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Malibu Lagoon Field Trip Report: 24 April, 2011

April 25, 2011

It’s still unseasonably cold. Most of us never got our jackets off, and a breeze of 5-8 mph made it feel chillier. I know, I know, I shouldn’t be complaining about temperatures in the high 60’s when people are freezing in Mongolia or fighting tyranny house-to-house in Libya, Yemen, Sudan, Ivory Coast, Liberia, and on and on. But if you can’t complain about the weather, what else is there to complain about? Politics? Why, everything in politics is perfect, in this best of all possible worlds.

The peculiarity of the day was the enormous number of Brown Pelicans. I counted 740, an all-time high, but there could easily have been many more, as they kept coming and going in droves. Here are all the prior counts over 200:

315 5/22/05, 400 3/26/06, 230 4/22/07, 630 5/27/07, 239 6/24/07, 320 3/23/08, 231 5/25/08, 256 1/25/09, 205 6/27/10, 740 4/24/11.

And here are the past six Aprils:
79 – 2005, 47 – 2006, 230 – 2007, 35 – 2008, 78 – 2009, 182 – 2010, 740 – 2011

The only pattern I see is that this is an all-time high, which we already knew, and that the numbers bounce around a lot, although usually below 100 for April. A number of passersby asked us if we knew why there were so many. One person thought there had been some sort of general nesting failure on the local Channel Islands (primarily Anacapa), possibly due to lack of food. Another had heard that the pelicans were sensitive to the vast amounts of radiation pouring out of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor and had fled Japan and across the Pacific Ocean to safety in California. The PQ* of that explanation seemed quite high to me, not least for the fact than none of the world’s eight (some say seven) species of pelicans regularly occur in Japan. (This is a waffling way of saying they just aren’t there.) We here at SMBAS Central Command don’t know why all these pelicans showed up, and a few minutes searching Google didn’t turn up any answers or even any mentions. Anyone out there know anything?        * – PQ – Preposterosity Quotient

The total species count at 55 seemed a bit low for April, so I checked and for the past eleven years, we’ve averaged 59 species in April, with a low of 52 and a high of 70.

Cryptic Killdeer eggs (C. Almdale 4/24/11)

Out on the beach inland of the (now deserted) Snowy Plover enclosure, we startled a Killdeer, who proceeded to stagger and flop off with what appeared to be a broken wing. As most birders should know, this is a distraction display the adult puts on to lure a potential predator away from its nest. Lu quickly found the nest about 10 ft away from where we stood. I took a few pictures and then we dutifully followed the adult away so it could win this skirmish. Hopefully no crow or gull was paying attention and the nest remains safe among the sticks and pebbles.

Adult Killdeer lures me to water's edge and continues to keep an eye on me (C.Almdale 4/24/11)

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 (9/23/02), go here.   [Chuck Almdale]

Malibu Census 2011 23-Jan 27-Feb 27-Mar 24-Apr
Temperature 68-75 45-60 54-61 59-68
Tide Height> +4.94 -0.41 +0.05 +0.19
Low/High &Time> H:1117 L:1243 L:1216 L:1014
Canada Goose 6
Gadwall 15 22 32 24
American Wigeon 4
Mallard 24 24 30 22
Northern Shoveler 4 2
Green-winged Teal 12 17 10 2
Surf Scoter 8 8
Bufflehead 5 2
Red-brstd Merganser 6 8 4
Ruddy Duck 40 33 15 3
Pacific Loon 1 1 15 20
Common Loon 1 1
Pied-billed Grebe 3 2 1
Horned Grebe 1
Eared Grebe 3
Western Grebe 6 12 20 2
Brandt’s Cormorant 1 3
Dble-crstd Cormorant 57 37 90 19
Pelagic Cormorant 4 3 1 2
Brown Pelican 42 23 89 740
Great Blue Heron 2 1 1 4
Great Egret 1 1 1
Snowy Egret 8 9 5 11
Blk-crwnd N-Heron 1 1
Turkey Vulture 3
Osprey 1 1 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1 2 2
Virginia Rail 1 1 1 1
Sora 4 3 4
American Coot 145 175 153 32
Blk-bellied Plover 1 65
Snowy Plover 60 59 42
Semipalmated Plover 25
Killdeer 3 4 2 8
Black Oystercatcher 1
American Avocet 4
Spotted Sandpiper 2 2 1
Willet 1 7 3
Whimbrel 1 5 1 3
Ruddy Turnstone 5
Sanderling 135
Western Sandpiper 2 12
Least Sandpiper 10 18 20 25
Dowitcher species flying 1
Boneparte’s Gull 13 4 2
Heermann’s Gull 62 3
Mew Gull 1
Ring-billed Gull 120 250 50 52
Western Gull 100 120 100 160
California Gull 2500 1050 1100 450
Herring Gull 1
Glaucous-wingd Gull 2 3 2
Caspian Tern 5 61
Forster’s Tern 1 1
Royal Tern 3
Elegant Tern 4 12
Black Skimmer 3 3
Rock Pigeon 5 4 2 4
Eur. Collared-Dove 1
Mourning Dove 2 2 4
Anna’s Hummingbird 3 2 2 2
Rufous Hummingbird 1
Allen’s Hummingbird 6 3 4 2
Belted Kingfisher 1 1 1
Black Phoebe 4 5 12 8
Say’s Phoebe 1 1
Western Kingbird 2
American Crow 6 4 6 5
Rough-wingd Swallow 2 16
Tree Swallow 8 1
Barn Swallow 1 3 10
Cliff Swallow 1
Bushtit 9 6 4
Bewick’s Wren 2 1 2
House Wren 1
Marsh Wren 1
Northern Mockingbird 1 2 1 2
California Thrasher 2
European Starling 35
Ornge-crwnd Warbler 1
Yellow-rumpd Warbler 6 2 8 4
Common Yellowthroat 4 2 3 6
California Towhee 1 1
Savannah Sparrow 5
Song Sparrow 8 8 12 10
White-crwnd Sparrow 4 3 2
Red-winged Blackbird 1 4 6 1
Great-tailed Grackle 1 2
Brwn-headed Cowbird 3
House Finch 5 3 20 10
Lesser Goldfinch 4 4 1
American Goldfinch 8
Totals by Type Jan Feb Mar Apr
Waterfowl 106 126 99 51
Water Birds-Other 267 257 376 820
Herons, Egrets 11 12 7 16
Quail & Raptors 2 0 6 3
Shorebirds 82 301 71 74
Gulls & Terns 2785 1440 1270 743
Doves 7 4 4 9
Other Non-Pass. 10 6 8 4
Passerines 70 81 94 83
Totals Birds 3340 2227 1938 1803
         
Total Species Jan Feb Mar Apr
Waterfowl 7 10 6 4
Water Birds-Other 11 9 11 9
Herons, Egrets 3 4 3 3
Quail & Raptors 2 0 3 2
Shorebirds 8 10 7 6
Gulls & Terns 6 7 9 9
Doves 2 1 2 3
Other Non-Pass. 3 3 4 2
Passerines 17 15 18 17
Totals Species – 92 59 59 63 55
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