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Malibu Lagoon Field Trips: Sunday, 26 March, 8:30 & 10am.

March 23, 2017
Artist's perspective of west channels view from SW corner (RestoreMalibuLagoon . com)

Artists 2012 perspective of finished project
(RestoreMalibuLagoon . com)

Lagoon looking east - compare to Artist's Perspective (R. Ehler 7/27/14)

Channel & Lagoon looking east July 2014
(Randy Ehler )

We still have all our wintering species, and the migrants are beginning to come through so we could see over 70 species. The days are warming but the temperatures could be from 60 to 75 degrees. The beach and lagoon in the spring can be beautiful and peaceful.

Most of the Jan-Feb birds will still be with us, including: up to 12 duck species, 3 loons, 4 grebes, 3 cormorants, 5 herons & egrets, 6 raptors, 4 plovers, 11 sandpipers, 11 gulls & terns, 3 doves, 2 hummingbirds, 1 kingfisher and 23 species of passerines. An avian banquet.

Adult Walk 8:30 a.m. – Beginner and experienced, 2-3 hours.  Species range from 40 in June to 60-75 during migrations and winter.  We meet at the metal-shaded viewing area (see photo below) next to the parking lot and begin walking east towards the lagoon.  We always check the offshore rocks and the ocean.  When lagoon outlet is closed we continue east around the lagoon to Adamson House.  We put out special effort to make our monthly Malibu Lagoon walks attractive to first-time and beginning birdwatchers.  So please, if you are at all worried about coming on a trip and embarrassing yourself because of all the experts, we remember our first trips too.  Someone showed us the birds; now it’s our turn.

Meeting place - What's that animal in the foreground? See photo below of him heading the other way. (Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation 6/18/13)

Meeting place – Hey, what’s that animal in the foreground?
See him heading the other way in photo below.
(Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation 6-18-13)

Children and Parents Walk 10:00 a.m.   One hour session, meeting at the metal-shaded viewing area (see photo above) between parking lot and channel.  We start at 10:00 for a shorter walk and to allow time for families to get it together on a sleepy Sunday morning.  Our leaders are experienced with kids so please bring them to the beach!  We have an ample supply of binoculars that children can use without striking terror into their parents.  We want to see families enjoying nature. (If you have a Scout Troop or other group of more than seven people, you must call Lu (310-395-6235) to make sure we have enough binoculars and docents.)

Map to Meeting Place
Directions: Malibu Lagoon is at the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Cross Creek Road, west of Malibu Pier and the bridge.  Look around for people wearing binoculars.
Parking: Parking machine recently installed in the lagoon lot: 1 hr $3; 2 hrs $6; 3 hrs $9, all day $12 ($11 seniors); credit cards accepted. Annual passes accepted. You may also park (read the signs carefully) either along PCH west of Cross Creek Road, on Cross Creek Road, or on Civic Center Way north (inland) of the shopping center.  Lagoon parking in shopping center lots is not permitted.

Prior checklists:
2016:   Jan-June,   July-Dec          2015:   Jan-May,    July-Dec
2014:   Jan-July,    July-Dec          2013:   Jan-June,   July-Dec
2012:   Jan-June,   July -Dec         2011:   Jan-June,   July-Dec
2010:  Jan-June,   July-Dec           2009:  Jan-June,   July-Dec.
[Chuck Almdale]

Locally known as 'Willie the Weasel' (Cal. State Parks 6/18/13)

Locally known as ‘Son of Willie the Weasel’
(Cal. State Parks 6-18-13)

Evening Program, Tuesday April 4th: Finding and Photographing Birds in the Andes

March 22, 2017

We promise a fascinating talk by two of our own: Chuck Bragg, with a little help from our friend  Ray Juncosa. But as a starter we have a short presentation by a guest speaker. Many of you will remember Laurel Klein Serieys, PhD whom SMBAS helped sponsor as graduate student at UCLA for a number of years. After her PhD dissertation on population segmentation of felines of the Santa Monica Mountains, she left for research on another species of urban-interface cat….in South Africa! She has indicated she will be in town for a short stay at the time of our meeting and has agreed to give us a short update of her research “down under”. This will certainly be of interest to many of us who contributed to her crowd-sourced funding last year.

Our main feature: Last spring Chuck Bragg and Ray Juncosa went on a bird photography trip in central Ecuador. Although many kinds of birds were seen and photographed, the main attraction was the opportunity to use high-speed flash equipment with hummingbirds. This program will explain how that is done with surprisingly little expense, but we will also deal with tanagers, ant pittas, barbets, toucanets, and a visit to an Andean Cock-of-the-Rock lek. Some of you may remember Bragg, who has served as a member of the Board of National Audubon for two terms and, most importantly, as president of SM Bay Audubon…twice! A proud graduate of Stanford, he is not only a fine wordsmith and birder, but a sophisticated photographer and mélomane.

Sparkling Violetear

Sparkling Violetear (C. Bragg)

Our meetings are at Christine Emerson Reed Park, 1133 7th Street. (between 7th St. & Lincoln Blvd., California Ave. & Wilshire Blvd.), Santa Monica. Previously known as Lincoln Park. If you’re coming from outside Santa Monica, exit the #10 Fwy at Lincoln Blvd., turn north  and drive 5 blocks north to Wilshire Blvd.

Link to Google Map
Meeting Room:
Mid-park in Joslyn Hall, accessible from Lincoln Blvd, California Ave. and 7th St.  Its glass wall faces north towards St. Monica Church on California St.  If you’re walking from Lincoln Blvd., it’s located directly behind (west) of the large Miles Playhouse building. Not accessible directly from Wilshire Blvd. Arrive early, enjoy daylight saving time, and admire the newly-relandscaped Reed Park! It was just reopened last month.

This month’s Meeting begins at 7:30 sharp with a little business, then the presentations. Refreshments are served afterward.

Parking: The entire block between Wilshire and California Ave, 7th and Lincoln, on the sides closest to the park, is metered. Meter enforcement ends at 6PM, so free parking for the meeting!  We had almost 50 attendees in February and we know of only two people who couldn’t find parking. However, the local natives are engaged in a survival-of-the-fittest scramble for free parking, so the after-6pm free parking spaces disappear quickly.  We suggest that you arrive no later than 7:15 pm.

If all those spaces are filled, go south of Wilshire, not north of the park, as resident-only permit parking zones abound to the north. The east side of Lincoln Blvd. is also by permit parking only. We found plenty of spaces on 7th St. or Lincoln south of Wilshire. Most of those seem to be “until 6PM” meters also. Wherever you park, please read parking signs carefully and avoid a big fat $40+ parking tick

Meet the Dust Mites, Tiny Roommates That Feast On Your Skin | Deep Look Video

March 21, 2017

You may think that you’ve got the house to yourself, but chances are you have about 100 different types of animals living with you. Many of them are harmless, but a few can be dangerous in ways you wouldn’t expect. New research explores exactly whom you share your home with and how they got there.

This is another installment of the PBS Deep Look series. If no film or link appears in this email, go to the blog to view it by clicking on the blog title above. If the film stops & starts in an annoying manner, press pause (lower left double bars ||) to let it buffer and get ahead of you.  [Chuck Almdale]

Vernal Equinox Part II – Festivals, Goddesses, Sunspot Cycles March 20, 2017

March 19, 2017

This year we report on that other large object in the sky,
known as the sun.

Vernal Festivals
The vernal equinox, by any name, has been a major cultural event around the world for millennia.  Of course, the farther one lives from the equator, the more noticeable are seasonal variations in daylight and warmth, and the more important these events become.  Cultures from around the world – including Japan, China, Iran, Russia, Egypt, Scandinavia, Scotland and throughout the Americas – developed their own festivals celebrating the vernal equinox and the onset of springtime.

The Snake of SunlightMain pyramid, Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico

The Snake of Sunlight — Main pyramid at Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico
(CostinT from

Easter is the best known vernal festival in the western world.
Goddess of the Dawn to the Greeks was Eos (Aurora to the Romans), born of Titan parents, sister to sun-god Helios (Roman Sol Invictus) and moon-goddess Selene (Roman Luna), and mother of the four winds.  The name originates in the ancient Indo-European language, predecessor to nearly all European, Indian and Persian languages, and was Ostara (later Ostern) to the Germans, and Eastre in Old English and Ester in Middle English, from whence we get both East and Easter.  The early Christian church was good at co-opting festivals from other religions and peoples. So, the spring festival of Eos (by whatever local name variation) became Easter, re-configured to memorialize the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Spring festivals typically mark the end of the wintery season of death and the rebirth into spring, when plants bloom and animals bear their young.  The origin of the

Red Easter Eggs symbolize the blood of JesusWikipedia

Red Easter Eggs symbolize the blood of Jesus
(Wikipedia – Easter Eggs)

Easter Egg custom is complex: part obvious fertility symbol, part recognition of the end of Christian Lent (during which eggs were forbidden), part early Mesopotamian Christian symbol for the death of Jesus,  and part empty-shell symbol of the empty tomb of Jesus.  Easter is scheduled for the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox, a formula which indirectly led to Western Europe’s replacement of the Julian Calendar with the Gregorian calendar in 1752.

