Malibu Lagoon Trip Report: 26 August, 2012
The west channels area begins to come into shape. There is a lot of water in the channels, but as the project proceeds, far more water is shifted between the basins than is piped out to the ocean. The berm is now a temporary path to the beach. Part of this berm will remain as the peninsula of “the boot” (see the drawing on our Project Page). The graded edges next to the water (see picture) look steep
to me; perhaps they’ll be graded further into gentler slopes. We couldn’t get to the vegetated area in the SW corner where a picnic area will be located, depressing our overall passerine sightings. Peering through holes in the fence netting into the channels area, we managed to spot: 8 Mallard, 1 Pied-billed Grebe, 1 Great Blue Heron, 3 Snowy Egret, 2 Coot, 2 Killdeer, 1 Spotted Sandpiper, 1 Pectoral Sandpiper, 2 Least Sandpiper, 1 Black Phoebe, 5 American Crow, 2 Rough-winged Swallow, 12 Barn Swallow, 1 Bewick’s Wren & 1 Song Sparrow (both in brush between the path & PCH), 3 Great-tailed Grackle; 16 species in all. The Pectoral Sandpiper is an early fall migrant, most pass through in September. All these birds are included in the trip list below.
As in July, very little was on the ocean except two kelp-walking Snowy Egret, 1 Common Loon, 3 Western Grebe, 2 Pelagic Cormorant and 1 Brandt’s Cormorant. Down the beach, the surfing competition had many tents and loudspeakers and little else. The ocean was unusually flat. If anything more than a foot high rolled in, I’d be surprised. The audience was nearly as non-existent as the waves.
The Snowy Plovers were in their pre-high tide (scheduled for 11:36am) roost about 100 yds. east of the enclosure. Many people counted them many times, finally arriving at 45 birds, an all-time high for any August. Unfortunately, there are no banded birds. As usual, most other birds were on the sand islands near the lagoon’s south shore except for the gulls, mostly Western Gull, who were on the beach near the Snowies.
We saw at least 5 dead Brown Pelicans on the beach, lagoon edge and sandy islands. I later found out that young Brown Pelicans have been appearing all up and down the West Coast for well over a month, starving, begging and dying. The problem seems to be that there aren’t enough right-sized fish in the ocean to feed all the pelicans. The young birds, less skilled than adults at finding and catching fish are suffering the consequences. The cause(s) for the dearth of fish is uncertain, but I can think of plenty of “usual suspects.”
Birds at Adamson House were mostly Allen’s Hummingbirds, busily poking around in the flowers, not one Anna’s among them. A young Bullock’s Oriole, some Song Sparrows and a California Towhee also appeared. Just before we did our final bird count we were treated to an Osprey soaring high over the lagoon. All were surprised to learn we had seen 53 species; guesses ranged from 25 to 45.
The morning began relatively cool (70°) and cloudy, but the clouds left and it was sufficiently warm by the time we left.
Our next three field trips: Lower Los Angeles River, 8 Sep., 7:30am; Malibu Lagoon, 23 Sep., 8:30am.; Bolsa Chica, 6 Oct. 8:30am.
Our next program: Tuesday, 2 October, 7:30 pm. Water Conservation and Sustainability – Kimberly O’Cain. The usual blog reminders will be emailed.
NOTE: Our 10 a.m. Parent’s & Kids Birdwalk remains canceled until the lagoon project is completed and the parking lot is again fully available.
Comments on Bird List Below
Total Birds: Total birds numbers for August were down the same 9% as in July, or 732 of the 6-year average of 807, which is not really significant. Low numbers of Mallard (32) and Brown Pelican (37) were the primary reason. However, the 10-year comparison chart on our Project Page shows August 2012 as 9% above average. Go figure! Notably, August 2012 was an all-time August high count of 45 Snowy Plovers.
Species Diversity: Of 103 total species appearing in August for 2007-12, no more than 68% of them appeared on any one count day, something to keep in mind if you wonder why what is there is much less than what could be there. Since we began these 6-year comparisons in May, this “maximum appearance rate” has fluctuated from 61% to 68%, intriguingly consistent, I think. It seems to indicate that – whenever you visit – what you see will be 1/2 – 2/3rds of what is possible to see there at that time of year. August 2012 with 53 species is slightly (6%) below average.
Summary of species diversity from the 6-year average so far: May +4%, June -10%, July +10%, August -6%. If anyone can draw significance from that fluctuation, let me know, because I can’t, other than thinking that the project is not having a significant adverse or beneficial effect on diversity.
|August 2007 – 2012||8/26||8/24||8/23||8/22||8/28||8/26|
|Tide Lo/Hi Height||H +4.4||L +2.9||H +5.7||H +4.32||H +5.03||H +2.59||Ave.|
|Great Blue Heron||9||8||7||6||3||5||6.3|
|Totals by Type||8/26||8/24||8/23||8/22||8/28||8/26||Ave.|
|Gulls & Terns||356||145||162||299||248||232||240|
|Gulls & Terns||11||7||8||8||8||7||8.2|
|Totals Species – 103||70||48||51||57||59||53||56.3|