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Geese & Plovers: Malibu Lagoon, 27 February 2022

February 28, 2022

[Posted by Chuck Almdale]

Blooming Giant Coriopsis (Ray Juncosa, 2-27-22)

The lagoon is still open to the ocean, and with a very large tidal fluctuation today — +5.76 ft. @ 0621 dropping to -1.31 ft. @ 1345, or a total of -7.07 ft in 7 ½ hours — we had the chance to watch the rocks emerge, and gulls frequently flew back and forth from lagoon to revealed rocky reefs. This did not make counting them any easier.

Mystery bird. Answer at end of blog. (Martha Collins 2-27-22)

The mystery bird above, is fairly common in SoCal, and more common at the lagoon that one might think. Not all of our 14 birders present saw it. But then, no one ever sees all the birds.

Exposed rocks, looking east (R. Juncosa 2-27-22)

The ocean was extremely flat with no surfers save diehards and dawn patrol sitting, sitting, sitting on their boards. Several paddleboarders stroked their way around the pier.

Almost-dry lagoon. PCH bridge in background. (R. Juncosa 2-27-22)

Lagoon and channels were mostly mud. Not much water left for diving ducks, yet still there were a few grebes, several dozen Coots, Ruddy Ducks, Bufflehead and Red-breasted Mergansers; all diving birds.

Egyptian Goose in repose (Chris Tosdevin 2-27-22)

The most unusual bird was probably the first bird everyone saw: a big brown lump of an Egyptian Goose on the mud flat near our gathering point. It didn’t do much — it didn’t do anything except sleep one-footed, really — its bill well tucked under feathers. This is the first one we’ve seen at the lagoon. No, it didn’t fly over from Egypt, or even from Senegal. They’re fairly common in American waterfowl collections. I recall seeing one in the 1980s-1990s on the golf course in Oxnard near the marina, and any golf course in our area is as likely as not to have one or more hanging around the water hazards.

Osprey – Note primary #8 growing in. (C. Tosdevin 2-27-22)

They are extremely widespread in Africa, not just Egypt, and are probably as frequently seen near lakes and ponds in Africa as are Mallards in the U.S. The first ones I ever saw were three coming in so low to land on a Ugandan lake that they nearly took my head off. St. James and Hyde Parks in London have their fair share, and the Queen probably keeps a few out behind the castle. They get around.

Black-bellied Plover. Just look at that massive bill! And that speckling! (R. Juncosa 2-27-22)

Our other unusual bird was a plover, spotted from the viewpoint near the PCH bridge, unfortunately right into the low sun brightly reflecting off the lagoon water.

The mystery plover is just below that camera flare (L. Johnson 2-27-22)

Chris Tosdevin alerted me to it: “Look at this. Do you think it might be a Mountain Plover?” We studied and studied it for quite a while. I even walked across the mud onto the nearest island to try to get an angle that wasn’t looking directly into the sun, but failed.

Mystery Plover: Mountain or Black-bellied? (Chris Tosdevin 2-27-22)

The plumage was very evenly pale brown (browner than in the photo above), no speckling or black & white effects as with all the other similar-sized plovers which were obviously Black-bellied Plover. The bill looked thinner to me as well, like a skinny cone, not bulbous at the tip (see the BB Plover farther above), and the legs were possibly a little brownish. All good characteristics for Mountain Plover.

Three faces of the October 2016 Mountain Plover at the lagoon (Joyce Waterman 10-23-16)

We’ve only seen Mountain Plover once before at the lagoon, so they’re possible there, although they’re a lot more common on sod farms or plowed fields in the Antelope or Imperial Valleys in the winter. They don’t really spend time in the mountains, but they breed on the high plains east of the Rockies from New Mexico to Montana, so they’re mountain-adjacent, if you wish.

Two links to photos of the October 2016 Mountain Plover: One, Two.

Least (L) & Western (R) Sandpipers. Notice legs and bill. The Western is slightly larger than the Least, but not this much larger. (C. Tosdevin 2-27-22)

But this time, with the lousy sun-washed-out view, I didn’t want to call it a Mountain, and left it at Black-bellied Plover. A few days later Chris T. sent me his photo (see above), and after looking at it for a while, became a lot more convinced that it was a Mountain. Then Chris told me he’d gotten a message from one of the experts at eBird who saw it on the list Chris filed with them, and he expertly said, “The documentation you have provided shows a really worn Black-bellied Plover. While it does look especially plain and worn, note the gray, faintly streaked chest, extra big, lumpy body relative to the head, thicker bill.”

