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, September 2014

11.04.14
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This summary was compiled by Palomarin banding interns Wyatt Hersey and Stephanie Levins with help from Renée Cormier, Banding Supervisor.

Exciting Captures and Observations:

With the end of the breeding season and the start of fall migration, September is a time of transition and always proves to be a great time of year for both birding and banding. As the songs of the summer breeders have faded away, sightings and sounds of the winter residents begin to be heard in the forests and fields around our study areas. This is a time of year at Palo where one can observe a mix of migrants including both songbirds and hawks, year-round residents, and winter residents – and we also hope for the irregular vagrant. Vagrants are birds that fly off-course during migration and end up far from their normal range. Every fall we look at all captures carefully and stay on our toes to make sure we don’t overlook any vagrant that may only be subtly different from our regularly-captured species – while some of these rare captures are obviously different.

A young male Cooper's Hawk captured at the Palomarin Field Station. He was a big guy, with a wing chord in the upper range of normal male wing chords (females are larger than males). Photo by Stephanie Levins.

A young male Cooper’s Hawk captured at the Palomarin Field Station. He was a big guy, with a wing chord in the upper range of normal male wing chords (females are larger than males). Photo by Stephanie Levins.

September is also a busy month for raptor migration and we kept our eyes to the skies scanning for migrating Cooper’s, Sharp-shinned, Red-shouldered, Red-tailed, and Broad-winged hawks, and the occasional Golden Eagle. This month, we started to see and capture Accipiters (Sharp-shinned and the occasional Cooper’s hawk), as they move south and hunt beneath the canopy along the way. It has been found that young hawks are often in disproportionately high numbers along the coast compared to inland sites. Our banding data and observations corroborate this, as most of our sightings are of juveniles and the majority of our captures of Sharp-shinned Hawks are of young males.

This September we had a handful of exciting captures, including the tenth Acorn Woodpecker ever to be captured here at the Palomarin Field Station (in almost 50 years of continuous banding!!), one of each Sharp-shinned Hawk and Cooper’s Hawk, a Northern Waterthrush and an American Redstart (both vagrants), a Red-shafted Flicker, as well as many others.

This Acorn Woodpecker was only the tenth capture of its species in almost 50 years of continuous banding here at the Palomarin Field Station. These birds are fairly common just a little bit inland, but around the station they are rare enough that some staff here have never even seen or heard one in their many years working here! First-Year Acorn Woodpecker. Photo by Bobby Wilcox.

This Acorn Woodpecker was only the tenth capture of its species in almost 50 years of continuous banding here at the Palomarin Field Station. These birds are fairly common just a little bit inland, but around the station they are rare enough that some staff here have never even seen or heard one in their many years working here! First-Year Acorn Woodpecker. Photo by Bobby Wilcox.

This young male American Redstart was our first vagrant of the season! We captured him at our station along Redwood Creek in Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Photo by Stephanie Levins.

This young male American Redstart was our first vagrant of the season! We captured him at our station along Redwood Creek in Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Photo by Stephanie Levins.

Another vagrant caught at our Redwood Creek banding site on September, 16. A first-year Northern Waterthrush. Photo by Kaitlin Murphy.

Another vagrant caught at our Redwood Creek banding site on September, 16. A first-year Northern Waterthrush. Photo by Kaitlin Murphy.

A non-bird highlight, this Pacific Giant Salamander was found cruising down the net trail at the Palomarin Field Station. Photo by Stephanie Levins.

A non-bird highlight, this Pacific Giant Salamander was found cruising down the net trail at the Palomarin Field Station. Photo by Stephanie Levins.

By the end of the month we saw winter residents such as Fox Sparrows and Ruby-Crowned Kinglets show up in great numbers, while the number of Yellow and Wilson’s warblers tapered. The occasional rains caused the termites to hatch and disperse around the field station, allowed us to observe a Pacific Giant Salamander moving about, and gave drink to the thirsty plants. We breathed deep and smelled the sweet fragrance of California Sagebrush as we moved into the darker months to come.

Let’s Do the Numbers:

In 30 days (2848.0 net hours) of mist-netting at Palomarin in September, we captured 112 new birds and recaptured 46 previously banded birds. A total of 158 birds of 33 species were caught this month. Approximately 6 birds were caught per banding day. At our other West Marin banding sites, we captured 242 new birds and recaptured 99 previously banded birds. A total of 341 birds of 39 species were caught over 26 banding days this month (1271.75 net hours), an average of approximately 13 birds per day. The highest capture rates at Palomarin and our other West Marin banding sites were on September 10 at Palomarin with 15 birds and September 29 at Pine Gulch with 30 birds. At Palomarin the highest numbers were captured for the following species: Pacific-slope Flycatcher (22), Fox Sparrow (18), Townsend’s Warbler (12) and Swainson’s Thrush (11). Across all off-sites, the highest numbers of captures by species were: Song Sparrow (78), Pacific-slope Flycatcher (32), Fox Sparrow (26), Swainson’s Thrush (24), and Chestnut-backed Chickadee (23).

We caught this male Red-shafted Flicker at Redwood Creek in the beginning of September. The red mustache tells us this is a male. Photo by Stephanie Levins.

We caught this male Red-shafted Flicker at Redwood Creek in the beginning of September. The red mustache tells us this is a male. Photo by Stephanie Levins.

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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