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Geese, Ducks and Coots, Oh My! Malibu Lagoon, 27 October, 2019

October 29, 2019

Overwashed beach (C. Bragg 10-27-19)

And we walked ‘till we came to a great big pond,
With the geese and ducks and coots thereon,
‘Twas merry a sight to gaze upon,
And we all had a very fine day-o, day-o, day-o.

It seems that the foxes have given up coop-raiding, become vegetarians and taken up birding.

Greater White-fronted Geese (G. Murayama 10-25-19)

Canada Geese and Brant are by far the most common geese at the lagoon, with 54 and 51 appearances respectively (out of 358 visits). Snow Goose is a distant third with 22 visits, then Ross’s with 14. White-fronted Goose had appeared a mere 6 times and five of those visits (Oct’99 – Feb’00) were likely the same individual spending the winter.

Greater White-fronted Geese (L. Loeher 10-27-19)

So we were surprised and pleased to see these two young birds drifting around the lagoon and channel and resting on the shoreline. The “white front” refers to the forehead. You can see it on the right bird in the first picture, but not on either bird in the second photo, taken two days later. I have no explanation for this peculiarity beyond the usual tricks of light and angle, mussed feathers or the possibility that these birds are not exactly the same individuals.

Check this Great Egret closely (G. Murayama 11-1-19)

A Snow Goose was there as well, although he/she (you can’t tell the sexes apart without a very personal examination) didn’t seem to be interested in the other geese. A few days later there were two Snow Geese, plus a Brant. This young bird’s white plumage is still a bit smudgy, but it has the diagnostic goth-style “black lips.”

Coot and Snow Goose interaction; mutual suspicion? (C. Bragg 10-27-19)

Four Ring-necked Ducks were also present, either females or young males. (Young males look like females for at least several months.) This species much prefers fresh water to brackish or salt water. They can be completely absent from the lagoon all winter, yet be happily paddling around on the two small Pepperdine fresh water ponds less than a mile away. They often winter in small numbers on SoCal inland ponds and reservoirs. We’ve seen them at the lagoon only nine times, and today’s four birds is the record high count. You never see the narrow cinnamon ring around their neck unless they stretch their neck out in good light. Birders tend to call them “ring-billed” because of the easily seen white ring near the tip of the bill. The eyering with a “tear streak” behind is a good field mark for this plumage (i.e. not a male in bright colorful plumage). You can see the white bill-ring beginning to appear near the tip.

Ring-necked Duck, probably a young male (C. Tosdevin 10-27-19)

The last notable water bird was the American Coot. They’re common at the lagoon (325 out of 358 visits or 91% of the time) and they average 89 birds per visit, but the previous record coot count was 410 birds on 9-25-11. Today we had 870. It was hard to locate any of the ducks and geese among all the coots.

Birders at south viewpoint “sorting out” the coots (C. Bragg 10-27-19)

We often have Belted Kingfisher wintering at the lagoon, but today we had two, both males. A female with a deformed bill had been spotted earlier in the week. We didn’t see it but Chris Tosdevin got a photo.

Belted Kingfisher with a deformed bill (C. Tosdevin 10-22-19)

Black Turnstones at the lagoon are outnumbered more than 4-to-1 by Ruddy Turnstones (AKA The Turnstone in England), partly because the Blacks vastly prefer rocky shorelines. They always winter on the Ballona jetties. So it’s a minor surprise to see them poking around the sandy and vegetated edges of the lagoon as we did, often accompanied by Ruddys.

Black Turnstone at lagoon’s edge (L. Loeher 10/25/19)

Snowy Plovers were in abundance. We counted forty, mostly resting in dents in the sand. We didn’t see any bands, but then we didn’t make them all stand up so we could see their legs.

Gadwall in the distance are a boring gray. The fine vermiculations are visible only when close (L. Loeher 10/27/19)

Here’s a quiz, submitted by Grace Murayama.

It’s about the size of a Corona bottle. What is it? (answer** at bottom)
(G. Murayama 10-25-19)

Birds new for the season: Snow Goose, Greater White-fronted Goose, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, Ring-necked Duck, Ruddy Duck, Horned Grebe, Eared Grebe, Black Turnstone, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Turkey Vulture, Common Raven, Rough-winged Swallow, Cedar Waxwing, Yellow-rumped Warbler.

Many thanks to our photographers: Chuck Bragg, Larry Loeher, Grace Murayama & Chris Tosdevin.

Adult White-crowned Sparrow (L. Loeher 10/27/19)

Our next three scheduled field trips: Ballona Fresh Water Marsh 8am, Sat 9 November; Malibu Lagoon 8:30 & 10am, Sun 24 November; Back Bay Newport 8am, Sat 14 December.

Allen’s Hummingbird
(C. Tosdevin 10-27-19)

Our next program: Birding Great Britain, presented by Chrystal Klabunde. Tuesday, 3 December, 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-Dec2015:Jan-May, July-Dec
2014:Jan-July,July-Dec2013:Jan-June, July-Dec
2012:Jan-June, July -Dec2011:Jan-June, July-Dec
2010:Jan-June, July-Dec2009: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, Femi Faminu, Larry Loeher, Grace Murayama & Chris Tosdevin for their contributions to this month’s checklist.  [Chuck Almdale]

**Wilson’s Snipe. Yes, non-birders, there really is an animal called a snipe. They’re very cryptically plumaged and hard to see when they don’t move.

