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Osprey Fest at Malibu Lagoon Feb. 28, 2016

February 28, 2016

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Ruddy Turnstone getting another angle on it (Larry Loeher 2-28-16)

Ruddy Turnstone getting another angle on it (Larry Loeher 2-28-16)

What is this Ruddy Turnstone up to, anyway? Working out a kink in his neck? Casting a sidelong glance at an attractive turnstone nearby? Watching for Ospreys?

Osprey in distance (Ray Juncosa 2-28-16)

Probably not the latter. Ospreys are fish-eaters; all the birds seem to know this, so they may keep an eye on an Osprey soaring overhead, but they rarely flush into the air as they will when a falcon appears. We humans might have difficulty telling Osprey from other raptors (we get frequent messages about Bald Eagles at the lagoon which always turns out to be Osprey), but the birds don’t.

Great Egret captures a lizard (Ray Juncosa 2-28-16)

Great Egret captures a lizard
(Ray Juncosa 2-28-16)

We all have to eat, even egrets. Everything tastes like chicken, they say, and I suppose lizards do too.

We had quite an assortment of gulls (see list below). Eight species in fact. Most were California Gull; Bonaparte’s, Heermann’s, Mew and Thayer’s were all singletons. We used to see Bonaparte’s in large numbers at the lagoon (e.g. 1600 – 3/15/80, 1095 – 12/12/82), but since Aug 2000 we’ve had a grand total of 179 birds, with a single-day high of 26 (5/26/07). I don’t know if this is due to a general population crash, or if they’ve chosen to winter elsewhere.

Mew Gull, uncommon at the lagoon (Joyce Waterman 2-28-16)

For a gull, the Mew – uncommon at the lagoon – has a thin bill
(Joyce Waterman 2-28-16)

Mew Gulls seem to like sewage facilities. In winter there is nearly always a flock on Dockweiler Beach in front of the Hyperion Plant. Ventura Water Reclamation Facility used to have them by the hundreds, where they rode the rotating arms as they sprayed water over the charcoal filtration media. Maybe they just liked the free ride. But the tanks were enclosed years ago, and the Mews had to find some other way to get free food and fun.

Common Yellowthroat (Chuck Bragg 2-28-16)

Common Yellowthroat stares down the photographer (Chuck Bragg 2-28-16)

Passerines were rather few today, with just the expected species and not many of those. Common Yellowthroats were up and around, busily singing, as were the Song Sparrows. American Crows and European Starlings accounted for over 60% of 129 total passerines.

Osprey overhead (Ray Juncosa 2-28-16)

Osprey overhead (Ray Juncosa 2-28-16)

Somewhere “down the foggy ruins of time”* someone misnamed the Osprey. Originally Ossifraga in Latin, os “bone” + frangere “to break,” which is an obvious reference to the Lammergeier, a large old-world vulture well-known for dropping bones (and turtles!) from a great height to crack them open, then descending to the ground to eat the marrow (or turtle meat). The Lammergeier’s head is similar to the Osprey: pale-ish, with a dark area in the face. Before the age of science and the invention of binoculars and leisure time, people weren’t picky about what to call something they weren’t going to eat. Lammergeier, Osprey – no one really cared.

Lammergeier face

Lammergeier face (Astrofauna)

Not only do the piscivorous Osprey not drop prospective fishy meals, they are famous for hanging onto them in a nifty manner. After spotting a fish foolishly swimming near the water’s surface, they plunge onto it feet-first to catch it in its large talons, often getting quite drenched in the process. After lurching out of the water and back into the air – not always easy with a large fish in tow – they fly back to their nest or perch, carrying the fish in a streamlined manner, reducing wind resistance by holding the fish head forwards in both talons, one foot in front of the other.

Osprey (Joyce Waterman 2-28-16)

Osprey on the light pole
(Joyce Waterman 2-28-16)

We were treated to many Osprey photo-opps today, as one bird perched here and there – most notably on a light pole at the east end of Malibu Colony – and then flew around and around the lagoon, probably hunting the thrill-seeking mullet who leapt frequently from the lagoon. We then noticed two more Osprey, higher overhead.

