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Wind and waves whittle a narrow beach, 26 January, 2020

January 29, 2020

The rare Scythe-billed Gull? No, a Western Gull with an unusually long hook
(G. Murayama 1-20-20 Malibu Lagoon)

We began a blustery morning of birding with eighteen participants, including a few new faces willing to brave the elements. The predicted high tide of +6.43 feet at 7:02 am was considerably boosted by winds. Surf warnings on the beach were not joking and we found the high seas and surf a bit threatening out on the “spit” – all that remained of the beach.

Western Snowy Plovers on wet sand (G. Murayama 1-20-20 Malibu Lagoon)

Western Snowy Plover looks a bit mournful on the damp sand
(G. Murayama 1-20-20 Malibu Lagoon)

Western Snowy Plover banded Yy:ob at Moss Landing, Monterey Bay, 7/18/18
(G. Murayama 1-24-20 Malibu Lagoon)

The Snowy Plovers were far across the lagoon. In order to count them we had to circle back around, cross the Pacific Coast Highway bridge, and go through the Adamson House property. From the stairs of the boat house & dock on the east side of the lagoon, behind a wall of wind-blown reeds, we managed to count fourteen. Better views from the beach side of the house were impossible, as the lagoon breach and the waves lapped up to the rip-rap at the edge of the lawn and at our feet.  [Text by Lucian Plauzoles, slightly modified]

The rest of this posting consists primarily of recent lagoon photos, not all from the day of the bird walk, with a few comments.

We usually find Say’s Phoebes sitting on a sprinkler spigot.
(L. Loeher 1-24-20 Malibu Lagoon)

This Belted Kingfisher really enjoys this particular snag
(L. Loeher 1-24-20 Malibu Lagoon)

A male Pintail points, but the American Wigeons seem oblivious
(G. Murayama 1-24-20 Malibu Lagoon)

Bufflehead female chugging along (C. Tosdevin 1-26-20 Malibu Lagoon)

 

Yellow-rumped Warbler are common, even abundant, winter residents all over SoCal (G. Murayama 1-24-20 Malibu Lagoon)

Herring Gull (C. Tosdevin 1-26-20 Malibu Lagoon)

Herring Gulls are common winter visitors at the lagoon, but always in very low numbers (out of 60 total visits, 42 were of single birds). They are the size of a Western Gull (25″ long) with similar pink legs, dark wing tips, white tail, pale eye, and large yellow bill with a single red spot, or a darkish tip as in this bird. But the head and neck are streaked and the mantle is pale gray like that of a California Gull (compare to the Western Gull in lead photo). On the east coast they are far more abundant and are literally trash birds, as they now utilize human dumps as a major source of food.

Egyptian Goose, a long way from home. Actually they’ve been common on our golf courses for at least 30 years, but recently they seem to be expanding their habitat choices. (L. Loeher 1-20-20 Malibu Lagoon)

This American Oystercatcher, or perhaps more than one, has been a regular visitor on Malibu rocks at low tide for the past few months. (G. Murayama 1-20-20 Malibu Lagoon)

We get all three western cormorants quite regularly. They don’t always show up at the same time, and we rarely have the opportunity to photograph them together, as Chris Tosdevin did with this fortunate photo below. At Malibu, this conjunction is only possible on the offshore rocks. The tide must also be sufficiently low that the waves won’t right over the rocks, as cormorants won’t put up with that. Double-cresteds can be found inland from Malibu Lagoon, just inside the sandy beach, all the way to Cheyenne Bottoms in the middle of Kansas, and onward across eastern America and the Great Lakes to the Atlantic shore. The Brandt’s and Pelagic Cormorants are salt-water birds, rarely daring to cross the beach to the lagoon. We see them resting on offshore rocks and swimming in the ocean, patrolling for fish. In 40 years, I’ve seen a Pelagic in the lagoon perhaps 6 times, and can’t recall ever seeing any Brandt’s there. But my notes are poor on this point, so I could be slightly off. (You can forget about Red-faced Cormorants south of Alaska.)

