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THIS WEEK at HILTON POND
23-31 December 2018

Installment #685---Visitor # website counter

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2018 BIRD BANDING SUMMARY:
LOWER TOTALS THAN AVERAGE,
BUT SOME REMARKABLE ENCOUNTERS

--THUMBNAIL RESULTS--

At Hilton Pond Center we arbitrarily established 2,000 as a realistic round-number goal for how many birds we'd like to band each calendar year. We fell far short in 2018, in large part because of uncooperative weather and after winter finches didn't arrive in expected big numbers this past fall. We ended the year with 1,245 bandings--well below our desired minimum and barely two-thirds of our 37-year average of 1,841 individuals banded annually.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

The just-ended year's biggest numbers came from three species (above, left to right): American Goldfinch (305, but only 76 banded in fall or early winter); House Finch (288, mostly local residents and just two more than the 37-year average); and, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (222, their seventh highest total and significantly above their long-term average of 177). These three species alone combined for 815 individuals, or 65% of the 2018 yearly total.

In all, 54 species crossed our banding table in 2018--less than half the 126 species banded locally since 1982--and well below the 37-year average of 65. One bright spot was we did surpass the 67,000 and 68,000 total-bird marks in our 37th year of avian banding and research at Hilton Pond, reaching a grand total of 68,130 bandings by year's end.


Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History and Operation RubyThroat: The Hummingbird Project could not implement its banding program and other initiatives without the generosity of individuals who donate in support of our work in environmental education, conservation, and natural history research. We periodically acknowledge these financial gifts in installments of "This Week at Hilton Pond."

In 2018 we were particularly grateful for contributions from the following Top Tier Sustaining Donors: Marie Baumann, Gordon Dressler, Lynn & Terral Jordan, and Gail & Tom Walder. Sincere thanks to them and to everyone else for such thoughtful generosity.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center



--BACKGROUND INFO--

Through the years we have observed fewer and fewer birds free-flying at Hilton Pond Center, which certainly influences overall banding success; we can't band them if they're not here! Banding tallies in 2018 were appreciably lower not only because of many fewer winter finches that would have swelled our numbers but because weather during much of the year didn't allow us to deploy mist nets (as demonstrated at right by Gail & Tom Walder). Spring at the Center was quite rainy and summer was too hot and cloudless, followed by atypical windy conditions almost daily from July through September. Autumn brought unusually wet weather that continued on and off to the end of the year, making mist netting inadvisable for much of the period.

For the sake of bird welfare we don't open our nets when it's too hot for us OR the birds (above 90 degrees or so) . . . or below 40 degrees . . or when it's windy . . or in the rain. Thus, weather limits our work, and climatic differences year-to-year at the Center have definite impact on banding results.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

On top of weather influences we also missed the Center's prime spring migration week by banding, speaking, and guiding at the New River Birding & Nature Festival in Fayette County WV (New River Gorge Bridge, above)--which nonetheless we NEVER regret. And, as usual, banding activity at Hilton Pond shut down for 2-7 days on several occasions throughout the year when the bander was out of town for consulting work or other speaking engagements.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

In 2018 we led three rewarding and productive Operation RubyThroat hummingbird expeditions to Costa Rica, one each in January, March, and November--thereby missing 35 total days of banding at the Center. The image above is a male Blue-throated Goldentail hummingbird we captured in November but did not band because it was a resident species and not a Neotropical migrant.

(On a personal note, minor prostate surgery for bander Hilton in April interfered with banding for a few weeks. This was followed by radioactive seed implants to ward off cancer, putting a halt to catching everything except hummingbirds from mid-September through mid-October.)

Even though we were away from the Center quite a bit, we doubt a full 12 months of banding birds this year would have enabled us to reach our all-time highs of 95 species and 4,061 individuals set 'way back in 1991. For most species, the birds just weren't here in 2018!

(NOTE: We can't complain about our off-site activities because they and on-site Guided Field Trips help with much-needed revenue that allows us to operate Hilton Pond Center and Operation RubyThroat year-to-year on a shoestring.)

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

In 2018 when we WERE present at the Center (see plat above) we almost always ran a few sunflower seed traps for songbirds (locations A, B & C); late March through mid-October we concentrated on Ruby-throated Hummingbirds coming to sugar water traps at those three locations. When weather and time allowed, we typically deployed 6-8 mist nets just outside the old farmhouse and office (larger red box on map) where we could keep a close eye on them. During spring and fall migration periods we sometimes ran additional nets--up to 12--at various spots along outlying nature trails (D thru Z), making frequent trips to check the nets for captures.

We do not tally net- or trap-hours at Hilton Pond Center. We find this accounting too complicated because of the way we have to operate, so we can't compare actual banding effort from one year to the next. Despite any annual variations in bander activity, things more or less "average out" over time, and our long-term banding studies still help us gain better understanding of nature trends in here in the Carolina Piedmont.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Year-to-year differences in net- and trap-hours DO affect our banding results, but of greater significance is the way the landscape at Hilton Pond Center has changed during 37 years we've worked and resided here. When we purchased our 11-acre plot in 1982 it was almost all open, the result of a century of agriculture that apparently involved cattle grazing and row crops such as cotton (above), corn, tobacco, and soybeans. We decided early on we would NOT be spending our time--or wasting energy or natural resources--cutting 11 acres of grass. Thus, we allowed the land to go fallow, maintaining only a couple of small "meadows" and three-foot-wide, easily navigable nature trails that meander for nearly two-and-a-half miles around the property.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Under our laissez-fair philosophy of land management, vegetational succession ensued and local habitats passed through stages, first from old field to shrub land--mostly invasives such as Chinese Privet and Russian Olive--and then to a dense stand of Eastern Red Cedar. Eventually the cedars were shaded out by deciduous trees, transitioning to our current young forest of pine and sundry hardwoods with minimal shrubs or herbaceous ground cover. An aerial photo of Hilton Pond Center from March 2012 (above) shows how thoroughly the land has become covered by woody vegetation--mostly fast-growing Loblolly Pines on the north edge, and hardwoods between the two ponds and on the southern half and eastern end of the property.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Deciduous trees these days at the Center are primarily Winged Elm and Sweetgum, with a scattering of Black Cherry, Green Ash, Hackberry, Flowering Dogwood, and various oaks and hickories. Just as vegetation has changed (current photo, above), so has local bird life; with regard to banding, many species that hung out in vegetation close to the ground where our mist nets could snare them now fly uncaptured in treetops high above.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Speaking of vegetational change, Google Earth posted an aerial image from March 2018 that shows Hilton Pond Center's old farmhouse and the massive 150-year-old White Oak (above left) that toppled in October 2014. We feel quite certain loss of this ancient canopy tree had a negative impact on Center avifauna, but it was a natural occurrence. On the positive side, the big oak's absence has created a "hole in the sky" that provides a better view of sunsets AND of birds flying over.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Incidentally, on a year-round basis we offer local birds lots of food, primarily black oil sunflower seeds (above, with American Goldfinch, Carolina Chickadee, and Eastern Tufted Titmouse), plus white millet, cracked corn, shell corn, thistle (Nyger), dried mealworms, bark butter, shelled and unshelled peanuts, and various suet blocks. Our experiments with orange slices and grape jelly have failed to attract anything, although this year we did capture a "wintering" Baltimore Oriole in late November--in a sunflower seed trap! Spring through fall we hang at least two dozen feeders with sugar water for Ruby-throated Hummingbirds; in anticipation of western vagrant hummer species, we maintain six of these even during winter. (We have captured and banded two Rufous Hummingbirds locally through the years, one of which showed up a year later in Ohio!)

