[Around the World there are pilgrimage routes, some famous some less so. How did they start? What were their origins? It seems that a new one is starting. Birding supplicants have been heading to Ruthven to see and experience birds, especially during the Spring and Fall migrations. Most seekers drive but the Ruthven Baggers, whimsically, started a long walk from West Hamilton below the Mountain to Ruthven. They do it through the night (some sort of penance?) and it takes them about 13 hours. Following is a description of the third walk by one of them – Ezra Campanelli.]
They say this generation of teenagers is lazy and stupid. Well, one of those is true. Five of the baggers plus a friend decided to walk from the Campanellis’ house in downtown Hamilton to Ruthven overnight. It’s not their first time attempting this escapade. Their maiden voyage was last Spring, and after its success, they did it a second time during the Fall banding season. Here is a log of their adventures this time around.
6:17 PM. Adherence to schedule is certainly not the foremost trait of this or any group of adolescents, but seventeen minutes behind schedule is respectable. And what they lack in punctuality, they make up for a hundredfold in zeal. Just look at those joyous faces. If that doesn’t spell unbridled exuberance, I don’t know what does.
7:40 PM. Over an hour in, and they’re going strong. They are a fair bit into the Rail Trail, the first section of which runs up the side of the escarpment. The view from up there is expansive, but the pollution-spewing industry of Hamilton’s east end hamstrings its aesthetic. Luckily, the Baggers are big-headed enough to serve as an obstruction, even if they aren’t much more attractive than what they are concealing. What became of the sixth pilgrim? A petty dispute has caused Giovanni to lose some ground, but no doubt his Herculean endurance will allow him to catch up with the rest of the pack with no great difficulty.
9:20 PM. Told you so! Gio has rejoined the herd, but his facial expression suggests that he may not have gotten over the ill feelings from the aforementioned dispute. The rest them are overjoyed to have reached a McDonald’s where they can give into their corporeal desires and feast on McFlurries, burgers, and a large fry or two. In the words of Jim Gaffigan: “Has your mother ever made anything as good as a McDonald’s fry?” I’ll let you mull over that on your own time, but promise me you won’t lie to yourself.
10:50 PM. Before you cast judgment, it’s hard not to look like a serial killer when it’s dark out and only your face is illuminated. If you try to look cheerful, your smile comes across as a psychopathic grin, and if you go for a neutral expression, you end up looking soulless. I think it’s fair to say Alessandra is somewhere in between, but I could still see her on the poster of a John Carpenter flick.
12:05 AM. Awww. Aren’t they just the cutest? That glaring irony is probably going to fly right over their heads.
1:44 AM. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen such a range of facial expressions in one photo. I guess that’s what fatigue does to you. There’s Sam, who looks like his pet naked mole rat just bit the dust. Brendan belongs in a meme about trying to ignore one’s down-spiralling educational performance. Alessandra has no idea what her friends are laughing about but, in an effort to feel accepted, frantically adopts an amused expression. Giovanni has been suddenly woken from a peculiar but oddly satisfying dream about taking a bath in bubble tea. Ezra has just engaged in his first bar brawl, but, instead of being angry, he’s just happy that he has reached this milestone in his manhood. And Tessa…well, I’ll leave that up to you.
3:03 AM. Where’s the seventh bagger? Is Tessa the first fatality on this perilous pilgrimage? Look again; she lives! Suffocated amidst a tangle of less-than-overjoyed facial expressions, a small triangle of Tessa’s forehead is still visible. In other news, Sam is trying to telepathically communicate with the dead.
4:33 AM. “There are still faint glimmers of [joy] left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity.” -The Grand Budapest Hotel
Here, they have manifested themselves as the half-grins on the faces of Brendan and Tessa. Will fatigue route every last shred of hope from the Baggers, or will they withstand the mounting realization that the more they walk, the further their destination seems to get?
5:03 AM. Ben has shown up in his car and has been kind enough to pull over to taunt the pilgrims with the temptation of a ride the rest of the way. His garish mockery, however, has not fazed them, and they have photographic evidence to prove it. Just look at the smug expression of pure spite on Ben’s face as he disdainfully sips his ice cap. He wishes he had the brawn to join the baggers in their trek, but he has legs of jello and the willpower of a potato.
6:04 AM. After the toils of the pilgrimage proved too much for Sam, he collapsed, dead on sight. His fellow pilgrims have not yet noticed, such is their hazy state of semi-consciousness. However, they still managed to muster the willpower to take the tenth shot for the log. And look! There, rounding the horizon, is Tessa. Beleaguered and battling monumental fatigue, she gallops after her companions. She will do everything in her power (what little of it that remains) to not be the last one there, but will it be enough?
6:25. Just kidding! Sam not only survived but was the first one to show up at Ruthven, a good half hour ahead of the rest. Against all the odds, they made it, but not without consequences. The grueling pilgrimage proved too much for Tessa, and she completely cracked. I will provide updates on her condition as soon as I am able.
We are at the tail end of the migration. Short-distance local breeders have either finished their first broods or are about to. Long-distance local breeders have made or have just about finished nest-building and some are already sitting on eggs. On-going migrants are few and far between but there’s still a few late warblers and flycatchers including an Olive-sided Flycatcher that sang around the site for about half an hour on Saturday:
Banding has been slow for the past 3 days – a good “teaching pace”.
1 Song Sparrow
2 American Goldfinches
ET’s: 58 spp.
May 27th; Banded 20:
2 Traill’s Flycatchers
1 American Robin
1 Tennessee Warbler
1 Nashville Warbler
3 Yellow Warblers
1 Blackpoll Warbler
4 Wilson’s Warblers
1 Indigo Bunting
1 Song Sparrow
1 Baltimore Oriole
4 American Goldfrinches
ET’s: 59 spp.
May 28th; Banded 18:
1 Yellow-billed Cuckoo
1 Traill’s Flycatcher
1 Blue Jay
1 Gray-cheeked Thrush
3 Swainson’s Thrushes
1 Gray Catbird
3 Cedar Waxwings
1 Yellow-throated Vireo
1 Yellow Warbler
2 Magnolia Warblers
1 Wilson’s Warbler
1 Song Sparrow
1 Baltimore Oriole
ET’s: 59 spp.
[I put out a request for ID help in the picture below and Caleb Scholtens – the photographer – sent me the following:]
“Oh, those grubby things in my hand are water tigers. They are the larva of “predaceous diving beetles”. They’ll eat anything the same size as themselves or smaller, including tadpoles, small fish, and in this case, each other. I’ve seen quite a few of them in the puddle there.” [That “puddle” being the ephemeral pond below Net 8.]