Fall MigrationThe 2012 fall migration season produced far fewer numbers and species than expected at the Hummer Ranch. We reasoned that the drought in the mid-western states was the cause of this shortfall and hoped for better results in 2013. Although 2013 produced good results in many respects, those results could not be considered typical for the ranch. Many warbler species were later than normal in arriving and several species were quite reduced in numbers or failed to make an appearance. However, some species appeared in record numbers. We banded only one Orange-crowned Warbler in September. In previous years, we averaged about 40 Orange-crowned Warblers in the fall. At the same time, we banded record numbers of Yellow Warblers and Wilson's Warblers. Although smaller numbers of some species continued through October, they were still well below average numbers. The warbler data from the 2013 season will be unlike any of the data that we have recorded in the past six seasons. Empidonax flycatchers appeared in good numbers early in the season and continued to be banded throughout September. Record numbers of Willow Flycatchers and Least Flycatchers were banded during the season. We also banded our first Acadian Flycatcher on the ranch and recorded our second Alder Flycatcher for the ranch during this time. The total number of these small flycatchers was higher than at any time that banding has been conducted on the ranch.
2013 Painted BuntingsThe month of August always signals the end of summer breeding season, the end of our MAPS season, and the arrival of the first fall migrants at the Hummer House. At the end of the summer breeding season, we always turn our energies to banding hatching year Painted Buntings before they depart for their winter grounds. A large percentage of Painted Buntings raised on the ranch will return in future years to nest and raise their own young in that habitat. Recapturing these returning birds yields excellent data as to Painted Bunting survivability and the status of the breeding population on the ranch. As we compiled records for our study of this species in late August at the Hummer House, we banded our 6000th Painted Bunting at that site. We ended the season with 641 banded for the year and a total of 6035 since the first of this species was banded there some 19 years ago. This number represents about one-third of the Painted Buntings banded in the United States during this time period and nearly half the number of this species banded in Texas. Since we started our study some five years ago, more than two-thirds of Painted Buntings in Texas have been banded at this site. It was a good year for this species and many other breeding birds as they enjoyed excellent reproductive success after the historical drought of 2011. Such species as the Vermilion Flycatcher, Blue Grosbeak, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and Bell's Vireo have experienced notable recoveries this season.
Summer Banding Adventures
New Species Banded at the Hummer House
Over the past three banding seasons, fifteen species of new birds and one new hybrid have been added to the records of birds banded at the Hummer House. This raises our total at that location to 150 species and two hybrids. Our current banding year has contributed to these new species with the addition of a Spotted Sandpiper that was banded as part of the MAPS program at the South Concho River Station. Spotted Sandpipers have been present at that site for several years but do not often stay there until the start of our MAPS season. This year was the exception and this species was added to our MAPS species as well as the species banded at the ranch.That species was joined in late May by a Warbling Vireo that was banded in the Myers Spring area north of the headquarters. Warbling Vireos are considered as accidental visitors to the Concho Valley in late spring and early summer. Members of this species have probably been present at the ranch several times in the past few years but this is our first banding record for this species.
2013 MAPS UpdateThe spring migration season provided better than average numbers of most expected species and several interesting records of birds not often banded in the Concho Valley. Given the excellent breeding season in 2012 and the good migration season, we entered the 2013 MAPS Season with expectations of a good year. The first session on May 11 resulted in good numbers and good species counts of breeding birds along the South Concho River. That was followed by three sessions with lower than average numbers of birds and species at the station. When we reached the middle of June without a major influx of hatching year birds, we became concerned about the breeding success of the birds breeding in our station area. Our fears were relieved in late June and early July when record numbers of hatching year birds emerged all over the MAPS Station area. We replaced the lower than average numbers recorded early in the season with two record sessions in a row during this time. The total breeding success of birds along the South Concho River seems assured as this year's MAPS season starts drawing a close. Bell's Vireos, Vermilion Flycatchers and Rufous-crowned Sparrows are some the species enjoying a record breeding season. Although several interesting records associated with our 2013 MAPS season have emerged, none proves more interesting or unusual than the recapture of an adult male Cooper's Hawk that was originally netted in June of 2011 and recaptured in that same net in late May of 2013.
