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Fog migration at Malibu Lagoon, 28 July, 2019

August 1, 2019

Black-bellied Plover dancing with delight and a piece of algae (R. Juncosa 7-28-19)

Our popular Los Angeles County Birding Spots page advises visitors that we really do have four seasons, despite persistent erroneous rumors to the contrary. They are:
Fog: along the coast April – June, often into July, occasionally well into August
Smog: April – November
Fire: June – December, especially August to November;
Mudslide (aka Rain):  November – April.
You’ll notice that totals to 24-26 months per year. Everything is better in California.

A very foggy morning in color – not black & white (L. Johnson 7-28-19)

We had fog in June (see last month’s photos) and now in late July it’s still foggy. Fog season is no flight of fancy. Absent in June, migrants are now returning from the north, and you can never be sure when or what will suddenly drop out of the fog, unannounced. I’d already counted 25 Whimbrels when a large flock of large sandpipers swooped from the sky, adding 60 Whimbrels, two Long-billed Curlews and a Marbled Godwit. Long-billed sandpipers apparently like to travel together.

The “warm” browns of a Long-billed Curlew (G. Murayama 7-19-19)

Summer tidal clock, partially flooded (L. Johnson 7-28-19)

Summer tidal clock depth marker (L. Johnson 7-28-19)

Water was high in the lagoon. Mud and detritus covered the lower tidal clock marker-tiles and the lowest clean tile was 8′ 7.7″. We estimated the water level to be 7.5 – 8 ft above mean low low tide. This is typical during the summer lagoon closures.

Ducks begin arriving in October. Currently we have only our locally breeding Mallard and Gadwall, with a half-dozen small families paddling about. The males are either in hiding or off doing whatever male ducks do this time of year. The Canada Goose family remains at six, and the four young are nearly full-grown, black necks with white chin-patches. Snowy Egrets have finished breeding across the street and the 19 birds foraging in the lagoon are likely from that location. Two adult Black-crowned Night-Herons – one in the west channel and one on the east side – were hunting in daylight. These crepuscular (twilight-preferring) large-eyed birds usually roost during daytime, but fog or heavy clouds often make it dim enough for them to be active.

Black-crowned Night-Heron stalks the shallows (G. Murayama 7-19-19)

No Nanday Parakeets were seen, but for the second month in a row a Nuttall’s Woodpecker was heard, as was a Wrentit by ever-alert birders Femi Faminu and Chris Tosdevin. That’s six months out of the last nine for the Wrentit. I’m beginning to think that last fall’s fire pushed at least one of these chaparrals-lovers into permanent residence in the dense brush edging the park. At the picnic spot Chris T. also spotted an immature Hooded Oriole high in the bougainvillea, which few others saw, and then nailed an adult male Hooded in a golf course conifer, which everyone saw. Thanks, Chris! Later on, while returning from the beach, that other sharp-eyed & eared Chris Lord spotted what was probably the whole family – four Hooded Orioles. It was Chris-mass in July (cue the chorus of groans).

Narrow beach looking east towards Malibu Pier, almost lost in fog (L. Johnson 7-28-19)

High tide & big waves means narrow beach. Right side of virtual fence is the Snowy Plover exclusion area.
(G. Murayama 7-19-19)

Most of the rest of the birds were down on the south edge of the lagoon. Recent high tides had eaten away the beach until barely anything was left outside the Snowy Plover exclosure virtual fence, and the beachblanket crowd complained for lack of sand. The beach was wide and unpopulated closer to Adamson House, all of 40 yards away, but closer to the pier it narrowed again and was almost standing-room-only with people.

Semipalmated Plovers stopover briefly every spring and fall (R. Juncosa 7-28-19)

 

Surfers of all ages from all over had shown up for a Memorial Paddle-Out for SoCal board-shaper and surf legend, Glen Kennedy. Read about Glen and the paddle-out event in the links  to the Shacked Mag website supplied above. You’ll see some amazing photos.

