Wolfe Island & Kingston Trip Report

Saturday, January 20, 2018

9:45 AM to 5:30 PM

Warm weather and stiff SW wind greeted birders as they met in Kingston to catch the ferry over the Wolfe Island. At the ferry dock, a drake Northern Pintail as well as some Gadwall, were among the Mallard flock; the day was already turning out to be a good one…

We boarded the ferry, parked our cars and walked to the front to look for birds. About 10 minutes into our journey, a massive raft of Mallards zipped by the ferry. We watched on, continuing to chat. A moment or two later, I noticed the flock again…this time, they were flying full steam toward the front of the ferry. Something caught my eye near the bottom of the flock; something was flying below the flock. It took two, maybe three seconds before my veins were absolutely flooded with adrenaline and I was screaming out the word “GGGGGYYYYYYYRRRRRRRRR!” A head-on view of a Gyrfalcon chasing the flock down…and catching them…from below. Unbelievably, the drama climaxed right at the front of the boat with an explosion of Mallards in the air; half the flock flying this way and half the flock flying that way. A massive silver-grey arrow shot in between, twisting and climbing upward, like a fighter jet. O…M…G.

Photo:  Gyrfalcon flying away from the observer. Here’s a record shot of an adult gray morph Gyrfalcon flying away from the observer (moi). Some subtly observable features here being the robust build, light underwing, dusky “hand” and rounded primary tips. A neat feature showing here is how the tail is coming to quite a sharp point; an apparent feature of Gyr in powered flight. When the tail tightens up like this, the image of the long and broad “rudder” is lost.

So, ya. 15 minutes into our birding weekend. Ready to pack up and head home? 🙂

I spent the remainder of the day was spent reluctantly coming down from hitting the ultimate dragon. Ooh, a Snowy…what uh, “joy” 🙂 Just kidding. In the end, we had a great day. We managed to see an adult Peregrine as well as a Merlin, making for a three-falcon-day. We tallied 5 Snowy Owls, enjoyed an incredible show of two Rough-legged Hawks hover-hunting in the wind and put on our bird nerd bifocals for an excellent study of ducks at Invista Lagoons.

We had a delicious Greek dinner at The Greek Island restaurant later that evening: http://www.thegreekislandskingston.ca/menu/desserts

A five-star day, er…wait. The tour guide doesn’t rate the tour, does he/she? 🙂

eBird Checklists

Wolfe Island ferry ramp: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S42088927

Wolfe Island ferry: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S42090251

Wolfe Island: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S42099410

Invista Lagoons: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S42102275