~Perched Gyrfalcon in Ulster County, New York, 2/7/15.~
~Perched Gyrfalcon in Ulster County, New York, 2/7/15.~

I had slow start to the day birding-wise. I joined Ken Witkowski and we headed up to the town of Hancock in Delaware County, NY. We were participating in a Golden Eagle Survey and due to the weather most likely (we had snow showers on and off), we had a very slow day with very few raptors and no Golden Eagles. It was still a great morning; Ken is very knowledgeable and super interesting to talk to.

I got back to Goshen just before 2:30 and immediately headed up to Ulster County to try for the Gyrfalcon that had been located by Karen Maloy Brady the day before (huge thanks Karen!). On the way I spoke with John Haas to see how the morning had gone – apparently there were plenty of birders out looking for the falcon, but the search had been unsuccessful. I wondered if it was worth the trip up there, but then I figured the worst thing that could happen would be that I didn’t locate the bird and then headed over to the Shawangunk Grasslands NWR to go for the Short-eared Owls. So, I decided to try for it and boy am I glad I did. There is a saying that it’s better to be lucky than good. Well, boy did I get lucky. As I was nearing Bates Lane (which is where the bird had been seen the day before), I noticed a perched bird in a tall evergreen tree. I stopped and took a quick look through my binoculars and nearly had a heart attack – it was the GYRFALCON! I took some quick photos and then put the word out; I was praying that the bird would stay put for others to see. The falcon had other ideas and after some time flew from its perch, heading north and over a little hill where I lost sight of the bird. Less than a minute later Curt McDermott showed up and I explained the situation. Curt relocated the bird inside of 5 minutes just north of where I was on Old Fort Road, and it was on a fresh kill! Many birders arrived (I would guess between 40 and 50) and got to see this beautiful creature.  The falcon finished its meal, and then returned to its perch on the evergreen, then to a telephone pole on Old Fort Road where it stayed for a good while. Just after 5:00 the bird was flushed by a Red-tailed Hawk and headed north.

The Gyrfalcon was life bird #317 for me. What an exciting afternoon of birding, one I will never forget. And what a magnificent bird – really and truly remarkable.

~Gyrfalcon hunched over prey, Shawangunk NY, 2/7/15.~
~It took a while for the bird to finish eating. Gyrfalcon in Ulster County NY, 2/7/15.~
~Photos were tough as the light was not great. The bird was however, Gyrfalcon in Shawangunk NY 2/7/15.~
~And one final shot of the Gyrfalcon with prey, Shawangunk NY 2/7/15.~
~A distant flight shot as the Gyrfalcon returned to Old Fort Road, Shawangunk NY 2/7/15.~
~Happy Birders~
~Happy Birders~





33 thoughts on “WOW – GYRFALCON!!!”

  1. Matt
    What a fantastic day you had
    I’m so glad you were able to get some shots of the bird.
    I wish I had known about it too


    1. Thanks so much Wilma! I’ll have to put you on my list of folks to contact… will you try for it tomorrow? matt

  2. Wow!!!! I am so jealous, you not only got amazing looks, but the thrill of relocating it yourself must have been amazing. This bird NEEDS to stick around for a couple of weeks until I get some time off to chase it….so cool!! Congrats!

  3. Great photos Matt! I’m so glad you decided to go for it this afternoon. Truly a magnificent bird!

  4. Two life birds this week in the dead of winter!? I admire your passion and dedication to the sport. The pictures are beautiful! Think I’m going to get up there this morning although it looks like evening is a better time. Congrats Matt.

    1. Kathy,

      It’s been a lucky week with a lot of help from others, and boy am I happy. Thank you and I’m glad you enjoyed the photos. Matt

  5. I did it today and I was rewarded with good looks but kind of crappy lighting, but I did get a couple of acceptable shots so I can say I really DID see it.
    I’ll bet it is exquisite on a sunny day!!!


    1. Awesome Wilma, congrats! I would have come out again if the light had been better, so I understand what you are saying. Matt

  6. Thanks for the wonderful post and (as always) exceptional photographs! You are such an inspiration to me and my daughter. I posted the link to this blog on the NYSYBC (Young Birder’s Club) and many members were able to spot this beautiful falcon! The group’s leader suggested anyone who saw it should submit a report to

    Hoping it stays in the area for a little while!

    1. Donna Maria,

      Thanks so much and I’m glad that you both are enjoying the blog. Thanks also for posting the link, I appreciate it. I really hope that falcon stays for a while, I do know that it was seen this afternoon in the same area. Matt

  7. It showed up again today at 2:36, and we were there to see it! What a great experience–thanks again for sharing yours, and your incredible pictures.

    1. Congrats Donna Maria, glad you got to see the bird! I must have missed you, I got out there just after 4:00. Matt

  8. The owner of the pond,has lost multiple ducks do to this bird.I am sure if it continues to kill his ducks,he has every right to kill it.

  9. Maria and New Yorker,

    Fortunately, the Gyrfalcon seems to be broadening its range – it was located approximately 6 miles from Old Fort Road on Tuesday. That might be the best thing for everyone really…. Matt

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