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Post-breeding migrants return: Malibu Lagoon, August 28, 2016

August 30, 2016
Royal Tern - drowsy, perhaps? (J. Waterman 8-28-16)

Royal Tern – Hey! Tryin’ to sleep here!
(Joyce Waterman 8-28-16)

Lillian and I didn’t feel comfortable with the identification; back home, Sunday night, we checked some additional references. Kirsten Wahlquist had a few photos and after peering at them on Monday morning, we sent them off to Kimball Garrett at the L.A. County Museum of Natural History.

Kimball’s reply: “These are Baird’s Sandpipers.  Note the very long wingtips, quite unlike short-winged Least and Western [Sandpipers]. Also, the strong buffy tones to the plumage, and the neatly fringed upperparts.

Baird's Sandpipers (Kirsten Wahlquist, both photos 8-28-16)

Baird’s Sandpipers (Kirsten Wahlquist, both photos 8-28-16)

Well…now that he points it out, I can see that the wings do look long, and I think I can see the tail (barely), a bit shorter than the wingtips. The strong buffy tone is

For comparison - Baird's pair. Malibu Lagoon (Jim Kenney 2-10-07)

For comparison – pair of Baird’s.
Malibu Lagoon (Jim Kenney 2-10-07)

what was so noticeable on the beach. Actually, they looked almost rusty-red, much more so than any pictures we could find in our field guides. I’m not sure what “neatly fringed” means – maybe the finely detailed rusty and black pattern on the back and shoulders. The bird had dark legs, but not quite black as with Western Sandpiper and Sanderling, and often the shadow cast by the bird’s torso makes legs

Sanderling (Larry Loeher 8-28-16)

Sanderling scoots away from the foam. Compared to Baird’s above, Sanderlings have thicker bill with small end-knob, blacker legs, shorter wings , less buffy head-neck-breast and different back pattern.  (Larry Loeher 8-28-16)

look much darker than they really are. The bill wasn’t right for Sanderling – too thin and no little “bulge” at the tip, nor for Western Sandpiper – a little too short and straight. Least Sandpiper didn’t seem quite right, but it seemed the least objectionable choice. So I thought they were Least; Lillian thought they could be Baird’s, and Kimball agreed. I really ought to know a Baird’s when I see one, but this was only the second time we’d seen them on our lagoon walk in over 35 years.

Brandt's Cormorant cruises the surf zone (J. Waterman 8-28-16)

Brandt’s Cormorant cruises the surf zone (Joyce Waterman 8-28-16)

Shorebirds, or gulls, or terns, or flycatchers and warblers and sparrows for that matter, can be tough to figure out, especially during late summer, when young birds show up in juvenile plumage and adults may be in various stages of molting from breeding to non-breeding plumage. All sorts of weird-looking birds pop up.

Osprey about to snag an mullet (Jeffrey Davidson 7-10-16)

Osprey about to snag a meal from the lagoon (Jeffrey Davidson 7-10-16)

Welcome to the many new faces this month, including eighteen parents and children on our 10am family walk. The birds only gets better, as their number and variety continues to increase through the winter until next April.  Our extensive promotion staff – Grace Murayama – was very busy this month, getting the word out to local newspapers, organizations and bulletin boards. Many thanks, Grace!

One Royal Tern envies another his fish (J. Waterman 8-28-16)

One Royal Tern envies another’s beautiful fish (Larry Loeher 8-28-16)

We did our usual “sort-through” of the terns – Royal and Elegant. Some of the Royals were juveniles, still begging food from adults. Several of the juvvies had relatively short and very pale yellow bills, almost “bone” color. Chris “the Brit” alerted me to the presence of an uncommon Common Tern which we had missed when picking out the very similar Forster’s Terns. Of course as soon as we located it and took our eyes off it, it crouched down behind a low sand ridge and all we could see was 1/5th of an inch of its forehead. So we got closer until we could see the full head with its black nape, and the black carpel bar on the shoulder. This mark is formed by black feathers in the upper leading edge of the wing between the torso and “wrist.” Common Terns are common just about everywhere in the world except the North American west coast.

Royal Tern adult (J. Waterman 8-28-16)

Royal Tern adult (L), Elegant Tern (R) (Joyce Waterman 8-28-16)

Study the photo above for the most useful Royal to Elegant differences. The Elegant will lose perhaps the frontal 1/3rd of the black cap, but otherwise little will change through the winter. The overall size, the bill shape, and placement of the eye within or not within the black feathers are ID keys.

Royal Tern adult & begging juvenile (Larry Loeher 8-28-16)

Royal Tern adult & begging juvenile (Larry Loeher 8-28-16)

The ducks have not yet returned; lagoon breeders Mallard and Gadwall were present, as was one Brant. Brant has been present six of the last seven months. For some reason, over the past 10 years Brant have often been around during the summer. The peak of their presence was in 2010: from April through September, their numbers varied from three to eleven. In 2013, from February through October, they were present seven out of nine months.

Snowy Plover AA:BL (Grace Murayama 8-28-16)

Snowy Plover AA:BL, ringed Fort Ord Summer’16 (Grace Murayama 8-28-16)

The Snowy Plover winter roosting colony continues to grow – 24 this time, with two ringed birds: GA:OY whom we’ve seen many times previously, and newcomer AA:BL (left leg Aqua over Aqua, right leg Blue over Lime), who received his or her rings this summer at Fort Ord.

 Snowy Egret (Joyce Waterman 8-28-16)

Snowy Egret (Joyce Waterman 8-28-16)

On my way to Adamson House, I spotted two Pelagic Cormorants below the end of Malibu Pier. One seemed to be hooked by a fisherman. I could see the line and fish on the end, with the apparently hooked cormorant attached to the fish. As the line was reeled in and the fish hoisted up, the cormorant went with them and I feared the worst had happened. At five feet above the water, the bird let go, plopped back into the water, and swam away with his compatriot. I suppose that he, or she, really wanted that fish and wasn’t giving up easily.

Birds new for the season were: Brandt’s and Pelagic Cormorants, Greater Yellowlegs, Marbled Godwit, Sanderling, Baird’s Sandpiper, Common Tern, Belted Kingfisher (male and female), Ash-throated Flycatcher, Western Kingbird, Orange-crowned Warbler, California Towhee, Hooded Oriole.

Great Blue Heron - is he laughing? (Grace Murayama 8-28-16)

Great Blue Heron – is he laughing?
(Grace Murayama 8-28-16)

Also new (sort of) is the California Scrub-Jay. This is our regular scrub-jay, which many people insist on calling “Blue Jay” – they’re Jays that are blue, but they’re not “Blue Jays” – which are common east of the Rocky Mountains, but very uncommon in California. Our scrub-jay recently underwent a taxonomic split – Western Scrub-Jay was split into California Scrub-Jay and Woodhouse Scrub-Jay, which is a Great Basin bird. So if you’ve seen Western Scrub-Jay in New Mexico, western Colorado or eastern Utah, it almost certainly was a Woodhouse.

As always, many thanks to our photographers: Chuck Bragg, Larry Loeher, Grace Murayama, Kirsten Wahlquist and Joyce Waterman.

Our next four scheduled field trips:  Coastal Cleanup Day – Malibu Lagoon 9am, 17 Sep; Malibu Lagoon 8:30 & 10am, 25 Sep; Bolsa Chica, 8 Oct 8:30am; Malibu Lagoon 8:30 & 10am, 23 Oct.

