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Where Did Humans Come From? | PBS Science Video

July 31, 2017

In part 1 of this special series on human ancestry, we tour through our family tree to meet our ancestors and distant cousins, and to find out what made us human along the way.
The story of human ancestry is not a simple progression from primitive apes to us, with all the ape/human intermediates in between. The real human story is much richer and more complex, full of branches, gaps, and shadowy parts. A century and a half of fossil finds tells us perhaps two dozen human species lived on Earth between now and the time when our ancestors split from chimpanzee ancestors. The new era of DNA and genetics is upending that story yet again.

This is an installment of the PBS – It’s OK to be Smart series. If no film or link appears in this email, go to the blog to view it by clicking on the blog title above. If the film stops & starts in an annoying manner, press pause (lower left double bars ||) to let it buffer and get ahead of you.  [Chuck Almdale]

Least Terns Nest as Migrants Arrive: Malibu Lagoon, 23 July, 2017

July 27, 2017

Malibu pier in eastern distance past the nesting area (G. Murayama 7-23-17)

Least Terns continue nesting on Surfrider Beach next to Malibu Lagoon. The semi-monthly high tides washed out most of their nests, forcing them to re-nest. Some may have re-nested more than once. Some adults were mating a few days ago, some are sitting on eggs. Some chicks are very young while others are older, and we have juveniles stretching their wings and flying around quite competently. These birds grow up fast: 20-22 days of egg incubation, then 19-21 days from hatching to fledging.

A very young Least Tern chick (J. Waterman 7-23-17)

The Snowy Plovers are done nesting, and the winter roosting colony continues to grow. Our hatched plover chick was not banded and is now a flying juvenile.With additional juveniles arriving on Malibu Beach from northerly nesting areas, we no longer can tell for sure which one it is or even if it’s still here.

Does this Snowy Plover make you need to yawn? (J. Waterman 7-23-17)

Snowy Plover GA:OY returns for the fourth winter (J. Waterman 7-23-17)

Our old friend, Snowy Plover GA:OY, one of two birds with this color combination banded at Oceano Dunes (near central coast Pismo Beach), has returned from breeding and is again on our beach. We’ve recorded it at Malibu on 23 prior occasions spread over three winters. GA:OY has also been recorded roosting and nesting at Bolsa Chica in Orange County, but we don’t know if it’s the same bird. It’s never been recorded in both locations on the same day. Maybe we can nail down this uncertainty this winter.

High tide made a mess of our sandbag wall (L. Loeher 7-23-17)

The high tides were unkind to our sandbag wall, and the photo tells the tale. The lesson to be learned, in my opinion, is that standing or even slightly leaning sandbags simply won’t stay in place against waves rushing up the rising beach. We have to lay them down. It probably takes more sandbags to cover the same distance to the same height when they’re lying down, but it seems to be far more solid.

Least Tern on two chicks (J. Waterman 7-23-17)

We did not find the Reddish Egret as we had hoped, nor Western or Least Sandpipers or even Sanderlings, all of which have been passing through. The egret has appeared erratically over the past month.  A few birders came this morning to see it within Los Angeles County, and they were very disappointed.

Least Tern, two chicks and a big fish (J. Waterman 7-23-17)

A useful object lesson on our walks comes to us complements of the Heermann’s Gull. Most people believe that migratory birds migrate north for the summer and south for the winter. In North America, this is usually but not always true. The Heermann’s Gull regularly spend the winter on west coast beaches, including Malibu, but can be found as far north as Seattle. They breed almost entirely well to the south in the Sea of Cortez, where 95% of the species nests on the tiny island of Isla Rasa, less than 150 acres in size. Nesting is in the early spring. It’s so hot there that if they nested later, they’d cook their brains. This applies to the Elegant Terns who nest there as well.

Chocolate-colored juvenile Heermann’s Gull among post-breeding adults
(J. Waterman 7-23-17)

These gulls have had massive breeding failures for several years due to lack of prey fish. I didn’t see any juvenile birds (born in most recent spring) last year at Malibu, and probably not the year before either. When we spotted one today on the beach I made sure someone got a photo, which I sent to Kimball Garrett, Ornithology Collections Manager of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, who replied:

A few juvenile Heermann’s have shown up in the past 3 weeks or so, but generally only about 1 to 5 % of the [Heermann’s] flocks, which seems like a lower percentage than back in the “good old days” when they bred very successfully in the Gulf of California most years.

Our single juvenile Heermann’s at Malibu was among 18 post-breeding adults, making it 5.3% of the entire Heermann’s flock, which fits pretty well with Garrett’s estimate.

Western Gull with starfish-snack (G. Murayama 7-23-17)

This four minute film of Isla Raza is well worth watching.

Some additional resources on Heermann’s Gull and Isla Rasa.
The Auk, 1999.
Heermann’s Gull breeding biology on Isla Rasa, Enriqueta Velarde
Western Birds, 1978. Breeding Birds of Isla Raza, Jeffery Boswall & Michael Barrett
San Diego Natural History Museum Ocean OasisIsla Rasa
San Diego Natural History Museum – Ocean OasisHeermann’s Gull
10,000 BirdsHeermann’s Gull, Near Threatened
Bird Watching DailyWarming Seas, Overfishing, drive away Elegant Terns

Greater Yellowlegs and two Black-bellied Plovers (J. Waterman 7-23-17)

Birds new for the season were: Pied-billed Grebe, Osprey, Greater Yellowlegs, Whimbrel, Marble Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone, Black Turnstone, Peregrine Falcon, Cassin’s Kingbird, Western Kingbird, Western Meadowlark.

Aaaaah – a good wing-stretch – Least Tern Juvenile (J. Waterman 7-23-17)

Many thanks to our photographers: Larry Loeher, Grace Murayama and Joyce Waterman.

Cabbage White Butterfly
(J. Waterman 7-23-17)

Our next four scheduled field trips: Possible Lower L.A. River in late August, Malibu Lagoon 8:30 & 10am, 27 August; Malibu Lagoon 8:30 & 10am, 24 September, To be announced 8:30am, Oct 14.

Our next program: To Be Announced, 3 October, 7:30 pm; Chris Reed Park, 1133 7th St., NE corner of 7th and Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica.

NOTE: Our 10 a.m. Parent’s & Kids Birdwalk meets at the shaded viewpoint just south of the parking area. Watch for Willie the Weasel. He’ll be watching for you and your big floppy feet.

Juvenile Least Tern has a lot of brownish plumage (J. Waterman 7-23-17)

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

Prior checklists:
2017: Jan-June
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 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 period Jun’12-June’14.

Black Phoebe on floating lagoon wood (L. Loeher 7-23-17)

Many thanks to Lillian Johnson, Chris Lord & Joyce Waterman for their contributions to the checklist below.
[Chuck Almdale]

Malibu Census 2017 2/26 3/26 4/23 5/28 6/25 7/23
Temperature 46-52 55-68 63-70 63-68 68-81 70-75
Tide Lo/Hi Height H+5.6 H+5.21 H+4.54 L+1.32 H+4.18 H+4.39
Tide Time 0845 0851 0749 0627 1147 1039
Canada Goose 2
Gadwall 10 12 10 15 18 15
American Wigeon 6 18
Mallard 24 14 20 25 35 30
Northern Shoveler 2 1
Green-winged Teal 12 2
Surf Scoter 8 30
Bufflehead 1
Hooded Merganser 2
Red-brstd Merganser 1 2 4
Ruddy Duck 10
Pacific Loon 2 80
Pied-billed Grebe 1 2
Eared Grebe 1 3
Western Grebe 3 1
Black-vented Shearwater 50
Dble-crstd Cormorant 42 41 19 12 11 22
Pelagic Cormorant 1
Brown Pelican 30 8 28 18 68 35
Great Blue Heron 4 2 3 5 6
Great Egret 3 1 3 5
Snowy Egret 9 5 4 2 9 12
Blk-crwnd N-Heron 1 1 1
Turkey Vulture 1
Osprey 1 1 1 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
American Coot 85 32 1 4 6
Blk-bellied Plover 35 14 15 5 5 27
Snowy Plover 8 8 3 2 5 9
Semipalmated Plover 20
Killdeer 4 8 12 14 8 4
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Willet 12 13 4 2 3
Whimbrel 5 4 4 27
Long-billed Curlew 1
Marbled Godwit 8 23 1 8
Ruddy Turnstone 10 1 3 2
Black Turnstone 1
Dunlin 1
Least Sandpiper 4 2 30
Western Sandpiper 3 3 1
Bonaparte’s Gull 1 1 1
Heermann’s Gull 3 1 24 19
Mew Gull 1
Ring-billed Gull 30 2 1
Western Gull 45 39 75 45 103 52
California Gull 1350 6 3 2
Herring Gull 1
Glaucous-wingd Gull 2
Least Tern 3 20 30
Caspian Tern 2 17 4 12 12
Royal Tern 14 5 2 2
Elegant Tern 65 45 3 90
Black Skimmer 1
Rock Pigeon 10 6 18 13 15 17
Mourning Dove 1 1 2 4 2 4
Allen’s Hummingbird 2 2 1 3 4 6
Belted Kingfisher 1
Peregrine Falcon 1
Black Phoebe 2 6 4 5 5 5
Cassin’s Kingbird 1
Western Kingbird 1
California Scrub-Jay 1
American Crow 4 3 3 5 7 2
Common Raven 1
Violet-green Swallow 1
Rough-wingd Swallow 20 4 3 2
Cliff Swallow 16 3 15
Barn Swallow 5 10 10 9 12
Bushtit 8 3 1
House Wren 1 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
Hermit Thrush 1
Northern Mockingbird 2 4 8 4 2
European Starling 1 1 1 12 7
Ornge-crwnd Warbler 2
Common Yellowthroat 3 4 3 4 1 2
Yellow-rumped Warbler 8
California Towhee 1 1 3
Savannah Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 8 8 15 12 6 6
White-crwnd Sparrow 20 10
Red-winged Blackbird 1 30
Western Meadowlark 1 1
Great-tailed Grackle 2 3 8 4 15
Hooded Oriole 1
House Finch 10 6 16 30 10 10
Totals by Type Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul
Waterfowl 75 80 32 44 53 45
Water Birds – Other 165 132 130 31 83 65
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 16 8 4 6 18 24
Quail & Raptors 2 1 2 0 0 2
Shorebirds 86 76 96 21 22 82
Gulls & Terns 1445 58 160 97 167 207
Doves 11 7 20 17 17 21
Other Non-Passerines 3 2 1 3 4 6
Passerines 94 53 89 92 104 57
Totals Birds 1897 417 534 311 468 509
Total Species Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul
Waterfowl 9 8 3 3 2 2
Water Birds – Other 8 5 4 3 3 4
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 3 3 1 3 4 4
Quail & Raptors 2 1 2 0 0 2
Shorebirds 8 9 11 3 6 9
Gulls & Terns 7 9 6 4 7 7
Doves 2 2 2 2 2 2
Other Non-Passerines 2 1 1 1 1 1
Passerines 18 13 16 10 14 11
Totals Species – 87 59 51 46 29 39 42


