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Archive for August, 2019

It was a wet finale to the first half of the season as we awoke to a light drizzle that persisted until around 7:30. We were able to open the nets at 7:55 and fortunately the weather cooperated throughout the rest of the morning. It was moderately busy for the first few net rounds and surprisingly, the first two birds we caught were adult male American Redstarts, looking very fine indeed!

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Adult male American Redstart

After Sachi returned from Census things quieted down a bit and I had time to set up the “pipit fence” – three short nets that we string out end-to-end in the field to catch American Pipits and other grassland birds. The pipits are starting to arrive and we have had a couple each of the past few days now. Another later arrival are the “Myrtle” Yellow-rumped Warblers, the first of which for this season was foraging near the Homathko early on.

The ebird list for today can be found at: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S59408925

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As always on this date, most of this post will be an overview of the August that was here at TLBO. After a slow start to the season (24 banded on Day 1 was our lowest-ever total for the date in our 13 years of operating) things persisted at a fairly steady pace with a few busier days in weeks two and three helping jump our total up to a respectable 860 birds banded by the end of the month, plus an additional 5 banded in our hawk nets and one American Kestrel caught on the bal-chatri trap. This is slightly above the 13-year average of 812 bird banded for August.

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Interestingly, we have caught exactly the same number of Swainson’s Thrush, 193, as by this date last year! The age composition is quite different though as last year we had only caught 17 adults by this point while in 2019 we have caught a whopping 56 adults! This is likely due to the high reproductive success of last year, presumably coinciding with high survival rates in the intervening year. We have also had double the recaptures of this species compared to last year (42 vs 21), including nine from previous years with the oldest of these being from 2014 (5 years old) and 2012 (8 years old)!

Aug chart

Warbling Vireos, Song Sparrows, Northern Waterthrush and Flycatchers have all had a good year to date as well while many of the warblers including American Redstart, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow Warbler and Orange-crowned Warbler have all been banded in below average numbers thus far.

In terms of detections, we have recorded 11 141 birds so far this season, about 500 shy of last year but the second highest August total on record. Many of the commonest species

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Table 1 Top species detected

are reflected in our banding tallies but several species that are having a good year that we do not catch include Clark’s Nutcracker with 329 detections putting us on pace to thump the previous high of 418 set in 2014; Cedar Waxwing with 927 detected, already well above the season average of 840; and Chipping Sparrows at a whopping 693 detections compared to season average of 251. The top 10 most detected species can be found in table 1.

The season has had its fair share of highlights, as always. We added one species to the TLBO list when an Upland Sandpiper flew over the station, calling, on August 13th. This species typically only occurs east of the rockies, breeding in grasslands, but during migration a few are detected in southern BC each year and it could be argued that we were a bit overdue. Spotted Sandpipers are a common sight along the lake shore but we rarely see them up near the nets so we were more than a little surprised to have our first banding record of one when a juvenile got caught in the hawk net along edge of the Homathko River! Greater White-fronted Goose (4th and 5th records), Lesser Yellowlegs (2nd record), Red-necked Phalarope (first since 2013), Gray Catbird and Magnolia Warbler all caused plenty of excitement over the course of the month. Additional highlights from our birds banded were a bit more modest but include our second banding record of Veery, 3rd banding record of Evening Grosbeak and the 7th banding record of Magnolia Warbler.

It has been a great first half of the season and we are looking forward to seeing what September has in store!

Species Band Recap
Lincoln’s Sparrow 8
Swainson’s Thrush 5 3
Warbling Vireo 2
American Robin 2
American Redstart 2
Wilson’s Warbler 2
Common Yellowthroat 1 3
Song Sparrow 1 1
Alder Flycatcher 1
Dusky Flycatcher 1
Yellow Warbler 1
Vesper Sparrow 1

Birds Banded 27
Species Banded 12
Birds Recapped 7
Species Recapped 3
Species on Census 40
Species Recorded 53
SEASON TOTAL BANDED 866

Total Birds Banded 866
Total Species Banded 46
Total Birds Recapped 168
Total Species Recapped 15
Total Species on Census 101
Total Species Recorded 123
Season Total Birds Detected 11141