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 Census 2016 3/27 4/24 5/22 6/26 7/24 8/28
Temperature 55-65 60-67 61-66 68-72 68-76 65-73
Tide Lo/Hi Height H+3.43 H+3.63 H+3.69 L+0.32 L+0.20 H+4.28
Tide Time 1228 1143 1101 0831 0707 0810
Brant 2 1 2 1 1
Gadwall 14 4 8 18 10
American Wigeon 10
Mallard 16 18 4 30 25 24
Northern Shoveler 14
Surf Scoter 16
Red-breasted Merganser 2 1 1
Pacific Loon 2
Common Loon 1
Pied-billed Grebe 3 1 2 4
Eared Grebe 2
Western Grebe 1 1
Black-vented Shearwater 200
Brandt’s Cormorant 4 2 3
Double-crested Cormorant 6 23 7 35 18 34
Pelagic Cormorant 2
Brown Pelican 28 77 14 94 39 9
Great Blue Heron 3 2 3 3 3
Great Egret 5 2 1 7 4 1
Snowy Egret 7 4 2 6 8 3
Black-crowned Night-Heron 2
Turkey Vulture 2
Osprey 1 1 2 1
Cooper’s Hawk 1 2
Red-shouldered Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
American Coot 53 4 2 10
Black-necked Stilt 19
Blk-bellied Plover 8 20 6 6 60 70
Snowy Plover 3 12 24
Semipalmated Plover 8 4 8
Killdeer 3 2 6 8 6 9
Spotted Sandpiper 1 1 3 5
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Willet 12 10 16 11 30 2
Whimbrel 21 2 16 2
Marbled Godwit 15 6 1
Ruddy Turnstone 1 5 9
Surfbird 1
Sanderling 5
Baird’s Sandpiper 5
Least Sandpiper 13 7 15 2
Western Sandpiper 35 1 1 7 6
Common Murre 3
Bonaparte’s Gull 3
Heermann’s Gull 2 8 130 12 4
Ring-billed Gull 15 1 26 1
Western Gull 45 60 23 120 45 118
California Gull 130 15 3 3 1
Glaucous-winged Gull 1 1
Least Tern 2
Caspian Tern 3 19 9 11 2 2
Common Tern 1
Forster’s Tern 1 3
Royal Tern 18 2 48 5 3 10
Elegant Tern 5 1800 10 110 10 67
Rock Pigeon 6 6 1 23 4 8
Mourning Dove 2 1 2 2 2
Anna’s Hummingbird 1 3
Allen’s Hummingbird 4 4 2 1 5 5
Belted Kingfisher 1 2
American Kestrel 1 1
Nanday Parakeet 2
Black Phoebe 6 4 1 2 7 3
Ash-throated Flycatcher 2
Cassin’s Kingbird 1
Western Kingbird 1
Calif. Scrub-Jay 1 2 1 1 3
American Crow 6 4 4 6 3 5
Common Raven 1 1
Violet-green Swallow 1
Rough-winged Swallow 10 10 6 6 4 4
Cliff Swallow 1 6 4 7 15 4
Barn Swallow 6 4 4 20 20 20
Oak Titmouse 1
Bushtit 5 4 2 15 5
Bewick’s Wren 1
Western Bluebird 1
Hermit Thrush 1
American Robin 2 1 1
Northern Mockingbird 4 6 2 2 2 2
European Starling 1 2 2 10 40 20
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 5 1 1 4 3
Spotted Towhee 1
California Towhee 5 3 1
Song Sparrow 12 14 2 3 3 2
White-crowned Sparrow 5
Black-headed Grosbeak 1
Red-winged Blackbird 5 4 15 12 30
Western Meadowlark 2
Brewer’s Blackbird 6 12
Great-tailed Grackle 9 3 3 4 20 3
Brwn-headed Cowbird 2
Hooded Oriole 1 3
Bullock’s Oriole 2 1
House Finch 21 16 7 6 25 6
Lesser Goldfinch 1
House Sparrow 3
Totals by Type Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug
Waterfowl 74 22 14 33 44 35
Water Birds – Other 100 106 22 129 262 62
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 15 6 5 18 15 7
Quail & Raptors 2 1 1 3 5 2
Shorebirds 113 76 28 26 158 149
Gulls & Terns 219 1903 127 382 74 206
Doves 8 7 3 23 6 10
Other Non-Passerines 7 5 2 4 5 7
Passerines 105 95 60 86 174 118
Totals Birds 643 2221 262 704 743 596
             
Total Species Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug
Waterfowl 7 2 4 3 3 3
Water Birds – Other 9 4 3 2 6 6
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 3 2 3 4 3 3
Quail & Raptors 2 1 1 2 3 2
Shorebirds 11 10 3 4 10 14
Gulls & Terns 8 8 7 9 6 8
Doves 2 2 2 1 2 2
Other Non-Passerines 3 2 1 2 1 2
Passerines 22 20 17 15 17 19
Totals Species – 99 67 51 41 42 51 59
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2 Comments
  1. Joyce Waterman permalink
    August 30, 2016 10:06 pm

    Chuck– good report! One more correction– the ‘Royal Tern adult and begging juv’ photo is not mine. Sorry I didn’t catch this in my last email to you.

    Like

  2. Joyce Waterman permalink
    August 30, 2016 4:48 pm

    Chuck — are Baird’s Sandpipers at the Lagoon a first! Exciting to see them here!

    Btw–The pic of the Royal Tern with fish in bill is not mine.

    Thanks, Joyce Waterman

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Like

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