I know that Gyrfalcons are extremely unusual in Vermont – but I got two quick looks at a puzzling bird today, and Gyrfalcon was one of my thoughts. It was a bit north of the entrance to Button Bay State Park, on the other side of the road. First I saw a bird that looked oddly long and very white on the chest and belly, in a tree many yards back from the road. The bird sat with an upright posture and looked elongated rather than chunky (in other words, much more slender than the Sibley drawings of Gyrfalcons).
By the time I found a place to pull over and got out my binoculars, the tree was empty. After a few minutes, I relocated the bird a bit further north and further back from the road. I went past it, turned around, pulled over again and watched the bird through binocs for about ten seconds before two cars coming fast convinced me to move again. Through the binoculars, the bird looked completely white underneath, with a white or light-colored tail and a mostly white head, with gray wings and back. There was no belly band. I thought I saw yellow feet but that might have been something on the branch.
I first thought of a Peregrine, but the belly was completely white or very pale gray and there was no black or dark gray on the head. It was hard to get a good idea of size. Before I headed home, I parked again near the first tree it was in, compared the tree to others nearby, looked at relative length of branches, etc. and concluded that the bird was considerably longer from head to tail than a Peregrine.
The coloring and size made me think of a Goshawk, but hunting in that much open space seems unlikely for that species – and the long tail was light in color.
I wondered about a white morph Red-Tail, but Sibley shows belly bands even on the white morphs. (The drawing of a Krider’s looks more like it, but that really shouldn’t be here.)
Lots of list-serve members will probably be in the Champlain Valley over the next weeks. It would be great if someone else got a better look at “my” hawk!