Skip to content

Free email delivery

Please sign up for email delivery in the subscription area to the right.
No salesman will call, at least not from us. Maybe from someone else.

Terns & other birds: Malibu Lagoon, 28 May 2023

June 3, 2023

[By Chuck Almdale]

Almost ready for choir practice (Ray Juncosa 5/28/23)

I thought it time to dust off and trot out the annual “June Gloom” epithet, but the Los Angeles Times had a new one the other day — “May Gray” — so I’ll borrow that one, returning it when finished of course.

More terns, probably all Elegant (Ray Juncosa 5/28/23)

Elegant Terns bickering (Chris Tosdevin 5/28/23)

You may notice that the lighting on all these photos is a bit…underwhelming. It’s May Gray! I commented to someone that it’s often warmer in the depths of winter than the 61-62°F we had today. If you look at the bird checklist below you’ll see that both April 23 and Christmas Day of all days were both warmer than today’s “May Gray” day. [Say that rapidly six times.] Another “The sun always shines in sunny sunny sunny California” myth lies twitching in the dust.

New Elegant Terns kept dropping in (Ray Juncosa 5/28/23)

I think it must have been the Memorial Day weekend that brought so many birders out, about twice as many as I expected: faces new and faces unseen for many a month. All were welcome. Too bad the species count was a bit impoverished, as is typical for May, when most of the wintering birds are gone and the migrants have already passed through. Here’s the numbers for the past ten Mays, working backwards starting from 5/28/23: 44, 39, 44, 32, 33, 41, 30, 41, 48 and 55 on 5/25/14, for an average of 41 species. So today was slightly better than average for May.

It’s possible the two upper left terns are Royal as their bills seem a little thick. (Chris Tosdevin 5/28/23)

What we did have was a sufficiency of terns. That’s a new “collective noun of the venery” I just made up. The “official” phrase is “A committee of terns,” first used quite recently in 2014. See our blog from 4/1/22 “A Cornucopia of Collective Nouns of the Venery,” which contains links to two lists; one of them has all 934 avian collective nouns, doubly alphabetized, the other has only the really old ones. You can print them off, then whip them out at the next party you attend and cite from them ad nauseam — it’s guaranteed to win you friends and influence people.

The same Royal Tern a split-second apart. Does the bill seem thicker that those of the birds in the photo above? The dark eye and nape fringe are definitely Royal. (Chris Tosdevin 5/28/23)

Elegant Terns are just so…elegant!

— Abigail King, SMBAS founding member

This pair can’t even wait until they get to their nesting grounds. (Chris Tosdevin 5/28/23)

Finally, something that not an Elegant Tern; at 13.5″ long it’s the smallest gull we get at Malibu Lagoon. This gull is named not for Bonaparte the Emperor of France, but for his nephew Charles Lucien Jules Laurent Bonaparte, naturalist and resident of the United States, considered the father of American systematic ornithology.

Bonaparte’s Gull stops by on its way to breed in Alaska or Canada, not quite into breeding (alternate) plumage. (Chris Tosdevin 5/28/23)

The Double-crested Cormorants and a few egrets are breeding across the street in the shopping center. This Double-crested Cormorant below is pretty young; note the pale brown colors on breast and belly.

Double-crested Cormorant (Ray Juncosa 5/28/23)

The Great Egret below is currently breeding, as the facial skin is green.

Great Egret, breeding (Ray Juncosa 5/28/23)

Great Blue Heron, getting ready to leap into the air (Chris Tosdevin 5/28/23)

Four of the five Canada Geese present. They’ve been breeding at the lagoon on the sandy brushy islands for at least the past three years. One pair this year, but there were three pairs one year. (Left: Ray Juncosa; Right: Chris Tosdevin, 5/28)

Quiz time! What species are the two birds below, both seen today at the lagoon? They may be same or different species. Answer below the trip list.

Chris Tosdevin both photos, 5/28/23

Our one and only shorebird species today, the Killdeer, which breeds at the lagoon. (Chris Tosdevin 5/28/23)

Birds new for the Season: Eurasian Collared-Dove, Bonaparte’s Gull, Dark-eyed Junco, Wilson’s Warbler.

