Skip to content

Malibu Lagoon Field Trip Report: 23 Dec. 2012

December 26, 2012
The beach breach (C. Almdale 12/23/12)

The beach breach (C. Almdale 12/23/12)

Within a few days after rain-swelled Malibu Creek broke through the beach, reports about hordes of gulls at the lagoon began flowing in from L.A. area birders. Estimates ranged from 2000 to 5000 birds.  Always on the lookout for storm-brought vagrants, birders searched through the crowd; alas, nothing rare was found.

Gulls on low tide exposed beach, Santa Monica Mtns in background(C. Almdale 12/23/12)

Gulls on low tide exposed beach, Santa Monica Mtns in background
(C. Almdale 12/23/12)

We found the largest gull flock on the mud flat between the channel mouth and the west end of PCH bridge. Every 10-20 minutes they’d fling themselves into the sky to swirl in a dense cloud; we looked for raptors – Peregrine Falcon for instance – frightening them, but saw none. Perhaps they were just jumpy. By the time we got to the beach and began sorting through them, most had moved to the sand and stones exposed by the lowering tide.  I counted (roughly) 2600 birds.  Out on the sea, well past the kelp beds were two additional gull flocks with easily as many as on shore. Even farther out were many more gulls as well as Brown Pelicans and cormorants flying and diving; southbound shearwaters streamed through them. Except for the shearwaters, none of these birds are included in the counts below. There were probably far more shearwaters than the 200 I recorded, Although they were really too far for positive ID, I’m calling them Black-vented, as this species will now be heading south to their nesting islands off the coast of Baja California. As usual, the Brandt’s and Pelagic Cormorants were on the offshore rocks or swimming nearby, while the Double-crested Cormorants occupied the snags in the lagoon.

Some of the snag lovers (C. Almdale 12/23/12)

Some of the snag-loving cormorants (C. Almdale 12/23/12)

Dredging work on the channel is finished. More flagged plants are in appearance. The cement ‘winter tidal clock’ path has advanced, and one of the bird observation platforms is going up. The originally scheduled completion date was Jan. 31, but Mark Abramson informed me that the contractor received a time extension for additional work, and worst case completion date should be March 1.

Migrants and wintering birds continue to arrive, including: Surf Scoter, Turkey Vulture, Herring Gull, Wrentit and American Goldfinch.. The last two species are certainly commonly seen in SoCal but have appeared on our monthly walks only 13 and 10 times, respectively, out of 279 recorded trips. The Wrentit was in a bush near Adamson boat house; the goldfinches were eating berries in the brush between PCH and the lagoon parking lot.

Other continuing wintering birds were: Brant, Green-winged Teal, Bufflehead, Red-throated & Pacific Loons, Glaucous-winged Gull, the female Belted Kingfisher, Say’s Phoebe, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Orange-crowned and Yellow-rumped Warblers, and Lesser Goldfinch. A juvenile Red-tailed Hawk was apparently snoozing in one of the cypresses at the SW corner of the channel area, a common raptor roosting site.

Six Snowy Plovers surround beach wrack (C. Almdale 12/23/12)

Six Snowy Plovers surround beach wrack (C. Almdale 12/23/12)

Snowy Plover PV:YB (left leg Pink above Violet: right leg Yellow above Blue), present on Surfrider Beach since Sept., is still there. Most of the 45 Snowy Plovers were found alongside the gulls on the exposed sand and rocky shore.

Adamson boat house view of channel & gulls (C. Almdale 12/23/12)

Adamson boat house view of channel & gulls (C. Almdale 12/23/12)

Although cool, it was a very pleasant, sunny day. About a half dozen new faces were with us, including Lucinda, a young woman from Argentina who has been watching and photographing birds for about 1½ years. Mary Ann Webster of the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter stopped to thank us for our many comments on Malibu Patch blog. Some small children played in the outlet stream until I warned their parents that the water is most polluted right after rainstorms such as we’d recently seen.

Our next three field trips:   Antelope Valley Raptor Search, 12 Jan., 8:00am; Malibu Lagoon, 27 Jan., 8:30am; Ballona Creek Jetty, 9 Feb., 8:00am.
Our next program:  Tuesday, 5 Feb., 7:30 pm.   Bird Photography, presented by Ralph Clevenger.  The usual reminders will be emailed from the blog.

NOTE: Our 10 a.m. Parent’s & Kids Birdwalk will probably resume on 24 March, 2013.

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:   Dec. total birds of 3604 are 30% above average primarily due to the gulls which were 50% above average. This is not outrageously high; we’ve recorded similar numbers previously in Nov, Dec, or Jan, including over 4000 gulls on 12/26/10.  Monthly total bird numbers relative to average continue to be up, down, up, down since the project began last June.
Species Diversity:  December 2012 with 63 species was slightly below (-4%) the  6-year average of 65.7.

Summary of species diversity from the 6-year average so far:  June -10%, July +10%, Aug. -6%, Sep. -20%, Oct. +5%, Nov +2%, Dec -4%. Still, the only constant is constant change.
10-year comparison summaries are available near the bottom of our Lagoon Project Page.   [Chuck Almdale]

 Malibu Census 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012  
December 2007-12 23-Dec 28-Dec 27-Dec 26-Dec 25-Dec 23-Dec  
Temperature     50-60 50-62 50-66 50-60  
Tide Lo/Hi Height H +7.2 H +6.0 L +0.2 L +2.13 H +6.80 H +5.40 Ave.
Tide Time 0745 0850 1241 0649 0850 0544 Birds
Snow Goose 3           0.5
Ross’ Goose 4           0.7
Brant           1 0.2
Gadwall 14 18 23 16 35 12 19.7
American Wigeon   6 26 8 4   7.3
Mallard 7 8 16 29 8 22 15.0
Cinnamon Teal       1     0.2
Northern Shoveler 18 32 15 18 30 14 21.2
Northern Pintail     1   7   1.3
Green-winged Teal 10 8 8 17 40 9 15.3
Lesser Scaup         1   0.2
Surf Scoter 25 16 50 10   5 17.7
Long-tailed Duck     1       0.2
Bufflehead 5   25 6 12 6 9.0
Red-brstd Merganser 7 6 3 3 4 4 4.5
Ruddy Duck 14 23 25 51 40 47 33.3
Red-throated Loon     3   1 3 1.2
Pacific Loon 1   5 5   3 2.3
Common Loon 2   2 1 1   1.0
Pied-billed Grebe 6 3 5 4 3 4 4.2
Horned Grebe 3 2       1 1.0
Eared Grebe 6 2 1 2 3 4 3.0
Western Grebe 55 2 4 35 25 35 26.0
Blk-vented Shearwater         200 200 66.7
Brandt’s Cormorant 1 12     6 30 8.2
Dble-crstd Cormorant 37 33 35 47 62 42 42.7
Pelagic Cormorant   2 3 1 1 3 1.7
Brown Pelican 33 67 56 13 12 35 36.0
Great Blue Heron 7 5 4 1 2 2 3.5
Great Egret 2 1   3   2 1.3
Snowy Egret 13 8 20 16 22 18 16.2
Cattle Egret         1   0.2
Blk-crwnd N-Heron 11 2   6 5   4.0
Turkey Vulture           2 0.3
Osprey       2 1   0.5
Cooper’s Hawk         1   0.2
Red-shouldered Hawk   1 1 1     0.5
Red-tailed Hawk 2 1   2   1 1.0
Peregrine Falcon       1     0.2
Virginia Rail       1 2   0.5
Sora     2 3 2   1.2
American Coot 323 210 403 237 280 210 277.2
Blk-bellied Plover 63 45 45 44 140 35 62.0
Snowy Plover 24 60 59 46 58 45 48.7
Killdeer 13 3 4 3 1 2 4.3
Black Oystercatcher     4     1 0.8
American Avocet       5 1   1.0
Spotted Sandpiper 1 1 2 3 2 1 1.7
Willet 5 27 12 8 1 6 9.8
Whimbrel 2 1 4 2 3 4 2.7
Marbled Godwit 23 8 14 43 1 18 17.8
Ruddy Turnstone 7 11 18 11 2 6 9.2
Sanderling 11 180 115 150 110 40 101.0
Least Sandpiper 1 3 35   12   8.5
Wilson’s Snipe     1       0.2
Boneparte’s Gull 1     1     0.3
Heermann’s Gull 6 15 24 11 13 9 13.0
Mew Gull         1   0.2
Ring-billed Gull 57 45 360 130 175 150 152.8
Western Gull 113 82 68 110 90 300 127.2
California Gull 165 140 1060 3850 1200 2150 1427.5
Herring Gull   4   1   2 1.2
Glaucous-wingd Gull 1 3 1 4   1 1.7
Caspian Tern     1       0.2
Forster’s Tern 1 1 1   3 5 1.8
Royal Tern 4 1         0.8
Black Skimmer       6     1.0
Rock Pigeon 6 8 4 13 4 12 7.8
Mourning Dove 3 2 2 1 2 2 2.0
Anna’s Hummingbird 8 2 3 3 1   2.8
Allen’s Hummingbird 3 4 2 2 2 3 2.7
Belted Kingfisher 1 1 1   1 1 0.8
Black Phoebe 4 10 5 5 3 12 6.5
Say’s Phoebe 2 2 2 1 2 1 1.7
Western Scrub-Jay       1     0.2
American Crow 32 6 2 18 4 6 11.3
Bushtit 14 5     30   8.2
Bewick’s Wren 1     3 2   1.0
House Wren   1   2     0.5
Marsh Wren     2   1   0.5
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 2 1     1 1 0.8
Wrentit           1 0.2
Northern Mockingbird 3 2 1   1   1.2
European Starling 41 6 10 15 5 18 15.8
Ornge-crwnd Warbler   1     1 1 0.5
Yellow-rumpd Warbler 35 40 12 12 8 16 20.5
Common Yellowthroat 5 6 5 4 4 2 4.3
Spotted Towhee   1 1 1     0.5
California Towhee   2   4   2 1.3
Savannah Sparrow     3   1   0.7
Song Sparrow 4 5 4 4 4 8 4.8
Lincoln’s Sparrow 2 1         0.5
White-crwnd Sparrow 18   1 9 15 4 7.8
Red-winged Blackbird   10   2 15   4.5
Western Meadowlark         2   0.3
Brewer’s Blackbird 8 6         2.3
Great-tailed Grackle       1 2 9 2.0
House Finch 9 6 6 2 5 2 5.0
Lesser Goldfinch 4 2 7   5 10 4.7
American Goldfinch       2   3 0.8
               
Totals by Type 23-Dec 28-Dec 27-Dec 26-Dec 25-Dec 23-Dec Ave.
Waterfowl 107 117 193 159 181 120 146
Water Birds-Other 467 333 519 349 598 570 473
Herons, Egrets 33 16 24 26 30 22 25
Raptors 2 2 1 6 2 3 3
Shorebirds 150 339 313 315 331 158 268
Gulls & Terns 348 291 1515 4113 1482 2617 1728
Doves 9 10 6 14 6 14 10
Other Non-Pass. 12 7 6 5 4 4 6
Passerines 184 113 61 86 111 96 109
Totals Birds 1312 1228 2638 5073 2745 3604 2767
               
Total Species 23-Dec 28-Dec 27-Dec 26-Dec 25-Dec 23-Dec Ave.
Waterfowl 10 8 11 10 10 9 9.7
Water Birds-Other 10 9 11 11 13 12 11.0
Herons, Egrets 4 4 2 4 4 3 3.5
Raptors 1 2 1 4 2 2 2.0
Shorebirds 10 10 12 10 11 10 10.5
Gulls & Terns 8 8 7 8 6 7 7.3
Doves 2 2 2 2 2 2 2.0
Other Non-Pass. 3 3 3 2 3 2 2.7
Passerines 16 19 14 17 20 16 17.0
Totals Species – 100 64 65 63 68 71 63 65.7
Advertisements

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: