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Malibu Lagoon Trip Report: 24 June, 2012

June 26, 2012

This slideshow follows the same path as the 27 May show.  Compare them to see the changes.  Don’t forget to visit our new page for the Malibu Lagoon 2012 Project, frequently updated with new photos.

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As expected, the west channels area is a muddy mess.   The parking lot is about 1/3rd size, holding 35-40 cars, and the perimeter access road is now the beach path, fenced with chain link and plastic mesh along the channel side.   We looked through the various viewing holes, but there was little to see.  Overall, we saw two areas taped off, indicating the presence of active nests, although there may be more.  A few passerines were along the other side of the path, but most of the land birds we saw (see trip list below) were either in the air or at Adamson House. We saw four families of Mallard: two in the south channel and two in the main lagoon.   The White-tailed Kite which has been hanging around for about a week was patrolling the hill northeast of the lagoon.

South channel view from west end (L. Johnson 6/24/12)

Two juvenile Bullock’s Orioles chased each other in the large colony cypresses near the southwest corner of the channels area, but no other roosting birds were there.  These cypresses have looked increasing “ill” for quite a while.  I suspect that when the foundation was laid for the house going up just below their east side, the tree’s roots were severed or otherwise damaged.   I would not be surprised to see the trees gone within a few years.

Great Blue Heron patrols lagoon near Adamson House (C.Almdale 6/24/12)

It was about 90 minutes after low tide when we arrived on the beach, and many Elegant Terns were resting on the exposed cobbles at sea’s-edge while the Whimbrels foraged among them.   As the tide rose and waves began crashing on the cobbles, the terns began relocating to the sand islands along the lagoon’s beach edge, where the gulls and pelicans already loafed.  A small raft of Brown Pelicans was offshore just past the many surfers, while the slim Pelagic Cormorants surface-dived for fish near them.   Far offshore was a huge, uncounted, flock of pelicans plunge-diving.   Snowy Egrets and a Great Blue Heron patrolled the edges of the main lagoon.

The beach breach of a few weeks ago was quite obvious, with 3-6 ft. ‘cliffs’ of sand on each side. The longshore ocean current from the west has already caused the ocean end of the outlet channel to shift eastward about 50-75 yds.  No water flowed out, but the sand looked wet and I suspect that high tide could still flow into the lagoon, with the lagoon flowing back out until its level reached that of the beach.

Sand ‘cliff’ at breach east edge, Adamson House in background (C.Almdale 6/24/12)

Adamson House had an unusual number of hummingbirds, it seemed to me, most of them Allen’s and the rest Anna’s, as usual.   There was an adult male Hooded Oriole in the palms.   We counted up our checklist on the deck of the boathouse.   The inlet below us, so full a month ago, was dry, with a Killdeer (see below)wandering through.  Song Sparrows and Black Phoebes flitted about, while one of the world’s loudest Northern Mockingbirds sang from a nearby bush.

Killdeer in the Adamson boat house lagoon inlet, now dry (C.Almdale 6/24/12)

Crossing back over the highway bridge we saw the egret colony in the trees behind Starbuck’s: at least 16 birds, evenly split between Great and Snowy Egrets (not included in the count).  The remaining north channel reed bed was still intact, surrounded by yellow plastic tape.  Two American Coots were adding reeds to their nest at the edge of the reeds, while their orange-headed juvenile floated nearby.  Coots build their nests of floating vegetation, in this case, of reeds; as the dead reeds on the undersurface of the nest rot and become soggy, the birds must continually add fresh reeds at the top.  The young are able to swim almost immediately; it’s 7-8 weeks before they can fly.

Fortunately the endemic Western Roof Owl is high and dry on a colony housetop – right-facing behavioral morph shown (C.Almdale 6/24/12)

Our next three field trips:   Malibu Lagoon, 22 July, 8:30 am;   Malibu Lagoon, 26 August, 8:30 am; Los Angeles River, 8 Sept., 8am.
Our next program: Tuesday, 2 October, 7:30 pm.   The usual reminders will be emailed from the blog.

NOTE: Our 10 a.m. Parent’s & Kids Birdwalk is canceled until the lagoon project is completed and the parking lot is again available.

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.

Comments on Bird List Below
Species Diversity:
  No census was taken in June 2008, so June 2006 is included to keep the comparison at six years.   Of 72 total species appearing in June for 2006-12, no more than 62% of them appeared on any one count day, something to keep in mind if you wonder why what is there is much less than what could be there.  June 2012 gets the species low count of 37, 18% below 2011’s high of 45, and 4 species below average.   This is the same variance we had for May when 2010 was the low year.   I expect species diversity to continue to run lower than average while the project is underway.

