In our earlier years, we would think nothing of heading out on a long twitch, sometimes driving the length of the country (in those days, the UK) to see a rare bird. Nowadays we are a bit more circumspect (well, it’s a lot bigger country!) and it can sometimes take quite a while before we commit to a journey. This was definitely the case when a Gyrfalcon pitched up in Joggins, Cumberland County, right on the border of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. This is a long journey for we ‘banana belt’ birders but the spectacular photos being posted daily of this unusually confiding bird finally persuaded Mark that he had to go see it. It coincided with a Townsend’s Solitaire just past Dartmouth, so a two tick trip (NS ticks anyway) was possible.
To cut a long story shorter, we did not get the Townsend’s Solitaire but, after a overnight stop in Amherst, we did connect with the Falcon on February 27th, along the fossil cliffs overlooking the Cumberland Basin and at it’s favourite spot, by the sewage works in Joggins. It allowed surprisingly close approach for photography, even I got some images, but for this picture I decided to use one of Mark’s much more professional portraits.
This one, we thought, really gave a feel of the majesty of this amazing bird, more normally found in arctic regions. We think we were amongst the last people to see the bird, since it was not reported again after that date. how lucky that we did not delay any longer!
For my portrait, I did simplify the power-pole perch a little, although I rather like the juxtaposition of the industrial, man-made, pole with the natural plumage of the bird. Lots of subtle greys, browns and blacks in the plumage meant that those pencils got a pummeling again! The blue-grey colouration of the cere (the area above the bill) suggests this is a young bird.
‘Gyrfalcon at Joggins’, 8 x 10 inch watercolour pencil on 90 lb cold press watercolour paper.