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, February 2019

This summary was compiled by Point Blue’s Palomarin banding interns Sarah Fensore and Nick Liadis with help from Mark Dettling, 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.

Visit Point Blue’s website to learn more.

Exciting Captures and Observations:

We caught some of our first glimpses of spring in the month of February. The Arroyo Willows were beginning to flower at our offsite banding station Pine Gulch (in the Bolinas Lagoon Open Space Preserve) in addition to other plants such as Douglas Iris and Pink-flowering Currant around Palomarin. We monitor the changing phenophases (e.g. flowering or fruiting) of a number of plants at our study sites, as they are important resources for birds. These seasonal changes in vegetation helped to welcome our earliest migrants—Allen’s and Rufous Hummingbirds—which along with a few other species, constitute the hummingbirds in the genus Selasphorus. Combinations of both cold and mild nights, long periods of rain, and occasional sunshine created the many variations of spring that the region has to offer.

Male Arroyo Willow flowers at Pine Gulch in the Bolinas Open Space Preserve. Photo by Nick Liadis.


Our highlight captures this month indicate the diversity of habitat that define the landscape around the field station. In the last twenty or so years, the Palomarin Field Station has seen a relatively rapid succession from mainly coastal shrub to a mix of Douglas-fir forest and coastal scrub. The landscape is at a point right now where we are lucky enough to benefit from the diversity of habitats – the remaining coastal scrub as well as the encroaching Douglas-fir forest and the edge of riparian forest along the Arroyo Hondo. These differing habitats interface throughout Palomarin, where some of our mist nets are placed well within these zones and others along the boundaries between them. The Blue-gray Gnatcatcher prefers the openness of the coastal scrub while the Hermit Thrush the forest floor within the Douglas-fir and riparian forests. Birds like the Sharp-shinned Hawk, Spotted Towhee, and Steller’s Jay can be seen frequently throughout all these habitats.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher captured at Palomarin. Photo by Sarah Fensore.


Hermit Thrush captured at Palomarin. Photo by Nick Liadis.


Male Spotted Towhee. Photo by Sarah Fensore.


Immature male Sharp-shinned Hawk. Photo by Nick Liadis.


Steller’s Jay. Photo by Sarah Fensore.


Let’s Do the Numbers:

In 15 days (1291.94 hours) of mist-netting at Palomarin in February, we captured 75 new birds and recaptured 119 previously banded birds. A total of 194 birds of 21 species were caught. Approximately 13 birds were caught per banding day.

At Pine Gulch, the other West Marin banding site we operated this month, we captured 10 new birds and recaptured 19 previously banded birds. A total of 29 birds of 12 species were caught over 1 banding day in February (53 net hours). The weather in February was challenging and while we would normally band at this site three times, we were only able get one full day of banding in this year.

The highest capture rate at Palomarin was on February 12th with 34 birds.

At Palomarin the highest numbers were captured for the following species: Ruby-crowned Kinglet (95), Townsend’s Warbler (31), Oregon Junco (13), and Pacific Wren (8).

At the off-site, the highest numbers of captures by species were: Common Yellowthroat (5), Ruby-crowned Kinglet (4), and Song Sparrow (4).

About these Summaries:

In an effort to share our science with the public, Point Blue interns and staff at our Palomarin Field Station (Palomarin or “Palo”) in Point Reyes National Seashore near Bolinas, CA produce these monthly bird-banding summaries. Our science interns create these summaries as part of their science outreach training.

Our Palomarin Field Station is open to the public.  Consider visiting us!  Learn how by visiting our mist-netting demonstrations web page.