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Malibu Lagoon Field Trip Report: 24 March, 2013

March 26, 2013

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We finally got to see the new lagoon layout without the fences and equipment.  There’s a lot more water surface, especially when the lagoon outlet is closed and the level is higher than the “peninsula,” as it was today.  Tens of thousands of little flags of several colors were everywhere; if the color means anything, I don’t know what it is.  The ground looks quite barren until you look closely, when you’ll see a tiny plant next to nearly all the flags.  The flags mark these plants, so that when weeds inevitably pop up, they’ll be flagless, and doomed to removal.  Doomed!

Starting at the viewing area closest to the PCH bridge (henceforth the north platform), we checked out the ducks which, except for the Mallards, Gadwalls and Ruddy Ducks, have mostly left for the north.    Swallows are returning: we saw a dozen Rough-winged over the channel, with a single male Barn Swallow sweeping the beach. We spent a long time looking at a Merlin in a sycamore at the edge of the golf course, trying to see if it actually had a head or not, with but one very fuzzy photo to show for it.

Tide was quite high; waves crashing over the offshore rocks, with Surf Scoters, Pacific, Red-throated and Common Loons, Horned and Eared Grebes, all moving into breeding plumage, threading their way through the long line of surfers busily thrashing the waves.

A large mixed flock of Willets, Whimbrels and Marbled Godwits, flying in from the southeast, dropped in near the end of our walk, joining the few Brown Pelicans and Double-crested Cormorants resting on the sand islands.  Many of the cormorants have developed their white “eyebrows” – the two crests that give them their name, lending them an Andy Rooney appearance. The Snowy Plover winter colony was out foraging in two separate groups: 16 – including PV:YB – in the high tide wrack, and 17 at lagoon-edge a hundred yards away.  Among the few gulls we found a Herring Gull and a Glaucous-wing Gull, both in adult alternate plumage. Glaucous-winged in SoCal are usually first-year birds; finding one in adult breeding plumage is very uncommon, at least for me. I’m guessing it’s the 2nd one I’ve ever seen at the lagoon.

The lagoon outlet was closed, so we went to Adamson House, where we found most of the passerines: Oak Titmouse, Bewick’s Wren, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Song Sparrows, and California Towhees were poking around the trees and brush, while 4 Nanday Parakeets sat in the top of the big sycamore tree.

It’s now become pointless to separately census birds in the channel area as, after they awake, they freely move back and forth the rest of the day. I have the impression that the ducks spend the night in the channel on one or more of the new islands, then spread out as the day warms.

Merlins typically show up briefly in fall and spring, so I guess this was our spring bird. The Elegant Terns have been absent since October, but you never know when Nanday Parakeets will appear. They fly often and far from their nesting areas in the nearby canyons, foraging for food. Cassin’s Kingbird was last seen in Feb.’12, and both swallow species left last August. Brewer’s Blackbirds are irregular – they’re nearly always over at the shopping center food courts, snatching fries, burger bits and whatnot, but they don’t often make it to the lagoon, at least on Sunday mornings.

Our next three field trips:  Paramount Ranch to Malibu Creek Flowers & Bird Hike, 6 April, 8am; Walker Ranch in Placerita Canyon, 13 April 8:30am; Butterbredt Spring Campout 27-28 April, 8am; Malibu Lagoon, 28 April, 8:30am.

Our next program:  Tuesday, 5 Apr., 7:30 pm.   Birds and Large Dangerous Mammals of Tanzania, with Chuck Bragg. Meeting place is at Christine Reed Park at Wilshire & Lincoln Blvds. in Santa Monica. The usual reminders will be emailed from the blog.

NOTE: Our 10 a.m. Parent’s & Kids Birdwalk resumes on 28 April, 2013. The parking lot is back to normal.

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:   March total birds of 673 are 30% below average; low numbers are mainly in the Western Grebes, Double-crested Cormorants, Brown Pelicans and California Gulls, with the shortfall in those 4 species totaling over 370 birds.
Species Diversity:  March 2013 with 61 species was 9% above 56.2 6-year average, a minor variance.
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%, Jan +2%, Feb -8%, +9%. Still, the only constant is change.
10-year comparison summaries are available on our Malibu Lagoon Bird Census Summaries Page.
[Chuck Almdale]