Getting ready to leave? (Joyce Waterman 2-28-16)

Getting ready to leave? (Joyce Waterman 2-28-16)

We’ve spotted Osprey at the lagoon 51 times since October 1979, for a total of 55 birds. We’ve twice seen two birds – 12/26/10 and 2/23/14 – but this is the first time we had a trio. Needless to say, the photographers went crazy.

Wing stretching Osprey (Joyce Waterman 2-28-16)

Wing-stretching Osprey (Joyce Waterman 2-28-16)

Among the most cosmopolitan of birds, Osprey are found on all continents except Antarctica and all major islands except Greenland, Iceland, Madagascar, and New Zealand. Consisting of three subspecies, Pandion haliaetus is currently the only species in its family Pandionidae, but there is talk of splitting it into two species. The slideshow on the web has more Osprey photos, as well as many other birds, not mentioned here.

Male Northern Shoveler (Ray Juncosa 2-28-16)

Male Northern Shoveler (Ray Juncosa 2-28-16)

Birds new for the season were: Brant Lesser Scaup; Red-throated, Pacific & Common Loons; Cooper’s Hawk; Western Sandpiper; Mew & Thayer’s Gulls; Nanday Parakeet; Bewick’s Wren.

The finely vermiculated male Gadwall (Joyce Waterman 2-28-16)

The finely vermiculated male Gadwall (Joyce Waterman 2-28-16)

As always, many thanks to our photographers: Chuck Bragg, Ray Juncosa, Jim Kenney, Larry Loeher, and Joyce Waterman.

Brown Pelican looks ready to breed (Ray Juncosa 2-28-16)

Brown Pelican looks ready to breed (Ray Juncosa 2-28-16)

Our next four scheduled field trips: Lu’s Bird & Hike in Sycamore Cyn, 12 Mar. 9:00am; Malibu Lagoon 8:30 & 10am, 27 Mar.;  Walker Ranch, 9 Apr. 8:30am.

Common Yellowthroat singing (Chuck Bragg 2-28-16)

Common Yellowthroat singing
(Chuck Bragg 2-28-16)

Our next program: Birds of Central Chile with Lance Benner on Tuesday, 5 April, 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.

Links: Unusual birds at Malibu Lagoon
9/23/02 Aerial photo of Malibu Lagoon
Prior checklists:
2015:   Jan-May,    July-Dec
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

* “Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man” 4th verse – Bob Dylan

Female Red-breasted Merganser with a crab (Ray Juncosa 2-28-16)

Female Red-breasted Merganser with a crab (Ray Juncosa 2-28-16)

