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Species Abound at Malibu Lagoon, 25 March, 2018

March 27, 2018

North Channel, looking west (Lillian Johnson 3-25-18)

For what will probably be the chilliest Malibu field trip this year, we had quite a crowd. About 40 birders showed up in the 55°F morning, with temperatures expected to sore to nearly 59° by noon.

Male Allen’s Hummingbird (both photos) – note lack of notches in relatively slender tail feathers; compare it to Rufous Humminbird in your field guide.
(Joyce Waterman 3-25-18)

Variety was excellent; 74 species with a third of them those pesky passerines who skulk in the shadows. Except for gulls and shorebirds, the numbers replicated closely those of February. California Gull numbers dropped from 550 in Feb. to 20 in March. They must all have been off to sea chowing down small fish. Plovers and the larger shorebirds declined as well.

Osprey trying to get his left talon onto the fish while in flight (Randy Ehler 3-25-18)

The Osprey remains. As mentioned last month, it may have built a nest somewhere off to the west. Normally it sits in one of the lagoon side trees to eat his catch-of-the-day; this time he disappeared off to the west, still grappling with his fish.

Snowy Egret getting plumy (Joyce Waterman 3-25-18)

The Snowy Plovers were all quietly roosting – for a change – within their newly-erected virtual fence. More often than not, they’re roosting outside the fence where people continually walk among them. No bands were seen, but among the birds was “Lil’ Gimpy,” first spotted on 3/12/18 by Grace Murayama and Larry Loeher. We don’t know exactly what is wrong with his right leg, beyond the fact that part of it is missing.

Snowy Plover “Lil’ Gimpy,” aka Tarfoot (Grace Murayama 3-12-18)

I don’t know how many of our SoCal Glaucous-winged Gulls (GLGU) are actually hybrid Glaucous-winged X Western Gull. I haven’t kept records on this (I didn’t even know about this hybridization until maybe five years ago), but I’d guess it’s 25-75%, to put a broad and nearly useless estimate on it. In general, if it’s obviously partially GWGU but has “dirty” primaries, I assume it’s a hybrid. Of course, GLxWE Gull hybrids can be 50% GLGU, or 25%, or 12.5%, or 6.25% and so on. Just like our Cro-magnon and Neanderthal human ancestors. We’re all hybrids too. No more dissing the Neanderthals, you of Eurasian descent. Neanderthals are you.

Glaucous-winged X Western Gull Hybrid with dark in the primaries, probably a 2nd-winter bird molting into 3rd-year plumage. Wing coverts appear extremely worn; their molting probably won’t begin for another month or two.
(Joyce Waterman 3-25-18)

The group had a minor argument with three dog-walking women. “No dogs on the beach. State Park. Can’t you read the signs?” “What signs? We walk our dogs here all the time.” “You walked past one of the signs while you were saying, ‘What signs?’ The dog on the sign looks just like your dog.” “Thank you ever so much (snark, shark) for the information.” Malibu locals often believe that city-county-state-federal-planetary-universal laws don’t apply to them because…well…because they live here! Laws are meant for riff-raff outsiders! I suspect this attitude may be common among locals everywhere.

Savannah Sparrow (Joyce Waterman 3-25-18)

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher looks buzzed about something (Joyce Waterman 3-25-18)

A pair of Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers may be planning on taking up residence near the beach-end of the path. They were very very busy. Nearby, a pair of House Finches were on the roof skylight of the easternmost Malibu Colony house, gathering windblown grass stems snagged by the skylight edges. As the female slaved away; the male  entertained himself by sliding down the glass-pane slope.

 

As in March, 2017, there was a single Black Skimmer curled up in the exposed rocks. About 10 am he got up and flew back and forth across the lagoon. New birders are always impressed by the size of this bird’s bill. When they sleep on the sand, they stretch their hear way way out, seemingly dead.

A Whimbrel pries mussels from offshore rocks near the Colony (Randy Ehler 3-25-18)

Eurasian Collared-Doves have conquered America. It’s generally accepted that they were released (or escaped) in the Bahamas in the mid-1970’s. By 1982 they were in Florida and in California by 2001. We recorded three birds at the lagoon on 5/27/07, with seven additional single birds since them. Last August Lillian and I saw one in Wrangell Bay, southeastern Alaska. They certainly get around.