Species Band Recap
Swainson’s Thrush 193 42
Warbling Vireo 116 5
Song Sparrow 100 39
Lincoln’s Sparrow 67 11
Common Yellowthroat 53 17
Northern Waterthrush 51 8
American Redstart 38 17
Wilson’s Warbler 30 0
Yellow Warbler 29 4
MacGillivray’s Warbler 26 2
Cedar Waxwing 20 2
Orange-crowned Warbler 16 2
Savannah Sparrow 12 1
Pine Siskin 10 0
American Robin 9 0
Vesper Sparrow 8 1
Alder Flycatcher 8 0
Oregon Junco 8 0
Black-capped Chickadee 7 16
Western Tanager 7 0
Willow Flycatcher 6 1
Red-eyed Vireo 6 0
Dusky Flycatcher 5 0
Least Flycatcher 4 0
Chipping Sparrow 4 0
Traill’s Flycatcher 4 0
Hammond’s Flycatcher 3 0
Lazuli Bunting 3 0
Sharp-shinned Hawk 2 0
Red-breasted Nuthatch 2 0
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 2 0
Spotted Towhee 2 0
Spotted Sandpiper 1 0
Red-naped Sapsucker 1 0
Downy Woodpecker 1 0
American Kestrel 1 0
Olive-sided Flycatcher 1 0
Western Wood-pewee 1 0
Pacific-slope Flycatcher 1 0
Cassin’s Vireo 1 0
Brown Creeper 1 0
Veery 1 0
Nashville Warbler 1 0
Magnolia Warbler 1 0
Townsend’s Warbler 1 0
Evening Grosbeak 1 0
Purple Finch 1 0
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Now that the researchers have left in search of more thrush, it is up to Avery and I to man the fort until our next two volunteers arrive at the end of the first week of September. It is a tough charge but when you are greeted by some variation of this sight every morning it is hard to complain.

Niut Pink

The day began by catching one bird from each of our current “Bread and Butter” species; Lincoln’s Sparrow, Song Sparrow and Swainson’s Thrush. The two sparrows were new to us while the Swainson’s was a recapture of one of Hannah’s radio tagged birds. This first catch was a foretelling of what was to come as these three species would combine to make up 80% of the day’s birds banded. Of the three, Song Sparrow finished first with 11 while Lincoln’s Sparrow and Swainson’s Thrush shared second with six birds banded apiece. The remainder consisted of a male Wilson’s Warbler (always a class act), our second Ruby-crowned Kinglet of the season, a lone handsome adult male Common Yellowthroat, Warbling Vireo number 114, a tricky Willow Flycatcher and our second Spotted Towhee.

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Spotted Towhee

For differentiating between the nearly identical Willow and Alder Flycatchers in the hand we use a series of six measurements that are then put into a formula. Those birds that are intermediate are termed Traill’s Flycatchers (left unidentified). All of these captures summed to 29 new birds banded of nine species. In addition we recaptured nine birds of four species. The bulk of our recaptures consist of birds that were first banded this season or perhaps a year or two before. As was illustrated by the 8 year-old Northern Waterthrush featured on the 27th, inter-annual recaptures demonstrate both the site fidelity and longevity of individuals. Today we had another exciting recapture, an eight year-old Swainson’s Thrush that was first banded as a second-year back in 2012! This is our oldest Swainson’s to date and only four years shy of the oldest ever longevity record for a Swainson’s (12 years old).

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Our stately eight year-old Swainson’s Thrush

Bird activity around the station was reasonably high which was reflected by our estimated total of 63 species with 41 on census. The first highlight of the day came when I spotted our first Pacific Wren of the season in the alders at the junction of net 9 and 10. On census I was treated to our first Red-breasted Sapsucker of the season. TLBO is just south of the zone where Red-naped and Red-breasted Sapsuckers hybridize. We encounter Red-naped Sapsuckers almost daily so it was a delight to get a glimpse of its locally less common cousin. A lone Horned Lark was our third addition to this year’s species list as it was heard calling out in the field north of the station near the end of the day. For most of the day it was “Battle Royale” in the north field as the Hawks and Falcons came out to play. The participants consisted of three American Kestrels, two feisty Merlins and a Sharp-shinned Hawk. The Kestrels seemed to always be on the receiving end of things as they were continually harassed and chased by both the Merlins and Sharpie. A brief visit from a young Cooper’s Hawk and a marauding Northern Harrier rounded out the raptor activity in the northern field. So end’s another day in the life of TLBO. Stay posted for our mid-season post tomorrow!

