Point Blue Conservation Science: Monthly Banding Summary – January 2018
April 6, 2018
This summary was compiled by Point Blue’s Palomarin banding interns Michael Mahoney and Krista Fanucchi 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.
Visit Point Blue’s website to learn more.
Exciting Captures and Observations:
Another year has come and gone, and the new year brings new changes to the Palomarin Field Station. The system we use for ageing birds is based on the calendar year, making January 1st the day when all birds enter the next age class. For example, a bird that hatched in the summer of 2017 (which we classify as a “hatch-year” bird) now becomes a “second-year” bird (in its second calendar year of life) at the start of 2018. In other words, it was the bird’s “birthday” on January 1st!
More changes to speak of! At the Palomarin Field Station there are a total of twenty 12-meter long mist nets which are set up in permanent locations. Some are set up in more open scrub-like habitat, and some in more forested habitat. In general, the size of the mesh on a mist net determines the size of bird you are going to capture. The nets set up in the scrub habitat (which we refer to as the “scrub nets”) have a mesh size of 36 mm and are best for catching larger birds like White-crowned Sparrows, Spotted Towhees, and California Scrub Jays, while the nets in the forest habitat (“forest nets”) have a mesh size of 30 mm, which is most effective for catching smaller species like Golden-crowned Kinglets, Pacific Wrens, or Chestnut-backed Chickadees. When banding operations started at Palo in the late 1960’s, the trail along which the nets are set up was mostly dominated by coastal scrub. Now much of the ecosystem surrounding the station has succeeded to a community (an association of organisms) composed of mixed scrub and Douglas fir forest. Due to the encroachment of the Douglas fir forest, we now capture smaller birds across our entire study site. For the safety of these small birds that can get more tangled in larger mesh size, the interns swapped out the larger 36 mm mesh nets for the smaller 30 mm mesh nets on January 1st.
The first bird we banded in 2018 was a young male Sharp-shinned Hawk caught at Muddy Hollow in Point Reyes National Seashore on January 2nd.
Other interesting captures this month included simultaneous male and female Anna’s Hummingbirds at Pine Gulch in the Bolinas Lagoon Open Space Preserve on January 4th, which appeared to have chased each other into the net. We were also excited to capture a Swamp Sparrow at Pine Gulch that same day! Swamp Sparrows are an uncommon capture for the Palomarin crew. Swamp Sparrows primarily reside on the eastern half of the United States, though a small subset of the population winter along the West coast.
Mid-month, the Palo interns got an opportunity to participate in some work with Point Blue’s Rangeland Monitoring Network. Point Blue ecologists Libby Porzig and Ryan DiGaudio took the interns out to Grid 5, one of our bird monitoring plots at the Palomarin Field Station, to monitor soil quality. The interns measured the rate of water infiltration (how fast the soil absorbs water), soil carbon, and bulk density. This data allows us to compare soil dynamic properties across the state of California and across time. You can read more about the rangeland program here, and check out the finding of previous soil sampling ventures at Tomkat Ranch, another Point Blue study site, here.
In late January, the banding interns and Palomarin staff went birding at Abbotts Lagoon in Point Reyes National Seashore. Highlights from the day included American Pipits, a female Long Tailed duck, Snowy Plovers, and an Arctic Loon, a rare find for this area! You can check out the full birding eBird checklist here!
At the end of the month, the coast experienced some king tides, with negative tides near sunset. Banding interns and Point Blue staff celebrated the natural phenomenon by tide pooling on the reef at Agate Beach State Park, in Bolinas. We saw so many nudibranchs!
Let’s Do the Numbers:
In 14 days (1,642.91 net hours) of mist-netting at Palomarin in January, we captured 12 new birds and recaptured 21 previously banded birds. A total of 33 birds of 11 species were caught. Approximately 2 birds were caught per banding day.
At our other West Marin banding sites, we captured 118 new birds and recaptured 83 previously banded birds. A total of 201 birds of 21 species were caught over 11 banding days in January (586.00 net hours), an average of approximately 18 birds per day.
The highest capture rates at Palomarin and our other West Marin banding sites were on January 9th at Palomarin with 9 birds and January 4 at Pine Gulch with 65 birds.
At Palomarin the highest numbers were captured for the following species: Ruby-crowned Kinglet (12), Wrentit (4), Bewick’s Wren (4), Hutton’s Vireo (3), and Fox Sparrow (3).
Across all off-sites, the highest numbers of captures by species were: Myrtle Yellow-rumped Warbler (42), Song Sparrow (32), Ruby-crowned Kinglet (31), Fox Sparrow (19), and Anna’s Hummingbird (11).
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.