November Banding Activities
Banding in the late fall is always a different experience from the ever changing events during the height of migration. The number of true migrants drops significantly, and winter residents start to establish populations in the available habitat. At the same time, many birds that can be classified as winter residents are actually migrants passing through on their way to winter habitats further south. The ebb and flow of bird movements is often tied to the passage of weather fronts. It seems that the wind blows continually from the south on one day and from the north on the next. Banding in riparian areas becomes problematic because  of the heavy fall of leaves. In spite of these issues, our November banding at the Hummer House Ranch produced several notable birds. An effort on the first of the month was unique because of the number of hawks that became involved in the nets. Red Shouldered, Coopers, and Sharp-shinned Hawks hit our nets that morning. This was followed by the first Blue Jay ever banded at the Hummer House. Dan Brown remembers having  Blue Jays  on the ranch when he was a young man but they have been absent for at least the past twenty-five years.Two additional Blue Jays have been banded during the month at other locations on the ranch. 
Banding attempts on the east side of the ranch during the first two weeks of the month were largely unsuccessful. With the arrival of many winter sparrow species, a sparrow trap was constructed as part of the east banding station. This resulted in the netting of a good number of winter sparrows. Most notable were sixteen Lark Buntings, Vesper  and White-throated Sparrows. This was the first record of these birds on the ranch this year. 
The best effort of the month was at the South Concho River banding station. The first net run of the morning  yielded seven Spotted Towhees in a single net and the third Blue Jay of the month. Ten Spotted Towhees were netted that morning. The morning also resulted in the first Brown Creeper and the first Song Sparrows of the year on the ranch. Included in the birds netted that morning were two Wilson's Snipes and a Marsh Wren. These are the first records of these birds on the ranch. On the last day of the month, two Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers were added to our monthly  results. This brings the total number of birds banded on the ranch to 146 species and the number of species banded this year to ninety five.  
Delbert Tarter
11/11/1922 --10/21/2011
The entire Concho Valley birding community was saddened by the recent passing of Delbert Tarter. Delbert was the heart and soul of the local birding community for more than a generation. Delbert was the compiler of the Concho Valley Birding checklist through seven revisions, taught bird identification classes to a great number of local birders, was a long-time bird bander and most important of all, he was our friend. We will miss the good times that we shared around the banding table in all kinds of weather and at all hours of the day. We will miss his cheerful comments, knowledge of birds, record keeping, and his friendship. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for his dedication to the birds and the birding community.

October Banding Activities
     The steady  movement of migrating birds at the Hummer House continued through the first week of October. During the first two days of the month, we banded 51 birds as part of our migration study at the big spring near the Hummer House. We were glad to have Kelly Bryan join with other members of our banding team during these two days. We had five species of warblers including an American Redstart, Least Flycatchers, a Gray Catbird, a Western Scrub Jay and a recapture of a Belted Kingfisher that we banded two weeks previously. The most significant  record was the banding of our 5th Baltimore Oriole for the season. That seems to defy all that we know about this species.  I am aware of one other Baltimore Oriole banded in the past twenty years of banding in the area with only limited sight records scattered between that time and this year. Encountering five of these birds in a single year only underscores how different 2011 has been for the movement of birds in the Concho Valley. Additional efforts on October 4th, 5th, and 6th continued to produce migrants in dwindling numbers and winter birds in increasing numbers. As if to place an exclamation point at the end of my  statement regarding 2011, two Western Tanagers were banded during these days. When we returned to band at the spring on October 11th, not a single migrant bird was encountered.

      One of our main projects for the month was the construction of a 20 foot aerial net in an area downstream from the spring headwaters to sample those birds that move  through the upper parts of the woodland canopy. The net was of the same design developed by Kelly Bryan for his banding research at several locations across west Texas.  He returned to San Angelo to lead our installation of the net.  The use of this net assembly will be limited during the winter season but will become a major component of our research during spring migration. During the time of construction, bird movement remained very slow and migrants of most species were not to be found. 

     On October 22nd, we returned to the Hummer House to have a banding demonstration for Dr. Maxwell's Natural History of the Concho Valley Class. Bird movement remained slow during that time and we look forward to the arrival more winter birds.