Cormorants left to right: Brandt’s (probably), Double-crested, Brandt’s, Pelagic (C. Tosdevin 1-4-20 Malibu Lagoon)

The Double-crested Cormorant has a large gular pouch colored yellow-to-orange. The colored area on the Brandt’s pouch is smaller and of a less colorful beige. When breeding the forward part of the pouch is blue. The Pelagic Cormorant is smaller and slimmer than the other two, with a slimmer bill, and has no noticeable color on it’s pouch. In breeding the skin around the eyes is red and it has a white lower flank patch. But these breeding colors don’t stay around for long.

Pelagic Cormorant in flight. Note total lack of beige, yellow or orange chin (gular pouch) (C. Tosdevin 1-26-20 Malibu Lagoon)

In the above photo, you can see some of the primary feathers are growing in. Primary feathers grow from the bird’s equivalent of the human hand – the carpometacarpus and phalanges (roughly equivalent to human metacarpals and phalanges – hand and finger bones); secondary feathers grow from the ulna, equivalent to the human ulna (rearward of our two forearm bones).  [Chuck Almdale]

Golden-crowned Sparrow, uncommon winterer at the lagoon
(C. Tosdevin 1-26-20 Malibu Lagoon)

Many thanks to our photographers: Larry Loeher, Grace Murayama, Lu Plauzoles, & Chris Tosdevin. Note: A few of Chris Tosdevin’s photos were featured in the Malibu Times on January 20.

Bushtit (L. Loeher 1-24-20 Malibu Lagoon)

Our next three scheduled field trips: Madrona Marsh 8am, Sat. 8 February; Malibu Lagoon 8:30 & 10am, Sun. 23 February; Sepulveda Basin 8am, Sat. 14 March.

Our next program: Cuban Birds & Island Biogeography, with Tom Hinnebusch. Tuesday, 4 February, 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 out for Willie the Weasel. He’ll be watching for you and your big floppy feet.

Links: Unusual birds at Malibu Lagoon
9/23/02 Aerial photo of Malibu Lagoon

Prior checklists:
2019: Jan-June, July-Dec
2018: Jan-June, July-Dec  2017: 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 Lucien Plauzoles with assistance from Chris Lord & Chris Tosdevin for this month’s checklist.  [Chuck Almdale]

