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, January 2016

This summary was compiled by Palomarin banding interns Tyler Winter and Kate Maley with help from Mark Dettling, Banding Supervisor.

Exciting Captures and Observations:

With the start of the New Year, it is out with the old and in with the new! Age classes that is!  Well, not exactly, but we move birds up one age class on January 1st, since it is the day when all birds enter their next calendar year of life. Birds in the hatch year class (young birds in their first winter) move into the second year class and birds in the second year class move to the after second year class. Happy birthday birds!

January also brought an abundance of rain to Palomarin.  We received 224.4 mm of rain throughout the month, quite a bit more than last year’s January total of 3.2 mm.  As a point of reference, 330.9 mm of rain fell at Palomarin in January 1998, during the last big El Niño. Even with all that rain in January, we’ve had less total rainfall in the past seven months (470.2 mm from July 1, 2015 through January 31, 2016) than the same period during the previous year (552.6 mm).

Fortunately, we were able to fit some banding in amidst the rainy days.  We saw a decrease in our capture rate from last month, which, for reasons not totally understood yet, is a common trend in January each year.  We caught an average of 9 birds per banding day at Palo and 15 per day at our other sites, down from 14 and 22, respectively, in December.

A male California Quail caught at Palomarin. Photo by Tyler Winter

Exciting captures included a Red Crossbill, caught early on January 26th. Crossbills are often seen or heard flying above the canopy of Douglas Firs at Palomarin, but rarely make their way into our nets. The last Red Crossbill to be caught at Palomarin was in 2003!  This individual was caught in the net with a Sharp-shinned Hawk.  It’s possible that the Crossbill was driven lower into the forest by the hunting hawk, however, this is pure speculation on the part of the banders.

An After Hatch Year male Red Crossbill caught at Palomarin. Photo by Jason Gregg

A close up of the Red Crossbill.  Look at that bill!  Photo by Kate Maley

Let’s Do the Numbers:

In 13 days (1413.91 net hours) of mist-netting at Palomarin in January, we captured 49 new birds and recaptured 73 previously banded birds. A total of 122 birds of 22 species were caught this month. Approximately 9 birds were caught per banding day.

At our other West Marin banding sites, we captured 63 new birds and recaptured 113 previously banded birds. A total of 179 birds of 26 species were caught over 10 banding days this month (572.77 net hours), an average of approximately 15 birds per day.

The highest capture rates at Palomarin and our other West Marin banding sites were on January 2nd at Palomarin with 18 birds and January 8th at Pine Gulch with 40 birds.

At Palomarin the highest numbers were captured for the following species: Ruby-crowned Kinglet (48), Golden-crowned Kinglet (14), Hermit Thrush (10), Fox Sparrow (6), and Wrentit (5).

Across all off-sites, the highest numbers of captures by species were: Ruby-crowned Kinglet (54), Song Sparrow (30), Hermit Thrush (18), Fox Sparrow (13), and Wrentit (9).

The wing of a second year Song Sparrow.  If you look closely, you can see distinct growth bars across primary coverts and primaries. Photo by Tyler Winter

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.