Finches (and some other birds) that breed in Canada’s northern forests depend on good cone and seed crops to get them through our harsh northern winters. When these crops are good, most of the finches that breed in the north can be year-round residents–constantly feeding on cones and seeds throughout the winter and gaining the calories they need to avoid freezing. When these crops are poor, some birds who would be year-round residents head south. These occasional migrations south, which tend to happen every few years for at least some species, are called irruptions. Nerdy birders like myself tend to find this sort of thing pretty exciting. Irruptions are somewhat predictable based on the state of cone and seed crops in the northern forests. Indeed, we can forecast the finches that will be around in the winter just by taking a look at cone & seed crops. To find out the forecast, you don’t have to take a trip up to far Northern Ontario to look at trees (though I think we all agree that would be fun). You can just sit on your butt at home and read this article by Ron Pittaway.
Looks like there is a possibility of another Redpoll year for Ruthven!