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Malibu Lagoon Field Trip Report: 27 March, 2011

March 29, 2011

Our rains continue and Governor Brown just declared that the California drought is officially over.  No doubt everyone will celebrate by watering their lawns while the rain falls and leaving the hose run while they wash their car.  (As if they ever stopped.)

At 54° when we started, and a very light wind, the weather at the lagoon was quite pleasant, despite the numerous dark and threatening clouds all around. Surf was nearly flat, and only a couple ever-hopeful diehards were in the water.

Species diversity took an upward bump.  A single Brandt’s Cormorant joined the lonely Pelagic Cormorant on the offshore rocks.  Reports of Pacific Loons off our coast were supported by the raft of 15 swimming just beyond the surf zone.  The terns are returning (no pun intended) in small numbers:  Caspian, Forster’s, Royal and Elegant joined the 3 Black Skimmers (probably the same 2 adults and 1 juvenile as last month). Again, most of the gulls flew off just as we arrived at the beach; I estimated 1000 of them and added them to the counts.

Caspian Terns (C.Bragg 5/10)

Ducks were down: no Canada Geese, Wigeons, Shovelers or Buffleheads at all, and only 15 Ruddy Ducks.  Two of the Ruddys were in bright breeding (alternate) plumage.  Double-crested Cormorants – more and more of them sporting their white “eyebrow” crests – were abundant: 90 scattered about, a count second only to 97 on 11/27/05.  The Virginia Rail was still in his usual spot in the reed bed near the footbridge to the point near the highway.  That’s the 5th month running for what must be the same individual bird.  The Soras are still relatively numerous, with at least 4 seen, including one juvenile.

The Osprey was back.  Perhaps he never left, but we didn’t see it in February, after hosting it October through January.  He doesn’t seem to bother the other birds much as they never seem to leap into the air when he cruises by or kites over the lagoon.  As the beach breach has been open all winter, there’s probably plenty of mullet hanging around in the deeper waters below the highway bridge.

Other signs of spring appeared in addition to the budding trees.  Two Western Kingbirds busily hawked insects over the marsh grass and pickleweed, and…TA DA! – a Rufous Hummingbird was discovered among the usual Anna’s and Allen’s Hummers.  This is the 1st Rufous we’ve found at the lagoon.  They are a common migrant through California this time of year, heading (as I’m sure you know) as far north as Alaska to breed.  But it’s hard to separate them from the far more common, and now resident, Allen’s.  The green on this bird’s back was so reduced that we felt (fairly) confident in calling it a Rufous.

Five Savannah Sparrows were on the sandy edge of the middle channel, next to the pickleweed, which is still covered with bright red tips.  Back near the parking lot, 3 Brown-headed Cowbirds were high in the Sycamore tree, looking for mates, no doubt, and generally making pests of themselves.

As a reminder to those who plan to come to our 10 am Parent’s & Kids birdwalk, they meet at the beach trail footbridge closest to the parking lot.

Check out our new blog page created especially for Unusual Birds at Malibu Lagoon, the permanent location for pictures of our uncommon birds. Look for other new pages coming in the future. For prior period bird lists, follow these links to July-Dec ’10Jan-June ’10, Jul-Dec ‘09, and Jan-June ‘09.  For an aerial photo of the lagoon, go here.   [Chuck Almdale]

Malibu Census 2011 23-Jan 27-Feb 27-Mar
Temperature 68-75 45-60 54-61
Tide Height> +4.94 -0.41 +0.05
Low/High &Time> H:1117 L:1243 L:1216
Canada Goose 6
Gadwall 15 22 32
American Wigeon 4
Mallard 24 24 30
Northern Shoveler 4 2
Green-winged Teal 12 17 10
Surf Scoter 8 8
Bufflehead 5 2
Red-brstd Merganser 6 8 4
Ruddy Duck 40 33 15
Pacific Loon 1 1 15
Common Loon 1
Pied-billed Grebe 3 2 1
Horned Grebe 1
Eared Grebe 3
Western Grebe 6 12 20
Brandt’s Cormorant 1
Dble-crstd Cormorant 57 37 90
Pelagic Cormorant 4 3 1
Brown Pelican 42 23 89
Great Blue Heron 2 1 1
Great Egret 1 1 1
Snowy Egret 8 9 5
Blk-crwnd N-Heron 1
Turkey Vulture 3
Osprey 1 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1 2
Virginia Rail 1 1 1
Sora 4 3 4
American Coot 145 175 153
Blk-bellied Plover 1 65
Snowy Plover 60 59 42
Killdeer 3 4 2
Black Oystercatcher 1
American Avocet 4
Spotted Sandpiper 2 2 1
Willet 1 7 3
Whimbrel 1 5 1
Ruddy Turnstone 5
Sanderling 135
Western Sandpiper 2
Least Sandpiper 10 18 20
Boneparte’s Gull 13 4
Heermann’s Gull 62
Mew Gull 1
Ring-billed Gull 120 250 50
Western Gull 100 120 100
California Gull 2500 1050 1100
Herring Gull 1
Glaucous-wingd Gull 2 3
Caspian Tern 5
Forster’s Tern 1
Royal Tern 3
Elegant Tern 4
Black Skimmer 3 3
Rock Pigeon 5 4 2
Mourning Dove 2 2
Anna’s Hummingbird 3 2 2
Rufous Hummingbird 1
Allen’s Hummingbird 6 3 4
Belted Kingfisher 1 1 1
Black Phoebe 4 5 12
Say’s Phoebe 1 1
Western Kingbird 2
American Crow 6 4 6
Rough-wingd Swallow 2
Tree Swallow 8
Barn Swallow 1 3
Cliff Swallow 1
Bushtit 9 6 4
Bewick’s Wren 2 1
House Wren 1
Marsh Wren 1
Northern Mockingbird 1 2 1
European Starling 35
Yellow-rumpd Warbler 6 2 8
Common Yellowthroat 4 2 3
California Towhee 1 1
Savannah Sparrow 5
Song Sparrow 8 8 12
White-crwnd Sparrow 4 3
Red-winged Blackbird 1 4 6
Great-tailed Grackle 1
Brwn-headed Cowbird 3
House Finch 5 3 20
Lesser Goldfinch 4 4
American Goldfinch 8
Totals by Type Jan Feb Mar
Total Birds 3340 2227 1935
Totals by Type
Waterfowl 106 126 99
Water Birds-Other 267 257 376
Herons, Egrets 11 12 7
Quail & Raptors 2 0 6
Shorebirds 82 301 71
Gulls & Terns 2785 1440 1270
Doves 7 4 4
Other Non-Pass. 10 6 8
Passerines 70 81 94
Totals Birds 3340 2227 1935
Total Species Jan Feb Mar
Waterfowl 7 10 6
Water Birds-Other 11 9 11
Herons, Egrets 3 4 3
Quail & Raptors 2 0 3
Shorebirds 8 10 7
Gulls & Terns 6 7 9
Doves 2 1 2
Other Non-Pass. 3 3 4
Passerines 17 15 18
Totals Species – 87 59 59 63

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