Skip to content

Breeding Begins: Malibu Lagoon, 28 April, 2019

April 29, 2019

Double-crested Cormorant with nesting material heads to the small cormorant colony high in a shopping center tree. (R. Juncosa 4-28-19 Malibu Lagoon)

It was cool, overcast and the surf was almost non-existent. For birders, this means few surfers on the water, few people on the beach and lots of parking spots in the lot and on Pacific Coast Highway. All positives. Cool temperatures means 62-66°F, which is cool compared to near-90° in “the valley” a few days earlier. Tide was dropping from the high at 5:46am, so the lagoon and channel bottoms were mostly exposed.

View across shallow water towards west end of channel & Malibu Colony
(L. Johnson 4-28-19 Malibu Lagoon)

Migration continues with birds coming and going, and breeding has begun. One Mallard pair was tooling around the lagoon trailing twelve fluffball ducklings. Class is in session and the curriculum is: Where to Go, Where Not to Go, What to Eat, and Sticking Close to Mom.

Mallard duckling class begins for the day (L. Loeher 4-28-19 Malibu Lagoon)

One Belted Kingfisher has appeared four out of the last five months. Oddly enough, the March bird was a male but the April bird is the more brightly-colored female. With a cinnamon breast-band which the male lacks, she is considered one of the few dozen avian examples of “reverse sexual diorphism.” For more on that, read THIS.

Giving a fish to a prospective mate proves to them that you know what you’re doing.

Western Gull fish swapping #3(L) + 4(R) (All photos G. Murayama 4-26-19 Zuma)
These photos were originally incorrectly credited by your tired editor.

The article about our birdwalk by journalist Barbara and photographer Susie from the Malibu Surfside News was published April 4. It’s always interesting reading about oneself. Apparently I was a font of interesting information, saying many more fascinating things than I remember or even believe I said. I learned a lot by reading my own words.

Black-necked Stilt jumps for joy (R. Juncosa 4-28-19 Malibu Lagoon)

The Elegant Terns have definitely returned from their winter in Mexico, many of them with rosy breasts. I counted 230 of them, but they came and went all morning and could have numbered many more. We found a few Caspian and Royal Terns among them – they’re a little stand-offish and tend to cluster with their own species. Two Least Terns stopped by but didn’t stay long. Gull numbers were down and most of them were Western Gulls.

Piggyback ride time for the Western Gulls and Elegant Terns (R. Juncosa 4-28-19 Malibu Lagoon)

Two Nanday Parakeets perched in a large aracaria tree at Adamson House, where they were two months ago. They usually stay up in the Santa Monica Mtns. canyons where they eat whatever’s handy and nest in old woodpecker holes, but they occasionally stray down to the beach. We’ve recorded them 14 times since they first appeared in Oct. 2001. Speaking of introduced species, almost all the large pigeons we get are feral Rock Pigeons, scrounging the sand for snacks, but very infrequently we’ll see Band-tailed Pigeon, largest of the three big pigeons. These acorn-eaters also stay well up the canyons among the trees and we’ve recorded them on our walks only twice in 40 years. Eurasian Collared-Dove first appeared in May 2007 and has dropped in nine times since then, including today. We’ve also had White-winged Dove three times, Spotted Dove twice, and Mourning Dove 219 times.

Mourning Dove, cryptic against a brown background, not so much against white.
(G Murayama 4-28-19 Malibu Lagoon)

The lone Eared Grebe was in breeding plumage and continually diving just past the surf zone. The lone Pelagic Cormorant was in the same area, doing the same thing, but not in breeding plumage. A pod of at least six dolphins was about 50-100 yards further out. They did a lot of diving, and there was a flock of pelicans, gulls and terns in the vicinity, so there was probably a school of small fish in the area, unintentionally attracting their attention.

One Marbled Godwit seems to have problems with his landing gear
(G Murayama 4-28-19 Malibu Lagoon)

On her way back out, Femi Faminu spotted a male Hooded Oriole in one of the Malibu Colony cypress trees next to the fence. It sang a bit and then flew across the lagoon towards the parking lot. In past years it has often been seen and heard in both locations, and we’ve found their nest in one or other of the larger palms. It’s nice to know they’re back.

Marbled Godwits and a Western Snowy Plover (L. Loeher 4-28-19 Malibu Lagoon)

Pepperdine Bell Tower (DougandRhonda Blogspot)

Shortly before we left, just as I was about to do a third count of the terns, all the terns and gulls flew up into the air, squawking madly. This usually indicates that they spotted a raptor, but I could not find one overhead. Then a Peregrine Falcon shot by, 30-50 feet up, flew out over the waves, turned around and came back across the beach, slightly higher. All the remaining birders got a pretty good look at it, an adult in bright plumage. I then noticed another raptor, much higher, almost out of eyesight, which proved to be another Peregrine. I followed this bird in my binos for at least a minute until it disappeared behind a house near Pepperdine University halfway up the hill. It probably perched in a tree, out of sight.. In the past, we’ve seen Peregrines perching in the crossbar of the Pepperdine bell tower, waiting for their lunch to fly by.

Not a bad way to end an outing.

Semipalmated Plover and Western Sandpipers (G. Murayama 4-28-19 Malibu Lagoon) Both species have partial webbing on their toes, enabling them to walk easily in soft mud, yet avoid clumsy waddling like the fully-webbed duck.

Birds new for the season: Eared Grebe, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Black-necked Stilt, Semipalmated Plover, Western Sandpiper, Least Tern, Peregrine Falcon, Cliff Swallow, American Robin, Hooded Oriole, Orange-crowned Warbler.

View across shallow water channel towards beach (L. Johnson 4-28-19 Malibu Lagoon)

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

Our next three scheduled field trips: Black Rock Campground & Morongo Valley, 3pm Sat. 4 May, 7:30 Sun. 5 May; Malibu Lagoon 8:30 & 10am, 26 May; Mt. Piños 8am 8-9 June.

Our next program: Birds of Trinidad & Tobago, presented by Martyn Kenefick. Tuesday, 7 May, 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 restoration period June’12-June’14.

Many thanks to Adrian Douglas, Femi Faminu, Lillian Johnson and Lu Plauzoles for their contributions to the checklist below.
[Chuck Almdale]

