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Malibu Lagoon Field Trip Report: 26 May, 2013

May 29, 2013

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The plants of the new reconfigured Malibu Lagoon were starting to green the dunes and islands and we were pleased that there was some “June Gloom” cloud cover to cool us as we birded the late spring birds. The beach berm had breached on May 16 (naturally or human-assisted? – debate continues), and the lagoon water level was so low that the recently-inaugurated “Tidal Clock” was dry. Actually, the Lagoon was mimicking natural conditions as it would be drying at this season were it not from runoff from the Calabasas and Malibu hill residents. The

This Brant should have migrated north by now (J. Waterman 5/26/13)

This Brant should have migrated north by now (J. Waterman 5/26/13)

Brant was still present in the lagoon and we spotted a solitary Snowy Plover who hadn’t decided to migrate north to the Central California coast, nor south to Bolsa Chica in Orange County. The area on the right hand side of the path to the beach was a source of worry to many old hands of SMBAS as it seems to be growing ragweed and pepperweed, among other invasive plants. The good news is that State Parks is well aware of the situation, but unluckily, they did not budget for exceptional early-growth weeding.

He has an extremely thin black neck bar! (J. Waterman 5/26/13)

This Snowy Plover has an extremely thin black neck bar!
(J. Waterman 5/26/13)

A few days later, Least Terns were discovered nesting in the Snowy Plover enclosure, although they were not seen on 5/26. Eggs were present and mated birds were courting each other with gifts of small fish. State Parks rushed in additional fencing, volunteer observers were found and deployed. Unfortunately, the local American Crows also found the eggs and ate them all. This was the first known nesting attempt for the Endangered Least Terns since 1940. It’s possible that they may try later this season, and probable they will try in future years, as long as there is an area, like the enclosure, where people won’t go. Crows, unfortunately, follow no such rules, which is the reason they are a major barrier to the recovery of this species.

Male Red-winged Blackbird in full breeding display (J. Waterman 5/26/13)

Male Red-winged Blackbird in full breeding display
(J. Waterman 5/26/13)

Even though your Board had thought that the Lagoon site was insufficiently grown and settled to welcome a picnic this year, there are some celebratory diehards who will be bringing and sharing goodies to the June birdwalk. All are free to join them after the walk at the picnic tables at the beach path’s left turn.  [Lucien Plauzoles]

Our next three field trips:  Malibu Lagoon, 23 June, 8:30am; Mt. Piños Birds & Butterflies, 29-30 June; Malibu Lagoon, 28 July, 8:30am.
Our next program:  Tuesday, 1 Oct., 7:30 pm. To be announced, as usual, from the blog.
NOTE: Our 10 a.m. Parent’s & Kids Birdwalks have resumed.

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:
   May total birds of 322 are 37% below the 6-year average; low numbers are mainly in the Ducks (-27), Brown Pelicans (-123), Coots (-16) and Passerines (-34), mostly in Starlings, no great loss there.
Summary of total birds from the 6-year average so far:  June +36%, July -9%, Aug. -9%, Sep. +12%, Oct. +3%, Nov -5%, Dec +30%, Jan -20%, Feb -29%, March -30%, April -34%, May -37%.    Increasingly downward.
Species Diversity:  May 2013 with 46 species was 3.4% above the 44.5 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%, March +9%, April -2%, May +3%.
10-year comparison summaries are available on our Lagoon Project Bird Census Page.    [Chuck Almdale]

Malibu Census 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013  
2008 – 2013 5/25 5/24 5/23 5/22 5/27 5/26  
Temperature 65-70   54-62   68-72    
Tide Lo/Hi Height L +0.1 H +3.7 H +3.76 L -0.13 L +0.38 H +4.08 Ave.
Tide Time 0801 1042 0638 0816 0844 1138 Birds
Brant   4 7     1 2.0
Gadwall 8 12 12 3 5 2 7.0
Mallard 20 20 18 48 32 5 23.8
Northern Shoveler           1 0.2
Surf Scoter 9           1.5
Red-brstd Merganser         2   0.3
Ruddy Duck 1 2     3   1.0
Pacific Loon   1 5       1.0
Common Loon 2           0.3
Pied-billed Grebe 3   2   3 3 1.8
Western Grebe     1       0.2
Brandt’s Cormorant 5 1         1.0
Dble-crstd Cormorant 5 28 7 46 15 9 18.3
Pelagic Cormorant     1       0.2
Brown Pelican 231 70 124 81 265 7 129.7
Great Blue Heron 2 1 2 1 3 2 1.8
Great Egret 4 4 2   3 3 2.7
Snowy Egret 9 7 12 3 14 3 8.0
Green Heron   1         0.2
Blk-crwnd N-Heron 10     2 3 1 2.7
Osprey       1   1 0.3
White-tailed Kite           1 0.2
Cooper’s Hawk       1     0.2
Red-tailed Hawk 1 1 1       0.5
Peregrine Falcon       1     0.2
American Coot 6 32 8 25 30 1 17.0
Blk-bellied Plover       3 22   4.2
Snowy Plover           1 0.2
Semipalmated Plover           2 0.3
Killdeer 1 1 4 2 3 6 2.8
Willet         4   0.7
Whimbrel   4 1   20 1 4.3
Marbled Godwit         1   0.2
Black Turnstone         1   0.2
Boneparte’s Gull 2 1   1     0.7
Heermann’s Gull 1 20 17   15 35 14.7
Ring-billed Gull 2 1 2 16   1 3.7
Western Gull 56 65 68 10 85 22 51.0
California Gull 1   95 8 4 1 18.2
Glaucous-wingd Gull 1       1   0.3
Caspian Tern 61 15 25 4 6 2 18.8
Royal Tern 1 2     5 5 2.2
Elegant Tern 23 40 9 12 35 121 40.0
Black Skimmer           2 0.3
Rock Pigeon 2 6 6 8 2   4.0
Eur. Collared-Dove         1   0.2
Mourning Dove   4 6 1 2 5 3.0
White-throated Swift 2           0.3
Anna’s Hummingbird 2 2 1 1 2 1 1.5
Allen’s Hummingbird   8 6 4 5 1 4.0
Belted Kingfisher         1   0.2
Pac.Slope Flycatcher   1         0.2
Black Phoebe 6 12 10 4 13 2 7.8
Say’s Phoebe           1 0.2
American Crow 4 6 4 3 5 3 4.2
Common Raven 1 2         0.5
Rough-wingd Swallow 10 10 1 2   1 4.0
Violet-green Swallow 2     1 1   0.7
Barn Swallow 6 1 8 8 2 6 5.2
Cliff Swallow 40 12 12 31 12 14 20.2
Oak Titmouse     1       0.2
Bushtit 20   4   4 10 6.3
Bewick’s Wren     1       0.2
Wrentit           1 0.2
Northern Mockingbird 5 6 4 2 6 3 4.3
European Starling 20 2 3 40 45 3 18.8
Cedar Waxwing     32       5.3
Common Yellowthroat 2     2 3   1.2
Spotted Towhee 1       2   0.5
California Towhee 1 5 1 1   1 1.5
Song Sparrow 2 8 10 4 12 8 7.3
Red-winged Blackbird 6   4 2 10 9 5.2
Brewer’s Blackbird           2 0.3
Great-tailed Grackle 4     16 2 4 4.3
Brwn-headed Cowbird   2 1 3 1   1.2
Hooded Oriole 4 1 1       1.0
Bullock’s Oriole   2 1   1   0.7
House Finch 3 8 6 8 8 3 6.0
Lesser Goldfinch 2 1 2 4     1.5
House Sparrow           5 0.8
Totals by Type 5/25 5/24 5/23 5/22 5/27 5/26 Ave.
Waterfowl 38 38 37 51 42 9 36
Water Birds-Other 252 132 148 152 313 20 170
Herons, Egrets 25 13 16 6 23 9 15
Raptors 1 1 1 3 0 2 1
Shorebirds 1 5 5 5 51 10 13
Gulls & Terns 148 144 216 51 151 189 150
Doves 2 10 12 9 5 5 7
Other Non-Pass. 4 10 7 5 8 2 6
Passerines 139 79 106 131 127 76 110
Totals Birds 610 432 548 413 720 322 508
  2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013  
Total Species 5/25 5/24 5/23 5/22 5/27 5/26 Ave.
Waterfowl 4 4 3 2 4 4 3.5
Water Birds-Other 6 5 7 3 4 4 4.8
Herons, Egrets 4 4 3 3 4 4 3.7
Raptors 1 1 1 3 0 2 1.3
Shorebirds 1 2 2 2 6 4 2.8
Gulls & Terns 9 7 6 6 7 8 7.2
Doves 1 2 2 2 3 1 1.8
Other Non-Pass. 2 2 2 2 3 2 2.2
Passerines 19 16 19 16 16 17 17.2
Totals Species 47 43 45 39 47 46 44.5
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