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Malibu Lagoon Field Trip Report: 28 November, 2010

November 29, 2010

You can predict surf conditions by counting cars parked on Pacific Coast Hwy. There were none: as a result, the sea was flat. One lonely surfer was zipped up and heading out. The lagoon, however, was filled with birds, if not with water. “Rumor” has it that a few weeks back, local surfers breached the beach with the usual midnight shovel brigade. The water ran out, exposing lots of mud and gravel and providing a large area for the gulls to rest away from the usually crowded beach. Most of the time, most of the birds come to the lagoon to rest and – just like humans – don’t like to be bothered when resting. Imagine you are a bird, lying on the ground, trying to get some shut-eye, and enormous bipeds, weighing about 200 times what you do, keep lumbering by. Even if they mean you no harm (most don’t), they don’t seem to pay much attention to where they’re going and they’ll step right on you if you let them. Ah well…

Cool, crisp, clear, a light breeze. We never took our jackets off. We went over by the highway bridge to check out the huge flock of gulls lounging on the gravel and bathing in the water. They were mostly Ring-bill and California with a scattering of Western and Heermann’s, plus two Bonaparte’s and a single first year Mew Gull. We rarely get Mew at the lagoon, although they can be found in good numbers near the sewer outfall at Dockweiler St. Beach. Does this mean that the lagoon has better water quality than our county’s main sewer outfall? Upstream of the bridge, we could see Ruddy Ducks, Buffleheads and a single Lesser Scaup, all busily diving. Even further upstream, the trees held eight Black-crowned Night-Herons, both adult and immature, while a Green Heron prowled the riverbank below.

Virginia Rail (J. Waterman 11/28/10)

Pausing by a reed-bed en route back to the beach trail, we happened on an active Marsh Wren, accompanied by a Black Phoebe, a Sora, and a defiant Virginia Rail. It took about 10 minutes, but finally the entire group managed to get decent looks at this elusive little migrant, all stripy and rufous (see picture). Further along we found a Say’s Phoebe, hovering over the pickleweed, probably here for the winter. We also turned up another 6 Soras, scattered over 4 different reed beds.

The migrant passerines have mostly left; the wintering birds are arriving. An Osprey has been hanging around for a few days; the various ducks and shorebirds probably keep an eye on him in case he decides to add bird to his usual diet of fish. The duck population jumped up to 108 birds/10 species from October’s 28 birds/5 species. Offshore we found a Pacific and a Common Loon just outside the kelp bed near the rocks, as well as one Pelagic Cormorant and small flotillas of Surf Scoters and Western Grebes. Sanderlings swarmed over the kelp washed up at water’s edge , accompanied by a dozen Ruddy Turnstones and a single Black Turnstone, away from his usual preferred rocky shoreline.

"I'm a Vegan, that's why I'm eating it!" (Sora, by J.Waterman 11/28/10)

A lot of Snowy Plovers were roosting in the beach footprints, unlike October, when they had fled from the high tides. Snowies usually move to the water’s edge or the wrack line when the tide recedes from high and their invertebrate food is more plentiful. The rest of the time they roost in small depressions in the sand, and occasionally chase one another. We counted 58 individuals (there were 63 on Thanksgiving Day), including one bird banded Left: aqua over yellow; Right: aqua over aqua. Point Reyes Bird Observatory informs us that this bird was banded at Salinas National Wildlife Refuge and fledged from there in July, 2010. [If you have ever wondered about Snowy Plovers and why SMBAS is so interested in them, you should listen to PRBO’s brief  podcast entitled “Snowy Plover Conservation.” You can find information on their “Snowy Plover Soap Opera” at the same web location.]

We created another blog especially for Unusual Birds at Malibu Lagoon, which will be a permanent location for pictures of our uncommon birds (such as Joyce Waterman’s Virginia Rail photo above). For prior period bird lists, follow these links to Jan-Jun‘10, Jul-Dec‘09, and Jan-June‘09.    [Chuck Almdale]

Malibu Census – 2010 25-Jul 22-Aug 26-Sep 24-Oct 28-Nov
Temperature 60-67 68-75 70-79 60-65 55-65
Tide Height +4.05 +4.32 +5.54 +6.02 +2.59
Low/High & Time H:1036 H:0933 H:1055 H:0952 L:0842
(Black) Brant 6 5 5
Gadwall 20 2 6
American Wigeon 1 1 14
Mallard 49 55 48 10 18
Northern Shoveler 4 8 10
Northern Pintail 6
Green-winged Teal 7
Lesser Scaup 1
Surf Scoter 15
Bufflehead 6
Red-brstd Merganser 5
Ruddy Duck 3 5 15 7 26
Pacific Loon 1
Common Loon 1
Pied-billed Grebe 5 9 18 3 2
Horned Grebe 1
Eared Grebe 2 5 6
Western Grebe 4 6 16
Brown Pelican 187 163 46 40 40
Dble-crstd Cormorant 20 30 38 15 37
Pelagic Cormorant 1
Great Blue Heron 6 6 5 3 7
Great Egret 4 4 6 2 4
Snowy Egret 14 19 14 2 31
Green Heron 1 1 1
Blk-crwnd N-Heron 4 7 10 6 8
Osprey 1 1
Cooper’s Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1 1
American Kestrel 1 1
Merlin 1
Sora 1 1 1 7
Virginia Rail 1
American Coot 15 28 230 100 206
Blk-bellied Plover 55 78 100 110
Snowy Plover 26 44 62 58
Semipalmated Plover 6 11
Killdeer 3 3 1 5
Willet 7 10 56 26 2
Spotted Sandpiper 1 2 3 2
Whimbrel 48 8 17 2
Long-billed Curlew 1
Marbled Godwit 22
Ruddy Turnstone 3 3 10 5 13
Black Turnstone 8 1
Sanderling 4 30 20 290
Western Sandpiper 20 4 28
Least Sandpiper 2 4 14 7
Pectoral Sandpiper 1
Short-billd Dowitcher 1
Long-billed Dowitcher 30
Wilson’s Phalarope 1
Boneparte’s Gull 5
Heermann’s Gull 125 62 68 41 37
Mew Gull 1
Ring-billed Gull 4 30 97 800
California Gull 1 3 22 8 500
Herring Gull 1
Western Gull 80 66 73 52 130
Glaucous-wingd Gull 1
Caspian Tern 13 13
Royal Tern 2 2 1 2
Elegant Tern 10 45 40 4
Common Tern 8
Forster’s Tern 5 6 5
Least Tern 36
Black Tern 1
Black Skimmer 35 103
Rock Pigeon 6 4 12 45 6
Mourning Dove 4 3 2 1 2
Anna’s Hummingbird 1 2 2 10 3
Allen’s Hummingbird 6 4 1 6 1
Belted Kingfisher 1 1 1 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Gray Flycatcher 1
Black Phoebe 2 5 5 8 6
Say’s Phoebe 1
Cassin’s Kingbird 1 2
Western Kingbird 4 4
Western Scrub-Jay 1
American Crow 6 4 3 18 3
Common Raven 1
Tree Swallow 1
Rough-wingd Swallow 5 3 4
Cliff Swallow 10
Barn Swallow 20 8 1
Bushtit 6 17 11
Bewick’s Wren 1 2
House Wren 2 2 2
Marsh Wren 4 1
Northern Mockingbird 2 5 3 1
European Starling 80 7 62
Yellow Warbler 2
Yellow-rumpd Warbler 15 8
Blk-throated G. Warbler 1
Townsend’s Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 4 5 4 10 5
Wilson’s Warbler 1
Western Tanager 1
Spotted Towhee 1
California Towhee 2 1
Savannah Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 3 3 4 1 2
White-crwnd Sparrow 4 10
Blue Grosbeak 1
Lazuli Bunting 6
Red-winged Blackbird 1 2 14
Western Meadowlark 3 1
Brewer’s Blackbird 15 1
Great-tailed Grackle 1
Brwn-headed Cowbird 3 1 3
Hooded Oriole 4 1
House Finch 2 4 10 4
Lesser Goldfinch 2 3 2 5 2
Lawrence’s Goldfinch 2
Totals by Type Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
Waterfowl 58 71 93 28 108
Water Birds-Other 227 231 339 170 319
Herons, Egrets 28 37 36 13 51
Quail & Raptors 1 0 1 3 3
Shorebirds 127 162 325 164 490
Gulls & Terns 306 299 249 203 1481
Doves 10 7 14 46 8
Other Non-Pass. 7 8 4 17 5
Passerines 152 76 176 76 37
Totals Birds 916 891 1237 720 2502
Total Species Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
Waterfowl 3 4 6 5 10
Water Birds-Other 4 5 7 7 12
Herons, Egrets 4 5 5 4 5
Quail & Raptors 1 0 1 3 3
Shorebirds 10 10 16 5 10
Gulls & Terns 9 8 9 6 9
Doves 2 2 2 2 2
Other Non-Pass. 2 4 3 3 3
Passerines 16 19 29 14 13
Totals Species – 115 51 57 78 49 67
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