Skip to content

Beach Breaches and Beasties

December 23, 2015

Go to the blog to see the entire slideshow.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Ring-billed Gull wrestles with a red crab (Grace Murayama 12-18-15)

Ring-billed Gull wrestles with a red crab (Grace Murayama 12-18-15)

SMBAS member Grace Murayama has been busy. Checking up on the Snowy Plovers at their Surfrider Beach, lagoonside winter roost, has gotten her down to Malibu Lagoon many times in the past few weeks. Relatively new to birding, she has sent us many pictures- some as support for questions, some just to keep us inform, and some just because she like them. The gull and crab above, for example.

Double-crested Cormorant above Black-crowned Night-Heron (Grace Murayama 12-5-15)

Double-crested Cormorant above Black-crowned Night-Heron (Grace Murayama 12-5-15)

Red crabs are supposed to live in warm waters, yet here they are in December, and it’s not their first winter visitation. When they appeared in Newport Beach last January, Hannah Fry of the L.A. Times wrote, “The crabs, known as Pleuroncodes planipes, are about 4 inches long, have three small legs on each side of their bodies and two pincers in front, much like a miniature lobster. Their tails are segmented, causing them to swim backward. The crabs more often inhabit the warm waters along the lower west coast of Baja California, experts say, and are believed to spend the majority of the year hiding on sandy ocean bottoms. However, during the spring, the crabs travel in dense schools and occasionally wash ashore….Some experts estimate that warm southern currents may distribute the crabs into Southern California every six to 10 years. A thick blanket of the fiery red crabs surfaced in the late ’90s, and again several years later in the Channel Islands and oceanographers at the time saw them as a possible indicator of an advancing El Nino weather pattern. Their arrival puts them in league with other nonnative animals seen off the Southern California coast in recent years, such as blue marlin, whale sharks, wahoo, yellowfin tuna, manta rays and by-the-wind sailors – a blob-likejellyfish that skims along the surface of the ocean.”

Include among those nonnative animals the Brown Booby, also at Malibu Lagoon, reported Dec. 22 by Ron Steffens, visiting from Bandon, OR.

Bedraggled Osprey (Grace Murayama 12-13-15)

Bedraggled Osprey
(Grace Murayama 12-13-15)

Dry Osprey (Grace Murayama 12-13-15)

Dry Osprey
(Grace Murayama 12-13-15)

Ospreys catch their fishy prey with their feet, and often become immersed in the process. As with any bird, it takes a while to dry off.

Yellow-rumped Warblers, usually farther north or higher in altitude during nesting season, appear in droves during the winter. They may be the most opportunistic feeder of the Wood Warbler family, gleaning on leaves, branches, fences, walls, flycatching from trees, and gleaning on the ground. They even get out to the beach and check out the foraging grounds of the Snowy Plover – seaweed wrack left high on the beach .

Yellow-rumped Warbler literally on the fence (Grace Murayama 12-18-15)

Yellow-rumped Warbler literally on the fence (Grace Murayama 12-18-15)

Yellow-rumped Warblers sometimes get down to the beach (Grace Murayama 12-18-15)

Yellow-rumped Warblers even get down to the beach (G. Murayama 12-18-15)

 

Yellow-rumper Warbler temporarily rules the wrack (Grace Murayama 12-5-15)

Yellow-rumped Warbler temporarily rules the wrack (Grace Murayama 12-5-15)

The Snowy Plover roosting colony has had a tough time the past two years. High tides, high surf and storm surges, and now the rains periodically washing out the beach. Sometimes we can’t find them at all, and so far, no one knows where they go when they vanish from the vicinity of the roosting area.

Sanderling group - often confused with Snowy Plovers (Grace Murayama 12-9-15)

Sanderling group – often confused with Snowy Plovers (Grace Murayama 12-9-15)

Snowy Plover roost, cryptic in the sand (Grace Murayama 12-5-15)

Snowy Plover roost, cryptic in the sand.
How many can you find?
(Grace Murayama 12-5-15)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Still, they manage to dodge the machinery, find their food, and avoid the feet of the large hominims who often crowd the beach. We’re not sure what the one below on the left was up to. It’s legs look so far back on it’s body that one wonders whether it’s mother was a loon. On the right, the legs of 2nd-year lagoon winter habitué Snowy GA:OY are more normally located.

