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Malibu Lagoon Trip Report: 26 April, 2015

April 28, 2015

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Even at the meeting spot the air was filled with the screeching of terns. Flights of Brown Pelicans constantly cruised by, and clouds of terns regularly lifted from the distant beach, only to alight again upon the sand. This promised to be an unusual day.

Finally! An Osprey on the osprey pole (R.Ehlers 4/26/15)

Finally! An Osprey on the osprey pole (R.Ehlers 4/26/15)

Passerines (songbirds) were few on the ground. Early-arriving photographer Randy Ehlers (thanks for all the great pictures, Randy!) spotted 40 Cedar Waxwings, who were living up to their ‘betcha-can’t-see-just-one’ reputation. No warblers, few sparrows and little of anything else beyond the usual Black Phoebe, Mockingbird, California Towhee and House Finch. Various Swallows have arrived, but not in large numbers.

From the lookout point near the PCH bridge, the terns – save a few Caspian and Forster’s – turned out to all be Elegant. And they looked very elegant as long-time member Abigail King liked to say, with bright white bodies, long forked tails, black crests and legs, and colorful bills ranging from pale yellow through orange to medium red. People often ask if the bill color of Elegant Terns is useful for identification. The short answer is: when comparing the Elegant bill to the Royal bill, look at shape, ignore color.

Elegant Tern (R.Ehlers 4/26/15)

Elegant Tern (R.Ehlers 4/26/15)

At any rate, there were a boodle – maybe two boodles – of Elegant Terns; I counted 3100. This took a while. They were busy with mating, chasing, flying, feeding and always, always screeching. Some had breasts faintly pink from their oil glands. We did find a few more Caspian and Forster’s among them, and some Royal Terns far out on the exposed shore rocks. And it was a great chance to see the varieties of Elegant bill color.

Spotted Sandpiper with his spotty breast (R.Ehlers 4/26/15)

Spotted Sandpiper with his spotty breast (R.Ehlers 4/26/15)

Back home, I checked for previous highs counts for Elegant Tern and Brown Pelican.
Brown Pelican: 1490 (4/26/15), 740 (4/24/11), 630 (5/27/07), 407 (7/24/11), 400 (3/26/06)
Elegant Tern: 3100 (4/26/15), 700 (4/26/09), 600 (7/28/13), 300 (7/25/04), 250 (4/27/03)
Definitely a phenomena of migration.

I asked Kimball Garrett, ‘skin man’ at the Natural History of L.A. County Ornithology Dept., if anything weird was happening with the terns and pelicans. He relates: the Brown Pelican 2014 nesting season in the Sea of Cortez failed almost completely; no info yet on 2015.  Warm SoCal coastal water this year may reduce Channel Island nesting. Our Malibu flock may be a  mix of failed breeders from Mexico and our Channel Islands. Elegant Tern nesting on Isla Raza in the Sea of Cortez apparently failed completely this year; as in recent past years, the southern California colonies seem to shift around as predators cause abandonment.

Snowy Plovers have been mysteriously absent since January. Populations at other L.A. County winter roosting sites, including nearby Zuma Beach have also been affected, says Stacey Vigallon, L.A. County Snowy Plover maven. She didn’t know why, either.

Birds new for the season were: Brant, Eared Grebe, Semipalmated Plover, Dunlin, Least & Western Sandpipers, Caspian & Forster’s Terns, Belted Kingfisher, Cliff Swallow, Cedar Waxwing. We didn’t get over to Adamson House as the lagoon outlet cut through the beach and by the time I finished counting all those pelicans, gulls and terns, I too was finished.

Our next three scheduled field trips:  Morongo Valley & Black Rock Cyn, 2-3 May, 8am; Malibu Lagoon, 24 May, 8:30 & 10am; Mt. Piños Birds & Butterflies, TBA (probably 13-14 June, 8am.)

Our next program: Tuesday, 5 May, 7:30 pm. Icelandic Birding, presented by Joyce & Doug Waterman. PLEASE NOTE THAT WE NOW MEET AT DOUGLAS PARK, 2439 WILSHIRE BLVD.

 Song Sparrow visits from the Maliby Colony(R.Ehlers 4/26/15)

Song Sparrow visits from the Maliby Colony (R.Ehlers 4/26/15)

NOTE: Our 10 a.m. Parent’s & Kids Birdwalk meets at the shaded viewing area. Watch for Willie the Weasel.
Links: Unusual birds at Malibu Lagoon
9/23/02 Aerial photo of Malibu Lagoon
Prior checklists:
2014:   Jan-July,    July-Dec
     2013:   Jan-June,   July-Dec
2012:   Jan-June,   July-Dec
   2011:   Jan-June,   July-Dec
2010:  Jan-June,   July-Dec
     2009:  Jan-June  July-Dec

The 10-year comparison summaries created during the project period remain available on our Lagoon Project Bird Census Page. Very briefly summarized, the results unexpectedly indicate that avian species diversification and numbers improved slightly during the period Jun’12-June’14.   [Chuck Almdale]