Total Birds:   Species diversity was low, but total numbers of 863 was high, 2nd only to 2008’s 897 total birds.  High numbers of Brown Pelican (340) and Elegant Tern (240) accounted for the higher than average numbers.
[Chuck Almdale]

Malibu Census 2006 2007 2009 2010 2011 2012  
June 2006 – 2012 6/25 6/24 6/28 6/27 6/26 6/24  
Temperature     66-74 65-75 68-72 70-76  
Tide Lo/Hi Height H +3.0 H +3.0 L +0.4 H +3.81 H +3.0 L +0.07 Ave.
Tide Time 0626 0626 0838 1139 0754 0714 Birds
Brant 1 1 1 11 2.3
Gadwall 3 14 15 4 5 2 7.2
Mallard 35 40 25 40 41 24 34.2
Red-brstd Merganser 1 0.2
Ruddy Duck 6 7 2.2
Pied-billed Grebe 4 2 2 3 4 2.5
Clark’s Grebe 1 0.2
Dble-crstd Cormorant 7 6 22 5 54 17 18.5
Pelagic Cormorant 1 1 3 0.8
Brown Pelican 19 239 71 205 28 340 150.3
Great Blue Heron 2 3 8 6 4 1 4.0
Great Egret 2 4 3 2 5 2.7
Snowy Egret 8 8 14 14 8 4 9.3
Little Blue Egret 1 0.2
Green Heron 3 1 0.7
Blk-crwnd N-Heron 5 3 6 1 2.5
Osprey 1 1 0.3
White-tailed Kite 1 0.2
Cooper’s Hawk 1 1 0.3
Red-shouldered Hawk 1 0.2
Red-tailed Hawk 1 1 2 0.7
Peregrine Falcon 1 0.2
American Coot 4 20 22 5 12 4 11.2
Blk-bellied Plover 6 15 3.5
Killdeer 2 5 1 1.3
Black Oystercatcher 1 0.2
Willet 19 3 3 4.2
Whimbrel 5 8 2.2
Western Sandpiper 1 2 0.5
Bonaparte’s Gull 1 2 0.5
Heermann’s Gull 24 16 48 17 15 44 27.3
Ring-billed Gull 15 7 3.7
Western Gull 153 380 72 61 68 84 136.3
California Gull 1 1 0.3
Least Tern 1 0.2
Caspian Tern 15 3 9 10 1 6.3
Forster’s Tern 4 0.7
Royal Tern 4 6 2 1 4 2.8
Elegant Tern 120 25 15 4 240 67.3
Black Skimmer 5 1 1.0
Rock Pigeon 8 4 6 4 4 3 4.8
Mourning Dove 2 4 4 5 1 2.7
Anna’s Hummingbird 1 1 2 2 1 3 1.7
Allen’s Hummingbird 2 1 4 1 8 2.7
Belted Kingfisher 1 0.2
Downy Woodpecker 1 0.2
Black Phoebe 6 2 15 2 10 5 6.7
Cassin’s Kingbird 1 1 0.3
Western Scrub-Jay 1 0.2
American Crow 6 6 12 4 4 4 6.0
Rough-wingd Swallow 4 6 6 1 2.8
Tree Swallow 6 1.0
Barn Swallow 16 30 8 40 25 4 20.5
Cliff Swallow 8 8 7 30 15 4 12.0
Oak Titmouse 1 0.2
Bushtit 9 4 8 3.5
Marsh Wren 1 0.2
Wrentit 1 0.2
Northern Mockingbird 6 3 2 2 3 6 3.7
European Starling 10 8 20 65 21 5 21.5
Common Yellowthroat 3 3 1 1 1 1.5
Spotted Towhee 2 2 0.7
California Towhee 1 1 4 1 1.2
Song Sparrow 8 4 6 3 3 6 5.0
Red-winged Blackbird 13 1 55 11.5
Great-tailed Grackle 3 3 2 1.3
Brwn-headed Cowbird 1 1 2 1 0.8
Hooded Oriole 4 1 1 1.0
Bullock’s Oriole 1 2 0.5
House Finch 8 5 6 4 14 8 7.5
Lesser Goldfinch 2 4 1.0
House Sparrow 8 2 1.7
Malibu Census 2006 2007 2009 2010 2011 2012  
Totals by Type 6/25 6/24 6/28 6/27 6/26 6/24 Ave.
Waterfowl 39 62 41 62 46 26 46.0
Water Birds-Other 31 271 117 217 97 368 183.5
Herons, Egrets 12 24 28 28 19 5 19.3
Quail & Raptors 0 2 3 1 4 1 1.8
Shorebirds 25 3 9 2 7 25 11.8
Gulls & Terns 333 433 139 105 96 373 246.5
Doves 10 4 10 8 9 4 7.5
Other Non-Pass. 3 2 6 3 2 12 4.7
Passerines 94 96 93 220 122 49 112.3
Totals Birds 547 897 446 646 402 863 634
  2006 2007 2009 2010 2011 2012
Total Species 6/25 6/24 6/28 6/27 6/26 6/24 Ave.
Waterfowl 3 5 3 4 2 2 3.2
Water Birds-Other 4 6 4 4 4 5 4.5
Herons, Egrets 3 6 4 4 5 2 4.0
Quail & Raptors 0 2 3 1 3 1 1.7
Shorebirds 2 1 3 1 2 4 2.2
Gulls & Terns 8 6 5 7 6 5 6.2
Doves 2 1 2 2 2 2 1.8
Other Non-Pass. 2 2 2 2 2 3 2.2
Passerines 14 15 16 15 19 13 15.3
Totals Species 38 44 42 40 45 37 41
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One Comment
  1. ballonadocent permalink
    June 26, 2012 6:38 pm

    This is terrific. Thanks for documenting the changes, and impact on the wildlife at the lagoon while construction is underway. Wish I were as funny as you, too.

    Like

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