November 23rd - Cold, Snow Squalls, and a Huge Rarity!

Well, today my first attempt at walking to the park was cut short when I reached the end of the block as the first of several snow squalls move in quickly.  My second attempt went much better as the sun was out keeping things reasonable comfortable.  Anyway, over our four hour period at the Watch today we experienced one squall after another, quickly followed by sunny break after sunny break.

Our first bird, a Sharpie, arrived over the park just as the snow started coming down.  Not sure how far the little fella got before he found himself in a world of trouble with the white-out conditions.  Not too long after 1:00 PM, we had a Red-tail out over the lake spooking the Gulls, a Northern Harrier then flew overhead, and a Turkey Vulture was seen next flying low along the bluffs trying to stay out of the wind.  And then a bird came along near eye-level height just out beyond the bluffs.  It was quickly identified as a falcon.  As it approached, two of us, Bruce (Ferry) and myself called it out as a "Peregrine!"  As it flew by, Ron (Pittaway) excitedly said "Oh, I think it's a Gyrfalcon!"  During a lengthy discussion which followed our sighting Ron explained to Bruce and I everything that he had observed about the bird which lead him to his conclusion.  Ron has seen a number of Gyrfalcons during his many years of bird watching, Bruce and I on the other hand have had zero sightings.  I can't even really count the 'escapee' that was at the Golden Mile Plaza because there was suggestion that it may have been a hybridized bird!  Anyway, Ron suggested to Bruce and myself that when we got home to go through our bird books or whatever other means and email him what we felt we saw.  The findings were quite amazing as both Bruce and I sent Ron photos taken off of the internet of almost the exact same bird!  They were of a young Gyrfalcon with fairly heavy streaking on the breast and belly.  To find my 'bird of choice' I did a search using Google Images and typed in 'Peregrine Falcon Gyrfalcon'.  The results gave me a real mix of photos of both birds without any names or titles.  I searched over several pages and then searched them again until I found the photo which I thought best fit the bird I observed at the park.  I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the photo that Bruce sent along!  Crazy!  I then thought to myself, "Wow, I guess we really did see a Gyrfalcon today!"  Very cool!!!  Thankyou Ron for lending your experience and expertise once again!

Another Sharpie was seen flying over the north end of the park a little after 2:00 PM.

Today:
Turkey Vulture - 1
Northern Harrier - 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk - 2
Red-tailed Hawk - 1
Gyrfalcon - 1
Total - 6

To Date:
Turkey Vulture - 1665
Osprey - 117
Bald Eagle - 108
Northern Harrier - 134
Sharp-shinned Hawk - 1606
Cooper's Hawk - 50
Northern Goshawk - 6
Red-shouldered Hawk - 22
Broad-winged Hawk - 139
Red-tailed Hawk - 635
Rough-legged Hawk - 15
Golden Eagle - 7
American Kestrel - 470
Merlin - 63
Peregrine Falcon - 54
Gyrfalcon - 1
Total - 5092

Our Turkey Vulture sighting today set a new 'latest date observed' record by 2 days.

Other sightings today included 4 more Loons heading south up high over the park and a new bird species for the Fall List was a Great Black-backed Gull.  Of course the Gyrfalcon is a new addition to all of my lists.

On-hand today for at least some of the cold wind, snow squalls, and other excitement were: Betty, Terry 1 and his granddaughter Ann-Marie, Ann and her grandson Reid, Ron, John, and Bruce.  My thanks to everyone for lasting as long as you could today.  Your friendship and laughs help to keep me going on days like this.

Sunday's predicted weather forecast from wunderground.com reads, "Partly cloudy in the morning, then overcast with a chance of snow. High of -5C with a windchill as low as -16C. Windy. Winds from the NW at 20 to 30 km/h. Chance of snow 40%."  Hope to see you out tomorrow!

Walter

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