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Special Birds at Malibu Lagoon, October 23, 2016

October 26, 2016
Clouds between showers (Chris Tosdevin 10-23-16)

Clouds between showers (Chris Tosdevin 10-23-16)

Rain sprinkled the lagoon before and after the walk, but during it we were fine. Cloudy and cool – a nice change from last month’s mind-boggling sun-baked sweat bath. Avian species and numbers continue to climb as we approach winter; check the list below for seasonal additions. Gull and pelican numbers still seem below typical. Royal and Elegant Terns were present on the low-tide rocks, with a few Forster’s Terns flying past.

Royal Tern (J. Waterman 10-23-16)

Royal Tern (Joyce Waterman 10-23-16)

The Brant continues – present eight of the last nine months. The plumage was brighter than last month (compare photo); it must have gone through a molt, or else it’s a different individual. It’s now quite lovely. But we had several other major events.

Brant looks quite regal (Randy Ehler 10-23-16)

Brant looks quite regal (Randy Ehler 10-23-16)

The first was the appearance of both Western and Clark’s Grebes in the western channel – ten of the first and two of the latter. Westerns are nearly always present – usually offshore – from October into April. But Clark’s are quite uncommon near the brackish lagoon and salty ocean, and in SoCal they’re far easier to find on inland reservoirs in the San Gabriel Valley. In 323 visits over the past 37 years, we’ve seen then only eleven times, most recently on 4/28/13. It gave us a great opportunity to compare these two closely-related and similar species, looking primarily at bill color, the amount of white around the eye, and paleness of the flanks.

Western (L) & Clark's Grebes (J. Waterman 10-23-16)

Western (L) & Clark’s Grebes (R) (J. Waterman 10-23-16)

Earlier returnees from the beach alerted us to an odd plover – perhaps one of the golden plover species. It was definitely golden-red, but turned out to be a Mountain Plover. This species can be difficult to find in L.A. County, and is

Three faces of the Mountain Plover (Joyce Waterman 10-23-16)

Three faces of the Mountain Plover (Joyce Waterman 10-23-16)

normally seen only in winter on certain pastures in the Antelope Valley east of Lancaster. To find one on the beach is ludicrous, but there it was. Perhaps not too surprising, it was on the barren and nearly vegetation-free sand flat next to the lagoon, habitat little different from where we often find them – barren pastures or unvegetated flats – except of course for the presence of the nearby lagoon and vast Pacific Ocean. This was a first for the lagoon and perhaps for coastal L.A. County as well.

Mountain Plover and Snowy Plover for Comparison (R. Ehler, K. Wahlquist & J. Waterman 10-23-16)

Mountain Plover and Snowy Plover for Comparison
(R. Ehler, K. Wahlquist & J. Waterman 10-23-16)

Chris Lord found 29 Snowy Plovers, making sure to not include any of the numerous Sanderlings who had scattered themselves among the Snowies. He and I found banded bird AA:BL; earlier Lu Plauzoles found banded bird RR:BB. Counting Snowies is tricky when beachwalkers find it amusing to persistantly walk through the roosting flock.

Sanderlings (R. Ehler + J. Waterman 10-23-16)

Sanderlings (R. Ehler & J. Waterman 10-23-16)

A Merlin was reported by several birders. October is their favorite month for visiting the lagoon, followed by March.

Whimbrel and Ruddy Turnstone (J. Waterman 10-23-16)

Whimbrel and Ruddy Turnstone (J. Waterman 10-23-16)

Our last bonus bird was spotted back near the parking lagoon, at the edge of the reeds just below our meeting place. A Sora! I had been scrutinizing the reed beds

Sora emerges from the reeds (J. Waterman & R. Ehler 10-23-16)

Sora emerges from the reeds (J. Waterman & R. Ehler 10-23-16)

throughout the walk, but saw no rustling of reeds and no Sora. Sora had been (most likely) resident at the lagoon, with a high count of seven on 11-28-10.  The 2012

Nanday Conure, down from the local canyons (Randy Ehler 10-23-16)

Nanday Conure, down from the local canyons (Randy Ehler 10-23-16)

lagoon reconfiguration eliminated the extensive reed beds, and Sora (as well as Virginia Rail) went elsewhere for their winters. They reappeared in Nov-Dec 2015, indicating that the reeds had grown back sufficiently for them to at least stop by and investigate. Reeds are still scanty and scattered, and I doubt they’ll become resident within the next few years. We’ll keep our eyes open.

Birds new for the season were: Ruddy Duck, Eared Grebe, Western & Clark’s Grebes, Sora, Mountain Plover, Mew & Herring Gulls, Merlin, Nanday Parakeet, House Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Hermit Thrush, Yellow-rumped Warbler.

As always, many thanks to our photographers: Randy Ehler, Chris Tosdevin, Kirsten Wahlquist and Joyce Waterman.

White-crowned Sparrow (Randy Ehler 10-23-16)

White-crowned Sparrow
(Randy Ehler 10-23-16)

Our next three scheduled field trips:  Butterbredt Springs Holloween Campout, 29-30 Oct 8:30am; Ballona Creek, 19 Nov 8:30am. Malibu Lagoon 8:30 & 10am, 27 Oct.

Our next program: The Naming of Birds with Tom Hinnebusch, linguist extraordinaire, Tuesday, 1 Nov, 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.

