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Malibu Lagoon Trip Report: 26 July, 2015

August 6, 2015

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If you’re wondering what happened to June, it took place – as we have come to expect – between May and July, and the June lagoon trip took place, as usual, on the fourth Sunday (6/28) of the month. I, however, was elsewhere: Lake Louise in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada, to be exact. It provided a nice view of a large glacier at the far end of a lovely lake, utterly swamped by enormous crowds of people, and appeared to be the “selfie” capital of the world. It also featured Clark’s Nutcrackers hopping everywhere – including the hotel patio – searching for snacks. If you must go, I recommend the off-season, the offer the better. Thus no lagoon report for June.

Mama Mallard and ducklings (R. Ehler 7/26/15)

Still breeding at the lagoon – Mama Mallard and ducklings (R. Ehler 7/26/15)

This month, about 30 birders enjoyed the usual suspects: Mallards, most of whom were ducklings toodling along after their mothers; diving Pied-billed Grebes, an assortment of herons and egrets, a middling-number of cormorants and Brown Pelicans, sandpipers both large and small, barely 100 gulls & terns in six species (unlike April’s 4200 birds!), and a smattering of passerine species – mostly swallows and starlings.

Curiosity drove me to compare this July to earlier Julys, as it seemed low in both species and numbers.

 Lagoon July Average
Variance Hi-Low range
 Birds July 2015 Prior 12 years from Ave. prior 12 years
Species 44 47.3 -7% 37 – 52
Numbers 411 718.3 -43% 309 – 1428

Species diversification was slightly (-7%) below average, and numbers were definitely down (-43%), but both were well within the normal range of variation. I then checked our records on shorebirds (sandpipers) and gulls/terns.

 Malibu  Lagoon July Average Variance Hi-Low range
Bird Type July 2015 Prior 12 years from Ave. prior 12 years
Shorebirds
Species 8 7.8 3% 2 – 12
Numbers 71 62.8 13% 4 – 163
Gulls-Terns
Species 6 6.6 -9% 3 – 9
Numbers 105 257 -59% 113 – 823

The numbers of shorebirds (stilt, avocet, oystercatcher, plover & sandpipers) were unexpectedly (to me) up 13% from the average. The number of gulls & terns were, as expected, down significantly, by almost 60% below the prior average. Species diversification was average for both. Well…we’ve been reading about lack of food causing breeding failures among gulls and terns, particularly the huge Heermann’s Gull and Elegant Tern nesting colonies on Isla Rasa in the Sea of Cortez. Perhaps these low numbers are a symptom of it. Perhaps not. One data point is not a trend.

Black-bellied Plover, Whimbrel and pickleweed (R. Ehler 8/24/14)

Black-bellied Plover, Whimbrel and pickleweed (R. Ehler 8/24/14)

Snowy Plover - note lack of webbing between toes(R. Ehler 7/26/15)

Snowy Plover – note lack of webbing between toes
(R. Ehler 7/26/15)

 

Four plover species: Killdeer – breeders at the lagoon for many years – are always around, sometimes with chicks in tow. Black-bellied Plovers have returned from their high-arctic breeding grounds; we’ll likely see them until next March or April. Small numbers of Semipalmated Plovers, also arctic breeders, stop briefly during migration, with numbers peaking in April and August-September. Snowy Plovers generally occupy their winter roosts – Malibu Lagoon is one of only seven such roosts in all of Los Angeles County – from June-July to April-May. They had been absent since January, but finally returned with 1 bird on 28 June and 16 birds on 26 July.

Semipalmated Plover - some "semi"-webbing of toes  visible(R. Ehler 7/26/15)

Semipalmated Plover – some “semi”-webbing of toes visible (R. Ehler 7/26/15)

Yet another plover - the Killdeer (R. Ehler 7/26/15)

Yet another plover – the Killdeer
(R. Ehler 7/26/15)

 Speaking of plovers, there was a recent flap when what may be a very uncommon (in California) Common Ringed Plover (CRPL)  showed up on the lower Los Angeles River just south of Willow St. We have links to photos of this bird:
1) Tom Ford-Hutchinson photo with Killdeer, Semipalmated and “mystery bird.”
2) Tom Benson photo showing the toes and webbing.