Hummingbirds at the Hummer HouseThe Black-chinned Hummingbirds are having an excellent breeding season at the Hummer House. Although hatching year birds emerged later than usual there, the number of hatching year birds has matched and surpassed most of the previous four seasons. We have banded well over 700 Black-chinned hummers there through the middle of July and anticipate a total for the year of about 1000. We have also increased our number of documented returns of Black-chinned Hummbingbirds to over 1300 birds. A return is defined as a bird that is banded at the ranch in a particular year, migrates to Western Mexico for the winter and then returns to be recaptured during another season. We have accumulated a great deal of important and interesting data during this season.
We started our hummingbird season in early January when we banded an overwintering Allen's Hummingbird. In April, we attempted to band an adult male Broad-tailed Hummingbird over a period of several days. This male was very trap-shy and never approached a trap but while we were making these attempts, we banded a rare spring migrant Rufous Hummingbird. While banding with Kelly Bryan at the Hummer House in mid June we recaptured a female Black-chinned Hummingbird that was banded by Fred Basset at Council, Idaho in 2011. Council is 1265 miles direct miles from the Hummer House. This bird has made a least two migration cycles to Mexico and somehow landed at the Hummer House this season.
Banding efforts for the spring songbird migration began in earnest during the first week of April. Our first efforts were often influenced by the passage of several weather fronts that brought high winds and colder that average temperatures in the Concho Valley. In spite of the weather, we were able to encounter some migrants during the first half of the month. Our most unexpected bird during this time was a Common Ground-Dove which is not a migrant but not expected in the Concho Valley during this season of the year. On the 19th of April, we banded our first Painted Bunting of the year which arrived several days earlier than past years. This bird was soon followed by Lazuli and Indigo Buntings, Blue Grosbeaks and Summer Tanagers. During the last week of April, the floodgates finally opened and we were rewarded with swarms of migrating Pine Siskins, wood warblers, buntings, and goldfinches.
With the drought that occurred in the mid-west in the summer of 2012 and the subsequent low number of migrants encountered in the fall, we anticipated that the number of spring migrants would be lower than most years throughout the Concho Valley. In fact, near record numbers of Orange-crowned, Nashville, Wilson's, and Yellow Warblers funneled through the riparian corridor along with good numbers of less common but still expected warblers. With more than two weeks remaining in the month of May, we are still encountering such species as MacGillivray's Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, and Oven Bird. We expect to see other less common warblers as the season draws to a close. Winter and spring rains have been sparse across the Concho Valley. Perhaps these birds are being forced into the riparian corridor to find water and other resources as they head to their breeding grounds. The conditions and results are beginning to mirror the 2011 season when we encountered many more birds and species than a normal year. The final results will not be written until the last waves of migrants have made their way through our banding stations.
San Saba Nature Park
On May 9th, we participated in the 2nd Annual Birding Festival at the LCRA San Saba Nature Park. Our guests at the bird banding were third grade students and their teachers from San Saba and Richland Springs, children and parents from the San Saba Home School Educators Association, local Boy Scouts and their leaders, and the general public. It was a very well organized event sponsored by the San Saba Bird and Nature Club. Activities for the students included Bird Banding, Nature Scavenger Hunt, Nature Journaling and the Bird Viewing Blind. Bird banding was conducted by the West Texas Avian Research team of Charles and Nancy Floyd along with Kelly and Donna Bryan who banded Black-chinned Hummingbirds and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. Songbird species banded included Kentucky Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Lincoln Sparrow, Carolina Wren, White-eyed Vireo and House Wren. We want to express our thanks to the San Saba Birding Club for the opportunity, hospitality, and the assistance from the volunteers.
Camp Discovery at Hummer House
On Monday, May 6, Dan and Cathy Brown of the Hummer House hosted the 2013 Camp Discovery for the 4th grade students of Christoval ISD. Students in the Wall High School Gifted and Talented program also attended. This was the second year that the Browns had hosted the event to further their dream of providing students and teachers an opportunity for learning more about nature. Students rotated through ten sessions of various topics. It was a wonderful day of learning but the temperature was much cooler than expected. Songbird banding was conducted by Charles Floyd and members of the Concho Valley banding team. Special assistants to the banding team were Don Connell, a bird bander from Austin and Bob Wray from Washington. We appreciate their help. Kelly Bryan conducted the hummingbird banding session. The most unique bird of the day was the Tennessee Warbler which is only the third bird of that species to be banded at the Hummer House in more than eighteen years of banding. Twenty-eight species of birds were banded during the day. We want to express our thanks to the Browns for the opportunity to be a part of their dream.