Bird banding brings us cool birds, interesting insights and always new questions, and this spring was no exception. We again shared these experiences with hundreds of visitors, from toddlers to school kids to adults of all ages. Without further ado, here are the birdy highlights from the spring.
Chatfield State Park, Colorado – Biologist Meredith McBurney said it was a slow spring for migration at Chatfield State Park southwest of Denver. A total of 508 individual birds were banded, about 13% below average for the station and 32% below last year. This decrease can be partly explained by the fact that the station was open fewer hours in the middle of the season, Meredith said, but the biggest impact was the drop in the number of birds caught during the last week. Daily numbers dwindled to the single digits when last year we were banding 20 birds or more. As a result, we caught far fewer of two of our most common Chatfield breeding birds: Yellow Warblers (lowest number since 2007) and Gray Catbirds (lowest since RMBO started banding at this location in 2006). Were the birds late? Did they arrive after we stopped banding? Or is there something else going on? We hope to answer these questions!
Meredith noted that we continued to welcome back birds that we had banded in prior seasons, including a Warbling Vireo, first caught in 2008, and two Yellow Warblers, a female banded as a second-year bird in 2007 (now 8 years old) and a male banded as a second-year bird in 2006 (now 9 years old). This male has been caught every spring except for 2008! Like last year, we had a late spring storm at Chatfield. In both 2013 and 2014, the storm brought down lots of Hermit Thrushes, so their numbers were again higher than usual, Meredith said. But the 2013 storm provided us with lots of Yellow-rumped and Orange-crowned Warblers, which were in much lower numbers this year. Despite lower numbers overall and fewer than usual total species, we caught four new species for the Chatfield station: Winter Wren, Blue-winged Warbler, Magnolia Warbler and Townsend’s Warbler. Very cool!
Chico Basin Ranch, Colorado – Biologist Nancy Gobris said it was another big spring for banding at Chico Basin Ranch, located 35 miles southeast of Colorado Springs. Nancy and volunteers caught and banded 1,004 individual birds of 69 species. This was the best spring since 2011, with 1,160 individual birds that year, and the fifth spring of 1,000-plus birds. Nancy said they caught a few rare species for this station, including an Eastern Towhee (only the second banded at Chico) and four Blackpoll Warblers. In addition, they caught and banded the station’s first two Flammulated Owls. This species had only been seen twice before on the ranch, once in 2004 and again in 2005.
Lee Martinez Park, Colorado – This was our first full spring banding birds at this city park in Fort Collins. Despite high winds and flooding closing the station for a few days, we managed to stay open until the end of May and capture 107 individual birds of 21 different species. Bird bander Anna Harris said cool catches for the season included Lincoln’s Sparrow, Black-headed Grosbeak, Hermit Thrush, Swainson’s Thrush and Northern Waterthrush.
We appreciate the many schools, families, community groups and others who visited our banding stations in the spring to learn about bird anatomy and migration. Thank you to the many partners and funders who helped us operate these stations. You help make it all possible!