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Correction to last night’s talk, RE: Snowy Plovers

December 6, 2017

Apologies to the audience. I mis-spoke in saying Snowy Plover chicks were “altricial”. In fact, they are “precocial” in the terminology of most biologists. For details, see
This is to say that Snowy Plover chicks are born required to, and able, to find food on their own, and not dependent on feeding by their parent.
Even though I said chicks were required to find their own food, I quoted the opposite term. I apologize for the confusion.



The Birds-of-Paradise Project | Cornell / National Geographic

December 6, 2017

An overview of the Birds-of-Paradise Project, gratis of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Geographic. Witness diverse strategies of evolution at work and experience one of nature’s extraordinary wonders – up close.

There are currently seventy-two short films in the entire Birds-of-Paradise Project playlist, ranging from 26 seconds to 8:29. In the upcoming weeks, we will present some of our favorites.

A film from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 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]

Daddy Longlegs Risk Life … and Especially Limb … to Survive | Deep Look Video

December 2, 2017

When predators attack, daddy longlegs deliberately release their limbs to escape. They can drop up to three and still get by just fine.

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]

The Western Snowy Plover: Natural History and Recovery, with Lu Plauzoles – Evening Meeting Reminder: Tuesday, Dec. 5, 7:30 p.m.

December 1, 2017

Our meeting location is changing to Joslyn Park in
Santa Monica for the December 5 meeting only.
See directions below.

It all begins with a chick in hand. The banding of KO:BR at Eden Landing SFBO
(Karine Tokatlian, Summer 2013)

Lu Plauzoles will introduce the Michael Love-produced 45-minute film The Western Snowy Plover: Natural History and Recovery. The movie introduces you to the Snowy Plovers of University of California Coal Oil Point Reserve in Goleta – the most successful breeding colony of plovers on the Pacific Coast. The film includes an excellent introduction to the natural history of the Snowy Plovers by Dr. Cris Sandoval of UCSB and her staff. After the screening, Lu and other SMBAS volunteers will give a short report and answer questions about the Snowy Plovers on our Los Angeles County beaches. ‘Twas a banner year for us!

Lucien Plauzoles (Lu) is a 20-plus-year member of Santa Monica Bay Audubon and has served on the board for over 15 of those years. Having heard Mary Prismon’s pleas for these birds, he was trapped into the Snow Plover project in 2001 by Chuck Almdale’s L.A. County survey, and has not yet escaped its clutches. A graduate of UCLA, he holds two degrees from the venerable local big U — both non-related to the plovers.

However, he has logged extensive hours of observation, monitoring, and reporting of the “little guys,” the smallest avian species on our beaches. He has attended and participated in seven of the range-wide Snowy Plover meetings for the West Coast populations, and regularly represents the SM Chapter and other Audubon volunteers in meetings with the City of Santa Monica, the County and other agencies. He has lobbied for the exclosure (keeps unwanted people and animals out) at Santa Monica for over 10 years and also for the newer Dune Restoration project in Santa Monica, where the first recorded L.A.County nesting of the plovers in 70 years took place this past spring. He is proud to be standing behind the audience this Tuesday as both introducer and postface to the movie.

Six Snowy Plovers surround beach wrack, their favorite source of invertebrate prey. (C. Almdale 12/23/12)

LOCATION: JOSLYN PARK Auditorium, 633 Kensington Road, Santa Monica
Five blocks south of Pico Blvd., two blocks west of Lincoln Blvd.
If you’re coming from outside Santa Monica, exit the #10 Fwy at Lincoln Blvd., turn southeast, pass Pico Blvd., drive five blocks to Kensington Rd., turn right, 2 blocks southwest to where Kensington turns left and becomes Beverly Ave. Also reached from Pico via 6th St. southeast to Hollister Ave, left on Hollister, left again on Beverly Ave. to Kensington. Park wherever you can.

Link to Google Map

Meeting Room: The auditorium is in the southwest corner of the park adjacent to Kensington Rd. where it turns and become Beverly Ave.

Meetings begin at 7:30 sharp with a little business, and then our main presentation. Refreshments are served afterward. Please leave your coyotes and bobcats at home, however much they whine to come.

Parking:  We’re not familiar with parking at this location. There appears to be a small lot just west of the auditorium, but you’ll probably have to find street parking, which appears to be free after 6pm. Make sure you check the signs – don’t get a ticket! This is a mostly residential neighborhood, so parking may get tight when the locals get home from work. [Chuck Almdale]


Migrants still arriving – Malibu Lagoon, 26 November, 2017

November 30, 2017

Brown Pelican adult (R. Juncosa 11-26-17)

Approximately thirty-five birders showed up, maybe a few more. I’ve never gotten in the habit of counting birders, just the birds, but while at the lookout point near the PCH bridge I suddenly noticed there seemed to be an unusually large of people. Too bad more birds weren’t present. Ducks seemed unusually under-represented. We had Gadwall, Mallard, American Wigeon, Red-breasted Merganser and Ruddy Duck with a grand total of fourteen ducks. A typical November would also include: Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Surf Scoter and Bufflehead, with another 3-5 species possible, and about eighty total ducks. One hopes they’re still somewhere up north, enjoying a warm fall.

