Date: 10/30/19 7:30 am
From: Rick Vetter <cotingas...>
Subject: [obol] Probable Gyrfalcon sighting Northern Harney County

> Probable Gyrfalcon sighting. Sunday morning October 27, 2019 about 10:00am Harney County, (close to Grant County) on a 5 day backcountry trip
>
> Comments appreciated, and if you are traveling in this general area be aware. Will be contacting falconer friends for possible escapees.
>
> At first we did not even see this bird in a prominent tall ponderosa snag because it blended into the whitish snag. Then we commented that part of the snag really is a bird! It was located along Forest Road 17 between Shurtz and Gabe creek near the 1710 road
>
> Slowing down and approaching the bird, it looked like a RTHA in size with a pure white chest and belly (similar to ferruginous hawk), but no evidence of a belly band and the head was light colored, with almost no pattern. Wings were darker than rest of bird. Now that it had our attention, I stopped the vehicle right in front of the bird due to a tree blocking the view and realized it was probably not a buteo! Too large for a prairie falcon and obviously not a peregrine, lacking a facial mask. “Albino red tail”, we joked, with our quick view. Could not see tail at this point.
>
> Then I made the mistake of reaching for the camera instead of the binocs, and in that split second of looking down it flew. When I looked back it was gone, with the truck blocking the overhead view. Sophia, on the other side of the truck, quickly relocated it. We all got binocs on it and Joan actually got on it perched in the tree thru the windshield with binocs for a second.
>
> Now it was flying away and banking towards the road for a moment before flying back to the north. Now we knew it was a falcon by the wing shape and stiff-winged flight. A large, white falcon from below, no dark axillaries.
>
> Even though this occurred on the Malheur NF, habitat was mostly open terrain to the southeast with low sage and scattered western juniper and ponderosa pine, with pine and fir forests to the NW. Poison Creek reservoir is about 13 miles to the West with about 100 ducks on it.
>
> Aside from being very rare for Harney County, it does seem odd that a gyrfalcon would show up this early. It is at the beginning of window for known Oregon observations of gyrfalcon.
>
> It is unfortunate we did not have time for a thorough observation of the bird or a photograph to study. We looked for an hour trying to relocate the bird with no luck and will make another visit this week.
>
>
> iPhone photo. View of snag from road where bird was perched near the top.
>
> Habitat looking north and it was much more open to the south east.


> Cheers,

> from a chilly Harney County (forecast of 2 degrees! )
>
> Rick Vetter and Joan Suther

>
> Sent from my iPhone
> Rick Vetter <cotingas...>
> Phone 541-589-2230
> “Even the worst handwritten notes are better than the best memory or technology”
> Sergej Postupalsky, eagle researcher

 
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