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Glorious Lagoon June Gloom: Malibu Lagoon, 26 June 2022

June 30, 2022

[By Chuck Almdale]

Sandy bird island almost lost in the fog (Lillian Johnson 6/26/22)

Once again the June Gloom fog came to our rescue. The fog kept the temperature comfortably between 65-70°F. The waves came in sets, so the surfers were mostly sitting on the water…make that sitting on their boards on the water. Twenty-two birders showed up — almost as many birders as there were species of birds.

Black-crowned Night-Heron in flight #1 & 2 (Ray Juncosa 6/26/22)
Black-crowned Night-Heron in flight #3 & 4 (R. Juncosa 6/26/22)

At 0830 at our starting point by the weird semi-shaded pavilion, the sun is always in our eyes when we look at the channel immediately in front of us. Common birds can become mysterious gray-brown objects. I got there a little late and most people were looking at a perched wading bird and wondering, “What is that thing?”

Juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron with fish (R. Juncosa 6/26/22)

Well, it was a Black-crowned Night-Heron. There were two of them: one in streaky juvenile plumage, the other in a plumage between juvenile (born this year) and adult (usually three years old). They can be a bit confusing even in good light. Lots of people misidentify the juveniles as an American Bittern because of all the streaks.

Great-tailed Grackle in & out of the bath (Grace Murayama 6/26/22)

Lagoon water level was quite high. Checking the summer clock sidewalk we found that the level had recently gotten up to 7′ 8.4″.

Submerged summer clock sidewalk (L. Johnson 6/26/22)
Black Phoebe favors this particular rock (G. Murayama 6/26/22)

The only ducks present were Gadwall and Mallard, some with chicks in tow. Some of the adult-sized birds didn’t look like adults, so I assume they’re the product of hatchings earlier this year.

Ground Squirrel (G. Murayama 6/26/22)

The Osprey was present, whom we had not seen since March.

Osprey & fish (Left Ray Juncosa 6/26/22. right Grace Murayama 6/29/22)

There were plenty of Jumping Mullet in the lagoon. It’s easy to tell they’re Jumping Mullet, due to their persistent habit of jumping. I probably saw fifty jumps over the course of several hours. They come in all sizes, some quite large, so the Osprey has his pick. I’m still waiting for some Ph.D. candidate to crank out a thesis narrowing the reasons why they jump down to somewhere under five.

South channel (L. Johnson 6/26/22)

The number of sandpiper species was exceptionally close to none: three Killdeer and three Whimbrel. The Killdeer are present 97% of the time, and nest at the lagoon. I looked at our most recent ten Junes (2011-2021, no count in June 2015):

Ave. total species: 40 (range 33-48), ave. sandpiper species: 4 (2-6), June 2022: 35 and 2.
Species: Ave. all: 40 (range 33-48); ave. sandpipers: 4 (2-6), June’22: 35 and 2.
Counts: Ave. all: 472 (range 248-863), ave. ‘pipers; 21 (6-41), June’22: 437 and 6.
This year is definitely lower than average, confirming — for a change — my vague suspicion.

Young Great Blue Heron & gooey drip (R. Juncosa 6/26/22)

 There were quite a few Brown Pelicans on the sand island, and they kept coming and going all morning long. Towards the end of our walk all the birds on the island — gulls, terns, cormorants and pelicans — suddenly rose up into the air. This usually signals a hawk or falcon in flight, but none were to be seen.

Brown Pelicans, Double-crested Cormorants & Royal Tern (R. Juncosa 6/26/22)

A few minutes later I spotted a Turkey Vulture on the other side of the sand island whom we had not seen land, ripping at something out–of-sight from us. Most likely it was feeding on one of the several Brown Pelican corpses lying about, and someone commented, “That’s probably what put the birds up.” Quite likely. They hadn’t stirred when the vultures first appeared high in the sky, but one dropping down among them was enough to set them off. The vulture of course paid them no attention as they were pointlessly (to him) alive, and the birds quickly returned and settled back down.

West channel algae (L. Johnson 6/26/22)

We didn’t see any Western Snowy Plovers, but Grace and Larry came by three days later and found a male and a female on the eastern edge of the lagoon.

Western Snowy Plovers: female left, male right (G. Murayama 6/26/22)

The photos show a darker day than I thought it to be. When you looked up at the sky it seemed quite blue, yet there were small white wisps of fog everywhere. As I was leaving around 11:30, I saw tiny patches of fog moving a few inches above the lagoon surface and drifting into the pickleweed. Yet the sky seemed bright. It’s probably aliens tinkering with our weather, yet again.

View from meeting place (L. Johnson 6/26/22)

On his way back to the parking lot, Chris Lord spotted a Band-tailed Pigeon, a bird we’ve seen on only (now) three occasions, with a total of nine birds. They’re usually up in the hills, eating acorns.

Birds new for the season: Band-tailed Pigeon, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Osprey.

Malibu Lagoon on eBird as of 6-27-22: 5873 lists, 313 species

Many thanks to photographers: Lillian Johnson, Grace Murayama, Ray Juncosa

Beachy fog (L. Johnson 6/26/22)

Upcoming SMBAS scheduled field trips: Our next trip will be Malibu Lagoon on July 24. This, and any other trip we announce for the foreseeable future will be dependent upon the expected status of the Covid pandemic at trip time. Any trip announced may be canceled shortly before trip date if it seems necessary. By now any other comments along this line should be superfluous.

The next SMBAS program: Zoom Evening Meeting, Tuesday, 4 October 2022, 7:30 p.m.

The SMBAS 10 a.m. Parent’s & Kids Birdwalk is currently under discussion concerning resumption.

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

Prior checklists:
2021: Jan-July
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 Lillian Johnson, Chris Lord and others for their contributions to this month’s checklist.

The list below now includes 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 with the California Bird Records Committee Official California Checklist, updated 15 Jan 2022. I generally do this sequence update at the start of each year.
[Chuck Almdale]

Malibu Census 20221/232/273/274/245/226/26
Tide Lo/Hi HeightL+2.04H+5.76H+5.00H+4.50L-0.32H+3.33
 Tide Time064506210615044210290943
1(Black) Brant    6 
1Canada Goose2263  
1Egyptian Goose 1    
1Cinnamon Teal 2    
1American Wigeon4 612 
1Northern Pintail1     
1Green-winged Teal1112152  
1Surf Scoter10 153  
1Common Goldeneye  2   
1Red-breasted Merganser965   
1Ruddy Duck 41   
2Pied-billed Grebe3331 1
2Eared Grebe 1 1  
2Western Grebe301216   
7Feral Pigeon20108468
7Band-tailed Pigeon 3   1
7Eurasian Collared-Dove1     
7Mourning Dove 424 2
8Anna’s Hummingbird221 1 
8Allen’s Hummingbird333312
2American Coot497365144
5Black-bellied Plover58252821 
5Semipalmated Plover   15  
5Snowy Plover 1510   
5Whimbrel8282 3
5Marbled Godwit321 2  
5Ruddy Turnstone65    
5Sanderling1 452  
5Dunlin   1  
5Least Sandpiper12201050  
5Western Sandpiper1113530  
5Spotted Sandpiper   61 
5Red-necked Phalarope    1 
6Bonaparte’s Gull1     
6Heermann’s Gull451815427
6Ring-billed Gull401751665  
6Western Gull958895579555
6California Gull92551018535333
6Herring Gull212   
6Glaucous-winged Gull5586  
6Caspian Tern 18121522
6Royal Tern52351833
6Elegant Tern  622024 
2Red-throated Loon12    
2Pacific Loon12    
2Common Loon21    
2Black-vented Shearwater1000     
2Brandt’s Cormorant615150 
2Pelagic Cormorant123112 
2Double-crested Cormorant455133262246
2Brown Pelican11015236865126
3Great Blue Heron421123
3Great Egret2 5324
3Snowy Egret634112
3Green Heron1     
3Black-crowned Night-Heron5    4
4Turkey Vulture 15344
4Osprey111  1
4Cooper’s Hawk11    
4Red-shouldered Hawk11    
4Red-tailed Hawk11    
8Belted Kingfisher1111  
9Black Phoebe433 25
9Say’s Phoebe 1    
9California Scrub-Jay2321 1
9American Crow4206445
9Common Raven1   2 
9Oak Titmouse1     
9Tree Swallow2     
9No. Rough-winged Swallow  248 
9Barn Swallow  481520
9Cliff Swallow   84 
9Bushtit124410 8
9Wrentit  2 2 
9Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 2    
9House Wren   2 1
9Northern Mockingbird1 11 1
9European Starling1530321 
9Hermit Thrush1     
9House Finch851561210
9Lesser Goldfinch42 2 1
9Dark-eyed Junco43    
9White-crowned Sparrow3525202  
9Song Sparrow66107104
9California Towhee222221
9Red-winged Blackbird 2 1  
9Brown-headed Cowbird   21 
9Great-tailed Grackle135216
9Orange-crowned Warbler1     
9Common Yellowthroat311   
9Yellow-rumped Warbler1061   
Totals by TypeJanFebMarAprMayJun
2Water Birds – Other125916414699143177
3Herons, Egrets & Ibis185105513
4Quail & Raptors556345
6Gulls & Terns1118783363428174110
8Other Non-Passerines665422
 Totals Birds27671247894774452437
 Total SpeciesJanFebMarAprMayJun
2Water Birds – Other11117754
3Herons, Egrets & Ibis523334
4Quail & Raptors552112
6Gulls & Terns889865
8Other Non-Passerines333221
Totals Species – 97726759573935

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