Point Blue's Palomarin Blog

Taking the Long View: An inside look at the goings-on at the longest running avian ecology field station west of the Mississippi.

Monthly Banding Summary, December 2014

02.10.15
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This summary was compiled by Palomarin banding interns Emma Cox and Adriana Caicedo with help from Mark Dettling, Banding Supervisor, and Diana Humple, Palomarin Program Leader.

Exciting Captures and Observations:

December alternated big storm days with big bird days. In fact, we had the highest rainfall ever recorded in 40 years (we started collecting rainfall data in 1975; see graph below)! Despite the fact that we were adhering to our winter banding schedule (with reduced banding hours compared to summer/fall), we caught a surprising number and diversity of birds in the month of December. We had some very high-volume days both here at the station and at our other Marin banding sites, with a whopping 75 birds at Pine Gulch Creek in the Bolinas Lagoon Open Space Preserve on the 18th! The average numbers of birds caught per day (23 birds per day for Palo, and 35 at off-sites) were more typical of summer capture rates!

Forty years of December rainfall data for the Palomarin Field Station.

Forty years of December rainfall data for the Palomarin Field Station.

When it wasn’t raining, Ruby-crowned Kinglets reigned supreme (we caught a total of 326 individuals across all of our sites this month and heard the typewriter ticking of their call everywhere). For comparison, the next most common birds we caught were Song Sparrows, with 45 captures at all of our sites combined. We did, however, have a delightful diversity of woodpeckers over the course of the month, with 2 Downy Woodpeckers, 2 Red-breasted Sapsuckers, 1 Acorn Woodpecker (only the 11th in Palomarin history!), and a Red-shafted (Northern) Flicker. Also, we recaptured November’s Wilson’s Warbler at Pine Gulch (typically only a summer bird here), so it appears to be sticking around!

December was chock-full of Ruby-crowned Kinglets, including these two females captured at Muddy Hollow. Photo by Emma Cox

December was chock-full of Ruby-crowned Kinglets, including these two females captured at Muddy Hollow. Photo by Emma Cox

Woodpeckers, such as this Red-breasted Sapsucker captured at Muddy Hollow, are always a treat. Photo by Mark Dettling.

Woodpeckers, such as this Red-breasted Sapsucker captured at Muddy Hollow, are always a treat. Photo by Mark Dettling.

Other capture highlights included a Steller’s Jay captured at Uppers (near Palomarin) on December 6th, a Black Phoebe at Muddy Hollow, an off-site located elsewhere in Point Reyes National Seashore, on the 7th and another at Pine Gulch on Christmas Eve, several hatch-year male Sharp-shinned Hawks here at the station, and a fairly steady flow of Lincoln’s Sparrows (7 total) at Pine Gulch over the course of the month.

This was one of the two Black Phoebes captured this month at two of our off-site banding stations. Although these birds are common in the area, it is unusual for us to catch them as they prefer open habitat and our nets are in predominately forested or densely scrubby areas. Photo by Mark Dettling.

This was one of the two Black Phoebes captured this month at two of our off-site banding stations. Although these birds are common in the area, it is unusual for us to catch them as they prefer open habitat and our nets are in predominately forested or densely scrubby areas. Photo by Mark Dettling.

The end of December marked North America’s universal Bird Birthday. For consistency’s sake, and because it is impossible to know the exact day or even month in which most of the birds that we catch were born, we designate January 1st as a turning point in the life of every bird and age birds simply by the calendar year(s) in which they were born. Odd as it is, it is reflected immediately in our data, as the same bird captured on December 31st and January 1st could be designated as a “hatch-year” (born this calendar year, so in the calendar year in which it hatched) and a “second-year” (born the previous calendar year, so in its second calendar year of life), respectively. So, the Palomarin interns baked a cake and lit some lovely bird-shaped candles and rung in the new year in style.

Let’s Do the Numbers:

In 13 days (1732.2 net hours) of mist-netting at Palomarin in December, we captured 163 new birds and recaptured 177 previously banded birds. A total of 340 birds of 20 species were caught this month. Approximately 23 birds were caught per banding day.

At our other West Marin banding sites, we captured 204 new birds and recaptured 159 previously banded birds. A total of 363 birds of 30 species were caught over 9 banding days this month (567.36 net hours), an average of approximately 35 birds per day.

The highest capture rates at Palomarin and our other West Marin banding sites were on December 6 at Palomarin with 50 birds, and December 18 at Pine Gulch with 75 birds.

At Palomarin the highest numbers were captured for the following species: Ruby-crowned Kinglet (155), Golden-crowned Kinglet (36), Townsend’s Warbler (30), Chestnut-backed Chickadee (23), and Fox Sparrow (14).

Across all off-sites, the highest numbers of captures by species were: Ruby-crowned Kinglet (171), Song Sparrow (32), Hermit Thrush (23), Fox Sparrow (19), and Chestnut-backed Chickadee (18).

About these Summaries:

In an effort to share our science with the public, Point Blue interns and staff at our Palomarin Field Station (Palomarin or “Palo”) in Point Reyes National Seashore near Bolinas, CA produce these monthly bird-banding summaries. Our science interns create these summaries as part of their science outreach training.

Our Palomarin Field Station is open to the public.  Consider visiting us!  Learn how by visiting our mist-netting demonstrations web page.

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