Malibu Census 2018-19 11/25 12/23 1/27 2/24 3/24 4/28
Temperature 64-75 55-62 65-75 54-60 55-64 62-66
Tide Lo/Hi Height H+6.46 H+6.87 L+1.36 L+0.84 L-0.05 H+3.86
Tide Time 0944 0850 0913 0708 0638 0546
Cackling Goose 1
Canada Goose 2 1
Cinnamon Teal 2 2
Northern Shoveler 2 1
Gadwall 4 8 6 12 18 8
American Wigeon 12 5 4 8 15
Mallard 14 12 27 18 14 30
Northern Pintail 2
Green-winged Teal 2 4 2 2
Greater Scaup 2
Lesser Scaup 2
Surf Scoter 14
Bufflehead 6
Red-breasted Merganser 4 2 3 1 1 1
Ruddy Duck 95 2 3 5
Pied-billed Grebe 1 2 1
Horned Grebe 1
Eared Grebe 4 1
Western Grebe 4 2 2 22
Clark’s Grebe 1 1
Rock Pigeon 12 22 13 17 15 15
Eurasian Collared-Dove 2
Mourning Dove 2 2 2 6 3
Anna’s Hummingbird 4 1
Allen’s Hummingbird 2 2 4 2 2 3
American Coot 85 58 38 36 55
Black-necked Stilt 2 2
Black-bellied Plover 79 70 99 35 14
Snowy Plover 7 32 31 14 2
Semipalmated Plover 9
Killdeer 7 14 17 10 10 6
Whimbrel 9 2 7 4 55 4
Marbled Godwit 15 14 17 23 15 20
Ruddy Turnstone 2 3 4 3
Sanderling 110 60 72 32 4
Least Sandpiper 15 17 23 16 3
Western Sandpiper 2 4
Spotted Sandpiper 2 1 1 2 2 1
Willet 13 12 20 12 9 4
Bonaparte’s Gull 1
Heermann’s Gull 14 14 13 5
Ring-billed Gull 30 95 50 85 25 10
Western Gull 45 75 127 98 30 95
California Gull 90 700 460 140 22 45
Herring Gull 1 2 1
Glaucous-winged Gull 1 1
Least Tern 2
Caspian Tern 2 12
Royal Tern 7 1 4 12 65 6
Elegant Tern 43 230
Red-throated Loon 1
Pacific Loon 2 1 1
Common Loon 2 2
Brandt’s Cormorant 1 1 20 2
Double-crested Cormorant 34 42 31 24 60 23
Pelagic Cormorant 1 2 2 2 1
Brown Pelican 8 29 15 37 65 58
Great Blue Heron 2 2 2 1 2
Great Egret 2 2 1 5 3
Snowy Egret 12 11 7 5 2 3
Black-crowned Night-Heron 2
Turkey Vulture 1 1
Cooper’s Hawk 1
Red-shouldered Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1 1 1 2 1
Belted Kingfisher 1 1 1 1
American Kestrel 1
Peregrine Falcon 1 2
Nanday Parakeet 3 2
Black Phoebe 3 6 4 6 2 3
Say’s Phoebe 2 1 1
Cassin’s Kingbird 1
California Scrub-Jay 1 1 1
American Crow 2 6 9 6 6 5
Rough-winged Swallow 2 2
Cliff Swallow 1
Barn Swallow 3 15
Oak Titmouse 1
Bushtit 6 8 2 8 2
Rock Wren 1
House Wren 2 1 1
Marsh Wren 1 3 1 1
Bewick’s Wren 3 3 1 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 12 10 1 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 5 3 2 1
Wrentit 4 3 2 1
Hermit Thrush 1 3 2
American Robin 1
Northern Mockingbird 1 1 2 3 2
European Starling 8 35 3 15
American Pipit 1 1
House Finch 10 30 28 15 8 18
Lesser Goldfinch 5
Spotted Towhee 1 2
California Towhee 1 1
Savannah Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 3 4 5 15 10 12
White-crowned Sparrow 4 27 15 18 9
Golden-crowned Sparrow 1 1
Dark-eyed Junco 2
Western Meadowlark 3 2 2
Hooded Oriole 1
Red-winged Blackbird 3 4
Great-tailed Grackle 3 2 6 3 3 6
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 3 10 5 5 1 1
Yellow-rumped(Aud) Warbler 18 27 20 16 2
Totals by Type Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr
Waterfowl 146 47 45 48 53 40
Water Birds – Other 139 139 90 146 184 83
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 18 15 10 6 9 6
Quail & Raptors 2 3 1 3 2 3
Shorebirds 261 193 294 168 122 56
Gulls & Terns 186 886 657 341 189 400
Doves 12 24 15 19 21 20
Other Non-Passerines 2 3 4 6 7 7
Passerines 96 149 150 107 63 88
Totals Birds 862 1459 1266 844 650 703
             
Total Species Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr
Waterfowl 12 7 6 7 7 4
Water Birds – Other 9 9 7 10 5 4
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 4 3 3 2 3 2
Quail & Raptors 2 3 1 2 2 2
Shorebirds 11 9 11 10 8 10
Gulls & Terns 5 6 7 6 8 7
Doves 1 2 2 2 2 3
Other Non-Passerines 1 2 1 3 3 4
Passerines 25 20 20 19 17 18
Totals Species – 107 70 61 58 61 55 54
No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

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

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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 )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: