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Ospreys, Least Terns & Snowy Plovers: Malibu Lagoon, July 24, 2016

July 27, 2016

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We’d been roasting in the San Fernando Valley and smoke from the nearby 35,000-acre Sand Canyon fire darkened our sky, turning the sun into a small beet. Malibu, just to be different, was cool with fog so thick we could barely make out birds on the sand islands 100 yards away.

The fog in retreat (C. Bragg 7-24-16)

The fog in retreat (C. Bragg 7-24-16)

The fog suddenly lifted about 9:30, and the Ospreys went fishing. One of the lagoon’s numerous long, thin Jumping Mullet was snagged, and the bird retired to breakfast in a cypress tree. Fish head first, was the method. I hoped that the

Osprey & fish, a closeup (G. Murayama 7-24-16)

Osprey & fish, a closeup (G. Murayama 7-24-16)

occasional fish tail twitch was caused by the bird jerking the fish around with its long talons, and not that the fish still survived. One of their favorite resting places in in the large, deep-green coniferous araucaria* or Monkey-puzzle tree across the lagoon at Adamson House.

Osprey and fish (C. Bragg 7-24-16)

Osprey and fish (C. Bragg 7-24-16)

Least Terns usually show up shortly before and shortly after they have bred elsewhere, such as at the colonies at Venice Beach or Pt. Mugu Naval Air Station. One bird repeated plunged into the lagoon, occasionally emerging with tiny silvery fish slightly larger than its slender bill, which it took to another bird waiting on the sand flat near the lagoon.

Black-vented Shearwaters off San Diego (Brad Weinert & Lynn Ferguson-Weinert 10-6-12)

Black-vented Shearwaters off San Diego
(Brad Weinert & Lynn Ferguson-Weinert 10-6-12)

A large raft of Black-vented Shearwaters rested well out on the ocean – scope views only. As they began to rise and drift away through the calm air and low seas, we could see their extensive white undersides. At 14” long (wingspan 34”) these are the smallest of the shearwaters who regularly visit California waters. Near-neighbors, 95% of them nest on three islands (Guadeloupe, San Benito and Nativitad) off central Baja’s western coast. All other west coast shearwaters are visitors from distant lands like New Zealand, Australia or southern South America.

The glare of the Osprey (G. Murayama 7-24-16)

The medusa-like glare of the Osprey
(G. Murayama 7-24-16)

Except for the solitary Brant, which is after all merely a Goose, Mallard and Gadwall were the only duck species present, and most of those were ducklings trailing their mothers. Shorebirds came and went, with one flock of Black-bellied Plovers coasting past our head to land near the flock of Brown Pelicans and Western Gulls, joining the Willets and Whimbrels.

We gave away free gifts – some gifts you have to pay for, but not ours, because they’re free! – which some guests seemed to appreciate while others scratched their heads. Come next month and we may have more.

Do you think this is a sparrow? (C. Bragg 7-24-16)

Do you think this is a sparrow?
(C. Bragg 7-24-16)

Birders often visit from afar. Malibu Lagoon is somewhat famous, you might know, among birders of the world, just as Surfrider Beach is famous among the surfing and beach party bingo crowd, and our SMBAS blog is read in over 100 countries. Joining us this month was Otto Mayer, down from Portland, Oregon and visiting his grandmother who thoughtfully brought him to the lagoon. I think the Least Terns were a lifer for him. He inquired as to whether any California Thrashers might be in the lagoon vicinity, but unfortunately they much prefer the chaparral of the nearby hills.

The usual suspects on the beach (C. Bragg 7-24-16)

The usual suspects on the beach (C. Bragg 7-24-16)

By the time we left Adamson House and its endless parade of wedding guests and caterers, the day had warmed and sweat has soaked my shirt to render my checklist damp and the ink runny.

*Araucaria trees are a very interesting family of conifers, about which we’ll someday post a blog.

Not Snowy Plovers, but Killdeer and Semipalmated are close relatives (C. Bragg 7-24-16)

Killdeer and Semipalmated are close relatives of the Snowy Plover
(C. Bragg 7-24-16)

Welcome Back Snowy Plovers! We found nine roosting in the eastern enclosure, with three more foraging by the lagoon’s edge. Among them was GA:OY (left leg green band over aqua, right leg orange over yellow). My records show this bird was banded the summer of 2014 at Oceano Dunes near Pismo Beach. It’s appeared on four previous Sunday walks: 12/25/14, 1/25/15, 9/27/15 and 11/22/15. It’s also been reported on 10/6/15 by Bill Crowe and 12/ 5/15 and 1/19/16 by Grace Murayama. The birds first appeared on 7/4/16 when Snowy Plover aficionados Grace Murayama and Larry Loeher found six birds, including first-timer banded bird NR:NR.

The coots have returned! (C. Bragg 7-24-16)

At long last, the coots have returned! (C. Bragg 7-24-16)

Birds new for the season were: Western Grebe, Black-vented Shearwater, Turkey Vulture, American Coot, Snowy Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Spotted Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Ruddy Turnstone, Least Sandpiper, Least Tern, American Kestrel, American Robin, Spotted Towhee, Bullock’s Oriole.

As always, many thanks to our photographers: Chuck Bragg and Grace Murayama.

Our next four scheduled field trips: Lower Los Angeles River 7am, 27 Aug; Malibu Lagoon 8:30 & 10am, 28 Aug; Coastal Cleanup Day – Malibu Lagoon 9am, 17 Sep; Malibu Lagoon 8:30 & 10am, 25 Sep.

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

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

Our next program: Roadrunners with Mark Mendelsohn, Tuesday, 4 Oct, 7:30 pm; 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 viewpoint just south of the parking 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:
2016:   Jan-June                          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]

Malibu 2016 2/28 3/27 4/24 5/22 6/26 7/24
Temperature 57-70 55-65 60-67 61-66 68-72 68-76
Tide Lo/Hi Ht. L+1.38 H+3.43 H+3.63 H+3.69 L+0.32 L+0.20
Tide Time 0654 1228 1143 1101 0831 0707
Brant 3 2 1 2 1
Gadwall 20 14 4 8 18
American Wigeon 16 10
Mallard 22 16 18 4 30 25
Northern Shoveler 12 14
Green-winged Teal 8
Lesser Scaup 5
Surf Scoter 17 16
Bufflehead 2
Red-breasted Merganser 3 2 1 1
Ruddy Duck 10
Red-throated Loon 2
Pacific Loon 1 2
Common Loon 1 1
Pied-billed Grebe 8 3 1 2
Horned Grebe 1
Eared Grebe 5 2
Western Grebe 1 1 1
Black-vented Shearwater 200
Brandt’s Cormorant 4 2
Double-crested Cormorant 19 6 23 7 35 18
Brown Pelican 43 28 77 14 94 39
Great Blue Heron 4 3 2 3 3
Great Egret 1 5 2 1 7 4
Snowy Egret 7 7 4 2 6 8
Blk-crwnd N-Heron 2
Turkey Vulture 2
Osprey 3 1 1 2
Cooper’s Hawk 1 1 2
Red-shouldered Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
American Coot 65 53 4 2
Black-necked Stilt 19
Blk-bellied Plover 32 8 20 6 6 60
Snowy Plover 4 3 12
Semipalmated Plover 8 4
Killdeer 4 3 2 6 8 6
Spotted Sandpiper 1 1 1 3
Willet 8 12 10 16 11 30
Whimbrel 4 21 2 16
Marbled Godwit 22 15 6
Ruddy Turnstone 5 1 5
Surfbird 1
Least Sandpiper 13 7 15
Western Sandpiper 4 35 1 1 7
Long-billed Dowitcher 2
Common Murre 3
Bonaparte’s Gull 1 3
Heermann’s Gull 1 2 8 130 12
Mew Gull 1
Ring-billed Gull 90 15 1 26 1
Western Gull 160 45 60 23 120 45
California Gull 650 130 15 3 3
Thayer’s Gull 1
Glaucous-winged Gull 4 1 1
Least Tern 2
Caspian Tern 3 19 9 11 2
Forster’s Tern 1
Royal Tern 31 18 2 48 5 3
Elegant Tern 5 1800 10 110 10
Rock Pigeon 6 6 6 1 23 4
Mourning Dove 2 2 1 2 2
Anna’s Hummingbird 2 1 3
Allen’s Hummingbird 3 4 4 2 1 5
Belted Kingfisher 1
American Kestrel 1
Nanday Parakeet 8 2
Black Phoebe 8 6 4 1 2 7
Say’s Phoebe 1
Cassin’s Kingbird 1
Western Scrub-Jay 1 2 1 1
American Crow 23 6 4 4 6 3
Common Raven 1 1
Violet-green Swallow 1
Rough-winged Swallow 10 10 6 6 4
Cliff Swallow 1 6 4 7 15
Barn Swallow 6 4 4 20 20
Oak Titmouse 1 1
Bushtit 4 5 4 2 15
House Wren 1
Bewick’s Wren 1 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
Western Bluebird 1
Hermit Thrush 3 1
American Robin 2 1 1
Northern Mockingbird 3 4 6 2 2 2
European Starling 90 1 2 2 10 40
Common Yellowthroat 5 5 1 1 4
Yellow-rumped Warbler 9
Spotted Towhee 1 1
California Towhee 2 5 3
Song Sparrow 3 12 14 2 3 3
White-crowned Sparrow 5 5
Black-headed Grosbeak 1
Red-winged Blackbird 5 4 15 12
Western Meadowlark 2
Brewer’s Blackbird 6 12
Great-tailed Grackle 1 9 3 3 4 20
Brown-headed Cowbird 2
Hooded Oriole 1
Bullock’s Oriole 2 1
House Finch 6 21 16 7 6 25
Lesser Goldfinch 1
House Sparrow 3
Totals by Type Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul
Waterfowl 118 74 22 14 33 44
Water Birds – Other 146 100 106 22 129 262
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 12 15 6 5 18 15
Quail & Raptors 4 2 1 1 3 5
Shorebirds 86 113 76 28 26 158
Gulls & Terns 939 219 1903 127 382 74
Doves 8 8 7 3 23 6
Other Non-Passerines 13 7 5 2 4 5
Passerines 168 105 95 60 86 174
Totals Birds 1494 643 2221 262 704 743
             
Total Species Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul
Waterfowl 11 7 2 4 3 3
Water Birds – Other 10 9 4 3 2 6
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 3 3 2 3 4 3
Quail & Raptors 2 2 1 1 2 3
Shorebirds 10 11 10 3 4 10
Gulls & Terns 9 8 8 7 9 6
Doves 2 2 2 2 1 2
Other Non-Passerines 3 3 2 1 2 1
Passerines 19 22 20 17 15 17
Totals Species – 104 69 67 51 41 42 51
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