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Malibu Lagoon Trip Report: 23 September, 2012

September 25, 2012

Don’t forget to visit our new page for the Malibu Lagoon 2012 Project, frequently updated with new photos. We just added 3 new interviews with Mark Abramson & Suzanne Goode, plus a link to the plant revegetation list.

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It’s hard to see the channel area over the fence, but most of the grading seems to be done.  The dike separating the channels area west basin from the lagoon reportedly comes down on Oct. 2, so presumably the grading will be done by then.  A lot of fill dirt will then be trucked off, some already in piles (see photos), plus the removed portions of the dike.  Revegetation utilizing 70,000 plants will begin soon.

Great-tailed Grackles practice formal greetings (C. Bragg 9/23/12)

Our heat wave continues: downtown L.A. had a record 103° earlier this week, and it was 80° at the lagoon before 11am.  Our birding group was thin at the start, but people kept drifting in as time went by.  Path-side brush birds were very quiet, so we quickly got to the lagoon.  We almost missed the Pectoral Sandpiper reported the day before, and frankly, species diversity was low.  Even Adamson House was un-birdy, possibly due to the many people checking out the exhibit of beautifully maintained Model-T Fords (plus a Woody & a McCord).  It’s frightening to contemplate the number of human-hours it must take to keep these cars running and looking so stunning.

Three Mallards above channel water basin (L. Johnson 9/23/12)

Dewatering seems intermittent: the main basin has a lot of water, and the discharge pipe started spouting water while we were checking out the offshore birds.  Speaking of offshore, it’s quite likely that many of the birds usually loafing in the lagoon were in the very large congregation of birds many hundreds of yards offshore.  There must have been a sizable fish shoal: besides the gulls, terns and pelicans diving, we could see dolphins cutting through the crowd.  Even shearwaters got into the action, peeling off from a steady stream of north-bound birds.  I counted about 70 shearwaters per minute passing by.  They were probably either Pink-footed or Sooty, which typically migrate through SoCal this time of year, whereas Black-vented Shearwaters pass by Nov – early March. They were much too far away for me to tell the difference.  They are in the species list below as “Shearwater sp.” (sp. means “species not determined.”), but they’re not included in any of the totals.

How many of the 100+ Black-bellied Plovers can can find in this picture of the channel area island? (L. Johnson 9/23/12)

There is an island now in the channels area and the Western Gulls and Black-bellied Plovers have moved in and made themselves quite comfortable: I counted 36 of the former and 100 (at least) of the latter.  Otherwise, channel area birds were few: 3 Mallard, 3 Double-crested Cormorant, 1 Brown Pelican, 1 Snowy Egret, 3 California Gull, 2 Black Phoebe, 1 American Crow, 2 Great-tailed Grackle, plus 1 Bewick’s Wren in the vegetation between the path and PCH.

Snowy Egret’s feet match perfectly the yellow turbidity curtain float (C. Bragg 9/23/12)

This island reminded me of the long sand & gravel island which used to be in the middle of the lagoon.  Until it disappeared during one of the El Nino winters in the ‘90’s, it was the favorite resting location for the birds.  Except when feeding in the surf zone, they didn’t really use the beach much back then.  Just like humans, they prefer feeling safe when they’re trying to sleep or loaf, and this island (except at the highest tides) gave them such protection.

The dead Brown Pelicans continue: I counted 8 in various stages of decomposition on the sand islands near the beach.  The die-off, apparently due to starvation from lack of sufficient small fish, has been noted all along the U.S. west coast for many months.

While returning from Adamson House, Mary Prismon found the elusive Pectoral Sandpiper near the SE end of the PCH bridge, feeding in the mud among the reed stalks. I’d checked that area, but alas, it was not there for me. Thanks, Mary!

Our next three field trips:   Bolsa Chica, 6 Oct. 8:30am; Malibu Lagoon, 28 Oct., 8:30am., Butterbredt Fall Campout, Nov 3-4, 8:30am.
Our next program: Tuesday, 2 October, 7:30 pm.   Water Conservation and Sustainability – Kimberly O’Cain.   The usual reminders will be emailed from the blog.