Lesser Goldfinches, female & male, getting ready to build a nest
(Joyce Waterman 3-25-18)

Migration and courtship is definitely underway. Among its signs: Western Sandpipers, returning from Mexico, probing into the muddy lagoon-edge; Elegant Terns among the Royals; Black-crowned Night-Herons out in the open rather than hiding in trees; Western and Cassin’s Kingbirds shagging flies; Mockingbirds singing nonstop for hours; five species of swallows continually swooping to and fro; Bushtits and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher pairing up (not with each other); Lesser Goldfinches and the aforementioned House Finches gathering nesting material; several subspecies of Savannah Sparrows foraging on the ground; migrant Wilson’s Warbler busily gleaning in the brush.

Mockingbirds sang continuously for hours (Randy Ehler 3-25-18)

All too soon it will again be Summer. SoCal Summers have grown too long and too hot. I don’t look forward to them anymore. My sympathies are with the kids; they may never know anything but blistering summers.

Bushtit, coastal form with brown head (Randy Ehler 3-25-18)

Birds new for the season were: Northern Pintail, Western Grebe, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Western Sandpiper, Caspian and Elegant Terns, Black Skimmer, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Cassin’s and Western Kingbirds, Common Raven, Tree and Violet-green Swallows, Rough-winged Swallow, Cliff and Barn Swallows, Dark-eyed Junco and Wilson’s Warbler.

Rabbits a-bounding everywhere except for this drowsy one (Joyce Waterman 3-25-18)

Many thanks to our photographers: Randy Ehler, Lillian Johnson, Grace Murayama & Joyce Waterman.

Male House Finch
(J. Waterman 1-28-18)

Our next three scheduled field trips: Malibu Creek State Park, 8am, 14 April; Malibu Lagoon 8:30 & 10am, 22 April; Morongo Valley, 3 pm Sat. 5 May & 7:30 am Sun 6 May.

Our next program: How (and Why) Pine Siskins Choose Where They Migrate, with Dr. Ashley Robart – Evening Meeting: Tuesday, Apr. 3, 7:30 p.m., 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:
2017: Jan-June, July-Dec
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 Randy Ehler, Lillian Johnson, Chris Lord, and Lu Plauzoles for their contributions to the checklist below.  [Chuck Almdale]

Malibu Census 2017-18 10/22 11/26 12/24 1/28 2/25 3/25
Temperature 72-82 56-63 57-68 67-76 55-62 55-62
Tide Lo/Hi Height H+5.38 L+2.94 L+2.8 H+5.99 H+5.21 L-0.16
Tide Time 1050 0946 0654 0609 0459 1213
Canada Goose 1
Cinnamon Teal 1
Northern Shoveler 2
Gadwall 1 1 5 30 8 12
American Wigeon 1 3 15 36 4 8
Mallard 15 2 22 12 6 12
Northern Pintail 1 3 1
Green-winged Teal 6 1 6
Surf Scoter 2 2
Bufflehead 1 6 8 1
Red-breasted Merganser 4 8 3 4 6
Ruddy Duck 4 2 13 9 4
Pied-billed Grebe 5 8 5 1 2 1
Eared Grebe 1 2
Western Grebe 9 15 5 25
Clark’s Grebe 2 2 1
Rock Pigeon 6 10 6 8 8 10
Eurasian Collared-Dove 1
Mourning Dove 2 2 2 2 4
Anna’s Hummingbird 1 1 1 1
Allen’s Hummingbird 2 1 3 5 1 2
Sora 1
American Coot 140 60 72 125 85 75
Black-bellied Plover 135 115 28 22 25 10
Snowy Plover 25 31 35 19 34 12
Killdeer 10 4 3 4 10 12
Whimbrel 45 36 10 8 13 9
Marbled Godwit 80 135 57 18 30 7
Ruddy Turnstone 6 11 12 1 6 1
Sanderling 10 13 11 30 20 20
Least Sandpiper 3 10 6 1 3 1
Western Sandpiper 1 10
Willet 120 85 11 9 14 6
Bonaparte’s Gull 1
Heermann’s Gull 64 5 4 5 3
Mew Gull 1 1
Ring-billed Gull 4 25 42 35 70 10
Western Gull 145 105 97 95 92 120
California Gull 98 385 560 1550 550 20
Herring Gull 1 2
Glaucous-winged Gull 2 5 3
Caspian Tern 2
Royal Tern 47 4 21 12 15 17
Elegant Tern 4 3
Black Skimmer 1
Pacific Loon 1 1 1 3
Common Loon 4
Brandt’s Cormorant 1 2 2 2 1
Double-crested Cormorant 45 32 32 73 37 27
Pelagic Cormorant 1 2 3
American White Pelican 2
Brown Pelican 17 45 5 6 14 37
Great Blue Heron 4 8 5 2 1 2
Great Egret 8 1 1 3 2
Snowy Egret 4 8 18 8 8 6
Cattle Egret 5
Green Heron 2 2
Black-crowned Night-Heron 1 1 3 4
Turkey Vulture 1 1
Osprey 1 2 1 1
Cooper’s Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Nuttall’s Woodpecker 1
American Kestrel 1
Merlin 1 1
Peregrine Falcon 2
Nanday Parakeet 4 4
Black Phoebe 6 3 4 3 1 4
Say’s Phoebe 2 4 3 3 3
Cassin’s Kingbird 1
Western Kingbird 2
American Crow 5 5 4 3 5 4
Common Raven 2
Tree Swallow 3
Violet-green Swallow 6
Rough-winged Swallow 2 3
Cliff Swallow 5
Barn Swallow 1 15
Oak Titmouse 1 1
Bushtit 15 48 10 20 35 6
House Wren 1 1
Marsh Wren 3 1 1 2 2
Bewick’s Wren 2 4 3 3 2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 15 7 8 6 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 4 1 3
Northern Mockingbird 2 1 2 2 1 3
European Starling 8 50 15 10 23
American Pipit 4
House Finch 16 40 41 20 8 24
Lesser Goldfinch 1 1 8 2
Spotted Towhee 1
California Towhee 2 1 2
Savannah Sparrow 8 1 2
Song Sparrow 4 2 9 4 5 2
White-crowned Sparrow 20 45 27 8 25 28
Golden-crowned Sparrow 1
Dark-eyed Junco 2
Western Meadowlark 3 3 2 2 4
Red-winged Blackbird 6 15
Great-tailed Grackle 6 12 6 1 2 15
Orange-crowned Warbler 2 1 1 2 1 3
Common Yellowthroat 5 9 5 2 4 2
Yellow-rumped(Aud) Warbler 12 3 12 12 20 12
Wilson’s Warbler 1
Totals by Type Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar
Waterfowl 19 14 58 109 40 52
Water Birds – Other 223 164 126 211 142 172
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 19 25 26 11 12 14
Quail & Raptors 0 0 4 6 2 2
Shorebirds 434 441 173 112 155 88
Gulls & Terns 363 524 729 1704 727 179
Doves 8 12 8 8 10 15
Other Non-Passerines 3 1 5 6 6 6
Passerines 115 211 194 121 146 189
Totals Birds 1184 1392 1323 2288 1240 717
             
Total Species Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar
Waterfowl 5 5 8 9 7 9
Water Birds – Other 10 7 8 8 7 8
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 5 6 3 3 3 4
Quail & Raptors 0 0 4 4 2 2
Shorebirds 9 10 9 9 9 10
Gulls & Terns 7 5 9 7 4 9
Doves 2 2 2 1 2 3
Other Non-Passerines 2 1 3 2 3 2
Passerines 19 19 22 22 21 27
Totals Species – 104 59 55 68 65 58 74
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One Comment leave one →
  1. Cathie Atchley permalink
    March 28, 2018 4:04 am

    Just wanted to say thank you for all the time you spend keeping us informed- I eagerly read your missives, and enjoy them so much!
    I hope to get to California next fall- til then, I very much appreciate your efforts!
    Thank you again – warmest regards from Minnesota!

    Like

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