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‘Twas brillig, yet freesbish: Malibu Lagoon, 25 December, 2016

December 28, 2016
Brown Pelicans (Ray Juncosa 12/25/16)

Brown Pelican, one adult sporting Christmas colors (Ray Juncosa 12/25/16)

Even on Christmas, birders are willing to leave their indoor conifers and drifting piles of presents to brave the cold and barren beach. I’d wondered if I’d be the only one, but more than a dozen appeared. We almost had the park to ourselves: a few beachwalkers occasionally passed by, and a line of surfers board-sat at the surf line like black walruses, staring out to sea. The temperature never rose above 54° F. (12.2°C); this may not seem cold to our distant readers, but this is Malibu!, if not the beating heart of La La Land, then at least the spleen, and we possess thin blood and lack subcutaneous fat. I’ve seen people here wearing fur boots in 75° F weather. No complaints from me, though. I knew it would be brisk when passing meadows of Malibu Creek State Park, glistening white with hoarfrost. And the sun shone, and no wind.

Mallards at sunset (David Hershkowitz 12-9-16)

Mallards at sunset (David Hershkowitz 12-9-16)

More ducks have arrived; nine species in total, including a few Green-winged Teal, many more Ruddy Duck, and five – count them! – five Hooded Merganser, all female. We don’t often get Hooded Merganser at the lagoon (less than 2% of birdwalks), as they seem to prefer the fresh water of inland ponds and reservoirs to the brackish water of the lagoon. However, perhaps the lagoon is far less saline than ordinarily as we’d had a lot of rain this month, the most we’ve had in the past six Decembers. We and our plants, gasping for water, are grateful for that.

Savannah Sparrow (Ray Juncosa 12/25/16)

Savannah Sparrow on wet sandy mud (Ray Juncosa 12/25/16)

Many birds stop at the lagoon and are reported on our local bird-alert chatline, but don’t stay long enough for us to see them on our monthly walk. A Redhead (duck) was one such bird. Almost at the lagoon – found in a soggy field by the Malibu library – was a Ross’s Goose. I saw several egrets in the even soggier field slightly farther west. This field was very good for snipe when our winters were regularly wet. The 2012-13 lagoon reconfiguration eliminated most of the damp vegetation which snipe desire and now the only place I expect to see them (but haven’t yet) is in the low area near the Adamson House boathouse.

A decidedly unhairy Sea Hare (Grace Murayama 12-25-16)

A decidedly unhairy Sea Hare, with a penny for size (Grace Murayama 12-25-16)

As usual, five hundred to a thousand gulls flew off inland before I could count them, heading for the nearest landfill. Dump Gulls: a species with a continually expanding range.

Juvenile Snowy Plover (Ray Juncosa 12/25/16)

The Snowy In Winter (Ray Juncosa 12/25/16)

Most of the Western Grebes were out on the sea, sleeping in rafts beyond the surf line. Brandt’s and Pelagic Cormorants were fly-byes, hurtling low over the waves. Hiding among wrack piles at the high-tide line were our Snowy Plovers, thirty-two birds, including banded birds AA:BL (chick banded 2016 at Ft. Ord), RR:BB (chick banded 2016 at Oceano Dunes) and our faithful friend GA:OY (chick banded 2014 at Oceano Dunes, see below), who has now been recorded at Malibu sixteen times. GA:OY nested at Bolsa Chica in 2015 and 2016 and fledged 9 chicks. All these banded birds are pictured in our slideshow. The only Snowy Plover sighted more frequently in Los Angeles County is PA:VO who, between Oct’99 and Jan’06, was recorded at Zuma Beach forty-two times.

Snowy Plover AA:BL (Ray Juncosa 12/25/16)

Snowy Plover GA:OY, now 2 1/2 years old (Ray Juncosa 12/25/16)

Our blog page on banded Snowy Plovers sighted in Los Angeles has grown considerably over the past month. The slideshow now contains twenty-two different banded birds, and I’ve entered every banded bird sighting I could scrounge up out of my old records. I’m now trying to get additional information from other sources. Please look at it if you’re interested in these little, greatly threatened birds.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Ray Juncosa 12/25/16)

The flitty, nervous Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Ray Juncosa 12/25/16)

Passerines were reduced in both diversity and numbers, perhaps due to the cold and rainy weather we’ve been having. But photographer Ray Juncosa managed to get a couple of wintering birds, a Savannah Sparrow gleaning on the ground, and a difficult-to-capture Ruby-crowned Kinglet, flitting through the leaves. I’m not much of a photographer myself, and I’m amazed at the ability of others to get good shots of tiny fast-moving birds.

Seven female Hooded Mergansers (Grace Murayama 12-25-16)

Seven female Hooded Mergansers (Grace Murayama 12-25-16)

Grace and Larry came by the lagoon later in the day, and the five Hooded Mergansers had increased to seven.

All the Elegant Terns have fled to Mexico for the winter, leaving only Royal Terns. A flock of forth-five rested on the rocks exposed by the lowering tide. Like the surfers, they too simply sat and stared out to sea.

California (née Western) Scrub-Jay (Ray Juncosa 12/25/16)

California (née Western) Scrub-Jay
(Ray Juncosa 12/25/16)

The rain-choked creek broke through the beach a month ago. While the lagoon waters are very low, the outflow channel is too wide and deep to easily ford. I found myself lost long in conversation on topics ranging from bird behavior to Nigerian surname customs (with Fami) to the difficulties of learning to play piano at an advanced age, so I never made it to Adamson House to search for additional passerines.

Birds new for the season were: Green-winged Teal, Pacific Loon, Osprey, Least Sandpiper, Cassin’s Kingbird, Savannah Sparrow.

Many thanks to our photographers: Ray Juncosa and Grace Murayama.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Ray Juncosa 12/25/16)

Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Ray Juncosa 12/25/16)

 

Our next three scheduled field trips:  Antelope Valley Raptor Search, 14 Jan. 7am; Malibu Lagoon 8:30 & 10am, 22 Jan.; Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve, 11 Feb., 8am.

Our next program: Wildflowers of the Backbone Trail with Jim Kenney, Tuesday, 7 Feb., 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.