NOTE: Our 10 a.m. Parent’s & Kids Birdwalk remains canceled until the parking lot is again fully 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 Lists Below
Total Birds:   Sept. total birds of 1013 are 12% above average (Jul & Aug were down 9%), or 107 over the 6-year average of 906, which is not really significant.  Brown Pelican numbers remain down, but Black-bellied Plover are well above average. Whimbrels and Elegant Terns are high, Snowy Plovers about average. Except for Starlings and Black Phoebes, passerines are down, probably due to the lack of vegetation.  During the project so far, total bird numbers have been up & down, up & down, but usually not far from average either way, and such variations are typical.
Species Diversity:   Of 115 total species appearing in September for 2007-12, no more than 68% of them appeared on any one count day. Since we began these 6-year comparisons in May, this “appearance rate” has fluctuated from 61% to 68% – intriguingly consistent.  It seems to indicate that – whenever you visit – what you see is 1/2 – 2/3rds of what is possible at that time of year.  September 2012 with 51 species is 20% below average.  Reduced diversity was spread across all 9 categories of birds, but most significant in the passerines which was 7 species below the 6-year average of 22.  We didn’t even have any swallows!  The lack of vegetation, plus our inability to get to the remaining perimeter vegetation, seems to me to be the probable cause.
Summary of species diversity from the 6-year average so far: May +4%, June -10%, July +10%, August -6%, September -20%. September is the first significant variation from average, and was, in fact, the lowest September species count in 10 years. I suspect that census diversity will recover once we have full access to the lagoon perimeter and after vegetation (not yet planted) has taken hold, but we’ll have to wait and see.      [Chuck Almdale]

