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

Fall Banding Report, August through October 2024

This summary was compiled by Point Blue’s Palomarin banding apprentices Anna Douglas and Kevin García Lopez with help from Mike Mahoney, Banding Supervisor.


Exciting observations and captures:

August through October was a time of transition for the Palomarin Field Station; as the banders rotated out, so did the species of birds we were capturing. We said goodbye to breeding Wilson’s Warblers, Swainson’s Thrushes, and Warbling Vireos and welcomed wintering Townsend’s Warblers, Hermit Thrushes, Red-breasted Sapsuckers, and Golden-crowned Sparrows.

An after-hatch-year Golden-crowned Sparrow captured at Pine Gulch Creek, photo by Anna Douglas.


An after-hatch-year Red-breasted Sapsucker of unknown sex captured at the Palomarin Field Station, photo by Anna Douglas.


Yellow Warblers and Willow Flycatchers are two species that are emblematic of fall in Marin. Although Yellow Warblers are thought to nest in small numbers in parts of Marin County and some move through in the spring, we do not often see them in our nets until fall migration. Willow Flycatchers, on the other hand, breed north of Marin, and are often only encountered by the banders during fall migration as passage migrants (ie. a bird that stops somewhere for a period of time along as they migrate).

A hatch-year Yellow Warbler of unknown sex captured at the Palomarin Field Station, photo by Anna Douglas.


A hatch-year Willow Flycatcher of unknown sex captured at Pine Gulch Creek, photo by Anna Douglas.


We had an eventful fall season and captured a few unexpected vagrant bird species, or birds found outside of their expected range. During the first week of September, we caught three rare bird species at our riparian banding sites over three consecutive days. The first exciting capture was a Canada Warbler at Redwood Creek (Golden Gate National Recreation Area) on September 6, followed by a Black-and-White Warbler at Muddy Hollow (Point Reyes National Seashore) on September 7, and finally a Red-eyed Vireo at Pine Gulch Creek (Bolinas Lagoon Preserve) on September 9. Banders do not commonly recapture these rare birds, but this year, one of the Black-and-White Warblers we captured (in total, we caught 3 unique Black-and-white Warblers this fall) was recaptured the following week on September 15 – showing us that the individual stayed at the site for at least 8 days!

A hatch year Canada Warbler of unknown sex captured at Redwood Creek, photo by Naomi Burns.


A hatch-year Black-and-white Warbler of unknown sex captured at Muddy Hollow, photo by Hilary Allen.


A hatch-year Red-eyed Vireo of unknown sex captured at Pine Gulch Creek, photo by Anna Douglas.


Our rare bird fun was not only limited to the riparian banding sites. On September 28, we caught two unusual birds at the Palomarin Field Station. During this morning, banders observed a boldly-clad male American Redstart hopping around a willow tree before ending up in the mist net a few minutes later. An hour later we captured a young Nashville Warbler, how exciting! Nashville Warblers breed in California, and move through the county in very small numbers in the fall.

An after-hatch-year male American Redstart captured at the Palomarin Field Station, photo by Diana Humple.


A hatch-year Nashville Warbler of unknown sex captured at the Palomarin Field Station, photo by Anna Douglas.


One of our favorite stories this fall is about the second Broad-billed Hummingbird capture this year (you can read more about the first Broad-billed Hummingbird we captured this year in our summer banding summary!). On October 17, banders were excited to band a hatch-year male Broad-billed Hummingbird at the Palomarin Field Station. Only a couple of days later, on October 19, a birder in Monterey noticed a banded Broad-billed Hummingbird and captured photographs of the entire band number on the bird. We confirmed this was the same Broad-billed Hummingbird we banded in Bolinas on October 17!


A hatch-year male Broad-billed Hummingbird captured at the Palomarin Field Station, photo by Anna Douglas


Let’s do the numbers:

In 72 days (8412.09 hours of mist netting at Palomarin from August to October) we captured 428 new birds and recaptured 125 previously banded birds. A total of 553 birds of 52 species were caught. Approximately 8 birds were caught per banding day.

At our four other West Marin banding sites (our offsites as mentioned above), we captured 510 new birds and recaptured 173 previously banded birds. A total of 683 birds of 46 unique species were caught over 34 banding days in August to October (1753.85 net hours), an average of 22 birds per day.

The highest capture rate at Palomarin was on October 28 with 22 birds. Our other West Marin banding sites saw a high count of 46 birds at Muddy Hollow on August 24. At Palomarin, the following species were caught in highest numbers: Western Flycatcher (96), Oregon Junco (55), Wrentit (47), Hermit Thrush (38), and Townsend’s Warbler (37). Across all offsites, the highest number of captures by species were: Song Sparrow (174), Wilson’s Warbler (89), Swainson’s Thrush (86), Common Yellowthroat (39), and Western Flycatcher (34).


Bird-Safety Statement

Early-career bird banders are part of a rigorous training program at Point Blue’s Palomarin Field Station, where they learn to capture birds safely using mist nets and record data on each bird caught. The information collected allows us to better understand how populations of birds are doing and in turn gives us insight into the health of the systems we research. Learn more about our seasonal apprenticeships by visiting the careers page on our website (link in bio).