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Almost Winter, Malibu Lagoon, 27 November 2022

November 30, 2022

[Chuck Almdale]

Early morning Pelican silhouettes (Lillian Johnson 11-27-22)

A month ago the beach was quite wide. Then the first winter king tide came along and washed over the beach into the lagoon and left an outlet at its west end. The outflow channel was quite deep and swift and really cold. After watching two people in wet suits struggle through it, I advised the next couple in pants and shirts to forget it unless they wanted to be washed out to sea.

Buffleheads (Ray Juncosa 11-27-22)

We had nine species of ducks of which four were new for the season, including the Bufflehead above. Someone once thought this head looked blocky like the head of a buffalo.

Early morning sun in your eyes (Lillian Johnson 11-27-22)

As usual, the late autumn sun was in our eyes at the start, busily washing out bird colors and leaving them in shades of gray, as with the pelicans above.

Hairy Woodpecker, just to prove it’s there. (Chris Tosdevin 11-27-22)

I keep getting reports of a Hairy Woodpecker hanging out in the trees around the parking lot and paralleling PCH, and I keep missing the bird. Femi Faminu has some sort of weird affinity to woodpeckers and was always hearing and seeing them at the lagoon, so most of their appearances in my list for the last two years are due to her. However, Chris & Ruth Tosdevin were here a few days earlier spotting the American Golden Plover (see report), a new bird for the lagoon, and got a photo of the woodpecker.

Lots of flotsam in the channel (Lillian Johnson 11-27-22)

We could see from the meeting place and the viewing platform near the PCH bridge that the high tides and/or rain had caused the lagoon water to break through the beach. The channel was also full of logs and bark and the ubiquitous “whatnot.” That usually signifies lots of rain bringing timber down the creek. But the coots and ducks didn’t seem to mind.

Flotsam, high and dry on the tidal clock sidewalk (Lillian Johnson 11-27-22)
Green-winged Teal male (Larry Loeher 11-30-22)

For a while a channel sandy island west end hosted most of the egrets and herons.

A posse of egrets & herons (Ray Juncosa 11-27-22)

The easternmost home in Malibu Colony has a camera on the edge of the roof. A Pelagic Cormorant has been hanging out next to it off and on for months, so I call it the “cormorant-cam.” I suppose the bird likes this lofty perch and good view, and it’s a safe (from dogs and annoying humans) spot when the offshore rocks are wave-smashed. For all I know, the camera is actually live with a permanent presence on the web and you can watch this bird 24/7, should you so desire, although it doesn’t do much other than stand there. However, this time it was joined by two friends whom I suppose know a good thing when they see it. The camera and one friend are a millimeter to the left of this view.

Two Pelagic Cormorants at the cormorant-cam (Ray Juncosa 11-27-22)

Grace and Larry did their Western Snowy Plover census a few days later, and photo’d many of the same birds we saw. Here’s a small portfolio of them, beginning with this very chunky-looking fluffed up Western Snowy Plover.

Fluffed-up Western Snowy Plover (Grace Murayama 11-30-22)

I think (but could be wrong) this is a different individual, standing up, giving us a view of his leg-rings, which we record as ga:gy, translated as (L)green over aqua:(R)green over yellow.

Western Snowy Plover ringed ga:gy (Grace Murayama 11-30-22)
Whimbrel, walking softly (Grace Murayama 11-30-22)

This winter Ruddy Turnstone (The Turnstone, in Europe) seems to be distracted by that photographer slowly creeping up.

Ruddy Turnstone (Grace Murayama 11-30-22)

The turnstones are named for what they do, which oddly enough is turning over stones. Sometimes something edible is hiding under there; you never know until you look. They have an unusual bill, stout at the base, medium length, slightly upturned with a thicker lower bill. A good solid lever with which to…turn stones. Natural selection strikes again!

And here’s two full-frontal portraits one rarely sees. This Willet definitely has binocular vision.

Willet (Grace Murayama 11-30-22)
Ring-billed Gull (Grace Murayama 11-30-22)

I’d say the gull above also has binocular vision, but just barely. That steely gaze shows that he means business.

View south towards what’s left of the beach (Lillian Johnson 11-27-22)
The new lagoon opening and beach remnant. (Lillian Johnson 11-27-22)

The outlet channel was about 5 ft. deep and moving swiftly an hour after high tide. Between the distance and a high-enough sand berm between us and the main flock, it was tough to see what’s what.
Sometimes you just have to climb to see who’s hiding behind the berm.

Birder on the hill (Chris Tosdevin 11-27-22)
Day after day, alone on a hill… (Chris Tosdevin 11-27-22)

Birds new for the season: American Wigeon, Lesser Scaup, Surf Scoter, Bufflehead, Red-breasted Merganser, Allen’s Hummingbird, Short-billed (aka Mew) Gull, Common Loon, Black-vented Shearwater, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Hermit Thrush.

