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, November 2019

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

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:

Things have started to slow down here at Palomarin as the winter season approaches and fall migration is coming to an end. The winter birds have settled in, and our winter banding schedule began after Thanksgiving. We welcomed the first rain of the season at the end of November with a big storm, and after brief celebration for the rain we quickly started to hope for some clear days so that we could band!

Our capture rates have slowed down quite a bit since October. On November 17th we had our first, single bird day: a single Brown Creeper was captured after a full day of banding! While we heard this could happen during the winter banding months, we were still surprised when it happened! Luckily, we had more than one bird on all the other banding days in November. As the birds settle in for the winter and fewer migrants pass through, we expect that our capture rates will remain lower for the upcoming months. But that doesn’t mean an end to exciting captures. Ruby-crowned Kinglets continue to be our top captured species by far, both at Palo and Pine Gulch; we usually catch at least one Ruby-crowned Kinglet a day, sometimes up to ten!

A male Ruby-crowned Kinglet showing off his vibrant ruby crown. Photo by Hilary Allen


We had one especially exciting, record-breaking capture on November 12th: the oldest known Orange-crowned Warbler! We originally caught and banded this individual back in August of 2008 as an unknown aged male and have only caught them twice since then! Based on his November 2019 capture, this adorable and unassuming little warbler is at least 11 years and 4 months old – the second oldest known warbler in North America!!

The oldest known Orange-crowned Warbler! Processed, photographed, and admired by Megan Elrod and Kathleen Grady


We caught another large hawk in our nets this month. This time it was a Red-shouldered Hawk, a bird even larger than a Cooper’s Hawk! The hawk was a juvenile, easily aged by plumage and eye color. This bird had an iris that was brownish gray as opposed to an adult’s reddish eye. The plumage was also very telling. A juvenile’s brown streaked chest is very different from an adult’s reddish-brown chest. It seems that we are very lucky when it comes to catching large species this year. The last time a Red-shouldered Hawk was captured at Palo was in 2016.

A juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk being held by banding intern Hannah Roodenrijs. Photo by Samantha Chavez.
Senior Communications Coordinator (and former Palo banding intern), Lishka Arata processing a young male Sharp-shinned Hawk. This Sharp-shinned Hawk’s plumage may look similar to the Red-shoulderd Hawk pictured above, but as you can see, the size difference is striking! Photo by Hilary Allen


An exciting happening this month is that we began banding at Pine Gulch again, one of our West Marin banding sites located in the Bolinas Lagoon Open Space Preserve. We took a break from banding at our four off-site banding stations from August-October due to our small intern crew this season. Pine Gulch will be the only off-site that we will band at for the winter, and we will restart our other off-sites in the spring.

A scene from banding at Pine Gulch. We have a bench set up with all our supplies and behind us is a beautiful view of Bolinas Lagoon where we can look for ducks and shorebirds in between net runs. Photo by Hannah Roodenrijs


Banding at Pine Gulch has brought some fun changes to our weekly schedule, and also a slightly different diversity of captures than we get here at Palo. Some exciting new birds (for us) included Common Yellowthroats, a Swamp Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrows, and a Pine Siskin. The capture rates have also been much higher at Pine Gulch than at Palo. We had an average capture rate of 41 birds per banding day, which certainly kept us busy the whole time!

A hatch-year male Common Yellowthroat. These warblers are rarely caught at Palo, and it was a delight to finally see one in the hand at Pine Gulch. Photo by Samantha Chavez
A Pine Siskin. This bird is frequently seen in flocks in the fall and winter. A less-frequent catch in our nets because they typically fly and forage much higher than our nets can reach. Photo by Hannah Roodenrijs.

Let’s Do the Numbers:

In 27 days (2792.55 net hours) of mist-netting at Palomarin in November, we captured 106 new birds and recaptured 167 previously banded birds. A total of 273 birds of 26 species were caught. Approximately 11 birds were caught per banding day.

At Pine Gulch, our other West Marin banding site, we captured 70 new birds and recaptured 56 previously banded birds. A total of 126 birds of 18 species were caught over 4 banding days in November (142 net hours), an average of approximately 41 birds per day.

The highest capture rates at this month were on November 2nd and November 8th at Palomarin with 21 birds, and November 26th at Pine Gulch (Bolinas Lagoon Open Space Preserve) with 52 birds!

At Palomarin, the following species were caught in the highest numbers: Ruby-crowned Kinglet (77), Wrentit (41), Fox Sparrow (21), Hermit Thrush (18), and Spotted Towhee (14).

At Pine Gulch, the highest numbers of captures by species were: Ruby-crowned Kinglet (38), Song Sparrow (19), Fox Sparrow (16), Bushtit (11), and Wrentit (8).

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.