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Low tide down, High tide up: Repeat

January 8, 2022

[Posted by Chuck Almdale, photos by Ray Juncosa]

Here’s another offering in our never-ending effort to document tidal fluctuations in Malibu Lagoon. Future oceanographic historians will be enormously grateful, no doubt.

Ray commented on his photo shooting:

I was stopped by a couple who wondered if I came to the lagoon frequently – they could have sworn you could walk from the west lifeguard station all the way back past the Adamson House to Surfrider’s Beach and were surprised that they needed to do a u-turn.  

Sometimes you can, sometime you can’t. Depends on the storms and tides.
Look below.

Osprey overhead (Ray Juncosa 2-28-16)

The ‘Winter Ramp – Summer Clock‘ sidewalk is inundated when water levels are high. This is intentional. There are tiles along part of the sidewalk showing the height above mean low low sea level.

Tidal clock sidewalk (Ray Juncosa, Malibu Lagoon 18 Dec 2021)
Tidal clock sidewalk (Ray Juncosa, Malibu Lagoon 2021)
Tidal clock sidewalk, other end; storm-brought wood (Ray Juncosa, Malibu Lagoon 3 Jan 2021)

The following set shows where Malibu flows out under Pacific Coast Highway. When the bridge was replaced several decades ago, due to very high flows and trees coming down the creek in an El Nino winter, the Cliff Swallows stopped nesting under it. They moved over to the brick or cement walls of the shopping and civic center buildings a few hundred yards away. The water is deepest just the other side of the bridge.

Pacific Coast Hwy bridge (Ray Juncosa, Malibu Lagoon 18 Dec 2021)
Pacific Coast Hwy bridge (Ray Juncosa, Malibu Lagoon 2021)

Pacific Coast Highway (Hwy #1) bridge and Malibu Lagoon as seen from near Malibu Colony.

Pacific Coast Hwy bridge and Malibu Lagoon (Ray Juncosa 18 Dec 2021
Pacific Coast Hwy bridge (Ray Juncosa, Malibu Lagoon 3 Jan 2022)

The west end of the public part of Surfrider’s Beach begins here, where the Malibu Colony houses end. Cormorants, seals and shorebirds that prefer rocks to sand can be found here, but not at high tide.

West Surfrider’s Beach, east end of Malibu Colony, offshore rocks (Ray Juncosa, Malibu Lagoon 3 Jan 2022)
West Surfrider’s Beach, east end of Malibu Colony, offshore rocks currently subtidal. (Ray Juncosa, Malibu Lagoon 3 Jan 2022)

The south channel looking back towards the Winter Ramp sidewalk, with Pepperdine University and Hughes Research Lab on the distant hills.

South channel looking northwest towards Hughes Research Lab on the distant hill (Ray Juncosa, Malibu Lagoon 18 Dec 2021)
South channel looking west towards Pepperdine University and Hughes Research Lab on the distant hills (Ray Juncosa, Malibu Lagoon 3 Jan 2022)

Looking east across the lagoon towards Adamson House on east side.

Looking east across the lagoon towards Adamson House, Santa Monica in distance (Ray Juncosa, Malibu Lagoon 18 Dec 2021)
Looking east across the lagoon towards Adamson House (Ray Juncosa, Malibu Lagoon 3 Jan 2022)

A regular denizen.

Great Egret fully plumed (Joyce Waterman 2-26-17)

Bird Checklists for California & Los Angeles County

January 6, 2022

[Posted by Chuck Almdale]

California Bird Checklist
The latest update to the Official California Checklist — as per the California Bird Records Committee — is always here: It’s a multi-page list, not a handy pocket-sized checklist.

Kimball Garrett posted this recent update (5 Jan 2022) to the list:

The California Bird Records Committee has completed a review of two more naturalized bird species and has now officially added them to the California state list: Mitred Parakeet (Psittacara mitratus) and Lilac-crowned Parrot (Amazona finschi). 

These two additions bring the state list to 679 species of which 15 are established introductions. Following the AOS Checklist, they are placed on the California list under family Psittacidae in the following order:

Mitred Parakeet (Psittacara mitratus)
[Yellow-chevroned Parakeet]
[Red-crowned Parrot]
Lilac-crowned Parrot (Amazona finschi)

The CBRC web site has been updated to reflect these additions:

The Committee is also reviewing proposals to add Nanday Parakeet (Aratinga nenday) and Red-masked Parakeet (Psittacara erythrogenys) to the state list; those proposals are still in review.

