December 2010 Banding Activities

December has not been an active month for banding.  During normal years, winter birds arrive in the Concho Valley in great numbers during this month.  Bluebirds, winter sparrows, Pine Siskins, American Goldfinches and others often make for interesting banding if you don't mind being a little cold.  With the warm, dry weather that has dominated our weather since early fall, our December has not been typical.
Three banding efforts were made in the month.  Early in the month, an effort was made on a area of the Hummer Ranch where banding is not normally done.  We surveyed  that section of the ranch as a banding location for winter birds. During that effort such winter birds as Vesper Sparrows, White-crowned Sparrows and Hermit Thrushes were banded. Although Western Meadowlarks are present in our area throughout the year, they are more common at the Hummer Ranch in winter. Three of these were banded along with several  year round residents including Pyrrhuloxia , Field Sparrows, and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers.
In the middle of the month, we traveled to Twistflower Ranch to survey the winter birds at that site. It was very  dry at the ranch.  Banding was active around water sources until a front approached with high winds which made banding difficult.  Winter birds banded at that site included Ruby-crowned Kinglets, an Oregon Junco, White-crowned Sparrows and Hermit Thrushes.  Along with these birds, we banded many year round residents including Verdins and Western Meadowlarks  which were the first of these birds banded at this location. The birds of the day were Black-throated Sparrows.  Although, we have banded this species at the ranch on several occasions, the number of these birds present on the ranch was incredible. We banded 28 Black-throated Sparrows in a short period of time and could have banded many more if the weather had continued good. The Oregon subspecies of Dark-eyed  Junco was the first of this subspecies that we have banded in some time.
We are always excited to band White-crowned Sparrows. There are several subspecies and most subspecies breed in Northern Canada.  The site fidelity  of these birds is such that we often recapture the same bird winter after winter at the same location where they were first banded.

November 2010 Banding Activities

Two efforts were made at the Hummer House during the month of November. Both were on sections of the ranch where banding is seldom attempted. The first effort was near the South Concho River where eighteen Hermit Thrushes were banded in a very short period of time. The most unusual birds encountered on this effort were the second and third Song Sparrows banded at the Hummer House. A week later another banding effort was conducted on the east side of the ranch. This first bird pulled out of the net during this effort was a Golden Crowned Kinglet which was the first of this species banded on the ranch. Two Pyrrhuloxia were also banded. They are common across the area but they are not often banded at the Hummer House. The most common birds of the day were White-crowned Sparrows.

October 2010 Banding Activities

As October arrived, the number of migrants moving through the area slowed to a trickle. Summer residents departed and only a few winter birds had made their way to the Concho Valley.  Banding became very slow at all the sites where we normally band.  While finishing the migration study, a young female Rose-breasted Grosbeak was banded on the first day of the month. This was followed by the banding of a Red-naped Sapsucker a few days later and a Winter Wren on the last day of fall migration banding. The Grosbeak was the first of its kind banded on the ranch while the Red-naped Sapsucker and the Winter Wren had only been banded one other time in fifteen years of banding at the Hummer House. A group traveled to Twistflower Ranch to provide a banding demonstration for a group of Master Naturalists from Austin. The banding there was also very slow. Spotted Towhees, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Hermit Thrushes and White-crowned Sparrows were banded during the month along with permanent resident birds.

September 2010 Banding Activities

Most of our time in September is taken up by our migration study. It is exciting when the migrants begin to move through the area. Good numbers of Wilson’s Warblers, Yellow Warblers, Nashville Warblers, and Orange-crowned Warblers are expected each season but there is always the possibility of a surprise on each net run. We made one trip back to Live Oak Ranch in Menard County to check migrant activity there. The great surprise of this trip was a Warbling Vireo which was the first of this species that we have banded in more than five years.  At the Hummer House, we banded a Black Phoebe which was only the second of this species to be banded at this site. We also banded two Swainson’s Thrushes which were the third and fourth of this species banded at the Hummer House.  We also banded Bullock’s and Orchard Orioles along with Yellow-breasted Chats which are common in other areas but seldom banded at the Hummer House.
August 2010 Banding Activities

The month of August began even hotter than normal in the Concho Valley. Banding efforts at the Hummer House targeted the large number of hatching year Painted Buntings that remained there. Large numbers were banded in three separate efforts. A group returned to Live Oak Ranch where they again surveyed that location. The birds on site were still mostly the young of resident breeders but we were pleasantly surprised to band an adult Canyon Wren. This was the first of this species that we had banded in three seasons. In the middle of August, Charles and Nancy traveled to Fort Davis to observe and train with Kelly Bryan on the many species of western hummingbirds at that location. Eight species of Hummingbirds were banded that weekend and another was observed. It was a wonderful training experience. At the end of August, Kelly Bryan and Fred Bassett of Alabama traveled to the Hummer House to band Black-chinned Hummingbirds as part of a study being conducted by Fred Bassett. It was a good experience to observe, assist and ask questions of these two master banders. As the month drew to an end, the first efforts were made as part of our migration study. Yellow-bellied Flycatchers, Least Flycatchers, Wilson’s Warblers, Yellow Warblers and a single Louisiana Waterthrush were the first migrants noted during this month.

July 2010 Banding Activities

During July, a group traveled to the Allen Ranch in Kimble County where the group concentrated on banding Black-chinned Hummingbirds. Later that week, a group traveled to Twistflower to provide a demonstration of bird banding for a group from Austin. Another educational demonstration was conducted the following week at the Hummer House. A group also traveled to the Live Oak Ranch in Menard County where we banded Black-chinned Hummingbirds, Field Sparrows, Summer Tanagers and other resident breeding birds of the region.  All the birds banded during each of these efforts were summer and permanent residents of the Concho Valley region. Yellow-billed Cuckoos and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers were also banded during the month.

June 2010 Banding Activities

June is also a hectic month for banding in the Concho Valley. One day of banding took place at Twistflower Ranch where Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, and an Indigo Bunting were banded. Two separate banding efforts took place at the Hummer House including the Big Day gathering of banders from across the state and nation. Banders at the Big Day have typically concentrated on banding Black-chinned Hummingbirds.  Following this Big Day, some Concho Valley Banders undertook three days of banding at the Chandler Ranch which is south and west of the Concho Valley.  Birds such as the Black-capped Vireo, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher and Brown-crested Flycatchers were banded. A Couch’s Kingbird which would be an unusual bird for any area outside the Rio Grande Valley was  also banded. Some Concho Valley Banders took part in a second day of banding Black-chinned Hummingbirds and training with Bob and Martha Sargent.

May 2010 Banding Activities

May is always the most hectic month for banding in the Concho Valley. The month started out with a bang with the group conducting a banding demonstration for a group at the Hummer House. Then, we traveled to HEB Foundation Camp to conduct a three day educational banding demonstration for 5th and 6th grade students from Ballinger and Bronte. On May 8th and 9th, our group traveled to Twistflower Ranch for a banding survey involving several locations at the ranch. This date corresponded to the weekend that birds were first banded at the ranch last year. A group traveled back to Twistflower on May 29 as a follow-up to this banding effort.  The migration study at the Hummer House continued for the first two weeks of the month and an educational banding demonstration was conducted at the Hummer House for a group from Dallas. Many unusual species were banded during this busy month. Two Golden-cheeked Warblers, a Yellow-throated Warbler and an adult male Red-breasted Grosbeak were banded at HEB Camp. A Western Tanager, a Western Kingbird, Cassin’s Sparrows, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and Curved-billed thrashers banded at Twistflower Ranch. A Yellow-billed Cuckoo and three Yellow-headed Blackbirds were banded at the Hummer House.

April 2010 Banding Activities

The banding always begins in earnest during the month of April with the return of many nesting and migrating birds to the Concho Valley. The migration study at the Hummer House is in full swing during this month. Four migration study efforts were conducted during this month along with two efforts that involved educational banding demonstrations for groups at the Hummer House.  The most unusual bird netted during this month was a female Wood Duck that somehow managed to get tangled in a net designed for songbirds. Vesper Sparrows, Red-winged Blackbirds, a Brewer’s Blackbird, Vermilion Flycatchers, and a Swainson’s Hawk were unusual birds banded during the month.

March 2010 Banding Activities

March was not an active banding month in the Concho Valley as many winter birds have departed from the area and most migrating and nesting birds have not returned. Two banding efforts were made at the Hummer House and a single effort was made at Twistflower Ranch.  A new banding site in Mason County was evaluated during March and two banding survey efforts were made during the month.  A  Red-shouldered Hawk, an American Kestrel, Verdins, and Black-throated Sparrows and Vermilion Flycatchers were banded during the month. A good number of Sage Thrashers and Cactus Wrens were banded at Twistflower Ranch in a single day.
February 2010 Banding Activities

In February, several of the Concho Valley Banders conducted two banding efforts at the Hummer House targeting winter birds and participated in a Sparrow Workshop sponsored by the Eaton Hill Birding Site in Sonora, Texas.  Although this was a slow month for banding, a very nice Cooper’s hawk, Mountain Bluebirds and American Goldfinches were banded at the Hummer House.

January 2010 Banding Activities

In January of 2010, several Concho Valley Banders  traveled to the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas for  and extended stay. While there, some of the group worked with Bill Clark and Mark Conway of Harlingen on two occasions as they carried out raptor studies involving Red-tailed Hawks, White-tailed Hawks and American Kestrels.  While there this group was in the Rio Grande Valley, they continued their survey work at the Longoria Unit of Los Palomas WMA. Weekly banding efforts were conducted during the month of January.  This group also conducted a single effort at a private preserve north of Mission . The owner of the SAP Preserve requested that we assist in him in surveying the birds at that site.  Other Concho Valley Banders banded on several occasions at the Hummer House surveying winter birds at that location. 

2009 Bird Banding by Concho Valley Bird Banders
Releasing her first bird!
Bird banding in the Concho Valley took on a different look during the 2009 banding year. Before that time most efforts by local bird banders had been concentrated on the Hummer House at Christoval for several good reasons. The Hummer House has more significant and unique banding records than any other site in this part of the state. It has large numbers of many species and thus is a wonderful research site. And last but not least, Dan and Cathy Brown have a long history of bird conservation and support of research efforts not surpassed by others in our knowledge. However, with the addition of other local banders and volunteers, it seemed possible to reach out to the edges of the Concho Valley in our banding efforts to better understand bird populations and movements within the entire region. We hoped to do this without any lessening of our commitment to the Hummer House.
                                Hummer House Bed and Breakfast, Christoval, TX

With this goal in mind, local bird banders continued to fulfill their educational commitment to public and private school students, continued to provide education to adult birding groups, and continued to conduct bird surveys for landowners and Texas Parks and Wildlife sites. At the same time, efforts were made to locate suitable sites for systematic banding across the region. We surveyed several sites and felt very fortunate to make contact with Mike McCloskey, the owner of Twistflower Ranch in Crockett County who has been generous in allowing us access to the ranch for banding purposes. This ranch has proven to be a wonderful site along the western edge of the Concho Valley. We have yet to begin tapping the real potential of this ranch as a banding research site. However, we have already banded many unique and significant records at this location. In 2009 we were also welcomed at the Allen Ranch in Kimble County south of the Concho Valley, the Enoch Ranch near Eldorado and the Sweet Ranch near Blackwell.
                                           Twistflower Ranch in Crockett County, TX

                           More than 5300 birds were banded by local banders in the Concho Valley during 2009 representing 100 species. At the Hummer House, 5188 birds were banded by local and visiting banders. Eighty-four species were banded. Both of these figures are all-time records for the Hummer House. Banding highlights include the discovery of a seemingly endless supply of orioles at Twistflower Ranch. They are present there in numbers not exceeded at any other site in memory. In May, an adult female Chestnut –sided Warbler was banded at the Hummer House. This was the first of this species recorded in the Concho Valley in more than 30 years. In September, a second of that species was banded at the Hummer House. In August, the Hummer Ranch was visited by a lone male Broad-billed Hummingbird that we named Leo. He remained there for a period of two weeks and attempts were made daily to net and band this bird to no avail. This would have been a unique record for the Concho Valley. That same month a hybrid male Black-chinned//Ruby-throated Humming bird was banded.
Chestnut-sided Warbler at Hummer Ranch

"Leo" the Broad-billed Hummingbird at Hummer Ranch
Photo by Sid Rucker