Red-breasted Merganser (L) and Gadwall (R) (C. Tosdevin 2-27-22)

Well……OK. I’ll leave it at Black-bellied Plover, although I’d say the bill was definitely not “thicker.” Compare it yourself to our 2016 Mountain Plover, and the BB Plover above.

Looking east towards Malibu Pier (L. Johnson 2-27-22)

Other than that, we had a very good selection of birds. The Heermann’s Gulls were all gone save for one 1st-winter bird out on the low-tide exposed rocks hiding among the many California Gulls. They’ve probably gone south to the Sea of Cortez for their early-spring nesting season.

Brandt’s (L) & Pelagic (R) Cormorants on outer rocks (C. Tosdevin 2-27-22)

Here’s a good comparison of Brandt’s to Pelagic Cormorants in the wild. The Brandt’s is larger, thicker neck, head and bill, small beige gular pouch below chin with (in breeding season) a small blue patch just below the bill which you can almost see in the above picture if you have a vivid imagination. The Pelagic is smaller, all black, thinner neck, head and bill, proportionately longer tail, and nothing below the bill but black plumage. Neither of them cares to venture so far inland as all the way into the lagoon.

North Channel looking west (L. Johnson 2-27-22)

We could find only 15 Snowy Plovers, all of them among a cluster of small rocks left high on the beach, not at all close to the lagoon or on the sand near Adamson House where they’ve been for the past few months. They were very well-hidden and difficult to spot, as they look just like little rocks themselves. Survival: thy name is camouflage!

Snowy Plovers in the rocks (R. Juncosa 2-27-22)

Malibu Lagoon on eBird: 3/04/22 – 5651 lists, 312 species

Birds new for the season: Egyptian Goose, Cinnamon Teal, Eared Grebe, Band-tailed Pigeon, Caspian Tern, Say’s Phoebe, Red-winged Blackbird.

South channel to the lagoon (L. Johnson 1-23-22)

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

Cinnamon Teals have a large shoveler-like bill (C. Tosdevin 2-27-22)

Upcoming SMBAS scheduled field trips: It looks we will have the Malibu Lagoon latter-half-of-March trip open to the public, after being on pandemic hiatus for two solid years. Limit 25 people by reservation only, vaccine card required, bring your own equipment. No 10am Children & Parents walk. Watch the blog for announcement. If this goes well, we might have some other trips before summer steamrolls us all flat.

Green-winged Teal has a small bill (R. Juncosa 2-27-22)

The next SMBAS program: Sketches of Spain, with Luke Tiller, Zoom Evening Meeting, Tuesday, 5 April 2022, 7:30 p.m.

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.

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

Female Belted Kingfisher
(C. Tosdevin 2-27-22)

Prior checklists:
2021: Jan-July
July-Dec
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, remain available—despite numerous complaints—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 Femi Faminu, Lillian Johnson, Chris Lord, Chris Tosdevin and others for their contributions to this month’s checklist.

The appearance of the list below has changed slightly. I’ve added a column on the left side with numbers 1-9, keyed to the nine categories of birds at the bottom. The species are re-sequenced to agree to the California Bird Records Committee Official California Checklist, updated 15 Jan 2022. I generally do this at the start of each year.
[Chuck Almdale]

