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, February 2014

03.21.14
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This summary was compiled by Palomarin banding interns Danielle Aubé and Lindsay Wagner with help from Mark Dettling, Banding Supervisor.

Exciting Captures and Observations:

On the 22nd of February, we captured our first Red-breasted Nuthatch of the winter season! Red-breasted Nuthatches are common around the Palomarin field station and a few are captured here each year; the last capture was on the 25th of September 2013. Nuthatches are somewhat unique in the bird world, as they are able to climb downward along the trunk and branches of trees while foraging. Unlike woodpeckers and Brown Creepers, they use their feet to support themselves, as opposed to their tails.

Male Red-breasted Nuthatch. Photo by Lindsay Wagner

Male Red-breasted Nuthatch. Photo by Lindsay Wagner

As it happens, we also captured a Brown Creeper this month! These are very small birds that forage along the trunk and branches of trees, as well. Their tail is stiff and bristly in order to support their bodies as they forage up a tree. Their plumage resembles the color and pattern of tree bark, which allows them to stay camouflaged as they forage.

Brown Creeper. Photo by Jenny Phillips

Brown Creeper. Photo by Jenny Phillips

On the 3rd of February, we captured a House Wren at our Muddy Hollow research site (Point Reyes National Seashore). This small brown wren is very similar to another species we capture much more often, the Pacific Wren. Some features we use to separate these two species are bill color and shape, tail length, and characteristics of the supercilium (a stripe that runs above a bird’s eye, roughly from the bill to the back of the head). Pacific Wrens have a dark bill, very short tail in proportion to their body size, and they have a distinct, light-colored supercilium above the eye. House Wrens have a bi-colored bill that is dark on top and lighter in color on the bottom, a longer tail in proportion to their body size, and they have a very weak supercilium.

House Wren. Photo by Danielle Aubé

House Wren. Photo by Danielle Aubé

Pacific Wren. Photo by Danielle Aubé

Pacific Wren. Photo by Danielle Aubé

In a previous blog post, we noted the arrival and our first capture of the season of Allen’s Hummingbirds. These handsome little hummingbirds are here for the breeding season and have us all excited about other spring migrants to come. During the month of February, we captured 4 individuals. For all hummingbirds that we capture, we offer them a drink of sugar water to give them a little boost of energy before releasing them. They often eagerly drink their fill before flying off!

Male Allen’s Hummingbird. Photo by Danielle Aubé

Male Allen’s Hummingbird. Photo by Danielle Aubé

Let’s Do the Numbers:

In 12 days (1349.83 net hours) of mist-netting at Palomarin in January, we captured 72 new birds and recaptured 42 previously banded birds. A total of 114 birds of 17 species were caught this month. Approximately 10 birds were caught per banding day.

At our other West Marin banding sites, we captured 45 new birds and recaptured 51 previously banded birds. A total of 96 birds of 18 species were caught over 7 banding days this month (391.65 net hours), an average of approximately 14 birds per day.

The highest capture rates at Palomarin and our other West Marin banding sites were on February 15th at Palomarin with 14 birds and February 10th at Palomarin Grids Uppers with 22 birds.

At Palomarin the highest numbers were captured for the following species: Oregon Junco (42), Ruby-crowned Kinglet (17), Fox Sparrow (12), Varied Thrush (10), and Song Sparrow (6).

Across all off-sites, the highest numbers of captures by species were: Ruby-crowned Kinglet (19), Song Sparrow (15), Fox Sparrow (14), Hermit Thrush (7), and tied for 5th: Bewick’s Wren and Pacific Wren (6).

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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