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: January 2021

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

Exciting Captures and Observations:

A Happy New Year and Happy Birthday to all of the birds! On January 1st, each bird has a “birthday”, so any birds hatched in 2020 that were called “hatch-years” have now graduated to become “second-years” in 2021 (their second calendar year of life). And birds that were “second-years” are now “after-second-years” and so on. Ageing birds helps us track population dynamics, reproductive success, and annual survival. Over time, we can relate this data to local and regional environmental change.

January was another slow month, averaging about 6 birds captured per day at our Palomarin Field Station. We still had some exciting captures, including one very special House Wren! Despite being a common bird in eastern Marin County, they are usually only seen in western Marin in the winter and are rarely detected here at the Palomarin Field Station. The last time a House Wren was caught at Palomarin was in 2018, and the time before that was 19 years ago, in 2002.

A very special House Wren, held by intern Brandon. Photo by Oliver Nguyen.


We’ve had some other exciting captures, like this handsome White-throated Sparrow caught at one of our off-sites, Muddy Hollow (in the Point Reyes National Seashore), and a Varied Thrush, caught at Palomarin. We have also been seeing and hearing several American Robins this month. We caught some very loud ones at Palomarin, like the one pictured below.

White-throated Sparrow caught at Muddy Hollow, held by intern Caroline. Check out that white throat, and those yellow lores near the eyes. The yellow is caused by pigments called carotenoids acquired through their diet. Photo by Oliver Nguyen.


A female Varied Thrush caught by the interns at Palomarin. Slowly the Varied Thrushes are leaving us to move up north towards their breeding grounds which can extend from Humboldt, California to Selawik, Alaska. Photo by Oliver Nguyen.


An aggressive after hatch year American Robin biting intern Sophie’s digits. Birds, especially certain species, sometimes bite us when we are handling them; banders learn to respond calmly, and either remove their bill from our skin, or let them continue do bite. Photo by Oliver Nguyen.



Let’s Do the Numbers:

In 16 days (1701.5 net hours) of mist-netting at Palomarin in January, we captured 35 new birds and recaptured 59 previously banded birds. A total of 94 birds of 20 species were caught. Approximately 6 birds were caught per banding day.

At our other West Marin banding sites, we captured 33 new birds and recaptured 44 previously banded birds. A total of 77 birds of 20 species were caught over 9 banding days in January (464.3 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 January 3rd at Palomarin with 24 birds, and January 7th at Muddy Hollow (in the Point Reyes National Seashore) with 16 birds.

At Palomarin, the following species were caught in the highest numbers: Ruby-crowned Kinglet (23), Wrentit (16), Hermit Thrush (6), Song Sparrow (5), Bushtit (5), and Anna’s Hummingbird (5).

Across all off-sites, the highest numbers of captures by species were: Song Sparrow (17), Ruby-crowned Kinglet (11), Hermit Thrush (9), Bewick’s Wren (6), and Golden-crowned Sparrow (5).

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.