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Terns and Swallows Return to Malibu Lagoon, 23 April, 2017

April 28, 2017

Male Red-breasted Merganser with his punk hairdo (G. Murayama 4-23-17)

Weather was balmy and beautiful, and about thirty birders showed up to admire the birds. Unfortunately, numbers and species were a bit on the light side. Virtually no gulls and few migrant passerines. The lagoon outlet was closed, although if lagoon water rose by about 1/64th of an inch, out it would flow. Some of us walked around the lagoon to Adamson House which was hosting some party, as usual, but we didn’t add many birds to the list. As yet, no orioles in their palms.

Optical illusion – this yawning Brown Pelican isn’t really trying to swallow that passing gull (G. Murayama 2-16-17)

I checked prior years to see if my impression of numbers was correct. It was.

April 2017 2016 2015 2013 2012
Species 46 51 53 56 58
Total Birds 534 2221 6009 666 733
Gulls/Terns 160 1903 4213 297 272
Gull/Tern % 30% 86% 70% 45% 37%

I don’t know if this signifies a trend, but April species diversity seems to be dwindling. As shown above, the number of gulls and terns present is always a significant factor.

Common Murre beaches itself at Zuma, perhaps due to domoic acid poisoning (G. Murayama 4-19-17)

There is a domoic acid outbreak, which may be what’s causing solid-ground-avoiders like murres, loons and grebes to beach themselves, and Brown Pelicans to collapse and die. We saw at least four pelicans dead on the lagoon shore or at water’s edge today. There was also a significant amount of very green algae on the surface of the lagoon. The mullet didn’t seem to mind, as they were still jumping – for joy, one presumes.

The Marine Mammal Center has this to say on domoic acid:

Domoic acid is produced by algae and accumulates in shellfish, sardines, and anchovies which are then eaten by sea lions, otters, cetaceans, and humans, among others. Exposure to the biotoxin affects the brain, causing them to become lethargic, disoriented, and have seizures that sometimes result in death.

Ventura Audubon Society put out this advisory:

Ventura Audubon Society alert on domoic acid

So you’d better watch what you eat.

Killdeer chick, as leggy as a Secretary-Bird (J.Waterman 4/21/12)

Killdeer are again nesting on the beach, as they have for decades. [I found my first Killdeer nest there in 1995. Actually the Killdeer parent found it for me. It started screaming and flopping around like a bird with a broken-wing; I looked down at my feet and found a nest-scrape with four spotted pebble-like eggs nearly under my toes.] Sharp-eyed observers may see the very long-legged chicks teetering around in the fenced area. Song Sparrows and Common Yellowthroats – judging by the number of them loudly singing – are also courting and nesting. Along the east side of the lagoon, a female Mallard led a small flotilla of nine ducklings. Four species of swallows cut through the air, including one uncommon-at-the-beach migrating Violet-green Swallow. Barn Swallows prefer swooping low over the sandy beach where they find those tiny flies so beloved by sunbathers.

Caspian Tern group, Elegant in foreground (J. Waterman 4/24/16)

Elegant Terns continued to arrive and depart all morning, all in beautiful breeding plumage. They don’t nest at the lagoon, but they do like to rest there. They were joined by seventeen of their larger cousins with the blood-red bill, the Caspian Tern.

Black-bellied Plover just before he flies north to breed. The largest of the plovers frequenting our beaches (G. Murayama 4-23-17)

Caspian Terns are a world-wide species, found on every continent except Antarctica. The “type specimen” – the individual used centuries ago to originally describe the species – came from the Caspian Sea in central Asia, hence the name. Yet they frequent our humble little lagoon – imagine that.

Semipalmated Plover looks right back. These migrants visit twice a year.
(G. Murayama 4-23-17)

The Pacific Loons were all flybys, out past the offshore rocks, heading west (and north). It took us a while to figure out that they were Pacific and not Red-throated. The small sandpipers were mostly scattered along the north side of the channel, or east end of the lagoon. Most were Least Sandpiper, with a few Westerns and one elusive Dunlin among them.

At last! Indisputable proof that all two legs of a running Snowy Plover simultaneously leave the ground. (G. Murayama 4-23-17)

Larry Loeher managed – through shear doggedness – to find three Snowy Plovers among the wrack on the sandy berm; one male and two females, one of whom was rr:bb, who has been a habitué of the beach for many months.

Banded Snowy Plover rr-bb (G. Murayama 4-23-17)

Birds new for the season were: Red-tailed Hawk, Semipalmated Plover, Dunlin, Mew Gull, Elegant Tern, Violet-green Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Red-winged Blackbird.

Many thanks to our photographer: Grace Murayama, Joyce Waterman, Chuck Bragg

Song Sparrows sing all year around
(Grace Murayama 3-26-17)

Our next three scheduled field trips: Butterbredt Spring Campout Sat/Sun 29-30 Apr. 8:30am; Black Rock Canyon (Sat. 3pm) and Morongo Valley (Sun 8am), 6-7 May; Malibu Lagoon 8:30 & 10am, 28 May.

