Above is a photo (courtesy of Hans Spiecker) of Ryan Beaulieu, the teenage rosy-finch researcher who was killed in August of 2005. A couple of things happened this week that brought Ryan vividly to my mind.
On most Sunday mornings during the winter, Nancy and Steve Cox of Rio Grande Bird Research and several volunteers capture and band the rosy-finches that visit the Crest House deck. Nancy described the January 27 Sandia Crest banding session in glowing terms: “We had an amazing day today. We banded 83 more Rosy-Finches. Fifty-three of them were Brown-capped, 7 were Blacks, and 23 were Gray-crowns (8 Hepburn’s and 15 Interior). That brings us to a total banded this season of 337 (196 BC, 67 BL, 74 GC).”
Usually, about three quarters of the newly banded birds are Black Rosy-Finches. The proportion of the Brown-capped and Gray-crowned species varies rather widely, with Brown-capped unusually numerous this year. Although this species breeds fairly nearby in the Southern Rockies, they were rare to absent a couple of winters.During the winter of 2004-2005, they appeared in force, and 50 were banded. Spiecker’s memorable photo was taken at one of that winter’s final banding sessions.
This Sunday, the banders recaptured a rosy-finch from the winter of 2004-05. I cannot help but think that the Brown-capped Rosy-Finch that was recaptured from the winter of 2004-2005 may have been banded by the late Ryan Beaulieu– and, as was his habit, he kissed it before it lofted from his hand. I recalled Ryan’s expression that so aptly described his (and our) favorite bird family: “I love their color and their behavior,” he said. “Their pink is like no other pink you’ve ever seen. And I love how they come down in this huge, swirling flock and just the whole living-on-top of the mountain thing.”
Above is Michael Hilchey’s photo (from Flickr) of the traps used by the banders. Over 1500 have been newly banded since 2004. Below, Raymond Van Buskirk, another of Ryan’s close friends, carries on his legacy, adding his enthusiasm and drive to this very significant research effort.
Today Mary Lou and I received a beautiful e-mail from Ryan’s mother, Eileen, who wrote (in part):
“This year’s Rosy finch project seems to be going extremely well. I’m so happy for them! It was exciting to hear there were recaptures last weekend from the 2005 winter season, perhaps Ryan has been around? We’ve had a number of synchronicities occur during the past week and attribute them to him. Ryan’s step dad Ray said just this morning, “You never know…………..it’s probably amazing what we are not aware of or capable of perceiving.” The attached letter came in the mail yesterday and it made me feel so wonderful, I just had to share it with you and ask if you wouldn’t mind putting it on Ryan’s web site. Jenny is a young lady that he had a crush on when he was 16. They sort of dated and he was very smitten with her. I wish I could convey to her how my heart felt when I opened the letter and read it. I reread it several times because it meant so much to know he was still affecting her life and that she cared enough to let me know. The letter is sweet and wonderful. As you know, we never forget our children they are alive in us perhaps even more when we lose them. When a parent, who has lost a child, as you and I have, is sent a message such as the one she sent, it means so much to know our child is still remembered and continues to have an affect on others lives…”
Waiting for the arrival of the Rosy-finches at Sandia Crest house:
Central New Mexico Audubon Society presented a certificate of appreciation to Crest House Manager Gene Romero (center). Flanking him, left to right are Raymond, CNMAS President Beth Hurst-Waitz, Ryan and Ken.
Finally, as if to buffer our sense of loss, we found a new Web posting that reminded of the joy that the rosy-finch project, the fulfillment of Ryan’s dream, has brought to birders the world over. Don’t miss Maine birder Derek Lovitch’s Blog with beautiful photographs
and narrative on his Wings tour of New Mexico last week, highlighted by
sightings of two very rare vagrants, the Barnacle Goose and the
Rufous-backed Robin. Commenting on his visit to the Sandia Crest House,
he writes: “Sure the view is nice . . . but the real reason for this trek to 10,678 was the Sandia Crest House, which, in addition to selling food and souvenirs, hosts some very famous feeders that host all three species of Rosy-Finch! Black, and Brown-capped (both lifers for me), and Gray-crowned (this year, also including at least two of the more coastal “Hepburn’s” subspecies)! This is THE location in North America for seeing Rosy-finches. While some visits are more productive than others, and sometimes one species or another is hard to find, this visit produced all three and a half subspecies in a feathered blizzard only a few minutes after we arrived.”