Los Angeles County Bird Checklist
The closest I could find to the equivalent of the Calif. checklist is this PDF file, also from Kimball Garrett, of 523 species as of April 2017:
It’s also a multi-page list, not a handy pocket-sized checklist.

The prior LA County checklist from 2006, which actually looks like a checklist, is available on the San Fernando Valley Audubon website here.

Kimball Garrett posted this recent update (5 Jan 2022) to the LA County list:

The CBRC has recently added Mitred Parakeet (Psittacara mitratus) and Lilac-crowned Parrot (Amazona finschi) to the official California state list as naturalized non-native species.  Since both of these species are well-established in Los Angeles County, they are now officially added to the county bird list as well.

Also, the CBRC accepted a record of Mexican Duck (Anas diazi) from Los Angeles County: a bird shot by a hunter (specimen photographed) at Piute Ponds on 18 December 2019. This adds another species to the county list.  [Two other county reports of Mexican Duck, from the San Gabriel Coastal Basin Spreading Grounds 23-26 December 2014 and from Santa Fe Dam 1 May 2016 received much support from the CBRC in the first round of circulation but are going through another round of voting.]

New Year’s Day Birding – Malibu Lagoon to King Gillette

January 4, 2022

[Chuck Almdale]

Low sun over lagoon, 8:16am (Lillian Johnson 1-1-22)

Just to kick off the new year right — or wrong, depending on one’s point of view — a few of us decided impromptuishly to tuck a few year-birds under our proverbial birders’ belts. Nothing major — shore/sea birds, creek birds, small park birds, big park birds.

Ruddy Duck male in basic plumage, but for the bright blue bill. (C. Tosdevin, Malibu Lagoon 1-1-22)

Maybe we’d hit 100 species — a number with lots of roundness to it. Probably not. Merely rising early on New Year’s Day doesn’t offset one’s inherent laziness, albeit along a spectrum of laziness, to be sure.

North channel (L. Johnson 1-1-22)

It hit 34°F passing by Malibu Creek State Park in the Santa Monica Mountains enroute to the lagoon, our low for the day, but at the beach a few miles away it was a roasty toasty 50°.

An inundated tidal sidewalk with river driftwood (Lillian Johnson 1-1-22)

Breezy, chilly — thin gloves a comfort. Still, surfers in the water, kicking the year off right, waiting for that great big set outside.

I thought perhaps we’d be efficient, find all the birds quickly and move on to the next location. Ha! Not a chance! Three-and-a-half hours for lagoon, upcreek and circling the small Legacy Park pond, where one of us added one whole species – Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. By the time we arrived at King Gillette State Park, it was already time to knock off for lunch.

California Towhee. Every bush had at least one. (F. Faminu 1-1-22)
Open channel on Kinglet Tide day from lagoon south shore (L. Johnson 1-1-22)

The tide was high and the lagoon was full, the beach was gone and most of the birds stood in the water and on damp sand at the far side of the wide outlet stream. Floating wood choked the southern channel and the western edge of the outlet, almost certainly washed down the creek during the recent storm.

Open channel from beach. Plenty of downstreamed driftwood. (L. Johnson 1-1-22)

Still we picked out seven species of gull and Royal Tern. I’m sure that Marbled Godwit and Snowy Plover were over there but we couldn’t find them.

Western Grebes beyond “the rocks” (C. Tosdevin, Malibu Lagoon 1-1-22)

Western Grebe are common in SoCal nearshore waters in flotillas of varying sizes. Loons appear in small numbers: a Pacific Loon today, but a Red-throated Loon last Sunday. Small flocks of Surf Scoter dotted the water, several svelte Pelagic Cormorant dove in the surf zone, and – more unexpected at sea – a nice-looking Red-breasted Merganser about 100-200 yards out.

Red-breasted Merganser male at sea (C. Tosdevin, Malibu Beach 1-1-22)

The Hooded Mergansers had left, to our great disappointment, no doubt because millions of gallons of water came charging down the creek earlier in the week. Not very pleasant for diving ducks who prefer still waters.