Grebes_ Western and Clark’s (R. Juncosa 11-26-17)

The above grebes are typical for this time of year. The Western on left will probably look like this until next spring, with dark plumage surrounding it’s red eye. The area around the eye may become a lighter gray as a few more feathers fall out, but it never becomes white. The Clark’s on right shows no black below the eye except for a thin line leading from eye to bill, with white above and below it. It may (or may not) lose some more black feathers around the eye, making the eye stand out even more.

Green Heron takes a break (R. Juncosa 11-26-17)

We debated a bit about two cormorants standing on the offshore rocks. Both were wet, which can obscure plumage colors. They weren’t Double-crested Cormorants who are happy in the lagoon. Lighting was difficult on this gray and foggy morning, and we strained to see if either bird had the beige chin of a Brandt’s Cormorant. One seemed smaller or slimmer than the other, then again, as it shifted position, it seemed exactly the same. The other seemed to have a tiny patch of beige on the chin, then again, with a minor shift in position. this would vanish. Ray Juncosa snapped a fuzzy photo of the seemingly smaller one as it flew towards the rock. I finally concluded both were Brandt’s with optical illusions obfuscating observation. This species and the Pelagic Cormorant are fairly common on these rocks and swimming nearshore, but they rarely rest within the lagoon.

Adult White-crowned Sparrow, common SoCal wintering bird (R. Juncosa 11-26-17)

Marbled Godwit, head immersed
(L. Loeher, Zuma Beach 11-24-17)

The larger sandpipers – Whimbrel, Willet and Marbled Godwit were as numerous as last month. Most were resting but some were busy foraging. Larry Loeher’s photo from Zuma shows just how involved this can be.

Five Cattle Egrets showed up, resting on the lagoon-edge sand near the cormorants and Brown Pelicans. Unlike other egrets and herons, this species favors open fields over marshes, lagoons and ponds. According to Cornell Lab of Ornithology, this African species first appeared in 1870 in Suriname on the north coast of South America, then spread throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America, and finally into North America. They evolved in Africa, making a living by following the herds of antelope and other grazers, eating insects kicked up by their hooves. In the New World, cattle served the same purpose as far as the egrets were concerned. To a Cattle Egret, lots of cattle equals lots of food. You can see them by the tens of thousands in the Imperial Valley, poking around in the grassy fields, but as Los Angeles County has few cattle munching away, Cattle Egrets can be hard to find. Horses may substitute at times as insect-rousers, but aren’t as reliable. Out of 252 lagoon trips, we’ve seen them 26 times (10%), with a total of 64 birds. As one might expect, when they finished resting and began foraging for food, they headed for the brushy-grassy area, not the mud flats.

Male Great-tailed Grackle (R. Juncosa 11-26-17)

The local Great-tailed Grackles was evident – twelve birds in all. Most likely they breed over in Legacy Park near the shopping center, where (when it’s wet) there are lots of reeds. Several people wondered what the brown birds were. These brown females are 3″ smaller than the 18″ glossy black males, and they can fool you into thinking they’re a different species. Some birders are surprised to see these grackles wandering around on the beach, but they forage on the sand and lagoon-edge quite often, or at least they are much easier to see when they’re on the barren sand than when buried in the brushes or singing in the trees. In case you’re wondering, all grackles are in the Family Icteriidae, better known for its jet-black blackbirds, yellow meadowlarks and orange-and-black orioles.

Great-tailed Grackle female with a rusty breast (G. Murayama 11-24-17)

Thirty-one Snowy Plovers were moderately busy. No banded birds were seen. High tide, their favorite time to forage for invertebrates in the wrack, had been at 9:46 am. A few were active. Most were resting in their tiny dimples in the sand, but every now and then they’d get up and run off to another dimple, for reasons known only to themselves.

Speaking of Royals (British) here’s a nice photo from Grace Murayama of a very royal-looking Royal (Tern), royally robed for winter.

Royal Tern, royally aloof (G. Murayama, Zuma Beach 11-24-17)

Birds new for the season were: Red-breasted Merganser, Ruddy Duck, Cattle Egret, House Wren, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

Many thanks to our photographers: Ray Juncosa, Larry Loeher, and Grace Murayama.

Our next four scheduled field trips: Ballona Creek & Freshwater Marsh, 8 am, 9 December; Butterbredt Christmas Count, 8:30 am, 16 December; Malibu Lagoon 8:30 & 10 am, 24 December; Santa Monica portion of Los Angeles Christmas Count, 6:45 am, 2 January.

Our next program: The Western Snowy Plover: Natural History and Recovery, with Lu Plauzoles – Evening Meeting: Tuesday, Dec. 5, 7:30 p.m.,  Joslyn Park, 633 Kensington Road – Five blocks south of Pico Blvd., two blocks west of Lincoln Blvd. –  in Santa Monica. This location is for December only.

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.