Male Allen’s Hummingbird. When the light isn’t at the proper angle, the structural colors of the gorget disappear. (Chris Tosdevin 5/28/23)

Malibu Lagoon on eBird as of 6-03-23: 6895 lists, 319 species

Many thanks to photographers: Ray Juncosa & Chris Tosdevin

Young Heermann’s Gulls were the third most common species at the lagoon today.
(Chris Tosdevin 5/28/23)

Upcoming SMBAS scheduled field trips:

  • Mt. Piños Birds & Butterflies; Uncertain, Sat Jun 17, 8am. Call/email if coming.
  • Malibu Lagoon, Sun Jun 25, 8:30 am. No reservations or Covid card required.
  • Malibu Lagoon, Sun Jul 23, 8:30 am. No reservations or Covid card required.
  • Malibu Lagoon, Sun Aug 27, 8:30 am. No reservations or Covid card required.
  • These and any other trips we announce for the foreseeable future will depend upon expected status of the Covid/flu/etc. pandemic at trip time. Any trip announced may be canceled shortly before trip date if it seems necessary. By now any other comments should be superfluous.
  • Link to Programs & Field Trip schedule.

It may look like a weird Red-winged Blackbird, but it’s a juvenile Black Phoebe. (Chris Tosdevin 5/28/23)

The next SMBAS Zoom program: TBA. Tuesday, 3 Oct. 2023, 7:30 p.m.

The SMBAS 10 a.m. Parent’s & Kids Birdwalk restarted April 23. Reservations for groups (scouts, etc.) necessary, but not for families.

Song Sparrow (Chris Tosdevin 5/28/23)

Links: Unusual birds at Malibu Lagoon
9/23/02 Aerial photo of Malibu Lagoon
More recent aerial photo

Prior checklists:
2021: Jan-JulyJuly-Dec 2022: Jan-June, July-Dec
2020: Jan-JulyJuly-Dec  2019: Jan-June, July-Dec  
2018: Jan-June, July-Dec  2017: Jan-June, July-Dec
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

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

Many thanks to Femi Faminu, Chris Lord, Ruth & Chris Tosdevin and others for their contributions to this month’s checklist.

The species lists below is irregularly re-sequenced to agree with the California Bird Records Committee Official California Checklist as updated 4 Feb 2023. If part of the chart’s right side is hidden, there’s a slider button at the bottom of the list.
[Chuck Almdale]

Malibu Census 2022-2312/251/222/263/264/235/28
Tide Lo/Hi HeightH+6.59H+6.81L+0.81L+0.28L-.041L+0.81
 Tide Time095008580911080006371131
1Canada Goose 42645
1Cinnamon Teal  1   
1Northern Shoveler  7   
1American Wigeon8 4   
1Green-winged Teal3815265  
1Redhead   3  
1Surf Scoter3162232
1Common Goldeneye 2    
1Hooded Merganser51    
1Red-breasted Merganser7632  
1Ruddy Duck42 8   
2Pied-billed Grebe52112 
2Horned Grebe1     
2Eared Grebe5     
2Western Grebe1840806 
7Feral Pigeon6165618
7Eurasian Collared-Dove     2
7Mourning Dove  2122
8White-throated Swift   5  
8Anna’s Hummingbird21  1 
8Allen’s Hummingbird 23321
2American Coot1303873376 
5Black-bellied Plover5143623  
5Semipalmated Plover    14 
5Snowy Plover 1616 1 
5Marbled Godwit2318172  
5Ruddy Turnstone263   
5Dunlin    2 
5Least Sandpiper192227 19 
5Western Sandpiper4   30 
6Bonaparte’s Gull     3
6Heermann’s Gull85273380152
6Short-billed Gull  1   
6Ring-billed Gull5536404612012
6Western Gull684938265072
6California Gull45013302379560 
6Herring Gull 212  
6Glaucous-winged Gull 74   
6Caspian Tern   2 2
6Royal Tern 21413 3
6Elegant Tern   90630305
6Black Skimmer  3   
2Red-throated Loon 1 1  
2Pacific Loon   11 
2Common Loon   21 
2Brandt’s Cormorant  1 128
2Pelagic Cormorant161233
2Double-crested Cormorant623667265374
2American White Pelican  1   
2Brown Pelican15834315962655168
3Great Blue Heron52 2 1
3Great Egret322212
3Snowy Egret35166213
3Black-crowned Night-Heron1     
3White-faced Ibis  1   
4Turkey Vulture11551 
4Osprey   111
4Cooper’s Hawk  1   
4Red-tailed Hawk3 122 
8Belted Kingfisher 1    
8Nuttall’s Woodpecker 1    
4American Kestrel1     
4Peregrine Falcon    1 
9Cassin’s Kingbird1 11  
9Pacific-slope Flycatcher    1 
9Black Phoebe233216
9Say’s Phoebe  1   
9California Scrub-Jay11    
9American Crow31127643
9Common Raven 212 2
9Northern Rough-winged Swallow  2665
9Barn Swallow   141530
9Cliff Swallow  243254
9Wrentit21  11
9Ruby-crowned Kinglet121   
9Cedar Waxwing   12  
9Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1    
9House Wren 1  2 
9Marsh Wren 1    
9Bewick’s Wren   1  
9Northern Mockingbird    1 
9European Starling 69 23
9Hermit Thrush 1    
9House Finch16965713
9Lesser Goldfinch 410525
9Dark-eyed Junco     1
9White-crowned Sparrow16122512  
9Song Sparrow 455710
9California Towhee133153
9Hooded Oriole    11
9Red-winged Blackbird812 2 4
9Brown-headed Cowbird    13
9Great-tailed Grackle   642
9Orange-crowned Warbler1 1311
9Common Yellowthroat12431 
9Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s)15627  
9Townsend’s Warbler1     
9Wilson’s Warbler     1
Totals by TypeDecJanFebMarAprMay
2Water Birds – Other363434343212739253
3Herons, Egrets & Ibis44209626
4Quail & Raptors617851
6Gulls & Terns6581453341277940549
8Other Non-Passerines253831
 Totals Birds1460227611707531915968
 Total SpeciesDecJanFebMarAprMay
2Water Birds – Other878994
3Herons, Egrets & Ibis433323
4Quail & Raptors413341
6Gulls & Terns479857
8Other Non-Passerines141221
Totals Species – 107556164605644

