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Carrizo Plains Field Trip Reminder: Saturday, 20 December, 9am

December 17, 2014


Mountain Bluebird (D. Paulson)

Mountain Bluebird
(D. Paulson)

The Carrizo Plains is one of our favorite places in Southern California: big, open, quiet, few people, fewer cars, clean air, mountains, valleys, hills and ponds.  It’s also one of the best places in southern California to see a large variety of raptors, including Ferruginous Hawk, Golden Eagle and Prairie Falcon. We often find a flock of Mountain Plovers!   We also look for shrikes, eagles, hawks, falcons, owls, thrashers sparrows, larks, Tricolored Blackbirds, scintillating Mountain Bluebirds, coyote, fox, pronghorn, deer, elk, badger, as well as more open and quiet space than anyone believes can still exist in SoCal.  We usually stop by the San Andreas Fault where it breaks through to the surface to check on how much it’s moved since last year.

Badger in Carrizo Plains (J. Kenney 1/27/13)

Badger in Carrizo Plains
(J. Kenney 1/27/13)

Prior trip reports:  Dec. 2012Dec. 2011

Map of Route

Family guide: Lots of car travel and stationary observation; young non-birders will be bored.
If you have an FRS radio, bring it along tuned to Channel 11, privacy channel 22.

You must call or email leader to participate. No fee, but this trip is limited to 5 vehicles, with priority given to those who are carpooling. If it rains there during the prior week, we may cancel altogether. Sign-up no later than 4PM, Weds. Dec. 17.  The leader contacts the Carrizo Plains Ed Center on Friday afternoon just before the trip to check on weather and road conditions and then will inform all participants if it’s a go or not.  When it’s been rainy, Soda Lake Rd. quickly becomes impassable, and if it’s windy, the birds hunker down and are impossible to see.

[Directions] Carpools will leave the North Hills (San Fernando Valley) area by 7:15 a.m. so we can be at the Maricopa re-grouping & refueling spot before 9am.  Allow 1/2-hour drive time from Santa Monica to the carpool meeting place. Bring lunch, drinks, additional water and dress in layers for the weather. You’ll probably want to fill up your gas tank in Maricopa as there are NO services in the Carrizo.

Leave North Hills in San Fernando Valley at 7:15 a.m.
Information: Chuck [818-894-2541]  email: misclists [at] verizon [dot] net
Leader: Chuck Almdale

An ancient thresher(C.Almdale 12/10/11)

An ancient thresher (C.Almdale 12/10/11)

Butterbredt Spring Christmas Count Reminder: Saturday, 20 December, 2014

December 17, 2014

Please note the date change from the 13th. We had to do this because the official Count Period only begins on the 14th. Our apologies for this change and for the conflict with the Carrizo trip.

This is the one trip every year where you can count on meeting real birders, the kind that bring their cross-country skis when the weather turns iffy. No latté-sipping wimps on this trip! All seriousness aside, dress warmly, pack a lunch and snacks and be ready to spend all daylight time (it gets dark around 4:30 p.m.) in the Butterbredt count circle as we do our part to count all the birds that were too macho to fly south for the winter. No $5 compiling fee any more!

Ferruginous Hawk taking off
(L.Johnson 1/10)

On previous trips we’ve seen: Mountain & California Quail, Western Screech-Owl & Great Horned Owl, Ladderbacked & Nuttall’s Woodpeckers, Loggerhead Shrike, Steller’s, Western Scrub- & Pinyon Jays, Rock Wren, California & LeConte’s Thrashers, Black-throated, Sage & Golden-crowned Sparrows and Pine Siskins.

Family guide: long car ride, possible cold weather; gotta love the birds
[Directions] Contact coordinator Chuck Bragg (310-454-9662) for exact instructions (the count circle instructions are different from our regular field trips to Butterbredt). We’ll be happy to arrange carpools if you don’t want to do any driving. If you have an FRS radio, bring it along tuned to Channel 11, privacy channel 22.

Map of Probable Route

Prior Trip Report:  December 2010
Starting time:
8:30 am on Jawbone Canyon Rd.
Monday, 22 December. Christmas Count rainout date.
Everything else is the same as above.
[Chuck Almdale]

Birder’s Holiday Reading

December 12, 2014

“When you see a herd of pigs soaring above this marsh, Mr. Senior, that’s the day I’ll become a birder.”

Think of a satisfying mystery on a winter’s evening, when it’s too late to go birding, unless of course you love owling in the dark of night. You don’t have to leave your cozy world of birding this season, thanks to Steve Burrows’ new mystery A SIEGE OF BITTERNS. This is not just a typical mystery built on a background of birding. It is a whodunit entirely based on observations of birds and habitat. You’ll get the notes of local (Norwich) species identification as well as some of the best quotes I’ve found in a wealth of documentation that makes only the most clever reader able to predict the ultimate outcome. Domenic Jejeune is a young, believable, boy-wonder detective who should reappear in many episodes to come. A native of Canada, he’d rather be birding than policing (his profession) in Britain. Like most good protagonists, he is an unpredictable bundle of bravado and self-doubt as the story line carries him on the bumpy ride of his new assignment. However, you’ll also recognize a number of other typical birder and conservation types as the story winds its way through the shoreline habitats. (isbn 978 1 4597 0843 3 ppb) Available at the Santa Monica Public Library.

A trivia question: Who is Juliana de Berniers? And why does she get mention in this book?


Full Cold Moon Update – 6 December, 2014, 4:27 AM PST

December 5, 2014

Here’s another update from SMBAS Blog on that large, disc-like, shining object which has frequently and mysteriously appeared in our nighttime sky this year (known to many as the moon).

