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Elegant Terns at Malibu Lagoon, 25 April 2021

April 28, 2021

[Posted by Chuck Almdale]

Mallard female touchdown (Ray Juncosa 4-25-21)

As with March, this was a Sunday morning affair, rather than mid-week. Although the surfers were out in force, cool temperatures for April kept sun-worshippers off the sand. Eleven masked and vaguely distanced birders appeared.

Over the lagoon and out to sea (Lillian Johnson 4-25-21)

The Canada Geese have definitely found the lagoon a friendly place to nest. At least three pairs nest on the southeastern brushy sand island; perhaps the fourth pair as well. This island has lots of brush and is the farthest from solid land. When the geese crouch lie low, they’re hidden from people on the path. From an Osprey-eye’s view, overhead, they’re obvious, but fortunately for them Osprey aren’t interested in geese.

One of the four pair of Canada Geese nesting at the lagoon. (Chris Tosdevin 4-25-21)

The noisy and busy Northern Mockingbirds were easily seen. This one’s face was probably buried in pollen. (C. Tosdevin 4-25-21)

Our lone Brant (C. Tosdevin, 4-25-21)

Ducks are leaving for the north. Our March 22 trip counted 9 species and 100 birds, now down to 5 species and 55 birds. Coots also dropped from 235 to 75 birds, but gulls and terns rose 252 birds in 8 species to 531 birds, also in 8 species. Most of those are the 395 recently-arrived Elegant Terns, back from wintering in Mexico. Migrant passerines were almost totally absent, with a lone male Hooded Oriole the sole representative. One or more pairs of Hooded Oriole have nested in the palms and other trees around the lagoon and Adamson House for the past 15 years, excepting 2007.

Brant geese are regular visitors at the lagoon. Recorded them 45 times since 1979 and average 3 birds per visit, they’ve appeared in all months, are least common in Oct-Jan and most common in May.

A recently wave-washed wide and low beach, looking west towards the lagoon and colony
(L. Johnson 4-25-21)

Check the toe-joints on the Least Sandpiper, left (R. Juncosa 4-25-21)
Western Sandpiper (C. Tosdevin 4-25-21)
Both birds well on their way into alternate plumage.

The high tide of +4.83 ft. at 8:43am kept most of the rocks well-covered, so no Black or otherwise Oystercatchers were seen, unlike the previous four months.

Male Anna’s Hummingbird, either coming or going (R. Juncosa 4-25-21)

Semipalmated Plovers regularly appear in April on their northward journey back to the Arctic. The only years we’ve missed them in April is when we weren’t there, as during the 2020 pandemic. Our 29 birds this time is bested only by 35 birds on 4-23-06.

Semipalmated Plover, regular in April. It’s hard to see those semipalmated toes. (C. Tosdevin 4-25-21)

We don’t get many Dunlin at the lagoon, I’d guess it has something to do with the vertebrate selection around the lagoon. Whatever the cause, for 1979-2021 I’ve recorded them only 27 times, for a total of 51 birds. 35 of those birds were fall migrants in Sep-Oct, 7 were spring migrants in April, and the remaining 9 birds were scattered over 4 months, 2 in May-Jun and 7 in Nov-Dec. This year’s bird is well on its way into alternate (breeding) plumage.

Our sole Dunlin (C. Tosdevin 4-25-21)

The Snowy Plovers are gone. Grace & Larry reported 20 on 3-20-21, we had 23 on the following day, but on 4-12-21 G&L had none. The beach is very wide, but very low. Even ordinary high tides can send waves almost all the way across and into the lagoon.

Left: Elegant Tern with thin decurved bill (C. Tosdevin 4-25-21)
Right: Caspian Tern with stout straight crimson bill (R. Juncosa 4-25-21)

The outlet channel was right up to the rip-rap protecting the Adamson House fence. We clambered over the rocks and explored the property. Most birds were more of the same – hummingbirds, Song Sparrows, Black Phoebes, but Chris found a beautiful brightly-plumaged male Hooded Oriole in a tree. A few minutes later we spotted the Dunlin back on the beach and Chris made his way back to the beach to get the photo above.

Male Hooded Oriole (C. Tosdevin 4-25-21)

Birds new for the season: Brant, Semipalmated Plover, Dunlin, Elegant Tern, Peregrine Falcon, Spotted Towhee, Hooded Oriole.

