Summer starts at Malibu Lagoon: June 26, 2016
By the time we got home in the San Fernando Valley at noon, it was 102°F; at the lagoon it had been a lovely 72°F. That’s SoCal summertime; drive over the hill and the temperature jumps 30°. Boo! Hiss!
June is typically our slowest month at the lagoon. Today’s 42 species is about average, but total birds of 704 is higher than usual. And that doesn’t count the approximately 500 gulls and 200 Elegant Terns who lifted off the beach and flew west shortly after we arrived, but before we could count them.
Low tide of +0.32 ft. was at 8:31am. Many rocks were exposed, but only a handful (that’s seven, for you non-polydactylists) of Willets were taking advantage. The lagoon outlet was closed, but the water level was high from runoff coming down the creek, one must suppose, with maybe another foot of rise before it would begin to
leak out. Surf was quite high, with waves cresting over than the heads of the men on boards, and PCH was packed on both sides by the parked cars of early-arriving surfers. One surfer, running barefoot down the path to the beach with board tucked underarm, replied to my query that he’d just driven down from Salt Lake City and couldn’t stop to talk. That’s surf! (Cue Chantays’ Pipeline.)
One unfortunate Double-crested Cormorant who landed on the snag in the water near our gathering spot, had a hook in its mouth with about 8 feet of fishing line and a small weight attached to it. It was reported to the local park ranger who said he’d pass it on to those who are equipped to come and aid such birds. I don’t know how they do it – throw a big net over it, perhaps.
In the nearby reeds we found a year-old Black-crowned Night Heron, in not-quite-adult plumage. Most of the adult Mallards were trailing ducklings of various sizes – sometimes one, sometimes a half-dozen.
We watched a tall Washingtonia Palm Tree for a while, as several people had spotted a Bullock’s Oriole flying in and out from what appeared, at a distance, to be a nest. It didn’t return. Usually it’s Hooded Orioles who nest in palms, which they’ve done in previous years. I’d like to have been able to confirm that the nest, if it was a nest, belonged to a Bullock’s.
An odd-looking gull showed up near trip’s end. Those observing it decided that it was a 1st-summer (one year old) Ring-billed Gull, but it had huge white patches in the wings, something I’ve never previously seen.
A quick anecdote: it’s often very difficult identifying a bird from someone’s verbal description. Two park rangers told us of a penguin-like black-and-white bird eating a Mallard duckling down by the lagoon. Penguin, eh? – sounds like an Alcid, unlikely but not impossible. But the field guide picture didn’t look quite right to them. One then said that another ranger had seen the same bird in Santa Barbara, and it was hanging out it’s wings to dry. Well…only cormorants do that. Again, the picture wasn’t quite right. Wait! One of them had a short video of it on their phone. Very dimly we could see an adult Black-crowned Night Heron gobbling down a baby duck. So it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut frequently said.
Snowy Plovers: Although one recently arrived on Santa Monica Beach, we didn’t see any.
Birds new for the season were: Black-crowned Night-Heron, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Glaucous-winged Gull, Forster’s Tern, Anna’s Hummingbird, Oak Titmouse, Bullock’s Oriole.
As always, many thanks to our photographers: Chuck Bragg, Adrian Douglas, Randy Ehler & Grace Murayama.
Our next four scheduled field trips: Malibu Lagoon 8:30 & 10am, 24 July; Lower Los Angeles River TBA; Malibu Lagoon 8:30 & 10am, 28 Aug.
Our next program: TBA, Tuesday, 4 Oct, 7:30 pm, at 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
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
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]
|Lagoon Birds 2016||1/24||2/28||3/27||4/24||5/22||6/26|
|Tide Lo/Hi Height||H+5.90||L+1.38||H+3.43||H+3.63||H+3.69||L+0.32|
|Great Blue Heron||3||4||3||2||3|
|Totals by Type||Jan||Feb||Mar||Apr||May||Jun|
|Water Birds – Other||104||146||100||106||22||129|
|Herons, Egrets & Ibis||26||12||15||6||5||18|
|Quail & Raptors||2||4||2||1||1||3|
|Gulls & Terns||472||939||219||1903||127||382|
|Water Birds – Other||9||10||9||4||3||2|
|Herons, Egrets & Ibis||3||3||3||2||3||4|
|Quail & Raptors||2||2||2||1||1||2|
|Gulls & Terns||5||9||8||8||7||9|