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Fog Season at Malibu Lagoon, 23 June, 2019

June 30, 2019

From the Summer-Clock Sidewalk, over the channel and to the sea (L. Johnson 6-23-19)

June is the cruelest month…for birders in lowland Southern California, anyway. Most species are off breeding somewhere else, usually far the north. The local mountains are interesting and birdable as snow and ice are gone, temperatures are warm and the birds are singing and/or breeding. But at the lagoon we have the few breeding birds such as Gadwall, Mallard, Mourning Dove, Allen’s and Anna’s Hummingbirds, Killdeer, Black Phoebe, Crows and Jays, several swallows, Mockingbird, Starling, House Finch, California Towhee, Song Sparrow, Hooded Oriole and Great-tailed Grackle. Some of these species actually nest nearby, as do Double-crested Cormorants, herons and egrets in the shopping center trees across the street, swallows on the walls of Malibu civic center buildings, and crows in their secret hideout.

The waffle-y prediction I made last month of Least Tern nesting at the lagoon did not come to pass. They took their fish-swapping ways with them and vanished.

Canada Geese, adults and goslings, at lagoon’s edge (G. Murayama 6-21-19)

The Canada Geese pair were very successful. They had four small fluffy goslings a month ago on 26 May, and they now have four significantly larger yet still fluffy goslings. What with dogs, cats, raptors and the occasional wandering coyote or fox, one might expect some attrition in their numbers, as the Mallard and Gadwall families always experience, but all remained safe and healthy.

A trailside caterpillar, most likely an Anise Swallowtail (C. Bragg 6-23-19)

The Killdeer were also successful, and there are now several nearly-adult-plumaged and full-size young’uns wandering about. Their slightly irregular black breast band gives them away. House Finches were also very successful, and small flocks were feeding on the ground in several locations.

Brown Pelicans, Profiles in Courage (C. Bragg 6-23-19)

Some other June hangers-on are adult migrants who chose to skip breeding this year (they may be sick or wounded) and sub-adult gulls and Brown Pelicans, too young to breed. Some birds have already returned from breeding. Passing seabirds, especially Double-crested Cormorants, Brown Pelicans and various terns, resting on the lagoon’s edge after feeding nearby, make up the rest.

Heermann’s Gulls returning from breeding in the Sea of Cortez (G. Murayama 6-21-19)

A recent visitor to the lagoon was Brown Pelican tagged N47. Pelicans are typically ringed in the nest.

Brown Pelican with tag N47 at Malibu Lagoon. According to NGS field guide, the molt during incubation and “chick-feeding” produces this speckled head.  (L. Loeher 6-21-19)

According to Bird Banding Lab/USGS/Canadian Wildlife Service, the above Brown Pelican is a female, hatched in 2016, and was banded near San Pedro, Ca. on February 28, 2017 by bander Julie M. Skoglund of International Bird Rescue. So she (the pelican, not Julie) is now 3 years old.

The Nanday Parakeets weren’t in their usual spot in the bare-branched tree at Adamson House, but one alert birder (not me) heard and spotted four of them flying by.

Outlet flow undercutting brought down this large palm (G. Murayama 6-21-19)

Water in the lagoon and channel was moderately high, typical for June, although no so high as to flood our summer-clock sidewalk (see lead photo). The outlet was almost closed, and the outflow was ankle-deep in spots, easy to wade. When the beach was breached by creek flows during the winter rains, the opening was mid-way across the beach. Now it’s as far east as it can possibly be, farther east than anytime in at least the past forty years. This is easy to calculate, as the rushing waters ate away at the Adamson House property edge, carrying away part of the fence and causing a large palm to fall and their small “changing room” structure to collapse.

The fence and changing room that are no more (G. Murayama 6-21-19)

Water will probably stay high over the summer and the outlet will likely close very soon. The lagoon water may well overheat as it did last summer. I haven’t seen Striped Mullet jumping recently. If they left during the long open lagoon period, that would be a Good Thing, as they died by the thousands last summer, probably the result of hot water causing low oxygen levels.

Outlet flow undermining Adamson House protective riprap (G. Murayama 6-21-19)

We had a few species uncommon to the lagoon. Far out towards Malibu Pier we scope-spotted a pair of Common Murres. This took a while, as they were constantly diving, but they eventually surfaced long enough and did several “rise-up-and-stretch” maneuvers, allowing us to I.D. them. A Long-billed Curlew, spotted by Lu Plauzoles, briefly dropped in. This isn’t really the right habitat for them, and he or she soon left. They never stay long, and generally prefer much larger marshes or insect-laden dry fields. A male Nuttall’s Woodpecker was busily banging on a narrow tree on the Adamson House lawn, while nearby a pair of Brown-headed Cowbirds made themselves eligible for our “whoopee list.” Finally, we had a large pale-gray-mantled gull – sleeping bill-hidden but with occasional eye-opening –  which we tentatively I.D.’d as a Thayer’s (Icelandic) Gull due largely to its red orbital eyering, but I left it off the trip list due to an attack of uncertainty.

A young Great Blue Heron (L. Loeher 62119)

We didn’t see (with any degree of certainty) the Hooded Orioles at the trailside picnic area, but we found a pair over at the Adamson House, along with their usual collection of hummingbirds, mockingbirds and song sparrows.

Male Hooded Oriole at Adamson House, Malibu (Marie Barnidge-McIntyre 6-23-19)

A groundskeeper at Adamson House was watering the large rectangular sycamore-shaded lawn and it was closed to casual visitors. “When will it be open,” I inquired. “Oh, not until the end of wedding season.” “Wedding season? Weddings have a season here? I thought they were every day all year around.” No,” he replied, “April to November is wedding season. Outside of that, it might rain. They can use tents and canopies I suppose, but weddings in the rain don’t work so well.”

View seaward from our meeting spot (L. Johnson 6-23-19)

Wedding season. I thought it was fog season. If you’ve never been to Adamson House, they give tours of the house, the grounds are beautiful and beautifully maintained, and many large Matilija Poppies – aka “Fried Egg Flower” – currently line the driveway.

Birds new for the season: American Coot, Long-billed Curlew, Common Murre, Great Blue Heron, Red-tailed Hawk, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Brown-headed Cowbird.

Many thanks to our photographers: Marie Barnidge-McIntyre, Chuck Bragg, Lillian Johnson, Larry Loeher & Grace Murayama.

Our next three scheduled field trips: Malibu Lagoon 8:30 & 10am, 28 July; (Possibly) Lower Los Angeles River 7am 24 August; Malibu Lagoon 8:30 & 10am, 25 August.

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 Lillian Johnson & Lu Plauzoles for their contributions to the checklist below.  [Chuck Almdale]

Malibu Census 2018-19 1/27 2/24 3/24 4/28 5/26 6/23
Temperature 65-75 54-60 55-64 62-66 57-59 63-68
Tide Lo/Hi Height L+1.36 L+0.84 L-0.05 H+3.86 L+0.66 L+0.55
Tide Time 0913 0708 0638 0546 1040 0835
Canada Goose 2 1 6 6
Cinnamon Teal 2 2
Northern Shoveler 1
Gadwall 6 12 18 8 13 20
American Wigeon 4 8 15
Mallard 27 18 14 30 22 18
Green-winged Teal 2 2
Red-breasted Merganser 3 1 1 1
Ruddy Duck 3 5
Pied-billed Grebe 1
Eared Grebe 1
Western Grebe 2 22
Clark’s Grebe 1
Rock Pigeon 13 17 15 15 18 15
Eurasian Collared-Dove 2 4
Mourning Dove 2 2 6 3 2 4
Anna’s Hummingbird 4 1
Allen’s Hummingbird 4 2 2 3 3 6
American Coot 38 36 55 5
Black-necked Stilt 2
Black-bellied Plover 99 35 14
Snowy Plover 32 31 14 2
Semipalmated Plover 9
Killdeer 17 10 10 6 4 5
Whimbrel 7 4 55 4
Long-billed Curlew 1
Marbled Godwit 17 23 15 20
Ruddy Turnstone 4 3
Sanderling 72 32 4
Least Sandpiper 23 16 3
Western Sandpiper 2 4
Spotted Sandpiper 1 2 2 1
Willet 20 12 9 4
Common Murre 2
Bonaparte’s Gull 1
Heermann’s Gull 13 5 2 2
Ring-billed Gull 50 85 25 10 15
Western Gull 127 98 30 95 125 70
California Gull 460 140 22 45 7
Herring Gull 2 1
Glaucous-winged Gull 1 1
Least Tern 2 12
Caspian Tern 2 12 13 5
Royal Tern 4 12 65 6 2 1
Elegant Tern 43 230 165
Pacific Loon 1 1
Common Loon 2
Brandt’s Cormorant 1 20 2 1
Double-crested Cormorant 31 24 60 23 27 24
Pelagic Cormorant 2 2 2 1 2
Brown Pelican 15 37 65 58 108 74
Great Blue Heron 2 1 2 1
Great Egret 1 5 3 2 6
Snowy Egret 7 5 2 3 8 6
Black-crowned Night-Heron 1 1
Turkey Vulture 1 1 2
Red-tailed Hawk 1 2 1 1
Belted Kingfisher 1 1 1
Nuttall’s Woodpecker 1
American Kestrel 1
Peregrine Falcon 2
Nanday Parakeet 3 2 3 4
Black Phoebe 4 6 2 3 5 3
Say’s Phoebe 1
California Scrub-Jay 1 1
American Crow 9 6 6 5 6 5
Violet-green Swallow 1
Rough-winged Swallow 2 2 4
Cliff Swallow 1 6 8
Barn Swallow 3 15 14 30
Oak Titmouse 1
Bushtit 8 2 8 2 1 5
House Wren 1
Marsh Wren 1 1
Bewick’s Wren 1 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 2 1
Wrentit 2 1 1
Hermit Thrush 2
American Robin 1
Northern Mockingbird 2 3 2 3 6
European Starling 35 3 15 12 8
American Pipit 1
House Finch 28 15 8 18 8 22
Lesser Goldfinch 5
Spotted Towhee 1 2
California Towhee 1 1 3
Song Sparrow 5 15 10 12 5 5
White-crowned Sparrow 15 18 9
Golden-crowned Sparrow 1
Dark-eyed Junco 2
Western Meadowlark 2
Hooded Oriole 1 2 2
Red-winged Blackbird 4
Brown-headed Cowbird 2
Great-tailed Grackle 6 3 3 6 3
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 5 5 1 1
Yellow-rumped(Aud) Warbler 20 16 2
Totals by Type Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun
Waterfowl 45 48 53 40 41 44
Water Birds – Other 90 146 184 83 138 103
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 10 6 9 6 11 14
Quail & Raptors 1 3 2 3 0 3
Shorebirds 294 168 122 56 4 6
Gulls & Terns 657 341 189 400 334 87
Doves 15 19 21 20 20 23
Other Non-Passerines 4 6 7 7 6 11
Passerines 150 107 63 88 63 107
Totals Birds 1266 844 650 703 617 398
             
Total Species Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun
Waterfowl 6 7 7 4 3 3
Water Birds – Other 7 10 5 4 4 3
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 3 2 3 2 3 4
Quail & Raptors 1 2 2 2 0 2
Shorebirds 11 10 8 10 1 2
Gulls & Terns 7 6 8 7 7 6
Doves 2 2 2 3 2 3
Other Non-Passerines 1 3 3 4 2 3
Passerines 20 19 17 18 11 15
Totals Species – 99 58 61 55 54 33 41
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