Malibu Census 2019 5/26 6/23 7/28 8/28 9/22 10/27
Temperature 57-59 63-68 62-66 72-78 70-77 61-71
Tide Lo/Hi Height L+0.66 L+0.55 H+3.46 H+3.39 L+3.21 H+6.41
Tide Time 1040 0835 0817 0725 0930 0907
Snow Goose 1
Gr. White-fronted Goose 2
Canada Goose 6 6 6
Gadwall 13 20 18 20
American Wigeon 6
Mallard 22 18 18 18 40 35
Green-winged Teal 2
Ring-necked Duck 4
Ruddy Duck 3
Pied-billed Grebe 1 2 8 6
Horned Grebe 1
Eared Grebe 4
Rock Pigeon 18 15 18 5 6 8
Eurasian Collared-Dove 4 2
Mourning Dove 2 4 8 2 1 2
Anna’s Hummingbird 1 1 2
Allen’s Hummingbird 3 6 9 1 5 4
American Coot 5 4 4 84 870
Black-bellied Plover 36 72 78 74
Snowy Plover 11 14 42 40
Semipalmated Plover 2 2 3
Killdeer 4 5 8 4 5 10
Whimbrel 85 15 20 3
Long-billed Curlew 1 2 1 1
Marbled Godwit 1 17 24 24
Ruddy Turnstone 2 4 8
Black Turnstone 2
Sanderling 57 35
Least Sandpiper 3 5 3
Pectoral Sandpiper 1
Western Sandpiper 1 17 1
Short-billed Dowitcher 3 1
Spotted Sandpiper 1 1 3 1
Willet 15 16 52 13
Red-necked Phalarope 5 8
Common Murre 2
Heermann’s Gull 2 2 15 2 14 16
Ring-billed Gull 15 8 45
Western Gull 125 70 80 18 29 85
California Gull 7 2 93 115
Herring Gull 2
Glaucous-winged Gull 1
Least Tern 12 2 5
Caspian Tern 13 5 3 12
Royal Tern 2 1 2 4 1 5
Elegant Tern 165 64
Brandt’s Cormorant 1 1 1
Double-crested Cormorant 27 24 22 20 39 35
Pelagic Cormorant 2
Brown Pelican 108 74 34 6 30 52
Great Blue Heron 1 4 3 3 7
Great Egret 2 6 2 4 4
Snowy Egret 8 6 19 11 18 8
Green Heron 1 1
Black-crowned Night-Heron 1 1 2 3 3
Turkey Vulture 2 2
Osprey 1
Cooper’s Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1 1
Belted Kingfisher 1 2
Nuttall’s Woodpecker 1 1
Nanday Parakeet 3 4
Black Phoebe 5 3 3 2 8 5
Say’s Phoebe 1 2
Cassin’s Kingbird 1
Western Kingbird 3
California Scrub-Jay 1
American Crow 6 5 5 4 6 8
Common Raven 1
Violet-green Swallow 1
Rough-winged Swallow 4 1
Cliff Swallow 6 8 11
Barn Swallow 14 30 21 7 2
Bushtit 1 5 30 20 5 8
House Wren 4 1
Marsh Wren 1 5
Bewick’s Wren 1 2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 4 3
Wrentit 1 1 1 3
Western Bluebird 7
Northern Mockingbird 3 6 4 2 2 2
European Starling 12 8 25 8 23 50
Cedar Waxwing 18
House Finch 8 22 25 3 5 5
California Towhee 3 2 1 3
Song Sparrow 5 5 4 3 8 8
White-crowned Sparrow 2 10
Western Meadowlark 1
Hooded Oriole 2 2 4 2
Brown-headed Cowbird 2 15 1
Brewer’s Blackbird 34
Great-tailed Grackle 3 4 2 1 7
Orange-crowned Warbler 1 3
Common Yellowthroat 2 1 7 3
Yellow Warbler 5
Yellow-rumped (Aud) Warbler 15
Totals by Type May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct
Waterfowl 41 44 42 18 40 73
Water Birds – Other 138 103 61 32 162 969
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 11 14 27 21 29 16
Quail & Raptors 0 3 0 1 2 2
Shorebirds 4 6 162 172 305 213
Gulls & Terns 334 87 111 107 137 268
Doves 20 23 26 7 9 10
Other Non-Passerines 6 11 11 2 6 8
Passerines 63 107 130 84 143 152
Totals Birds 617 398 570 444 833 1711
             
Total Species May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct
Waterfowl 3 3 3 1 1 8
Water Birds – Other 4 3 4 4 5 7
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 3 4 4 4 5 3
Quail & Raptors 0 2 0 1 2 1
Shorebirds 1 2 10 14 16 11
Gulls & Terns 7 6 7 7 4 6
Doves 2 3 2 2 3 2
Other Non-Passerines 2 3 3 2 2 3
Passerines 11 15 13 17 27 18
Totals Species – 96 33 41 46 52 65 59
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