Point Blue Conservation Science: Palomarin Field Station Spring Season Update – April & May, 2020
May 31, 2020
This summary was compiled by Point Blue’s Palomarin banding interns Mary De Aquino and Bernarda Vasquez with help from gridding interns Oliver Nguyen and Sarah Stewart, and Hilary Allen, Gridding Supervisor.
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Exciting Captures and Observations:
April and May were exciting months at the Palomarin Field Station. With spring migrants continuing to arrive and the breeding season in full swing, the banding interns and nesting searching interns were kept busy. In addition to some of our commonly caught local species, such as Song Sparrows, Spotted Towhees, and Wrentits, our most common captures have begun to change with the the arrival of spring and our neotropical breeding migrants. The mist nets were kept busy with Orange-crowned Warblers, Wilson’s Warblers, and Swainson’s Thrushes, as well as a very enthusiastic Pacific Wren family that had quite the knack for showing up in our nets.
In addition to our more common captures, we got a few species that don’t often end up in the nets, including a Northern Flicker, Steller’s Jay, two California Quail, and a Western Bluebird, the first one since 2015. Near the end of May, exciting captures included a nine-year old Swainson’s Thrush, a MacGillivray’s Warbler, and a Brewer’s Sparrow, the fourth one ever caught at Palomarin!
With some changes to shelter-in-place restrictions in the second half of May, banding interns were able to resume banding at two more of our other study sites or “off-sites”: Muddy Hollow (in Point Reyes National Seashore) and Redwood Creek (in Golden Gate National Recreation Area). Compared to Palomarin, our capture rates were much higher at off-sites, which gave the interns lots of great practice processing birds. On our first visit to Redwood Creek we caught 63 birds, 10 of which were hummingbirds! It was fun to get some unusual species at the off-sites, including Warbling Vireos, a Brown-headed Cowbird, and even a Black-headed Grosbeak.
In April and May the gridders continued to spend their days following birds and locating their expertly hidden nests. Nest searching requires a lot of patience and countless hours spent crawling through swaths of poison oak and other thick vegetation, waiting to catch glimpses of birds and gather small clues that will help lead us to finding a nest. Paying such close attention to, and spending day after day with individual birds out on the plots, allows gridders to have a very unique window into the birds’ lives. Gridders come to know some individual birds quite intimately, learning which birds are particularly unfazed by their presence, which birds are quick to come and scold them for being in their territory or near their nest, and which birds are infamously elusive and tricky to follow.
Despite some rainy days, the gridders found many new study species’ nests, especially those belonging to Wrentits, Wilson’s Warblers, and Song Sparrows. In addition, they noted quite a few non-study species’ nests, including Oregon Junco, Allen’s Hummingbird, Band-tailed Pigeon, and even a Hermit Thrush nest, only the second one ever found on our study plots!
When they locate a nest, gridders monitor its progress through the building, incubating, and nestlings stages of the nest. When nestlings of the study species hatch, gridders pay extra close attention to their development in order to determine when they sufficiently mature and can be safely banded.
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.