Lifetime National Parks Senior Pass Price Hike in August

July 27, 2017

If you are 62 and over and frequently visit lands covered by the “America the Beautiful – The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass – Senior Pass” and you haven’t purchased your lifetime senior pass yet (or have lost yours and have been intending to replace it) BUY IT NOW!!

The senior pass, which costs a one-time fee of only $10 for life once you turn 62 (and only $20 if you order it by mail and/or online) will be going up to $80 on August 28, 2017. If you already have your senior pass, it will be grandfathered in, and all it’s benefits remain intact for life (as long as it’s not lost or stolen) – you won’t have to pay more. Any new senior pass bought through August 27, 2017 will still cost the original $10. They are having a large volume of purchases at the moment, so passes may possibly end up being out of stock at actual physical sites at any one time, but the USGS purchase website says that any mail order purchases through the USGS that are *postmarked* before August 28th will still be honored at the $10 price.
$10 is a great bargain to be able to get free access to a bountiful myriad of recreational sites within the BLM, Bureau of Reclamation, Fish & Wildlife Service, USDA Forest Service, National Park Service and US Army Corps of Engineers. Plus you often get discounts (sometimes up to 50%) on extra amenities within those agencies, such as campgrounds. To be honest, even the new price of $80 lifetime will still be a pretty darned spectacular bargain. Most birders could plow through that price in Day Use Fees alone, in very short order.

The government is also implementing a brand new Annual Senior Pass for $20/year, for those on a budget, or those that aren’t yet sure if they’d use a pass that much. The nice thing is, after you’ve purchased four Annual Senior Passes in the future (a sure sign that you ARE using them much!) you can then trade in those four passes to obtain a life pass, which you can then use instead, with no further annual pass purchases needed. (So make sure you don’t throw any of the expired ones away!)And one very important recommendation: once you get (or already have) your lifetime Senior Pass in hand, treat it like gold!!! They are good for you to use for life, but if they are ever stolen or lost, you will have to buy a replacement, and that will be at the new $80 price.

Complete details and frequently asked questions about these new changes
Courtesy of: Ms. Holland in AZ
[Chuck Almdale]

Archerfish Says…”I Spit in Your Face!” | Deep Look Video

July 27, 2017

The archerfish hunts by spitting water at terrestrial targets with weapon-like precision, and can even tell human faces apart. Is this fish smarter than it looks?

This is another installment of the PBS Deep Look series. If no film or link appears in this email, go to the blog to view it by clicking on the blog title above. If the film stops & starts in an annoying manner, press pause (lower left double bars ||) to let it buffer and get ahead of you.  [Chuck Almdale]

Los Angeles Underwater, with Dr. Jorge Velez-Juarbe | Natural History Museum’s Curiosity Show

July 23, 2017

Fifteen million years in the past, all the way back to the Miocene, Los Angeles was underwater, and in this episode, we visit the museum’s Age of Mammals exhibit and meet the marine mammals of prehistoric Southern California. Our curator of marine mammals, Dr. Jorge Velez-Juarbe, tells us how they ate, swam, and fought in the waters over what would become Los Angeles.

This comes from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. If no film or link appears in this email, go to the blog to view it by clicking on the blog title above. If the film stops & starts in an annoying manner, press pause (lower left double bars ||) to let it buffer and get ahead of you.  [Chuck Almdale]

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