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Malibu Lagoon Trip Report: 25 August, 2013

August 31, 2013

After several decades of arguing, nearly to the point of fisticuffs, SMBAS birders have almost sorted out the differences between Elegant and Royal Terns. A few questions, a short run-through of differences, we move on, and only a few low grumbled invectives in the background. One down, 42 I.D. problems to go. This time it was a falcon.

Foggy lagoon morning (C. Bragg 8/25/13)

Foggy lagoon morning (C. Bragg 8/25/13)

I always hope that Cindy is around to make these pesky raptor calls. I don’t consider myself an expert on much of anything, let alone underside views of lone raptors disappearing into the fog.

I spotted it first, when it was lowest and closest. Pointed wings said ‘falcon’: it looked fluttery and small, almost kestrel-like, but not quite. My “falcon!” call” alerted the group to the bird’s presence, and I continued watching for any definitive ID sign. It lacked the underside patterning or the “sideburns” a kestrel should have, nor were it’s axillaries (“armpits”) Prairie Falcon dark, so I announced, “I think it’s a Merlin,” in my default “that’s-what-I-think-but-I’m-not-putting-any-money-on-it” manner. I continued to watch its head as the bird circled, rose and eventually disappeared into the fog; I felt I saw it well enough to see signs of a dark “hood” or thick “sideburn” were they present. I saw neither.  [I ought to mention that I use 10X stabilizing binoculars, so I often see things as well as others do using a 20X telescope. They don’t make me a great birder – just better than I would otherwise be.]

Merlin momentarily resting (L.Johnson, Malibu Lagoon 11/09)

Merlin momentarily resting (L.Johnson Malibu Lagoon 11/09)

Meanwhile, cutting through the background chatter, another voice had announced several times, “It’s a Peregrine!” . [Birders, utterly engrossed in the process of finding and watching a bird, temporarily oblivious to their immediate surroundings, frequently cry out, “Where is it? What is it? What is it?”, while others are equally busy saying where and what it is.]

After the bird flew out of sight, while some were still asking, “What did we decide it was?”, I located the person who, to my ears, seemed confident it was a Peregrine, and asked, “Why do you think it was a Peregrine?” As I said, lone birds in the fog are not my strong suit. The reply was something like, ‘I work with raptors and their recovery, so I’m familiar with them.’  I had been hoping for details of the bird, not of the person, and I repeated my question. “It was big;” possibly ‘strong flight’ was mentioned – I now forget. “Well, that’s weird, because it seemed both small and a bit fluttery to me,” I replied. A skeptic, I hold the ability of humans – including myself – to judge either size or distance of a bird, especially a lone bird, poor, at best.

So there it is, for what it’s worth. I could not see any Peregrine head pattern on the bird, I don’t trust anyone’s size or distance impressions, the bird mostly soared, it ‘fluttered’ only at the very start when fairly low (perhaps it was just taking off). My 35 years of Malibu sightings yield the following August records: Merlin-1, Peregrine-0. Not much to choose from. I put it in the checklist as a Merlin.

In other late-breaking news, there were 35 Snowy Plovers near the east end of the enclosure, no banded birds were seen. If there were any big feeding flocks offshore, it was too foggy to see them.

Elegant Terns (L. Johnson 8/25/13)

Elegant Terns (L. Johnson 8/25/13)

Other new birds for the season were: Western Sandpiper; Forster’s Tern; Western Wood-Pewee; Western Kingbird; Rough-winged Swallow; House Wren; Orange-crowned, Yellow-rumped & Wilson’s Warblers; Lincoln’s Sparrow.

The lithic spires of a vast underground cyclopean city emerge from Surfrider Beach as oblivious birders scan the cormorant-covered rocks offshore (C. Bragg 8/25/13)

The Sierra Club Trail Crew volunteers were kind enough to come a second month to pull weeds. I had hoped a few SMBAS members would be there, but it was only Jim Kenney and myself to join the very vigorous weeders. We spent about 3 1/2 hours pulling tobacco, fennel, pepperweed and excess willows from the driveway circle, and thinning out the nearby mulefat. If one could train goats to be very selective in their dining choices, it would be wonderful. Until then, humans must do the work. Many thanks to the Trail Crew.

