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A quiet pre-Christmas: Malibu Lagoon, 22 December 2020

December 26, 2020

[Posted by Chuck Almdale]

Northern Mockingbird (Chris Tosdevin 12/22/20)

For no good reason that I know of, the Mockingbirds have been hard to find at the lagoon the past few months. For Jan’10 – Aug’20, they were present 90% of the time (114 out of 127 visits). For Sep – Dec’20, they’ve been missing two out of four months. There’s nearly always one on the top of the telephone pole at the east end of the colony, often singing away. If you see a bird up there and it’s not a crow, it’s probably the mocker. Say hi.

View to south from the meeting place. The Mockingbird phone pole is at the left end of the houses. (Lillian Johnson 12/22/20)

The breech had opened up during the Dec 13-15 king tide, and the lagoon was mostly empty. Despite that, there was a good selection of ducks ( and one Snow Goose) and a heckova* lot of coots – I counted (roughly) exactly 445.
*Heckova: An obscure and now archaic mathematical term meaning “more than many.”

Snow Goose (C. Tosdevin 12/22/20)

Only five of us made it to the lagoon today. Everyone is feeling quite wary of being out and about as Covid-19 is resurging after people enjoyed Thanksgiving with wild abandon. According to the various Covid-19 statistical sites I follow, we had the following Covid-19 new cases and deaths for 22 December:
Los Angeles County: 16,412 new cases, 137 deaths
California: 39,069 new cases, 361 deaths
U.S. A.: 195,860 new cases, 3,165 deaths,
World (rounded): 650,000 new cases, 20,000 deaths
I hope everyone enjoyed Thanksgiving. The case and death rates have risen since then.

A very attractive male Green-winged Teal (C. Tosdevin 12/22/20)

We don’t get many Dark-eyed Juncos at the lagoon as they generally prefer trees and park lawns where they can find insects. We’ve had only 8 birds over forty years, all within the past three years. This one was on the back wall of the Malibu Colony.

A wind-ruffled Dark-eyed Junco (Larry Loeher 12/15/20)
View across the channel towards the back of Malibu Colony (L. Johnson 12/22/20)

When we got down to the beach, the tide was getting towards its 10:52 AM low point. Chris got a photo of a line of Surf Scoters heading west.

Surf Scoters (C. Tosdevin 12/22/20)

The low tide had exposed many offshore rocks where all of the pelicans and most of the cormorants and gulls were resting. We also found three of the rock-loving Black Oystercatchers. Two of them are pictured below.

Two Black Oystercatchers next to the Brown Pelicans (C. Tosdevin 12/22/20)

Although the tide was quite low, water was still flowing out of the water. It was very cold, as I discovered when I waded across to find the roosting flock of Snowy Plovers, who prefer the southeast corner of the lagoon.

The S-bend you see above is absolutely typical for the lagoon. When rainstorms send a lot of water down the creek, it blows straight through the beach. But because of the eastward flow of the long-shore current, the outlet mouth begins moving east almost immediately. Over the course of 2 – 4 months, the entire outlet will move to the east, as if the outlet “body” was being dragged by the mouth. By springtime, the outlet is usually as far east as it can go and abuts the Adamson House property so closely that it often undermines the fence. Large rocks in a “rip-rap” wall keep it from moving any farther towards the house.

I did manage to find 22 Snowy Plovers on the other side, some resting in their little pockets in the sand, some poking around by the lagoon edge.

Western Snowy Plover (L. Loeher 12/31/20)

We saw the Red-tailed Hawk soaring overhead, but we certainly didn’t see it as well as did Larry and Grace on 12/31/20.

Red-tailed Hawk (L. Loeher 12/31/20)

All together, we had eight species of sandpipers, including a group of 13 Least Sandpipers such as this one below.

Least Sandpiper (Grace Murayama 12/31/20)

Birds new for the season: Snow Goose, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Sora, Black Oystercatcher, Semipalmated Plover, Greater Yellowlegs, Royal Tern, Downy Woodpecker, Dark-eyed Junco.