Osprey (C. Tosdevin, Malibu Creek 1-1-22)
Green Heron (C. Tosdevin, Malibu Creek 1-1-22)

An Osprey sat perched on a low metal pole for hours. Shortly after we arrived Malibu Creek-side, just the other side of PCH bridge, it flew over for a closer look. After seeing those talons up close, I have a better understanding how it hangs on so securely to those thrashing mullet when using only one claw.

Two Green Herons, seven Black-crowned Night-Herons (2 adult), a female Belted Kingfisher (with rust on sides of the breast), and a Spotted Sandpiper, which we hadn’t seen in months in the lagoon proper — all were nice to see.

Belted Kingfisher female (C. Tosdevin, Malibu Creek 1-1-22)

I wrote an essay a while back about “Sexual Dimorphism Reversal and Polyandry” which I mention now only because Belted Kingfisher is one of very few avian species in which the female is more colorful than the male, but has no noticeable tendencies towards polyandry (female has multiple mates). This has been widely noticed and remarked upon, but no one has figured out why. Several conjectures are offered:

  • Many males maintain year-round territories, fending off other males. The bright cinnamon band of the females, returning from migration, signals the males to welcome, not attack.
  • In breeding season, females tend to be more aggressive and territorial than males. Their testosterone levels may be higher-than-normal testosterone levels, and may affect how pigment (specifically carotinoids) is incorporated into their plumage.
Lesser Goldfinch male on Sycamore seedball (C. Tosdevin, Malibu Lagoon 1-1-22)

There was surprisingly little activity at Legacy Park, other than a small girl feeding seed to the Mallards. Generally speaking, Sora and Wilson’s Snipe are more common there than they now are at the lagoon, as are a few fresh-water ducks, and even oddballs like Red-whiskered Bulbul pop in and out — the last bird mostly out, as in somewhere else, in my experience. Nope. Nada. Nil. Femi visited there earlier and found a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, which the rest of us missed.

Female Common Yellowthroat at pond’s edge. Note sharp border between yellow throat and brown face. (Femi Faminu Legacy Park 1-1-22)
Lewis’ Woodpecker
(C. Tosdevin, King Gillette 1-1-22)

Chris Lord and I stopped at the SW corner of Mulholland Drive and Las Virgenes road and found seven Lewis’ Woodpeckers, where I’d found a bunch four days earlier. Over fifty have been reported from the general area, including Malibu Creek State Park where Lillian and I saw about a dozen last Tuesday. Quite an irruption; the most I’ve every heard of in this area.

Lunchtime at King Gillette (named for the razor blade magnate) brought towhees, kinglets, titmice, Yellow-rumped Warblers, two Red-tailed Hawks and foreboding Turkey Vultures. Do they like peanut-butter sandwiches? I hope not. No Nanday Parakeets though, which are usually around.

Hermit Thrush (F. Faminu, King Gillette 1-1-22)

King Gillette set up a very weird drive-through display for Christmas. The fronts (only the fronts) of little houses and stores, animals of wicker (see checklist below), fake snow, Santas and elves in abundance, little lights everywhere. Drive through it at night with the lights all aglow and it would look quite cheery and festive and a delight for children of all ages, as they say. I suppose. In daylight it just looked weird.

Many Mourning Doves and not a single Partridge in the tree (C. Tosdevin, 1-1-22)

In the middle of all this excitement was a pine tree with a roosting Barn Owl. Chris and Ruth have been peeking at it for months. There are sometimes two, in two adjacent trees, but only one today, peeking at us, squinty-eyed.

Barn Owl (C. Tosdevin, King Gillette 1-1-22)

Nuttall’s Woodpecker are a near-endemic species of California; their breeding range extends down into northern Baja California and they occasionally wander north into Oregon. Not a large range, but common enough within it. We heard their rattle more often than we saw the bird.

Nuttall’s Woodpecker female – no red on head, narrow black on top of back
(F. Faminu, King Gillette 1-1-22)

I originally put “raindeer” on the list and several people felt compelled to send me a correction to “reindeer.” Now duly corrected. But that piqued my etymological curiosity. I can understand deer in the rain being called (erroneously) “raindeer,” but are they “reindeer” because the Saami (Santa Claus’ Laplandian native tribe (not)) make them haul their sleighs around, controlled with reins by the driver?