On-line discussion ensued as to how to distinguish them from the very similar Semipalmated Plover (SEPL).
The best marks seem to be: 1) orbital ring (skin): not yellow/orange in CRPL; 2) chest band a bit bolder and thicker in CRPL; 3) white above & behind eye a bit bolder in CRPL; 4) foot-webbing: SEPL webbed between all 3 front toes, CRPL webbed only between outer & middle toe. I looked through a bunch of photographs after reading this discussion and frankly find it very difficult to see the feet well, if at all, with some SEPLs appearing to have no webbing between inner and middle toe. However, if you’ve ever wondered what the “Semipalmated” referred to, now you know: it’s the short webs between their toes. Other plovers have so little webbing that it’s not worth mentioning. Check the feet (as best you can) in the accompanying pictures.

The discussion was a good example of how birders think and analyze:
1) Tom Ford-Hutchinson’s comments include the “confusion in the literature” about toe-webbing.
2) Tom Benson gives a good synopsis of observations of this particular bird.
3) High-Arctic birder Clare Kines has studied both species on their breeding grounds on Baffin Island, and has a great discussion on his website 10,000 Birds.

Birds new for the season were: Red-breasted Merganser, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Black-bellied and Semipalmated Plovers,  Ruddy Turnstone, Western Sandpiper, and Common Yellowthroat.

Still-colorful Ruddy Turnstone (R. Ehler 7/26/15)

Still-colorful Ruddy Turnstone (R. Ehler 7/26/15)

Our next three scheduled field trips:  Malibu Lagoon, 23 August, 8:30 & 10am. Lower Los Angeles River, 12 September, 7:30am. Malibu Lagoon, 27 September, 8:30 & 10am.

Our next program: Evening meetings will resume on Tuesday, 6 October, 7:30 pm, at [note change] Chris Reed Park, 1133 7th St., NE corner of 7th and Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica.

NOTE: Our 10 a.m. Parent’s & Kids Birdwalk meets at the shaded viewing area. Watch for Willie the Weasel. He’ll be watching for you and your big feet.

Some spots remain on this Willet (R. Ehler 7/26/15)

Some spots remain on this Willet (R. Ehler 7/26/15)

Links: Unusual birds at Malibu Lagoon
9/23/02 Aerial photo of Malibu Lagoon
Prior checklists:
2015:   Jan-May
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, despite numerous complaints, 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 1/25 2/22 3/22 4/26 5/24 7/26
Temperature 73-81 55-63 60-70 66-76 59-70 70-82
Tide Lo/Hi Height L+1.32 H+4.51 H+4.78 L+0.58 L+0.54 L+2.37
Tide Time 0705 1137 1137 1131 0919 1135
Brant 3 7 1
Canada Goose 1 30
Gadwall 22 30 1 10 22 5
American Wigeon 18 18
Mallard 12 12 12 8 8 55
Northern Shoveler 25 2
Northern Pintail 2 3
Green-winged Teal 25 12
Surf Scoter 13 15
Bufflehead 4 2 2
Red-brstd Merganser 4 2 2 1
Ruddy Duck 38 35 30 4
Red-throated Loon 1 3
Pacific Loon 1 3 1
Common Loon 1 5
Pied-billed Grebe 2 1 2 1 3
Horned Grebe 2 1 1 1
Eared Grebe 3 1
Western Grebe 5 15 12 2 1
Brandt’s Cormorant 1 4 1
Dble-crstd Cormorant 35 50 45 16 55 34
Pelagic Cormorant 1 1 1 4 2
Brown Pelican 50 28 27 1490 70 17
Great Blue Heron 2 2 1 2 2 4
Great Egret 2 10 5 5 4
Snowy Egret 16 26 12 12 4 6
Cattle Egret 1
Blk-crwnd N-Heron 2
Osprey 1 1 1
Red-shouldered Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1 1
American Coot 88 145 45 1 1
American Avocet 1
Blk-bellied Plover 62 85 6 1 27
Snowy Plover 29 16
Semipalmated Plover 9 1
Killdeer 12 12 3 2 6 4
Spotted Sandpiper 3 3 2 1
Willet 4 3 3 1 1 6
Whimbrel 4 4 10 12 1 13
Long-billed Curlew 1
Marbled Godwit 12 10 8 2
Ruddy Turnstone 5 1 3
Surfbird 4
Sanderling 8
Dunlin 1
Least Sandpiper 15
Western Sandpiper 45 1
Boneparte’s Gull 12 6 1
Heermann’s Gull 17 1 6 350 45 14
Ring-billed Gull 150 90 3 30 8
Western Gull 170 95 3 110 135 40
California Gull 1650 1600 40 600 6 2
Herring Gull 1
Glaucous-wingd Gull 5 4 1 1
Caspian Tern 10 11 1
Forster’s Tern 2
Royal Tern 42 35 15 4 2 3
Elegant Tern 28 3100 85 45
Rock Pigeon 4 5 23 8 9 4
Mourning Dove 3 2 2 2 2 7
Anna’s Hummingbird 1 1 2 2 1
Allen’s Hummingbird 2 3 6 4 6 3
Belted Kingfisher 1
American Kestrel 1
Black Phoebe 1 2 2 2 2 4
Say’s Phoebe 1
American Crow 4 6 5 6 5 4
Common Raven 2
Rough-wingd Swallow 4 4 6 3
Barn Swallow 2 6 12 12
Cliff Swallow 2 10 12
Oak Titmouse 1 1
Bushtit 14 2 2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1
Hermit Thrush 2
American Robin 1 1
Northern Mockingbird 1 1 3 6 3 4
European Starling 45 3 4 10 3 25
Cedar Waxwing 40
Common Yellowthroat 3 3 2 5
Yellow-rumpd Warbler 7 8 5
Townsend’s Warbler 1
Spotted Towhee 1
California Towhee 1 3 2 2 4
Song Sparrow 2 6 9 6 9 5
White-crwnd Sparrow 4 12 10
Red-winged Blackbird 2
Western Meadowlark 24 10 3
Brewer’s Blackbird 2
Great-tailed Grackle 5 4 4 3 3
Brwn-headed Cowbird 4 4
Hooded Oriole 3
House Finch 4 4 12 20 2
Lesser Goldfinch 2 1
Totals by Type Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jul
Waterfowl 138 154 50 55 37 62
Water Birds – Other 187 247 144 1511 134 57
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 18 30 24 19 11 16
Quail & Raptors 2 2 1 1 1 0
Shorebirds 139 119 37 89 8 71
Gulls & Terns 2035 1825 107 4213 294 105
Doves 7 7 25 10 11 11
Other Non-Passerines 3 3 7 7 8 4
Passerines 106 61 76 104 86 85
Totals Birds 2635 2448 471 6009 590 411
             
Total Species Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jul
Waterfowl 9 10 7 5 3 4
Water Birds – Other 9 11 9 6 8 5
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 2 3 4 3 3 4
Quail & Raptors 2 2 1 1 1 0
Shorebirds 9 8 8 10 3 8
Gulls & Terns 7 6 7 10 9 6
Doves 2 2 2 2 2 2
Other Non-Passerines 2 1 2 3 2 2
Passerines 16 14 17 13 17 13
Totals Species – 95 58 57 57 53 48 44

 

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2 Comments
  1. Allen-Attar, Darya permalink
    August 6, 2015 1:23 pm

    We would love to go on the lagoon trip with our kids in August. Is the children’s lagoon trip always on?

    Like

    • Chukar permalink*
      August 6, 2015 3:29 pm

      Yes, it’s always on, 4th Sunday of the month, 10am for about an hour. If it’s just you and your kids, you don’t need to call, but if you’re bringing a group (cub scouts, etc.) of more than seven, then you need to contact Lu at 310-395-6235.

      Like

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