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Malibu Lagoon Trip Report: 26 February, 2012

February 28, 2012

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Cool but clear at the lagoon.  Tide was rising towards high at 11:30, so many of the shorebirds, including most of the Snowy Plovers, were resting.  A great many gulls were on the beach, but most flew away before we got there and only about 450 remained.  Ducks numbers remained high.  Especially interesting was the offshore rocks and the sea out past the surf zone.  On the rocks were 2 Pelagic Cormorant and a relatively large number of Brant’s Cormorant, 15 to be exact, an all-time high for our monthly census.  As neither of these species like coming as far inland as the lagoon – all of 30 yards or so – the only roosting space within good view is on these few rocks, and they don’t amount to much.  In the proper season, you might see thousands of them on the offshore jetty at Marina del Rey.  A couple of the Brant’s were developing the blue gular pouches of breeding season.

Meanwhile, busily diving both in and just beyond the surf zone were all three Loon species:  Common, Red-throated and Pacific.  Farther out were flotillas of Western Grebe and Surf Scoter.  On the sand the 54 Snowy Plovers present were busy dodging the Lifeguard truck and the numerous walkers.  The two Black Oystercatchers as well as the Ruddy Turnstones were foraging among the cobbles not yet covered by the rising tide.

Juvenile Snow Goose (J. Kenney 2/24/12)

On one of the sandy islands in the lagoon we found the Snow Goose which had shown up a few days earlier.  Their Goth-style ‘black lips’ make them easy to locate among the gulls, not to mention that they’re a lot taller.

Breeding season approaches and migration starts to happen.  Among the Ruddy Ducks that have been wintering just inland of the highway bridge we found three males changing into breeding plumage, all rusty colored.  One was very well along and had a bright blue bill.  Meanwhile, two Rough-winged Swallows, recent arrivals from the south, entertained us by chasing insects overhead and resting on a nearby branch.

A brace of Bonaparte's Gulls (A.Albaisa 2/26/12)

The two Boneparte’s Gulls present were a pale reminder of their abundant presence in the past.  Some examples: 3/15/80 – 1600, 11/29/80 – 530, 11/29/81 – 950, 12/12/82 – 1095.  Over the past 12 years, the highest number was 26 on 5/27/07.  In the early 80’s there was a large sand/gravel island in the middle of the lagoon which, except when the highest tides covered it, was the favorite roosting spot for all the gulls and shorebirds.  Surrounded by water, they didn’t have to contend with humans and their pets and small children, both of whom love to charge into large flocks of birds in order to see them fly.  Now these birds are relegated to the far more dangerous lagoon edges, where they are frequently disturbed and harassed by humans.  Currently they have a couple of sandy islands where they are mostly undisturbed, so life is good for them.  So to speak.  Humans mostly stay out of the lagoon water as it is so polluted with bacteria that their toes would probably instantly glow and fall off.  The birds must be far tougher than we are, or they aren’t as bothered by the bacteria so dangerous to us.

Common Murre oiled on belly (J.Kenney 2/15/12)

Common Murre oiled on belly (J.Kenney 2/15/12)

Perhaps unrelated to this, there seemed to be more dead birds on the beach than is usual. Most were cormorants.  Earlier this month there was a significantly oiled Common Murre on the beach, but it had left.

Our next three field trips: Sycamore Canyon 10 Mar., 8:30am; Malibu Lagoon 25 March 8:30 & 10am; Placerita Canyon / Walker Ranch 7 April, 8:30am.
Our next program: Tuesday, 6 March, 7:30 pm – The Lives of Spiders, presented by Martin Ramirez.
The usual reminders will be emailed from the blog.

As a reminder to those coming to our 10 a.m. Parent’s & Kids Birdwalk, it meets at the beach trail footbridge closest to the parking lot.

Links: Unusual birds at Malibu Lagoon
Aerial photo of Malibu Lagoon from 9/23/02.
Prior checklists: July-Dec’11, Jan-June’11, July-Dec ’10Jan-June ’10, Jul-Dec ‘09, and Jan-June ‘09.
[Chuck Almdale].

Malibu Census 2012

22-Jan

26-Feb

Temperature

68 – 75

48 – 64

Tide Height

+6.49

+3.37

Low/High &Time

H:0803

H:1136

Snow Goose

1

Brant

1

Gadwall

31

35

American Wigeon

2

8

Mallard

23

30

Northern Shoveler

46

35

Northern Pintail

10

8

Green-winged Teal

37

38

Surf Scoter

14

40

Bufflehead

26

4

Red-brstd Merganser

6

8

Ruddy Duck

59

24

Red-throated Loon

2

Pacific Loon

1

3

Common Loon

1

Pied-billed Grebe

3

2

Eared Grebe

4

2

Western Grebe

8

40

Brandt’s Cormorant

3

15

Dble-crstd Cormorant

37

28

Pelagic Cormorant

1

2

Brown Pelican

48

12

Great Blue Heron

7

Great Egret

2

2

Snowy Egret

7

8

Blk-crwnd N-Heron

2

Osprey

1

Red-shouldered Hawk

1

2

Sora

2

3

American Coot

345

285

Blk-bellied Plover

65

93

Snowy Plover

81

54

Killdeer

2

10

Black Oystercatcher

5

2

American Avocet

2

1

Spotted Sandpiper

2

Willet

3

Whimbrel

1

2

Ruddy Turnstone

15

13

Sanderling

200

100

Least Sandpiper

12

Boneparte’s Gull

2

Heermann’s Gull

16

Ring-billed Gull

150

35

Western Gull

120

55

California Gull

1900

360

Glaucous-wingd Gull

5

2

Forster’s Tern

1

Royal Tern

16

1

Rock Pigeon

5

4

Mourning Dove

2

2

Anna’s Hummingbird

2

2

Allen’s Hummingbird

2

1

Belted Kingfisher

1

1

Black Phoebe

3

4

Say’s Phoebe

1

Cassin’s Kingbird

2

American Crow

4

8

Rough-wingd Swallow

2

Bushtit

26

4

Bewick’s Wren

1

Marsh Wren

1

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

2

Hermit Thrush

1

Northern Mockingbird

1

2

European Starling

1

15

Yellow-rumpd Warbler

3

Common Yellowthroat

4

2

Spotted Towhee

1

California Towhee

2

Savannah Sparrow

2

Song Sparrow

2

8

White-crwnd Sparrow

22

4

Red-winged Blackbird

15

Brewer’s Blackbird

1

Great-tailed Grackle

13

8

Brwn-headed Cowbird

2

House Finch

25

10

 

 

Totals by Type

Jan

Feb

Waterfowl

255

231

Water Birds-Other

452

395

Herons, Egrets

18

10

Quail & Raptors

2

2

Shorebirds

388

275

Gulls & Terns

2207

456

Doves

7

6

Other Non-Pass.

5

4

Passerines

110

92

Totals Birds

3444

1471

     
Total Species

Jan

Feb

Waterfowl

11

11

Water Birds-Other

10

12

Herons, Egrets

4

2

Quail & Raptors

2

1

Shorebirds

11

8

Gulls & Terns

6

7

Doves

2

2

Other Non-Pass.

3

3

Passerines

16

18

Totals Species

65

64

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