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: February 2021

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

Exciting Captures and Observations:

February is the season for Selasphorus hummingbirds! Selasphorus is a genus of hummingbirds, of which Allen’s and Rufous Hummingbirds are the two most common species found in Marin. Both species are migratory, but only the Allen’s stays here to breed while the Rufous goes as far north as Alaska. We caught our first Allen’s Hummingbird of the season at one of our West Marin banding sites, Pine Gulch (in the Bolinas Lagoon Open Space Preserve), on February 5th. Separating these two closely related species takes some close examination and sometimes we do not have time to gather those details, so we simply record them as Selasphorus hummingbirds. We caught our first of the year Allen’s Hummingbird at Palomarin on the 14th, followed by 2 more within the same hour!

First of the year male Allen’s Hummingbird caught at Pine Gulch! Check out their reflective throat feathers, a great example of how feather structure uses light refraction to reflect different colors! Photo by Oliver Nguyen.


First of the year Allen’s Hummingbird caught at Palomarin! We caught two more of these guys in the same hour. Photo by Caroline Provost.


Now that it’s late winter and spring is approaching, we’ve been hearing more birds singing and have even been observing some breeding behaviors such as the Band-tailed Pigeon courtship flight. But winter isn’t quite over yet, with wintering birds, like the “Myrtle” subspecies of Yellow-rumped Warbler below, still around. Let’s also not forget our resident species that will bid farewell to their winter friends and welcome back their summer friends. It’s an exciting time to be around the field station!

A gentle looking Myrtle Warbler caught at Muddy Hollow. We look at many features to differentiate between Myrtle and Audubon’s subspecies of Yellow-rumped Warblers. Usually Myrtle Warblers have a white stripe above the eye whereas Audubon’s do not (although sometimes it can be hard to tell). Photo by Caroline Provost.


A nice looking Chestnut-backed Chickadee caught at Muddy Hollow. Chickadees, around this time, are usually still in winter flocks and may pair up soon for the breeding season. Photo by Oliver Nguyen.


Orange-crowned Warbler captured at Muddy Hollow in the Point Reyes National Seashore. Photo by Hilary Allen.


Let’s Do the Numbers:

In 13 days (1232.5 net hours) of mist-netting at Palomarin in February, we captured 17 new birds and recaptured 18 previously banded birds. A total of 35 birds of 15 species were caught. Approximately 3 birds were caught per banding day, half of our average from January.

At our other West Marin banding sites, we captured 36 new birds and recaptured 46 previously banded birds. A total of 83 birds of 19 species were caught over 9 banding days in January (461.2 net hours), an average of approximately 9 birds per day.

The highest capture rates at Palomarin and our other West Marin banding sites were on February 14th at Palomarin with 7 birds and on February 5th at Pine Gulch (part of the Bolinas Lagoon Open Space Preserve) with 18 birds.

At Palomarin, the following species were caught in the highest numbers: Hermit Thrush (5), Spotted Towhee (4), Allen’s Hummingbird (4), Song Sparrow (3), and Fox Sparrow (3).

Across all off-sites, the highest numbers of captures by species were: Song Sparrow (21), Hermit Thrush (10), Wrentit (9), and Ruby-crowned Kinglet (8).

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 open to the public.  Consider visiting us!  Learn how on our contact & visit us web page.