Malibu Census 2015 11/23 12/28 1/25 2/22 3/22 4/26
Temperature 60-70 39-61 73-81 55-63 62-71 66-76
Tide Lo/Hi Height H+6.41 L+1.70 L+1.32 H+4.51 H+4.78 L+0.58
Tide Time 0849 0903 0705 1137 1137 1131
Brant 3
Canada Goose 1 30
Gadwall 26 22 30 1 10
American Wigeon 10 18 18
Mallard 2 10 12 12 12 8
Northern Shoveler 4 25 2
Northern Pintail 2 3
Green-winged Teal 1 12 25 12
Surf Scoter 13 15
Bufflehead 8 4 2 2
Hooded Merganser 4
Red-brstd Merganser 25 25 4 2 2
Ruddy Duck 36 42 38 35 30 4
Red-throated Loon 3 1 3
Pacific Loon 6 1 3
Common Loon 1 1 5
Pied-billed Grebe 1 8 2 1 2
Horned Grebe 2 4 2 1 1 1
Eared Grebe 8 12 3 1
Western Grebe 12 2 5 15 12 2
Brandt’s Cormorant 2 130 1 4
Dble-crstd Cormorant 9 120 35 50 45 16
Pelagic Cormorant 1 1 1
Brown Pelican 32 95 50 28 27 1490
Great Blue Heron 4 3 2 2 1 2
Great Egret 4 4 2 10 5
Snowy Egret 20 18 16 26 12 12
Cattle Egret 1
Osprey 1 1 1 1
White-tailed Kite 1
Red-shouldered Hawk 1 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1 1 1
American Coot 100 135 88 145 45
American Avocet 1
Blk-bellied Plover 45 38 62 85 6 1
Snowy Plover 40 25 29
Semipalmated Plover 9
Killdeer 1 17 12 12 3 2
Spotted Sandpiper 2 6 3 3 2 1
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Willet 4 10 4 3 3 1
Whimbrel 1 1 4 4 10 12
Long-billed Curlew 1
Marbled Godwit 3 12 12 10 8 2
Ruddy Turnstone 6 6 5 1
Surfbird 4
Sanderling 32 28 8
Dunlin 1
Least Sandpiper 1 15
Western Sandpiper 45
Boneparte’s Gull 2 1 12 6
Heermann’s Gull 1 18 17 1 6 350
Ring-billed Gull 60 65 150 90 3 30
Western Gull 81 230 170 95 3 110
California Gull 1500 1650 1600 40 600
Herring Gull 1
Glaucous-wingd Gull 3 5 4 1
Caspian Tern 10
Forster’s Tern 3 2
Royal Tern 22 42 35 15 4
Elegant Tern 4 28 3100
Rock Pigeon 6 4 5 23 8
Mourning Dove 3 2 2 2
Anna’s Hummingbird 1 1 2
Allen’s Hummingbird 4 2 3 6 4
Belted Kingfisher 1 1
American Kestrel 1 1
Peregrine Falcon 1
Black Phoebe 1 2 1 2 2 2
Say’s Phoebe 2 1
American Crow 8 4 6 5 6
Common Raven 2
Rough-wingd Swallow 4 4
Barn Swallow 2 6
Cliff Swallow 2
Oak Titmouse 1 1
Bushtit 14
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 2
Hermit Thrush 2
American Robin 1
Northern Mockingbird 2 1 1 3 6
European Starling 60 25 45 3 4 10
Cedar Waxwing 40
Common Yellowthroat 2 4 3 3 2
Yellow Warbler 1
Yellow-rumpd Warbler 2 15 7 8 5
Townsend’s Warbler 1
California Towhee 1 3 2
Savannah Sparrow 3
Song Sparrow 3 2 6 9 6
White-crwnd Sparrow 35 4 12 10
Western Meadowlark 7 14 24 10 3
Great-tailed Grackle 1 5 4 4
Brwn-headed Cowbird 4 4
House Finch 4 4 12
Lesser Goldfinch 1 2 1
Totals by Type Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr
Waterfowl 64 141 138 154 50 55
Water Birds – Other 166 516 187 247 144 1511
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 28 25 18 30 24 19
Quail & Raptors 2 5 2 2 1 1
Shorebirds 135 144 139 119 37 89
Gulls & Terns 151 1839 2035 1825 107 4213
Doves 0 6 7 7 25 10
Other Non-Passerines 1 4 3 3 7 7
Passerines 76 114 106 61 76 104
Totals Birds 623 2794 2635 2448 471 6009
             
Total Species Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr
Waterfowl 4 9 9 10 7 5
Water Birds – Other 8 11 9 11 9 6
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 3 3 2 3 4 3
Quail & Raptors 2 5 2 2 1 1
Shorebirds 10 10 9 8 8 10
Gulls & Terns 6 7 7 6 7 10
Doves 0 1 2 2 2 2
Other Non-Passerines 1 1 2 1 2 3
Passerines 8 12 16 14 17 13
Totals Species – 97 42 59 58 57 57 53

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