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High Tide and Green Grass: Malibu Lagoon, 23 December, 2018

December 31, 2018

View to southeast across channel and lagoon towards the Pacific Ocean.
(L. Johnson 12-23-18)

As in November our Birdwalk coincided with a full moon high tide of the month (+6.87 ft.) and a small storm surge still lingered from the high surf earlier in the week. Waves were up to ten feet high in Santa Monica Bay; reports of fifty-footers much farther north. I doubt that Malibu Colony residents would appreciate fifty-footers cresting over their roofs, then sucking the wreckage out to sea in the backwash.

Looking east down the beach, such as it is, and across the lagoon outlet.
(L. Johnson 12-23-18)

That didn’t happen today – stay tuned! – although the tide and waves swamped the entire beach. Water passed the 6’ 9.4” mark on the tidal clock ramp in the farthest corner of the channel, and wavelets rippled beyond that mark.

High tide and storm surge push sea-washed wrack over 7 ft. above sea level on the tidal clock “sidewalk.” (L. Johnson 12-23-18)

Plaque marking 6′ 9″ is under water (L. Johnson 12-23-18)

Our local fires are all snuffed out by the labors of innumerable firemen both local and from afar, with the final touches added by several inches of rain. Many recently homeless people still live on the beaches and shopping mall parking lots. Some plan to rebuild; some not.

Surf comes in, Sanderlings run in; surf goes out…you know the drill.
(R. Juncosa 12-23-18)

The beach was completely gone when we arrived, due to the 8:50 am high tide. We took our time birding down to the beach, and by the time we arrived there was beach to walk on. The only areas not washed over were a few sand islands in the lagoon, now formed into a peninsula.

Sanderling grabs his crab and flees.
(R. Juncosa 12-23-18)

The influx of cool oxygenated ocean water has pepped up the lagoon’s fish population, if the number of “Jumping” Mullet actually jumping is any indication. It was wonderful to see them back at it.

View from 2nd viewpoint southeast towards lagoon outlet.
(L. Johnson 12-23-18)

Great Blue Heron shows off his finery. (R. Juncosa 12-23-18)

Bird species diversity was down to 60 from November’s 70, mostly in the ducks and passerines (little tweety songbirds for you non-birders), but total birds rose 70%, primarily due to the typical winter jump in the California Gull population. (See checklists below for details.) Other notable gulls were two first-year Heermann’s and a single Herring Gull, a species uncommon in SoCal.

Some Heermann’s Gulls are already in their beautiful alternate plumage for early Spring breeding in southern Baja. (G. Murayama 12-31-18)

A Peregrine Falcon shot by, an event which always get the sandpipers, ducks and gulls excited (not in a good way). The last one seen at the lagoon was a migrant last May. Six Black Phoebes was a good count for this always-present species, and Bushtits had returned after their November absence. Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers still prowl the bushes. They were at the lagoon November through March last year, but weren’t seen at all the winter before. Wrentits were still present. This chaparral-obligate rarely come to the lagoon – we’ve seen them only nine times in the past 220 months – and they’ve been there for two months. This probably has something to do with food availability in the nearby chaparral hills, now reduced to very low levels by the fires.

The right Least Sandpiper seems doubtful of the photographer’s good intentions.
(R. Juncosa 12-23-18)

We don’t have many reeds at the lagoon; what’s there is scattered into a dozen patches, some of them quite small. Nevertheless, we saw (or heard) three Marsh Wrens, a reed obligate. They move around briskly and skulkingly, thoroughly examining all the reed patches in their rounds.

‘Twas brillig and…NOT. High tide inundates the beach.
(R. Juncosa 12-23-18)

For comparison, lagoon outlet at low tide, not inundated by surf.
(R. Juncosa 11-30-18 2:40 pm)

Birds new for the season were: Surf Scoter, Herring Gull, Red-throated, Pacific & Common Loons, Brandt’s Cormorant, Belted Kingfisher, Peregrine Falcon, Golden-crowned Sparrow.

Gulls and birders at 1st viewpoint. (R. Juncosa 12-23-18)

Many thanks to our photographers: Lillian Johnson, Ray Juncosa & Grace Murayama.

House Finches were almost abundant among the beach plants. (R. Juncosa 12-23-18)

Our next three scheduled field trips: L.A Christmas Count (Santa Monica area) 8am, 2 Jan; Antelope Valley Raptor Search 7am, 12 Jan; Malibu Lagoon 8:30 & 10am, 27 January.

Our next program: “International Bird Rescue,” presented by Julie Skogland of IBR. Tuesday, 5 February, 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 recently updated with new photos
9/23/02 Aerial photo of Malibu Lagoon

Prior checklists:
2017: Jan-June, July-Dec 2018: 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 & Clyde Singleton for their contributions to the checklist below.  [Chuck Almdale]

Malibu Census 2018 7/22 8/26 9/23 10/28 11/25 12/23
Temperature 70-79 72-76 63-70 61-67 64-75 55-62
Tide Lo/Hi Height H+3.41 H+4.50 L+4.88 H+5.83 H+6.46 H+6.87
Tide Time 0733 1030 0923 1143 0944 0850
Cackling Goose 1
Canada Goose 1
Blue-winged Teal 2
Northern Shoveler 2
Gadwall 15 4 8
American Wigeon 12 5
Mallard 12 6 2 17 14 12
Northern Pintail 2
Green-winged Teal 2 4
Ring-necked Duck 2
Greater Scaup 2
Lesser Scaup 2
Surf Scoter 14
Bufflehead 6
Red-breasted Merganser 4 2
Ruddy Duck 61 95 2
Pied-billed Grebe 1 2
Horned Grebe 1 1
Eared Grebe 4 4 4
Western Grebe 4 2
Clark’s Grebe 1
Rock Pigeon 6 30 47 23 12 22
Mourning Dove 2 4 2
Anna’s Hummingbird 2 1
Allen’s Hummingbird 1 2 4 4 2 2
American Coot 1 1 27 17 85 58
Black-necked Stilt 1 2
Black-bellied Plover 17 125 95 82 79 70
Snowy Plover 9 33 41 5 7
Killdeer 8 4 8 2 7 14
Whimbrel 113 39 15 7 9 2
Marbled Godwit 3 14 13 15 14
Ruddy Turnstone 6 4 5 2 3
Sanderling 3 15 110 60
Least Sandpiper 15 17
Western Sandpiper 9
Short-billed Dowitcher 1
Spotted Sandpiper 2 1
Willet 2 23 11 13 12
Red-necked Phalarope 1 9
Heermann’s Gull 28 8 11 25 14 14
Ring-billed Gull 13 30 95
Western Gull 95 85 81 20 45 75
California Gull 2 4 43 90 700
Herring Gull 1
Caspian Tern 1 15 1
Forster’s Tern 3
Royal Tern 6 7 1
Elegant Tern 11 48 1
Red-throated Loon 1
Pacific Loon 2
Common Loon 2
Brandt’s Cormorant 1
Double-crested Cormorant 16 15 22 23 34 42
Pelagic Cormorant 1 1 1
Brown Pelican 5 7 35 11 8 29
Great Blue Heron 3 3 3 2 2 2
Great Egret 3 4 3 2 2
Snowy Egret 10 25 9 12 11
Green Heron 1
Black-crowned Night-Heron 1 1 2
Turkey Vulture 5 9
Osprey 1
Cooper’s Hawk 1 1
Red-shouldered Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1 1 1
Belted Kingfisher 1
Peregrine Falcon 1
Black Phoebe 3 3 2 4 3 6
Say’s Phoebe 2 5 2 1
Cassin’s Kingbird 1
Warbling Vireo 1
California Scrub-Jay 1 1
American Crow 4 2 8 13 2 6
Rough-winged Swallow 1 4
Cliff Swallow 3
Barn Swallow 25 16 1
Bushtit 60 30 75 60 6
Rock Wren 1
House Wren 1 2 1
Marsh Wren 2 1 3
Bewick’s Wren 1 4 1 3 3
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 3 3 12 10
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 5 3
Wrentit 4 3
Hermit Thrush 1 1 3
American Robin 1
Northern Mockingbird 2 2 2 1 1
European Starling 13 35 24 8
American Pipit 1 1
House Finch 8 6 11 2 10 30
Lesser Goldfinch 1
California Towhee 1 6 1
Savannah Sparrow 2 1
Song Sparrow 2 6 9 6 3 4
White-crowned Sparrow 4 4 27
Golden-crowned Sparrow 1
Dark-eyed Junco 2
Western Meadowlark 2 2 3 2
Hooded Oriole 4
Red-winged Blackbird 30 25 1 3
Great-tailed Grackle 4 7 6 7 3 2
Orange-crowned Warbler 3 1
MacGillivray’s Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 6 4 3 10
Yellow Warbler 2
Yellow-rumped(Aud) Warbler 38 18 27
Black-throated Gray Warbler 2
Townsend’s Warbler 1
Wilson’s Warbler 1
Totals by Type Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Waterfowl 27 6 2 83 146 47
Water Birds – Other 22 24 89 56 139 139
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 17 32 17 2 18 15
Quail & Raptors 0 5 11 1 2 3
Shorebirds 149 215 234 125 261 193
Gulls & Terns 137 169 136 59 186 886
Doves 8 30 51 23 12 24
Other Non-Passerines 1 2 6 5 2 3
Passerines 161 75 210 187 96 149
Totals Birds 522 558 756 541 862 1459
Total Species Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Waterfowl 2 1 1 5 12 7
Water Birds – Other 3 4 5 5 9 9
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 4 3 5 1 4 3
Quail & Raptors 0 1 3 1 2 3
Shorebirds 5 9 11 7 11 9
Gulls & Terns 5 7 4 4 5 6
Doves 2 1 2 1 1 2
Other Non-Passerines 1 1 2 2 1 2
Passerines 15 9 24 25 25 20
Totals Species – 110 37 36 57 51 70 61
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One Comment leave one →
  1. Susie Malone permalink
    January 3, 2019 10:29 pm

    Thanks for your interesting report. The photos are spectacular.

    Like

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