Many thanks to photographers: Lillian Johnson, Larry Loeher, Grace Murayama and Chris Tosdevin

The next three SMBAS scheduled field trips: Who knows? Not I.
The next SMBAS program: February 2, Mono Lake: A simple ecosystem with a complex history; with Nora Livingston, on ZOOM, 7:30 PM.
The SMBAS 10 a.m. Parent’s & Kids Birdwalk is canceled until further notice due to the near-impossibility of maintained 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 20207/228/269/2410/2111/2312/22
Temperature60-6670-7766-7764-6852-6457-64
Tide Lo/Hi HeightL+0.71L+2.52L+3.05L+2.70L+2.17L+2.15
Tide Time081909581004063411351052
Snow Goose     2
(Black) Brant    1 
Canada Goose8     
Gadwall40522286
American Wigeon   33026
Mallard271614  14
Northern Pintail  2  1
Green-winged Teal 1  128
Surf Scoter   3 13
Bufflehead    105
Red-breasted Merganser    912
Ruddy Duck   93519
Pied-billed Grebe332233
Eared Grebe   115
Western Grebe    62
Rock Pigeon104610914
Mourning Dove354292
Vaux’s Swift  8   
Anna’s Hummingbird1  1 2
Allen’s Hummingbird3 1122
Sora     1
American Coot2 48118287445
Black Oystercatcher     4
Black-bellied Plover1566102913010
Snowy Plover82627422822
Semipalmated Plover 48  4
Killdeer27121814
Whimbrel15141358
Marbled Godwit  3548
Ruddy Turnstone221626
Sanderling  39757825
Least Sandpiper22112 413
Western Sandpiper181   
Short-billed Dowitcher 2    
Long-billed Dowitcher4     
Spotted Sandpiper  2122
Wandering Tattler1     
Willet8474051410
Greater Yellowlegs     1
Heermann’s Gull651014 8543
Mew Gull    2 
Ring-billed Gull    1065
Western Gull909890215334
California Gull417121535485
Herring Gull    11
Glaucous-winged Gull    13
Least Tern 2    
Caspian Tern41    
Forster’s Tern 4  1 
Royal Tern 1112  3
Elegant Tern1952211   
Red-throated Loon   1  
Pacific Loon    11
Brandt’s Cormorant    1 
Double-crested Cormorant1618431610828
Pelagic Cormorant 11341
Brown Pelican1985520632
Great Blue Heron243333
Great Egret34201 1
Snowy Egret8425423
Black-crowned Night-Heron 2    
Turkey Vulture    2
Osprey 1 111
Cooper’s Hawk    1 
Red-tailed Hawk    1 
Belted Kingfisher 12 11
Downy Woodpecker     1
Black Phoebe554546
Say’s Phoebe  1225
Vermilion Flycatcher   1  
Loggerhead Shrike  1   
California Scrub-Jay112   
American Crow43341114
Tree Swallow    3 
Rough-winged Swallow 1    
Barn Swallow2220    
Bushtit16501675 30
House Wren 1 21 
Marsh Wren  5 3 
Bewick’s Wren    2 
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  522 
Ruby-crowned Kinglet    2 
Wrentit1 1   
Western Bluebird 4    
Northern Mockingbird21 2 1
European Starling1227258530
House Finch548446
Lesser Goldfinch  2225
Lawrence’s Goldfinch  15   
California Towhee  111 
Song Sparrow3437123
White-crowned Sparrow   412 
Dark-eyed Junco     1
Western Meadowlark 25    
Hooded Oriole7     
Red-winged Blackbird1     
Great-tailed Grackle202 283
Orange-crowned Warbler  42 1
Common Yellowthroat 44585
Yellow Warbler  2   
Yellow-rumped(Aud) Warbler   10816
Totals by TypeJulAugSepOctNovDec
Waterfowl75221817125106
Water Birds – Other403099146617518
Herons, Egrets & Ibis1314259727
Quail & Raptors010153
Shorebirds58197248229175127
Gulls & Terns35836412922688634
Doves13910121816
Other Non-Passerines4111236
Passerines9915279135170126
Totals Birds66079061957318081563
       
Total SpeciesJulAugSepOctNovDec
Waterfowl3334710
Water Birds – Other445799
Herons, Egrets & Ibis343323
Quail & Raptors010142
Shorebirds10101291013
Gulls & Terns585287
Doves222222
Other Non-Passerines213224
Passerines131518181814
Totals Species – 101424851486264
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