Northern (Red-shafted) Flicker. They often search the ground for insects. (C. Tosdevin, King Gillette 1-1-22)

The word comes not from rain-deer or rein-deer, but from (most likely) an Old Norse word ‘hreindyri,’ which divides into hreinn + dyr. ‘Dyr’ means ‘animal’ while ‘hreinn‘ is — and this is really helpful — the Old Norse name for the reindeer. This seems a bit strange, as I’m sure the Old Norse could discern that a reindeer was an animal, so appending ‘animal’ onto a perfectly adequate name for an animal doesn’t make much sense. To me. They weren’t always whacked out on mead. And I wonder if ‘hreinn‘ might not be cognate with ‘horn.’ ‘Horn-deer’ makes a lot more sense than ‘reindeer animal.’ Further searching quickly led me into repetitive and viciously cyclical self-referential entries about proto-Germanic and proto-Indo-European languages, folk and fake etymologies, without any satisfactory enlightenment.

Anyone out there care to take a look at ‘reindeer’ and ‘hreindyri‘, and get back to us?

Lu stopped by Malibu Creek State Park, across Las Virgenes Hwy. from King Gillette after meeting us for lunch, and then by Sepulveda Basin Nature Reserve on his way back home, and picked up a few additional birds at both locations (see list below).

One person sighted a swallow which they identified as a Violet-green. Problem with that ID is that this species is quite uncommon in SoCal in December, whereas Tree Swallow is abundant in some areas. The two are easily confused because they are both glossy, have pale faces and prominent white areas on their sides between the tail and the rear of the wings—their fuselage, so to speak. So I put it down as a Tree/Violet-green Swallow.

White-throated Swift – hard to photo because they’re so….swift.
Superficially swallow-like (C. Tosdevin, Legacy Park 1-1-22)
Bobcat (C. Tosdevin, King Gillette 1-1-22)

Last but far from least was an excellent sighting of a Bobcat at King Gillette. We’ve seen them before in various parks in this part of the Santa Monica Mountains, but they always beat a hasty retreat, vanishing over the hill or into the brush. This Bobcat was sitting in the sun on the ground squirrel-festooned lawn at King Gillette, near the brush at the northern border of the property, quite close to one of Santa’s Little Helper-houses, and did not look at all like it was thinking about moving just because a few pesky humans had come along. We all looked at each other for a few minutes, then it roused itself and stretched-staggered-slunk into the brush, not far from the California Quail who had been enjoying the sun not far away. The Bobcat’s tail was short and curly.

Bobcat. Interesting pattern of color. (C. Tosdevin, King Gillette 1-1-22)
 Birder’s OutingMalibuMalibuLegacyKingMalibuSepul.
 New Year’s Day 1-1-22LagoonCreekParkGilletteCk. SPBasin
1Gr. White-fronted Goose     X
1Canada GooseX     
1Northern ShovelerX     
1American WigeonXX    
1Green-winged TealX     
1Ring-necked Duck   X  
1Surf ScoterX     
1Red-breasted MerganserXX    
1Ruddy DuckX X   
4California Quail   X  
2Pied-billed GrebeX     
2Eared GrebeX     
2Western GrebeX     
7Feral PigeonX XX  
7Band-tailed Pigeon   X  
7Mourning DoveX XX  
8White-throated SwiftX   X 
8Anna’s HummingbirdX X   
8Allen’s HummingbirdX XX  
2American CootX XX  
5Black-bellied PloverX     
5KilldeerX X   
5Ruddy TurnstoneX     
5Least SandpiperX     
5Spotted Sandpiper X    
6Bonaparte’s GullX     
6Heermann’s GullX     
6Ring-billed GullX     
6Western GullX X   
6California GullX     
6Herring GullX     
6Glaucous-winged GullX     
6Royal TernX     
2Pacific LoonX     
2Black-vented ShearwaterX     
2Double-crested CormorantX X   
2Pelagic CormorantX     
2American White Pelican     X
2Brown PelicanX     
3Great Blue HeronX     
3Great EgretX X   
3Snowy EgretX  X  
3Green HeronXX    
3Black-crowned Night-HeronXX   X
4Turkey VultureXXXX  
4Northern Harrier    X 
4Red-shouldered HawkX  X  
4Red-tailed HawkXXXX  
8Barn Owl   X  
8Belted Kingfisher X    
8Acorn Woodpecker   X  
8Lewis’ Woodpecker   X  
8Nuttall’s WoodpeckerXX X  
8Downy WoodpeckerX X   
8North.(Red-shafted) Flicker   X  
9Black PhoebeX XX  
9Say’s Phoebe   X  
9Cassin’s Kingbird   X  
9California Scrub-JayX  X  
9American CrowXXXX  
9Common Raven  XX  
9Tree/Violet-green Swallow    X 
9Oak Titmouse   X  
9BushtitX X   
9Marsh WrenX     
9White-breasted Nuthatch   X  
9Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  X   
9Ruby-crowned KingletX  X  
9Western Bluebird   X  
9Hermit Thrush  XX  
9Northern MockingbirdX     
9European StarlingX XX  
9House FinchX XXX 
9Lesser GoldfinchX XX  
9Spotted Towhee   X  
9California TowheeX XX  
9Song SparrowX X   
9White-crowned SparrowX XX  
9Golden-crowned Sparrow   X  
9Dark-eyed Junco   XX 
9Western Meadowlark  XX  
9Red-winged BlackbirdX   X 
9Great-tailed GrackleX     
9Orange-crowned WarblerX     
9Common YellowthroatX XX  
9Yellow-rumped WarblerX XX  
 Total SpeciesLagoonCreekParkGilletteCreek SPBasin
2Water Birds – Other902101
3Herons, Egrets & Ibis521101
4Quail & Raptors432410
6Gulls & Terns801000
8Other Non-Passerines523610
 Totals Species – 936813303963
 Bobcat   1  
 Wicker Reindeer7 
 Wicker Bear3 
 Suger Plum Fairy4,842 
 Ground Squirrel (minimum)   25  

Boxing Day at Malibu Lagoon, 26 December 2021

December 30, 2021

[Posted by Chuck Almdale]

Heermann’s Gull, displaying tongue (Grace Murayama 12-21-21)

We stood at the viewpoint near the Pacific Coast Highway bridge, scanning the lagoon, sun in our eyes, searching for ducks among hundreds of black coots. All the birds were equally coal-dark and similarly sized! Slowly Gadwall, Mallard, Ruddy, Bufflehead, American Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, one Pintail and a few Red-breasted Mergansers emerged from dark waters and bright glare. Someone said there were 3, 4, maybe 5 Hooded Mergansers up past the bridge. Brush and wide bridge supports blocked our view, but one-by-one we glimpsed poorly one or more of these uncommonly beautiful birds. At least one was a strikingly-marked male. I decided we must clomp to and under the bridge for better views, risky these days due to the people living in the bushes and under the bridge. There turned out to be three people under the bridge, staying out of the rain of the prior two days. We startled one relaxing creekside as our group of ten birders came tromping by, and he quickly disappeared.

Common Yellowthroat female (Femi Faminu 12-26-21)

Sure enough, with bushes and cement out of the way, we saw a lot. A dozen Ruddy Duck, one Red-breasted Merganser, Double-crested Cormorants diving for fish in the deeper water below the north of the PCH bridge, and eight Hooded Mergansers—six females and two males. Over the next 20 minutes, they grew to 13 in number, now including 3 males. I suppose they came floating down the creek. They prefer fresh water and are occasionally found upstream in a few locations. I’ve never seen them in salt water, and they don’t seem to much care for brackish water either. However, with all the rain we’ve had in recent days, I suspect the lagoon is primarily fresh water throughout.

I checked my records later and since October 1979 SMBAS has recorded Hooded Merganser 23 times for a total of (at least 65) birds. Six of those sightings only their presence was noted, but not the count. The previous sighting was 2 birds on 1-26-20. Before that we had 1-5 birds from 11-27-16 to 2-26-17. Not terrifically common.

