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Madrona Marsh Field Trip: 10 December, 8:30 AM (Not Newport)

December 2, 2016

We have changed the field trip to Madrona  Marsh in Torrance (do not go to the Back Bay in Newport Beach). The tide was bad for birding.
Madrona Marsh is very birdy and it’s a lot closer to Santa Monica, so we are changing the field trip.  Some birds recently reported from Madrona are: Ring-necked Duck, Cooper’s Hawk, Eastern Phoebe (a continuing bird), Cassin’s Kingbird, Marsh Wren, Cedar Waxwing; seven warblers including  Black-and-white, Nashville, and Black-throated Gray; seven sparrows including Chipping, Lark, Golden-crowned and Lincoln’s; a variety of finches and introduced finch-like birds including European Goldfinch, Northern Red Bishop, and Scaly-breasted Munia. Many more species are present.

Black=throated Gray Warbler seizes a vermiform (Ray Juncosa 12/12/15)

Black=throated Gray Warbler seizes a vermiform (Ray Juncosa 12/12/15)

Madrona Marsh Preserve is located in Torrance.  Although it lacks a built-in water source, it has a near-permanent pond and when winter and spring rains fall, water accumulates to sustain a “vernal” marsh and provides a resting spot for migrating birds which is probably why people are finding lots of birds there.  It is an easy, level walk.

Meeting time: 8:30 AM in preserve parking lot.
Leader(s): Chuck and Lillian Almdale if more suitable replacement can’t be found.
Questions: Call field trip chair – 310-472-7209
Address: 3201 Plaza del Amo, Torrance, 90505
Directions: San Diego Fwy (I-405) south to Crenshaw Blvd. Proceed south to West Carson Ave, turn right on Carson to Maple Ave, left on Maple to Plaza del Amo, right on Plaza Del Amo and then right into parking lot, opposite the park entrance. Meet in the parking lot. If you arrive early and can’t abide the anticipation of hot birding, the Eastern Phoebe has been hanging around the vicinity of the entrance gate.
Suggestion: Dress in layers, wear hat, bring water and snack.
Friends of Madrona Marsh – includes small map
[Jean Garrett]


Rain-a-fallin’ at Malibu Lagoon, November 27, 2016

December 1, 2016
A panoramic panoply of pelicans (J. Waterman 11-27-16)

A panoramic panoply of pelicans (J. Waterman 11-27-16)

Despite the predicted sixteen percent probability of rain in Malibu, several showers insisted on falling. Raincoats or umbrellas were definitely needed. Scopes and binoculars got wet and I kept expecting my tiny paper checklist to dissolve from the damp. Despite this, We few! We hardy few! We band of birders! had a good morning of birding. More winter migrants have arrived (see list below) and, for excitement, we had an especially tricky time with two particular birds.

Adult White-crowned Sparrow (J. Waterman 11-27-16)

Adult White-crowned Sparrow with pink bill and black-and-white crown. Juveniles have brown two-toned caps. (J. Waterman 11-27-16)

First up was a scaup-type duck, one of the Aythya diving ducks. It had the annoying behavior of spending about two seconds on the surface for every twenty-to-thirty seconds of diving, so just when you re-found it, it dove again. After one or two dozen observations, each lasting a second or less, we generally agreed on a sopping wet Ring-necked Duck.

Ring-necked Duck (J. Waterman 11-27-16)

Ring-necked Duck, Aythya collaris (J. Waterman 11-27-16)

In Joyce’s photos it looks like it might be a male in eclipse plumage, but some on-line research indicates that little molting takes place between wing-molts of August and mid-winter molts. I considered the possibility of Redhead, partially due to this bird’s lack of a bump at the back of the crown, white streak behind the eye or white edging to the bill, but the curved demarcation between back and flanks and the large white bill-ring brought me back to Ring-necked.

Ring-necked Duck (J. Waterman 11-27-16)

Ring-necked Duck (J. Waterman 11-27-16)

Much of the beach had disappeared from the recent storm and was about 25 yards wide at its narrowest. Water level in the lagoon was very high, with probably less than six inches of sand elevation left before it breaks through the berm and empties into the ocean. Between showers a few mullet jumped, but it was nothing like last month’s popcorn-like display.


Cormorants: Brandt’s (L) & Double-crested (R). Note gular pouch color difference, beige in the Brandt’s and yellow-orange in the Double-crested.
(J. Waterman 11-27-16)

Brown Pelican with leg bands (J. Waterman 11-27-16)

Brown Pelican with leg bands. Blue band appears to read “N25” (J. Waterman 11-27-16)

The gull flock – over 90% California Gull – was ever-shifting between lagoon waters and the sandy beach. I counted 1,300 gulls but there could easily have been 1,000 more, as large flocks continually lifted off the sand and water and flew away before we drew close enough to count them.