Sierra Club Trail Crew at work (C. Almdale 8/24/13)

Sierra Club Trail Crew at work (C. Almdale 8/24/13)

Our next three scheduled field trips:   Malibu Lagoon Coastal Cleanup, Sat. 21 Sep, 9am; Malibu Lagoon, Sun. 22 Sept, 8:30 & 10am; Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, Sat. 12 Oct, 8:30am.
Our next program:  Tuesday, 1 Oct., 7:30 pm. Peru, presented by Mary Deutsch.

NOTE: Our 10 a.m. Parent’s & Kids Birdwalks meet at the shaded viewing area.

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:
   August total birds of 1154 are 37% above the 6-year average, an improvement from the Jan-Jun’13 period; pelican numbers rebounded; Black-bellied Plovers, Elegant Terns and Bushtits were well above average.
Summary of total birds from the 6-year average so far:  Jun’12 +36%, Jul’12 -9%, Aug’12 -9%, Sep’12 +12%, Oct’12 +3%, Nov’12 -5%, Dec’12 +30%, Jan’13 -20%, Feb’13 -29%, Mar’13 -30%, Apr’13 -34%, May’13 -37%, Jun’13 -24%, Jul’13 +83%, Aug’13 +37%.
Species Diversity:  August 2013 with 61 species was moderately above the 6-year average of 55.
Summary of species diversity from the 6-year average so far:  Jun’12 -10%, Jul’12 +10%, Aug’12. -6%, Sep’12 -20%, Oct’12 +5%, Nov’12 +2%, Dec’12 -4%, Jan’13 +2%, Feb’13 -8%, Mar’13 +9%, Apr’13 -2%, May’13 +3%, Jun’13 +13%, Jul’13 0%, Aug’13 +11%.
10-year comparison summaries are available on our Lagoon Project Bird Census Page.    [Chuck Almdale]