Photo Quiz Answer: Left – Black Phoebe, Right – Northern Rough-winged Swallow.
Among other differences, the swallow’s wings are nearly as long at the tail; not so with the phoebe.

Support the Bill to Create Native Habitats!🌿

May 28, 2023

Support the Bill to Create Native Habitats!🌿

[Posted by Chuck Almdale]
Editor’s Note: This notice from Pasadena Audubon Society arrived in our email. We think it worthwhile to pass on to our members and readers, but its appearance may be odd because the PAS formatting doesn’t exactly match our WordPress server formatting. It can take hours (for me) to get these problems eliminated, so after some minor tinkering with it, I’m posting it as it is.

🚨Call to Action!📞🚨
We just learned from our friends at California Native Plant Society that AB 1573 may be up for a floor vote soon, and currently, it’s scheduled for a discussion. Now is the perfect time to urge our Assembly members to vote “YES”!

What is AB 1573? 

“Introduced by Assembly member Laura Friedman (D-44), Assembly Bill 1573 is a transformative bill that would create California’s first requirement for the use of native plants in public and commercial landscapes. The bill creates a phased on ramp over the next decade to convert non-functional turf to California native plants, giving our industry partners plenty of time to prepare. Passage of this bill would put California’s government and commercial landscapes to work on behalf of biodiversity, giving imperiled pollinators a fighting chance.

Imagine native plants in front of your pharmacy and grocery store, in traffic medians, and surrounding your children’s schools. This beautiful picture can become a reality with your help!– Liv O’Keeffe, CNPS Senior Director, Public Affairs

This Bill could be a HUGE step forward in creating more native habitats for our feathered friends to survive and thrive while supporting biodiversity! Please take a few minutes to help pass this crucial bill that could change the future of the birds! Here is what you can do: Find your Assembly member. Contact the office and let them know that you support AB 1573 and you strongly urge them to say “Yes” to pass this Bill! Here is the template. You can learn more about the benefits of native plants on our website! Thank you for speaking up for our feathered friends! 🐥
Are you passionate about making our communities more bird-friendly? Birds need our advocacy more than ever to survive and thrive. Please contact our Advocacy and Conservation Committee to join our conservation efforts! Report Bird Collisions:

Each year between 365 million and 1 billion birds die from collisions with windows across the United States. Visit National Audubon Society or American Bird Conservancy to learn more about the issue and tips for making windows bird-safe. 

Photo: Mountain Chickadee by Karen Schneider
Get involved! Interested in volunteering? Please fill out this volunteering interest form! There are many ways to support PAS conservation, education, and outreach efforts. Support PAS  
Join the PAS list for event reminders, field trip reports, and local bird chat.

