Malibu Lagoon Field Trip Report: 24 April, 2011
It’s still unseasonably cold. Most of us never got our jackets off, and a breeze of 5-8 mph made it feel chillier. I know, I know, I shouldn’t be complaining about temperatures in the high 60’s when people are freezing in Mongolia or fighting tyranny house-to-house in Libya, Yemen, Sudan, Ivory Coast, Liberia, and on and on. But if you can’t complain about the weather, what else is there to complain about? Politics? Why, everything in politics is perfect, in this best of all possible worlds.
The peculiarity of the day was the enormous number of Brown Pelicans. I counted 740, an all-time high, but there could easily have been many more, as they kept coming and going in droves. Here are all the prior counts over 200:
315 5/22/05, 400 3/26/06, 230 4/22/07, 630 5/27/07, 239 6/24/07, 320 3/23/08, 231 5/25/08, 256 1/25/09, 205 6/27/10, 740 4/24/11.
And here are the past six Aprils:
79 – 2005, 47 – 2006, 230 – 2007, 35 – 2008, 78 – 2009, 182 – 2010, 740 – 2011
The only pattern I see is that this is an all-time high, which we already knew, and that the numbers bounce around a lot, although usually below 100 for April. A number of passersby asked us if we knew why there were so many. One person thought there had been some sort of general nesting failure on the local Channel Islands (primarily Anacapa), possibly due to lack of food. Another had heard that the pelicans were sensitive to the vast amounts of radiation pouring out of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor and had fled Japan and across the Pacific Ocean to safety in California. The PQ* of that explanation seemed quite high to me, not least for the fact than none of the world’s eight (some say seven) species of pelicans regularly occur in Japan. (This is a waffling way of saying they just aren’t there.) We here at SMBAS Central Command don’t know why all these pelicans showed up, and a few minutes searching Google didn’t turn up any answers or even any mentions. Anyone out there know anything? * – PQ – Preposterosity Quotient
The total species count at 55 seemed a bit low for April, so I checked and for the past eleven years, we’ve averaged 59 species in April, with a low of 52 and a high of 70.
Out on the beach inland of the (now deserted) Snowy Plover enclosure, we startled a Killdeer, who proceeded to stagger and flop off with what appeared to be a broken wing. As most birders should know, this is a distraction display the adult puts on to lure a potential predator away from its nest. Lu quickly found the nest about 10 ft away from where we stood. I took a few pictures and then we dutifully followed the adult away so it could win this skirmish. Hopefully no crow or gull was paying attention and the nest remains safe among the sticks and pebbles.
As a reminder to those who plan to come to our 10 am Parent’s & Kids birdwalk, they meet at the beach trail footbridge closest to the parking lot.
Check out our new blog page created especially for Unusual Birds at Malibu Lagoon, the permanent location for pictures of our uncommon birds. Look for other new pages coming in the future. For prior period bird lists, follow these links to July-Dec ’10, Jan-June ’10, Jul-Dec ‘09, and Jan-June ‘09. For an aerial photo of the lagoon (9/23/02), go here. [Chuck Almdale]
|Malibu Census 2011||23-Jan||27-Feb||27-Mar||24-Apr|
|Great Blue Heron||2||1||1||4|
|Dowitcher species flying||1|
|Totals by Type||Jan||Feb||Mar||Apr|
|Quail & Raptors||2||0||6||3|
|Gulls & Terns||2785||1440||1270||743|
|Quail & Raptors||2||0||3||2|
|Gulls & Terns||6||7||9||9|
|Totals Species – 92||59||59||63||55|