September Banding Activities
September was a busy from the first day of the month.  On the first day, we were at the Hummer House trapping hummingbirds in the hope of banding some of the Rufous Hummingbirds that were being seen there. We caught mostly Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and Black-chinned Hummingbirds but managed to band one Rufous Hummingbird at dusk.

We then traveled to Ft. Davis where we were privileged to band  western hummingbirds with Kelly Bryan. We banded seven species of hummingbirds at  seven locations ranging from Carolyn Ohl's Christmas Mountain Oasis to the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute. It was a awesome experience in an awesome region of Texas. We are indebted to Kelly and Donna Bryan, Carolyn Ohl-Johnson,  Marc and Maryann Eastman, Terry and Suzi Ervin, Bonnie Wunderlich, the CDRI, and the Davis Mountains Preserve for allowing us to be a part of the truly significant research being conducted with the hummingbirds of this region.
Check out Carolyn's truly amazing oasis at http://cmoasis.blogspot.com/.

Shortly after returning from the Davis Mountains, we traveled to Rockport, Texas where we were privileged to assist Kelly Bryan as he banded Ruby-throated Hummingbirds as part of the Rockport Hummerbird Festival.  Thousands of hummingbirds and at least as many visitors to the community came together to celebrate the southward migration of these birds through that region of Texas.

Beginning on the second day of the month, we conducted our first migrant banding at the Hummer House. Migration was not in full swing at that point but we banded the second Baltimore Oriole  ever banded at the Hummer House. We were short-handed for our second attempt at banding migrants during the month. The first net run quickly revealed how much of a problem that would be. That net run yielded 8 species of warblers including an adult male American Redstart, two Mourning Warblers, a Northern Waterthrush, and an Ovenbird. There were so many birds present at the location, we were forced to close our nets much of the morning to insure the safety of the birds.  However, an additional Baltimore Oriole and a Blue-headed Vireo were also netted in our abbreviated attempts at banding. 

The remainder of the month has continued in that same pattern. Although all of our available volunteers have assisted, the number of birds has been impressive and our lists of species banded continue to include many birds not usually banded at the Hummer House or other places in the Concho Valley. American Redstarts, Blue-headed Vireos, Baltimore Orioles, Belted Kingfishers,  a Lazuli Bunting,   Indigo Buntings, House Wrens, and Ovenbirds have been netted in the past two weeks.  Two records for the month seem significant. The second Magnolia Warbler banded in the Concho Valley was banded this month along with the first Northern Parula  banded at that site. We hope to post a discussion of the current migration season as soon as time permits.
August Activities


     We spent the first days of August at Potlatch Conservation Education Center at Cook's Lake near Casscoe, Arkansas where we did extensive training on Ruby-throated Hummingbirds with Bob and Martha Sargent. The facility is located 20 miles southeast of Stuttgart on the White River National Wildlife Refuge. We were very thankful to be able to band in an air-conditioned classroom  since the temperatures outside were 107+ degrees with high humidity. The beautiful 72-acre facility is surrounded by a hardwood forest that includes a two-mile long oxbow lake. Yes, there were mosquitoes! We are grateful to Bob and Martha for the opportunity to train with them. Our thanks to the education specialist, Tana Beasley, and staff members Treva and Wayne for the wonderful Arkansas hospitality. 

     After completing training, we returned to Texas to resume our projects here. Our last MAPS session at the South Concho River Station was successful as we banded sixteen birds including our first southbound migrants for the year.  At this session, we banded our tenth Black-and-white Warbler of the season. We continue to suspect this species may have nested at two sites on the Hummer House Ranch.
      With MAPS and hummingbird training completed for a while, we turned our attention to other projects at the Hummer House  Ranch.  We had three separate banding sessions for our migration study and continued to band unusual numbers of some birds and some unusual species.  We banded three Black-throated Green Warblers. These were the first of this species banded at the Hummer House in more than 10 years. Over the past few years, we have averaged one Bushtit and one Orchard Oriole per year at this location. This year they keep pouring into the nets in record numbers.  Least Flycatchers, Willow Flycatchers, Yellow-bellied Flycatchers, and Yellow Warblers are being banded in relatively large numbers. As the end of August approached, we were surprised to band two Belted Kingfishers in less than an hour.  