Lagoon Evening, pavilion view (Grace Murayama 12-21-21)
Cooper’s Hawk (F. Faminu 12-26-21)

A Double-crested Cormorant caught a large fish, which looked like a catfish because it seemed to have thickish “whiskers” sticking out from around it’s very wide mouth. It was quite fat side-to-side, and the cormorant was having an terrible time trying to get it oriented head first and “down the hatch.” A helpful Great Blue Heron came over for a closer look at this struggle, and decided to assist his brother bird by stealing the fish altogether and driving the cormorant away. The heron now engaged in a 10-minute struggle with the fish which—as I said—was quite fat. It was also still alive, despite being out-of-water for the last five minutes, and was still struggling madly. The heron repeatedly dipped the bird in the water as if trying to make it slippery, or perhaps getting it oriented properly (head first!, always head first!) without losing it into the creek. Finally, the fish no longer struggling—I think, as I was finding this hard to watch—the heron swallowed the fish, where it made a heck of a bulge in its gullet. We were all chilly from standing in the shade, so we went back to the viewing platform and the sun. Unfortunately, these events were so fascinating that no one took a photo.

The other big event of the day was one Osprey catching two fish, or was it two Osprey catching one fish each? The catches were maybe 1 hour apart.

That’s not a log or alligator in the water (Marsha Collins 12-26-21)

I couldn’t believe that an Osprey would want to eat two large fish only an hour apart, but none of us saw two birds at the same time, so I have to assume it was a single bird. And they were big fish!

Osprey lifting off with fish (M. Collins 12-26-21)

The Osprey(s) struggled to get aloft.

Osprey still lifting off with fish (M. Collins 12-26-21)

The Western Gulls became quite interested and chased the Osprey all around the lagoon for many circles as the Osprey—hanging onto the fish with only one foot, perhaps only one talon!—tried to gain sufficient altitude to land in a tree.

Osprey now underway with one foot on the fish (M. Collins 12-26-21)

The first bird eventually flew east past Adamson House and disappeared behind the property’s tall trees, perhaps landing in one.

Osprey with both feet on fish (M. Collins 12-26-21)

The second Osprey landed with his/her fish on top of the “Mockingbird Pole” at the northeast corner of Malibu Colony, where it slowly pulled the fish—still twitching spasmodically—apart.

Same Osprey – both feet on the fish (F. Faminu 12-26-21)

Chris Lord later emailed me the following:

Birds of prey have roughened pads on the undersides of their toes to help them to readily grasp prey. The fish-eating Osprey also has spines on the pads on the soles of its toes for holding on to slippery fishes.  These are very helpful when sequentially and sometimes simultaneously holding onto a slippery fish while evading gulls, a crow, a great egret, a snowy egret and a great blue heron.

The Birders Handbook, Ehrlich et al., page 241
Osprey – on the pole, finally! (F. Faminu 12-26-21)

These photos give a better view of the fish and this one at least is not a catfish. No whiskers, to start with. Looks like a Jumping Mullet to me.

I counted 34 Snowy Plovers but there were probably more. As usual, storm water rushing down the creek from the over-100-square-mile Malibu Creek watershed blew straight through the beach, very close to the permanent hillock near the foot of the path. All the lagoon water flowed out, leaving a wide channel full of icy cold rushing water which I was not going to attempt wading across, as I’d likely be swept out to sea and never heard of again, ruining my binoculars and telescope in the process. When I waded the channel last winter the water was so cold that the pain up to my shins was quite intense after about 20 seconds.

Channel, sand cliff, birds, lagoon, PCH bridge, Serra Retreat Center, Santa Monica Mountains (F. Faminu 12-26-21)

East of this channel the beach dropped off four feet almost straight down to the water, and the Snowy Plovers were scattered along this steep slope, which seemed a peculiar, atypical location to roost. Perhaps, for them, it was out of the undetectable wind. There were undoubted some plovers on the flat sand just above this drop off, but I couldn’t see them from across the channel.

Despite today being Boxing Day, no fisticuffians were present.

Malibu Lagoon on eBird: 12-30-21 5474 lists, 312 species.
Oddly enough, a month ago the eBird totals were 5438 lists and 315 species, so 36 lists were added yet three species disappeared. I didn’t know that not seeing a bird would remove it from the “seen” list. (Joking.) I checked to see if Femi’s November Hairy Woodpecker was one one of the “disappeared,” but it was still there.

North viewpoint view, sunset (Grace Murayama 12-21-21)

Birds new for the season: Hooded Merganser, Horned Grebe, Bonaparte’s Gull, Red-throated Loon, Green Heron, Turkey Vulture, Red-shouldered Hawk, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Barn Swallow, Wrentit, Hermit Thrush, Savannah Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco.

Many thanks to photographers: Marsha Collins, Femi Faminu & Grace Murayama.

The next three SMBAS scheduled field trips?: Good Question.

The next SMBAS program: Someone discussing something interesting, most likely on Tuesday, Feb 1, 2022 at 7:30 p.m. Keep your eyes on the blog.

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.

Bonaparte’s Gull
(G. Murayama 11-22-21)

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

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 Adrian Douglas, Esme Douglas, Femi Faminu, Lillian Johnson, Chris Lord 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.
[Chuck Almdale]

Malibu Census 20217/258/229/2610/2411/2812/26
Tide Lo/Hi HeightH+4.20H+4.55L+2.52H+5.23L+2.35L+2.58
 Tide Time114810340556110511040900
1Canada Goose    104
1Northern Shoveler   2  
1Gadwall4812 4220
1American Wigeon  74210
1Northern Pintail    21
1Green-winged Teal  15515
1Bufflehead    110
1Hooded Merganser     13
1Red-breasted Merganser11  1715
1Ruddy Duck 215813
2Pied-billed Grebe213535
2Horned Grebe     1
2Eared Grebe   11 
2Western Grebe   12  
7Feral Pigeon15686523
7Mourning Dove43 511
8Anna’s Hummingbird11  12
8Allen’s Hummingbird 31314
2American Coot82130240245360
5Black-bellied Plover439010387166104
5Snowy Plover92934344034
5Semipalmated Plover1432  
5Long-billed Curlew  1   
5Marbled Godwit 43034971
5Ruddy Turnstone2836 1
5Red-necked Stint 1    
5Sanderling 12201042222
5Dunlin 2 2  
5Baird’s Sandpiper 5    
5Least Sandpiper835129335
5Western Sandpiper1265221 
5Short-billed Dowitcher 3    
5Long-billed Dowitcher  1   
5Spotted Sandpiper 21   
5Willet 4014253413
5Red-necked Phalarope44    
6Bonaparte’s Gull     2
6Heermann’s Gull21125326
6Ring-billed Gull  1228170
6Western Gull525510639285
6California Gull14 9515370
6Herring Gull    1 
6Glaucous-winged Gull 1 1 2
6Least Tern 1    
6Caspian Tern 2    
6Royal Tern5 132  
6Elegant Tern2401    
2Red-throated Loon     1
2Brandt’s Cormorant   2101
2Double-crested Cormorant522735675239
2Pelagic Cormorant 12141
2Brown Pelican583011219944
3Great Blue Heron543334
3Great Egret1141317
3Snowy Egret22241411424
3Green Heron     2
3Black-crowned Night-Heron9331 1
4Turkey Vulture     1
4Osprey  2 11
4Cooper’s Hawk11  12
4Red-shouldered Hawk 1   1
4Red-tailed Hawk    11
8Belted Kingfisher 1    
8Nuttall’s Woodpecker     1
8Downy Woodpecker     1
8Hairy Woodpecker    1 
4Merlin  1   
4Peregrine Falcon  1   
9Black Phoebe345544
9Say’s Phoebe  11  
9California Scrub-Jay11 1 2
9American Crow444617
9No. Rough-winged Swallow 2    
9Cliff Swallow 4    
9Barn Swallow40253  2
9Oak Titmouse12    
9Bushtit120  48 
9House Wren  121 
9Marsh Wren   2  
9Bewick’s Wren   1 4
9Blue-gray Gnatcatcher   441
9Ruby-crowned Kinglet   11 
9Wrentit 1   1
9Hermit Thrush     1
9Northern Mockingbird11 2 1
9European Starling 3040 319
9American Pipit  1   
9House Finch61874188
9Lesser Goldfinch 2 122
9Spotted Towhee 1    
9California Towhee 1 224
9Savannah Sparrow     1
9Song Sparrow535478
9White-crowned Sparrow   51517
9Dark-eyed Junco     2
9Western Meadowlark  11  
9Red-winged Blackbird25     
9Great-tailed Grackle2051437
9Orange-crowned Warbler  1 2 
9Common Yellowthroat 25456
9Yellow-rumped Warbler   61920
Totals by TypeJulAugSepOctNovDec
2Water Birds – Other12061181349414452
3Herons, Egrets & Ibis47352118838
4Quail & Raptors124036
6Gulls & Terns300652579689655
8Other Non-Passerines151338
 Totals Birds82066858487116891682
 Total SpeciesJulAugSepOctNovDec
2Water Birds – Other455878
3Herons, Egrets & Ibis444435
4Quail & Raptors123035
6Gulls & Terns574656
8Other Non-Passerines131134
Totals Species – 104406249585769

Butterbredt Christmas Count 12/17/2021

December 20, 2021

The Butterbredt count circle has quite varied habitats inside its 15 mile diameter. We have desert scrub (creosote and coyote bush), steep hillsides and large flatlands, dry land and Kelso Creek with lots of trees, cattle fields, cattle ponds, and oak woodlands up in the Piute Mountains. That leads to a wide variety of birdlife, but we also have to remember that it is (1) the middle of winter, and (2) we’ve been in a drought for some time. So, this year when we saw 34 species it’s not so bad compared to the norm of 50+ a few years back. With this season’s rains we are probably on the up side of the curve for next year.


Years of drought have affected many of the live oaks. This one is almost entirely consumed by mistletoe.


Weather was sunny but cold: 34 degrees at the start. Only a light breeze made it easy to take. It was suggested that our Covid masks made for warmer breathing – a silver lining!

My group got lucky and found some really nice and some unusual birds. On our very first stop in the desert scrub at the edge of the circle we found 70 Bell’s Sparrows. Yow! The trip total of 122 was over double the average. Perhaps the bird of the day was a Short-eared Owl that sprang up from the ground as Chris Lord was coming back to the car. This is the first time one has been seen on the count – we took care to make sure of it, but we are sure.


Bell’s Sparrow, formerly Sage Sparrow. One of the prettiest of the sparrows.


Not too long afterwards we scoured the area where Le Conte’s Thrasher has been seen every now and then and struck out. Five minutes later as we drove along we spotted one. Very lucky. And a lot of very good looks in bright sun.


Junco country. At 4200 feet there was snow on the ground from last week’s storm.


Juncos were strong at 147 and White-crowned Sparrows were down at 255. No Mountain Bluebirds – a real disappointment. Ravens were down again, but we think it is because cattle operations are much less than in the past. We expected raptors would be down again (fewer furry mammals in this drought) but at the end of our run through open pasture we got really lucky.

A Prairie Falcon spooked and flew much ahead of us to perch on a fencepost. We approached carefully and saw it fly off to a distant field. Rats. But then it spooked at least 200 Horned Larks that flew up like one of those starling flights one sees on YouTube. There were a lot of birds – 200 is our conservative guess. Or perhaps we should say 199 Horned Larks. The falcon was then seen on a far fencepost eating something from under one foot. Nature: red in tooth and claw.

Many thanks to our counters: Alice Bragg, Kathy Dwyer, Jean Garrett, Ray Juncosa, Chris Lord, Mary Martin, Cindy Schotté, Grady Smith, Reed Tollefson. We really appreciate the effort they put out to make CBC season a success.

The List:

Duck species 3

California Quail 16

Northern Harrier 1

Sharp-shinned Hawk 1

Cooper’s Hawk 2

Red-tailed Hawk 6

Short-eared Owl 1

Acorn Woodpecker 12

Ladder-backed Woodpecker 1

Hairy Woodpecker 3

Woodpecker species 1

Prairie Falcon 1

Loggerhead Shrike 4

California Scrub Jay 23

American Crow 3

Common Raven 19

Horned Lark 200

Oak Titmouse 2

Bushtit 17

White-breasted Nuthatch 1

Rock Wren 3

Bewick’s Wren 9

Ruby-crowned Kinglet 7

Western Bluebird 7

Le Conte’s Thrasher 1

Phainopepla 7

Yellow-rumped Warbler 1

Dark-eyed (Oregon) Junco 147

White-crowned Sparrow 255

Golden-crowned Sparrow 6

Bell’s Sparrow (belli) 122

Song Sparrow 1

California Towhee 11

Spotted Towhee 9

House Finch 27

Number of Birds Seen 930

Net Species Seen 34

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