Great Egret at full stretch, 39" bill-tip to toe-tip<br/>(J. Waterman 11-27-16)

Great Egret at full stretch, 39″ bill-tip to toe-tip
(J. Waterman 11-27-16)

East of the ever-changing gull flock was a small group of terns – all Royal Tern except for two smaller birds, one a Forster’s and the other…well, that was a problem. From a distance, with the birds pointing absolutely directly at us, and no view of their backs or sides or even the bill other than the tip, the two small birds looked very similar. Eventually the “other” bent his head down and we could see that the feathers fringing the crown were the same dark black from eye to eye around the nape. I thought there might be a carpel bar on the wing – or was that just a shadow caused by feather overlapping?

Elegant Tern on a little phone (Chris Tosdevin 11-27-16)

Elegant Tern through the telescope (Chris Tosdevin and his tiny phone 11-27-16)

We finally got past the gulls and studied the bird from the side and back, at which point it became obviously an Elegant with a very pale bill, no carpel bar, and a lot of white on its crown. Elegants become scarce to absent in SoCal winters – only 0.17% of all 10,000 Elegant Tern sightings at the lagoon have been in November. April, in contrast, has 66% of sightings.

Sanderlings (L) and Snowy Plovers (R) get along well, frequently sharing roosting sites (J. Waterman 11-27-16)

Sanderlings (L) and Snowy Plovers (R) get along well, frequently sharing roosting sites (J. Waterman 11-27-16)

We don’t get many Tree Swallows at the lagoon: 279 total birds on 24 visits over 35 years, with two prior November visits by single birds, so when a dozen of them cruised back and forth over the lagoon, we were surprised. It’s very difficult to photograph any small bird in flight; Joyce’s photo, capturing the blue-green glossy back, is quite remarkable.

Tree Swallow with back showing green gloss has dark around the eye. (J. Waterman 11-27-16)

Tree Swallow with back showing green gloss and dark around the eye
(J. Waterman 11-27-16)

 We searched through the horde of Gulls for anything unusual, and found at least one Herring Gull with an extremely bright light eye. [Eye color is an important field mark in gulls who are annoyingly similar despite their numerous plumage changes.] There may have been a few other Herrings, but we kept losing them in the ever-shifting crowd.

Red-tailed Hawk, juvenile ssp calurus (J. Waterman 11-27-16)

Red-tailed Hawk, juvenile ssp calurus
(J. Waterman 11-27-16)

A few of us continued on to Adamson House where we saw a few more passerines here and there, plus about a hundred coots and ducks hiding in the little inlet by the boathouse, sheltering from the blustery wind. The Red-tailed Hawk we’d earlier seen on the wall, atop the cypress and above the lagoon seemed to have captured a male Great-tailed Grackle and was flying around with it clutched in its talons. We then realized it was a large piece of black plastic stuck to one of his feet. Lu Plauzoles thought it might be “sticky plastic,” something people put out to trap unsuspecting mice. Whatever it was, he (the hawk) couldn’t get it off his feet, despite his frequent landing and brushing against limbs, fence lines and brush. If any of our readers lay out such devices, you might reconsider, seeing how much trouble it can cause to raptors who are quite willing to catch and eat your pesky mice for you, a service they will provide free-of-charge to our members and loyal readers.

Say's Phoebe, a winter visitor: a bird on a rainbird in the rain (J. Waterman 11-27-16)

Winter visitor Say’s Phoebe: bird on a rainbird in the rain (J. Waterman 11-27-16)

Female Bushtit has a yellow eye (J. Waterman 11-27-16)

Female Bushtit has a yellow eye
(J. Waterman 11-27-16)

Birds new for the season were: Ring-necked Duck, Bufflehead, Red-breasted Merganser, Red-throated Loon, Horned Grebe, Brandt’s Cormorant, Red-tailed Hawk, Ring-billed Gull, Tree Swallow, Marsh Wren, Western Bluebird, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Brown-headed Cowbird.


House Finch male (J. Waterman 11-27-16)

House Finch male
(J. Waterman 11-27-16)

As always, many thanks to our photographers: Chris Tosdevin and Joyce Waterman.

Our next three scheduled field trips:
  Madrona Marsh, 10 Dec. 8:30am; Butterbredt Spring Christmas Count 17 Dec 8:30am; Malibu Lagoon 8:30 & 10am, 25 Dec.

