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Social distance birding at Malibu Lagoon Part II, 26 August, 2020

September 5, 2020

It again seemed like a good time to see if field trips were feasible.

“Nobody on the road, nobody on the beach…” (L. Johnson 08-26-20)

Another socially distanced masked walk at the lagoon. Again, seven showed, neither magnificent nor the same as last month. Fog was thick and low – atypical for late August. Temperatures until noon were pleasant between 70° and 76°F.

Tidal clock high and dry (L. Johnson 08-26-20)

Fourteen birds were “new for the season,” the lagoon berm breach had opened up a week earlier, all the water drained out to the ocean, small pools of shallow water dotted the sand and mud. Snowy Plovers now numbered 26, up from July’s 8. No orioles or hummingbirds were seen. Beyond that, everything was exactly the same as in July.

Several of 16 Barn Swallows on the railing (R. Jucosa 8-26-20)

So what was “exactly the same?,” you say. Why, I’m glad you asked. Relatively few people on the beach,  well spaced apart in groups, family groups perhaps, very few wearing masks when within their groups or down at the wave zone. Suited surfers on nicely shaped waves.

Down the channel to the beach (L. Johnson 08-26-20)

The berm breach ran through the west end of the beach. People coming on the path from the west end parking lot, as we do, had little room in which to spread out. Anyone coming from the east end entrance near the pier would find it a long walk to get to the edge of the lagoon. Of course you could wade across the breach, as I did, and dampen your toes with lagoon water; not always the best of ideas.

Western Sandpiper (R. Jucosa 8-26-20)

Overall I’d say the business of wearing masks when appropriate and not when you don’t need it seems to be catching on. Most people coming down the path wore theirs, then likely removed them once they’d planted themselves on a sequestered patch of sand. This seems acceptable to me. Praise the lord and pass the bananas.

Some juvenile Ruddy Turnstones can look like an odd Black Turnstone
(L. Loeher 8-27-20)

Two Black Turnstones for comparison (L. Loeher 8-27-20)

The very first birds I saw were 25 Western Meadowlarks overhead at the channel’s west end, near the acceptably clean port-a-potties. Few ducks and no coots were on the water, probably due to lack of water. (Duh.) A lone male Green-winged Teal was a surprise; they usually don’t show up until September, or later.

Semipalmated Plovers appear for a while when migrating south
(L. Loeher 8-27-20)

Almost all shorebirds, gulls and terns were clustered onto an exposed sand island located midway across the lagoon east-west, near the southern shore. It was a difficult seeing them well through the fog. A few peeps were closer along the channel edge, where we found the photographed birds, plus what we thought were two Pectoral Sandpipers. Later examination of fuzzy photographs did not support that identification. Complete absence of hummingbirds was surprising; historically we have Anna’s 69% and Allen’s 94% of the time. But plenty of Bushtits were present in two groups of 20 birds and 30 birds.

Bushtit male (dark eye) & female (light eye) (R. Jucosa 8-26-20)

We solved the problem of mask-wearing fogging your glasses and binoculars. Well…an alert reader sent us the solution after my bitter complaint last month. Fold up repeatedly a tissue or section(s) of toilet paper into a strip, lay it over your nose and cheeks just under the upper edge of your mask. Voilà! The rising steam is diverted elsewhere. It works! Try it. The reader (Joyce, I believe) learned it from a surgeon.

Here’s a wistful song for a gloomy day at summer’s end: Don Henley’s The Boys of Summer. Cue it up, return here, and let it run while you finish reading.

Western Roof-Cormorant, Pelagic morph (R. Jucosa 8-26-20)

Nothing on the ocean, nothing on the outer rocks, only one of the rarely-sighted Western Roof Cormorant (Pelagic morph) comfortably ensconced in its favored habitat. The Pelagic Cormorant (for that is truly what it was) really do not like to come inland and the edge of this roof must have been at least 10 ft. inland of the edge of the ocean. A courageous and adventurous bird!

Beach & breach (L. Johnson 08-26-20)

When we got to the berm breach, I – in my sockless Crocs – was the only one to ford the outlet stream. Perhaps hereafter we should call it “Crocford” Creek. Everyone else had shoes and long pants.

1st year Heermann’s Gull (L. Loeher 8-27-20)

There were very few humans here on the beach, which left plenty of room for Willets, Whimbrels and Snowy Plovers. I was also able to do some re-counts and get better numbers on the gulls and terns.

New bird on the beach – Western Snowy Plover G:yg (G. Murayama 8-27-20)

When I returned, those who hadn’t waded Crocford intermittent Creek had gone. While walking back along the path from the beach I spotted a piece of trash fluttering nearby, and picked it up to toss into the next bin. It was the front page of a newspaper, not the L.A. Times. A headline read “There is still time.” A bit mysterious, I thought, but I was in a hurry to get back to the car and binned it.

Birds new for the season: Green-winged Teal, Semipalmated Plover, Pectoral Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, Lease Tern, Forster’s Tern, Royal Tern, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Osprey, Belted Kingfisher, Rough-winged Swallow, House Wren, Western Bluebird, Western Meadowlark. [Some of these species may have been present in March & April, but we weren’t there to see.]