Malibu Census 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013  
August 2008 – 2013 8/24 8/23 8/22 8/28 8/26 8/25  
Temperature   65-75 68-75 72-81 70-78 58-70  
Tide Lo/Hi Height L +2.9 H +5.7 H +4.32 H +5.03 H +2.59 L +1.31 Ave.
Tide Time 0819 1201 0933 0942 1136 628 Birds
Brant 5 3 1.3
Gadwall 4 0.7
Mallard 42 35 55 60 32 52 46.0
Northern Shoveler 4 0.7
Northern Pintail 6 1.0
Ruddy Duck 5 5 1.7
Common Loon 1 0.2
Pied-billed Grebe 3 7 9 15 10 16 10.0
Eared Grebe 1 0.2
Western Grebe 3 0.5
Brandt’s Cormorant 3 1 8 2.0
Dble-crstd Cormorant 18 12 30 48 34 45 31.2
Pelagic Cormorant 2 3 2 1.2
Brown Pelican 15 185 163 77 37 143 103.3
Great Blue Heron 8 7 6 3 5 3 5.3
Great Egret 5 5 4 2 1 2 3.2
Snowy Egret 23 17 19 15 14 14 17.0
Green Heron 1 0.2
Blk-crwnd N-Heron 2 3 7 4 2 3.0
Osprey 1 1 0.3
White-tailed Kite 1 0.2
Cooper’s Hawk 1 0.2
Red-tailed Hawk 1 2 2 0.8
Merlin 1 0.2
Sora 1 0.2
American Coot 15 28 75 33 42 32.2
Blk-bellied Plover 45 71 55 46 64 115 66.0
Snowy Plover 41 36 44 36 45 35 39.5
Semipalmated Plover 2 10 4 2 1 3.2
Killdeer 6 3 3 8 5 12 6.2
Black Oystercatcher 1 0.2
Black-necked Stilt 2 0.3
Spotted Sandpiper 2 2 1 2 4 2 2.2
Wandering Tattler 1 0.2
Greater Yellowlegs 2 0.3
Willet 18 16 10 4 2 15 10.8
Lesser Yellowlegs 1 0.2
Whimbrel 12 29 8 41 52 53 32.5
Marbled Godwit 3 2 2 1.2
Ruddy Turnstone 4 11 3 4 9 6 6.2
Black Turnstone 1 0.2
Sanderling 20 105 30 15 1 28.5
Western Sandpiper 12 8 4 11 2 6.2
Least Sandpiper 13 3 4 6 6 2 5.7
Pectoral Sandpiper 1 0.2
Short-billd Dowitcher 1 3 3 2 1.5
Red-necked Phalarope 7 1.2
Heermann’s Gull 8 21 62 24 17 48 30.0
Ring-billed Gull 2 4 1.0
Western Gull 108 132 66 146 134 110 116.0
California Gull 1 1 3 8 4 2.8
Least Tern 20 1 3.5
Caspian Tern 1 13 12 4.3
Common Tern 2 0.3
Forster’s Tern 2 5 3 1 1 2.0
Royal Tern 3 2 18 3 5 5.2
Elegant Tern 4 1 45 36 69 130 47.5
Black Skimmer 103 1 17.3
Rock Pigeon 3 6 4 5 12 16 7.7
Mourning Dove 4 3 2 2 2 2.2
Anna’s Hummingbird 1 2 4 1 1.3
Allen’s Hummingbird 2 2 4 7 9 4.0
Belted Kingfisher 1 2 1 0.7
Nuttall’s Woodpecker 1 0.2
Downy Woodpecker 1 0.2
Western Wood-Pewee 1 0.2
Black Phoebe 3 6 5 10 8 17 8.2
Cassin’s Kingbird 1 1 0.3
Western Kingbird 5 2 4 4 4 8 4.5
Western Scrub-Jay 2 1 0.5
American Crow 5 3 4 3 5 5 4.2
Rough-wingd Swallow 1 3 3 22 2 1 5.3
Tree Swallow 1 0.2
Barn Swallow 6 25 8 45 22 28 22.3
Cliff Swallow 2 2 1 1 1.0
Oak Titmouse 2 0.3
Bushtit 17 6 14 55 15.3
Bewick’s Wren 1 2 0.5
House Wren 1 1 0.3
Marsh Wren 1 0.2
Northern Mockingbird 1 2 5 3 4 1 2.7
European Starling 15 8 7 20 28 55 22.2
Ornge-crwnd Warbler 1 0.2
Yellow-rumpd Warbler 2 1 0.5
Common Yellowthroat 4 1 5 8 1 6 4.2
Wilson’s Warbler 1 1 0.3
California Towhee 1 1 2 0.7
Savannah Sparrow 1 0.2
Song Sparrow 3 4 3 5 3 20 6.3
Lincoln’s Sparrow 1 0.2
Western Tanager 1 0.2
Red-winged Blackbird 1 2 32 5.8
Brewer’s Blackbird 2 0.3
Great-tailed Grackle 5 7 8 3.3
Brwn-headed Cowbird 1 0.2
Hooded Oriole 1 1 0.3
Bullock’s Oriole 1 3 0.7
House Finch 4 5 4 8 15 6.0
Lesser Goldfinch 3 4 16 3.8
Totals by Type 8/24 8/23 8/22 8/28 8/26 8/25 Ave.
Waterfowl 42 39 71 65 36 55 51
Water Birds-Other 53 204 231 221 121 255 181
Herons, Egrets 38 32 37 24 20 21 29
Raptors 1 1 0 3 1 4 2
Shorebirds 180 303 162 187 196 245 212
Gulls & Terns 145 162 299 248 232 294 230
Doves 3 10 7 7 14 18 10
Other Non-Pass. 2 3 8 7 7 11 6
Passerines 51 64 76 181 105 251 121
Totals Birds 515 818 891 943 732 1154 842
  2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Total Species 8/24 8/23 8/22 8/28 8/26 8/25 Ave.
Waterfowl 1 2 4 2 2 2 2.2
Water Birds-Other 5 3 5 6 8 6 5.5
Herons, Egrets 4 4 5 4 3 4 4.0
Raptors 1 1 0 2 1 3 1.3
Shorebirds 14 16 10 14 13 11 13.0
Gulls & Terns 7 8 8 8 7 5 7.2
Doves 1 2 2 2 2 2 1.8
Other Non-Pass. 1 2 4 3 1 3 2.3
Passerines 14 13 19 18 16 25 17.5
Totals Species 48 51 57 59 53 61 54.8

 

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One Comment
  1. Scott Bottles permalink
    September 11, 2013 11:00 am

    I just recently subscribed to your blog. I live in Pacific Palisades and have been photographing birds in the Lagoon and Legacy Park. I am sure you and your colleagues have seen the White Tailed Kites that have been hanging around the last few months. A couple of weeks ago, I watched one of the Kites swoop down on a rodent. The bird then flew to a tree near the pond in Legacy Park where it proceeded to eat said rodent. You can see the rodent in the claws of the attached photo. I thought you might enjoy this photo.

    Scott Bottles.

    Like

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