Malibu Census 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012  
September 2007-12 9/23 9/28 9/27 9/26 9/25 9/23  
Temperature     72-80 70-79 61-69 73-80  
Tide Lo/Hi Height H +4.5 H +5.7 H +3.9 H +5.54 H +5.33 L +2.88 Ave.
Tide Time 0819 0917 0731 1055 0830 1021 Birds
Brant 5 0.8
Gadwall 4 4 11 20 10 8.2
American Wigeon 8 1 3 2.0
Mallard 44 16 22 48 48 34 35.3
Cinnamon Teal 5 0.8
Northern Shoveler 4 6 8 4 10 11 7.2
Northern Pintail 1 0.2
Greater Scaup 1 0.2
Red-brstd Merganser 1 0.2
Ruddy Duck 15 8 5 4.7
Pacific Loon 2 0.3
Pied-billed Grebe 14 6 4 18 13 7 10.3
Eared Grebe 2 1 2 5 3 2.2
Western Grebe 2 4 12 3.0
Shearwater sp. xxxxx
Brandt’s Cormorant 1 1 4 1.0
Dble-crstd Cormorant 25 17 14 38 47 45 31.0
Pelagic Cormorant 1 3 2 1.0
Brown Pelican 62 43 12 46 60 22 40.8
Great Blue Heron 7 10 5 5 2 5 5.7
Great Egret 6 1 3 6 2 1 3.2
Snowy Egret 23 16 14 14 23 8 16.3
Green Heron 2 1 1 1 0.8
Blk-crwnd N-Heron 8 4 10 12 5.7
Osprey 1 1 0.3
Cooper’s Hawk 1 1 0.3
Red-shouldered Hawk 1 0.2
Red-tailed Hawk 1 0.2
Merlin 1 0.2
Peregrine Falcon 1 1 0.3
Virginia Rail 1 1 0.3
Sora 1 2 1 3 1.2
American Coot 82 95 147 230 410 270 205.7
Blk-bellied Plover 85 102 78 40 160 77.5
Snowy Plover 10 45 33 62 62 46 43.0
Semipalmated Plover 3 2 2 11 1 3.2
Killdeer 6 4 4 1 6 6 4.5
Black-necked Stilt 1 0.2
Spotted Sandpiper 2 3 1 2 2 3 2.2
Willet 16 18 33 56 7 3 22.2
Whimbrel 2 6 17 26 38 14.8
Long-billed Curlew 1 0.2
Marbled Godwit 1 4 4 22 2 3 6.0
Ruddy Turnstone 3 15 4 10 7 14 8.8
Sanderling 20 41 20 3 14.0
Western Sandpiper 18 1 28 7.8
Least Sandpiper 2 3 14 3 3.7
Pectoral Sandpiper 2 1 1 0.5
Dunlin 2 2 0.7
Short-billd Dowitcher 6 1 1.2
Long-billed Dowitcher 2 3 0.3
Wilson’s Snipe 1 0.2
Wilson’s Phalarope 1 0.2
Red-necked Phalarope 1 0.2
Heermann’s Gull 29 9 14 68 15 8 23.8
Ring-billed Gull 2 2 30 7 1 7.0
Western Gull 72 80 84 73 66 93 78.0
California Gull 1 20 15 22 16 7 13.5
Herring Gull 1 0.2
Black Tern 1 0.2
Common Tern 8 1.3
Forster’s Tern 1 6 1.2
Royal Tern 1 1 15 11 4.7
Elegant Tern 5 8 5 40 4 87 24.8
Parasitic Jaeger 1 0.2
Rock Pigeon 6 6 4 12 5 4 6.2
Mourning Dove 1 2 2 2 1.2
Black Swift 1 0.2
Vaux’s Swift 20 100 20.0
Anna’s Hummingbird 8 1 3 2 3 2.8
Allen’s Hummingbird 3 6 2 1 1 3 2.7
Belted Kingfisher 1 1 1 1 1 0.8
Western Wood-Pewee 2 1 0.5
Gray Flycatcher 1 0.2
Pac.Slope Flycatcher 2 0.3
Black Phoebe 8 6 7 5 6 9 6.8
Say’s Phoebe 1 1 0.3
Ash-throated Flycatcher 1 0.2
Cassin’s Kingbird 2 1 0.5
Western Kingbird 4 0.7
Western Scrub-Jay 1 0.2
American Crow 5 6 6 3 2 1 3.8
Rough-wingd Swallow 20 4 1 4.2
Tree Swallow 1 0.2
Barn Swallow 14 2 1 30 7.8
Oak Titmouse 2 0.3
Bushtit 10 25 7 11 6 4 10.5
Bewick’s Wren 1 1 1 0.5
House Wren 1 3 2 1 1 1.3
Marsh Wren 1 1 4 1.0
Northern Mockingbird 3 2 3 3 2 3 2.7
European Starling 6 16 8 62 23 45 26.7
American Pipit 1 0.2
Ornge-crwnd Warbler 3 1 1 1 1 1.2
Yellow Warbler 2 2 0.7
Blk-throated G. Warbler 1 0.2
Townsend’s Warbler 1 0.2
Common Yellowthroat 2 3 3 4 5 2 3.2
Wilson’s Warbler 10 1 2 2.2
Spotted Towhee 1 1 0.3
California Towhee 3 2 2 1 3 1.8
Savannah Sparrow 2 2 1 1 1.0
Song Sparrow 3 2 4 4 3 1 2.8
White-crwnd Sparrow 6 4 1.7
Blue Grosbeak 1 0.2
Lazuli Bunting 6 1.0
Bobolink 1 0.2
Red-winged Blackbird 30 7 14 18 8 12.8
Western Meadowlark 1 4 3 1.3
Brewer’s Blackbird 1 15 2.7
Great-tailed Grackle 2 12 6 3.3
Brwn-headed Cowbird 3 1 3 1.2
Bullock’s Oriole 1 0.2
House Finch 8 4 4 10 12 1 6.5
Lesser Goldfinch 10 1 2 2 4 3.2
Lawrence’s Goldfinch 2 0.3
Totals by Type 9/23 9/28 9/27 9/26 9/25 9/23 Ave.
Waterfowl 57 26 51 93 79 51 60
Water Birds-Other 188 164 185 339 542 363 297
Herons, Egrets 46 27 27 36 40 14 32
Raptors 1 3 1 1 1 2 2
Shorebirds 147 116 243 325 161 279 212
Gulls & Terns 107 122 120 249 124 207 155
Doves 6 7 6 14 7 4 7
Other Non-Pass. 33 8 6 4 105 3 27
Passerines 158 83 61 176 133 90 117
Totals Birds 743 556 700 1237 1192 1013 907
 
Total Species 9/23 9/28 9/27 9/26 9/25 9/23 Ave.
Waterfowl 4 3 6 6 5 4 4.7
Water Birds-Other 7 7 8 7 9 7 7.5
Herons, Egrets 5 3 5 5 5 3 4.3
Raptors 1 3 1 1 1 2 1.5
Shorebirds 11 11 14 16 12 12 12.7
Gulls & Terns 4 8 5 9 7 6 6.5
Doves 1 2 2 2 2 1 1.7
Other Non-Pass. 5 3 3 3 4 1 3.2
Passerines 27 19 18 29 23 15 21.8
Totals Species – 115 65 59 62 78 68 51 63.8
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