Not yet a member? Go to Pasadena Audubon membership
We’d love to hear from you! Tag @pasadenaaudubon on Instagram or join our Facebook Group to share your bird photos! Photo credit: Nelson’s Hairstreak (butterfly), Red-whiskered Bulbul, Western Screech-Owl, and the Birders by Luke Tiller; California Towhee by Chris Spurgeon; Black Swift and Common Murre by Luke Tiller; Channel Islands from  
Copyright © 2022   Pasadena Audubon Society, All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email as a member or friend of Pasadena Audubon Society.

Our mailing address is:
Pasadena Audubon Society
1750 North Altadena Drive
Pasadena, CA 91107

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.


Malibu Lagoon: Sunday, 28 May 2023, 8:30am

May 25, 2023

[Posted by Chuck Almdale]

Optical illusion – this yawning Brown Pelican isn’t really trying to swallow that passing gull (G. Murayama 2-16-17)

It’s ALWAYS the 4th (not the last!) Sunday of the month.
Starting June this trip will be announced only once, 1-5 days before trip.

Same as last month: No reservations, no Covid card checks.

Rules for Malibu Lagoon trip

  • Masks not required; feel free to wear one whenever you want.
  • Bring your own binoculars & telescope if you have them.
  • We do have loaner binos but they don’t always show up in time to hand out.
  • Participation in social activities, such as field trips, comes with an inherent risk of exposure to infectious disease. Prospective participants should self-evaluate or discuss with their doctor if their participation merits this risk. If you’re sick or experiencing any symptoms that indicate you might be sick, STAY HOME.
  • The 10am Children & Parents Walk is reinstated. Call Jean Garrett (424)-248-3801
  • For general questions contact Chuck: misclists[AT]

Pelicans and cormorants (L. Johnson 5-22-22)

Weather: Dress in layers. Temp: 58-61°, Wind: S 8-10mph, rain: 0%
Tide – dropping: High: +3.46 ft. @ 4:33am, Low: +0.81 @ 11:31am

A few wintering birds remain, the migrants continue to come through and our nesting birds will be so busy they’ll hardly notice you.

Some of the great birds we’ve had in May are:
Brant, Pelagic Cormorant, Green Heron, Whimbrel, Bonaparte’s Gull, Royal, Least, Forster’s, Royal & Elegant Terns, White-throated Swift, Anna’s & Allen’s Hummingbirds, Pacific Slope Flycatcher, Common Raven,  Violet-Green, Barn and Cliff Swallows, Bushtit, Bewick’s Wren, Cedar Waxwing, Spotted Towhee, Red-winged Blackbird, Hooded and Bullock’s Orioles.

If you arrive early you may perchance to espy, as ’twas spoke in 1452, a congregacyon of plouers.

Adult Walk 8:30 a.m., 4th Sunday of every month.  Beginner and experienced, 2-3 hours.  Species range from 35 in June to 60-75 during migrations and winter.  We move slowly and check everything as we move along.  When lagoon outlet is closed we may 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. Bring your birding questions.

Children and Parents Walk, 10:00 a.m., 4th Sunday of every month: One hour session, meeting at the metal-shaded viewing area 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 Jean (424-248-3801) to make sure we have enough binoculars and docents.)

Ducks in different sizes.Two Males: Mallard (23″ long) & Green-winged Teal (14.5″) (Grace Murayama 2-24-19)

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. We gather in the metal-shaded area near the parking lot. Look around for people wearing binoculars.
Parking: Parking machine 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 signs carefully) on either of 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 (i.e. they tow cars).

Link to trip report: May 22, 2022.

Prior checklists:
2021: Jan-July
July-Dec 2022: Jan-June, July-Dec
2020: Jan-JulyJuly-Dec  2019: Jan-June, July-Dec  
2018: Jan-June, July-Dec  2017: Jan-June, July-Dec
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

[Written & posted by Chuck Almdale]

Mixology: Breaking Down 5 Common Birdseed Blends | Audubon Magazine

May 24, 2023

With all the products available these days, sometimes the jargon and claims can get confusing. Here’s a quick primer.

Audubon Magazine | Kevin Dupzyk | Spring 2023

[Posted by Chuck Almdale]

Top Left: Bird-excluding; Center: No-mess; Top Right: Bird-specific;
Bottom Left: Anti-squirrel; Bottom Right: High-energy.
Photos: Luke Franke/Audubon

Link to article from which this was adapted and shortened.

These are some of the varieties of seed mixes available. If you know what birds and animals you want and don’t want, buying the right mix will help get you to your goal. Quality and price varies. When available, check the reviews.