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 9/27 10/25 11/22 12/27 1/24 2/28
Temperature 68-77 64-75 64-80 48-61 48-64 57-70
Tide Lo/Hi Height H+5.94 H+6.12 L+0.24 H+6.07 H+5.90 L+1.38
Tide Time 0918 0809 1241 0945 0855 0654
Brant 3
Canada Goose 11 7
Mute Swan 2
Gadwall 54 15 4 13 3 20
American Wigeon 2 10 16
Mallard 34 30 25 2 15 22
Northern Shoveler 6 8 2 16 12
Northern Pintail 2 4
Green-winged Teal 4 10 11 8 8
Lesser Scaup 5
Surf Scoter 1 2 17
Bufflehead 4 1 2 2
Hooded Merganser 2
Red-brstd Merganser 2 17 3 3
Ruddy Duck 5 68 110 1 10
Red-throated Loon 1 2
Pacific Loon 2 1
Common Loon 2 1
Pied-billed Grebe 3 3 2 3 8
Horned Grebe 2 1 1
Eared Grebe 8 10 10 2 2 5
Western Grebe 3 15 4 1
Blk-vented Shearwater 1
Brandt’s Cormorant 1 2 1
Dble-crstd Cormorant 36 29 45 15 24 19
Pelagic Cormorant 1 2 1 2
Brown Pelican 6 42 11 10 30 43
Great Blue Heron 4 4 3 2 3 4
Great Egret 3 5 1 2 2 1
Snowy Egret 18 12 8 30 21 7
Blk-crwnd N-Heron 3 3 1
Osprey 1 1 1 3
Cooper’s Hawk 1 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Sora 1 2
American Coot 75 55 60 10 40 65
Blk-bellied Plover 84 62 33 30 12 32
Snowy Plover 32 28 12 4
Semipalmated Plover 2
Killdeer 10 15 4 14 2 4
Spotted Sandpiper 3 10 2 5 1
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Willet 15 35 18 13 8 8
Whimbrel 4 2 5 1 3 4
Marbled Godwit 8 8 8 11 13 22
Ruddy Turnstone 15 18 9 2 5
Sanderling 23 6
Least Sandpiper 3 6 4
Western Sandpiper 15 1 4
Long-billed Dowitcher 1 4 2 2
Common Murre 1
Bonaparte’s Gull 1 1 2 1
Heermann’s Gull 25 11 11 4 1
Mew Gull 1
Ring-billed Gull 2 95 60 30 90
Western Gull 110 90 140 80 13 160
California Gull 8 4 1430 620 400 650
Thayer’s Gull 1
Glaucous-winged Gull 1 1 4
Caspian Tern 1
Common Tern 1
Forster’s Tern 2 3
Royal Tern 15 2 23 11 25 31
Elegant Tern 6 4
Rock Pigeon 12 10 20 2 2 6
Eur. Collared-Dove 1 1
Mourning Dove 4 2 1 2 2
Vaux’s Swift 45
Anna’s Hummingbird 4 2 2 3 1 2
Allen’s Hummingbird 5 8 5 2 3 3
Belted Kingfisher 1 1 1
Red-brstd Sapsucker 1
Nuttall’s Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 1
American Kestrel 1 1
Merlin 1 1
Peregrine Falcon 1
Nanday Parakeet 6 8
Black Phoebe 20 10 10 12 3 8
Say’s Phoebe 4 3 1 2 1 1
Warbling Vireo 6 1
Western Scrub-Jay 1
American Crow 20 10 3 1 6 23
Tree Swallow 10
Oak Titmouse 1 1
Bushtit 20 4 28 40 4
House Wren 4 1 2 1 1
Marsh Wren 1 2 1
Bewick’s Wren 1 1 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 3 4 9 3
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 4 10 6 1
Hermit Thrush 1 1 3
Northern Mockingbird 4 6 6 2 1 1
European Starling 35 10 21 10 110 60
Ornge-crwnd Warbler 2 4 5
Nashville Warbler 3
Common Yellowthroat 8 8 7 1 1 5
Yellow Warbler 1 1
Palm Warbler 1
Yellow-rumpd Warbler 3 35 40 40 3
Blk-throated G. Warbler 3
Townsend’s Warbler 1 1
Spotted Towhee 2 2 1
California Towhee 2 3 1 1 2
Savannah Sparrow 2 3 1
Song Sparrow 3 3 3 6 3 3
Lincoln’s Sparrow 1
White-crwnd Sparrow 2 25 4 15 20 5
Red-winged Blackbird 15 15
Western Meadowlark 4 4 5 4
Great-tailed Grackle 12 10 4 3 2 1
Brwn-headed Cowbird 2
House Finch 25 9 4 3 1 6
Lesser Goldfinch 3 3
House Sparrow 1
Totals by Type Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb
Waterfowl 99 129 169 58 61 118
Water Birds – Other 126 145 152 48 104 146
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 28 24 13 34 26 12
Quail & Raptors 1 1 2 4 2 4
Shorebirds 215 161 113 83 50 86
Gulls & Terns 169 114 1703 775 472 939
Doves 17 13 21 2 4 8
Other Non-Passerines 55 20 7 6 4 13
Passerines 213 191 164 156 150 129
Totals Birds 923 798 2344 1166 873 1455
Total Species Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb
Waterfowl 5 5 10 10 8 11
Water Birds – Other 5 8 11 9 9 10
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 4 4 4 3 3 3
Quail & Raptors 1 1 2 4 2 2
Shorebirds 13 10 9 10 6 10
Gulls & Terns 9 7 7 7 5 9
Doves 3 3 2 1 2 2
Other Non-Passerines 4 7 2 3 2 3
Passerines 26 33 20 21 12 18
Totals Species – 115 70 78 67 68 49 68

 

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One Comment
  1. March 18, 2016 3:08 pm

    Thank you, this is most interesting!

    Like

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