon harassed a raven before it settled on a fence post. I called all the birders and everyone got to see it at a distance sitting out in the field on a fence post. We confirmed it to be a juvenile gray phase Gyrfalcon. I re-positioned myself further east on Foster Avenue, which gave me distant but decent looks. The falcon sat on the post until 1700. In that time it would preen, fan it's tail, and stretch it's wings. When it was flying I could see a pale-gray color on the underside of the wings and the dark tips of the primaries. The bird would occasionally bend over and scratch its head and lift its feet. Even from the distance I was at, I could see that the feet color was a gray-blue color. This is a unique color to only juvenile Gyr's. At 1700 the falcon finally took off. It looked as if at first it struggled to hold itself up off the ground. It then began to look more strong in flight with slow wing beats, but powerful looking. It seemed to be flying rather slow for a falcon, but I realized it must have powerful strokes, because it gained ground heading east over Seidel Rd, out of sight quickly. The falcon overall looked broad-winged and long-tailed, and always flew very low over the ground. I snapped two photos of it through my phone, very distant so not good quality, but I think it's still important to have.
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