Many thanks to photographers: Lillian Johnson, Ray Juncosa, and Chris Tosdevin

When Snowy Egrets aren’t wading, you can see their yellow feet.
(R. Juncosa 4-25-21)

The next three SMBAS scheduled field trips: Who knows? Not I.

The next SMBAS program: We may have a June Zoom meeting. Watch for announcements.

The SMBAS 10 a.m. Parent’s & Kids Birdwalk remains canceled until further notice due to the near-impossibility of maintained proper masked social distancing with parents and small children.

Squabbling (?) House Finch pair (R. Juncosa 4-25-21)

Barn Swallow on rain bird
(C. Tosdevin 4-25-21)

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

Prior checklists:
2020: Jan-JulyJuly-Dec  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.
[Chuck Almdale]

Malibu Census 2020-2111/2312/221/222/223/224/25
Tide Lo/Hi HeightL+2.17L+2.15L+0.86L-0.13L+0.86H+4.83
Tide Time113510521223131412230843
Snow Goose 2    
(Black) Brant1    1
Canada Goose  8868
Cinnamon Teal   47 
Northern Shoveler    8 
American Wigeon30268128 
Mallard 148101618
Northern Pintail 122  
Green-winged Teal12861125 
Surf Scoter 13 152 
Red-breasted Merganser912112123
Ruddy Duck3519625  
Pied-billed Grebe332661
Eared Grebe15 12 
Western Grebe62 4114
Rock Pigeon9143469
Mourning Dove92 16 
Anna’s Hummingbird 2 231
Allen’s Hummingbird22 224
Sora 1    
American Coot28744511021023575
Black Oystercatcher 4244 
Black-bellied Plover301025253122
Snowy Plover28222127230
Semipalmated Plover 41  29
Marbled Godwit48101110 
Ruddy Turnstone261 5 
Dunlin     1
Least Sandpiper4136481
Western Sandpiper   1420
Spotted Sandpiper22 1 1
Greater Yellowlegs 1    
Heermann’s Gull85431624228
Mew Gull2     
Ring-billed Gull10651538126
Western Gull533430806540
California Gull5354855023513035
Herring Gull11  1 
Glaucous-winged Gull133111
Caspian Tern    420
Forster’s Tern1     
Royal Tern 356246
Elegant Tern     395
Pacific Loon11 1  
Brandt’s Cormorant1  5  
Double-crested Cormorant1082885522512
Pelagic Cormorant41 1 1
Brown Pelican206321621227105
Great Blue Heron3313  
Great Egret 12221
Snowy Egret42310932
Black-crowned Night-Heron   1  
Turkey Vulture221 1 
Osprey111 22
Cooper’s Hawk1 1   
Red-tailed Hawk1     
Belted Kingfisher111   
Nuttall’s Woodpecker  1   
Downy Woodpecker 1    
Peregrine Falcon     1
Black Phoebe461228
Say’s Phoebe251   
California Scrub-Jay   12 
American Crow11146254
Common Raven    1 
Tree Swallow3     
Rough-winged Swallow    62
Barn Swallow    1025
Bushtit 30308201
House Wren1     
Marsh Wren3     
Bewick’s Wren2     
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher2     
Ruby-crowned Kinglet2     
Western Bluebird    2 
Northern Mockingbird 1  24
European Starling853010 755
House Finch4644106
Lesser Goldfinch2564162
Spotted Towhee     1
California Towhee1  14 
Song Sparrow1233477
White-crowned Sparrow12 4562
Dark-eyed Junco 1    
Hooded Oriole     1
Red-winged Blackbird    22
Brown-headed Cowbird    21
Great-tailed Grackle83 186
Orange-crowned Warbler 1    
Common Yellowthroat851 3 
Yellow-rumped(Aud) Warbler816614151
Totals by TypeNovDecJanFebMarApr
Water Birds – Other617518359292306198
Herons, Egrets & Ibis727131553
Quail & Raptors533033
Gulls & Terns688634119362279531
Other Non-Passerines362455
Totals Birds180815637389801172962
Total SpeciesNovDecJanFebMarApr
Water Birds – Other994966
Herons, Egrets & Ibis233422
Quail & Raptors423022
Gulls & Terns876688
Other Non-Passerines242222
Totals Species – 97626450566253

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