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Malibu Lagoon Trip Report: 25 May, 2014

May 30, 2014

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Summer approaches: days grow warmer, sunbathers arrive, surfers blanket the waves, birds begin to leave. Still we found a record-high (for May) species count, while total birds was below average. Nesting season is well along: Killdeer chicks have been spotted, hummingbirds sat on nests, Red-winged Blackbirds

Red-winged Blackbird checks out the situation (R. Ehler 5/25/14)

Red-winged Blackbird checks out the situation (R. Ehler 5/25/14)

displayed their epaulets, Black Phoebes collected flies, and Mockingbirds and Song Sparrows sang from nearly every bush.

Present since November, the Osprey apparently has been able to find sufficient large fish to stay satisfied. Many of us saw one (or more, as the location kept changing) such fish jumping high out of the water, and someone wise to the ways of fish identified it as a Steelhead (trout), a species endangered and long absent from the lagoon. I recall several meetings of the lagoon

It's neither Kite nor Eagle, but an Osprey (R. Ehler 5/25/14)

Neither Kite nor Eagle, but an Osprey (R. Ehler 5/25/14)

task force, decades ago, at which a representative of Trout Unlimited spoke of the steelhead and his organization’s hope that the lagoon and creek could again be a home for them. It didn’t seem likely to me at the time, but now…things are looking up! The steelhead’s presence in the lagoon, first noted on 5/15/14 by fish monitors, was soon reported elsewhere (KPCC, Malibu Patch, KCET). The local anti-lagoon-reconfiguration diehards immediately scoffed, of course. Personally, I’ve often seen Mullet – another large fish – in the lagoon, but can’t recall ever seeing one jump. I have seen several species of trout elsewhere (Oregon, Michigan, Great Lakes) and they are definitely jumpers, exciting to watch. While we’re on the topic of fish, the Tidewater Gobies are reportedly doing very well indeed, as their habitat was greatly increased by the lagoon channel reconfiguration.

[Comment inserted 6/6/14
According to an article in the Malibu Patch, “An adult steelhead trout, approximately 20 inches in length, was discovered on May 15 during post-construction fish monitoring by the Resource Conservation District-Santa Monica Mountains, California State Parks and The Bay Foundation.”  ON 6/6/14 I received an email from Mark Abramson: “The jumpers are almost always striped mullet. However Rosi and her fish team saw a 20-inch steelhead in the back of the channel when they were there doing fish surveys.”

So it seems that the fish we saw jumping on May 25 were actually Striped Mullet, and not the steelhead. Link to slide show of jumping Striped Mullet on EcoMalibu. Malibu Patch has a picture of the steelhead.  End of inserted comment]

Also reported from the lagoon were numbers of dead Brown Pelicans (we saw three) as well as unusual numbers of adult pelicans. They should be nesting on offshore islands – Anacapa, for example – rather than lounging at Malibu Lagoon. It turns out that Brown Pelican nesting failures have been reported throughout California and Baja. One Baja colony, which would normally have over 10,000 nestlings by now, has produced well under 100. Failure of the nests is due to the lack of suitable prey fish, which in turn is the result of a change in ocean currents, which is believed to be linked to the ENSO (El Nino – Southern Oscillation) phenomenon. This, in addition to other factors, is leading scientists to predict El Nino for next winter. Stay tuned! [Link to reports: KPCC blog & audio report featuring Dan Cooper, Kimball Garrett & Kathy Molina; partial transcript of audio report.]

Connection to a Vimeo film on Steelhead, 19:25 minutes. Vimeo runs poorly on my computer; perhaps it works on yours.

Caspian Tern with a gift for his mate (R. Ehler 5/25/14)

Caspian Tern with a gift for his mate (R. Ehler 5/25/14)

Birds new for the season were: White-tailed Kite, a single Bonaparte’s Gull, a very *uncommon and unexpected Common Tern, Mourning Dove (which are always close by, I don’t know where they’ve been hiding), Western Wood-Pewee, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, and American Robin.
*
Out of the lagoon 207 visits for which censusing was done, Common Tern was present 12 times (5.8%) with a total of 49 birds.

Our next three scheduled field trips:  Mt. Piños Birds & Butterflies, 14-15 June, 8am; Malibu Lagoon, 22 June, 8:30 & 10am; Malibu Lagoon, 27 July, 8:30 & 10am.
Our next program: Tuesday, 7 Oct., 7:30 pm. To Be Announced.

Despite the cries from "those of little faith," the lagoon's Mallards are doing quite well, thank you. (R. Ehler 5/25/14)

Despite cries from “those of little faith,” the Mallards are doing quite well, thank you. (R. Ehler 5/25/14)

NOTE: Our 10 a.m. Parent’s & Kids Birdwalk meets at the shaded viewing area. Look for Willie the Weasel.
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 410 is 14% below the 6-year May average of 474.

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%, Sep’13 +23%, Oct’13 +41%, Nov’13 -58%, Dec’13 -49%, Jan’14 -62%, Feb’14 -28%, Mar’14 +51%, May -14%.
Species Diversity:  May 2014 with 55 species, a 10-year high, was 20% above the 6-year May average of 46.
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%, Sep’13 -14%, Oct’13 +19%, Nov’13 -3%, Dec’13 -6%, Jan’14 -2% Feb’14 +9%, Mar’14 +6%, May +20%. Up, down, up, down, etc., etc.
10-year comparison summaries are available on our Lagoon Project Bird Census Page.    [Chuck Almdale]

Note: Beginning July, we will return to our pre-project form of bird list, which will report the most recent 6-month periods. 

Malibu Census 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
May 2009-2014 5/24 5/23 5/22 5/27 5/26 5/25
Temperature 59-64 54-62 58-63 68-72 63-64 64-69
Tide Lo/Hi Height H+3.7 H+3.76 L-0.13 L+0.38 H+4.08 H+3.94  Ave.
Tide Time 1042 0638 0816 0844 1138 0810 Birds
Brant 4 7 1 2.0
Gadwall 12 12 3 5 2 12 7.7
American Wigeon 2 0.3
Mallard 20 18 48 32 5 26 24.8
Northern Shoveler 1 0.2
Red-brstd Merganser 2 3 0.8
Ruddy Duck 2 3 6 1.8
Pacific Loon 1 5 1 1.2
Common Loon 1 0.2
Pied-billed Grebe 2 3 3 2 1.7
Western Grebe 1 0.2
Brandt’s Cormorant 1 2 0.5
Dble-crstd Cormorant 28 7 46 15 9 31 22.7
Pelagic Cormorant 1 1 0.3
Brown Pelican 70 124 81 265 7 37 97.3
Great Blue Heron 1 2 1 3 2 4 2.2
Great Egret 4 2 3 3 2 2.3
Snowy Egret 7 12 3 14 3 12 8.5
Green Heron 1 0.2
Blk-crwnd N-Heron 2 3 1 2 1.3
Osprey 1 1 1 0.5
White-tailed Kite 1 1 0.3
Cooper’s Hawk 1 0.2
Red-tailed Hawk 1 1 1 0.5
Peregrine Falcon 1 0.2
American Coot 32 8 25 30 1 2 16.3
Blk-bellied Plover 3 22 4.2
Snowy Plover 1 0.2
Semipalmated Plover 2 0.3
Killdeer 1 4 2 3 6 4 3.3
Spotted Sandpiper 3 0.5
Willet 4 0.7
Whimbrel 4 1 20 1 4 5.0
Marbled Godwit 1 0.2
Black Turnstone 1 0.2
Boneparte’s Gull 1 1 1 0.5
Heermann’s Gull 20 17 15 35 2 14.8
Ring-billed Gull 1 2 16 1 3.3
Western Gull 65 68 10 85 22 64 52.3
California Gull 95 8 4 1 18.0
Glaucous-wingd Gull 1 0.2
Caspian Tern 15 25 4 6 2 17 11.5
Common Tern 1 0.2
Forster’s Tern 2 0.3
Royal Tern 2 5 5 8 3.3
Elegant Tern 40 9 12 35 121 37 42.3
Black Skimmer 2 0.3
Rock Pigeon 6 6 8 2 6 4.7
Eur. Collared-Dove 1 0.2
Mourning Dove 4 6 1 2 5 2 3.3
Anna’s Hummingbird 2 1 1 2 1 1 1.3
Allen’s Hummingbird 8 6 4 5 1 5 4.8
Belted Kingfisher 1 0.2
Western Wood-Pewee 1 0.2
Pac.Slope Flycatcher 1 1 0.3
Black Phoebe 12 10 4 13 2 6 7.8
Say’s Phoebe 1 0.2
American Crow 6 4 3 5 3 6 4.5
Common Raven 2 0.3
Rough-wingd Swallow 10 1 2 1 2 2.7
Violet-green Swallow 1 1 0.3
Barn Swallow 1 8 8 2 6 19 7.3
Cliff Swallow 12 12 31 12 14 6 14.5
Oak Titmouse 1 0.2
Bushtit 4 4 10 8 4.3
Bewick’s Wren 1 0.2
American Robin 1 0.2
Wrentit 1 0.2
Northern Mockingbird 6 4 2 6 3 3 4.0
European Starling 2 3 40 45 3 8 16.8
Cedar Waxwing 32 5.3
Ornge-crwnd Warbler 1 0.2
Common Yellowthroat 2 3 3 1.3
Spotted Towhee 2 0.3
California Towhee 5 1 1 1 3 1.8
Song Sparrow 8 10 4 12 8 11 8.8
Red-winged Blackbird 4 2 10 9 6 5.2
Brewer’s Blackbird 2 0.3
Great-tailed Grackle 16 2 4 2 4.0
Brwn-headed Cowbird 2 1 3 1 2 1.5
Hooded Oriole 1 1 0.3
Bullock’s Oriole 2 1 1 0.7
House Finch 8 6 8 8 3 13 7.7
Lesser Goldfinch 1 2 4 2 1.5
House Sparrow 5 0.8
Totals by Type 5/24 5/23 5/22 5/27 5/26 5/25
Waterfowl 38 37 51 42 9 49 38
Water Birds-Other 132 148 152 313 20 77 140
Herons, Egrets 13 16 6 23 9 20 15
Raptors 1 1 3 0 2 3 2
Shorebirds 5 5 5 51 10 11 15
Gulls & Terns 144 216 51 151 189 132 147
Doves 10 12 9 5 5 8 8
Other Non-Pass. 10 7 5 8 2 6 6
Passerines 79 106 131 127 76 104 104
Totals Birds 432 548 413 720 322 410 474
  2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014  
Total Species 5/24 5/23 5/22 5/27 5/26 5/25
Waterfowl 4 3 2 4 4 5 3.7
Water Birds-Other 5 7 3 4 4 8 5.2
Herons, Egrets 4 3 3 4 4 4 3.7
Raptors 1 1 3 0 2 3 1.7
Shorebirds 2 2 2 6 4 3 3.2
Gulls & Terns 7 6 6 7 8 8 7.0
Doves 2 2 2 3 1 2 2.0
Other Non-Pass. 2 2 2 3 2 2 2.2
Passerines 16 19 16 16 17 20 17.3
Totals Species – 85 43 45 39 47 46 55 46
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