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.

Many thanks to Lillian Johnson, Chris Lord and others for their contributions to the checklist below.  [Chuck Almdale]

Malibu Census 2017 6/25 7/23 8/27 9/24 10/22 11/26
Temperature 68-81 70-75 63-68 68-75 72-82 56-63
Tide Lo/Hi Height H+4.18 H+4.39 L+1.83 L+1.86 H+5.38 L+2.94
Tide Time 1147 1039 0730 0559 1050 0946
Canada Goose 1
Gadwall 18 15 1 1
American Wigeon 1 3
Mallard 35 30 7 27 15 2
Northern Pintail 1
Red-breasted Merganser 4
Ruddy Duck 4
Pied-billed Grebe 2 1 3 5 8
Eared Grebe 1
Western Grebe 2 9 15
Clark’s Grebe 2 2
Rock Pigeon 15 17 3 5 6 10
Mourning Dove 2 4 1 2 2 2
Vaux’s Swift 40
Anna’s Hummingbird 1
Allen’s Hummingbird 4 6 1 6 2 1
American Coot 4 6 20 62 140 60
American Avocet 1
Black-bellied Plover 5 27 39 89 135 115
Snowy Plover 5 9 16 34 25 31
Semipalmated Plover 2 1
Killdeer 8 4 2 8 10 4
Whimbrel 27 2 54 45 36
Long-billed Curlew 1
Marbled Godwit 8 8 45 80 135
Ruddy Turnstone 2 4 7 6 11
Black Turnstone 1
Sanderling 7 10 13
Baird’s Sandpiper 3
Least Sandpiper 4 3 10
Western Sandpiper 1 2 1
Long-billed Dowitcher 1
Spotted Sandpiper 4
Willet 2 3 6 55 120 85
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Heermann’s Gull 24 19 7 11 64 5
Mew Gull 1
Ring-billed Gull 1 4 25
Western Gull 103 52 52 96 145 105
California Gull 3 2 1 98 385
Least Tern 20 30 23
Caspian Tern 12 12 7 1
Royal Tern 2 2 6 52 47 4
Elegant Tern 3 90 32 4
Brandt’s Cormorant 1 2
Double-crested Cormorant 11 22 18 36 45 32
Pelagic Cormorant 1 1
American White Pelican 2
Brown Pelican 68 35 14 17 17 45
Great Blue Heron 5 6 3 5 4 8
Great Egret 3 5 5 3 8 1
Snowy Egret 9 12 11 10 4 8
Cattle Egret 5
Green Heron 3 2 2
Black-crowned Night-Heron 1 1 2 1 1
Osprey 1 1 1
Belted Kingfisher 1
Peregrine Falcon 1
Black Phoebe 5 5 3 5 6 3
Say’s Phoebe 1 2 2 4
Cassin’s Kingbird 1 1
Western Kingbird 1 1
American Crow 7 2 6 6 5 5
Rough-winged Swallow 2
Cliff Swallow 15
Barn Swallow 9 12 6
Oak Titmouse 1 1
Bushtit 1 15 48
House Wren 1 1
Marsh Wren 2 3
Bewick’s Wren 3 2 4
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 15
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 4
Northern Mockingbird 4 2 2 2 1
European Starling 7 6 25 8
American Pipit 4
House Finch 10 10 2 8 16 40
Lesser Goldfinch 2 1
California Towhee 3 1
Brewer’s Sparrow 1
Savannah Sparrow 8
Song Sparrow 6 6 2 3 4 2
White-crowned Sparrow 20 45
Golden-crowned Sparrow 1
Dark-eyed Junco 1
Western Meadowlark 1 1 3 3
Hooded Oriole 1 1
Bullock’s Oriole 2
Red-winged Blackbird 30
Brewer’s Blackbird 12 1
Great-tailed Grackle 4 15 2 3 6 12
Orange-crowned Warbler 1 5 2 1
Nashville Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 1 2 2 8 5 9
Yellow Warbler 2
Yellow-rumped(Aud) Warbler 12 3
Wilson’s Warbler 1
Totals by Type Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
Waterfowl 53 45 7 27 19 14
Water Birds – Other 83 65 56 118 223 164
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 18 24 19 23 19 25
Quail & Raptors 0 2 1 1 0 0
Shorebirds 22 82 80 314 434 441
Gulls & Terns 167 207 128 161 363 524
Doves 17 21 4 7 8 12
Other Non-Passerines 4 6 1 47 3 1
Passerines 104 57 48 86 115 211
Totals Birds 468 509 344 784 1184 1392
Total Species Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
Waterfowl 2 2 1 1 5 5
Water Birds – Other 3 4 6 4 10 7
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 4 4 3 5 5 6
Quail & Raptors 0 2 1 1 0 0
Shorebirds 6 9 9 14 9 10
Gulls & Terns 7 7 7 5 7 5
Doves 2 2 2 2 2 2
Other Non-Passerines 1 1 1 3 2 1
Passerines 14 11 15 24 19 19
Totals Species – 97 39 42 45 59 59 55


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