Link to today’s eBird checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S59384276

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Species Band Recap
Song Sparrow 11 2
Swainson’s Thrush 6 3
Lincoln’s Sparrow 6 3
Common Yellowthroat 1 1
Willow Flycatcher 1
Warbling Vireo 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
Wilson’s Warbler 1
Spotted Towhee 1

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Birds Banded 29
Species Banded 9
Birds Recapped 9
Species Recapped 4
Species on Census 41
Species Recorded 63
SEASON TOTAL BANDED 839

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On the back of their success with tagging Swainson’s Thrush yesterday, Hannah and co. only needed to put out eight more birds with tags this morning. By the time we had opened nets they had already returned to the station with their dawn catch, 15+ Swainson’s Thrush from their nets! As they were prioritising hatch-year males, any smaller individuals (probable females, the sexes are not dimorphic but males average larger) were released untagged. By 8:30 they were done and had packed up their gear. After saying our goodbyes they proceeded onwards to their next stop, Bella Coola where they hope to deploy some more tags before returning back to their base in Pemberton for a couple final days of tagging to round out their field season. It was great to be able to host this interesting research and we hope that we will see them again next year!

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In our nets we had a steady day with just one busy-ish net round, 10 birds on the 9:20 net check. The standard fare for this time of the season made up almost all of our catch with Song Sparrow and Swainson’s Thrush accounting for over half of our total between them; 10 each. Indeed it was a hambe Song Sparrow that marked our milestone, 800th bird banded this season! The morning finished with a couple treats, our first two woodpecker of the season. First, a young male Downy Woodpecker that Sachi pulled out of net 6; then a hatch-year female Red-naped Sapsucker found its way into net 11 on the closing net round. Catching the woodpeckers is always a mixed blessing as their unique moults and infrequency in our nets make them exciting but their ear-piercing calls very much dampen the experience!

With beautiful weather, calm winds and more birds about Sachi did well on census tallying 44 species including a nice selection of waterfowl species on the lagoon. This included Wood Duck, Mallard, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler and Common Merganser. A Steller’s Jay was a nice addition as we don’t find them here too often. A tooting Northern Pygmy-owl upslope from the lagoon was joined by another across the Homatchko from our nets. Finally, our first American Pipits of the season showed up today with one heard early in the morning and two more on census for Sachi.

The eBird list from today can be found at: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S59359637

Species Band Recap
Swainson’s Thrush 10 4
Song Sparrow 10 2
Common Yellowthroat 6
Lincoln’s Sparrow 5 1
Red-naped Sapsucker 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
American Robin 1
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
American Redstart 1
Yellow Warbler 1

Birds Banded 37
Species Banded 10
Birds Recapped 7
Species Recapped 3
Species on Census 44
Species Recorded 59
SEASON TOTAL BANDED 810

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After yesterday’s dismal descent into the dreaded doldrums we opened our nets with high hopes for a change of fortune. Fortunately our avian friends heard our silent prayers, greeting us with their many calls as the Niuts put on a show once again.

Niut Aug28

More Splendor

Right off the bat our the birds produced with four captures during the opening round, one of which was a hatch-year Swainson’s Thrush. As Avery explained in yesterday’s blog the visiting researchers are affixing vhf radio transmitters to hatch-year Swainson’s and after yesterday’s dismal catch they were a bit worried that they wouldn’t be able to tag the 25 birds that they needed in the valley for their study. The next round yielded more birds amongst which were a few more hatch-year Swainson’s. Elsewhere on the property Hannah and Co. had set up their own nets with sound lure and much to their surprise and delight they had caught a veritable throng of thrushes! As their birds received their new gear we continued on catching a few more birds each round. Lincoln’s sparrow were the most numerous with seven banded while Song Sparrow and Common Yellowthroat tied in second at six apiece. Swainson’s for the first time in recent memory rounded out third with just five birds banded. The highlight of the day came on our 10:20 net round when I came upon a hatch-year female Red-breasted Nuthatch in net 18. This gorgeous little lady was our second Nuthatch banded this season and my first in beautiful British Columbia!

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Hatch-year female Red-breasted Nuthatch

Warbling Vireo number 112 and 113 trickled in as we have now passed their peak in terms of migration. When all was said and done we found that we had made it back up to our season average with 30 birds banded of 8 species with 6 recaptures, all of which were banded this season.

Census was also up to the mean with 37 species detected. The most notable sightings of the day came along the road as I made my way back from census. Along the stretch of road adjacent to the south field there is usually a flock of sparrows that up until now was dominated by Chipping Sparrows. Today the tides had turned as the flock was dominated by equal parts Lincoln’s and Song Sparrows. The few Savannah and Vesper Sparrows were absent and in their place were a White-throated Sparrow, two young White-crowned Sparrows and a Golden-crowned Sparrow (our first of the season)! This little trio of sparrow species made my day. Speaking of shifts, Yellow-rumped Warbler numbers have continued to rise as our final tally was 55 which was ever so slightly more than both Song (51) and Lincoln’s Sparrows (52). As the day came to a close our final tally was a respectable 51 species, a much desired improvement on yesterday’s total.

