The gyrfalcon is an Arctic bird, the largest falcon in the world.
"They have a history you wouldn't believe. They're just tenacious hunters. They don't give up. They're incredibly powerful and gorgeous," said Bud Anderson, a renowned raptor biologist who will teach about the gyrfalcon in his multi-week raptor class in Bellingham beginning Jan. 7.
The birds were valued so highly they were traded as ransom for a prince captured by the Saracens during the Crusades, according to Anderson.
Anderson will cover the gyrfalcon and other raptors found in Western Washington in his course, which ends with nearby field trips so students can put what they've learned to use in identifying the birds. The class is sponsored by Whatcom Land Trust.
Anderson, who founded the Bow-based Falcon Research Group in 1985, said the Puget Sound basin is famous for its wintering raptors, and this year is a good one with it being a big snowy owl year, for example.
And, he added, the Lummi Flats and the Samish Flats are two of the best places to look for raptors in Washington state, with mid-November through March as the peak times.
Anderson, who has been teaching the class for nearly 30 years, also will teach about raptor habitat, migration patterns, what they eat, where to find them, their wintering and hunting habits and how to identify them, among other topics.
Such as: Did you know that red-tail hawks in the wild can live for more than 30 years?
"You become aware of where they are and how they fit in the world," said Anderson, who has studied raptors around the world.
"You've got to know what they are in order to understand them. Truth be known, they're all individuals just like us," Anderson said. "They all fit into the habitat in a different way. They hunt differently. They're as different as night and day."
Anderson also described his class as "practical tips for the field."
Everson resident Cindy Klein is among those who have attended Anderson's classes. She's taken it three times "to be able to find out more about the birds that live around us, especially the raptors."
For Klein, the best part was the field trip that closed out the class.
Her advice to those thinking about signing up: "Do it as soon as possible because it fills up fast."
Bellingham resident Rick Braun, who will be taking the class for the eighth time this January, echoed Klein's opinion about the field trips led by Anderson.
"The field trip is worth the price of admission alone," he said. "If you had to hire a guide and pay him to do that, you would pay the same amount just for the one-day trip."
IF YOU GO
What: A class about raptors taught by Bud Anderson, a raptor biologist. The class ends with field trips, where students will put to use what they've learned about identifying the species found in Western Washington.
When: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on five consecutive Mondays, Jan. 7, 14, 21, 28 and Feb. 4. Field trips will be arranged at the last class.
Where: Classes will be at the Bellingham REI, 400 36th St.
Cost: $150 per person.
Details: Call 360-650-9470 to reserve a spot and to get payment details.
Reach KIE RELYEA at email@example.com or call 715-2234.