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

Palomarin Monthly Banding Summary: December 2020

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

Exciting Captures and Observations:

December ushered in a period of slow banding days and occasional rain. The amount of birds captured were nearly halved from November, with even our busiest off-sites averaging about 10 birds a day. Nonetheless, there were still exciting species to be ogled at. We caught some very striking Spotted Towhees, a Sharp-Shinned Hawk in full adult plumage, and an American Robin, as well as plenty of other fun resident and wintering species (including Varied Thrush, White-crowned Sparrow, and Fox Sparrow). From the rain sprung forth many delicious and dangerous mushrooms dotting the banding trail and decorating our many fallen Douglas Firs. Our most prominent fungi, the edible Slippery Jack Bolete, dominates most of the banding trail.

A glossy male Spotted Towhee at Muddy Hollow in Point Reyes National Seashore. Photo by Sophie Noda


A stunning Sharp-shinned Hawk in full adult plumage. Photo by Oliver Nguyen.


Banding Intern Caroline Provost proudly holds a prized Varied Thrush. Photo by Brandon Dunnahoo.


A White-crowned Sparrow. Photo by Sophie Noda


A Fox Sparrow. Photo by Hilary Allen


We had an unexpected visitor come to Bolinas — a Chuck-will’s-widow! Point Blue Avian Ecologist, Mark Dettling, was the first to spot this bird. It was brought to his attention by the sound of songbirds scolding something in a hedgerow. After observing, taking notes, and consulting others about this unknown nightjar, everyone agreed that it was indeed an extremely rare encounter of a Chuck-will’s-widow!

Rare sighting of a Chuck-will’s-widow in Bolinas. Photo by Mark Dettling.


Our beloved Palomarin office dog, Mochi, underwent some unexpected medical issues this month. After two heart taps and a risky heart surgery, Mochi returned home to recover. She has now had her stiches removed and is looking marvelous and has returned to lounging about with the interns during the work day.

Mochi resting and recovering from heart surgery. Photo by Hilary Allen.


The Palomarin interns enjoyed a rainy Christmas day. We each had a video call with family to visit and open gifts from a distance!

A rainbow over Palomarin on Christmas day. Photo by Caroline Provost.


Let’s Do the Numbers:

In 17 days (2,003 net hours) of mist-netting at Palomarin in December, we captured 62 new birds and recaptured 90 previously banded birds. A total of 152 birds of 20 species were caught, a steep drop from November’s captures of 328 birds. Approximately 9 birds were caught per banding day.

At our other West Marin banding sites, we captured 70 new birds and recaptured 78 previously banded birds. A total of 148 birds of 24 species were caught over 10 banding days in December (561.85 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 December 15th at Palomarin with 15 birds, and December 31st at Pine Gulch (in the Bolinas Lagoon Open Space Preserve) with 30 birds.

At Palomarin, the following species were caught in the highest numbers: Ruby-crowned Kinglet (54), Wrentit (17), Bewick’s Wren (11), Golden-crowned Kinglet (8), and Fox Sparrow (8). This was nearly the same rankings as November’s captures, with Fox Sparrow overtaking the Hermit Thrush’s position.

Across all off-sites, the highest numbers of captures by species were: Ruby-crowned Kinglet (36), Song Sparrow (27), Hermit Thrush (23), Fox Sparrow (9), and Golden-crowned Sparrow (7).

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.