Point Blue's Education Program offers field trips to Point Blue's Palomarin Field Station and other Marin County research sites to observe mist-netting and bird banding demonstrations. Each year approximately 1,000 students participate in this program, providing them with the opportunity to observe science in action.
Read on to find out how to visit us.
Drop-in visits are welcome at our Palomarin Field Station in Bolinas, CA in groups of 7 or less. If you have a group larger than 7, please contact us to schedule a visit. See below for details.
We're closed on all major holidays.
See the banding schedule and more information below.
999 Mesa Road (for UPS/FedEx)
PO Box 1157 (for U.S. Postal Service)
Bolinas CA 94924
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If you have a larger group and would like to schedule a school, community, or family group tour at our Palomarin Field Station or one of Point Blue's other banding sites in Marin County or beyond, please contact Diana Humple, Avian Ecologist & Banding Coordinator.
Field Trip Duration: Each visit lasts approximately 1-1.5 hours.
Field Trip Availablity and Parameters: We can schedule field trips throughout the year. See banding schedule below. Scheduled visits are offered only in the mornings (before 11 am) and are dependent on staff and banding schedule availability. Please plan your trip at least 2-3 weeks in advance as our fall and spring field trip schedule fills up quickly. Our maximum capacity is about 30 visitors per 1-1.5 hour period at a given site.
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At our Palomarin Field Station in Bolinas, CA:
May to Thanksgiving- sunrise to noon every day but Monday;
Thanksgiving to May- sunrise to noon Wednesdays and Weekends
Closed on all major holidays.
Note: The mist-nets are opened 15 min. after sunrise and remain open for 6 hours each day. Come by early (between 8-11 am) for the best chance of seeing birds. Nets are not open on rainy or windy days. Call our hotline (415) 868-0655 ext. 395 to check conditions.
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What is a Mist-netting and Bird Banding Demonstration?
Mist-nets are soft fine nets used by scientists to safely capture and release songbirds for bird banding. At Point Blue's Visitor Center at the Palomarin Field Station, visitors and groups are encouraged to observe our biologists as they work. Drop in visits are encouraged for groups of 7 or fewer.
Do the bands hurt the birds?
No, the band fits around their leg, loose like a bracelet, not as tight as a watch.
Does the band impede their flying?
No, studies on captive birds have shown no effect. The bands are made of aluminum, (the same material soda cans are made from) and they are very light.
The birds seem so calm as you are holding them, why is that?
The biologists hold the birds in what is called the "bander's grip". The bird's wings are pressed against the banders' hand and their fingers rest gently on the bird' shoulders. In this position, they can not struggle and are gently held for the short minutes it takes us to place a band on their leg before releasing them.
Do you ever catch the same bird twice, or twice in one day?
Yes, about 30% of the birds we catch are re-captured. It is really our hope to re-capture birds. That way we can learn things such as how long birds live (survivorship) and how birds change in appearance as they age. When we re-capture migratory birds from season to season we learn that the individual survived the winter and migration to and from it's wintering ground in central America. We occasionally catch the same bird multiple times in one day. This is more common during the breeding season when birds are very busy defending territories, feeding young, and tending nests.
If you catch a bird again, do you just let it go or do you still band it?
If we catch a bird that already has a band, we still collect all the data from it, especially the band number, because this can teach us about how the bird has changed since we last captured it.
Why are you banding birds here?
We have been banding birds at the Palomarin Field Station since 1966. Because of this we now have the longest continuous data set on songbirds west of the Mississippi. Long term studies allow us to track changes in bird populations and relate them to factors such as weather, restoration, and habitat change. From our data, we can draw conclusions about how best to manage habitat to maintain healthy bird populations.
What are the most commonly caught birds in your nets?
The most commonly caught species in mist nets at Point Blue's Palomarin Field Station by season are:
Nuttall's White-crowned Sparrow
Mac Gillivray's Warbler
Puget Sound White-crowned Sparrow
Spring and Summer:
Pacific Slope Flycatcher
Pugent-sound White-crowned Sparrow
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