Full Cold Moon(

Full Cold Moon
(Revolutionary Raw Vegan Culinary Creators at

Dec. 6, 4:27 a.m. PST — Full Cold Moon.  December is usually considered the month that the winter cold begins to fasten its grip.   It is also called the Full Long Night Moon since nights are at their longest and darkest.   The term “Long Night Moon” is a doubly appropriate name because the mid-winter night is indeed long and the moon hangs above the horizon for a long time.  The mid-winter full moon takes a high trajectory across the sky because it is opposite to the low sun. This moon was also occasionally called the Moon before Yule.  This particular full moon makes its highest arc across the sky because it’s diametrically opposite to the low sun. [Video: Full Moon: Why Does It Happen? How Does It Affect Us?]

Here’s a reminder of Bob Gurfield’s comments from last June:
The latest (and earliest) sunrises do not occur on the solstices. , Earliest sunset in Los Angeles for 2013-14 was 4:43 pm on 4 Dec, 2013.   It then gets later every day until 7 July, 2014 at 8:08 pm PST.  The latest sunrise of 6:59 am occurred on 14 Jan, 2014.   It then gets earlier until 17 June, 2014 at 5:41 am PDT. See table below.

As we go further north the latest sunrise and sunset as well as the earliest sunrise and sunset, still don’t occur on the solstices.   Check the table above for Anchorage, AK. The reason for this is that the earth’s axis is not aligned with the minor axis of the earth’s orbit around the sun.   Over time the earth’s ecliptic precesses a tiny bit each year so that every ~134,000 years the orbit makes a complete rotation with respect to the positions of the stars  [This is not the same as the ‘precession of the equinoxes.’]

The Old Farmer’s Almanac has a page for each full moon. One tip: set your eggs on the 5th, 6th or 14th. Now you know, so you have no excuse.

The next significant full moon – if all goes well – will occur in January, 2015.   However, we will be taking a break from full moon announcements for 2015. Replacement suggestions welcome.

This information comes to you courtesy of:
written by Joe Rao.   Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York’s Hayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for Natural History magazine, the Farmer’s Almanac and other publications, and he is also an on-camera meteorologist for News 12 Westchester, N.Y.

But that’s waaay too long to type in, and besides, you don’t need to go there because SMBAS has done the work for you!
[Chuck Almdale]

Malibu Lagoon Field Trips: Sunday, 23 November, 8:30 & 10am.

November 20, 2014
Artist's perspective of west channels view from SW corner (RestoreMalibuLagoon . com)

Artists 2012 perspective of finished project
(RestoreMalibuLagoon . com)

Lagoon looking east - compare to Artist's Perspective (R. Ehler 7/27/14)

Channel & Lagoon looking east on 7/27/14
(Randy Ehler )

Lots of migrants and wintering birds and dwindling crowds of humans make it a great day for the lagoon. Usually sunny, sometimes cool. Forget Thanksgiving: see your birds here with us.


Some of the great birds we’ve had in November are: Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, Lesser Scaup, Surf Scoter, Bufflehead, Red-breasted Merganser, Pacific & Common Loons, Horned & Western Grebes, Brandt’s & Pelagic Cormorants, Osprey, American Kestrel, Merlin, Sora, Virginia Rail, Snowy Plover, American Avocet, Spotted Sandpiper, Marbled Godwit, Boneparte’s Gull, Heermann’s Gull, Herring Gull, Glaucous-winged Gull, Elegant Tern, Allen’s Hummingbird, Belted Kingfisher, Say’s Phoebe, Common Raven, Bushtit, Bewick’s, House & Marsh Wrens, California Towhee, Great-tailed Grackle, Lesser Goldfinch.

Prior checklists:
2014:   Jan-July                                 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.

Adult Walk 8:30 a.m. – Beginner and experienced, 2-3 hours.  Species range from 40 in June to 60-75 during migrations and winter.  We meet at the metal-shaded viewing area (see photo below) next to the parking lot and begin walking east towards the lagoon.  We always check the offshore rocks and the ocean.  When lagoon outlet is closed we continue east around the lagoon, and around to Adamson House.  We put out special effort to make our monthly Malibu Lagoon walks attractive to first-time and beginning birdwatchers.  So please, if you are at all worried about coming on a trip and embarrassing yourself because of all the experts, we remember our first trips too.  Someone had to show us the birds, and it’s our turn now.

Meeting place - What's that animal in the foreground?  See photo below of him heading the other way. (Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation 6/18/13)

Meeting place – Hey, what’s that animal in the foreground?
See him heading the other way in photo below.
(Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation 6/18/13)

Children and Parents Walk 10:00 a.m.   One hour session, meeting at the metal-shaded viewing area (see photo above) between parking lot and channel.  We start at 10:00 for a shorter walk and to allow time for families to get it together on a sleepy Sunday morning.  Our leaders are experienced with kids so please bring them to the beach!  We have an ample supply of binoculars that children can use without striking terror into their parents.  We want to see families enjoying nature. (If you have a Scout Troop or other group of more than seven people, you must call Mary (310-457-2240) to make sure we have enough binoculars and docents.)

Directions: Malibu Lagoon is at the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Cross Creek Road.  Look around for people wearing binoculars.  Parking in the official lagoon lot is $12+ or by annual pass.  You may also park either along PCH west of Cross Creek Road, on Cross Creek Road itself but be careful – some parts of PCH are off-limits (read the signs carefully), or on Civic Center Way north (inland) of the shopping center.  Lagoon parking in the shopping center lot is not permitted.
Map to Meeting Place
[Chuck Almdale]

Locally known as 'Willie the Weasel' (Cal. State Parks 6/18/13)

Locally known as ‘Son of Willie the Weasel’
(Cal. State Parks 6/18/13)


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