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Malibu Lagoon Trip Report, Picnic & Jan-June Bird Lists: 27 June, 2010

June 30, 2010

Surf – and the surfers – was definitely up as storms off Baja and New Zealand sent us large swells, and few birds were in the surf zone or offshore as a result. Although June is typically our lowest point for bird diversity and numbers, there were loads of Brown Pelicans resting in the lagoon, accompanied by an assortment of gulls and terns. Fortunately, before the arguing got too fierce, 4 Elegant Terns dropped in among the 2 Royals, 9 Caspians and 5 Black Skimmers to provide some comparison of bill shape, head plumage and size. Yes, that Royal is are almost as big as a Caspian, and that Elegant’s bill is quite long, thin and curved. This time of year, when feathers begin to molt from breeding back to basic plumage, the pictures in your field guide aren’t entirely reliable, but the black eye of the Royal Tern is almost separate from its black “crest”.

Royal Tern group (C.Almdale 2/10)

Many swallows – mostly Barn and Cliff with a few No. Rough-winged tossed in – were in the air demonstrating why they’re higher up the “food chain” than the various insects who otherwise find the reed beds and channels a wonderful place to live. Barn Swallows build their nests under local eaves and the footbridges across the lagoon; the Cliffs adhere their mud nests to the sides of the buildings in the mall and the civic center; the Rough-winged dig tunnel nests in sandy banks, a resource not abundant on lower Malibu Creek.

The Heron/Egret colony in the big tree in the shopping center across PCH seems to be doing well – much to the annoyance of neighbor Starbucks, it is rumored – as there were over 20 such birds stalking the grasses and mud banks of the lagoon. It’s always useful to remember that it was the looming extinction of these plumy birds over a century ago which provided the initial spark for the creation of the Audubon Society. Fortunately for them, women’s tastes in hats changed, and demand for the birds plumes collapsed.

A surprise visitor was a single Downy Woodpecker in the dying trees near the first footbridge. Our two previous sightings at the lagoon were also of single birds: Jan. 2006 and Feb. 2009.

Adrian examines large globules (L.Johnson 6/10)

A bit more common were the Brants: we’ve seen them three out of the previous four Junes, but these sighting s were of single birds, certainly not the 11 birds now there, an all-time high for the lagoon. Whether this number indicates anything significant or is only an  anomaly is unknown to me.

After the walk ended we sat down to our annual potluck picnic: lots of salads, main courses and delicious desserts. The sounds of serious chomping ensued. Our bird book exchange managed to re-distribute some interesting and attractive books along with fresh grapefruits.  Thank you to everyone who came and brought all the food.  You could tell how good it was by noting the lack of leftovers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!      [Chuck Almdale]