Link to today’s eBird Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S59338594

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Species Band Recap
Lincoln’s Sparrow 7
Song Sparrow 6 3
Common Yellowthroat 6
Swainson’s Thrush 5 2
Warbling Vireo 2 1
American Redstart 2
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
MacGillivray’s Warbler 1

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Birds Banded 30
Species Banded 8
Birds Recapped 6
Species Recapped 3
Species on Census 37
Species Recorded 51
SEASON TOTAL BANDED 773

 

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Today we welcomed a crew of researchers from Texas A&M University, Hannah, Abby and their field assistant Miranda, to TLBO. They will be spending a few days here to put radio transmitter tags on Swainson’s Thrush as part of a study they are doing looking into their migration, which a specific focus on hybrids between the interior and coastal subspecies.

There are two parts to the tracking method that they are using, called the “MOTUS Wildlife Tracking System”. Prior to going out and deploying the tags on the birds it is first necessary to set up several receiving towers to detect the birds/tags as they migrate past. For this project they have put up a “fence” of towers, from Kamloops to the lower mainland (a link to an interactive map of all the towers can be found here , just zoom in to BC to see the “fence”). Each tower has a detection radius of 15-20km, or more, depending on the line of sight. After the towers are set up they have to catch the birds and attach the tags, using a harness that loops under the legs so that the ~1.2 gram tag sits on the birds back like a little backpack. Once deployed, the tags transmit a signal at intervals of a few minutes for the duration of their battery life(a few months to a year, depending on the signal frequency).

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In preparation for their arrival we have also been taking a single tail feather from the Thrush we have been catching the past few weeks for them to run genetic analysis on. To date we have collected over 90 tail feather samples. Unfortunately their arrival coincided with our first real slow day of the season. After a very promising first couple net rounds, when we caught 10 birds including our 4th Least Flycatcher of the season and three Swainson’s Thrush for Hannah and co., activity died off completely and in the final 4.5 hours of banding we caught a total of three birds; 2 new Song Sparrows and one recap American Redstart.

A moderate south wind that started around 8:30am meant that we had to close down several of the nets for the latter half of the morning and this no doubt hindered our catch rate somewhat. It also meant that Sachi had a very quiet census with low numbers across the board, the lone highlight coming in the form of our first Blue-winged Teal of the season.

One, and possibly a second, Black Bear was spotted around the station, livening things up a little. The first was eating Dogwood berries across from net 1, about 30 feet from the banding lab and a while later we saw one out in the field in front of the lab, with alfalfa on the menu this time.

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Ever wonder what an 8 year old Northern Waterthrush looked like?

The last, but certainly not the least notable, thing to report on is a follow up on the recapture Northern Waterthrush that we caught yesterday. When we couldn’t find the band number in our database we asked long-time TLBO volunteer Barry Lancaster, who has done a week of banding here in the spring for many years if he had banded it. Turns out he did indeed band it, back in 2013 and aged it then as an after-second-year, meaning it had hatched in 2011 or previous. This means that the bird was our oldest ever recapture at a whopping 8 years or older!!!

Here’s hoping things pick up again tomorrow!

Ebird list for the day: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S59314510

Species Band Recap
Song Sparrow 7 2
Swainson’s Thrush 3 1
Least Flycatcher 1
Lincoln’s Sparrow 1
American Redstart 1

Birds Banded 12
Species Banded 4
Birds Recapped 4
Species Recapped 3
Species on Census 28
Species Recorded 47
SEASON TOTAL BANDED 743

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The Potato Range to the east of the station

It was another cold start with the mercury reading 1.5°C at the station this morning. The cold didn’t seem to hamper bird activity as we netted three new birds and a recapture soon after opening the nets. The third bird turned out to be our 155th Swainson’s Thrush which was fitting as it was also our 700th bird banded this season. That set the pace as the day progressed in a similar fashion to days previous with several birds caught per round. Once arriving back from census I spelled Avery out and headed out on the 9:15am net round. Like most rounds my hopes rose and fell as I rounded the corner and found the “Kingfisher net” empty yet again. As I moved on to our new hawk net however I saw a dark, large songbird in the top panel. My hopes soared as I realized that we had caught an Olive-sided Flycatcher! These are our largest flycatcher species at the station and we often see them at the tops of trees and snags throughout the day. This large upright bird has a dusky back and a big peaked head. The light line running down the centre of its breast gives the appearance of wearing a vest which is reminiscent of an old-timey mountaineer. Anyone who spends much time at higher elevations will know this bird well as it sings its unmistakable “quick three beers” song or “pip-pip-pip” call from the tops of coniferous trees in the sub-alpine. I have always loved this bird and admired it’s choice of rugged and remote habitat to breed in so you can imagine how excited and honoured I felt to be able to handle and band it! This bird was TLBO’s seventh banding record in 13 seasons of operation.

