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Least Terns Might Nest on Surfrider Beach: Malibu Lagoon, 26 May, 2019

May 31, 2019

This male Gadwall seems quite satisfied to simply sit. (G. Murayama 5-26-19)

People who don’t live here tend to think we don’t have seasons. Wrong! For supporting evidence, I offer this week’s weather. Temperatures never rose above 65°F (18°C), and for our birdwalk they barely made 59°F (15°C) Brrrr! And it rained. That violated at least one local ordinance, I believe, because it does not rain in May in SoCal. That’s the law. Authorities are reported to be on the lookout for someone to blame and arrest. So far they’ve rounded up only the usual suspects.

Brown Pelicans in breeding plumage, probably resting before flying back to their Anacapa Island nests (G. Murayama 5-26-19)

The birds knew something was wrong, and they were mostly somewhere else, with only 617 birds in 33 species. Western Gulls, Elegant Terns and Brown Pelicans made up 65% of total birds.

A pair of Canada Geese, goslings in tow, stepping gingerly across soft mud. (L. Loeher 5-24-19)

The Canada Geese apparently decided they liked the area, and about a week ago they showed up with four goslings in tow. They trundled all around the lagoon and channels. Sometimes they’d disappear into the vegetation on the southside sandy peninsula. That’s probably where they nested, as we had occasionally seen their heads poking up out of the flowers and grass.

Canada Goose keeps a steely eye on that Killdeer (R. Juncosa 5-26-19)

People sometimes ask, “What do gulls eat?” Answer: Just about anything. Photographer Grace Murayama said the item of cuisine below was a Sea Hare, a kind of slug and definitely not mammalian. I’ve read that most species of birds have little sense of taste. If true, that’s probably a Very Good Thing if they’re going to eat this sort of creature. And – lacking teeth – they don’t even attempt to chew it. I suspect it has the consistency of a goo-filled tennis ball.

Western Gull joyfully goes for something – anything! – edible. (G. Murayama 5-24-19)

Two Heermann’s Gulls were on the beach among the many Western Gulls. They looked like year-old birds, dark brown, not mottled like juveniles or beginning to turn grayish on their backs like 2nd-year birds.

Down goes the Sea Hare, definitely ruining its plans for the day. (G. Murayama 5-24-19)

All the Snowy Plovers have gone. For the past two years, a pair lingered and nested and produced chick(s). But no lingerers this year, so it seems to me that none will attempt to nest.

A cotillion of Elegant Terns (R. Juncosa 5-26-19)

On the other hand, we had a dozen Least Terns performing aerial acrobatics, walking around in circles on the sand, investigating small depressions among the driftwood, waving fish at each other and one pair even did a “fish exchange.” I was asked if such a fish exchange always meant that they would then pair up and breed. Answer: I don’t know about that, but I’m pretty sure they won’t pair up lacking the fish exchange element in their courting behavior. This crucial element is how one of them (the female, I believe) makes certain that the other knows how to: 1) catch a fish, 2) catch the right size of fish, 3) bring it to someone else (the female or eventual chick), 4) actually give it to the other bird and not just wave it around, and maybe 5) do the whole thing again, repeatedly. She, of course, probably doesn’t consciously realize that’s what she’s doing. It’s very likely entirely hard-wired behavior, as is much of similar human behavior. (Don’t tell any humans that – it’s supposed to be a secret. Keep letting them believe that they think up all their bone-headed behaviors on their own.) There’s more to being a good mate and parent than tight pants and necklaces of gold chain.

Least Terns with a courting-fish (R. Juncosa 5-26-19)

I ran into a volunteer Least Tern warden, by the name of Jess (I believe), patrolling the perimeter of the orange plastic fence, binoculars in hand. He is new to the job, trained and sent out on his own by our Los Angeles County official Least Tern & Snowy Plover maven and comptroller, Stacey Vigallon. If he’s lucky, the terns will stick around and nest, which will give him plenty to look at for a couple of months.

Nanday Parakeets perched on bare vertical snags on the Adamson House property, making it three out of the past four months they were there. It’s possible, I suppose, they are nesting somewhere closer that far up the canyon, perhaps on the property itself or across the street in the large semi-forested area. They nest in holes in trees which are provided when high winds break off limbs, or by the thoughtful and considerate behavior of our local woodpeckers.

View across the channel towards the beach, east end of Malibu Colony on right
(L. Johnson 5-26-19)

On the way back to the car, I stopped at the small path-side picnic area adjacent to the Malibu Colony to see if I could find any Hooded Orioles. Last year they liked this area and were often seen near it. I got very lucky and spotted two of them in the leafy tree above the house roof and 2nd-floor deck. The small trees (or large bushes) around the house are very thick and leafy with Bougainvillea growing all over them, and would make a very nice place to nest. One bird was a female, the other looked like a young male with some black feathering on its throat. I thought I saw a brighter orange-&-black male scooting about, but the glimpse was obstructed by foliage and so brief that I couldn’t be sure.

One birder walks a barren Surfrider Beach (L. Johnson 5-26-19)

Birds new for the season: Heermann’s Gull, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Violet-green Swallow.

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

Northern Mockingbird knows it’s spring
(L. Loeher 3-24-19 Malibu Lagoon)

Our next three scheduled field trips: Mt. Piños 8am 8-9 June; Malibu Lagoon 8:30 & 10am, 24 June; Malibu Lagoon 8:30 & 10am, 22 July.

