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Malibu Lagoon Trip Report: 23 June, 2013

June 26, 2013

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It seems weird when June at the beach is cold, but 62-75° is actually fairly common – June gloom, and all that.  A light breeze made it downright chilly, although if you’re not a SoCal resident, being chilled at 62° may seem absurd. So it goes. All things are relative; some are more relative than others.

Vegetating hillside flowers (L. Johnson 6/23/13)

Vegetating hillside flowers (L. Johnson 6/23/13)

The beach breach had filled in, although most of Surfrider Beach seemed to be missing. Rocks and timbers from long-vanished piers were exposed, and a 6-ft cliff of sand was just below the lifeguard station near the pier. Waves from the most recent high tide had washed completely across the beach and into the lagoon.  Speaking of the lagoon, the newly enlarged channel seems to have developed a sizable mat of floating greenish-brown algae. The now-superseded narrow channels also sported thick summer coatings of algae, but more surface area seems to mean more algae.  I hope this stuff doesn’t turn into the stinking cesspool we used to get. Flowers are popping up everywhere, but the need for weeding has also become quite evident.

View towards colony across channel island & algae (L. Johnson 6/23/13)

View towards colony across channel island & algae
(L. Johnson 6/23/13)

Most of the ducks (see trip list below) were in the channel and on it’s several islands when we arrived, as were the Pied-billed Grebes and the few coots. I think the ducks spend the night on the islands, surrounded by the security of water as islands (by definition) typically are. By 10am on they had spread all over the lagoon and channel. I had just gotten my binoculars out of the trunk when two Long-billed Curlew glided in from the west to settle on the channel shore. But they prefer grassy fields or deep, invertebrate-filled mud for feeding, and they soon moved on. Several pairs of Killdeer also strolled the channel shore; we searched for little Killdeer (Killdeerettes?) but they’re extremely cryptic at best, and we could see none, if indeed any were present. Crows – who ate the eggs which Least Terns recently laid in the Snowy Plover enclosure – relish chicks just as much as they do eggs.  The terns gave it up as a bad bet and moved on to safer pastures.

Brown Pelican numbers may be beginning to recover – 52 was more than we’ve seen since last January, but still well below the 177 average for 2007-12. Gull & tern numbers also remain well below average, with 104 total birds less than half of the average 229 for 2007-12. Barn Swallows, however, swarmed the beach, scooping up the abundant “flies” springing from clumps of kelp-wrack, and a few birders were reminded that just because they’re not “all rusty” underneath doesn’t mean they’re not Barn Swallows. The Mallards rebounded from May’s count of 5 to 59; most were juveniles, and were probably literally “up the creek” last month, when we found only 5, as they sure didn’t fly in from anywhere. Speaking of ‘elsewhere’, there were 22 herons & egrets in the nesting tree behind Starbucks across the street who are not included in the census below.

Unexpected and uncommon at the lagoon – besides the curlews – were five Band-tailed Pigeons perched on a snag near PCH and a juvenile American Robin at Adamson House. The lower half of this bird’s breast was a typical rusty-red, while the top half was reddish spots on a pale background.

Heermann's and Western Gulls (L. Johnson 6/23/13)

Heermann’s and Western Gulls (L. Johnson 6/23/13)

A few people brought their lunches and had a get-together after the walk, but there was no official picnic, per se. We learned afterwards that a few families came for the 10am Parents & Kids birdwalk, but couldn’t find anyone in the parking lot and left.  For future reference, the leaders for all walks will start from the metal-shaded gathering area next to the parking lot, which is where they waited this time, apparently invisible from the parking lot through the ever-growing thicket of willows.

Our next three field trips:   Mt. Piños Birds & Butterflies, 29-30 June; Malibu Lagoon, 28 July, 8:30am; Malibu Lagoon, 25 August, 8:30am.
Our next program:  Tuesday, 1 Oct., 7:30 pm. Blog-announced, as usual.
NOTE: Our 10 a.m. Parent’s & Kids Birdwalk has resumed, meeting at the shaded viewing area near the parking lot.

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 (No count available for June 2008)
Total Birds:
   June total birds of 474 are 24% below the 6-year average, which is an improvement from the previous 4 months; low numbers are mainly in Brown Pelicans and Gulls & Terns (-104 each).
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%, June -24%. Recovering?
Species Diversity:  June 2013 with 48 species was 13% above the 6-year average of 42.7.
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%, Jan +2%, Feb -8%, March +9%, April -2%, May +3%, June +13%.
10-year comparison summaries are available on our Lagoon Project Bird Census Page.     [Chuck Almdale]

