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

Early Spring Banding Summary

This summary was compiled by Point Blue’s Palomarin Banding Apprentices, Andrea Robles, Daniel Gutierrez,  Katie Smith, and Sam Hagler, with help from Mike Mahoney, Banding Supervisor, and Diana Humple, Avian Ecologist and Banding Coordinator.  

Exciting Captures and Observations

Female Pileated Woodpecker captured on March 1st, 2023. Photo by Sam L. Rapp/ Point Blue

March and April were an exciting time at the Palomarin Field Station (Palo)! We welcomed Andrea, Daniel, Katie, and Sam H. to Palo as the spring-summer banders, just as breeding migratory birds began returning to the coastal Marin County. We also said goodbye to the fall-winter banders, Anna, Cristobal, Greyson, and Sam R., as well as our National Science Foundation funded Graduate Intern, Faiza. We wish them all luck as they embark on new jobs and projects! 

A very exciting capture kick-started our March banding: a Pileated Woodpecker (PIWO) caught at Palo on March 1st. Since 1991, as our study area at the Palo has become more forested, we have captured one of these forest-loving woodpeckers about once every two years! Most of the staff, including the outgoing winter banders and one person from the incoming crew, got to see the majestic bird being processed.  

To many, it felt like the heavy rains delayed the arrival of our migrants, which made their first detections and captures in the mist nets all the more special. Our first migrant captures were an Allen’s Hummingbird on March 3rd, Orange-crowned Warbler on March 18th, and a Wilson’s Warbler on April 8th.  February and March mark the beginning of nesting season for some species in coastal California, even though a number of species don’t start nesting until April or even May (although in some years, birds like Anna’s Hummingbirds can begin nesting as early as late December!).

We started getting our first birds in breeding condition, such as our resident Song Sparrows, around April 13th, and our first hatch-year bird of the season was a male Allen’s Hummingbird caught on April 27th. A hatch-year a bird known to have hatched from an egg this calendar year, in 2023. All the banders are excited about the many fledglings to be banded in the coming months! Other exciting captures during March and April include three Sharp-shinned Hawks, three Northern Flickers, two Steller’s Jays and two California Quails. 

Let’s Do the Numbers 

In 32 days (2908.20 net hours) of mist-netting at Palomarin in March and April, we captured 88 new birds and recaptured 88 previously banded birds. A total of 176 birds of 32 species were caught, averaging around 6 birds per banding day.  

At our other West Marin banding sites (offsites), we captured 132 new birds and recaptured 82 previously banded birds. A total of 214 birds of 32 species were caught over 21 banding days in March and April (895.67 net hours), an average of approximately 10 birds per day. 

The highest capture rates at Palomarin and our other West Marin banding sites were on April 8th at Palomarin with 19 birds, and March 16th at Muddy Hollow with 23 birds.  

At Palomarin, the following species were caught in the highest numbers: Chestnut-backed Chickadee (28), Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon subspecies) (23),Wilson’s Warbler (16), Anna’s Hummingbird (12), and Song Sparrow (10). 

Across all off-sites, the highest numbers of captures by species were: Song Sparrow (32), Yellow-rumped Warbler (19), a tie between Chestnut-backed Chickadee and Wilson’s Warbler (18 each), and Common Yellowthroat (11). 

About This Summary 

Point Blue interns and staff at our Palomarin Field Station share these blog posts in an effort to further engage the public in our science. We are grateful to our partners at the Point Reyes National Seashore and to our surrounding Bolinas and West Marin County community for their support of our work.

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