Sunspot Cycles
The sunspot cycle is driven by cyclic fluctuations in both polarity and strength of the solar magnetic field. On average, these magnetic poles reverse polarity – north magnetic pole becomes south magnetic pole and vice versa –  every 11.1 years, then does it again, for an average total of  22.2 years.  The Sunspot minimum period surrounds this polar flip: for example, current Cycle 24 began 1/4/2008 when at solar 30° north a sunspot appeared with polarity magnetically reversed from existing sunspots, the sign of a polar flip. That year was later ‘voted’ the “blankest year of the space age” – 266 days without a single sunspot, exceeding 1954’s 241 spotless days.  However, solar minima in the late 19th-early 20th centuries often had 200-300 spotless days per year.  Farther back, during the ‘Maunder Minimum’ (cause of Europe’s ‘Little Ice Age”of 1645-1715), only 30 sunspots appeared during one 30-year period.  Sunspot maximums occur roughly midway between minimums.  Current Cycle 24, expected to end in 2019, experienced a ‘double peak’ of spot maximum – 67 sunspots in Sep. 2012, then dropping, only to again peak at 82 spots in Apr. 2014.

For comparison, the earth’s magnetic field flips – not just slide around, but flips north to south – over a wildly varying cycle ranging from 10,000 to 25 million years according to current knowledge. It takes an estimated 5000 years for the magnetic field to wane, flip, and wax, and – we are told – we may be in such a period right now. So keep an eye on your compass – if the needle point suddenly shifts to ‘south,’ or if your car’s GPS system suddenly becomes unreliable, well…don’t say you weren’t warned. And stay out of that ensuing influx of cosmic rays.

Just in case you thought you might escape this without seeing a chart, here’s your chart.

Sunspots – Last 10 cycles
Solar Start at Spots at Years of Date of Spots at
Cycle No. Minimum Minimum Cycle Maximum Maximum
15 Dec 1913 5.6 10.0 Aug 1917 105.4
16 May 1923 3.5 10.1 Apr 1928 78.1
17 Sep 1933 7.7 10.4 Apr 1937 119.2
18 Jan 1944 3.4 10.2 May 1947 151.8
19 Feb 1954 9.6 10.5 Mar 1958 201.3
20 Oct 1964 12.2 11.7 Nov 1968 110.6
21 May 1976 12.3 10.3 Dec 1979 164.5
22 Mar 1986 8.0 9.7 Jul 1989 158.5
23 Jun 1996 1.7 11.7 Mar 2000 120.8
24 Jan 2008 Apr 2014 81.9
All 24 Cycles
1755-2014 Mean 5.8 11.1   114.1

A total eclipse of the sun,
visible over all of North America, occurs August 21, 2017. Partial eclipse on the center line begins on the mainland in Oregon at 16:04 universal time (UT) (9:04 AM PDT) and begins on the South Carolina coast at 17:17 UT (1:17 PM EDT). It takes about 2 hours, 50 minutes from beginning to end, with a maximum of 2 minutes, 40.2 seconds of total eclipse in the middle of two periods of partial eclipse. Length of totality at the Oregon coast is short at 1:58, longest at Carbondale, Ill at 2:40, and is 2:33 when it leaves the South Carolina coast.

Eclipse Links:
NASA – 25 Facts you should know
Earth & Sky – Solar Eclipse Path – Where, when & how to see the eclipse

A total solar eclipse is something everyone should see at least once in their lifetime. It’s not often that you can see the Moon Dragon swallow and disgorge the Sun God. I’ve seen it four times. In my book, a partial eclipse is barely worth the effort of getting out of bed. Go for the centerline of shadow, where totality is maximized, or forget it. If you miss this one, another will be along on April 8, 2024, ranging from 3:22 on the east coast of Maine to 4:27 in southwestern Texas. The next one after that eclipse is on August 23, 2044. [Chuck Almdale]

Total Solar Eclipse in Antarctica (Fred Bruenjes 11/23/03)

Total Solar Eclipse in Antarctica (Fred Bruenjes 11/23/03)

Vernal Equinox March 20, 2017, 3:29 AM, PDT — Part I

March 19, 2017

This year we report on that other large object in the sky, known as the sun.

Our Sun (Alan Friedman ~ 4/22/14, on NASA site)

Not a bad peach, but our Sun – 860,000 miles in diameter, 8 light-minutes away (Alan Friedman ~ 4/22/14, on NASA site)

The first event is the Vernal Equinox, scheduled in Los Angeles for March 20, 2017 at 3:29 AM PDT.  Sunrise: 6:56 am at 89° East, 1 degree north of due east.
Sunset: 7:04 pm at 271 ° West, 1° north of due west
The sum will pass the meridian (north-south line) at 1 pm, at an angle of 56° above due south. Daylight will last 12 hours, 8 minutes and 43 seconds (12:08:43); nighttime is 11:51:17 long.  You will note that these periods of day and night are not equal. Day and night were nearly equal on March 16, with 12:00:11 of daylight.

Definition of the term
Vernal: Of or pertaining to Spring [Latin vernal(is)]
Equinox: When the sun crosses the plane of the earth’s equator [from Latin aequinoctium, the time of equal days and nights].

Equinoctial daytime exceeds nighttime for two reasons
First: Sunrise occurs when the leading (upper) edge of the rising sun first becomes visible above the horizon.  Sunset is when the trailing (not the lower) edge drops below the horizon.  The width of the sun adds about six minutes of daylight.
Second: Refraction of the sun’s rays by the earth’s atmosphere permits us to see the sun both before it has actually risen and after it has actually set, adding several minutes each to sunrise and sunset.  In total, day exceeds night on March 20, 2017 by 17 minutes , 26 seconds.

Spring is Arriving Earlier and Earlier
This is not due to climate change, but to fluctuations in earth’s elliptical orbit, the gravitational pull of the other planets, and the precession of the equinoxes (google that). Although we traditionally expect spring to start on March 21, the last time that happened in the entire United States was in 1980. From 1981 to 2102, the vernal equinox will occur no later than March 20. In 2020, it will start on March 19 for the entire United States. The length of the seasons are changing as well. Spring is currently losing one minute per year to Summer, and Winter is losing 1/2 minute to Autumn. Winter is currently the shortest season at 88.99 days, and is expected to reach its minimum length of 88.71 days around the year 3500. (From Joe Rao)

Seasonal Fluctuation
Because the two equinoxes (vernal and autumnal) mark when the sun crosses the plane of the earth’s equator, these are also the only days of the year when the sun rises exactly in the east and sets exactly in the west.  The earth’s axis (and equatorial plane) is tilted 23.4° with respect to the plane of the earth’s orbit around

Northern Summer (famous artist - name withheld by request)

Northern Summer (famous artist – name withheld by request)

the sun. In the northern summer the earth’s north axial pole tilts towards the sun, the sun’s rays have less insulating atmosphere to filter them, and the northern hemisphere warms up. In the northern winter, the north pole tilts away from

Northern Winter (same famous artist)

Northern Winter (same famous artist)

the sun whose warming rays now must penetrate more atmosphere, and the northern hemisphere cools down.  Seasons are opposite south of the equator.  The closer you are to the equator, the more equal are day and night, summer and winter, warmth and cold.  The temperature extremes of winter and summer are replaced by rainy and dry seasons.

At equinox: right diagram shows earth in distance over top of sun

At equinox: right diagram shows view past top of sun towards earth.

Eastern Sunrise, Western Sunset
Throughout the northern winter and spring, the points of sunrise and sunset move farther and farther north.  The extremes are the Winter Solstice (around December 21), when the sun rises and sets farthest to the south, and the Summer Solstice (around June 21) when they are farthest to the north.  The equinoxes mark the halfway point, when sunrise and sunset are exactly east and west.  Well, not exactly.  On March 18, 2017, the sun rises at 90° – exactly east – at 6:58 AM, and  sets at 270° – exactly west – at 7:03 PM. It also rises and sets exactly east and west on March 19. Well…not exactly, perhaps on either day but a fraction of a degree off from exactly 90° and 270°. But still closer to exact than on March 20.

So make sure you run outside at 3:29 AM on March 20 to witness the vernal equinox, despite the fact that you won’t be able to see anything. Why? Because the sun will be currently eclipsed (by the earth). By the way – the sun doesn’t rise and set. The earth revolves on its axis. But you knew that. [Chuck Almdale]

Part II to follow: Vernal Equinox Festivals, Goddesses,  Sunspot Cycles and an Eclipse

Interesting Links
Space Weather Radio – Meteor echoes & other live sounds from space – March Equinox – Los Angeles sunrise, sunset & day length for March 2017
InfoPlease – A Tale of Two Easters – Current Day and Night map
Heliophysics – A Universal Science
Los Angeles Equinoxes and solstices for 2010–2020

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