Northern Flicker.
Northern Flicker.

Northern Flicker. Photo: Jacelyn Downey
Northern Flicker. Photo: Jacelyn Downey

Bird Banding

Bird Banding Alone

Results from a 2020 summer at our MAPS stations without volunteers.

The Bart Rea Family Cabin

From Zach

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way every bird conservation effort across the globe conducted field research this summer. During a time when we needed each other most, it was unsafe for us to gather together and provide comfort. This stark reminder was quite prevalent this summer when I could not gather with a group of people dear to me, my Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) bird banding volunteers.

Bird banding without volunteers is like eating a burger without fries or chips without salsa. It’s fun, but you can tell something vital is missing. That’s the best way I can describe the 2020 banding season in Casper. (I’m also hungry while writing this.) The uncertainty of preserving the health of volunteers led to the difficult decision to close the Edness K Wilkins State Park and Lindzay Ranch stations. Operating only the secluded Bart Cabin station allowed for a more manageable banding environment, as this station usually catches fewer than 150 birds.

The best moment of the season occurred when I was extracting several Cassin’s Finches and MacGillivray’s Warblers from a net. While pulling out the first finch, I heard a ruckus behind me, and I turned to watch a Sharp-shinned Hawk fly right into the net! While we did not band this third-year male as part of our MAPS effort, it was still a fun catch!

While I do not know what 2021 will look like, I hold out hope that I will get to see all of you at the stations, watch the sunrise together, and share our love for birds.

Bart Rea Family Cabin by the Numbers

Number of birds captured: 81

Number of species captured: 18

Top five species captured: MacGillivray's Warbler, Green-tailed Towhee, Gray-headed Junco, Cassin’s Finch, Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Notes: This was a banner year for MacGillivray’s Warblers. We had several 4+-year-old adults return to the area to breed again. We saw a major drop in Dusky Flycatchers, and I am unsure of the potential cause. If it becomes a trend, we may be able to explore why. Local hummingbirds exploded this year! The number of successful nests was very encouraging. We FINALLY caught Steller’s Jays, but the Red Crossbills continue to elude us. Western Tanager and Audubon’s Warbler also had successful nests in the banding station area.

Closeup of a Steller's Jay.
Steller's Jay. Photo: Zach Hutchinson

Keyhole State Park

From the Downey Family

The Downey Family at the Keyhole banding station.
The Downey Family at the Keyhole banding station.

Our 2020 banding season was not what we had hoped for but there were definitely some good moments. We really enjoyed having our daughters help out and seeing them work on their skills.

Our best day was July 18th, which was Wyoming BioBlitz 2020. It was a gorgeous day but extremely windy, so we had to take the nets down. Dusty and I ended up birding and BioBlitzing throughout the banding station, observing more than 62 species of plants and animals. In true 2020 fashion, we had to make the best of a less than ideal situation.

We can’t wait for August 2021 so we can celebrate the end of the season BBQ with our Keyhole bird banding friends again! We missed you all greatly, and we are planning to see you in 2021. If you have never volunteered with us, visit our volunteer page to learn about all the opportunities we have for 2020.

Keyhole By the Numbers

Number of birds captured: 110

Number of species captured: 24

Top five species captured: Yellow Warbler, Western Wood-Pewee, American Robin, House Wren, Spotted Towhee

Notes: We typically see lots of Yellow Warblers, but this year was notable for a huge increase in Western Wood-Pewees. The trend in an increasing ratio of Orchard Orioles to Bullock’s Orioles each year is still occurring. We continue to see fewer Bullock’s Orioles. We were also surprised not to see more Common Yellowthroats this summer. Two cool birds this year were a Brown Thrasher and a Black-headed Grosbeak. It has been a while since we have banded either.

A female Black-headed Grosbeak being held while banded.
Female Black-headed Grosbeak. Photo: Jacelyn Downey

Favorite Photos from 2020

Male Bullock’s Oriole. Check out the flashy colors compared to the female in the next photo! Photo: Jacelyn Downey
Female Bullock’s Oriole. Photo: Jacelyn Downey
Female Cassin's Finch. Immature male Cassin’s Finches and adult females appear similar in plumage until the Cassin’s Finch undergoes its molt into adult plumage. Photo: Zach Hutchinson
Black bear scat. After we took down the seed feeders that the black bear was abusing, the bear had to find more natural food sources. If you look closely at this late summer scat, the bear was eating some sort of berry. We were thinking creeping mahonia. What do you think? Photo: Zach Hutchinson

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