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

Palomarin Banding Summary – August & September

This summary was compiled by Point Blue’s Palomarin banding interns Sophie Noda and Oliver Nguyen with help from Hilary Allen, Banding Supervisor.

Exciting Captures and Observations:

Hard to believe that August and September have come and gone. They were action packed.

August marked the beginning of the fall/winter banding internship at Palo. Interns from the summer season were leaving to be replaced with new incoming interns for the fall and winter season. Two of the fall/winter banders are returning banding interns—Sophie Noda from Point Blue’s STRAW (Students and Teachers Restoring A Watershed) internship and who had banded in spring/summer of 2019, and Brandon Dunnahoo who had been a bander for spring/summer 2020. The other two, Oliver Nguyen (a Palomarin spring/summer 2020 Gridding intern) and Caroline Provost (an intern from Point Blue’s spring/summer 2020 Spotted Owl Program) are both new to the banding internship Palo so they were in training mode for much of August and September, learning about how to handle and identify birds in the hand.

The smoke creates an orange-red hue to the sun. View from the Bolinas Fire Station Parking Lot. Photo by Oliver Nguyen.


What a time to be learning the ropes as a new Palo bander – a rough transition at a crucial time. Training was abruptly halted in mid-August due to the Woodward fire, just as the interns were starting to get a big sweep of birds coming into nets with fall migration coming into full-swing.

August 18th started out like any other, but turned out to be anything but typical. As the day was winding down, unbeknownst to the interns, the brush and vegetation grew ablaze just a few miles north with a fire that would soon engulf 5,000 acres in the Point Reyes National Seashore. Plumes of smoke swirled into the sky and ash started falling from the sky, and the sun turned to be a brilliant orange-red hue.

With the Woodward fire blazing just a couple miles away, the Palomarin interns had to evacuate the Palomarin Field Station to Petaluma. Shelves of old data dating back to the 60’s had to be gutted and safely stashed away in cars. Supervisors and interns alike had their car seats full of nest searching and banding data, stacks of binders and loose papers buckled in and nearly toppling over. Precious memoirs and beloved stuff birds adorning the library were not forgotten and were placed gingerly alongside the multiple stacks of data.

However, the show must go on, and these birds will wait for no one. And so the interns continued to conduct banding at Redwood Creek, one of our off-site locations, and used the Petaluma Rich Stallcup house as their new headquarters while they remained evacuated from Palo for the second half of August.

We started to catch fatter birds gearing up for their fall migration, and a few early arrival wintering species such as Fox Sparrows, Hermit Thrushes, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets signaling the coming of winter.

First Ruby-crowned Kinglet of the season, female. Photo by Hilary Allen.


The first Fox Sparrow of the season caught at Redwood Creek. They have ridiculously long claws, a unique characteristic of these sparrow species. Photo by Hilary Allen.


August and September were exciting months for fall warblers. We caught quite a few fun ones like Yellow Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Hermit Warbler, Townsend’s Warbler, Black-Throated Gray Warblers, Black and Yellow-rumped Warblers (fondly known as “butter-butts”).

An adult male Yellow Warbler. You can tell that this is a male based on the amount of red streaking on its breast. Photo by Hilary Allen.
The softest looking Common Yellowthroat caught at Redwood Creek. Photo by Caroline Provost
Black-throated Gray Warbler! What a cutie! They look a bit like Black-and-white warbler, but with a small yellow patch in their eyebrow. Photo by Hilary Allen








We’ve also had some exciting captures that we normally don’t get in nets like a Lesser Goldfinch and Pine Siskin at Palo, and a Western Tanager and a Traill’s Flycatcher at Redwood Creek!

A female Lesser Goldfinch. The first one caught at Palo since 2007! Photo by Hilary Allen.


A hatch-year male Western Tanager caught at Redwood Creek! Photo by Caroline Provost.


A Traill’s Flycatcher. While we catch a lot of the closely related Pacific-slope Flycatchers in the fall, Triall’s Flycatchers are not a common capture for us. Photo by Hilary Allen


Let’s Do the Numbers:

In 40 days (4638.5 net hours) of mist-netting at Palomarin in August and September, we captured 345 new birds and recaptured 152 previously banded birds. A total of 502 birds of 39 species were caught. Approximately 13 birds were caught per banding day.

At our other West Marin banding sites, we captured 234 new birds and recaptured 106 previously banded birds. A total of 346 birds of 34 species were caught over 15 banding days in August and September (950.4 net hours), an average of approximately 23 birds per day.

The highest capture rates at Palomarin were on August 9th and 31st, both days with 29 birds. The highest capture rate at our other West Marin banding sites (“off-sites”) was August 3rd at Redwood Creek (Golden Gate National Recreation Area) with 46 birds.

Over the two months at Palomarin, the following species were caught in the highest numbers: Pacific-slope Flycatcher (60), Wilson’s Warbler (56), Wrentit (56), Swainson’s Thrush (42), Song Sparrow (41), and Oregon Junco (26).

Across all off-sites, the highest numbers of captures by species were: Song Sparrow (103), Swainson’s Thrush (59), Wilson’s Warbler (36), Wrentit (22), and Pacific Wren (20).

About these Summaries:

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.

Our Palomarin Field Station is currently closed to the public during COVID-19.  Consider visiting us in the future, and in the meantime you can tune in to one of our Facebook Live events to see what we are up to!  Learn more on our upcoming events web page.