Corrales’ Janet Ruth, retired research ornithologist, author of the 2018 book Feathered Dreams, instrumental in having the Corrales Bosque Preserve named an “Important Bird Area,” recently wrapped up a major avian opus on which she and her photographer husband, Dave Krueper, had worked for well over five years.
It’s the remarkable Annotated Checklist of the Birds of the Village of Corrales and the Corrales Bosque Preserve, published by the New Mexico Ornithological Society (NMOS) as a “special publication.” Such a checklist typically involves researching all the records for birds observed in a particular location. Ruth said her sources primarily were “eBird, the NMOS Field Notes, Hawks Aloft, Jim Findley’s 2013 publication, Birds in Corrales, and Dave and my personal records.”
Fellow Corrales birder Jim Findley, professor emeritus at the University of New Mexico, the prime mover for building the Museum of Southwestern Biology into one of the pre-eminent university-based natural history museums in the United States, died in 2018. He was founder of the Corrales Bosque Preserve and the Corrales Bosque Advisory Commission.
Available as a downloadable PDF at http://www.nmbirds.org/special-publications/, scroll down to #8, this checklist also is easily viewed on Ruth’s website, https://redstartsandravensdotcom.files.wordpress.com/2021/01/ann-checklist-birds-of-corrales-final2.pdf In addition to finishing off the Annotated Checklist, “in my copious free time,” Ruth held her own personal bird count, the Corrales Big Year, which just ended. One hundred sixty-five species were noted, many of them photographed by Ruth, including one of the pair of Western Screech-Owls, and a Curved Bill Thrasher couple which hang out in Ruth’s Corrales yard.
Asked if she had seen evidence of the recently reported bird die-off in the Southwest, Ruth responded that while she did not personally see evidence of this, other local birders told her that they did see some dead birds. She added that “the cause is not completely understood and “the early cold is likely only a secondary cause.” Rather, long-term starvation was the culprit, possibly exacerbated by early cold weather which “may have forced these stressed birds to migrate early before they had enough fuel.”
Corrales Big Year is viewable here: https://redstartsandravensdotcom.files.wordpress.com/2021/01/janets-corrales-big-year-2020-record-final.pdf. And, there’s “a one page/two-sided field checklist posted as well for anyone who still prefers downloading and writing on such a form rather than using eBird.” eBird itself is a rich online platform, ebird.org, a project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, where you are invited to “join the world’s largest birding community.” Lists, apps, maps —sign up and plunge in.
Ruth’s website bio states that “she grew up in southeastern Pennsylvania, lived for almost 20 years in Washington, D.C. and Virginia, five years in Colorado, and has called Corrales her home since 2001.”
“Much of her life has revolved around birds. This included her doctoral dissertation at George Mason University —“Effects of vegetation structure and surrounding land-uses on avian communities in the floodplain forests of Maryland”—and continued through field research with U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), resulting in scientific papers about winter grassland bird habitat preferences, songbird migration patterns in the US-Mexico borderlands using NEXRAD weather radar, and breeding ecology of Grasshopper Sparrows in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico.”
Bird visitors to Ruth’s home in fall, winter and spring can partake of Nyjer or thistle seed, along with a shelled no millet mix. “I used to feed black oil sunflower seed, but tired of all the shells beneath feeders.” She also fills a tube with shelled peanuts, and hangs several cylinder feeders, a mix of seeds, nuts and fruit. Foraging species such as a range of sparrows, juncos and quail get some mix on the ground. She maintains watering opportunities year round.
In the summer Ruth puts up two or three hummingbird feeders, and supports plants that provide food for birds, such as salvia, honeysuckle, pyracantha, sand cherry and similar. No bird cams, but nest boxes —including one for bluebirds that Ruth reports “has gone unused.” Nesters have included thrashers, greater roadrunners, bushtits, mourning doves and Gambel’s quail.
In coming months, it’s possible that Ruth’s Corrales Big Year will be posted on the Village of Corrales website. Her Annotated Checklist was posted there earlier this month. And now, with two major accomplishments behind her? “I’ve thought of establishing a ‘sit spot’ in my yard, and spending an hour or so on as many days of the year as possible, at different times of day, to get a real feel for all the wildlife here… not just birds.”