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

Malibu Census 2012

23-Mar

22-Mar

28-Mar

27-Mar

25-Mar

24-Mar

Temperature 65-75 50-60 70-80 54-61   60-75
Tide Lo/Hi Height H +4.2 H +4.8 H +5.48 L +0.05 H +3.64 H +4.90 Ave.
Tide Time 1059 0728 0840 1216 1146 0806 Birds
Brant 1 0.2
Canada Goose 3 0.5
Gadwall 26 18 16 32 18 13 20.5
American Wigeon 4 4 14 3 4.2
Mallard 10 16 12 30 24 28 20.0
Cinnamon Teal 6 4 1.7
Northern Shoveler 13 2 8 18 2 7.2
Northern Pintail 1 5 1.0
Green-winged Teal 8 4 1 10 11 5.7
Lesser Scaup 1 0.2
Surf Scoter 10 18 8 5 6.8
Red-brstd Merganser 10 3 1 4 2 12 5.3
Ruddy Duck 8 11 15 20 55 18.2
Red-throated Loon 2 2 0.7
Pacific Loon 5 15 3 3.8
Common Loon 1 1 0.3
Pied-billed Grebe 1 1 4 1.0
Horned Grebe 2 1 0.5
Eared Grebe 1 0.2
Western Grebe 220 12 27 20 1 46.7
Brandt’s Cormorant 2 2 1 1 1 1.2
Dble-crstd Cormorant 33 36 42 90 30 15 41.0
Pelagic Cormorant 1 1 0.3
Brown Pelican 320 170 184 89 40 35 139.7
Great Blue Heron 1 1 2 1 1 1.0
Great Egret 1 2 1 1 1 1.0
Snowy Egret 3 10 7 5 12 5 7.0
Green Heron 1 0.2
Blk-crwnd N-Heron 1 0.2
Turkey Vulture 2 3 2 1.2
Osprey 1 1 0.3
Cooper’s Hawk 1 1 0.3
Red-shouldered Hawk 1 1 0.3
Red-tailed Hawk 2 2 2 2 1 1.5
Merlin 1 0.2
Peregrine Falcon 1 0.2
Virginia Rail 1 0.2
Sora 1 1 1 4 1.2
American Coot 53 85 92 153 20 170 95.5
Blk-bellied Plover 45 24 25 7 16.8
Snowy Plover 25 36 25 42 14 33 29.2
Killdeer 4 3 1 2 2 2.0
Black Oystercatcher 1 2 0.5
American Avocet 2 7 1.5
Spotted Sandpiper 1 1 1 1 1 1 1.0
Greater Yellowlegs 1 1 0.3
Willet 13 4 4 3 3 16 7.2
Whimbrel 27 3 1 18 28 12.8
Marbled Godwit 13 12 2 12 6.5
Ruddy Turnstone 7 12 2 3.5
Sanderling 64 6 11.7
Western Sandpiper 15 2 2.8
Least Sandpiper 2 14 20 20 9.3
Boneparte’s Gull 2 4 1.0
Heermann’s Gull 3 4 4 1.8
Ring-billed Gull 43 25 2 50 8 25 25.5
Western Gull 68 70 48 100 30 35 58.5
California Gull 29 180 27 1100 12 30 229.7
Herring Gull 1 1 0.3
Glaucous-wingd Gull 1 11 1 1 2.3
Caspian Tern 5 1 2 5 3 2.7
Forster’s Tern 2 1 0.5
Royal Tern 3 0.5
Elegant Tern 22 47 4 2 12.5
Black Skimmer 3 0.5
Rock Pigeon 4 4 4 2 25 6.5
Mourning Dove 2 2 2 1.0
Blk-hooded Parakeet 4 0.7
Anna’s Hummingbird 1 2 3 2 1 1.5
Rufous Hummingbird 1 0.2
Allen’s Hummingbird 5 2 3 4 5 3.2
Belted Kingfisher 1 1 1 1 0.7
Black Phoebe 6 6 6 12 5 5.8
Say’s Phoebe 1 1 0.3
Cassin’s Kingbird 1 0.2
Western Kingbird 2 2 16 3.3
Western Scrub-Jay 1 1 0.3
American Crow 6 6 4 6 3 8 5.5
Rough-wingd Swallow 6 30 3 2 6 12 9.8
Barn Swallow 1 1 0.3
Oak Titmouse 1 0.2
Bushtit 2 4 4 4 5 3.2
Bewick’s Wren 1 1 1 0.5
House Wren 1 0.2
Northern Mockingbird 2 2 2 1 2 1.5
European Starling 3 20 8 16 7.8
Ornge-crwnd Warbler 7 1.2
Yellow-rumpd Warbler 2 5 8 1 2.7
Common Yellowthroat 2 2 1 3 1 1.5
Spotted Towhee 1 0.2
California Towhee 1 2 1 2 1.0
Savannah Sparrow 5 0.8
Song Sparrow 6 6 8 12 13 8 8.8
White-crwnd Sparrow 2 3 5 1.7
Red-winged Blackbird 2 6 2 1.7
Brewer’s Blackbird 1 0.2
Great-tailed Grackle 6 7 2.2
Brwn-headed Cowbird 2 3 0.8
House Finch 4 4 6 20 19 2 9.2
Lesser Goldfinch 3 4 4 1.8
Totals by Type 23-Mar 22-Mar 28-Mar 27-Mar 25-Mar 24-Mar Ave.
Waterfowl 89 74 70 99 101 115 91
Water Birds-Other 631 307 354 376 91 234 332
Herons, Egrets 5 11 12 7 14 7 9
Raptors 7 3 2 6 0 6 4
Shorebirds 203 113 87 71 65 92 105
Gulls & Terns 152 313 133 1270 53 94 336
Doves 6 4 6 4 0 25 8
Other Non-Pass. 7 5 6 8 0 11 6
Passerines 47 91 53 94 62 89 73
Totals Birds 1147 921 723 1935 386 673 964
  2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Total Species 23-Mar 22-Mar 28-Mar 27-Mar 25-Mar 24-Mar Ave.
Waterfowl 10 11 7 6 8 6 8.0
Water Birds-Other 7 7 8 11 4 11 8.0
Herons, Egrets 3 2 4 3 3 3 3.0
Raptors 5 2 1 3 0 5 2.7
Shorebirds 12 12 9 7 7 6 8.8
Gulls & Terns 8 7 8 9 4 6 7.0
Doves 2 1 2 2 0 1 1.3
Other Non-Pass. 3 3 2 4 0 4 2.7
Passerines 13 15 14 18 9 19 14.7
Totals Species 63 60 55 63 35 61 56.2

 

 

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