Malibu Lagoon on eBird as of 10-30-22: 6340 lists, 316 species

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

Upcoming SMBAS scheduled field trips: Malibu Lagoon, Sun Dec. 25 8:30 am; Antelope Valley Raptor Search, Sat. Jan 14, 7 am departure time; Malibu Lagoon, Sun Jan. 22 8:30 am These and any other trips we announce for the foreseeable future will be dependent upon the expected status of the Covid/flu/etc. pandemic at trip time. Any trip announced may be canceled shortly before trip date if it seems necessary. By now any other comments should be superfluous.

The next SMBAS program: To-be-announced, Evening Meeting, Tuesday, 7 February 2023, 7:30 p.m.. This program will probably be on Zoom.

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

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

Prior checklists:
2021: Jan-July
July-Dec 2022: Jan-June
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, Chris & Ruth Tosdevin, Ray Juncosa and others for their contributions to this month’s checklist.

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 20226/267/248/289/2510/2311/27
Tide Lo/Hi HeightH+3.33H+3.35H+4.49H+5.01H+5.33H+6.04
 Tide Time094309091102094908391045
1American Wigeon     14
1Northern Pintail    1 
1Green-winged Teal    26
1Lesser Scaup     1
1Surf Scoter     12
1Bufflehead     11
1Red-breasted Merganser     25
1Ruddy Duck   33532
2Pied-billed Grebe124684
2Eared Grebe    28
2Western Grebe    24
7Feral Pigeon817106154
7Band-tailed Pigeon1     
7Mourning Dove225 42
8Anna’s Hummingbird   1 1
8Allen’s Hummingbird233  2
2Sora   11 
2American Coot48124714585
5Black-bellied Plover 1779676483
5Semipalmated Plover 11532 
5Snowy Plover 1320253918
5Long-billed Curlew  1   
5Marbled Godwit 1621638
5Ruddy Turnstone 34344
5Black Turnstone  2   
5Sanderling  25143345
5Dunlin   1  
5Least Sandpiper 810231562
5Western Sandpiper 125848
5Short-billed Dowitcher  2   
5Long-billed Dowitcher 1    
5Spotted Sandpiper  11  
5Willet 74873943
5Red-necked Phalarope  12  
6Heermann’s Gull27529816
6Short-billed Gull     1
6Ring-billed Gull   22228
6Western Gull55145537264105
6California Gull332157155390
6Glaucous-winged Gull 1   3
6Caspian Tern2218    
6Forster’s Tern 1  1 
6Royal Tern32561123
6Elegant Tern 475255 15 
6Black Skimmer  3   
2Common Loon     1
2Black-vented Shearwater     100
2Pelagic Cormorant 21 14
2Double-crested Cormorant466268565145
2Brown Pelican126851126465220
3Great Blue Heron352333
3Great Egret433125
3Snowy Egret212149931
3Reddish Egret 1    
3Green Heron    1 
3Black-crowned Night-Heron482  1
4Yellow-crowned Night-Heron  1   
4Turkey Vulture4 1 11
4Red-shouldered Hawk   1  
8Belted Kingfisher   1 2
4Peregrine Falcon   1  
9Cassin’s Kingbird   3 1
9Black Phoebe545533
9Say’s Phoebe   1  
9California Scrub-Jay132211
9American Crow51173812
9Oak Titmouse 2  2 
9Violet-green Swallow  1   
9Northern Rough-winged Swallow 14   
9Barn Swallow203028   
9Cliff Swallow 31   
9Wrentit 1 1  
9Ruby-crowned Kinglet     2
9Blue-gray Gnatcatcher     2
9House Wren111212
9Marsh Wren    1 
9Bewick’s Wren  11 2
9Northern Mockingbird13 1  
9European Starling   8  
9Hermit Thrush     3
9House Finch1012841518
9Lesser Goldfinch1 3616
9White-crowned Sparrow    1240
9Song Sparrow426336
9California Towhee1 1 36
9Spotted Towhee   1 1
9Red-winged Blackbird 625 43
9Great-tailed Grackle664 51
9Orange-crowned Warbler  12  
9Common Yellowthroat 24532
9Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s)    416
Totals by TypeJunJulAugSepOctNov
2Water Birds – Other177159197174275471
3Herons, Egrets & Ibis132922131540
4Quail & Raptors511211
6Gulls & Terns110673340141277546
8Other Non-Passerines233205
 Totals Birds437122210737149141690
 Total SpeciesJunJulAugSepOctNov
2Water Birds – Other455589
3Herons, Egrets & Ibis455344
4Quail & Raptors211211
6Gulls & Terns586577
8Other Non-Passerines111203
Totals Species – 97355156525465

  1. trisha roth permalink
    December 22, 2022 5:42 pm

    G’mar Chatimah Tovah
    A Good Final Sealing
    May you be written


    • Chukar permalink*
      December 23, 2022 11:59 am

      Sorry, I’m happily married.
      But thanks for asking.


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