 

Brown Pelican diving (C. Bragg 7-28-19)

This Royal Tern has slightly more dark in the underwing primary tips than do Elegant Terns (G. Murayama 7-19-19)

We checked the offshore rocks by the west end of the beach adjacent to Malibu Colony, but the tide hadn’t dropped much from the 8:17am high of +3.46 ft. and waves washed over the rocks every 20 seconds, far too often for birds to want to perch there. The only bird on the sea was a lone Double-crested Cormorant. Visibility was still limited by the fog. Several dozen Yoganistas were on their towels in their usual spot next to the colony, led by the Asana Queen. I always have to fight the temptation to holler something annoying, like “Work it out. Work it. Go for the burn!” as they proceed languidly through their gentle stretches.

After young Great-tailed Grackles fledge from the nest, their parents take them around the neighborhood to show them where and how to find food. For a while the parents do all the work, with the young finding it only when the parent opens their bill to reveal it. But they soon catch on, foraging alongside their parents. Our grackles are now resident year-round, after arriving in the Los Angeles area about 20 years ago. I first recorded them at the lagoon on 8/26/01. They typically remain together as a family unit until the following spring, when the adults again begin breeding and the young leave to find mates and nests of their own.

Great-tailed Grackle mother feeds her noisy child (C. Bragg 7-28-19)

Plovers were abundant: 8 Killdeer, 2 Semipalmated, 36 Black-bellied, most still with the black bellies of breeding, and 11 Snowy Plovers, none with bands. The only “peep” (small sandpipers that go “peep peep,” hence the nickname) was a lone Western Sandpiper at lagoon edge. We sorted through the collection of waders and gulls for a while, discussing plumages, migration and oddities of bird life.

Western Sandpiper with arrowhead breast spots (R. Juncosa 7-28-19)

One of the three Caspian Terns had an odd growth, the same orange-red color as it’s bill, and protruding from the throat feathers just below the bill. Once, when it moved it’s head quickly, the growth seemed to wiggle as if it were not solidly attached to the bird, but only stuck to the feathers. One person thought it might be its tongue, protruding through a chin-hole, but the curvature of the protrusion never changed.

Caspian Tern with weird facial growth (or tongue?), and a Whimbrel (R. Juncosa 7-28-19)

The lagoon is now closed to the ocean and a few of us plowed our way through the paddle-out crowd on Surfrider Beach and on to Adamson House. There, as always, they were getting ready for a wedding, but among the bushes and flowers we found an assortment of Allen’s Hummingbirds, Black Phoebes, Mockingbirds, House Finches, California Towhees, Song Sparrows and – in the small marshy pond by the boat house – a dozing Mallard and a busy Spotted Sandpiper, teetering on a log.

Mmmmmm…swiming through your lunch (C. Bragg 7-28-19)

Snowy plover, in for the winter
(G. Murayama 7-19-19)

 Birds new for the season: Pied-billed Grebe, Anna’s Hummingbird, Black-bellied Plover, Snowy Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Whimbrel, Marbled Godwit, Western Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Willet, Glaucous-winged Gull, Common Yellowthroat.

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

Canada Goose landing wrecklessly
(R. Juncosa 7-28-19)

Our next three scheduled field trips: Malibu Lagoon 8:30 & 10am, 25 August; Coastal Cleanup Day at Malibu Lagoon 9am – Noon, Sat. 21 September; Malibu Lagoon 8:30 & 10am, 22 September.

Our next program: Birds, Bees and Butterflies: Native Planting in Your Yard, 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:
2019: Jan-June
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 Chuck Bragg, Adrian Douglas, Femi Faminu, Lillian Johnson, Chris Lord, Lu Plauzoles, and Chris Tosdevin for their contributions to this month’s checklist.  [Chuck Almdale]

Malibu Census 2019 2/24 3/24 4/28 5/26 6/23 7/28
Temperature 54-60 55-64 62-66 57-59 63-68 62-66
Tide Lo/Hi Height L+0.84 L-0.05 H+3.86 L+0.66 L+0.55 H+3.46
Tide Time 0708 0638 0546 1040 0835 0817
Canada Goose 2 1 6 6 6
Cinnamon Teal 2 2
Northern Shoveler 1
Gadwall 12 18 8 13 20 18
American Wigeon 8 15
Mallard 18 14 30 22 18 18
Green-winged Teal 2
Red-breasted Merganser 1 1 1
Ruddy Duck 5
Pied-billed Grebe 1 1
Eared Grebe 1
Western Grebe 22
Clark’s Grebe 1
Rock Pigeon 17 15 15 18 15 18
Eurasian Collared-Dove 2 4
Mourning Dove 2 6 3 2 4 8
Anna’s Hummingbird 4 1 1
Allen’s Hummingbird 2 2 3 3 6 9
American Coot 36 55 5 4
Black-necked Stilt 2
Black-bellied Plover 35 14 36
Snowy Plover 31 14 2 11
Semipalmated Plover 9 2
Killdeer 10 10 6 4 5 8
Whimbrel 4 55 4 85
Long-billed Curlew 1 2
Marbled Godwit 23 15 20 1
Ruddy Turnstone 3
Sanderling 32 4
Least Sandpiper 16 3
Western Sandpiper 4 1
Spotted Sandpiper 2 2 1 1
Willet 12 9 4 15
Common Murre 2
Bonaparte’s Gull 1
Heermann’s Gull 5 2 2 15
Ring-billed Gull 85 25 10 15 8
Western Gull 98 30 95 125 70 80
California Gull 140 22 45 7
Herring Gull 1
Glaucous-winged Gull 1 1
Least Tern 2 12 2
Caspian Tern 2 12 13 5 3
Royal Tern 12 65 6 2 1 2
Elegant Tern 43 230 165
Pacific Loon 1
Common Loon 2
Brandt’s Cormorant 20 2 1
Double-crested Cormorant 24 60 23 27 24 22
Pelagic Cormorant 2 2 1 2
Brown Pelican 37 65 58 108 74 34
Great Blue Heron 1 2 1 4
Great Egret 5 3 2 6 2
Snowy Egret 5 2 3 8 6 19
Black-crowned Night-Heron 1 1 2
Turkey Vulture 1 1 2
Red-tailed Hawk 2 1 1
Belted Kingfisher 1 1 1
Nuttall’s Woodpecker 1 1
American Kestrel 1
Peregrine Falcon 2
Nanday Parakeet 3 2 3 4
Black Phoebe 6 2 3 5 3 3
California Scrub-Jay 1 1
American Crow 6 6 5 6 5 5
Violet-green Swallow 1
Rough-winged Swallow 2 2 4
Cliff Swallow 1 6 8
Barn Swallow 3 15 14 30 21
Bushtit 2 8 2 1 5 30
Marsh Wren 1 1
Bewick’s Wren 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 2 1
Wrentit 2 1 1 1
American Robin 1
Northern Mockingbird 2 3 2 3 6 4
European Starling 3 15 12 8 25
House Finch 15 8 18 8 22 25
Spotted Towhee 2
California Towhee 1 1 3 2
Song Sparrow 15 10 12 5 5 4
White-crowned Sparrow 18 9
Dark-eyed Junco 2
Western Meadowlark 2
Hooded Oriole 1 2 2 4
Red-winged Blackbird 4
Brown-headed Cowbird 2
Great-tailed Grackle 3 3 6 3 4
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 5 1 1 2
Yellow-rumped (Aud) Warbler 16 2
Totals by Type Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul
Waterfowl 48 53 40 41 44 42
Water Birds – Other 146 184 83 138 103 61
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 6 9 6 11 14 27
Quail & Raptors 3 2 3 0 3 0
Shorebirds 168 122 56 4 6 162
Gulls & Terns 341 189 400 334 87 111
Doves 19 21 20 20 23 26
Other Non-Passerines 6 7 7 6 11 11
Passerines 107 63 88 63 107 130
Totals Birds 844 650 703 617 398 570
             
Total Species Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul
Waterfowl 7 7 4 3 3 3
Water Birds – Other 10 5 4 4 3 4
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 2 3 2 3 4 4
Quail & Raptors 2 2 2 0 2 0
Shorebirds 10 8 10 1 2 10
Gulls & Terns 6 8 7 7 6 7
Doves 2 2 3 2 3 2
Other Non-Passerines 3 3 4 2 3 3
Passerines 19 17 18 11 15 13
Totals Species – 92 61 55 54 33 41 46

 

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