“Ruby crowned kinglet!”
Before I can train my binoculars on the slight movement ahead of us, local naturalist Gord Ruddy already has the species pegged.
Identifying the tiny, migratory kinglet, whose range extends from northwest Canada and Alaska south to Mexico, poses no problem for Ruddy, who knows the avian ecology of the Jasper region as well as any local biologist. It’s early on Sunday morning, and Ruddy is leading his friend Ken Walker and myself along a lesser-walked trail in the Pyramid Lake area. Birding is a passion he’s held for a long time, he tells me. His mentor and former neighbour, the late Roy Richards, took him on his first bird count when he was just seven-years-old.
“It was my first Christmas bird count. All I tallied down were ravens but I sure remember being excited,” Ruddy said.
Since then, Ruddy’s excitement for birds hasn’t diminished much. His passion has taken him to places as far away as Florida and Wood Buffalo National Park. He’s observed countless species, including the rare whooping crane, however, the bird habitat he knows and loves best has always been right outside his door.
Exploring this neck of the woods for several decades now, Ruddy often returns to the trails he was first shown by Richards. On these meanderings he has accumulated a deep knowledge and honed subtle observation skills—he can happily tell you which birds will arrive first in the spring and he has the innate ability to perceive the slightest flash of yellow amongst the thick shrubbery.