Chasing a Gyr
It’s been a while since I left my 5MR so when my friend Courtney from Bend mentioned she’d be in town for some bird-watching adventures I rearranged my schedule so I could join her. We knew our first target, a Rose-breasted Grosbeak visiting a feeder near Corvallis. I’d only seen RBGR briefly in Michigan last summer, so I was excited to catch up with one in Oregon.
We got to the feeder bright and early, and felt very welcomed. Thank you Bruce!
The grosbeak arrived just 8 minutes past her regularly scheduled time, and then she sat for 20 minutes on top of the feeder.
We worried a Cooper’s Hawk would swoop right in and eat her. But after posing nicely, she finally hopped down to the feeder and ate some sunflower seeds.
Then a Hutton’s Vireo distracted us.
And we looked back and saw the grosbeak had gone. She was in the trees above for a minute and then flew away. The experience was best case scenario for a feeder bird. Such a good grosbeak. From here Courtney and I looked unsuccessfully for the Tundra Bean-Goose at Finley NWR, but we saw FOY Tree Swallows!
Then we dipped on a Glaucous Gull at a nearby landfill, but we lucked out with Tricolored Blackbirds hanging out at the Philomath Poo Ponds.
It was a good study of these birds next to Red-winged Blackbirds.
They are obvious and not obvious depending on the lighting conditions and their proximity to one another. I’m not positive I could recognize a tricolored without knowing they were around. And forget about the females.
Feeling satisfied we headed back to Portland, until we checked our emails and read that a Gyrfalcon had been spotted minutes away from where we stood earlier. Dang! It had been two years since I’d seen a Gyrfalcon with Jen (in the same area), and this would be a lifer for Courtney so we turned around immediately but we were unable to relocate the bird. What we did find were clouds of shorebirds.
Dunlin and Black-bellied Plovers put on an unforgettable show.
And at the end of the day we found one falcon, a Peregrine munching on a Killdeer.
After, we stayed at our friend’s Nick and Maureen’s house in Albany to try for the gyr again in the morning. Which ended similarly to the day before, no Gyrfalcon but lots of good consolation birds including FOY Turkey Vultures and and a Say’s Phoebe.
We made it back to Portland, where we looked at a couple of birds, hello again Tufted Duck and hello 5MR Barn Owl.
Before the decision was made to go back and look for the Gyrfalcon a third time. I forgot my wallet at Nick and Maureen’s house the night before so I had even more incentive. And we brought Sarah and Eric this time as reinforcements. Even so, the gyr eluded us. We added a few more county birds and got good looks at a Prairie Falcon (terrible photos, sorry). Eric ended with over 100 species in Linn County, I ended at 82. It was a solid three day effort, no one can say we didn’t try.
Until next time, Gyrfalcon.
Tweets and chirps,
Ah it’s a pity you dipped on the Gyrfalcon but it’s great the Grosbeak showed up nicely for you and your friend – and I love that sign! Also congrats on the 5MR Barn Owl!
Thank you Emma! It was a rollercoaster of emotions!
Sorry about your triple dip! I have experienced nothing but failure in chasing Gyrfalcons. It seems like the majority of them have huge winter territories and don’t return to the same perches very reliably, though obviously there are exceptions to that rule. This is a prime candidate for my next official nemesis bird – that position is currently vacant, at least for this country. RBGR and TRBL must be pretty sweet for that region though!
Triple dip! Haha. It’s true, Gyrfalcons don’t mess around. It’s just now sinking in how lucky Jen and I were on our chase in 2017. RBGR + TRBL made the drive(s) worth it this time for sure!