On June 3 good friend and long-time Coastal Raptors volunteer Dave Murnen and I departed Washington for an adventure that took us first to Iceland for several days of sightseeing, then on to Norway for fieldwork with Gyrfalcons. There we joined Kenneth Johansen and others to monitor Gyrfalcon nesting. Many thanks to Kenneth for hosting us at his home during our visit!
Birding Highlights – Iceland
On June 8 we flew to Alta, a city of 21,000 hearty souls. Alta lies 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle, a city well within the nesting range of the Gyrfalcon.
The Gyrfalcon nest site monitoring project was initiated in 1987 by Kenneth Johansen and Arve Oestlyngen…. when they were teenagers! Each year in April and early May they and sometimes others in their raptor monitoring group go by snowmobile to known Gyrfalcon nesting territories with the goal of determining nest site occupancy. When they see an incubating adult on a nest, they plan a return trip in June to collect data on nesting success. The June site visit includes accessing the nests and banding the young before they reach fledging age.
We visited five Gyrfalcon nests altogether. To access these remote nesting locations, our days started with 1-2 hours of driving followed by 2-7 miles of hiking.
Dave and I had the experience of a lifetime. Many thanks to our Norwegian friends: Kenneth, Arve, Bjornulf, Olaf, Marianne and Olav. They kept us safe and shared with us the world of the Gyrfalcon in Norway.