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Coreopsis & Warships: Malibu Lagoon, 24 February, 2019

March 4, 2019

Two Males: Mallard (23″ long) & Green-winged Teal (14.5″) (Grace Murayama 2-24-19)

As in January, we had a nice low tide, providing plenty of beach access. The beach could easily have been 100 yards in width (from surf zone to lagoon) in some places. “I’ve never seen it so low!” cried many an aghast birder. Low tide today was, in fact, +0.84 ft. at 7:08 am, not particularly low. I checked my lagoon spreadsheet and found that since August 2000 (207 count days) I have recorded fifteen negative low tides as the high or low tide closest to our 0830-1100 walk time. [See the top of the monthly trip list below for a few examples.]

Spotted Sandpipers regularly patrol lagoon edges (Grace Murayama 2-24-19)

The three lowest tides were: -1.2 ft on 6-24-01 at 0639 (6:39am), -1.10 ft on 4-28-13 at 0609, -0.7 ft on 6-26-05 at 0749.

Birding group at viewpoint 1, as seen from PCH Bridge (Ray Juncosa 2-24-19)

However, there are negative low tides every month. Listed below are the lowest tides (at Santa Monica Pier, no readings available for Malibu) for March 2018 through February 2019. Levels are measured at height above (+) or below (-) “mean lower low water.”

Many places, including Malibu, have two low tides every day (occasionally three). The lowest of these daily tides is the “lower low tide” or “lower low water.” The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) takes the average of these daily lower low waters over a 19-year recording period called the “National Tidal Datum Epoch.” This epoch is the nearest full year count to the 18.6-year cycle of the lunar node regression, which has a small effect on tides. As it is a mean, or average, some low tides will be negative.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher by the Giant Coreopsis
(Ray Juncosa 2-24-19)

Lowest level by month Mar’18-Feb’19
Date Time Level (ft)
03/01/18 1509 -1.29
04/18/18 0547 -0.54
05/17/18 0542 -1.19
06/15/18 0533 -1.55
07/13/18 0431 -1.59
08/11/18 0411 -1.34
09/08/18 0305 -0.87
10/06/18 0158 -0.33
11/24/18 1616 -0.90
12/23/18 1607 -1.47
01/21/19 1553 -1.80
02/18/19 1449 -1.69

 

We still have some chaparral species around: Bushtit, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Bewick’s Wren, Spotted Towhee and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (see photo above), plus a chatty Marsh Wren, definitely not a chaparral species. The Giant Coreopsis (Leptosyne gigantea) is in full bloom, like a big bush full of daises. This species is a member of the Aster Family (Asteraceae) and a SoCal endemic, ranging (map & description) from northwestern Baja California north to Monterey Bay, and it especially likes the Channel Islands.

Giant Coreopsis – Leptosyne gigantea – in bloom (Ray Juncosa 2-24-19)

Wikipedia says it grows up to 4 ft. high at elevations of 45-180 ft., but I’ve seen it growing much closer to sea level (about 10-15 ft. at the Lagoon) in many places and if memory serves me right, it gets taller out on Santa Barbara Island. It was introduced to the lagoon during the Spring 2013 revegetation at the end of the reconfiguration project, and it’s doing quite well.

West channel almost waterless by the tidal clock (Larry Loeher 2-24-19)

Two of the Cinnamon Teal seen late last month were still paddling about, despite low lagoon and channel water levels. Telescope views revealed that the feathers along the back were an iridescent olive-green color, something I can’t recall ever noticing before. This species used to be quite regular wintering birds at the lagoon decades ago, but their presence has dwindled.

Cinnamon Teal have baby-blue speculums and (look closely) olive-green feathers on their back (Ray Juncosa 2-24-19)

We’ve been keeping track of the lagoon outlet location, and it’s moved about as far east as it can, now exiting close to the south fence of the Adamson House property. Occasionally the last 30-40 feet of downhill slope will swing farther east, almost to the lifeguard station just east of Adamson house, but often the outlet stops moving and closes after the springtime rains cease. I mention this because I recently got into a “discussion” with a long-time local surfer who maintained that once the opening appeared, it never moved.  The left photo below (2/24/19) shows the opening disappearing off to the left, whereas the 11-30-18 photo shows it well to the west. The movement was actually greater than it appears from these photos, as the earlier photo was taken from the east end of the Pacific Coast Hwy bridge, but the later (right) photo was taken from the west end. Had the earlier photo been taken from this location, the opening probably would have been out-of-view to the right.

Lagoon outlet movement: Left 2-24-19, Right 11-30-18, 86 days earlier (Ray Juncosa both photos)

Below we have two aerial views. Left view is from 2004 and shows the extreme left exit. This exit was almost certainly dug by the “Surfers midnight bucket & shovel brigade,” as this was their preferred outlet location because it would (they said) help reinforce the offshore wave-making reefs with silt from the creek. (Photo from CaliforniaCoastline.org, found on the Surfrider.org website with the description “West is Best: Relocation of the Malibu Lagoon Inlet.”) Right view is from Google Satellite views and is almost certainly from mid-2013, following the 2012-13 lagoon reconfiguration project but before the revegetation project had begun to bloom. This shows the end stage of outlet movement when it curves around Adamson House and bends ENE towards Malibu Pier. We have many times witnessed outlet movement from extreme west to extreme east, a process taking 2-4 months. This happens because when the outlet stream hits the ocean it is pushed east by the prevailing eastward flow of the offshore current. This erodes the east bank faster than the west bank, so the outlet gradually moves eastward until stopped by the higher, more solid ground on which Adamson House sits.

Lagoon aerial views Left 2004 Right 2013

Malibu was having it’s irregularly-scheduled “Navy Days.” The navy sent Guided Missile Cruiser USS Lake Champlain to visit. It was quite imposing, sitting in the bay not far from the end of Malibu Pier.

Guided Missile Cruiser USS Lake Champlain visits Malibu for “Navy Days” (Larry Loeher 2-24-19)

Crewmen come ashore to mingle with the natives and have a good time, and (probably) people could go on board, poke around, perhaps fire off a few missiles as a warning to those pesky Topanga cannibal-pirates just down the coast.
Malibu Times Report 2/28/19
ABC Channel7 Report 2/23/19
Malibu Times Report 2/20/19

Two young Red-tailed Hawks (Ray Juncosa 2-24-19)

We found a young Red-tailed Hawk sitting high in one of the Colony’s cypress trees, which was soon joined by a second young Red-tailed Hawk. They were easy to locate because the local American Crow family found them first and repeatedly dived on them, cawing loudly all the while.

Our local crows strove mightily to drive off the Red-tailed Hawks (Ray Juncosa 2-24-19)

A group of Double-crested Cormorants, accompanied by a couple of Western Grebes, seemed fascinated by the colorful accessory one of their number was sporting.

Cormorants and grebes admire the ‘ankle bling’ (Ray Juncosa 2-24-19)

It turned out to be a leg band, or perhaps an felon’s-ankle-bracelet, mysteriously coded as “EN3.”

Double-crested Cormorant wearing his ‘EN3’ ankle ring (Ray Juncosa 2-24-19)

Song Sparrows like water, reeds and singing, not necessarily in that order (Larry Loeher 2-24-19)

As we were crossing PCH to go have lunch at John’s Cafe, three Nanday Parakeets flew in and lit on a branch overhead. These birds have become well-established in the riparian canyons along the Santa Monica Mountains where they nest in old woodpecker holes. They occasionally come by the lagoon, calling loudly as parrots in flight tend to do. Unfortunately none of us had a camera.

Birds new for the season were: Cinnamon Teal, Clark’s Grebe, Turkey Vulture, Nanday Parakeet, Dark-eyed Junco, Red-winged Blackbird.

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

First-year White-crowned Sparrow, his corwn stripes just starting to molt to black & white (Ray Juncosa 2-24-19)

Our next three scheduled field trips: Sycamore Canyon, 8am 9 Mar; Malibu Lagoon 8:30 & 10am, 24 March; Malibu Creek State Park (or thereabouts) 8am, 13 Apr.

Our next program: “Member’s Slide Show,” MC’d by the inimitable Chuck Bragg. Tuesday, 5 March, 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, 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 Lagoon Reconfiguration 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 Femi Faminu & Chris Lord for their contributions to the checklist below.  [Chuck Almdale]

Malibu Census 2018-19 9/23 10/28 11/25 12/23 1/27 2/24
Temperature 63-70 61-67 64-75 55-62 65-75 54-60
Tide Lo/Hi Height L+4.88 H+5.83 H+6.46 H+6.87 L+1.36 L+0.84
Tide Time 0923 1143 0944 0850 0913 0708
Cackling Goose 1
Canada Goose 1
Blue-winged Teal 2
Cinnamon Teal 2
Northern Shoveler 2
Gadwall 4 8 6 12
American Wigeon 12 5 4 8
Mallard 2 17 14 12 27 18
Northern Pintail 2
Green-winged Teal 2 4 2 2
Ring-necked Duck 2
Greater Scaup 2
Lesser Scaup 2
Surf Scoter 14
Bufflehead 6
Red-breasted Merganser 4 2 3 1
Ruddy Duck 61 95 2 3 5
Pied-billed Grebe 1 2 1
Horned Grebe 1 1
Eared Grebe 4 4 4
Western Grebe 4 2 2 22
Clark’s Grebe 1 1
Rock Pigeon 47 23 12 22 13 17
Mourning Dove 4 2 2 2
Anna’s Hummingbird 2 1
Allen’s Hummingbird 4 4 2 2 4 2
American Coot 27 17 85 58 38 36
Black-necked Stilt 2
Black-bellied Plover 95 82 79 70 99 35
Snowy Plover 41 5 7 32 31
Killdeer 8 2 7 14 17 10
Whimbrel 15 7 9 2 7 4
Marbled Godwit 14 13 15 14 17 23
Ruddy Turnstone 4 5 2 3 4 3
Sanderling 15 110 60 72 32
Least Sandpiper 15 17 23 16
Western Sandpiper 9 2
Short-billed Dowitcher 1
Spotted Sandpiper 2 1 1 2
Willet 23 11 13 12 20 12
Red-necked Phalarope 9
Heermann’s Gull 11 25 14 14 13 5
Ring-billed Gull 13 30 95 50 85
Western Gull 81 20 45 75 127 98
California Gull 43 90 700 460 140
Herring Gull 1 2
Glaucous-winged Gull 1 1
Caspian Tern 1
Royal Tern 7 1 4 12
Elegant Tern 1
Red-throated Loon 1
Pacific Loon 2 1 1
Common Loon 2 2
Brandt’s Cormorant 1 1 20
Double-crested Cormorant 22 23 34 42 31 24
Pelagic Cormorant 1 1 2 2
Brown Pelican 35 11 8 29 15 37
Great Blue Heron 3 2 2 2 2 1
Great Egret 3 2 2 1
Snowy Egret 9 12 11 7 5
Green Heron 1
Black-crowned Night-Heron 1 2
Turkey Vulture 9 1
Osprey 1
Cooper’s Hawk 1 1
Red-shouldered Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1 1 1 1 2
Belted Kingfisher 1 1
Peregrine Falcon 1
Nanday Parakeet 3
Black Phoebe 2 4 3 6 4 6
Say’s Phoebe 2 5 2 1 1
Cassin’s Kingbird 1
Warbling Vireo 1
California Scrub-Jay 1 1
American Crow 8 13 2 6 9 6
Barn Swallow 1
Oak Titmouse 1
Bushtit 75 60 6 8 2
Rock Wren 1
House Wren 1 2 1 1
Marsh Wren 2 1 3 1
Bewick’s Wren 4 1 3 3 1 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 3 3 12 10 1 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 5 3 2
Wrentit 4 3
Hermit Thrush 1 1 3 2
Northern Mockingbird 2 2 1 1 2
European Starling 35 24 8 35 3
American Pipit 1 1 1
House Finch 11 2 10 30 28 15
Lesser Goldfinch 1 5
Spotted Towhee 1 2
California Towhee 6 1
Savannah Sparrow 2 1
Song Sparrow 9 6 3 4 5 15
White-crowned Sparrow 4 4 27 15 18
Golden-crowned Sparrow 1 1
Dark-eyed Junco 2 2
Western Meadowlark 2 2 3 2 2
Red-winged Blackbird 25 1 3 4
Great-tailed Grackle 6 7 3 2 6 3
Orange-crowned Warbler 3 1
MacGillivray’s Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 6 4 3 10 5 5
Yellow Warbler 2
Yellow-rumped(Aud) Warbler 38 18 27 20 16
Black-throated Gray Warbler 2
Townsend’s Warbler 1
Wilson’s Warbler 1
Totals by Type Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb
Waterfowl 2 83 146 47 45 48
Water Birds – Other 89 56 139 139 90 146
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 17 2 18 15 10 6
Quail & Raptors 11 1 2 3 1 3
Shorebirds 234 125 261 193 294 168
Gulls & Terns 136 59 186 886 657 341
Doves 51 23 12 24 15 19
Other Non-Passerines 6 5 2 3 4 6
Passerines 210 187 96 149 150 107
Totals Birds 756 541 862 1459 1266 844
             
Total Species Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb
Waterfowl 1 5 12 7 6 7
Water Birds – Other 5 5 9 9 7 10
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 5 1 4 3 3 2
Quail & Raptors 3 1 2 3 1 2
Shorebirds 11 7 11 9 11 10
Gulls & Terns 4 4 5 6 7 6
Doves 2 1 1 2 2 2
Other Non-Passerines 2 2 1 2 1 3
Passerines 24 25 25 20 20 19
Totals Species – 110 57 51 70 61 58 61
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