Female Red-winged Blackbird skulks in the reeds (J. Waterman 10-23-16)

Female Red-winged Blackbird skulks in the reeds
(J. Waterman 10-23-16)

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

Great Blue Heron aloft (J. Waterman 10-23-16)

Great Blue Heron aloft (J. Waterman 10-23-16)

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 2016 5/22 6/26 7/24 8/28 9/25 10/23
Temperature 61-66 68-72 68-76 65-73 70-96 63-70
Tide Lo/Hi Height H+3.69 L+0.32 L+0.20 H+4.28 H+4.39 L+2.63
Tide Time 1101 0831 0707 0810 0708 1108
Brant 1 2 1 1 1 1
Gadwall 8 18 10 6 6
American Wigeon 1 10
Mallard 4 30 25 24 35 23
Northern Shoveler 6
Northern Pintail 4 3
Green-winged Teal 2
Red-breasted Merganser 1 1
Ruddy Duck 7
Pied-billed Grebe 1 2 4 15 18
Eared Grebe 3
Western Grebe 1 10
Clark’s Grebe 2
Black-vented Shearwater 200
Brandt’s Cormorant 3
Double-crested Cormorant 7 35 18 34 38 37
Pelagic Cormorant 2 1
Brown Pelican 14 94 39 9 1 30
Great Blue Heron 2 3 3 3 6 3
Great Egret 1 7 4 1 1 2
Snowy Egret 2 6 8 3 8 8
Blk-crwnd N-Heron 2
Turkey Vulture 2
Osprey 1 2 1 2
Cooper’s Hawk 2
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Sora 1
American Coot 2 10 95 280
Blk-bellied Plover 6 6 60 70 75 75
Snowy Plover 12 24 35 29
Semipalmated Plover 4 8 5
Killdeer 6 8 6 9 29 1
Mountain Plover 1
Spotted Sandpiper 3 5 2 1
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Willet 16 11 30 2 10 20
Whimbrel 16 2 1 2
Marbled Godwit 1 4 7
Ruddy Turnstone 5 9 3 7
Sanderling 5 22 72
Dunlin 1
Baird’s Sandpiper 5
Least Sandpiper 15 2 4
Western Sandpiper 1 7 6 3
Long-billed Dowitcher 1
Heermann’s Gull 8 130 12 4 6 15
Mew Gull 1
Ring-billed Gull 26 1
Western Gull 23 120 45 118 45 48
California Gull 3 3 1 27
Herring Gull 1
Glaucous-winged Gull 1
Least Tern 2
Caspian Tern 9 11 2 2
Common Tern 1
Forster’s Tern 1 3 2
Royal Tern 48 5 3 10 1 19
Elegant Tern 10 110 10 67 2 5
Rock Pigeon 1 23 4 8 17 15
Mourning Dove 2 2 2 2 1
Anna’s Hummingbird 3 1 1
Allen’s Hummingbird 2 1 5 5 1 1
Belted Kingfisher 2 2 1
American Kestrel 1 1 1
Merlin 1
Peregrine Falcon 1
Nanday Parakeet 3
Pacific-slope Flycatcher 1
Black Phoebe 1 2 7 3 9 5
Say’s Phoebe 2 1
Ash-throated Flycatcher 2
Western Kingbird 1
California Scrub-Jay 2 1 1 3 2 2
American Crow 4 6 3 5 7 7
Rough-winged Swallow 6 6 4 4
Cliff Swallow 4 7 15 4
Barn Swallow 4 20 20 20 1
Oak Titmouse 1
Bushtit 2 15 5 27 30
House Wren 1
Bewick’s Wren 1 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 2
Hermit Thrush 1
American Robin 1
Northern Mockingbird 2 2 2 2 3 1
European Starling 2 10 40 20 17 45
Ornge-crowned Warbler 1 3
Common Yellowthroat 1 1 4 3 6 5
Yellow-rumped Warbler 10
Wilson’s Warbler 1
Spotted Towhee 1 1 1
California Towhee 1 2
Savannah Sparrow 2
Song Sparrow 2 3 3 2 6 4
White-crowned Sparrow 2 25
Red-winged Blackbird 4 15 12 30 1 1
Western Meadowlark 16 3
Brewer’s Blackbird 12
Great-tailed Grackle 3 4 20 3 2 17
Hooded Oriole 3
Bullock’s Oriole 2 1
House Finch 7 6 25 6 30 18
Lesser Goldfinch 2
House Sparrow 3
Totals by Type May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct
Waterfowl 14 33 44 35 55 50
Water Birds – Other 22 129 262 62 149 382
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 5 18 15 7 15 13
Quail & Raptors 1 3 5 2 4 1
Shorebirds 28 26 158 149 195 215
Gulls & Terns 127 382 74 206 54 118
Doves 3 23 6 10 19 16
Other Non-Passerines 2 4 5 7 4 6
Passerines 60 86 174 118 140 183
Totals Birds 262 704 743 596 635 984
             
Total Species May Jun Jul 118 Sep Oct
Waterfowl 4 3 3 3 7 6
Water Birds – Other 3 2 6 6 4 9
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 3 4 3 3 3 3
Quail & Raptors 1 2 3 2 3 1
Shorebirds 3 4 10 14 14 10
Gulls & Terns 7 9 6 8 4 8
Doves 2 1 2 2 2 2
Other Non-Passerines 1 2 1 2 3 4
Passerines 17 15 17 19 21 21
Totals Species – 104 41 42 51 59 61 64

 

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