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 7/24 8/28 9/25 10/23 11/27 12/25
Temperature 68-76 65-73 70-96 63-70 53-58 47-54
Tide Lo/Hi Height L+0.20 H+4.28 H+4.39 L+2.63 H+5.79 H+5.49
Tide Time 0707 0810 0708 1108 0729 0634
Brant 1 1 1 1
Gadwall 18 10 6 6 4 18
American Wigeon 1 10 7 30
Mallard 25 24 35 23 22 14
Northern Shoveler 6
Northern Pintail 4 3 1
Green-winged Teal 2 6
Ring-necked Duck 1
Bufflehead 4 6
Hooded Merganser 1 5
Red-brstd Merganser 5 4
Ruddy Duck 7 26 30
Red-throated Loon 1
Pacific Loon 1
Pied-billed Grebe 2 4 15 18 8
Horned Grebe 1
Eared Grebe 3 6 10
Western Grebe 1 10 10 50
Clark’s Grebe 2 1
Blk-vented Shearwater 200
Brandt’s Cormorant 3 3 2
Dble-crstd Cormorant 18 34 38 37 23 32
Pelagic Cormorant 2 1 2 6
Brown Pelican 39 9 1 30 37 24
Great Blue Heron 3 3 6 3 3 2
Great Egret 4 1 1 2 1 2
Snowy Egret 8 3 8 8 5 12
Turkey Vulture 2
Osprey 2 1 2 2
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Sora 1
American Coot 2 10 95 280 240 210
Blk-bellied Plover 60 70 75 75 73 22
Snowy Plover 12 24 35 29 12 32
Semipalmated Plover 4 8 5
Killdeer 6 9 29 1 2 1
Mountain Plover 1
Spotted Sandpiper 3 5 2 1
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Willet 30 2 10 20 3 15
Whimbrel 16 2 1 2 2 1
Marbled Godwit 1 4 7 10 5
Ruddy Turnstone 5 9 3 7 14 12
Sanderling 5 22 72 45
Dunlin 1
Baird’s Sandpiper 5
Least Sandpiper 15 2 4 12
Western Sandpiper 7 6 3
Long-billed Dowitcher 1
Heermann’s Gull 12 4 6 15 12 11
Mew Gull 1
Ring-billed Gull 5 35
Western Gull 45 118 45 48 85 90
California Gull 1 27 1200 940
Herring Gull 1 1 1
Least Tern 2
Caspian Tern 2 2
Common Tern 1
Forster’s Tern 3 2 1
Royal Tern 3 10 1 19 16 45
Elegant Tern 10 67 2 5 1
Rock Pigeon 4 8 17 15 5 5
Mourning Dove 2 2 2 1 4
Anna’s Hummingbird 1 1 1
Allen’s Hummingbird 5 5 1 1 1 2
Belted Kingfisher 2 2 1 1 1
American Kestrel 1 1 1
Merlin 1
Peregrine Falcon 1
Nanday Parakeet 3 30
Pac.-slope Flycatcher 1
Black Phoebe 7 3 9 5 5 3
Say’s Phoebe 2 1 1
Ash-throated Flycatcher 2
Cassin’s Kingbird 1
Western Kingbird 1
California Scrub-Jay 1 3 2 2 4 1
American Crow 3 5 7 7 4 5
Tree Swallow 12
Rough-wingd Swallow 4 4
Cliff Swallow 15 4
Barn Swallow 20 20 1
Bushtit 15 5 27 30 35 10
House Wren 1 2 1
Marsh Wren 1 1
Bewick’s Wren 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 2 8
Western Bluebird 2
Hermit Thrush 1
American Robin 1
Northern Mockingbird 2 2 3 1 3 1
European Starling 40 20 17 45 30
Ornge-crwnd Warbler 1 3 4
Common Yellowthroat 4 3 6 5 5 3
Yellow-rumpd Warbler 10 28 3
Wilson’s Warbler 1
Spotted Towhee 1 1 1 1
California Towhee 1 2 1
Savannah Sparrow 2 4
Song Sparrow 3 2 6 4 8 6
Lincoln’s Sparrow 1
White-crwnd Sparrow 2 25 45 15
Red-winged Blackbird 12 30 1 1
Western Meadowlark 16 3 2
Great-tailed Grackle 20 3 2 17 5 3
Brwn-headed Cowbird 3
Hooded Oriole 3
Bullock’s Oriole 1
House Finch 25 6 30 18 9 17
Lesser Goldfinch 2
Totals by Type Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Waterfowl 44 35 55 50 70 114
Water Birds – Other 262 62 149 382 332 335
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 15 7 15 13 9 16
Quail & Raptors 5 2 4 1 1 2
Shorebirds 158 149 195 215 161 100
Gulls & Terns 74 206 54 118 1321 1122
Doves 6 10 19 16 5 9
Other Non-Passerines 5 7 4 6 3 33
Passerines 174 118 140 183 186 107
Totals Birds 743 596 635 984 2088 1838
             
Total Species Jul 118 Sep Oct Nov Dec
Waterfowl 3 3 7 6 8 9
Water Birds – Other 6 6 4 9 11 8
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 3 3 3 3 3 3
Quail & Raptors 3 2 3 1 1 1
Shorebirds 10 14 14 10 8 8
Gulls & Terns 6 8 4 8 8 6
Doves 2 2 2 2 1 2
Other Non-Passerines 1 2 3 4 3 3
Passerines 17 19 21 21 21 18
Totals Species – 110 51 59 61 64 64 58

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