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Of equal or even greater importance, Hilton Pond itself and several smaller artificial pools provide places for birds and other wildlife to drink and bathe. Accessible clean water often brings in more birds than does food--especially in winter when some drinking sources are frozen solid. This is why at least one of our artificial water features is always equipped with a cold-weather heater (above, with Eastern Bluebirds, House Finch, Northern Cardinals, and American Goldfinch). So far in the winter of 2018-19 we've had relatively few visits to our heated birdbath, undoubtedly because unfrozen standing water from unusually heavy rains is so abundant.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center



--2018 BANDING DETAILS--

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

(Click on chart above for a larger version in a new browser window)

As depicted on the chart above (click on it to open a larger version in a new browser window), 2018 ended with 1,245 birds banded from 54 species for Hilton Pond Center. These numbers were well below the 37-year average of 1,841.4 individuals (dotted white line) and the species average of 65. (Dotted red and blue trend lines to show an on-going decline in both categories.) This year's bird total was less than a third of what we caught in our big year of 1991 (4,061 individuals), and diversity didn't come close to the 95 species we caught that same year.

At least some of this discrepancy between decades is due to a big shift in vegetational cover noted above; it was in the mid-1990s when the Center's previously open areas were becoming dominated by young trees. It's likely epidemic West Nile Virus in that decade also took its toll, especially on birds such as Blue Jays, Eastern Towhees, Northern Cardinals, and various sparrows. (Surveys in many locales near and far show fewer birds in the world due to diverse factors, from uncontrolled hunting to environmental toxins and from climate change to devastatingly efficient free-roaming cats. But, as always, the biggest problem is human-generated habitat loss.)

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

These days, shrub-loving birds like Gray Catbirds, Eastern Towhees, Brown Thrashers, and many sparrows are quite scarce around Hilton Pond. Even supposedly "common" Northern Cardinals (banded male, above)--which prosper along edges and in shrub-dominant landscapes rather than in woodlands or open meadows--showed drastically diminished numbers after peaking during the "shrubby years" of the early 1990s. The loss of Eastern Red Cedars that died as they got shaded out by successive hardwoods might also have been a factor because cardinals frequently nested in the cedars' dense evergreen foliage.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

(Click on chart above for a larger version in a new browser window)

We're happy to report that in 2018 Northern Cardinals showed a remarkable rebound with 102 banded--our seventh best year ever (see chart above). This was nearly twice the average of 56 bandings for the preceding seven years and well above the 37-year average of 76.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Ground-feeding Eastern Towhees (recent male fledgling, above) were still in short supply in 2018, with only seven banded--compared to 85 in 1991 and a long-term average of 20. As with Northern Cardinals, we suspect West Nile Virus and local changes in habitat both impacted their numbers.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

It did not help our local bird life that back in 1995 an adjoining farmer to the north of the Center clear-cut about 45 acres of mature Loblolly Pines and converted his land to pasture for beef cattle (see aerial image above). This brought about a nearly instantaneous drop in numbers of species that nest, feed, roost, or winter in pine lands, and populations declined drastically among numerous breeding species.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Particularly affected were Blue Jays, Pine Warblers, and Brown-headed Nuthatches (we caught just one in 2018, above), and winter finches lost a weather-protected roosting site. Unfortunately, Grasshopper Sparrows and Eastern Meadowlarks that now nest in the farmer's open field don't wander onto our wooded property; we've banded only two of the former and one of the latter in 37 years!

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

(Click on chart above for a larger version in a new browser window)

Despite habitat disruption and vegetation change, we continue to capture a significant number of birds at Hilton Pond Center. In fact, this year one member of our 26-species "400 Club" (see chart above)--the Ruby-throated Hummingbird--was elevated to the far more lofty four-member "6,000 Club." As shown on the chart, the Center's 26 most commonly banded species continue to be dominated by the four "winter finches."

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

(Click on chart above for a larger version in a new browser window)

Since leaping atop the totals list in 2014, American Goldfinches have stayed ahead of House Finches--a species in decline since banner years in the late 1980s--while AMGO numbers have been showing a fairly steady rise, until dropping off in 2018 (see chart above).

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

After coming in between 420 and 527 bandings over the past five years, the number of American Goldfinches (second-year winter male, above) dipped considerably this year with only 305 captured; just 76 of those were banded after 1 July, meaning the winter of 2018-19 looks like it could be a bust for AMGO at Hilton Pond Center.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

When we read reports that natural seed crops had failed in Canada this past summer and fall, we eagerly anticipated a "finch winter" as boreal birds wandered south in search of food. Alas, that hadn't come to pass by the end of 2018, with only 15 Purple Finches and just three Pine Siskins (above) banded during November-December 2018. (Irruptive Red-breasted Nuthatches that also migrate south in finch winters never appeared, nor did any of those sought-after but long absent Evening Grosbeaks.)

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

House Finches (adult male above)--nearly all of which back in the 1980s were winter migrants from up north--are now established breeders in the Carolina Piedmont; even so, in 2018 HOFI surpassed their 37-year average of 286 by a mere two birds (see chart below).

