Slacking Off Leads to a Gyrfalcon

After having been out of commission from my oral surgery I really needed to get out today, even though I have not finished my Urban Bird Feeding Book. I justified by going down to Redwing to check on bald eagle at Colville Park for our trips next Saturday and Monday (space is still available for Monday if you with to take your sweetheart to see bald eagles on Valentine's Day (952-473-4283). Anyway, eagles are there so we should have a great time, plus I found one of the eagle nests we visit occupied with a resident pair.

My main focus going down was to check out the gyrfalcon that had been reported. You can see of photo of the bird at the MOU website's Recently Seen Page. I was driving around the area of Hwy 55 and 42 when I noticed two cars pulled up next to each other. "Birders" I thought to myself. I saw lots of arm waving and point, but nothing that really signaled either one had found the gyrfalcon yet. I noticed in the rear view mirror of the car directly in front of me that the driver had a well kept beard, "Denny!" I thought to myself. Eventually more birders showed up, one being Paul Budde from the MOU who had a bird in his scope. It was near another bird that was for sure a red-tail, but at the distance we were I couldn't be sure the other bird in Paul's scope was a gyr. Drew Smith showed up and he confirmed it was the gyr. We all moved our vehicles to a closer spot and still the bird could only be safely identified with a spotting scope, but if you had access to a good scope you could see it was a gyrfalcon.

Steve Weston, Paul Budde, Barb Martin and Drew Smith gleefully enjoy viewing the adult gray phase gyrfalcon in Dakota County.

I really enjoy going to "stake out birds" (for those not in the know a stake out bird is a rare or unusual bird seen that is posted to a listserv that birders all go to see). They are like impromptu parties people work together to find the bird and once the bird is found everyone helps each other to see the bird, shares stories of past stake outs and you learn how to identify birds you're not familiar with. When we were far away, the bird looked very erect in the scope but I thought for sure it was a red-tail. When we got closer there was no mistaking it for a hawk, you could see the malar stripe, the white front, the gray back. It's a huge falcon and was worth slacking off the day for.

You could see why it liked being in this area. The surrounding farm fields were full of Canada geese and mallards getting some last minute food before flying off to Black Dog lake for the night to roost. The large falcon had it's pick of waterfowl for food.

Also interesting to note today were lots of red-tailed hawks pairing up. I even saw one sitting on a nest on 494 near 35E.