Skip to content

Migrants still arriving – Malibu Lagoon, 26 November, 2017

November 30, 2017

Brown Pelican adult (R. Juncosa 11-26-17)

Approximately thirty-five birders showed up, maybe a few more. I’ve never gotten in the habit of counting birders, just the birds, but while at the lookout point near the PCH bridge I suddenly noticed there seemed to be an unusually large of people. Too bad more birds weren’t present. Ducks seemed unusually under-represented. We had Gadwall, Mallard, American Wigeon, Red-breasted Merganser and Ruddy Duck with a grand total of fourteen ducks. A typical November would also include: Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Surf Scoter and Bufflehead, with another 3-5 species possible, and about eighty total ducks. One hopes they’re still somewhere up north, enjoying a warm fall.

Grebes_ Western and Clark’s (R. Juncosa 11-26-17)

The above grebes are typical for this time of year. The Western on left will probably look like this until next spring, with dark plumage surrounding it’s red eye. The area around the eye may become a lighter gray as a few more feathers fall out, but it never becomes white. The Clark’s on right shows no black below the eye except for a thin line leading from eye to bill, with white above and below it. It may (or may not) lose some more black feathers around the eye, making the eye stand out even more.

Green Heron takes a break (R. Juncosa 11-26-17)

We debated a bit about two cormorants standing on the offshore rocks. Both were wet, which can obscure plumage colors. They weren’t Double-crested Cormorants who are happy in the lagoon. Lighting was difficult on this gray and foggy morning, and we strained to see if either bird had the beige chin of a Brandt’s Cormorant. One seemed smaller or slimmer than the other, then again, as it shifted position, it seemed exactly the same. The other seemed to have a tiny patch of beige on the chin, then again, with a minor shift in position. this would vanish. Ray Juncosa snapped a fuzzy photo of the seemingly smaller one as it flew towards the rock. I finally concluded both were Brandt’s with optical illusions obfuscating observation. This species and the Pelagic Cormorant are fairly common on these rocks and swimming nearshore, but they rarely rest within the lagoon.

Adult White-crowned Sparrow, common SoCal wintering bird (R. Juncosa 11-26-17)

Marbled Godwit, head immersed
(L. Loeher, Zuma Beach 11-24-17)

The larger sandpipers – Whimbrel, Willet and Marbled Godwit were as numerous as last month. Most were resting but some were busy foraging. Larry Loeher’s photo from Zuma shows just how involved this can be.

Five Cattle Egrets showed up, resting on the lagoon-edge sand near the cormorants and Brown Pelicans. Unlike other egrets and herons, this species favors open fields over marshes, lagoons and ponds. According to Cornell Lab of Ornithology, this African species first appeared in 1870 in Suriname on the north coast of South America, then spread throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America, and finally into North America. They evolved in Africa, making a living by following the herds of antelope and other grazers, eating insects kicked up by their hooves. In the New World, cattle served the same purpose as far as the egrets were concerned. To a Cattle Egret, lots of cattle equals lots of food. You can see them by the tens of thousands in the Imperial Valley, poking around in the grassy fields, but as Los Angeles County has few cattle munching away, Cattle Egrets can be hard to find. Horses may substitute at times as insect-rousers, but aren’t as reliable. Out of 252 lagoon trips, we’ve seen them 26 times (10%), with a total of 64 birds. As one might expect, when they finished resting and began foraging for food, they headed for the brushy-grassy area, not the mud flats.

Male Great-tailed Grackle (R. Juncosa 11-26-17)

The local Great-tailed Grackles was evident – twelve birds in all. Most likely they breed over in Legacy Park near the shopping center, where (when it’s wet) there are lots of reeds. Several people wondered what the brown birds were. These brown females are 3″ smaller than the 18″ glossy black males, and they can fool you into thinking they’re a different species. Some birders are surprised to see these grackles wandering around on the beach, but they forage on the sand and lagoon-edge quite often, or at least they are much easier to see when they’re on the barren sand than when buried in the brushes or singing in the trees. In case you’re wondering, all grackles are in the Family Icteriidae, better known for its jet-black blackbirds, yellow meadowlarks and orange-and-black orioles.

Great-tailed Grackle female with a rusty breast (G. Murayama 11-24-17)

Thirty-one Snowy Plovers were moderately busy. No banded birds were seen. High tide, their favorite time to forage for invertebrates in the wrack, had been at 9:46 am. A few were active. Most were resting in their tiny dimples in the sand, but every now and then they’d get up and run off to another dimple, for reasons known only to themselves.

Speaking of Royals (British) here’s a nice photo from Grace Murayama of a very royal-looking Royal (Tern), royally robed for winter.

Royal Tern, royally aloof (G. Murayama, Zuma Beach 11-24-17)

Birds new for the season were: Red-breasted Merganser, Ruddy Duck, Cattle Egret, House Wren, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

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

Our next four scheduled field trips: Ballona Creek & Freshwater Marsh, 8 am, 9 December; Butterbredt Christmas Count, 8:30 am, 16 December; Malibu Lagoon 8:30 & 10 am, 24 December; Santa Monica portion of Los Angeles Christmas Count, 6:45 am, 2 January.

Our next program: The Western Snowy Plover: Natural History and Recovery, with Lu Plauzoles – Evening Meeting: Tuesday, Dec. 5, 7:30 p.m.,  Joslyn Park, 633 Kensington Road – Five blocks south of Pico Blvd., two blocks west of Lincoln Blvd. –  in Santa Monica. This location is for December only.

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:
2017: Jan-June
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.

Many thanks to Lillian Johnson, Chris Lord and others for their contributions to the checklist below.  [Chuck Almdale]

Malibu Census 2017 6/25 7/23 8/27 9/24 10/22 11/26
Temperature 68-81 70-75 63-68 68-75 72-82 56-63
Tide Lo/Hi Height H+4.18 H+4.39 L+1.83 L+1.86 H+5.38 L+2.94
Tide Time 1147 1039 0730 0559 1050 0946
Canada Goose 1
Gadwall 18 15 1 1
American Wigeon 1 3
Mallard 35 30 7 27 15 2
Northern Pintail 1
Red-breasted Merganser 4
Ruddy Duck 4
Pied-billed Grebe 2 1 3 5 8
Eared Grebe 1
Western Grebe 2 9 15
Clark’s Grebe 2 2
Rock Pigeon 15 17 3 5 6 10
Mourning Dove 2 4 1 2 2 2
Vaux’s Swift 40
Anna’s Hummingbird 1
Allen’s Hummingbird 4 6 1 6 2 1
American Coot 4 6 20 62 140 60
American Avocet 1
Black-bellied Plover 5 27 39 89 135 115
Snowy Plover 5 9 16 34 25 31
Semipalmated Plover 2 1
Killdeer 8 4 2 8 10 4
Whimbrel 27 2 54 45 36
Long-billed Curlew 1
Marbled Godwit 8 8 45 80 135
Ruddy Turnstone 2 4 7 6 11
Black Turnstone 1
Sanderling 7 10 13
Baird’s Sandpiper 3
Least Sandpiper 4 3 10
Western Sandpiper 1 2 1
Long-billed Dowitcher 1
Spotted Sandpiper 4
Willet 2 3 6 55 120 85
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Heermann’s Gull 24 19 7 11 64 5
Mew Gull 1
Ring-billed Gull 1 4 25
Western Gull 103 52 52 96 145 105
California Gull 3 2 1 98 385
Least Tern 20 30 23
Caspian Tern 12 12 7 1
Royal Tern 2 2 6 52 47 4
Elegant Tern 3 90 32 4
Brandt’s Cormorant 1 2
Double-crested Cormorant 11 22 18 36 45 32
Pelagic Cormorant 1 1
American White Pelican 2
Brown Pelican 68 35 14 17 17 45
Great Blue Heron 5 6 3 5 4 8
Great Egret 3 5 5 3 8 1
Snowy Egret 9 12 11 10 4 8
Cattle Egret 5
Green Heron 3 2 2
Black-crowned Night-Heron 1 1 2 1 1
Osprey 1 1 1
Belted Kingfisher 1
Peregrine Falcon 1
Black Phoebe 5 5 3 5 6 3
Say’s Phoebe 1 2 2 4
Cassin’s Kingbird 1 1
Western Kingbird 1 1
American Crow 7 2 6 6 5 5
Rough-winged Swallow 2
Cliff Swallow 15
Barn Swallow 9 12 6
Oak Titmouse 1 1
Bushtit 1 15 48
House Wren 1 1
Marsh Wren 2 3
Bewick’s Wren 3 2 4
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 15
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 4
Northern Mockingbird 4 2 2 2 1
European Starling 7 6 25 8
American Pipit 4
House Finch 10 10 2 8 16 40
Lesser Goldfinch 2 1
California Towhee 3 1
Brewer’s Sparrow 1
Savannah Sparrow 8
Song Sparrow 6 6 2 3 4 2
White-crowned Sparrow 20 45
Golden-crowned Sparrow 1
Dark-eyed Junco 1
Western Meadowlark 1 1 3 3
Hooded Oriole 1 1
Bullock’s Oriole 2
Red-winged Blackbird 30
Brewer’s Blackbird 12 1
Great-tailed Grackle 4 15 2 3 6 12
Orange-crowned Warbler 1 5 2 1
Nashville Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 1 2 2 8 5 9
Yellow Warbler 2
Yellow-rumped(Aud) Warbler 12 3
Wilson’s Warbler 1
Totals by Type Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
Waterfowl 53 45 7 27 19 14
Water Birds – Other 83 65 56 118 223 164
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 18 24 19 23 19 25
Quail & Raptors 0 2 1 1 0 0
Shorebirds 22 82 80 314 434 441
Gulls & Terns 167 207 128 161 363 524
Doves 17 21 4 7 8 12
Other Non-Passerines 4 6 1 47 3 1
Passerines 104 57 48 86 115 211
Totals Birds 468 509 344 784 1184 1392
             