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

(Click on chart above for a larger version in a new browser window)

Folks often ask: "What's the most unusual bird you banded this year at Hilton Pond Center?" We're never quite sure how to answer except to look at numbers and respond with the name of a bird we seldom band. Using that criterion, the female Baltimore Oriole (below) caught in on 24 November would be 2018's "biggest rarity--for TWO reasons. First, this was just the seventh BAOR we've ever banded at the Center; even though this species is frequently observed here in spring and fall migration, it's usually in the treetops high above our mist nets. Second, Baltimore Orioles are considered to be Neotropical migrants that spend the non-breeding season in Central or South America, and we caught this bird as winter was about to begin. It turns out increasing numbers of BAOR are hanging out in North America during cold months, with South Carolina hosting one of the species' largest wintering populations.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

In all we had 12 species for which we caught just one individual in 2018, none of which would qualify as rarities. Among the more unusual captures were two Hooded Warblers (photo below; only 54 banded since 1982); that single Brown-headed Nuthatch mentioned previously (51 to date); one Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (47); and four Fox Sparrows (45).

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

More surprising, we banded just FOUR wintering Dark-eyed Juncos in 2018--even though it is our 13th most common species with 840 banded. (Where HAVE all the juncos gone?) Also elusive or absent --among many others--were Brown Thrasher (three this year, 504 total in 37 years), Carolina Wren (just two banded, after a high of 62 in 1995 and 753 total through 2018), and American Robin (just one in 2018, with 852 to date). Of these, the wrens (see photo below)--South Carolina's state bird--are the most perplexing; our only guess is that in previous decades they were nesting in dense shrubbery that no longer occurs on the property.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center



--2018 FOREIGN ENCOUNTERS, RETURNS & RECAPTURES--

Northern Cardinals, Carolina Chickadees, and Mourning Doves, among others, are year-round residents at Hilton Pond Center. We recapture many of them over and over again after banding. Other species are non-residents that migrate away after banding and return in a later season as excellent examples of precise site fidelity.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Our furthest known flier on record was a brown Purple Finch (file photo above) of unknown age banded at the Center in Feb 2004 and encountered two months later at Monastery, Nova Scotia--where it had been killed by a cat. This was a sad way to end a northbound migration route that covered at least 1,275 air miles.

Despite banding 68,130 birds during nearly four decades at Hilton Pond Center, only 64 individuals (14 species) have been encountered outside our home county of York, while an additional 39 (13 species) were reported from within the county. (Click on links to review either list.) We speculate such low foreign encounter rates are due in part to a relative scarcity of banders in the southeastern U.S. and because of the mostly rural nature of both Carolinas; fewer banders, fewer people, and large swaths of undeveloped land mean banded birds are less likely to be encountered.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Although we have a low foreign encounter rate, many migratory birds banded at Hilton Pond Center have returned here in later years, providing valuable information about species longevity and site fidelity. (Of 121 species banded locally, 62 species have been recaptured locally in a later year.) Most notable was a Purple Finch--banded as unknown age and sex on 13 March 2009--that returned and was recaptured on 20 February 2017. By then he bore red plumage (see photo above), meaning he was a male that must have hatched in 2009--a TENTH year bird. (The longevity record for PUFI is 12 years 8 months.)

This year (2018) three of our banded birds from Hilton Pond Center were "foreign encounters" found elsewhere and reported to the federal Bird Banding Lab.

  • A female American Goldfinch (#2750-48470) banded on 25 January 2016 flew into a stationary object on 22 March 2018 at Mebane NC, about 132 miles from the Center. Age at death: After-third-year.
  • A locally fledged hatch-year House Finch (#2551-358830) of unknown sex banded on 24 May 2018 was found dead a month later on 21 June 2018 at Matthews NC, about 31 miles from the Center. We found this to be surprising because it seems unlikely HOFI would disperse over distance at such a young age.
  • A brown (unknown age) Purple Finch (#2711-41474) banded on 1 April 2017 was discovered dead indoors on 9 June 2018 at far-away Saguenay, Quebec. Having traveled north about 1,062 miles from the Center, this bird apparently was killed by a free-roaming House Cat. When found the finch had red plumage (see photo below), indicating it was a third-year male that must have hatched in 2016--likely near were it was found.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center
Photo above courtesy Eric Wilmot

Some of Hilton Pond Center's more noteworthy recaptures or returns in 2018 are described below. (Ruby-throated Hummingbird returns are described in a later section.) By far the oldest bird encountered this year is also our oldest on record for the Center: A male Northern Cardinal (file photo below) mist netted on 6 October 2018, having been banded at an unknown age on 12 Dec 2006--meaning he's now an after-12th-year bird. Although he's undoubtedly a local resident, his only other recaptures were on 12 Oct 2007, 27 Oct 2009, and 9 May 2017. It is remarkable to think this individual has made it through at least 12 winters and that he was still in apparent good health at his most recent handling this past October. We'll certainly be looking for him again in 2019. (Known longevity record for a free-flying wild NOCA is 15 years nine months.)

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Here are some of Hilton Pond Center's other returns/recaptures of particular interest from the calendar year just completed:

  • A female American Goldfinch recaptured on 2 Feb 2018 had been banded locally as after-hatch-year almost exactly five years earlier (9 Feb 2014), making her an after-6th-year bird in at least her seventh year.
  • We knew the "exact" age of a male American Goldfinch banded as second-year on 4 Feb 2013; he was in his 7th year at time of recapture on 3 Sep 2018, when a cloacal protuberance suggested he was a local breeder. (This individual was also recaptured on 12 Feb 2016.)

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

  • A diminutive male Ruby-crowned Kinglet (above) banded on the last day of 2014 returned on 10 Apr 2018 as an after-5th-year bird. We also recaptured him on 5 Dec 2017. (Longevity record for a banded RCKI is eight years eight months.)
  • A female Northern Cardinal with a prominent brood patch was netted on 10 Apr 2018, having been banded as a bird of unknown age on 7 Oct 2010; she was classified as after-8th-year at time of her latest recapture. Previous recaptures on 29 Dec 2011, 31 May 2011, 6 May 2013, and 3 May 2015 all revealed she had a brood patch, and her presence in a mist net on 29 Dec 2011 indicated she is not only a local breeder but also a year-round resident.
  • Curiously, an even older female Northern Cardinal was also recaptured on 10 Apr 2018, but she had been banded as an after-hatch-year bird on 25 Aug 2010--making her after-9th-year. She, too, had previous recaptures (3 May 2015 and 7 Oct 2017) and apparently is a permanent neighborhood resident and breeding bird.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

  • Remarkable was a 6th-year Hermit Thrush (above) of unknown sex banded here on New Year's Eve in 2013 and not encountered again until 12 April 2017; the bird returned and was captured almost exactly a year later on 10 April 2018. This species occurs only from late fall through early spring at the Center and in years previous must have made numerous migratory trips to and from its breeding grounds--likely in boreal Canada but possibly up the Appalachians.