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

Our next three scheduled field trips: Who knows? Not I.
Our next program: We plan on doing a Zoom program in October. Watch for announcements.
NOTE: Our 10 a.m. Parent’s & Kids Birdwalk is canceled until further notice due to the near-impossibility of maintaining proper masked social distancing with parents and small children.

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

Prior checklists:
2019: Jan-June, July-Dec 
2020: Jan-July,    
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.
[Chuck Almdale]

Malibu Census 2020 1/26 2/23 5/22 6/25 7/22 8/26
Temperature 56-58 56-62 68-73 64-70 60-66 70-77
Tide Lo/Hi Height H+6.43 H+5.70 H+3.53 L-0.52 L+0.71 L+2.52
Tide Time 0705 0934 1031 0733 0819 0958
Canada Goose 6 14 8 8
Cinnamon Teal 19
Northern Shoveler 13 12
Gadwall 29 39 34 31 40 5
American Wigeon 14 7
Mallard 13 10 12 23 27 16
Northern Pintail 1
Green-winged Teal 36 35
Canvasback 1
Surf Scoter 34 5
White-winged Scoter 1
Bufflehead 8 4
Hooded Merganser 2
Red-breasted Merganser 2 6
Ruddy Duck 35
Pied-billed Grebe 1 1 3 3
Western Grebe 6 1
Rock Pigeon 8 15 7 10 4
Mourning Dove 2 4 4 3 5
Anna’s Hummingbird 1 1 1
Allen’s Hummingbird 3 3 4 3 3
American Coot 12 40 4 2
Black-bellied Plover 43 57 14 10 15 66
Snowy Plover 14 4 8 26
Semipalmated Plover 4
Killdeer 16 12 2 6 2 7
Whimbrel 4 3 18 5 15 14
Marbled Godwit 12 52 4 1
Ruddy Turnstone 5 8 2 2
Sanderling 12 14
Least Sandpiper 2 2 19
Western Sandpiper 5 2 1 8
Short-billed Dowitcher 2
Long-billed Dowitcher 4
Wandering Tattler 1
Willet 20 6 1 6 8 47
Heermann’s Gull 8 3 4 9 65 10
Ring-billed Gull 6 44
Western Gull 11 82 210 120 90 98
California Gull 110 215 4 17
Herring Gull 2
Glaucous-winged Gull 2 3 3
Least Tern 2 2
Caspian Tern 60 15 4 1
Forster’s Tern 4
Royal Tern 1 6 55 11
Elegant Tern 195 221
Brandt’s Cormorant 2 1
Double-crested Cormorant 18 35 14 15 16 18
Pelagic Cormorant 1 1 1
Brown Pelican 32 38 94 30 19 8
Great Blue Heron 2 2 3 2 4
Great Egret 1 3 4
Snowy Egret 1 6 3 2 8 4
Black-crowned Night-Heron 1 2
Turkey Vulture 1 5
Osprey 1 1
Cooper’s Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 3
Belted Kingfisher 1 1 1
Nuttall’s Woodpecker 1
Peregrine Falcon 1
Nanday Parakeet 7
Black Phoebe 3 4 1 5 5
Say’s Phoebe 3 2
California Scrub-Jay 1 1 1
American Crow 2 6 2 2 4 3
Tree Swallow 2
Rough-winged Swallow 1
Cliff Swallow 1
Barn Swallow 10 18 22 20
Oak Titmouse 1
Bushtit 10 20 6 22 16 50
House Wren 2 1
Marsh Wren 2
Bewick’s Wren 1 2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1 1
Wrentit 1 1
Western Bluebird 4
Hermit Thrush 1
Northern Mockingbird 2 2 2 2 2 1
European Starling 3 9 60 12 27
House Finch 8 16 24 5 4
Lesser Goldfinch 1 3
Spotted Towhee 1
California Towhee 1 1
Song Sparrow 1 16 12 3 3 4
White-crowned Sparrow 4 6
Golden-crowned Sparrow 1
Western Meadowlark 1 25
Hooded Oriole 7
Red-winged Blackbird 6 1
Great-tailed Grackle 3 4 3 20 2
Common Yellowthroat 2 3 1 4
Yellow-rumped Warbler 8 6
Totals by Type Jan Feb May Jun Jul Aug
Waterfowl 157 174 60 62 75 22
Water Birds – Other 66 120 113 47 40 30
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 3 8 4 6 13 14
Quail & Raptors 2 8 2 0 0 1
Shorebirds 128 161 39 30 58 197
Gulls & Terns 140 353 334 144 358 364
Doves 10 19 0 11 13 9
Other Non-Passerines 5 13 4 3 4 1
Passerines 43 102 62 137 99 152
Totals Birds 554 958 618 440 660 790
             
Total Species Jan Feb May Jun Jul Aug
Waterfowl 10 12 3 3 3 3
Water Birds – Other 6 5 4 4 4 4
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 2 2 2 3 3 4
Quail & Raptors 2 2 2 0 0 1
Shorebirds 9 9 5 6 10 10
Gulls & Terns 7 6 6 3 5 8
Doves 2 2 0 2 2 2
Other Non-Passerines 3 5 1 1 2 1
Passerines 15 25 9 11 13 15
Totals Species – 96 56 68 32 33 42 48
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