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, October 2018

This summary was compiled by Point Blue’s Palomarin banding interns Nicole Gaudenti and Mike Mahoney with help from Renée Cormier, 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:

October brought some late fall migrants and a number of first-of-the-season winter birds, as we approached the end of fall migration and transitioned into a predominantly wintry soundscape at the Palomarin Field Station. In addition to our year-round, non-migratory residents, we began capturing some of our common wintering species such as Fox Sparrows, Hermit Thrushes, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets.

A Hermit Thrush captured at Palo on October 19th. We have both a summer and a winter population of Hermit Thrushes at Palo, however we typically catch many more wintering Hermit Thrushes. Photo by Mike Mahoney.


Exciting first of fall/winter season captures at the station included an Audubon’s Yellow-rumped Warbler on 10/11, a Red-Breasted Sapsucker on 10/12, and a Varied Thrush on 10/30. These species all spend their winters in Marin.

An Audubon’s Warbler (a subspecies of Yellow-rumped Warbler) captured at Palo on October 11th. Photo by Mike Mahoney.


A Varied Thrush captured at Palo on October 30th, just in time for Halloween! These birds are often among the latest wintering birds to arrive from their breeding grounds further north. Photo by Mike Mahoney.

October 20th was a particularly notable day for unusual captures this month. We caught an Ovenbird, which was our second vagrant (a bird whose normal range or migratory path is not on the west coast) of the 2018 fall season. Ovenbirds are a species of warbler that normally breed in the Eastern U.S. and migrate south to Central America for the winter. The young Ovenbird we captured likely made a wrong turn at some point and is now using the opposite (western) coastline as its guide south to its winter grounds.

Ovenbird captured at Palo on October 20th. Our vagrant of the month! Photo by Mike Mahoney.

On October 20th we also caught a gorgeous Cedar Waxwing. While this species is not vagrant, we rarely capture them because they typically spend their time flying high over the station. We also caught our first Black Phoebe of the season at Palo. Black Phoebes are a common sight around the field station in the winter, but it is unusual to catch them in our nets. Lastly on this day, we caught three Sharp-shinned Hawks, two of which were caught on the same net-run. All three were young males, and even though Sharp-shinned Hawks are not a rare capture, three in one day is certainly exciting!

A Cedar Waxwing captured at Palo on October 20th. Photo by Mike Mahoney.
Male Sharp-Shinned Hawks at Palo on October 20th. Photo by Mike Mahoney.

We caught several Red-breasted Nuthatches in October. Like other nuthatches and creepers, these small birds usually hang out on the trunks of trees rather than on peripheral branches. This year appears to be an “irruption year” for Red-breasted Nuthatches, which means there has been an explosion of them in places where they are usually detected in much smaller numbers. The website Ebird has seen a notable increase in reports for this bird outside of its typical range. This “invasion”, which can happen for any species, is likely due to a lack of suitable food in their typical winter range, and irruptions like this often happen on a 2 year cycle. Because Red-breasted Nuthatches are considered resident around Palo, it will be interesting to see if we have an increase in our capture rates of these birds!

A Red-Breasted Nuthatch captured at Palo on October 12th. Photo by Nicole Gaudenti.

This month the banding interns joined Palo staff and friends to participate in Point Blue’s 2018 Rich Stallcup Birth-A-Thon. The field station’s team, “The Lookers”, set out to identify as many bird species as possible in 24 hours. Starting in the streets of the Bolinas neighborhood at 5 PM on October 8th, “The Lookers” birded across west Marin, making stops throughout the Point Reyes National Seashore, Lagunitas Creek, Bolinas Lagoon, and several places in between, ending at 5 PM on October 9th. In total, we recorded 141 species! Highlights included awesome looks at Lapland Longspur, Horned Larks, recently-arrived Red-breasted Sapsuckers, and a vagrant Painted Bunting! If you would like to support our team’s efforts and make a contribution to funding our continued long-term data sets, we are still taking donations! Follow the link to our team’s donation page, where you can learn more about how you can make a one-time online donation.

The 2018 Lookers Bird-A-Thon Team! Staying true to our motto: “Bird hard, stay focused, and look good!” From left to right in order of appearance, Mike Mahoney, Nicole Gaudenti, Steve Howell, Hilary Allen, Megan Elrod, Catherine Hickey, Renee Cormier, Mark Dettling, and Diana Humple!

Let’s Do the Numbers:

In 24 days (2,630 net hours) of mist-netting at Palomarin in October, we captured 224 new birds and recaptured 72 previously banded birds. A total of 296 birds of 35 species were caught. Approximately 10 birds were caught per banding day.

At Pine Gulch, we captured 54 new birds and recaptured 28 previously banded birds. A total of 82 birds of 23 species were caught over 4 banding days in October (167.25 net hours), an average of approximately 27 birds per day.

The highest capture rates at Palomarin and Pine Gulch were on October 25th at Palomarin with 29 birds and October 8th and 22nd at Pine Gulch both with 35 birds.

At Palomarin, the highest numbers were captured for the following species: Ruby-crowned Kinglet (67), Hermit Thrush (34), Wrentit (24), Audubon’s Warbler (19), and Fox Sparrow (18).

At Pine Gulch, the highest numbers of captures by species were: Song Sparrow (19), Ruby-crowned Kinglet (10), Common Yellowthroat (7), Wrentit (6), and Fox Sparrow (6).

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.