  • A brown female Purple Finch re-trapped on 29 Dec 2018 was in her fifth year, having been banded as a second-year bird on 14 January 2015. She, too, apparently has made a number of round trips to and from her northern nesting range.
  • A Carolina Wren banded as a recent fledgling on 2 August 2014 was recaptured as a fifth-year bird on 18 Jan 2018. Because CARW are sexually monomorphic, we would not have known this bird's sex--except that when first recaptured on 22 April 2015 she had a brood patch, indicating female.
  • In part because of predation and hunting pressure, most Mourning Doves we band at the Center do not survive. An exception this year was a female MODO first captured on 1 September 2015 and recaptured on 27 March 2018 as an after-4th-year bird.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

  • Our oldest male Downy Woodpeckers (above, at suet feeder) were both in their 6th year when recaptured in April 2018, having been banded as second-year birds in March and April 2014 respectively. Several days after recapture one of these DOWO was killed in broad daylight but dropped by a Barred Owl seeking food for its two chicks in a nest on adjoining property. Since he was in breeding condition (with a cloacal protuberance), it is likely a female woodpecker was left with the solo tasks of incubating eggs and raising chicks.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center



••2018 RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS••

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

(Click on chart above for a larger version in a new browser window)

Because Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are our primary research interest here and in Central America, we were pleased with how things went in 2018 at Hilton Pond Center. After a phenomenal record-breaking year in 2016 (see chart above)--when our 373 RTHU bandings obliterated the previous high of 246--we still ended up with our seventh-best year: 222 hummers banded. (We likely missed some late April and late September RTHU migrants when bander Hilton was recovering from prostate surgeries.)

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

(Click on chart above for a larger version in a new browser window)

The 2018 Ruby-throated Hummingbird research season started very slowly at Hilton Pond Center; its progress is marked by the red dotted line on the chart above. Our first new capture of an adult male RTHU (see photo below) on 2 April was a week later than our early record of 27 March, and our first adult female did not arrive until 20 April. By the end of April we had banded only nine ruby-throats. Amazingly, we caught NO new RTHU the entire month of May!

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

The white dotted line on the chart above represents average day-to-day hummingbird banding progress through the years at the Center. In 2018 things did not start to pick up until early July, and not until mid-July did new hummer activity really take off. By the end of that month our 2018 Ruby-throated Hummingbird bandings had nearly tied the previous fastest rate and continued at a good pace before slowing considerably in mid-September. Our best day for banding ruby-throats in 2018 was 25 August, when we caught 12. As usual, we banded very few RTHU in October--this year only two on the 4th. (Our latest ever was 18 October 1986.)

The first returns of BANDED RTHU in 2018 were two adult males on 6 April. The first returning female arrived a week later on 12 April. (In light of these dates, we always suggest folks in our region hang at least one sugar water feeder by 15 March each year. Better to be early than too late.)

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

All Ruby-throated Hummingbirds captured--or recaptured--at Hilton Pond Center are banded and then marked with a temporary green color mark (see female above). This helps us avoid recapturing "trap junkie" hummers that re-enter our pull-string traps over and over and over again. In spring it also means folks north of us can be alert for color-marked RTHU; in autumn observers to our south can be on the lookout. If you see ANY color-marked hummingbird, please report it to us immediately via e-mail at RESEARCH; a photo would be most helpful.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

(Click on chart above for a larger version in a new browser window)

With total hummer bandings for 2018 exceeding 200 at Hilton Pond Center, we would logically expect many more hatch-year RTHU among our banded birds. During 35 years of hummer banding (left pie chart, above), 71.7% of all ruby-throats banded have been recent fledglings; however, in 2018 (right pie chart) they made up 75.2%. Our 100 hatch year males (pale blue on charts above) made up 45% of all bandings in 2018--significantly above the 35-year average. Although our 67 young females (pink on charts) resulted in a slightly above-average percentage of all birds, their total was barely half the record of 120 set in 2016.

The percentage of adult males (dark blue on charts) was much, much lower than average; we banded just 15 of them in 2018 (our fourth-lowest total ever, compared to an all-time high of 60 in 2015). A total of 40 mature female RTHU this year (red on charts) was above average and approached the record high of 47 from 2007.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

A relative abundance of youngsters (immature male above, color-marked and with incomplete red gorget) banded at Hilton Pond Center suggests the breeding season was much more successful than usual for Ruby-throated Hummingbirds here, and maybe elsewhere. We areat a loss to explain the extremely low number of adult males.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

(Click on chart above for a larger version in a new browser window)

Along with the Center's crop of new Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in 2018, we had our second best year for returns of RTHU banded in previous breeding seasons (see chart above). In fact, our 58 "old birds" was nearly twice the 35-year average of 30. To be honest, we anticipated a bumper crop of returns in 2018 because of the record-breaking numbers of RTHU we banded the preceding two years.

The dotted red trend line on the chart above shows RTHU returns are generally increasing at Hilton Pond Center--to be expected because our numbers of new bandings are also on the rise. On average, about 11% of all ruby-throats we band locally return in at least one later year--a substantial subset when we consider that somewhere around 60% to 80% of young hummers produced each year do not survive due to disease, genetic defects, predators, environmental dangers, and rigors of migration.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Of this year's 58 RTHU returns at Hilton Pond Center (see list below), 40 were banded last year (2017), 13 in 2016, and five in 2015. In all, 18 returnees were in at least their third year. The apparent oldest was a fifth-year female banded as a hatch year bird in 2015, although three females banded as after-hatch-year in 2014 have become after-4th-year. It's entirely possible any of these could actually have been much older than that since the Bird Banding Lab's record for oldest wild Ruby-throated Hummingbird is 9+ years.

••"Old" Ruby-throated Hummingbirds Returning in 2018••

Band#--Band Date--Age/Sex in 2018 (all return years)
80835--07/22/14--5th year female ('16,'17,'18)
81254--08/01/15--after 4th year female ('16,'17,'18)
81276--08/07/15--after 4th year female ('16,'17,'18)
81279--08/08/15--after 4th year female ('16,'17,'18)
81349--08/25/15--4th year female ('16,'18)
81198--05/24/16--after 3rd year female ('17,'18)
43303--05/27/16--after 3rd year male ('17,'18)
43307--06/10/16--after 3rd year female ('17,'18)
43311--06/26/16--after 3rd year female ('17,'18)
43316--07/03/16--3rd year female ('17,'18)
43349--07/17/16--3rd year female ('17,'18)
43357--07/18/16--3rd year female ('17,'18)
43393--07/31/16--3rd year female ('17,'18)
42874--08/07/16--3rd year male ('17,'18)
42890--08/14/16--3rd year female ('17,'18)
42900--08/16/16--3rd year female ('17,'18)
69415--08/19/16--3rd year female ('17,'18)
69535--09/08/16--3rd year female ('17,'18)

NOTE: The remaining 40 returns this year were all banded last year (2017)) as either hatch-year or after-hatch-year birds.

It is interesting that only two of the "old" returning hummingbirds listed above are males. We can think of several possible explanations (or combinations thereof) for this gender-related discrepancy: 1) "Old" males are "smart" enough to avoid the hummingbird traps with which we capture--and recapture--the majority of our ruby-throats at Hilton Pond Center; 2) Male hummingbirds survive at lower rate than do females and thus are unable to return for recapture; 3) Males may disperse to other locations--perhaps because of territorial disputes--thus avoiding local recapture; and, 4) Or something else entirely. We'd be happy to hear your hypothesis on what might be happening here; just send an e-mail to INFO.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

We have banded 6,193 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds since 1984 and have 966 total returns, with some individuals returning in more than one later year. Alas, only six of our hummers have been seen elsewhere. Four color-marked RTHU from the Center were encountered during fall migration (see map above) in Atlanta, Louisiana, and Alabama (two individuals). Two spring migrants were reported from Massachusetts and Clover SC (the latter about ten miles north of Hilton Pond).

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center



All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

••2018 "YARD LIST" & NESTING SPECIES••

Our "Yard List" of birds seen through the years on or over Hilton Pond Center remained at 171 through 2018, the most recent new YARD species coming five years ago when we observed (and banded) eight Savannah Sparrows during a January 2011 snowstorm (see photo above). Our newest BANDED species--#126--was a Barred Owl in April 2012; this species had been seen in numerous previous years. During 2018 we saw or heard a total of 76 bird species--12 fewer than last year and less than half (44.4%) the species observed locally since 1982.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center
Cerulean Warbler male photo above © Ernesto M. Carman (taken in West Virginia)

We find it interesting that of 38 North American Wood Warblers LIKELY to be seen at Hilton Pond Center, we have observed and banded 35 of them. The missing species are Cerulean Warbler (West Virginia male, above) and Mourning Warbler--both of which typically migrate further inland and west of the Center--and the endangered Kirtland's Warbler. (The other 14 extant North American parulids are western species not likely to occur in South Carolina's Piedmont Province. Bachman's Warbler--now extinct from the Carolina Lowcountry and elsewhere--can no longer be seen except in museums.)

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Among all species encountered at the Center since 1982 we've found nests for 25, including other birds that often lay their eggs in a box intended for Eastern Bluebirds. A male Prothonotary Warbler (above) even tried building a nest in a box with 1.5" hole before a dominant bluebird pair drove him away. All our boxes prove pretty effective and also have been used by Tufted Titmice, House Wrens, and Carolina Chickadees. We've also installed several boxes with 1" diameter holes that exclude bluebirds but allow Brown-headed Nuthatches to enter. The boxes stay up year-round and sometimes serve as roost sites during cold weather.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

We have six much-larger nest boxes mounted on poles in the water at Hilton Pond itself. Complete with predator baffles, these structures are designed for Wood Ducks and have produced more than 700 ducklings since 1982 (see image above of hen with just-fledged ducklings). One year a box was commandeered by Great Crested Flycatchers (on box, below, with Carolina Mantid) that successully raised a brood after the ducks had departed.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center



••2018 BANDING TOTALS••

A complete list of 1,245 birds of 54 species banded at Hilton Pond Center in 2018 is provided in the table below. Also shown are our 37-year maximums, averages, and grand totals for each species.

We set no new record highs nor tied any existing highs for those species banded in 2018. For each of 21 species (green type in the table) we banded a number at or above its 37-year-average. The remaining 105 species (black type) came in with below-average numbers this year, or with none banded at all.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

We invite you to examine and dissect the table below for trends or to see whether we captured your favorite species--perhaps a male Red-bellied Woodpecker like the banded one above (see his left leg). There really is a lot to be said for long-term banding projects like ours that provide solid baseline data leading to better understanding of avian ecology. We're proud to report we've been at it since 1982 at Hilton Pond Center--to our knowledge still the most active year-round bird banding station in the Carolinas.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center


Payable to: funding@hiltonpond.org


TABLE 1: ANNUAL (2018) & CUMULATIVE (37-year)
BIRD BANDING TOTALS FOR HILTON POND CENTER
The list shows all 126 bird species banded locally since 1982;
21 species in GREEN were banded in 2018 at a rate at or above our
37-year average; 105 species in BLACK were below average
(and/or
had zero bandings)
; no species set or tied record highs.

SPECIES
2018
Total
37-Year
Maximum
37-Year
Average
37-Year
Total
Blackbird, Red-winged
.
5
1
27
Blackbird, Rusty
.
3
<1
6
Bluebird, Eastern
8
32
9
319
Bunting, Indigo
6
52
10
366
Cardinal, Northern
102
157
76
2,795
Catbird, Gray
8
114
26
950
Chat, Yellow-breasted
1
24
4
136
Chickadee, Carolina
17
43

17
623
Cowbird, Brown-headed
11
90
12
453
Creeper, Brown
.
3
<1
8
Cuckoo, Black-billed
.
1
<1
2
Cuckoo, Yellow-billed
.
18
1
55
Dove, Mourning
31
44
17
638
Finch, House
288
715
286
10,308
Finch, Purple
15
950
234
8,646
Flicker, Northern
.
9
1
36
Flycatcher, Acadian
3
18
3
125
Flycatcher, Great Crested
.
6
1
53
Flycatcher, Least
.
2
<1
4
Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied
.
2
<1
2
Flycatcher, Willow
.
3
<1
3
Gnatcatcher, Blue-gray
.
20
4
136
Goldfinch, American
305
838
303
11,225
Grackle, Common
5
164
25
908
Grosbeak, Blue
.
6
2
69
Grosbeak, Evening
.
49
2
87
Grosbeak, Rose-breasted
.
5
1
55
Hawk, Cooper's
.
1
<1
3
Hawk, Red-shouldered
.
3
<1
11
Hawk, Sharp-shinned
.
6
1
39
Heron, Green
.
3
<1
11

Hummingbird, Ruby-throated
(banding began 1984)

222
373
177
(35 years)
6,193
(35 years)
Hummingbird, Rufous
.
1
<1
2
Jay, Blue
12
65

15

562
Junco, Dark-eyed
4
74
23
840
Kingbird, Eastern
.
4
<1
11
Kingfisher, Belted
.
3
<1
10
Kinglet, Golden-crowned
.
41
4
164
Kinglet, Ruby-crowned
2
81
16
597
Meadowlark, Eastern
.
1
<1
1
Mockingbird, Northern
5
24
5
178
Nuthatch, Brown-headed
1
10
1
51
Nuthatch, Red-breasted
.
5
<1
18
Nuthatch, White-breasted
1
4
1
23
Oriole, Baltimore
1
2
<1
7
Oriole, Orchard
.
13
2
56
Ovenbird
.
42
6
228
Owl, Barred
.
2
<1
3
Owl, N. Saw-whet
.
7
<1
10
Pewee, E. Wood-
1
16
3
111
Phoebe, Eastern
3
36
8
296
Redstart, American
8
57
13
474
Robin, American
1
171
23
852
Sapsucker, Yellow-bellied
1
7
1
47
Screech-Owl, Eastern
.
1
<1
2
Shrike, Loggerhead
.
1
<1
1
Siskin, Pine
.
770

89
3,300
Sparrow, Chipping
62
169
63
2,318
Sparrow, Field
3
44
8
295
Sparrow, Fox
4
8
1
45
Sparrow, Grasshopper
.
1
<1
2
Sparrow, House
.
5
<1
9
Sparrow, Lincoln's
.
2
<1
6
Sparrow, Savannah
.
8
<1
10
Sparrow, Song
6
34
12
449
Sparrow, Swamp
.
12
2
71
Sparrow, White-crowned
.
2
<1
3
Sparrow, White-throated
16
167
59
2,195
Starling, European
.
2
<1
8
Swift, Chimney
.
4
<1
18
Tanager, Scarlet
2
13
3
116
Tanager, Summer
1
18
5
191
Thrasher, Brown
3
59
14
504
Thrush, Gray-cheeked
3
14
3
126
Thrush, Hermit
.
35
5
198
Thrush, Swainson's
7
65
15
545
Thrush, Wood
.
27
5
195
Titmouse, Tufted
13
26
12
461
Towhee, Eastern
7
85
20
730
Veery
.
15
3
100
Vireo, Philadelphia
.
1
<1
2
Vireo, Red-eyed
4
49
10
364
Vireo, Blue-headed (Solitary)
.
4
<1
18
Vireo, White-eyed
.
40
9
324
Vireo, Yellow-throated
.
5
1
39
Warbler, Bay-breasted
.
5
<1
17
Warbler, Black-and-white
4
21
5

182

Warbler, Black-throated Blue
4
24
5
196
Warbler, Black-throated Green
.
5
1
19
Warbler, Blackburnian
.
1
<1
2
Warbler, Blackpoll
.
40
3
127
Warbler, Blue-winged
1
4
1
24
Warbler, Canada
.
5
1
32
Warbler, Cape May
4
45
3
110
Warbler, Chestnut-sided
.
14
2
83
Warbler, Connecticut
.
3
<1
3
Warbler, Golden-winged
.
2
<1
4
Warbler, Hooded
2
9
1
54
Warbler, Kentucky
.
6
1
20
Warbler, Magnolia
4
55
12
428
Warbler, Nashville
.
2
<1
8
Warbler, Orange-crowned
.
1
<1
4
Warbler, Palm
.
20
2
61
Warbler, Parula (N. Parula)
4
7
2
74
Warbler, Pine
6
23
5
182
Warbler, Prairie
.
9
1
39
Warbler, Prothonotary
.
4
<1
18
Warbler, Swainson's
.
2
<1
2
Warbler, Tennessee
.
30
2
81
Warbler, Wilson’s
.
2
<1
4
Warbler, Worm-eating
1
13
1
52
Warbler, Yellow
.
5
1
22
Warbler, Yellow-rumped
12
425
62
2,297
Warbler, Yellow-throated
1
2
<1
11
Waterthrush, Louisiana
.
8
1
50
Waterthrush, Northern
1
44
8
330
Waxwing, Cedar
2
44
8
278
Woodcock, American
.
1
<1
1
Woodpecker, Downy
3
18
6
228
Woodpecker, Hairy
.
5
1
27
Woodpecker, Pileated
.
1
<1
1
Woodpecker, Red-bellied
1
9
2
91
Wren, Carolina
2
62
22
753
Wren, House
2
11
2
67
Wren, Winter
.
2
<1
14
Yellowthroat, Common
.
51
10
368
[Duck, Wood]*
.
.
.
.
[Bobwhite, Northern]*
.
.
.
.
* = Captured by not banded, per U.S. federal Bird Banding Laboratory restrictions on game birds
.
.
.
.
Total 2018 Species = 54
(37-year species avg. = 65)


37-Year Species Total =
126
2018
Total

1,245
.
37-Year
Total Avg.

1,841.4
37-Year
Grand Total

68,130

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center


Payable via credit card


Payable to: funding@hiltonpond.org

Checks also can be sent to Hilton Pond Center at:
1432 DeVinney Road
York SC 29745

All contributions are tax-deductible on your
current-year income tax form



All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

NOTE: I made this post to the Center's Facebook page on Christmas Eve 2018 and wanted to include it here as a holiday essay for our Web site followers who are not on Facebook.

--Bill Hilton Jr.


WINTER CHATTER

A few times each winter when I gaze out my office window at Hilton Pond Center a dark cloud drifts over. Not a sign of rain to come, it's a massive flock of blackbirds so plentiful they cast a shadow on the ground beneath. When I slowly crack open a window, I hear a cacophony of chattering chips and snarks as the birds jockey for position in the tree canopy. Along with shrill cheeps and tweets it sounds to my ear like the songsters also utter a raspy repetitive "grack"--appropriate because the birds in question are predominately Common Grackles. These are our largest inland blackbird (Family Icteridae) here in the eastern U.S.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

If I move too quickly or make a noise, the flock is off in a flash (above), rising as one from the treetops and flapping away noisily to the next woodland down the road. But if I'm quiet, the birds often flutter downward a few at a time until they make a black carpet on the ground beneath. Then there's a frenzy of activity as each individual turns over dead leaves one by one, looking for hidden acorns and invertebrates. Whatever insects or spiders or millipedes they find are gobbled immediately, or a bird may stuff a nut or two into its crop and hold another in its bill before flying to a nearby branch with its bounty.

At some point the whole flock determines it's time to go and swoops upward, again chattering loudly and making an audible wind with their wings. It is quite a racket, especially since some of these winter flocks can include a couple of thousand birds!

At Hilton Pond I observed a much smaller flock during the annual York/Rock Hill (SC) Christmas Bird Count on 22 Dec 2018--an estimated 30 or so of just grackles. (Sometimes these winter assemblages include European Starlings, plus other icterids such as Rusty Blackbirds, Brown-headed Cowbirds, and Red-winged Blackbirds.) When the flock departed, five birds remained behind--caught in two ground traps baited with cracked corn, white millet, and black sunflower seeds.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

(Click on chart above for a larger version in a new browser window)

These were the first Common Grackles (COGR) I've captured since two back in 2014--although the species crossed my banding table much more commonly in the 1980s and 1990s when our property was less wooded. (See chart above. In 1983--our second year at what is now Hilton Pond Center--I banded 164 COGR, plus 132 in both 1984 and 2002. In the most recent 14 years I haven't exceeded single digits for COGR bandings, and in eight of those years I caught none.)

All this info about grackles is of interest, of course, but my real reason for posting the attached photo on Christmas Eve is because in close view a Common Grackle is far more than a "black bird." Its brilliant iridescence goes with the festive holiday season, with blues and greens and golds and purples and who knows what other hues shimmering in winter sunlight. Getting to see this feathery brilliance is a little seasonal gift I get for being a bird bander, and I wanted to share that treasure with Facebook friends this evening.

Happy Holidays to each of you from all of us humans and wild critters at Hilton Pond Center! Peace on Earth, and goodwill to all.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center


Payable via credit card


Payable to: funding@hiltonpond.org


Don't forget to scroll down for Nature Notes & Photos,
plus lists of all birds banded or recaptured during the period.


"This Week at Hilton Pond" is written and photographed by Bill Hilton Jr., executive director of Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History

Please refer "This Week at Hilton Pond" to others by clicking on this button:


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Comments or questions about this week's installment? Send an E-mail to INFO. (Be sure to scroll down for a tally of birds banded/recaptured during the period, plus other nature notes.)

Click for York, South Carolina Forecast
Click on image at right for live Web cam of Hilton Pond,
plus daily weather summary

Transmission of weather data from Hilton Pond Center via WeatherSnoop for Mac.

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Thanks to the following fine folks for recent gifts in support of Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History and/or Operation RubyThroat: The Hummingbird Project. Your tax-deductible contributions allow us, among other things, to continue writing, photographing, and sharing "This Week at Hilton Pond" with students, teachers, and the general public. Please see Support or scroll below if you'd like to make a gift of your own.

We're pleased folks are thinking about the work of the Center and making donations. Those listed below made contributions received during the period. Please join them if you can in coming weeks.

Gifts can be made via PayPal (funding@hiltonpond.org); credit card via Network for Good (see link below); or personal check (c/o Hilton Pond Center, 1432 DeVinney Road, York SC 29745). You can also donate through our Facebook fundraising page.

The following made contributions to Hilton Pond Center during the period 23-31 December 2018:

  • Thomas J. Camarata
  • Elise Fischer (repeat donor; via PayPal)
  • Karen & Jeff Hurt (repeat donors)
  • James Hutto (repeat donor; via PayPal)
  • Lynn & Terral Jordan (sustaining donors; via Network for Good; alumni of two Operation RubyThroat hummingbird expeditions to the Neotropics)
  • Liz Layton (major supporter; via PayPal; alumna of two Operation RubyThroat hummingbird expeditions to the Neotropics)
  • Lisa Montgomery (via PayPal)
  • Peggy Yates (repeat donor)

We are ever grateful for the many followers of Hilton Pond Center's Facebook page who made on-line contributions from June through December 2018 (see below). Without these generous gifts the non-profit Center would be unable to continue its interrelated programs in environmental education, conservation, and natural history research.

NOTE: Donors are listed below in the order contributions were made.

The following donors contributed through Facebook as part of the "$6,000 for 6,000 Hummingbirds" campaign.

Ann-Marie

Rutkowski

Cathy

Moorman

Ann

Judd

Eve

Gaige

Chris

DiNova

Betsy

Franz

Lisa

Schuermann

Kim

Beard

Karen

Metzner

Catherine

Wu-Latona

Elizabeth

Layton

Frank

Voelker

Fernando

Corrada

Robert

Mulvihill

Dallas

DiLeo

Mary Ellen

Heisey

Peg

De Lamater

Amy

Girten

Laura

Black

Karen

Luckini

Lynn

Biasini McElfresh

Tammie

Lesesne

Cherie

Steele

Sylvia

Robinson

Charles

Horn

Doren

Burrell

Ann

Truesdale

Carol

Phillips

Carla

D'Anna

Hilda

Flamholtz

Muirae

Kenney

The following donors contributed through Facebook as part of "Bill's Birthday Fundraiser"

Cindy

Massey

Cynthia

Thompson

Sara

Blair

Barri

Helms

Kim

Pierce Lascola

Sara

Stratton

Lisa

Rest

Carolyn

Yost

Cheryl

Hill

Earl

Gatlin

Bill

Pennington

Sally

Brown

Becky

Diak

Mary Alice

Koeneke

Patricia

Settle

Frank

Voelker

Alexis

Dandreta

Cathy

Sherman

Kathy

Sheriff-White

Elise

Parris

Ed

Saugstad

Melissa

Smith

Sara Jo

McKinney

Gary

Randolph

Christine

Boran

Sean

Sands

Mindy

Hetrick

Sidney

Goode

Katie

Fallon

Russell

Rogers

Angel

Maxwell

The following donors contributed through Facebook as part of the "End-of-Year Fundraiser"

Ty

Sharrow

Carolyn

Yost

Wendy

Marshall

Cindy

Epps

Cathy

Sherman

Jerry

Skinner

Cindy

Massey

Susan

Brownell

Susan

Pierson

Sara

Blair

Karyn

Draper

Dixon

Butler

Ida

Smith

Jane

Griess

Sherry

Skipper

Kim

Pierce Lascola

Ann-Marie

Rutkowski

Sue

Gabriesheski

Dave

Katz

Gina

Holt

Cheryl

Morris

Lisa

Rest

James

Little

Cynthia

Thompson

Veronica

Guerrero

Kathy

Tereskerz

Rosemarie

Wahaus

Rita

Calandresa

Ann

Judd

Griffs Greenhouse

Nursery

Ann

Truesdale

Cheryl

Hill

Deanna

Frautschi

George

Johnson

Greg

Maggart

Judy

Longshaw

Ellen

Falls

Clarkson

McDow

Mary

Ballard

Crystal

Joyner

The following donors contributed through Facebook at various times from June through December 2018. Several donors made more than one contribution and are listed more than once; some arranged with Facebook to make repeat donations.

Sean

Sands

Brent

Lanford

Denise

Shreeve

Hope

Andresen

Cathy

Sherman

Chandra

Brooks

Angela

Parker

Lisa Gareis

Korslund

Susan

Joseph

Marcia

Power

Mary Louise

Hawkins

Debra

Athas

James

Little

Stephanie

Morris

Czance

Hörris

Sara

Blair

Rosemarie

Wahaus

Steve

Dingeldein

Frank

Voelker

Susan

Nichols

Rob

Oesterle

Rosemarie

Wahaus

Stephanie

Morris

Kenna

Brophey

Carol

Sanderson Forde

Guia

Starks

Ann

Bailie

Deanna

Frautschi

Andy

Hawkins

Julie M

Kelley

Laura

Black

Frank

Voelker

Dallas

DiLeo

Lisa

Fischer

Tina

Johnson

Angélique

Mitchell

Cathy

Sherman

Ruth Ann

Grissom

Ran-Lynn

Bee

Frank

Voelker

Phillip

McGuffee

Cathy

Sherman

John

Ratterree

Lisa

Fischer

Peg

De Lamater

Lawanna

Stoeckel

Susan

Joseph

Ellen

Falls

Marge

McCarthy VanRemmen

Chandra

Brooks

Michelle

Banks

Ruth Ann

Grissom

Claire

Stuart

Frank

Voelker

Doria

Sharpe

?

Dees

Jan

Ross

Tim

Henson

Cindy

Faville

Frank

Voelker

Cindy

Massey

Carla

D'anna


 
If you enjoy "This Week at Hilton Pond," please help support
Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History.
It's painless, and YOU can make a difference!

(Just CLICK on a logo below or send a check if you like; see Support for address.)


Make credit card donations
on-line via
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Use your PayPal account
to make direct donations:
If you like shopping on-line please become a member of iGive, through which 1,800+ on-line stores from Amazon to Lands' End and even iTunes donate a percentage of your purchase price to support Hilton Pond Center. ..Every new member who registers with iGive and makes a purchase through them earns an ADDITIONAL $5 for the Center. You can even do Web searches through iGive and earn a penny per search--sometimes TWO--for the cause! Please enroll by going to the iGive Web site. It's a painless, important way for YOU to support our on-going work in conservation, education, and research. Add the iGive Toolbar to your browser and register Operation RubyThroat as your preferred charity to make it even easier to help Hilton Pond Center when you shop.

The Piedmont Naturalist--Vol. 1--1986 (Hilton Pond Press) is an award-winning collection of newspaper columns that first appeared in The Herald in Rock Hill SC. Optimized for tablets such as iPad and Kindle, electronic downloads of the now out-of-print volume are available by clicking on the links below. The digital version includes pen-and-ink drawings from the original edition--plus lots of new color photos. All sales go
to support the work of
Hilton Pond Center.

BIRDS BANDED THIS WEEK at
HILTON POND CENTER
23-31 December 2018

SPECIES BANDED THIS PERIOD:
Brown-headed Nuthatch--1
*
American Goldfinch--
1
Eastern Towhee--2
Northern Cardinal--5
White-throated Sparrow--6
Purple Finch--2
House Finch--22
Blue Jay--3
Mourning Dove--2

* = new banded species for 2018


PERIOD BANDING TOTAL:
9 species
43 individuals


2018 BANDING TOTAL:
54 species (37-yr. avg. = 65.0)

1,245 individuals
(37-yr. avg. =
1,841.4)
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds = 222


37-YEAR BANDING GRAND TOTAL:
(Banding began 28 June 1982; since then 171 species have been observed on or over the property.)
126 species banded
68,130 individuals banded

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds = 6,193


NOTABLE RECAPTURES THIS WEEK:
(with original banding date, sex, and current age):
Northern Cardinal (1)
10/12/15--4th year male

Purple Finch (1)
01/14/15--5th year female

House Finch (9)
06/16/16--3rd year male
05/08/17--after 2nd year female
06/30/17--2nd year male
06/30/17--2nd year male (two birds)
03/04/18--after hatch year male
03/19/18--after hatch year male
05/23/18--hatch year male
06/24/18--hatch year female
07/25/18--hatch year male


OTHER NATURE NOTES:
--At lower left is a tally of birds recaptured at Hilton Pond Center during the 23-31 Dec 2018 period. We don't usually list birds banded during the calendar year, but the last three House Finches were first captured as recently fledged brown hatch-year birds that were unsexable. By time of recapture in late December they had acquired adult plumage and could be sexed--brown for female, red for male.

--As of 31 Dec, the Hilton Pond Center's 2018 Yard List stood at 76--about 44% of 171 avian species encountered locally since 1982. (If you're not keeping a yard list for your own property we encourage you to do so, and to report your sightings via eBird.) New species observed this year from 23-31 Dec: NONE

--Our immediate past installment of "This Week at Hilton Pond" was a summary report for the 28th annual York/Rock Hill (SC) Christmas Bird Count and is always available on the Center's Web site as Installment #684.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center



Oct 15 to Mar 15:
East of the Rockies please report your sightings of
Vagrant & Winter Hummingbirds

(immature male Rufous Hummingbird at right)


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The Center's backyard Web cam at Weather Underground


Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History is a non-profit research, conservation & education organization in York, South Carolina USA; phone (803) 684-5852. Directed by Dr. Bill Hilton Jr., aka "The Piedmont Naturalist," it is parent organization for Operation RubyThroat. Web site contents--including text and photos--may NOT be duplicated, modified, or used in any way except with express written permission of Hilton Pond Center. All rights reserved worldwide. To request permission for use or for further assistance, please contact Webmaster.