     Easily, the highlight of the month was the banding of an Allen's Hummingbird at the Hummer House feeders on August 23rd just it turned dark . This bird had been seen at feeders for several days and earlier attempts to trap the bird  had not been successful. We were ready to give up for the day when Sue saw the bird go in a trap. This brings to four the number of this species banded in the Concho Valley and only two  at the Hummer House. It made for the end a great day of banding. At the very end of the month, Fred Bassett of  Montgomery, Alabama and Fred Dietrich of Tallahassee, Florida stopped at the Hummer House as they traveled home from banding in the Davis Mountains. Both are nationally known hummingbird banders. We were happy to assist for a while as they banded and collected data for Fred's western hummingbird project.  While there, three Rufous Hummingbirds were banded along with numerous Black-chinned and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.  It is always great to see old friends and make new friends while banding.


July Banding Activities
      The month of July started as June had ended and rain clouds were not in any weather forecast.  We had concerns for the health and safety of the birds as the month started.  We continued our work with the MAPS Station on the South Concho River and conducted systematic banding efforts at other locations at the Hummer Ranch.  The number of birds encountered at the MAPS Station remained high for this type of effort until the last week of the month when extremely hot  temperatures and high winds resulted in the first slow day at the site.  However, seventy-six  birds were banded at the MAPS site during the month.  Black-and-white Warblers continued to be banded there.  A Great Crested Flycatcher and an early Louisiana Waterthrush were also visitors to the site.

      We also continued our work at other sites on the ranch where we banded additional Black-and-white Warblers, encountered our first Bushtits of the summer and banded a single Brown-crested Flycatcher that was the first of this species to be recorded at the ranch.

     During the last week of the month, we traveled to the Allen Ranch near Junction to band hummingbirds.  Mrs. Allen has faithfully fed hummingbirds there for many years. In years past, we have never had fewer hummingbirds than we could safely process. We were only able to travel there with a small team for this effort and we were not disappointed in the number of hummingbirds or the hospitality shown by Mrs. Allen,  her family and friends.  We enjoyed meeting old and new friends there who were more than willing to help us in our efforts. As always, it was a wonderful day for us at that location. The weather was hot but with good shade and a favorable breeze, it was comfortable for birds and banders. We banded  seventy-one Black-chinned Hummingbirds, one Ruby-throated Hummingbird and recaptured 18 birds from previous years. We certainly enjoyed all of the interested and interesting people who came to ranch to watch the banding process.
     We also traveled to Fort Davis where we were fortunate  to band several western species of hummingbirds with Kelly Bryan. These species are seldom seen in the Concho Valley.  Through his work with these western hummingbirds, Kelly has rewritten what we know about these species, their movements and the numbers present in the Trans Pecos area of Texas. In addition to his contribution to  our knowledge, Kelly has been extremely generous with his time and experience as he has trained and assisted bird banders from across the nation. We are grateful to Kelly for sharing his hummingbirds with us. Although we love our Black-chinned Hummingbirds of the Concho Valley, there is something special about seeing and banding Lucifer Hummingbirds, Magnificent Hummingbirds,  Rufous Hummingbirds, Broad-tailed Hummingbirds,  Calliope Hummingbirds,  Allen's Hummingbirds and all the others that make this such a special place in the hummingbird world. Check out Kelly's website of West Texas Hummingbirds at http://westtexashummingbirds.com .

June Banding Activities
     The month of June was the hottest month on record for the Concho Valley. High temperatures were over 100 degrees almost the entire month. These temperatures limited our ability to safely band birds except during the cooler morning hours. Most of our activity for the month centered around the operation of the MAPS Station near the South Concho River on the Hummer Ranch. This continues to be an interesting and productive banding location. Each session continues to yield relatively large numbers of birds and new species are recorded at almost every session. We are tempted to credit these numbers to the current drought and the influx of birds from surrounding areas into the river corridor in their search for food and water. However, this part of the ranch is excellent habitat for a large number of birds and without previous banding efforts at this site, it difficult to determine the real effects of the drought on our MAPS records. Banding has been routinely conducted  for several years near  the river some distance north of this site. Banding at this second site has yielded only slightly higher numbers than in previous  years. This leaves  us without  a significant clue in our efforts to explain such high number at our MAPS site. The bird of the month at the MAPS Station was a male Cooper's Hawk that decided to crash our MAPS Party during the June 21st session. No other birds were harmed but a rather disgruntled Cooper's Hawk was caught in a net and became the center of attention for visitors to the session. Cooper's Hawks are considered rare during this season at the Hummer Ranch.
     In addition to the MAPS site, we have continued with our Painted Bunting study at other locations on the ranch. We were also privileged to conduct a banding demonstration for members of the San Saba Birding Association during mid-June. These brave birders arose very early in the morning to be at the Hummer Ranch so that we could conduct the demonstration in the relative cool of the morning. We were glad  to have good numbers of birds and species for them to view during the demonstration. 

     There are two interesting observations from June's banding activities. Most species of birds are making valiant efforts  to produce offspring in the middle of this extreme drought and extreme heat. Unfortunately, we are not seeing hatching year birds in numbers close to previous years. Secondly, we have banded Black-and-White Warblers of both sexes throughout the month of June. We have not banded hatching year birds but there are indications that breeding  is being  attempted. They have historically been absent in the Concho Valley during the month of June.
Delbert Tarter has been keeping records of bird banding on the Hummer Ranch since 1995. This is a quote from his latest report ending with May 31, 2011. "Nearly a thousand birds have been banded on Dan Brown’s Ranch near Christoval this year, 2011.  Only one banding session took place in January and none in February.  Hummingbirds were banded by Fred Bassett on a two-day visit in early May and by Kelly and Donna Bryan on another visit to the Ranch, about mid-May.  Four new Ranch species were banded;  Gray Catbird, Tennessee Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, and Worm-eating Warbler.   The record for the Magnolia Warbler is the first for the Concho Valley since before 1980.  That brings the total number of species banded on the Ranch to 141, which is excellent since no water fowl (except two Wood Ducks and two Gadwall) and no shorebirds and waders have been banded.  Most expected sparrow species have been banded, but not in great numbers except for Chipping, Lark and migrating Clay-colored Sparrows.  Some late-departing Lincoln’s Sparrows have been present into late May this year.  The number of Summer Tanagers banded still seems to be very large every year.  Painted Buntings and Black-chinned Hummingbirds are still the main attraction around the Ranch yard and near the spring.  Black-chinned Hummingbirds still lead the list of most banded species.  Yellow-rumped Warblers are still the most banded warbler species, with Audubon’s and Myrtle running neck-and-neck in abundance.  Orange-crowned Warblers and Nashville Warblers are closing the gap, though." 

Holiman Elementary--May 16th  and May 18th
On Monday and Wednesday, we were at the Hummer House to provide a bird banding demonstration for the fifth grade students from Holiman Elementary . We, along with the Holliman students  were fortunate to have Kelly and Donna Bryan of Fort Davis, Texas join us for the presentation.  Kelly is well known for his work with the western  hummingbirds and other species of birds that live in the Trans-Pecos Region of Texas. Students were able to have  a close-up experience with the hummingbirds  and  the many colorful and special species of song birds that are found at the Hummer House.  Because of the number of students involved, part of the students were present on Monday and the remainder were there on Wednesday. During the two days of presentations, students were able to  see twenty-six species of birds including the very noisy Golden-fronted Woodpecker and the Black-chinned Hummingbirds that made very little noise. We also banded an Ovenbird, two Gray Catbirds, a Lazuli Bunting, an adult male Orchard Oriole and more adult male Painted Buntings than you could believe during the demonstrations for  the students. We were delighted by the excellent response by the Holiman students and the preparation  by their excellent  teachers.
San Antonio Master Naturalists
On Saturday, May 14th, we were at the Hummer House to present a banding demonstration for a group of Master Naturalists from San Antonio. Although the number of birds banded on this day was not large, they were a diverse and interesting mix of summer resident and migrant birds. We banded six migrant warbler species including our first Black and White Warbler in several years.  On my second net run at the spring, I was surprised to net an adult male Magnolia Warbler.  This is the first banding record of this species in the Concho Valley.  We also recaptured a Gray Catbird that we first banded at that location earlier in the month.  The banding of the Magnolia Warbler brings the species banded at the Hummer House to a total of one hundred and forty. Our congratulations to Dan and Cathy Brown for their bird conservation efforts at the ranch that allow so many beautiful and notable birds to be welcomed  by the habitat  there.
Twistflower Ranch--May 7, 2011
On May 7th, five members of our banding crew traveled to Twistflower Ranch in Crockett County. Banding on the first weekend of May at Twistflower has become an annual event for us.  We have always encountered a large number of migrant birds along with a wide variety of summer residents on this weekend. We were concerned about the effects of the current long-term drought on the birds of that area.  We set nets in two separate areas and soon netted a good variety of birds. It was  evident that the populations of many resident bird species have been impacted by the drought and we also noted that some migrants normally on the ranch during this time of the year were not present. We banded 35 birds of seventeen species and enjoyed the opportunity to visit the ranch. We also enjoyed the opportunity to meet members of the McCloskey Family that we had not met before and share the birds that we banded with them.
Ambleside School 1st Grade---May 6, 2011

We hurried back from HEB Camp to set up our nets at the Hummer House for a banding demonstration the next day for first grade students from Ambleside Elementary. The students from Ambleside are always well prepared and interested in the banding process and the birds. We showed how we retrieve birds from the nets and how we band and gather information about each bird. We also showed why banding birds is important for learning about birds. It was a great morning. We banded 31 birds representing sixteen species in a short time period.


HEB Camp--May 3-5, 2011
The month of May started off with a bang as we traveled to HEB Foundation Camp near Leakey, Texas to provide bird banding demonstrations and  birding education for 4th and 5th grade students from Bronte and Ballenger as part of their annual outdoor learning field trip. The camp is spread over two nights and three days and gives students an opportunity to experience many great activities outside of a traditional school  setting. It is always a great experience in a great location.  The drought conditions that exist throughout West Texas extend into the Hill Country. The Frio River was lower than I can remember. In spite of the drought, we were able to net 82 birds of 23 species during the camp. The species represented  a wide variety of migrant and resident songbirds.  Once the students arrive, the activities at the camp are non-stop from early in the morning until lights out. The students from Bronte and Ballenger are always interested, intelligent young people and it is a pleasure to demonstrate for them and tell them about the birds. We hope that getting  "up close and personal" to the birds is as much fun for the students as it for us.

April Banding Activities

We started the month's banding activities on April 4th at the Hummer House where we were privileged to present a demonstration of bird banding for an outstanding group of students from Christoval Elementary School. Although the day was very windy, we had no difficulty netting birds. Although only a few birds were netted for our demonstration, we were surprised to band our first migrating Clay-colored Sparrows of the season. We were pleased to share with these students about bird migration and bird behavior. We then processed several birds doing standard measurements and explained briefly how these birds were aged and sexed. These young people were fascinated to be up close and personal with the birds. They enjoyed getting to release some of the birds. We certainly enjoyed this opportunity to meet them and share the birds with them.


We returned to the Hummer House on April 7 and 8 to band migrant birds at the spring.  We deployed fifteen nets for a total of seventy-five  net hours. Thirty birds and 10 species were netted.  We were surprised to net thirteen Orange-crowned Warblers in this short session and we were encouraged by  the numbers of birds present.  One week later, we made the same effort in the same area.  We encountered much larger numbers of migrants than we had the previous week.  With only two members of our group present, we were rescued by a guest at the ranch who graciously helped us by recording our data. We processed 61 birds of twelve species including thirty-four Orange-crowned Warblers, ten Nashville Warblers, and five Wilson's Warblers.  We also encountered our first Brewer's Sparrow of the season. On April 18, we traveled to Calcite Ranch in Mason County to check for returns of migrant birds that were banded there in previous years. We netted several returns and banded a female Scott's Oriole, Vesper Sparrows, and Bell's Vireos.


On April 19th, four members of our group were present at the Hummer House to conduct a banding demonstration for students from Ambleside Elementary. Nets were deployed in the yard of the Hummer House where we encountered thirty-six birds of eleven species. The bird of that day was an adult male Vermilion Flycatcher. We enjoyed meeting these students and letting them get "up close and personal" with the birds.  Six members of our group returned to the Hummer House on April 23rd to conduct a demonstration for members of Delbert Tartar's Nature Center Birding Class. We banded ninety-two birds representing nineteen species. It was a bunting day as we banded Indigo, Lazuli, and Painted Buntings on the same day along with Blue Grosbeaks and four warblers.  We always have a great time banding with this knowledgeable and interested group. It is always great to have Delbert band with us.
The Black-crested Titmouse returns with food to hole in tree near the banding table.
On April 29th, we returned to the Hummer House to band for an outdoor education group from Richland College in Dallas. By the time that we arrived, winds were approaching 40 miles per hour. We had five nets set at the spring and four in the yard of the Hummer House.  Before the group arrived, a wildfire had closed the road to San Angelo and we were not expecting to have any success in banding. Imagine our surprise when we banded the first Gray Catbird and the first Tennessee Warbler ever banded there. We have no memory or recent record of a Tennessee Warbler ever banded in the Concho Valley. We also banded a House Wren, two Northern Waterthrushes, Two MacGillivray's Warblers, and a Swainson's Thrush. Any one of these birds would have made the day successful. We banded a total of 82 birds representing  26 species. Once the group arrived, they were an informed and interested group. It was a delight to demonstrate for them even if we were all a bit windblown.  It was a great day on the worst possible day.

Perhaps the most important statistic for the month involved the beginnings of our Painted Bunting Study.  The first Painted Bunting arrived at the Hummer House on April 14th. Since that time, we have banded 48 and we have recaptured 38 birds that were returns of birds banded at the Hummer House in previous years.  Among these birds was a bird first banded in the summer of 2000. This makes two adult males documented to be at least 11 years of age. Both are longevity records for this species. More than a few of these returns are older than five years of age. It should be an interesting summer for the Painted Buntings.


March Activities
After a successful effort at Twistflower Ranch in early March, there was some indication that spring migration could be a bit early for some species. We made brief efforts during the last two weeks of the month to check for migrant movement.  Our first efforts at the Hummer House resulted in mostly permanent  and winter residents that were present there for most of the winter season.  Notable birds from these efforts were a single Black-throated Sparrow and two White-eyed Vireos that were banded in previous years. It was the first Black-throated Sparrow netted in some time  at this location.  Our last effort of the month gave solid evidence that spring was fast approaching.  We banded Audubon's and Myrtle Warblers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Orange-crowned Warblers, Cedar  Waxwings and an early migrating Louisiana Waterthrush.  Perhaps the most significant bird of the day was the recapture of an adult male Summer Tanager that was banded in the same location five seasons ago. During the middle of March, we traveled to Live Oak Ranch in Menard County where we banded mostly permanent and winter residents but saw more than a few migrating birds that we did not net.  The most notable bird of the day at Live Oak Ranch was a Canyon Wren.  With the month of March drawing to a close, we are ready to begin our Spring Migration Study in earnest.
2011 Banding Activities
Winter has been a slow time for our banding activities. Although we have made a few efforts, these have been for the purpose of skill training for specific members of our banding crew.  We want to insure that all members of the crew have sufficient experience to carry out the many tasks necessary for the successful and safe completion of our continuing projects scheduled this spring and summer. 
It has been a different winter for birds in the Concho Valley. This region often has been the wintering ground for many western and northern birds that summer in New Mexico and Colorado such as Mountain Bluebirds, Green-tailed Towhees and Sage Thrashers.  These birds have been noticeably absent. On the other hand, there have been several birds present in numbers greater than we would expect for this region. Red-breasted Nuthatches and Golden-crowned Kinglets are two that come to mind.  
Not knowing what to expect as winter draws to a close, we made our annual trip to our banding station at Twistflower Ranch to provide a banding demonstration for a group of Master Naturalists from Austin that were guests of the ranch owner. We band there on the first weekend of March each year.  Last year's effort produced a large number of winter migrants.This winter has seen very little moisture  on the ranch and we were greeted by strong northerly winds as we arrived at the ranch.
The birds banded this year were mostly permanent residents at the ranch. The numbers of Black-throated Sparrows were amazing. Migrant/winter birds were limited to Hermit Thrushes, White-crowned Sparrows, Savannah Sparrows, and Lark Buntings.  We also banded a Curve-billed Thrasher in addition to the expected permanent residents. We did have some returns of birds that were banded last year that we will discuss later in the spring. It is always a pleasure to band for this group of Master Naturalists.  Mike, Donna and Ted are always great hosts. We had a great day and it was good to have a trial run with all of our banding crew working together.