Days Gone By…April 1986

So, this past couple of months I’ve managed to dip two Gyrfalcon’s..a grey-morph bird in Hadley, Massachusetts that I spent a day looking for, and a third calendar year bird on the barrier beaches of Long Island. The Long Island bird was a little more reliable, but often views were distant. While the former bird became a tad bit easier when Marshall Iliff discovered a favored roosting site, it still only showed at dawn and dusk, arriving and leaving the roost site. Occasionally it seemed to use the back side of it’s chosen cliff, so some evenings the bird wasn’t even seen arriving at the roost.  Needless to say, I put in my time to see this cool killer from the north.

The previous bird I had seen, was over a decade earlier, a stunning dark adult that hung out on the Design Centre in Boston, showing incredibly well!
For video, see here:

It was at this time of year that I remembered my first Gyr at the ripe old age of eighteen! – a stunning white Greenland bird in Devon, on the south coast of the UK in April 1986. Although regularly recorded on the northern isles, a mainland Gyr was a holy grail…and a white one to boot was a birder’s dream come true and this particular bird was well revered. It stayed for ten days and was seen to kill and eat, Pigeons, Jackdaws, guillemots and even a BUDGERIGAR during its stay (Evans 94).

Check out this photo for a cool aerial shot of the quarries where it hung out (the ones on the right):

Here’s my 18-year old notes and drawing of that spectacular bird that was the most well-twitched individual in Britain. According to the history books it was a second-cal bird, not an adult as noted in my book. What did I know?!



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2 Responses to “Days Gone By…April 1986”

  1. Simon Smethurst Says:

    OMG, was it that long ago? I distinctly remember the mega twitch that I endured for that bird. A midnight start and a 6.5 hour drive later, we arrived just in time to see it leave it’s roost and nail a Jackdaw for breakfast. A birding memory I will never forget. We then moved on to see Cirl Bunting near Plymouth, then on to Lands End (Cornwall) to catch up with female King Eider and our main goal, a Least Sandpiper. A total round twitch of c800 miles and over 24 hours without sleep. Now that’s British twitching for you

  2. Mike Kilburn Says:

    I was another who remembers that Gyrfalcon as an outstanding rarity, although my twitch was only from Plymouth. I was a bit younger and had to persuade my mother to drive up in wee small hours.

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