Link to bird lists for Jan-June 2009 and  July – Dec 2009,

Malibu 2010 Census Jan Feb Mar Apr May June
Temperature 45-65 55-61 68-80 62-70 54-62 65-75
Tide Height +.65 +6.19 +5.48 +4.57 +3.76 +3.81
Low/High & Time L:1131 H:0835 H:0840 H:0744 H:0638 H:1139
(Black) Brant 3 7 11
Gadwall 20 35 16 12 12 4
American Wigeon 12 14
Mallard 10 13 12 20 18 40
Northern Shoveler 4 8
Green-winged Teal 7 2 1
Lesser Scaup 1
Surf Scoter 35 4 18
Long-tailed Duck 1
Bufflehead 6
Red-brstd Merganser 8 5 1 3
Ruddy Duck 30 14 7
Red-throated Loon 1 1
Pacific Loon 1 1 5 4 5
Common Loon 1 3
Pied-billed Grebe 1 1 2 2
Horned Grebe 1
Eared Grebe 3
Western Grebe 15 6 27 35 1
Brown Pelican 35 81 184 182 124 205
Brandt’s Cormorant 1 2 2
Dble-crstd Cormorant 42 21 42 22 7 5
Pelagic Cormorant 1 1 1 1
Great Blue Heron 2 2 2 6
Great Egret 3 3 2 2 2 2
Snowy Egret 15 4 7 13 12 14
Blk-crwnd N-Heron 1 6
Red-shouldered Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1 3 2 1
Peregrine Falcon 2 1
Sora 1 1 1 1
American Coot 284 175 92 35 8 5
Blk-bellied Plover 45 59 25 7
Snowy Plover 54 49 25
Semipalmated Plover 1 13
Killdeer 4 1 4 4 2
Black Oystercatcher 2
American Avocet 2 2
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Willet 15 15 4 1
Spotted Sandpiper 4 2 1 3
Whimbrel 2 3 5 1
Marbled Godwit 4 17 12 4
Ruddy Turnstone 13 11 2 2
Surfbird 3
Sanderling 85 172
Least Sandpiper 21 14 30
Boneparte’s Gull 2 5
Heermann’s Gull 5 7 4 45 17 17
Ring-billed Gull 55 42 2 4 2 7
California Gull 875 45 27 108 95
Western Gull 45 74 48 105 68 61
Glaucous-wingd Gull 6 3 1 1
Caspian Tern 2 30 25 9
Royal Tern 12 32 1 2
Elegant Tern 1 1 47 40 9 4
Forster’s Tern 1
Black Skimmer 6 5 5
Rock Pigeon 8 4 4 4 6 4
Mourning Dove 2 2 6 6 4
Anna’s Hummingbird 3 3 3 2 1 2
Allen’s Hummingbird 2 3 3 3 6
Downy Woodpecker 1
Black Phoebe 4 5 6 10 10 2
Say’s Phoebe 1 1
Western Scrub-Jay 1
American Crow 5 4 4 4 4 4
Rough-wingd Swallow 1 3 10 1 6
Cliff Swallow 2 12 30
Barn Swallow 2 8 40
Oak Titmouse 1
Bushtit 4 5 4 6 4 4
Bewick’s Wren 2 1 1
Northern Mockingbird 2 3 2 2 4 2
European Starling 35 41 8 4 3 65
Cedar Waxwing 20 32
Yellow-rumpd Warbler 8 4 5 2
Common Yellowthroat 3 1 1 1
Wilson’s Warbler 1
Spotted Towhee 1 1 4
California Towhee 2 1 3 1 1
Song Sparrow 3 6 8 12 10 3
White-crwnd Sparrow 4
Red-winged Blackbird 3 2 1 4 55
Western Meadowlark 1
Great-tailed Grackle 1
Brwn-headed Cowbird 2 1 1 2
Hooded Oriole 1
Bullock’s Oriole 1 1
House Finch 12 3 6 6 6 4
Lesser Goldfinch 4 2 2
Totals by Type Jan Feb Mar Apr May June
Waterfowl 134 73 70 38 37 62
Water Birds-Other 386 289 354 284 148 217
Herons, Egrets 20 7 12 15 16 28
Quail & Raptors 4 3 2 0 1 1
Shorebirds 251 328 87 73 5 2
Gulls & Terns 1006 209 133 339 216 105
Doves 10 4 6 10 12 8
Other Non-Pass. 5 6 6 5 7 3
Passerines 90 81 53 92 106 220
Totals Birds 1906 1000 723 856 548 646
Total Species Jan Feb Mar Apr May June
Waterfowl 11 6 7 4 3 4
Water Birds-Other 12 9 8 9 7 4
Herons, Egrets 3 2 4 2 3 4
Quail & Raptors 3 1 1 0 1 1
Shorebirds 12 9 9 11 2 1
Gulls & Terns 9 8 8 9 6 7
Doves 2 1 2 2 2 2
Other Non-Pass. 2 2 2 2 2 2
Passerines 16 15 14 18 19 15
Totals Species – 91 70 53 55 57 45 40
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