Snowy Plover - "So plump he can't stand up" (Grace Murayama 12-9-15)

Snowy Plover – “So plump he can’t stand up” (Grace Murayama 12-9-15)

Snowy Plover GA:OY still in residence (Grace Murayama 12-4-15)

Snowy Plover GA:OY still in residence (Grace Murayama 12-4-15)

 

 

 

 

 

 

As always happens during winter rains, the beach was breached. The watershed of Malibu Creek – comprised of seven sub-watersheds – is over 109 square miles in size and extends well past the 101 freeway and into Ventura County. It doesn’t take much rain to send a raging torrent down the creek, sometimes

Beach breach (Grace Murayama 12-18-15)

Beach breach (Grace Murayama 12-18-15)

carrying trees, washing out rip-rap and other infrastructure. The PCH bridge, was replaced in 1995 after El Nino rains, starting in January 1995, banged it up a bit too much. That’s when the Cliff Swallows moved their nesting location – formerly on the bridge bottom and sides – over to the Malibu library and city hall.

Beach grading between Adamson House and lagoon (Grace Murayama 12-18-15)

Beach grading between Adamson House and lagoon (Grace Murayama 12-18-15)

Beach grading in front of Adamson House (Grace Murayama 12-18-15)

Beach grading in front of Adamson House (Grace Murayama 12-18-15)

It looks to me that grading was done to create sand berms in front of Adamson House, which has been done in the past when high tides and large storm surges were expected.

Not everyone manages to make it through these tough events, some caused by weather, some by humans, and some by conjunctions of the two.
[Chuck Almdale; all photos by Grace Murayama]

Dead Western Grebe (Grace Murayama 12-9-15)

Dead Western Grebe (Grace Murayama 12-9-15)

Hooded Merganser pair in the channel (Grace Murayama 12-18-15)

Hooded Merganser pair in the channel (Grace Murayama 12-18-15)

Kite Flying (Grace Murayama 12-4-15)

Kite Flying (Grace Murayama 12-4-15)

Advertisements
2 Comments
  1. ethanski permalink
    December 24, 2015 4:43 am

    Nice interesting pictures.

    We (4) came back to visit the lagoon after the Malibu CBC and after several years ……and were hugely disappointed in the ‘new’ lagoon. Yuk Yuk Yuk

    Whoa, is this the best ‘science’ can do? The lagoon is one tenth of its previous live vibrant condition, no matter what anyone is trying to pretend otherwise.

    No reeds, no sora, no vegetation, no waders, no nothing. A sad result of another human screw-up. Yuk Yuk Yuk.

    Sorry to report this, my humble opinion.

    Eg

    Sent from my iPad; No trees or puppies were harmed by sending this message! Please save paper and only print if necessary …..and have a marvelous, green day.

    >

    Like

    • Chukar permalink*
      December 25, 2015 2:09 pm

      Eg: You are wrong on all counts, despite your disapproval. Bird numbers and diversity experienced no significant change since the onset of the project – there is actually a slight increase (<3%), and we have numbers, not mere opinions, to prove it; fish & crustaceans have increased, water quality has improved, reeds have returned as are reed-obligates like Marsh Wren and Sora, vegetation has boomed over 2.5 years since the replanting, although obviously not up the the level it had been after 30 years of growth since the previous reconfiguration. There are waders, ducks, grebes, loons, the Snowy Plover winter colony, plenty of gulls, terns, cormorants, pelicans, hummingbirds, songbirds and – excepting the still-returning reed-obligates – the same nesting birds we had before.

      Many people do not realize that the world they perceive is largely a construct of their own expectations. There are none so blind as those who will not see, and frankly, you did not see what is there.

      Like

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: