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 2015

This summary was compiled by Palomarin banding interns Emma Cox and Hilary Allen with help from Mark Dettling, Banding Supervisor.

Exciting Captures and Observations:

February was a gloriously sunny yet drearily slow month with regards to our capture rates here at the Palomarin Field Station (Palo). We had our first (and hopefully last) days with zero birds captured of the year, and having caught up on all of our winter weather make-up days, we were only banding three days out of the week. We spent a lot of time reading, studying, data-proofing, and doing general station upkeep.

Some highlights for the month:

  • 43 “Myrtle” Yellow-rumped Warblers at Pine Gulch Creek in the Bolinas Lagoon Open Space Preserve on February 2nd (only one of them was a recapture), including an individual with some white feathers
  • A White-throated Sparrow—also at Pine Gulch—on the 13th (it turned out to be a lucky Friday, the 13th for us!)
  • A “Red-shafted” Northern Flicker at Muddy Hollow (an offsite located elsewhere in Point Reyes National Seashore) on the 25th
  • Our first Allen’s Hummingbird of the season at Pine Gulch on the 24th, even though the feisty males have been hanging around since late January. That day we also caught two other hummingbirds that were either Allen’s or Rufous Hummingbirds. These species (both of the genus Selasphorous) are so similar that even in the hand they sometimes cannot be separated.
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
White-throated Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow

Although the February numbers seemed painfully low, it should be noted that February is typically a very slow month here at the station. In fact, our total of 33 birds captured at Palo for the month is fairly average for the last few years (excluding last year’s crazy high February total of 114 birds), with 31 birds at Palo in February of 2013, and 36 birds in 2012. It should also be noted that the staff and interns here are still seeing birds around the station. There are a number of possible reasons for these consistently low capture rates in February. There might actually be fewer birds in the area due to overwinter mortality or the fact that some wintering species have started to move out of the area and migrant breeding species haven’t shown up yet. Another possibility is that the wintering birds might get savvy to our nets and might be better at avoiding the nets by the end of the winter. No matter the reason, we were always hoping for the capture rates to pick up!

Let’s Do the Numbers:

In 15 days (1756.8 net hours) of mist-netting at Palomarin in February, we captured 14 new birds and recaptured 19 previously banded birds. A total of 33 birds of 10 species were caught at the station this month. Approximately 2 birds were caught per banding day.

At our other West Marin banding sites, we captured 83 new birds and recaptured 43 previously banded birds. A total of 126 birds of 21 species were caught over 8 banding days this month (271.84 net hours), an average of approximately 16 birds per day.

The highest capture rates at Palomarin and our other West Marin banding sites were on February 1st at Palomarin with only 5 birds and February 2nd at Pine Gulch with 66 birds (mostly new Myrtle Warblers).

At Palomarin the highest numbers were captured for the following species: Wrentit (8), Varied Thrush (7), Fox Sparrow (7), Anna’s Hummingbird (3), and American Robin (3).

Across all off-sites, the highest numbers of captures by species were: Yellow-rumped Warbler (48), Fox Sparrow (15), Song Sparrow (11), Hermit Thrush (10), Varied Thrush (5), and Hutton’s Vireo (5).

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.