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

Point Blue Conservation Science: Monthly Banding Summary, August 2019

This summary was compiled by Point Blue’s Palomarin banding interns Samantha Chavez and Hannah Roodenrijs with help from Hilary Allen, Banding Supervisor.

About Point Blue: Our mission is to conserve birds, other wildlife, and ecosystems through science, partnerships, and outreach.

Our Vision: Because of the collaborative climate-smart conservation work we do today, healthy ecosystems will continue to sustain thriving wildlife and human communities well into the future.

Explore Point Blue’s website to learn more.

Exciting Captures and Observations:

August is a transitional period here at the Palomarin Field Station. The spring/summer banders have moved on to new and exciting opportunities and the two new fall/winter banding interns, Hannah Roodenrijs and Samantha Chavez, have begun their Palo residency. Mirroring this, the stirrings of fall migration are beginning across many species of birds. Flycatchers of the genus Empidonax are moving south to winter in Mexico. The vast majority of the Pacific-slope Flycatchers we caught in August were juveniles. These birds most likely hatched further north and were caught in our nets here at Palo while they were stopping to fatten up before their continued southbound flight.

The fall/winter interns were joined by fall/winter warblers who began to show up in August as well. Townsend’s Warblers were our first arrivals. Unlike the flycatchers, the warblers will be here to stay.  Some of our busiest days in August were due to flocks of 4 to 6 Townsend’s Warblers being caught all at once in a single net. Townsend’s Warblers have striking black and yellow plumage. They have bright yellow faces with black masks and in the hand can often be easily sexed based on the amount of black in their plumage.

A female (front) and a male (back) Townsend’s Warbler. Photo by Hannah Roodenrijs


August was the month for Brown Creepers! We have experienced much higher capture rates of Brown Creepers this month than we are used to. In fact, we caught more Brown Creepers in the month of August this year than we caught for the entire year of 2018! The graph below shows the capture rates of new Brown Creepers at Palo for the last 15 years. Each year has total number of new Brown Creepers banded for the entire year, and for just the month of August. As you can see, there was only one year with a higher yearly capture rate of Brown Creepers, and August of 2019 has had the highest capture rates in the last 15 years! Almost all of the Brown Creepers that we have caught have been young birds that hatched earlier this year.

Capture rates of new Brown Creepers at the Palomarin Field Station for the last 15 years


Brown Creeper. Photo by Hilary Allen


Some other exciting August captures included a Northern Flicker, a Western Tanager, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, a Lazuli Bunting, a Black-headed Grosbeak, and a MacGillivray’s Warbler.

A young male Lazuli Bunting. The striking blue and orange plumage will not show up on this bird until next spring (Photo by S. Chavez).


A female Western Tanager, hatched this year (Photo by S. Mueller).


A young Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Photo by S. Mueller).


A Northern Flicker, red-shafted. Differs from East Coast Northern Flickers who generally have yellow-shafted tail feathers (Photo by S. Mueller).

Let’s Do the Numbers:

In 27 days (3160.67 net hours) of mist-netting at Palomarin in August, we captured 306 new birds and recaptured 149 previously banded birds. A total of 455 birds of 33 species were caught. Approximately 17 birds were caught per banding day.

At our Pine Gulch banding site (Bolinas Lagoon Open Space Preserve), we captured 23 new birds and recaptured 6 previously banded birds. A total of 29 birds of 11 species were caught in 1 banding day in August (56 net hours).

The highest capture rates at Palomarin and our Pine Gulch sites were on August 25th at Palomarin with 31 birds, and August 3rd at Pine Gulch, with 29 birds.

At Palomarin, the following species were caught in the highest numbers: Pacific-slope Flycatcher/Western Flycatcher (91), Brown Creeper (54), Wrentit (42), Oregon Junco (42), Wilson’s Warbler (40), and Swainson’s Thrush (33).

At the Pine Gulch off-site, the highest numbers of captures by species were: Wrentit (9), Wilson’s Warbler (5), Swainson’s Thrush (4), Common Yellowthroat (3), and Warbling Vireo (2).

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.