Mystery bird is Blue-grey Gnatcatcher (R. Juncosa 2-27-22)
Malibu Census 2021-229/2610/2411/2812/261/232/20
Temperature63-7054-6357-7054-6261-7361-70
Tide Lo/Hi HeightL+2.52H+5.23L+2.35L+2.58L+2.04H+5.76
 Tide Time055611051104090006450621
1Canada Goose  10422
1Egyptian Goose     1
1Cinnamon Teal     2
1Northern Shoveler 2    
1Gadwall 4220298
1American Wigeon742104 
1Mallard1832122012
1Northern Pintail  211 
1Green-winged Teal155151112
1Surf Scoter    10 
1Bufflehead  11025
1Hooded Merganser   13  
1Red-breasted Merganser  171596
1Ruddy Duck15813 4
2Pied-billed Grebe353533
2Horned Grebe   1  
2Eared Grebe 11  1
2Western Grebe 12  3012
7Feral Pigeon865232010
7Band-tailed Pigeon     3
7Eurasian Collared-Dove    1 
7Mourning Dove 511 4
8Anna’s Hummingbird  1222
8Allen’s Hummingbird131433
2American Coot1302402453604973
5Black-bellied Plover103871661045825
5Killdeer10232010210
5Semipalmated Plover32    
5Snowy Plover34344034 15
5Whimbrel8412982
5Long-billed Curlew1     
5Marbled Godwit3034971321
5Ruddy Turnstone36 165
5Sanderling2010422221 
5Dunlin 2    
5Least Sandpiper1293351220
5Western Sandpiper221 111
5Long-billed Dowitcher1     
5Spotted Sandpiper1     
5Willet14253413158
6Bonaparte’s Gull   21 
6Heermann’s Gull125326451
6Ring-billed Gull122817040175
6Western Gull106392859588
6California Gull 9515370925510
6Herring Gull  1 21
6Glaucous-winged Gull 1 255
6Caspian Tern     1
6Royal Tern132  52
2Red-throated Loon   112
2Pacific Loon    12
2Common Loon    21
2Black-vented Shearwater    1000 
2Brandt’s Cormorant 210161
2Pelagic Cormorant2141123
2Double-crested Cormorant356752394551
2Brown Pelican1121994411015
3Great Blue Heron333442
3Great Egret13172 
3Snowy Egret141142463
3Green Heron   21 
3Black-crowned Night-Heron31 15 
4Turkey Vulture   1 1
4Osprey2 1111
4Cooper’s Hawk  1211
4Red-shouldered Hawk   111
4Red-tailed Hawk  1111
8Belted Kingfisher    11
8Downy Woodpecker   1  
8Nuttall’s Woodpecker   1  
8Hairy Woodpecker  1   
4Merlin1   1 
4Peregrine Falcon1     
9Black Phoebe554443
9Say’s Phoebe11   1
9California Scrub-Jay 1 223
9American Crow4617420
9Common Raven    1 
9Oak Titmouse    1 
9Tree Swallow    2 
9Barn Swallow3  2  
9Bushtit  48 124
9Wrentit   1  
9Ruby-crowned Kinglet 11   
9Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 441 2
9House Wren121   
9Marsh Wren 2    
9Bewick’s Wren 1 4  
9Northern Mockingbird 2 11 
9European Starling40 3191530
9Hermit Thrush   11 
9American Pipit1     
9House Finch7418885
9Lesser Goldfinch 12242
9Dark-eyed Junco   243
9White-crowned Sparrow 515173525
9Savannah Sparrow   1  
9Song Sparrow547866
9California Towhee 22422
9Western Meadowlark11    
9Red-winged Blackbird     2
9Great-tailed Grackle143713
9Orange-crowned Warbler1 2 1 
9Common Yellowthroat545631
9Yellow-rumped Warbler 61920106
Totals by TypeSepOctNovDecJanFeb
1Waterfowl2723491138852
2Water Birds – Other1813494144521259164
3Herons, Egrets & Ibis2118838185
4Quail & Raptors403655
5Shorebirds24233230729913597
6Gulls & Terns25796896551118783
7Doves8115342117
8Other Non-Passerines133866
9Passerines7556163107117118
 Totals Birds5848711689168227671247
        
 Total SpeciesSepOctNovDecJanFeb
1Waterfowl4691099
2Water Birds – Other58781111
3Herons, Egrets & Ibis443552
4Quail & Raptors303555
5Shorebirds14129999
6Gulls & Terns465688
7Doves122223
8Other Non-Passerines113433
9Passerines131916202017
Totals Species – 105495857697267

4 Comments
  1. Emily Woodward permalink
    March 13, 2022 1:39 pm

    Are spaces still available?

    Like

    • Chukar permalink*
      March 13, 2022 5:08 pm

      Yes. Reservation needed.

      Like

  2. Paula Kayton permalink
    March 5, 2022 3:48 pm

    I want to reserve a space on the Malibu Lagoon walk for March 27. I am fully vaccinated and will bring proof. Please confirm.

    Paula pekayton@gmail.com

    On Sat, Mar 5, 2022 at 11:16 AM SANTA MONICA BAY AUDUBON SOCIETY BLOG wrote:

    > Chukar posted: ” [Posted by Chuck Almdale] Blooming Giant Coriopsis (Ray > Juncosa, 2-27-22) The lagoon is still open to the ocean, and with a very > large tidal fluctuation today — +5.76 ft. @ 0621 dropping to -1.31 ft. @ > 1345, or a total of -7.07 ft in 7 ½ hours ” >

    Like

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