Bird-Excluding (top left) 
Starlings can’t crack open sunflower seeds. They do like safflower and milo which are usually included in these mixes, so you might be better off with a feeder that excludes starlings.

No Mess (center) 
No shells, no filler (such as red milo), everything is eaten; no mess, costs more.

Bird-Specific (top right)  
Finches, goldfinches and siskins love Nyjer seeds. These mixes are often made for sock and mesh feeders which finches love to hang from while eating.

Anti-Squirrel (bottom left) 
Coated with chili-pepper that birds can’t taste but irritates squirrels. Effectiveness varies, check reviews. You might also need a squirrel-proof feeder (if one is ever invented) or a squirrel baffle.

High-Energy (bottom right) 
Often called “winter blends” with lots of ingredients high in fat or protein: nuts, insects, high-oil seeds, even suet.

Will Steelhead return to Malibu Creek? | KCRW Radio

May 17, 2023

[Posted by Chuck Almdale]

Steelhead Trout. Source: KCRW – Malibu Creek Steelhead

This 9-minute audio was broadcast on KCRW’s Greater LA report today, 17 May 2023.
This link takes you to both the audio recording and KCRW’s text.

Featured on the audio is local fish expert Rosi Dagit, who in 1998 discovered Steelhead Trout in Topanga Creek, much to everyone’s utter disbelief. Then in 2017, below Rindge Dam in Malibu Creek, she discovered a female Steelhead trying to head upstream to spawn. To her great sadness the Steelhead expired despite her attempts to save it.

Beginning over 30 years ago and continuing for 10-15 years, I attended an seemingly-unending series of discussions concerning Malibu Creek and Lagoon, under the auspices of the unwieldy-named Malibu Creek Watershed Advisory Council and Steering Committee. It was fun, frustrating and enlightening.

One of the reports it produced was the 1995 Malibu Creek Watershed Natural Resources Plan which came up with 44 action items over which I sweated blood for a few weeks. Out of all this work and conferring came the 2012 Lagoon Restoration (I call it reconfiguration), which people including me still praise and blame. Many problems we discussed then still exist.

Link to watershed maps.

Rindge Dam, aerial photo, 3 miles upstream of Malibu Lagoon.
ScreenSnip Source: CalTrout – Rindge Dam

Among them is the problem of Rindge Dam, located about 3 miles up Malibu Creek. The short summation of problems: 100 years old and 100 ft. high, impassible by fish, now filled to the brim with estimated 780,000 cubic yards of sediment, residents downstream worry about a flood of sediment should the dam come down quickly, the sediment provides lateral support for canyon walls, dam removal might cause canyon walls and Malibu Canyon Road to collapse.

This Rindge Dam film from California Trout mentions how “restored sediment transport supports a healthy beach and prevents erosion,” an opinion with which I and I’m sure all surfers will agree. But if that is true, perhaps at least some of the 780,000 cubic yards of sediment behind the dam should be removed by letting it flow downstream through a paced reduction of dam height, allowing the creek to erode the silt and carry it away naturally and gradually. The current plan calls for hauling all the sediment away in trucks.

I have a suggestion.

If it’s going to take ten years to accomplish this removal, as the film suggests, perhaps instead of waiting 8-9 years before beginning the project and doing all the work in 1-2 years, they could cut a V-shaped notch 1-5 feet deep in the top of the dam now and allow the creek to carry the silt away gradually. When sufficient sediment has flowed away, cut the notch a foot or two deeper and wider. Over 10 years you could do this every three months or 40 times total, cutting the notch 2.5 feet deeper (on average) each time. After 10 years, the silt is gone. It has flowed down to the beach and offshore sand reefs where it now “supports a healthy beach and prevents erosion” and you can pull the remaining concrete dam down as it’s no longer impeding or supporting anything. If the sediment doesn’t flow away quickly enough, then use trucks.

We could have started this 20-30 years ago, and the whole project might now be 10 years in the rear-view mirror.

Just a suggestion.

A typical dump truck like the one above holds 10-14 cubic yards (270-378 cu.ft.). A typical cubic yard of dirt weighs 2200 lbs. and of gravel 3000 lbs. 780,000 cubic yards equals: 858,000-1,170,000 tons of sediment, or 2,060-2,890 truckloads (like the truck above) to haul away.
Source: Lynch Truck Center

There are reasons why this problem and discussion has continued for decades.

%d bloggers like this: