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Malibu Lagoon Trip Report: 22 November, 2015

November 30, 2015

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Hooded Merganser pair (R. Ehler 11/22/15)

Hooded Merganser pair (R. Ehler 11/22/15)

The tide was descending to the 12:41 pm low, so we didn’t need to dodge waves. The beach looked no smaller than last month. However, reports continue of waves washing across the beach into the lagoon, and the expected “king tides” may well gobble up what beach remains. It should be an exciting winter, probably too exciting for those living in beach houses.

Calling (R. Ehler 11/22/15)

Sora calling (R. Ehler 11/22/15)

Sometimes it’s nice to be wrong. In September I wrote, “I will not be shocked to see Sora appear sometime in 2016…” Much to our surprise, a Sora appeared, flying and swimming between the several small reed patches. Perhaps a Virginia Rail isn’t far behind. And at least one Marsh Wren has been present since September.

Sora flying between reed patches (R. Ehler 11/22/15)

Sora flying between reed patches (R. Ehler 11/22/15)

Snowy Plovers – nowhere to be found at 8:30 am – scurried about the beach by 10 am. We found 28, including banded bird GA:OY. This bird was fledged up the coast at Oceano Dunes

Snowy Plover GA:UY (J. Waterman 11/22/15)

Snowy Plover GA:UY (J. Waterman 11/22/15)

in Summer’14, and previously seen at the lagoon at least five times. Snowy Plovers usually avoid the surf zone, their food found in the high tide wrack line, but today a few were down at

Snowy Plovers at sea's edge for a change (R. Ehler 11/22/15)

Snowy Plovers at sea’s edge for a change (R. Ehler 11/22/15)

the ocean’s edge (see photo), perhaps because the waves were quite small. It would be very interesting to know where they go when – as occurred last month – they’re not near their winter roosting area. During their winter roosting season of July – April, they customarily stay near their roosts, straying no more than 200 yards, and stay usually much closer.

If any Malibu area readers see them elsewhere in Malibu (except Zuma Beach), send us a message. Where they go when not at their roost area has long been a mystery.

Sanderling - often confused with Snowy Plover (R. Ehler 11/22/15)

Sanderling – often confused with Snowy Plover (R. Ehler 11/22/15)

The swans are gone, probably never to return. But a pair of Hooded Merganser appeared, hiding among the numerous Ruddy Ducks. An infrequent visitor, this is only their 18th visit out of 312 census dates, with a total of 48 birds. In recent history we’ve seen two pair on 12/28/14 and one pair on 12/24/95. But back in the old days, before the year of the Blue Snow (who could forget that), they’d appear and stay for a while: a pair in Jan’90 – Mar’90, another pair in Nov’80 – Mar’81, and 3 to 5 birds in Nov’79 – Jan’80. At that time they nearly always stayed in the deep pool area just inland of the PCH bridge, surrounded by Ruddy Ducks, of course.

Pacific Loon - note chinstrap, slender bill, unpatterned back, sharp division between front and back of neck (J. Waterman 11/22/15)

Pacific Loon – note chinstrap, slender bill, unpatterned back, sharp division between front and back of neck (J. Waterman 11/22/15)

All three species of winter loons appeared: Red-throated and Pacific Loons close to the surf zone, and Common Loons both in the surf zone and in the lagoon. Look closely for the Pacific’s “chinstrap” in the photo. Before the Pacific was split from the Arctic Loon some decades ago, it was understood that at least 80% of Arctic Loons had this chinstrap. After the split, the Eurasian area Arctic Loons were bereft of straps, as this characteristic had been peculiar to the Pacific Loon all along.

Mystery Bird (J. Waterman 11/22/15)

Mystery Bird (J. Waterman 11/22/15)

Finally, we end with a mystery shorebird we found on the beach near the Snowy Plover roost. I sent these photos off to a local expert (to be named at a later date), who pronounced it, “A very interesting looking bird,” and sent it off to shorebird experts elsewhere. We await the results. Take a look, dig out your field guides, and make your best guess.

Mystery Bird (J. Waterman 11/22/15)

Mystery Bird (J. Waterman 11/22/15)

Birds new for the season were: Canada Goose, American Wigeon, Surf Scoter, Bufflehead, Hooded & Red-breasted Mergansers, Red-throated, Pacific & Common Loons, Osprey, Sora, Glaucous-winged Gull, American Kestrel.

As always, many thanks to the photographers: Randy Ehler and Joyce Waterman.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (J. Waterman 11/22/15)

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (J. Waterman 11/22/15)

Our next four scheduled field trips: Carrizo Plain, 12 Dec. 9:00am (sign up required); Butterbredt Christmas Count, 19 Dec. 8:30am; Annenberg Beach Club walk, 20 Dec. 9am; Malibu Lagoon 8:30 & 10am, 27 December.
Our next program: Pine Siskin Migration Research with Heather Watts on Tuesday, 1 December, 7:30 pm, at [note location 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 floppy feet.

American Kestrel female in flight (R. Ehler 11/22/15)

American Kestrel female in flight (R. Ehler 11/22/15)

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 5/24 7/26 8/23 9/27 10/24 11/22
Temperature 59-70 70-82 70-77 68-77 64-75 64-76
Tide Lo/Hi Height L+0.54 L+2.37 L+2.80 H+5.94 H+5.93 L+0.24
Tide Time 0927 1143 0944 0918 0810 1241
Brant 7 1
Canada Goose 11
Mute Swan 2 2
Gadwall 22 5 8 54 15 4
American Wigeon 2
Mallard 8 55 35 34 30 25
Northern Shoveler 6 8
Green-winged Teal 4 10
Surf Scoter 1
Bufflehead 4
Hooded Merganser 2
Red-breastd Merganser 1 1 2
Ruddy Duck 5 68 110
Red-throated Loon 1
Pacific Loon 1 2
Common Loon 2
Pied-billed Grebe 1 3 2 3 3
Horned Grebe 2
Eared Grebe 8 10 10
Western Grebe 1 3 15
Brandt’s Cormorant 1 2 1
Dble-crestd Cormorant 55 34 43 36 29 45
Pelagic Cormorant 4 2 1 2
Brown Pelican 70 17 3 6 42 11
Great Blue Heron 2 4 8 4 4 3
Great Egret 5 4 6 3 5 1
Snowy Egret 4 6 22 18 12 8
Blck-crwnd N-Heron 2 3 3 3 1
Osprey 1
Cooper’s Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Sora 1
American Coot 1 1 4 75 55 60
Black-bellied Plover 27 75 84 62 33
Snowy Plover 16 21 32 28
Semipalmated Plover 1 5 2
Killdeer 6 4 6 10 15 4
Spotted Sandpiper 1 3 10 2
Willet 1 6 8 15 35 18
Whimbrel 1 13 10 4 2 5
Marbled Godwit 8 8 8
Ruddy Turnstone 3 12 15 18 9
Black Turnstone 1
Sanderling 2 23 6
Least Sandpiper 8 3 6
Western Sandpiper 1 14 15 1
Short-billed Dowitcher 6
Long-billed Dowitcher 1 4
Wilson’s Phalarope 1
Bonaparte’s Gull 1 1 1
Heermann’s Gull 45 14 11 25 11 11
Ring-billed Gull 8 2 95
Western Gull 135 40 40 110 90 140
California Gull 6 2 1 8 4 1430
Glaucous-wingd Gull 1 1
Caspian Tern 11 1 6 1
Common Tern 1
Forster’s Tern 2 3
Royal Tern 2 3 9 15 2 23
Elegant Tern 85 45 12 6 4
Black Skimmer 1
Rock Pigeon 9 4 6 12 10 20
Eur. Collared-Dove 1 1
Mourning Dove 2 7 7 4 2 1
Vaux’s Swift 45
Anna’s Hummingbird 2 1 3 4 2 2
Allen’s Hummingbird 6 3 10 5 8 5
Belted Kingfisher 1 1
Red-brstd Sapsucker 1
Nuttall’s Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 1
American Kestrel 1
Merlin 1
Nanday Parakeet 6
Black Phoebe 2 4 6 20 10 10
Say’s Phoebe 4 3 1
Warbling Vireo 6 1
Western Scrub-Jay 1
American Crow 5 4 4 20 10 3
Rough-winged Swallow 6 3 8
Tree Swallow 10 10
Barn Swallow 12 12 12
Cliff Swallow 10 12 3
Oak Titmouse 1
Bushtit 2 2 20 4 28
House Wren 1 4 1
Marsh Wren 1 2 1
Bewick’s Wren 1 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 3 4 9
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 4 10
Hermit Thrush 1
American Robin 1
Northern Mockingbird 3 4 4 4 6 6
European Starling 3 25 25 35 10 21
Ornge-crwned Warbler 2 4 5
Nashville Warbler 3
Common Yellowthroat 5 5 8 8 7
Yellow Warbler 1 1
Palm Warbler 1
Yellow-rumpd Warbler 3 35 40
Blk-throated G. Warbler 3
Townsend’s Warbler 1 1
Spotted Towhee 1 2
California Towhee 2 4 6 2 3 1
Savannah Sparrow 2 3
Song Sparrow 9 5 8 3 3 3
White-crwned Sparrow 2 25 4
Red-winged Blackbird 2 40 15 15
Western Meadowlark 4 4 5
Brewer’s Blackbird 2
Great-tailed Grackle 3 3 5 12 10 4
Brwn-headed Cowbird 2
Hooded Oriole 3
House Finch 20 2 12 25 9 4
Lesser Goldfinch 3 3
House Sparrow 1
Totals by Type May Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
Waterfowl 37 62 46 99 129 169
Water Birds – Other 134 57 54 126 145 152
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 11 16 39 28 24 13
Quail & Raptors 1 0 0 1 1 2
Shorebirds 8 71 170 215 161 113
Gulls & Terns 294 105 80 169 114 1703
Doves 11 11 13 17 13 21
Other Non-Passerines 8 4 13 55 20 7
Passerines 86 85 149 213 191 164
Totals Birds 590 411 564 923 798 2344
             
Total Species May Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
Waterfowl 3 4 4 5 5 10
Water Birds – Other 8 5 5 5 8 11
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 3 4 4 4 4 4
Quail & Raptors 1 0 0 1 1 2
Shorebirds 3 8 14 13 10 9
Gulls & Terns 9 6 7 9 7 7
Doves 2 2 2 3 3 2
Other Non-Passerines 2 2 2 4 7 2
Passerines 17 13 15 26 33 20
Totals Species 48 44 53 70 78 67

 

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5 Comments
  1. Gary Johnson permalink
    June 21, 2016 9:23 am

    Can anyone identify this Peruvian bird? —thanks, Gary Johnson

    Like

  2. December 5, 2015 7:52 pm

    Randy Ehler, The Sora pics are superb! Joyce Waterman, the backlit gnatcatcher defies reality! What photographers we bird with.

    Like

    • Chukar permalink*
      December 6, 2015 12:26 pm

      We are very lucky to have such good photographers. A picture is worth 1000 words – maybe more, but who’s counting? – and their work certainly makes the bitter pill of my writing and endless columns of numbers easier to swallow.

      Like

  3. Sandra Lindberg permalink
    December 1, 2015 8:42 am

    The mystery bird… Could it be a Ruddy Turnstone (immature)? Sandy Lindberg

    Like

    • Chukar permalink*
      December 1, 2015 2:38 pm

      Sandy: Yes, it certainly could be. That reply may seem vague, but that’s because further investigation is still underway. We will discuss this further in our Dec.27 lagoon trip report. All shall be revealed! Stay tuned… Chuck

      Like

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