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, June 2020

This summary was compiled by Point Blue’s Palomarin banding interns Mary De Aquino, Mary Kate Lisi and Bernarda Vasquez 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.

Explore Point Blue’s website to learn more.

COVID-19 considerations:

A quick note that while the field station was closed to the public in June, we were still able to conduct our research activities. We always take the safety of our team seriously, and the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. Our team has developed protocols to maintain the interns and staff supervisors as a family unit, allowing us to continue to work together closely. Please check the Point Blue Facebook page for announcements on dates and times for live banding demonstrations. Please check here for updates on when the field station will reopen to the public.

Exciting Captures and Observations:

June was a very busy month for banders as many nestling birds had begun to fledge and are now active outside of the nest. Some of our first fledglings of the year included Wilson’s Warbler, Swainson’s Thrush, Song Sparrow, and Wrentit. Several individuals of our study species (Wilson’s Warbler, Swainson’s Thrush, Song Sparrow, California Scrub-Jay, Spotted Towhee, and Wrentit) were banded as nestlings with the help of our nest searchers, known as “gridders.” Both banders and gridders have been learning to identify and differentiate young and adult birds by plumage. It is very exciting to see birds we banded as nestlings becoming active and independent!

Swainson’s Thrush. This bird was the first “hatch-year” of this species that we captured, meaning this bird was born within this calendar year. This bird is in its pre-formative plumage that it grew while in nest, and is darker and more spotted than the adult plumage. Photo by Bernarda Vasquez.


Wilson’s Warbler. Another “hatch-year” bird that looks different from the adults. In a few weeks this bird will acquire a bright yellow belly and black cap. Photo by Bernarda Vasquez.


Golden-crowned Kinglet, hatch-year. This is a photo of the first Golden-crowned Kinglet we captured this season! The gold crowns are usually hidden until a bird becomes stressed or angry and can fluff up their crown feathers. Photo by Bernarda Vasquez.


Gridders continued to nest search throughout June to find new nests, identify second brood attempts (pairs that are attempting to have a second successful nest that season), and follow fledglings as they leave their nests. Although they are physically out of the nest, many young birds remain dependent on one or both of their parents as their flight feathers continue to grow and they learn the ways of the world.

The banders at Palo had several exciting captures this month included Band-tailed Pigeon, Black Headed Grosbeak, Brown-headed Cowbird, and a Pileated Woodpecker. Capturing these unique species is a great opportunity for banders to see these birds up close and learn to better identify and gather information from them.

Brown-headed Cowbird, male. This bird was aged as an “after second year,” meaning it was at least 2 years old. Different physical features such as feather condition, color, or pattern sometimes allows us to determine the age of a bird within a broad category. Photo by Bernarda Vasquez.


Black-headed Grosbeak, male. This is another “after second year” male that was captured at one of our off-sites, Muddy Hollow in Point Reyes National Seashore. This bird is heard calling and singing at Palo and at off-sites often, but is a rare and awesome capture to see up close! Photo by Bernarda Vasquez.


Band-tailed Pigeon. This is a photo of the first and only Band-tailed Pigeon we captured this season! As you can see (and may not notice from far away), this is a colorful bird with a bright yellow bill and a beautiful eye color. Photo by Bernarda Vasquez.


Let’s Do the Numbers:

In 28 days (3007.75 net hours) of mist-netting at Palomarin in June, we captured 288 new birds and recaptured 143 previously banded birds. A total of 431 birds of 26 species were caught. Approximately 15 birds were caught per banding day.

At our other West Marin banding sites, we captured 200 new birds and recaptured 151 previously banded birds. A total of 351 birds of 26 species were caught over 9 banding days in June (523.56 net hours), an average of approximately 39 birds per day.

The highest capture rates at Palomarin and our other West Marin banding sites were on June 30 at Palomarin with 50 birds, and June 23 at Muddy Hollow (in Point Reyes National Seashore), with 53 birds.

At Palomarin, the following species were caught in the highest numbers: Wilson’s Warbler (94), Wrentit (51), Allen’s Hummingbird (37), Bewick’s Wren (34), and Swainson’s Thrush (33).

Across all off-sites, the highest numbers of captures by species were: Swainson’s Thrush (94), Song Sparrow (76), Wilson’s Warbler (57), Wrentit (27), and Orange-Crowned Warbler (17).

Albino Barn Swallow. This bird is amazing!!! It was seen on June 26 hanging out with the other Barn Swallows and Northern Rough-winged Swallow while it begged for food. Photo by Bernarda Vasquez.


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.