Our next program: Planting Native Gardens, presented by Connie Day. Tuesday, 1 October, 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 (towards the water) 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, Liz Galton, Lillian Johnson, Lu Plauzoles and Chris Tosdevin for their contributions to the checklist below.  [Chuck Almdale]

Malibu Census 2018-19 12/23 1/27 2/24 3/24 4/28 5/26
Temperature 55-62 65-75 54-60 55-64 62-66 57-59
Tide Lo/Hi Height H+6.87 L+1.36 L+0.84 L-0.05 H+3.86 L+0.66
Tide Time 0850 0913 0708 0638 0546 1040
Canada Goose 2 1 6
Cinnamon Teal 2 2
Northern Shoveler 1
Gadwall 8 6 12 18 8 13
American Wigeon 5 4 8 15
Mallard 12 27 18 14 30 22
Green-winged Teal 4 2 2
Surf Scoter 14
Red-breasted Merganser 2 3 1 1 1
Ruddy Duck 2 3 5
Pied-billed Grebe 2 1
Eared Grebe 1
Western Grebe 2 2 22
Clark’s Grebe 1
Rock Pigeon 22 13 17 15 15 18
Eurasian Collared-Dove 2
Mourning Dove 2 2 2 6 3 2
Anna’s Hummingbird 4 1
Allen’s Hummingbird 2 4 2 2 3 3
American Coot 58 38 36 55
Black-necked Stilt 2
Black-bellied Plover 70 99 35 14
Snowy Plover 32 31 14 2
Semipalmated Plover 9
Killdeer 14 17 10 10 6 4
Whimbrel 2 7 4 55 4
Marbled Godwit 14 17 23 15 20
Ruddy Turnstone 3 4 3
Sanderling 60 72 32 4
Least Sandpiper 17 23 16 3
Western Sandpiper 2 4
Spotted Sandpiper 1 1 2 2 1
Willet 12 20 12 9 4
Bonaparte’s Gull 1
Heermann’s Gull 14 13 5 2
Ring-billed Gull 95 50 85 25 10 15
Western Gull 75 127 98 30 95 125
California Gull 700 460 140 22 45
Herring Gull 1 2 1
Glaucous-winged Gull 1 1
Least Tern 2 12
Caspian Tern 2 12 13
Royal Tern 1 4 12 65 6 2
Elegant Tern 43 230 165
Red-throated Loon 1
Pacific Loon 2 1 1
Common Loon 2 2
Brandt’s Cormorant 1 1 20 2 1
Double-crested Cormorant 42 31 24 60 23 27
Pelagic Cormorant 2 2 2 1 2
Brown Pelican 29 15 37 65 58 108
Great Blue Heron 2 2 1 2
Great Egret 2 1 5 3 2
Snowy Egret 11 7 5 2 3 8
Black-crowned Night-Heron 1
Turkey Vulture 1 1
Cooper’s Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1 1 2 1
Belted Kingfisher 1 1 1 1
American Kestrel 1
Peregrine Falcon 1 2
Nanday Parakeet 3 2  3
Black Phoebe 6 4 6 2 3 5
Say’s Phoebe 1 1
California Scrub-Jay 1 1
American Crow 6 9 6 6 5 6
Violet-green Swallow 1
Rough-winged Swallow 2 2
Cliff Swallow 1 6
Barn Swallow 3 15 14
Oak Titmouse 1
Bushtit 6 8 2 8 2 1
House Wren 1 1
Marsh Wren 3 1 1
Bewick’s Wren 3 1 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 10 1 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 3 2 1
Wrentit 3 2 1
Hermit Thrush 3 2
American Robin 1
Northern Mockingbird 1 2 3 2 3
European Starling 35 3 15 12
American Pipit 1
House Finch 30 28 15 8 18 8
Lesser Goldfinch 5
Spotted Towhee 1 2
California Towhee 1 1
Song Sparrow 4 5 15 10 12 5
White-crowned Sparrow 27 15 18 9
Golden-crowned Sparrow 1 1
Dark-eyed Junco 2
Western Meadowlark 2 2
Hooded Oriole 1 2
Red-winged Blackbird 4
Great-tailed Grackle 2 6 3 3 6
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 10 5 5 1 1
Yellow-rumped(Aud) Warbler 27 20 16 2
Totals by Type Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May
Waterfowl 47 45 48 53 40 41
Water Birds – Other 139 90 146 184 83 138
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 15 10 6 9 6 11
Quail & Raptors 3 1 3 2 3 0
Shorebirds 193 294 168 122 56 4
Gulls & Terns 886 657 341 189 400 334
Doves 24 15 19 21 20 20
Other Non-Passerines 3 4 6 7 7 6
Passerines 149 150 107 63 88 63
Totals Birds 1459 1266 844 650 703 617
             
Total Species Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May
Waterfowl 7 6 7 7 4 3
Water Birds – Other 9 7 10 5 4 4
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 3 3 2 3 2 3
Quail & Raptors 3 1 2 2 2 0
Shorebirds 9 11 10 8 10 1
Gulls & Terns 6 7 6 8 7 7
Doves 2 2 2 2 3 2
Other Non-Passerines 2 1 3 3 4 2
Passerines 20 20 19 17 18 11
Totals Species 61 58 61 55 54 33
2 Comments leave one →
  1. Aurelio Albaisa permalink
    May 31, 2019 3:28 pm

    Hello, Oops, Did I miss a page, or is the May 26 data missing from the table?

    Like

    • Chukar permalink*
      June 1, 2019 12:40 pm

      So much for proof-editing. I “save time” by using the prior month’s blog and avoid recreating many formatting and text items which repeat from month to month.
      This month I forgot to take out April’s trip list and put in May’s. This will be corrected immediately. Thanks, Aurelio. Chuck

      Like

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