April Banding Events
During the month of April, the attention of many bird banding researchers turn to the migration of birds returning to their summer breeding grounds. April is also a wonderful month to share our research and banding techniques with a wide range people. At the Hummer House and other locations across west Texas, we are often able to accomplish both tasks at the same time. We were able to provide banding demonstrations for about 300 students and 100 adults during the month at three different locations across the area while we continued our research. From a research perspective, it became evident that the extended drought across the region has had devastating results for both permanent resident birds as well as the many migrant species that travel across the region.

Wall High School Garden Club

Ambleside Kindergarten

Christoval Christian Home School Group

We were able to schedule banding demonstrations at the Hummer House for forty students from Wall High School Garden Club, the Christian Home School Association, Ambleside School and Eldorado Elementary School. The highlight of our month was a trip to San Saba, where we conducted a banding demonstration for students from San Saba, Cherokee, Lampasas and the San Saba Christian Home School Educators group. This event was sponsored by the San Saba Birding and Nature Club at the San Saba Nature Park. This park is a 40 acre park built by the Lower Colorado River Authority and opened in November 2011. It has a mile and half of wide concrete trails meandering through the park beside the river and creek. Volunteers from the birding club went above the call of duty to make this an outstanding experience for all concerned. Students rotated to the bird banding station, a bird feeder making station and a journaling station.

San Saba Nature Park

Eldorado 4th Grade

Ambleside 4th Grade

Between all of the events described above, we were able to assist Kelly Bryan of Ft. Davis as he provided hummingbird banding training for banders from south and east Texas and hosted three separate adult groups in banding demonstrations. While we have managed to have sufficient numbers of birds for all these events, we are banding about 30 percent of the birds banded at this time last year.

Hummer House Special Event
Spring Begins

During the last half of March, we made a few limited banding efforts to determine the movement of any migrating birds across our station areas at the Hummer House ranch.  Although these efforts are often unproductive, they offer an opportunity to determine the populations of resident and holdover winter species while we check for migrant movements.   The severity of last year’s drought in the area had raised concerns as to the number of these birds that found sufficient resources to survive over the winter in this location. We found these concerns to be well founded as we recorded far fewer of these birds than we have in previous years and the number of birds netted per hundred net hours was a small percentage of 2011. Although the birding discussion forums  continued to discuss the possibility of an early migration for several species, we saw little evidence of the species discussed except for the presence of several Golden Crowned Kinglets.  By the end of the month we noted the appearance of several migrants at the expected time. We made one effort at Twistflower Ranch on the far western edge of the Concho Valley. The number of migrants encountered at that location was very limited. Permanent and winter resident birds were found there in a small fraction of the numbers previously experienced there. We have had good spring and late winter rains across our banding area. The region is alive with wildflowers and the insects are having a good spring. We have encountered several female birds that are already showing signs of nesting . Perhaps  they can make up for last year.

We started the month of April with a banding demonstration for the Christian Home School Association at the San Angelo Nature Center Trail. Although we anticipated a shortage birds for this demonstration and set more than our normal number of nets, we experienced far fewer birds that we would normally expect at this location. Resident birds were present in reduced numbers and the number of migrants were also limited. We banded White-crowned and Lincoln Sparrows, White-eyed Vireos, Spotted Towhees, and Common Yellowthroats along with several permanent residents. One song bird was taken from a net by a Great Horned Owl that tore through the net to escape and a Sharp-shinned Hawk was netted while attempting to harvest another song bird.  The raptors must be having a difficult time finding  prey.  We had a great time with the students  of the home school association and we are getting prepared for a busy spring migration season.