2014 Comes To An End

After five years of designed systematic banding at the different banding stations located at the Hummer House Ranch, it can be safely said that while we remain consistent in our efforts, the weather and birds have been anything but consistent. We started 2014 with almost no measurable rainfall for the first six months of the year. This was followed in late May by a ten inch deluge over the South Concho River watershed that flooded the river and some of the flood plain. The remainder of the year received near normal rainfall and we entered the fall with great food resources waiting for fall and winter migrants. Mother Nature gave a party and almost no one came.
We had good numbers of summer breeding birds but when these birds migrated very few came to replace them. We finished the season with over 600 Painted Buntings for our research but the main fall migration of 2014 was almost absent.  We banded the fewest fall migrants since I have banded there. We have grown accustomed to the arrival of winter migrants in November, however this year they were mostly absent. A few bluebirds were present in November but they soon left for other places. We waited patiently for the winter birds and most never came.

We were short some fifteen species of otherwise common migrant birds that were not encountered in the year.  Our yearly total was nearly 1000 birds below our total for 2013 when the effects of the drought seemed worse and resources were more limited.  Our one shining moment in the fall came with the banding of the first Swamp Sparrow ever banded at the Hummer Ranch. Although these birds are common migrants and good habitat exists in several places on the ranch, none had ever been encountered there. This brings the total species banded on the ranch to 157 species and two hybrids. Much of the shortfall in numbers and species for the year were the result of the limited number of birds and species present in the fall and winter.