April 24th – The Return of the Native(s)

Teegan Docherty and Old Fogey....and Northern Cardinal

Today was punctuated by the return of two notable “oldtimers”: Teegan Docherty and #202. Teegan was a product of the first McMaster biodiversity program field trips to Ruthven. Though her exposure to birds and banding was brief at that time (just over a weekend), it made a big enough impression to convince her that she wanted to do avian research. So that Summer (I believe it was 2004) she did her undergrad project at Ruthven. The result: Assessing the impact of edge on the distribution of woodland breeding birds in Ruthven National Historic Park. Upon graduation she travelled the world working on projects involving bird studies: Hawaii, Nigeria (nope, this one was with monkeys), Vancouver Island, Borneo (5 months of research for her Master’s from the University of Leeds); islands off the coast of San Jose, California (studying the San Clemente Sage Sparrow, an endangered endemic – she headed up this project). Now she’s in Wyoming considering the possibility of doing a Ph.D. I knew Teegan had the “right stuff” way back when. In those days the students slept over on Friday and Saturday nights in the Coach House. Banding requires that you get up well before dawn to open the nets. Very few students ever met that deadline but Teegan always did. She coupled hard work with keen intellect and a congenial disposition. Using her as a model I think our motto should be: Train at Ruthven, see the World.

The infamous #202 - Chipping Sparrow extraordinaire.

#202 is a Chipping Sparrow. Last Spring/Summer he was Chris Harris’s nemesis. Every day when Chris went to clear the ground traps, the bird was in them – often 3 or 4 times a day. After the nesting season we didn’t catch him and we wondered if we’d ever see him again. But today, there he was, in a trap, chowing down on the bait, looking for Chris, ready to go for another season.

We had a very busy day handling 117 birds. Retraps are still outnumbering new banded birds but not by nearly so large a margin: 69 vs 48. Juncos are a big part of this. It seemed there were juncos everywhere you looked and every one of them had a band on – we retrapped 24. There seemed to be a minor influx of ‘new’ White-throated Sparrows. They were singing along the margins when I was opening nets – what a wonderful song to start the day off to.

Future ornithologist? Presenting Ben Oldfield (and Red-winged Blackbird)

We also had a delightful visit from Ben Oldfield, a young but very keen birder who had come all the way from Lowville. Evidently getting to see a variety of birds up close and personal made the trip worthwhile.

Peter Thoem reported the sighting of a mink on the far shore of the River while he was doing the census.

Teegan helping out with an American Goldfinch

Teegan with parents Lorraine and Quentin.

Banded 48:
3 Mourning Doves
2 Tree Swallows
1 Black-capped Chickadee
1 Golden-crowned Kinglet
3 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
2 Hermit Thrushes
2 American Robins
2 Northern Cardinals
2 Field Sparrows
5 Song Sparrows
5 Swamp Sparrows
8 White-throated Sparrows
2 Dark-eyed Juncos
3 Red-winged Blackbirds
3 Brown-headed Cowbirds
4 American Goldfinches

A curious White-throated Sparrow

Retrapped 69:
2 Tree Swallows
2 Black-capped Chickadees
1 White-breasted Nuthatch
1 Brown Creeper
9 American Tree Sparrows
4 Chipping Sparrows
2 Field Sparrows
5 Song Sparrows
1 Swamp Sparrow
3 White-throated Sparrows
24 Dark-eyed Juncos
1 Red-winged Blackbird
10 Brown-headed Cowbirds
4 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 51 spp.


One thought on “April 24th – The Return of the Native(s)

  1. Thank you so much for the wonderful experience of seeing the beautiful birds so up close. My son Ben is still talking about his morning at Ruthven, and he wants to return as soon as possible !!

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