 

Swainson’s Thrush continued the trend taking the top spot with 10 individuals banded while Common Yellowthroats made a good push for the second day running at 8 birds banded. Two of our seven recaptures were first banded last year and another, a Northern Waterthrush was not in our database and we are looking into its origin. When all was said and done we finished up the day with 34 birds banded of 9 species with 7 recaptures.

The day started off with a bang as while I was on the first net round Avery spotted our first Peregrine Falcon speeding after two Common Ravens along the foot of the Niuts. These powerful birds are always exhilarating and are usually only sighted once or twice annually at TLBO. Census was productive as the birds were out and about. I had a bit of a fright when a young Cooper’s Hawk sped out of the bushes next to me to alight atop a tree. On a whim I decided on a small detour to take a peek into the wetlands to the west of the south field. There were no waterfowl or shorebirds but as I scanned east who was looking back at me but a young Moose!

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Moose!

Moments later two Mallards and our first Gadwall of the season cruised overhead heading for one of the more secluded ponds to the south and west. While birding the road I was treated to the calling of a White-throated Sparrow, the contented tooting of a Northern Pygmy Owl and the harsh scolding calls of a Steller’s Jay. Finally at the lake I added a much anticipated Common Merganser to this season’s species list. The day ended off at a comfortable 21°C and clear and if the weather forecast is to be believed more of that is in store for us over the coming weeks.

Link to today’s eBird Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S59292215

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Species Band Recap
Swainson’s Thrush 10
Common Yellowthroat 8 2
Lincoln’s Sparrow 5
Song Sparrow 3 2
American Robin 2
Wilson’s Warbler 2
Oregon Junco 2
Olive-sided Flycatcher 1
Yellow Warbler 1
Black-capped Chickadee 1
Northern Waterthrush 1
American Redstart 1

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Birds Banded 34
Species Banded 9
Birds Recapped 7
Species Recapped 5
Species on Census 46
Species Recorded 61
SEASON TOTAL BANDED 731

 

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Aug. 25: Sparrows Galore

We expected to have a fairly busy day when we got down to the station and noted that it was just 2.5C, our coldest morning of the season. The cool overnight conditions seem to get the birds moving and even as we were opening nets up there was a notable increase in activity over the norm for that early hour. Swainson’s Thrushes were calling everywhere and yellowthroats and sparrows lurked in the bushes along the Homathko.

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The oxbow with the Niut Mountains in the background

Our first proper push of Common Yellowthroats resulted in us banding a season high of eight as well as recapturing an adult male, banded last year. Our 3rd Least Flycatcher banded of the season continued the trend of good flycatcher numbers this year and we also banded singles of the more regular Alder and Willow Flycatchers.We counted nearly 50 each of the ubiquitous Song and Lincoln’s Sparrows but somehow managed to only catch three of the latter while the former tallied a more respectable eight banded.

Sticking with the Sparrow theme, Sachi heard our first White-throated Sparrow of the season giving its distinctive call from the bushes across from net 14. We get a few of these Boreal breeders each year but this is a week or two earlier than normal. I wasn’t able to track it down for a photo but hopefully this early visit is a sign that there will be many more to follow.

Sachi had a productive census, tallying 44 species including our first American Wigeon of the season in with several other waterfowl species on the lagoon. The Townsend’s Solitaire of yesterday was still around as well. As with around the station, he had good numbers of birds along the census route down to the head of the lake.

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A hatch-year Sharp-shinned Hawk

The morning finished off with a big hatch-year female Sharp-shinned Hawk in the new hawk net that we set up two days ago. The hawk nets don’t tend to catch much so we are hoping our site selection is a good one; the early indications are certainly positive!

Our ebird list for the day can be viewed here: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S59258004

Species Band Recap
Swainson’s Thrush 11 2
Song Sparrow 8 2
Common Yellowthroat 8 1
Lincoln’s Sparrow 3
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
Willow Flycatcher 1
Alder Flycatcher 1
Least Flycatcher 1
Warbling Vireo 1
American Robin 1
American Redstart 1
Oregon Junco 1
Black-capped Chickadee 1

Birds Banded 38
Species Banded 12
Birds Recapped 6
Species Recapped 4
Species on Census 44
Species Recorded 61
SEASON TOTAL BANDED 697

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