Sunday, March 14, 2010

March 14: Grassland Bonanza

This morning Jared and I got up early to hike around the grasslands to see what we could see. Turns out there are some gems to be had! WESTERN MEADOWLARKS sang in every directions, a few newly arrived male MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS flitted from sage to sage inspecting the ground for insects, and several small groups of SHARP-TAILED GROUSE flushed up totaling at least 14 birds.

The rest of the morning was taken up by one bird and one bird alone. One of those moments that birders and nature-lovers alike dream about...

As we drove down a dusty road Jared pointed out a lump just ahead perched atop a fence-line. "Just a weird rock placed up there?" we thought, but we drew nearer I could tell "the shape" was that of a large falcon; "too big to be real," I thought. "No, it IS a falcon! Stop! Stop! Stop!" Staring at us from up on the hill was the biggest GYRFALCON either of us had ever seen. After ooing and awwing out of the back window of the truck, Jared concocting a plan for photography. I would ease the truck back up the hill while Jared set-up his heavy-duty equipment in the box and get ready to fire. But as we got into position the bird flushed off the fence post and flew across the road about 50 meters in front of us. For a few moments our hearts sank as we watched the bird fly away. But then it suddenly turned and came towards us only to land on a rock just meters from the road. As we crept nearer it became obvious that "she" had some prey splayed out on the boulder and we watched with glee and delight as a drake Mallard was devoured. I'll let Jared's photos speak for themselves! I shot a few out the window and have included one, but to really show-off this gorgeous bird only the best will do! Although I have seen gyrs rip up pigeons several times, never have I experienced such a large individual and so close! Not to mention the great light and awesome natural surroundings.

A great weekend up in the Thompson!


  1. Great pics guys...really inspiring! Are you sure its not a gyrkin?


  2. Hi LF,

    Are you asking if this individual is a falconer's bird? I see no reason to suspect this as there were no jesses, the bird was very wary of us, and habitat/time of year was perfect. Kamloops often has overwintering gyrs. This could be one of the locals, or perhaps it is moving north from a southern wintering ground in the Okanagan Highlands (North-Central Washington)

    Thanks for the feedback!

    Russ C

  3. PS, for those wondering: female Gyrfalcons can weigh up to 2.1 kilos! I think we may have found a candidate!