Malibu Census 2019-20 8/28 9/22 10/27 11/24 12/22 1/26
Temperature 72-78 70-77 61-71 62-72 54-64 56-58
Tide Lo/Hi Height H+3.39 L+3.21 H+6.41 H+6.43 H+6.08 H+6.43
Tide Time 0725 0930 0907 0705 0603 0705
Snow Goose 1
Gr. White-fronted Goose 2
Canada Goose 6
Northern Shoveler 13
Gadwall 20 8 14 29
American Wigeon 6 14
Mallard 18 40 35 15 22 13
Northern Pintail 2
Green-winged Teal 2 4 20 36
Redhead 1
Ring-necked Duck 4 1
Greater Scaup 1
Surf Scoter 34
Bufflehead 8
Hooded Merganser 2
Red-breasted Merganser 5 13 2
Ruddy Duck 3 10 22
Pied-billed Grebe 2 8 6 7 6 1
Horned Grebe 1 1
Eared Grebe 4 8 2
Western Grebe 14
Rock Pigeon 5 6 8 8 6 8
Eurasian Collared-Dove 2
Mourning Dove 2 1 2 2 2 2
Anna’s Hummingbird 1 2 1 1 1
Allen’s Hummingbird 1 5 4 3 5 3
Sora 1
American Coot 4 84 870 210 45 12
Black-bellied Plover 72 78 74 85 35 43
Snowy Plover 14 42 40 43 39 14
Semipalmated Plover 2 3
Killdeer 4 5 10 17 17 16
Whimbrel 15 20 3 3 3 4
Long-billed Curlew 1 1
Marbled Godwit 17 24 24 10 12 12
Ruddy Turnstone 2 4 8 12 10 5
Black Turnstone 2 3
Sanderling 57 35 24 28 12
Least Sandpiper 3 5 3 1 2
Pectoral Sandpiper 1
Western Sandpiper 17 1 1
Short-billed Dowitcher 3 1
Spotted Sandpiper 1 3 1 1
Willet 16 52 13 6 4 20
Red-necked Phalarope 5 8
Heermann’s Gull 2 14 16 22 4 8
Ring-billed Gull 45 25 50 6
Western Gull 18 29 85 110 120 11
California Gull 2 93 115 420 1100 110
Herring Gull 2 1 2
Glaucous-winged Gull 1 3 2
Least Tern 5
Caspian Tern 12
Royal Tern 4 1 5 9 4 1
Elegant Tern 64
Red-throated Loon 1
Pacific Loon 1
Brandt’s Cormorant 1 1 2
Double-crested Cormorant 20 39 35 35 37 18
Pelagic Cormorant 1 2 1
Brown Pelican 6 30 52 12 26 32
Great Blue Heron 3 3 7 6 4 2
Great Egret 4 4
Snowy Egret 11 18 8 3 24 1
Green Heron 1 1 1
Black-crowned Night-Heron 3 3 1
Turkey Vulture 2 2 1
Osprey 1 1
Cooper’s Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1 1
Belted Kingfisher 1 2 1 1 1
Nuttall’s Woodpecker 1 1
American Kestrel 1
Peregrine Falcon 1
Black Phoebe 2 8 5 8 2 3
Say’s Phoebe 1 2 2 2 3
Cassin’s Kingbird 1
Western Kingbird 3
California Scrub-Jay 1 1
American Crow 4 6 8 5 4 2
Common Raven 1
Rough-winged Swallow 1
Cliff Swallow 11
Barn Swallow 7 2
Bushtit 20 5 8 40 10
House Wren 4 1 1
Marsh Wren 1 5 3 2
Bewick’s Wren 1 2 1 1 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 4 3 11
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1 1
Wrentit 1 3 2
Western Bluebird 7
Northern Mockingbird 2 2 2 2 1 2
European Starling 8 23 50 18
Cedar Waxwing 18
American Pipit 1
House Finch 3 5 5 6 6
Lesser Goldfinch 2 1
Spotted Towhee 1
California Towhee 1 3
Song Sparrow 3 8 8 6 5 1
White-crowned Sparrow 2 10 4 5 4
Golden-crowned Sparrow 1 1
Western Meadowlark 1 2
Hooded Oriole 2
Brown-headed Cowbird 15 1
Brewer’s Blackbird 34
Great-tailed Grackle 2 1 7 4 2 3
Orange-crowned Warbler 1 3
Common Yellowthroat 1 7 3 8 2
Yellow Warbler 5
Yellow-rumped(Aud) Warbler 15 5 11 8
Totals by Type Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan
Waterfowl 18 40 73 45 93 157
Water Birds – Other 32 162 969 290 119 66
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 21 29 16 11 28 3
Quail & Raptors 1 2 2 2 3 2
Shorebirds 172 305 213 205 149 128
Gulls & Terns 107 137 268 587 1282 140
Doves 7 9 10 10 8 10
Other Non-Passerines 2 6 8 6 8 5
Passerines 84 143 152 132 43 43
Totals Birds 444 833 1711 1288 1733 554
             
Total Species Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan
Waterfowl 1 1 8 8 6 10
Water Birds – Other 4 5 7 10 7 6
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 4 5 3 4 2 2
Quail & Raptors 1 2 1 2 2 2
Shorebirds 14 16 11 11 9 9
Gulls & Terns 7 4 6 6 7 7
Doves 2 3 2 2 2 2
Other Non-Passerines 2 2 3 4 4 3
Passerines 17 27 18 21 13 15
Totals Species – 112 52 65 59 68 52 56

 

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