Our next program: Can you be both a Bird Photographer and a Birder? with Randy Ehler, Tuesday, 6 Dec, 7:30 pm; Chris Reed Park, 1133 7th St., NE corner of 7th and Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica.

Ruddy Turnstones (J. Waterman 11-27-16)

Ruddy Turnstones in winter, probing the wrack (J. Waterman 11-27-16)

NOTE: Our 10 a.m. Parent’s & Kids Birdwalk meets at the shaded viewpoint just south of the parking area. Watch for Willie the Weasel. He’ll be watching for you and your big floppy feet.

NOTE: Our 10 a.m. Parent’s & Kids Birdwalk meets at the shaded viewpoint just south of the parking area. Watch for Willie the Weasel. He’ll be watching for you and your big floppy feet.

Links: Unusual birds at Malibu Lagoon
9/23/02 Aerial photo of Malibu Lagoon
Prior checklists:
2016:   Jan-June                          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

The 10-year comparison summaries created during the project period, despite numerous complaints, remain available on our Lagoon Project Bird Census Page. Very briefly summarized, the results unexpectedly indicate that avian species diversification and numbers improved slightly during the period Jun’12-June’14.     [Chuck Almdale]

Malibu Census 2016 6/26 7/24 8/28 9/25 10/23 11/27
Temperature 68-72 68-76 65-73 70-96 63-70 53-58
Tide Lo/Hi Height L+0.32 L+0.20 H+4.28 H+4.39 L+2.63 H+5.79
Tide Time 0831 0707 0810 0708 1108 0729
Brant 2 1 1 1 1
Gadwall 18 10 6 6 4
American Wigeon 1 10 7
Mallard 30 25 24 35 23 22
Northern Shoveler 6
Northern Pintail 4 3
Green-winged Teal 2
Ring-necked Duck 1
Bufflehead 4
Red-brstd Merganser 1 5
Ruddy Duck 7 26
Red-throated Loon 1
Pied-billed Grebe 2 4 15 18 8
Horned Grebe 1
Eared Grebe 3 6
Western Grebe 1 10 10
Clark’s Grebe 2 1
Blk-vented Shearwater 200
Brandt’s Cormorant 3 3
Dble-crstd Cormorant 35 18 34 38 37 23
Pelagic Cormorant 2 1 2
Brown Pelican 94 39 9 1 30 37
Great Blue Heron 3 3 3 6 3 3
Great Egret 7 4 1 1 2 1
Snowy Egret 6 8 3 8 8 5
Blk-crwnd N-Heron 2
Turkey Vulture 2
Osprey 2 1 2
Cooper’s Hawk 2
Red-tailed Hawk 1 1
Sora 1
American Coot 2 10 95 280 240
Blk-bellied Plover 6 60 70 75 75 73
Snowy Plover 12 24 35 29 12
Semipalmated Plover 4 8 5
Killdeer 8 6 9 29 1 2
Mountain Plover 1
Spotted Sandpiper 3 5 2 1
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Willet 11 30 2 10 20 3
Whimbrel 16 2 1 2 2
Marbled Godwit 1 4 7 10
Ruddy Turnstone 5 9 3 7 14
Sanderling 5 22 72 45
Dunlin 1
Baird’s Sandpiper 5
Least Sandpiper 15 2 4
Western Sandpiper 1 7 6 3
Long-billed Dowitcher 1
Heermann’s Gull 130 12 4 6 15 12
Mew Gull 1
Ring-billed Gull 1 5
Western Gull 120 45 118 45 48 85
California Gull 3 1 27 1200
Herring Gull 1 1
Glaucous-wingd Gull 1
Least Tern 2
Caspian Tern 11 2 2
Common Tern 1
Forster’s Tern 1 3 2 1
Royal Tern 5 3 10 1 19 16
Elegant Tern 110 10 67 2 5 1
Rock Pigeon 23 4 8 17 15 5
Mourning Dove 2 2 2 1
Anna’s Hummingbird 3 1 1 1
Allen’s Hummingbird 1 5 5 1 1 1
Belted Kingfisher 2 2 1 1
American Kestrel 1 1 1
Merlin 1
Peregrine Falcon 1
Nanday Parakeet 3
Pac.-slope Flycatcher 1
Black Phoebe 2 7 3 9 5 5
Say’s Phoebe 2 1  1
Ash-throated Flycatcher 2
Western Kingbird 1
California Scrub-Jay 1 1 3 2 2 4
American Crow 6 3 5 7 7 4
Tree Swallow 12
Rough-wingd Swallow 6 4 4
Cliff Swallow 7 15 4
Barn Swallow 20 20 20 1
Oak Titmouse 1
Bushtit 15 5 27 30 35
House Wren 1 2
Marsh Wren 1
Bewick’s Wren 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 2 8
Western Bluebird 2
Hermit Thrush 1
American Robin 1
Northern Mockingbird 2 2 2 3 1 3
European Starling 10 40 20 17 45
Ornge-crwnd Warbler 1 3 4
Common Yellowthroat 1 4 3 6 5 5
Yellow-rumpd Warbler 10 28
Wilson’s Warbler 1
Spotted Towhee 1 1 1
California Towhee 1 2 1
Savannah Sparrow 2
Song Sparrow 3 3 2 6 4 8
Lincoln’s Sparrow 1
White-crwnd Sparrow 2 25 45
Red-winged Blackbird 15 12 30 1 1
Western Meadowlark 16 3
Great-tailed Grackle 4 20 3 2 17 5
Brwn-headed Cowbird 3
Hooded Oriole 3
Bullock’s Oriole 2 1
House Finch 6 25 6 30 18 9
Lesser Goldfinch 2
Totals by Type Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
Waterfowl 33 44 35 55 50 69
Water Birds – Other 129 262 62 149 382 332
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 18 15 7 15 13 9
Quail & Raptors 3 5 2 4 1 1
Shorebirds 26 158 149 195 215 161
Gulls & Terns 382 74 206 54 118 1321
Doves 23 6 10 19 16 5
Other Non-Passerines 4 5 7 4 6 3
Passerines 86 174 118 140 183 186
Totals Birds 704 743 596 635 984 2087
Total Species Jun Jul 118 Sep Oct Nov
Waterfowl 3 3 3 7 6 7
Water Birds – Other 2 6 6 4 9 11
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 4 3 3 3 3 3
Quail & Raptors 2 3 2 3 1 1
Shorebirds 4 10 14 14 10 8
Gulls & Terns 9 6 8 4 8 8
Doves 1 2 2 2 2 1
Other Non-Passerines 2 1 2 3 4 3
Passerines 15 17 19 21 21 21
Totals Species-111 42 51 59 61 64 63

Caddis Fly Larva Video

November 30, 2016

Here’s an interesting film from Deep Look of a caddis fly larva building and hauling around his pebble home underwater. The home is built with something humans have not yet developed: “tape” that stays sticky underwater.

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]

Holiday “Gift” Table at December Evening Meeting

November 28, 2016

Looking to that special gift? 

Look no farther than our December 6th meeting where we will have a table set up with books, pins, tote bags and other small gift items.   These items have been donated and all we ask is a small donation to be made to the chapter.  Items will be marked with suggested donation amounts.

If you have a few books or other bird related items you would like to add, please bring them.

Anything not taken and that has not been retrieved by the donor, will be donated to another Audubon Chapter that has book sales or to the local Goodwill/Salvation Army store.
[Lillian Johnson]



Evening Meeting: Tuesday, December 6, 7:30 p.m: Can you be both a Bird Photographer and a Birder?

November 27, 2016

Remarks on local birding and local photography by RANDY EHLER

Green Heron. Ballona Wetlands 2016 Randy Ehler

Green Heron. Ballona Wetlands 2016 Randy Ehler

You All know Randy Ehler from our Malibu Lagoon walks. He’s the tall birder who drives up in a bright red Mustang and already has a list of 30 species before anyone else shows up on Sunday mornings. And if you don’t believe that rare sighting, he’ll show you the back of his camera–that’s the little thing behind the huge lens– and you’ll be faced with a crisp image of that rarity.
You’ve also seen nearly a hundred of his photos on our summaries and announcements of field trips.
His statement has the same unpretentious tone as the birder himself:
“I’ve been taking pictures while birding since the first time I went on a bird walk – even before I had my own binoculars. I’ll share how birding has made me a better photographer and how bird photography has made me a better birder. Included will be a discussion of equipment choices, the camera settings I use, and some examples of my bird pictures from the Los Angeles area. And don’t worry – this will not be a geeky technical presentation.”
One-year old Black-crowned Night-Heron (R. Ehlers 6-26-16)

One-year old Black-crowned Night-Heron (R. Ehlers 6-26-16)

 Our meetings return to 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.

Meetings begin at 7:30 sharp with a little business, and then our main presentation. Refreshments are served afterward. Please leave your coyote at home, however much they whine to come.

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 ticket.

[Lu Plauzoles]