May 8th – Individual Trajectories

Ilse & Paul Kuhnen (left) from Wesel, Germany visiting Dorothy & Geoff Coates from Lowville area.

Ilse Kuhnen from Germany; Gray Catbird from the Tropics.

I’m very interested in how and why birds get to Ruthven and where they’re going from here. Each one has its own “trajectory” that makes it unique. Banding helps to establish some of the elements of that trajectory – although it leaves so many blanks in-between encounters. For example, one of our American Goldfinches was recovered just outside of New Orleans (!), over 1,000 km away. What route did it take to get there and what did it encounter along the way? We had a Yellow Warbler that we caught for 7 years in succession. Each Winter it would have gone (probably) to Mexico. What amazing things it would have experienced. Banding gives you just pieces of an enormous puzzle.

But people have similar trajectories. And as I discussed in the May 5th missive (banding stations need to be about more than just birds), I am equally interested in the trajectories of our visitors – what has brought them to Ruthven. I had a couple of interesting ones this morning:
As 10-year old students, Dorothy Coates (at that time in Scotland) and Ilse Kuhnen, in Germany, got hooked up as penpals. A couple of forward-thinking teachers saw the wisdom of connecting their students, both to help them learn a new language and also to help them move onward from the human disaster that was the Second World War (this was in 1951). As Dorothy notes: “We didn’t have a choice; we had to do it. I didn’t know Ilse ahead of time. She was just assigned to me (and me to her).” Now, 60 years later, the women are still friends, still writing to each other, and have visited each other 3 or 4 times. And how did they end up at Ruthven? Dorothy is junior bird enthusiast Ben Oldfield’s grandmother and this was a Mother’s Day outing and Ilse and Paul just happened to be visiting. What amazing trajectories!!

Rob Mueller and Baltimore Oriole

Angela and a brilliant male Baltimore Oriole

Rob Mueller and Angie MacAloney, both in their mid-30’s, got into birding late (just in the past couple of years) – but got into it enthusiastically – binoculars, camera, books, and, most important, the Ruthven Blog. Angie says she reads it faithfully almost every day and they decided to come down here from Toronto to see for themselves. Fortunately we got a nice variety of birds for them to see (and they each had an opportunity to band one). Tomorrow….off to Point Pelee. Again, a wonderful trajectory brought them here.

Male Northern Parula - seen along the Carolinian Trail. - Peter Thoem

Now for some avian trajectories…… Migrants continue to trickle through. We had 4 ‘new arrivals’: Great Crested Flycatcher, Northern Parula, Magnolia Warbler, and American Redstart – but only one of each. For this time of year, the woods are still pretty quiet – from our perspective, the Spring is at least a week behind. This means that there’s a lot of ‘good’ birds ahead. We need the leaves on the trees and shrubs to open!! Thankfully we haven’t had any rain for a couple of days now and the trails and net lanes are starting to dry up – it was like walking through rice paddies for the month of April.

As well as new birds, I’m quite interested in returning, previously-banded birds. We retrapped two Chipping Sparrows that were 5+ years old and two Red-winged Blackbirds, one was 7 years and the other 8+ years old.

Banded 39:
2 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
2 Blue-gray Gnatcatchers
1 Hermit Thrush
5 Gray Catbirds
3 Yellow Warblers
1 Rose-breasted Grosbeak
1 Chipping Sparrow
1 Field Sparrow
1 Lincoln’s Sparrow
1 Swamp Sparrow
2 White-throated Sparrows
2 White-crowned Sparrows
3 Red-winged Blackbirds
1 Brown-headed Cowbird
6 Baltimore Orioles
1 Purple Finch
6 American Goldfinches

Retrapped 30:
1 Mourning Dove
1 Downy Woodpecker
2 Tree Swallows
1 Blue-winged Warbler
1 Common Yellowthroat
1 American Tree Sparrows
9 Chipping Sparrows
2 Song Sparrows
1 White-throated Sparrow
1 Dark-eyed Junco
3 Red-winged Blackbirds
3 Brown-headed Cowbirds
3 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 68 spp.

Photo Gallery:

"White morph" White-throated Sparrow (compare with "tan morph" on May 2nd) - Faye

Adult male Baltimore Oriole - Faye Socholotiuk

Ben Oldfield with a Blue-winged Warbler - Peter Thoem

Spring Beauties are now in full bloom - Peter Thoem

Dryad's Saddle - a polypore fungus - Peter Thoem

A Lincoln's Sparrow - a real skulker. - Angela MacAloney


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