South Concho River MAPS

2013 MAPS
The spring migration season provided better than average numbers of most expected
species and several interesting records of birds not often banded in the Concho Valley. Given the excellent breeding season in 2012 and the good migration season, we entered the 2013 MAPS Season with expectations of a good year.  The first session on May 11 resulted in good numbers and good species counts of breeding birds along the South Concho River. That was followed by three sessions with  lower than average numbers of birds and species at the station.  When we reached the middle of June without a major influx of hatching year birds, we became concerned about the breeding success of the birds breeding in our station area.  Our fears were relieved in late June and early July when record numbers of hatching year birds emerged all over the MAPS Station area. We replaced the lower than average numbers recorded early in the season with two record sessions in a row during this time. The total breeding success of birds along the South Concho River seems assured as this year's MAPS season starts drawing a close. Bell's Vireos, Vermilion Flycatchers and Rufous-crowned Sparrows are some the species enjoying a record breeding season.  Although several interesting records associated with our 2013 MAPS season have emerged, none proves more interesting or unusual than the recapture of an adult male Cooper's Hawk that was originally netted in June of 2011 and recaptured in that same net in late May of 2013. Clink the link below to see the species and numbers banded.
MAPS 2012

     The South Concho River MAPS Station (SCR-1) opened on May 12, 2012 for the nine session summer breeding season. The first season of SCR-1 took place during the worst of a historic drought in this part of Texas. The landscape and banding results for that season were greatly influenced by the drought. During the winter and early spring of 2012, good rains covered most of this region and the second season opened with conditions much different than 2011. Plants that did not germinate in 2011 covered the entire MAPS circle in great profusion. Under these lush conditions, things seemed right for a good breeding season. 
      The very limited breeding success for most birds during the 2011 drought conditions was confirmed during our spring migrant banding. We banded far fewer migrant birds, fewer returning summer residents and fewer species than we had banded in previous years. Permanent resident birds were also present in reduced numbers throughout the spring. The first MAPS session reflected these trends. When compared to the first session of 2011, we banded far fewer migrant birds and encountered limited numbers of resident birds.  These trends have continued throughout the first four sessions of our survey. We are currently encountering about half as many birds as last season and species numbers are also reduced.  It seems obvious that the large numbers from last season resulted when many more birds were forced into the river corridor for water and other resources.  Resources of all kinds are more available during this season and there is no concentration of birds in the river corridor. With numbers of resident birds reduced by the lack of breeding success in 2011, the data from this season would seem to support our original reasoning for our results from last season and our predicted results for this season.
These changed conditions have also affected results from individual nets. Last season, our most productive nets were in areas where resources were concentrated. This season with more available resources, these nets are not producing the same percentage of birds as last season. Other nets that had limited production last season are now producing above average results.  A large patch of Texas Nodding Thistle near one net has resulted in encounters with several thistle feeding birds that were not recorded at this net last season. 
     Although overall numbers are reduced, we are encountering good numbers of juvenile birds in all locations and have reason to believe that we will have a good breeding season for the birds that are present in the station circle. Clink the link below to see the species and numbers banded.

2011  MAPS--The Beginning
On Thursday, May 12, four members of our banding crew arrived well before sun-up at the Hummer House for the opening session of the South Concho River MAPS Station. The station is configured for ten nets that are distributed throughout the various habitats found in the boundaries of the station. Most MAPS Stations do not process a large number of birds in any session and we expected much the same result at the South Concho Station. However, we processed fifty-two birds of eighteen species during the six hour session. It was a busy time. Many of the birds processed were migrants that should not be present in future sessions. Notable birds banded include a Black-headed Grosbeak, a Swainson's Thrush, a House Wren and two Common Yellowthroats.
     After an unusually productive beginning for the South Concho River MAPS Station, we were unsure what to expect when we returned for our second session on May 21st. When we arrived at the station very early in the morning, the weather seemed almost cold with the wind and humidity near the river. The number of birds netted was below that of the first session and remained steady until mid morning when bird movement slowed as the heat started rising. We completed the day with thirty birds of seventeen species banded and six birds recaptured. Although the number of migrants decreased slightly from the first session, there were significant numbers of migrants in these totals. We also banded our first hatching year birds in this total.
     We completed our May banding activities on the last day of the month with the third session of our MAPS season. During the week prior to this effort, our area had experienced very high winds and record setting heat temperatures. We were surprised to arrive at the station amid moderate winds and cool morning temperatures. Under overcast skies, the rate of birds netted remained steady until almost noon when the sun broke through the clouds. We were again surprised to have a significant number of migrants included in the twenty seven birds banded and five recaptures during this session. Sixteen different species were represented in these totals including one late migrating Lincoln Sparrow, a Willow Flycatcher, a Black-and-white Warbler and a completely unexpected Worm-eating Warbler. Only three previous records existed for the Worm-eating Warbler in our area. We completed three MAPS efforts with 110 birds banded and thirteen recaptures representing 31 species. Fourteen of these species are migrants and seventeen species are birds that typically breed and nest in this area.
     With the arrival of early August, The South Concho River Maps Station has completed its first year of operation.  The first year of operation was not anything that we imagined when we put out the nets in early May.  From reading and talking with other banders, we expected a limited number of birds that we could evaluate without a lot of pressure.  That thought was laid to rest when we  handled 60 birds on the first day of operation.  We completed the year with 320 birds handled at the station.  Forty species of birds were banded at the station. Fourteen species were migrants and twelve species were transient birds that most likely did not breed at the station proper but were banded when they entered the station proper for other reasons.  At least fourteen species were probable breeders within the MAPS location.
     This year of operation took place during the record setting drought and heat wave that has plagued our region for some time. It is not clear exactly how that drought may have affected the ability of certain species to nest and or survive. Painted Buntings  and Lark Sparrows for example  breed in large numbers during normal years. Both of these species were present for most of the season but the majority of each species abruptly left the survey area shortly after the middle of July. Very few hatching year birds for either species were recorded at the MAPS station.  Indeed the total number of hatching year birds fir most species was well below what might have been expected. The large number of transient species and migrant species banded at the station was likely influenced by the lack of reliable water sources away from the spring fed river. There are large lessons to be learned as the data is analyzed in over the fall and winter seasons.
     The first season was a tremendous learning experience for all the members of our banding team. The knowledge that we learned from this season will  be applied to our total banding program throughout the year and we look forward to our second season.  We hope that season will occur during a normal weather pattern that includes at least a little rain during the season. Clink the link below to see the species and numbers banded.