Total Species Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
Waterfowl 2 2 1 1 5 5
Water Birds – Other 3 4 6 4 10 7
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 4 4 3 5 5 6
Quail & Raptors 0 2 1 1 0 0
Shorebirds 6 9 9 14 9 10
Gulls & Terns 7 7 7 5 7 5
Doves 2 2 2 2 2 2
Other Non-Passerines 1 1 1 3 2 1
Passerines 14 11 15 24 19 19
Totals Species – 97 39 42 45 59 59 55

z

Advertisements
2 Comments leave one →
  1. Karen & Doug Kirk permalink
    December 3, 2017 5:56 am

    Can’t tell you enough how very much we appreciate, enjoy & learn from your many wonderful blogs & forwards. Again THANKS for being there,

    Karen & Doug Kirk kirkkd@aol.com

    Like

    • Chukar permalink*
      December 4, 2017 11:33 am

      You’re very welcome. Thanks for the feedback. Our mission statement includes “…our chapter’s particular mission is to be a center for wildlife education, habitat protection, and conservation issues that involve birds.”

      So that’s the main point of our blog. I began expanding the educational aspect almost exactly one year ago (11/30/16) when I ran across a very interesting short video on “caddis fly larvae“. This turned out to be part of a lengthy “Deep Look” series produced by PBS, all of which looked interesting and educational. I continued adding the films, scheduling them every four days, then added films from other series as I came across them, which now includes the PBS series “It’s OK to be Smart” and the L.A. County Natural History Museum series. I will soon add selections from Cornell’s Birds-of-Paradise series. So far, these videos have an appreciative audience.

      The many wonderful photographs from our members enhance greatly our reports. A picture is worth a thousand words. I try to keep them separated by text. It looks better that way on the blog.

      Our reports from Malibu will continue as long as I continue to lead them. Our reports from other trips are irregular.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: