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: October 2020

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

Exciting Captures and Observations:

This October we caught more migrants and winter residents including Sharp-shinned Hawks, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Fox Sparrows, and Hermit Thrushes. We have also been catching more California Scrub-Jays this month! Based on our observations, their higher capture rate may coincide with the presence of ripe acorns! We have been noticing a lot of busy California Scrub-Jays with acorns in their bills and actively stashing acorns.

Intern Brandon Dunnahoo holding a California Scrub-Jay. Photo by Hilary Allen


A close up of a California Scrub-Jay. Photo by Hilary Allen


As the winter residents continued to arrive, we had all been awaiting the day we’d see or catch a Varied Thrush. In mid-October while doing the daily area search survey at Palomarin (a 30 min survey in which we record all of the birds seen or heard on a plot surrounding the mist nets), intern Caroline Provost heard a Varied Thrush, the first detection of the season, as well a “lifer” for Caroline. Sure enough, on the following day we caught the first Varied Thrush of the season! Another exciting winter resident capture the crew had been awaiting is the Red-breasted Sapsucker, which we finally caught mid-month.


One of our favorite winter birds here at Palo, a Varied Thrush, looking absolutely radiant in the sunlight. Photo by Sophie Noda


A striking Red-breasted Sapsucker caught at Palo. Photo by Hilary Allen


We had another especially exciting capture in October – a Black-chinned Hummingbird! The last time we caught a Black-chinned Hummingbird at Palomarin was in 1998, and our capture in October was only the seventh Black-chinned Hummingbird ever caught at Palomarin. Interns Sophie Noda and Caroline Provost had to call in a supervisor, Mark Dettling, to help ID this hummingbird. Believe it or not, birds can still be hard to ID even when they are up close and in the hand. After digging through several guides and taking many measurements, we narrowed this one down to a Black-chinned Hummingbird.


A hatch-year female Black-chinned Hummingbird. A little drab looking, but a very exciting capture at Palo! Photo by Sophie Noda


We had some exciting captures at one of our off-sites, Redwood Creek. We caught a Black Phoebe, a species that is commonly seen but rarely caught in our nets. We also caught the first Swamp Sparrow of the season, a species that is often only caught once or twice each year.


Swamp Sparrows winter in West Marin in small numbers, so it is very exciting when we are lucky enough to see one, let alone catch one! Photo by Hilary Allen.


These two Steller’s Jay were caught in the same net together! I wonder what kind of mischief they were up to. Photo by Oliver Nguyen.


Let’s Do the Numbers:

In 31 days (3203.2 net hours) of mist-netting at Palomarin in October, we captured 283 new birds and recaptured 110 previously banded birds. A total of 394 birds of 36 species were caught. Approximately 13 birds were caught per banding day.

At our other West Marin banding sites, we captured 171 new birds and recaptured 60 previously banded birds. A total of 231 birds of 28 species were caught over 9 banding days in October (530.3 net hours), an average of approximately 26 birds per day.

The highest capture rate at Palomarin was on October 23rd with 27 birds. The highest capture rate at our other West Marin banding sites (“off-sites”) was October 29th at Redwood Creek (Golden Gate National Recreation Area) with 57 birds.

Over the past month at Palomarin, the following species were caught in the highest numbers: Hermit Thrush (98), Ruby-crowned Kinglet (61), Wrentit (42), Fox Sparrow (28), and Bushtit (26).

Across all off-sites, the highest numbers of captures by species were: Hermit Thrush (51), Fox Sparrow (32), Ruby-crowned Kinglet (32), Wrentit (29), and Song Sparrow (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.