Our next program: What a Fish Knows with Jonathan Balcombe, Tuesday, 2 May, 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, July-Dec 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]

Surf log (C. Bragg 2-26-17)

Surf log (C. Bragg 2-26-17)

Malibu Census 2016-17 10/23 11/27 12/25 2/26 3/26 4/23
Temperature 63-70 53-58 48-54 46-52 55-68 63-70
Tide Lo/Hi Height L+2.63 H+5.79 H+5.49 H+5.6 H+5.21 H+4.54
Tide Time 1108 0729 0634 0845 0851 0749
Brant 1
Canada Goose 2
Gadwall 6 4 18 10 12 10
American Wigeon 10 7 30 6 18
Mallard 23 22 14 24 14 20
Northern Shoveler 2 1
Northern Pintail 3 1
Green-winged Teal 6 12 2
Ring-necked Duck 1
Surf Scoter 8 30
Bufflehead 4 6 1
Hooded Merganser 1 5 2
Red-breasted Merganser 5 4 1 2
Ruddy Duck 7 26 30 10
Red-throated Loon 1
Pacific Loon 1 2 80
Pied-billed Grebe 18 8 1
Horned Grebe 1
Eared Grebe 3 6 10 1 3
Western Grebe 10 10 50 3 1
Clark’s Grebe 2 1
Black-vented Shearwater 50
Brandt’s Cormorant 3 2
Double-crested Cormorant 37 23 32 42 41 19
Pelagic Cormorant 1 2 6 1
Brown Pelican 30 37 24 30 8 28
Great Blue Heron 3 3 2 4 2
Great Egret 2 1 2 3 1
Snowy Egret 8 5 12 9 5 4
Turkey Vulture 1
Osprey 2 1 1 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1 1
Sora 1
American Coot 280 240 210 85 32
Blk-bellied Plover 75 73 22 35 14 15
Snowy Plover 29 12 32 8 8 3
Semipalmated Plover 20
Killdeer 1 2 1 4 8 12
Mountain Plover 1
Spotted Sandpiper 1
Willet 20 3 15 12 13 4
Whimbrel 2 2 1 5 4 4
Marbled Godwit 7 10 5 8 23 1
Ruddy Turnstone 7 14 12 10 1 3
Sanderling 72 45
Dunlin 1
Least Sandpiper 12 4 2 30
Western Sandpiper 3 3
Bonaparte’s Gull 1 1 1
Heermann’s Gull 15 12 11 3 1
Mew Gull 1 1
Ring-billed Gull 5 35 30 2 1
Western Gull 48 85 90 45 39 75
California Gull 27 1200 940 1350 6
Herring Gull 1 1 1 1
Glaucous-winged Gull 2
Caspian Tern 2 17
Forster’s Tern 2 1
Royal Tern 19 16 45 14 5
Elegant Tern 5 1 65
Black Skimmer 1
Rock Pigeon 15 5 5 10 6 18
Mourning Dove 1 4 1 1 2
Anna’s Hummingbird 1 1
Allen’s Hummingbird 1 1 2 2 2 1
Belted Kingfisher 1 1 1 1
Merlin 1
Nanday Parakeet 3 30
Black Phoebe 5 5 3 2 6 4
Say’s Phoebe 1 1
Cassin’s Kingbird 1
California Scrub-Jay 2 4 1 1
American Crow 7 4 5 4 3 3
Common Raven 1
Tree Swallow 12
Violet-green Swallow 1
Rough-winged Swallow 20 4
Cliff Swallow 16
Barn Swallow 1 5 10
Bushtit 30 35 10 8 3 1
House Wren 1 2 1 1 1
Marsh Wren 1 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 2 8 1
Western Bluebird 2
Hermit Thrush 1 1
Northern Mockingbird 1 3 1 2 4
European Starling 45 30 1 1 1
Orange-crowned Warbler 3 4 2
Common Yellowthroat 5 5 3 3 4 3
Yellow-rumped Warbler 10 28 3 8
Spotted Towhee 1 1
California Towhee 1 1 1
Savannah Sparrow 4 1
Song Sparrow 4 8 6 8 8 15
Lincoln’s Sparrow 1
White-crowned Sparrow 25 45 15 20 10
Red-winged Blackbird 1 1
Western Meadowlark 3 2 1
Great-tailed Grackle 17 5 3 2 3 8
Brown-headed Cowbird 3
House Finch 18 9 17 10 6 16
Totals by Type Oct Nov Dec Feb Mar Apr
Waterfowl 50 70 114 75 80 32
Water Birds – Other 382 332 335 165 132 130
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 13 9 16 16 8 4
Quail & Raptors 1 1 2 2 1 2
Shorebirds 215 161 100 86 76 96
Gulls & Terns 118 1321 1122 1445 58 160
Doves 16 5 9 11 7 20
Other Non-Passerines 6 3 33 3 2 1
Passerines 183 186 107 94 53 89
Totals Birds 984 2088 1838 1897 417 534
             
Total Species Oct Nov Dec Feb Mar Apr
Waterfowl 6 8 9 9 8 3
Water Birds – Other 9 11 8 8 5 4
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 3 3 3 3 3 1
Quail & Raptors 1 1 1 2 1 2
Shorebirds 10 8 8 8 9 11
Gulls & Terns 8 8 6 7 9 6
Doves 2 1 2 2 2 2
Other Non-Passerines 4 3 3 2 1 1
Passerines 21 21 18 18 13 16
Totals Species – 101 64 64 58 59 51 46

 

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. David Weeshoff permalink
    April 28, 2017 6:47 pm

    Absolutely a wonderful report. Thank you for putting it together!!!

    Like

Trackbacks

  1. Snowy Plovers of Malibu Lagoon – The Middle | Santa Monica Bay Audubon Blog

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