 Malibu Census 2007 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
2007-2013
6/24 6/28 6/27 6/26 6/24 6/23
Temperature   68-75 65-75 68-76 70-76 62-75
Tide Lo/Hi Height L -0.3 L +0.4 H +3.81 H +3.0 L +0.07 H +4.22 Ave.
Tide Time 0640 0838 1139 0754 0714 1037 Birds
Brant 1 1 11 2.2
Gadwall 14 15 4 5 2 2 7.0
Mallard 40 25 40 41 24 59 38.2
Red-brstd Merganser 1 0.2
Ruddy Duck 6 7 2.2
Pied-billed Grebe 4 2 2 3 4 8 3.8
Clark’s Grebe 1 0.2
Brandt’s Cormorant 2 0.3
Dble-crstd Cormorant 6 22 5 54 17 17 20.2
Pelagic Cormorant 1 3 0.7
Brown Pelican 239 71 205 28 340 52 155.8
Great Blue Heron 3 8 6 4 1 2 4.0
Great Egret 4 3 2 5 2 2.7
Snowy Egret 8 14 14 8 4 8 9.3
Little Blue Egret 1 0.2
Green Heron 3 1 0.7
Blk-crwnd N-Heron 5 3 6 1 2 2.8
Osprey 1 1 0.3
White-tailed Kite 1 1 0.3
Cooper’s Hawk 1 1 0.3
Red-shouldered Hawk 1 0.2
Red-tailed Hawk 1 1 2 2 1.0
Peregrine Falcon 1 0.2
American Coot 20 22 5 12 4 6 11.5
Blk-bellied Plover 15 2.5
Killdeer 2 5 1 4 2.0
Black Oystercatcher 1 0.2
Willet 3 3 1 1.2
Whimbrel 5 8 2.2
Long-billed Curlew 2 0.3
Western Sandpiper 1 2 0.5
Short-billed Dowitcher 2 0.3
Boneparte’s Gull 2 0.3
Heermann’s Gull 16 48 17 15 44 18 26.3
Ring-billed Gull 7 1.2
Western Gull 380 72 61 68 84 62 121.2
California Gull 1 1 1 0.5
Caspian Tern 3 9 10 1 6 4.8
Forster’s Tern 4 0.7
Royal Tern 6 2 1 4 3 2.7
Elegant Tern 25 15 4 240 14 49.7
Black Skimmer 5 1 1.0
Rock Pigeon 4 6 4 4 3 9 5.0
Band-tailed Pigeon 5 0.8
Mourning Dove 4 4 5 1 2 2.7
White-throated Swift 1 0.2
Anna’s Hummingbird 1 2 2 1 3 2 1.8
Allen’s Hummingbird 1 4 1 8 10 4.0
Belted Kingfisher 1 0.2
Downy Woodpecker 1 0.2
Black Phoebe 2 15 2 10 5 12 7.7
Cassin’s Kingbird 1 1 0.3
Western Scrub-Jay 1 1 0.3
American Crow 6 12 4 4 4 8 6.3
Rough-wingd Swallow 4 6 6 1 2.8
Barn Swallow 30 8 40 25 4 23 21.7
Cliff Swallow 8 7 30 15 4 2 11.0
Oak Titmouse 1 1 0.3
Bushtit 9 4 8 1 3.7
Marsh Wren 1 0.2
American Robin 1 0.2
Wrentit 1 0.2
Northern Mockingbird 3 2 2 3 6 6 3.7
European Starling 8 20 65 21 5 65 30.7
Common Yellowthroat 3 1 1 1 2 1.3
Spotted Towhee 2 0.3
California Towhee 1 4 1 6 2.0
Song Sparrow 4 6 3 3 6 15 6.2
Red-winged Blackbird 1 55 2 9.7
Great-tailed Grackle 3 3 2 4 2.0
Brwn-headed Cowbird 1 1 2 1 3 1.3
Hooded Oriole 4 1 1 1.0
Bullock’s Oriole 1 2 0.5
House Finch 5 6 4 14 8 14 8.5
Lesser Goldfinch 2 4 2 1.3
House Sparrow 8 2 1.7
Totals by Type 6/24 6/28 6/27 6/26 6/24 6/23 Ave.
Waterfowl 62 41 62 46 26 61 50
Water Birds-Other 271 117 217 97 368 85 193
Herons, Egrets 24 28 28 19 5 14 20
Raptors 2 3 1 4 1 3 2
Shorebirds 3 9 2 7 25 9 9
Gulls & Terns 433 139 105 96 373 104 208
Doves 4 10 8 9 4 16 9
Other Non-Pass. 2 6 3 2 12 13 6
Passerines 96 93 220 122 49 169 125
Totals Birds 897 446 646 402 863 474 621
  2007 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Total Species 6/24 6/28 6/27 6/26 6/24 6/23 Ave.
Waterfowl 5 3 4 2 2 2 3.0
Water Birds-Other 6 4 4 4 5 5 4.7
Herons, Egrets 6 4 4 5 2 4 4.2
Raptors 2 3 1 3 1 2 2.0
Shorebirds 1 3 1 2 4 4 2.5
Gulls & Terns 6 5 7 6 5 6 5.8
Doves 1 2 2 2 2 3 2.0
Other Non-Pass. 2 2 2 2 3 3 2.3
Passerines 15 16 15 19 13 19 16.2
Totals Species – 76 44 42 40 45 37 48 42.7

 

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One Comment
  1. June 26, 2013 5:51 pm

    On 6/20 I saw 2 black-necked stilts and 2 osprey at the lagoon. Got a good photo of the stilts from the left-hand (from the parking lot) viewing station.

    Like

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