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.