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Sepulveda Basin Field Trip: Saturday, 13 February, 8:30 AM

February 5, 2016
Osprey (C.Bragg)

The Osprey has his own platform by the pond (C.Bragg)

Only 15 minutes from Santa Monica, Chuck & Lillian Almdale will show us around one of San Fernando Valley’s best birding spots, where we’ll check the fields, pond, riparian areas and Los Angeles River for migrants and wintering birds. If we’re not too pokey we’ll make it over to Lake Balboa for Ross’s Goose and whatever else may be around. Expect ducks, raptors, herons, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, thrushes, flycatchers, wrens, corvids, kinglets, warblers, sparrows, blackbirds, finches and more. The whole gamut!
Family Guide: 1-2 miles easy walking on level crushed granite path. Dress in layers, bring water & snack, wear footwear suitable for possibly damp paths.
Link to Google Map
Directions:  SAN DIEGO FWY (I-405) north over the hill and past #101 Fwy to first exit at BURBANK BLVD. Go west (left) to WOODLEY AVE. Turn north (right) on WOODLEY AVE.  to sign on right for WILDLIFE RESERVE AREA. Drive east, continue past  the small traffic circle and meet at the last parking lot on the left. Bathrooms nearby. Arrive early and find the parakeets, Chipping Sparrows, Pine Siskins and maybe an immature Bald Eagle!
Meet at 8:30 a.m. at the parking lot
Leader: Chuck & Lillian Almdale (818-894-2541)

World WHAT Day?

February 2, 2016

I’m sure you’ve all sent out your ‘Happy World Wetlands Day’ cards and booked your dinner reservations to celebrate… No? Only me? Well, today is in fact World Wetlands Day and the United States is signatory to the Ramsar Convention (named for the city in which the global wetlands conservation agreement was signed).


If you live in Los Angeles, you might have noticed we don’t have a lot of wetlands anymore; California has destroyed 90% of its to development, but locally on Santa Monica Bay we do have the Ballona Wetlands and the smaller Malibu lagoon. These sites are of vital importance to migrating shorebirds. Bird migration, the seasonal movement of birds from their breeding grounds to their wintering grounds, is one of the most spectacular, physically demanding, and mysterious wildlife events. Wetlands are one of the only places these birds can stop and refuel on their epic journeys.

For the second year, Santa Monica Bay Audubon has participated in the Point Blue Pacific Flyway Shorebird Survey and Migratory Shorebird Project at Malibu Lagoon to track and monitor birds stopping at our local wetlands. Check out these links:

Here are some record-setters that make migrations and wetland stops so amazing:

■ THE LARGEST CONGREGATION O SHOREBIRDS Over one million shorebirds, mostly Western Sandpipers and Dunlins have been recorded in a single spring day on Alaska’s Copper River Delta. In fact, practically the entire North American population of Western Sandpipers stops thereto rest and refuel on a diet that consists almost entirely of tiny clams.

■ THE LONGEST NONSTOP FLYER Bar-tailed Godwits make the longest nonstop migration of any shorebird species traveling 6500 miles from Alaska to New Zealand, one way, without stopping.

■ THE FARTHEST TRAVELER Pectoral Sandpipers make the longest migratory flights of all birds They winter in southern South America but breed as far North as Central Siberia.

■ THE FASTEST FLYERS When migrating with good tail winds, shorebirds can fly up to 60 miles per hour.

■ TIMED TO DINE Eighty-percent of Red Knots in the Western Hemisphere time their arrival at the Delaware Bay, from the southern tip of Argentina, just in time to dine on millions of horseshoe crab eggs. The eggs have been stirred up to the beach surface by tides and the masses of egg-laying horseshoe crabs.

■ RAVENOUS EATERS In order to gain enough weight to continue their migration to the Arctic, Sanderlings eat one horseshoe crab egg every 5 seconds for 14 hours each day until they have rested and fed enough to continue migrating.

Evening Meeting Reminder, Tuesday, February 2: Malibu Lagoon – Past & Present, with Chuck Almdale

January 30, 2016
Malibu Lagoon in 1976 (

Malibu Lagoon in 1976 (

Malibu Lagoon has long been a favorite spot for local birders. SMBAS has hosted a monthly field trip there for over 30 years, but many may have forgotten – or never knew – its history over the past few decades. In this introduction to the lagoon, we’ll see many of its denizens as photographed by SMBAS photographers, discuss their population changes, the several lagoon reconfigurations, the Snowy Plover colony, and why keeping records of your “local patch” is a useful and fun form of citizen science.

Mallard family (Jim Kenney 4-20-10)

Mallard family (Jim Kenney 4-20-10)

Chuck Almdale  began watching birds 40 years ago and began censusing Malibu Lagoon birds in 1979. Since joining Santa Monica Bay Audubon Society in 1989, he has served it in various capacities, including Field Trip chairman for the past 15 years, as well as editing their blog since its 2009 inception. When not at the lagoon, he birds around the county, state, country and the world. He was an accountant in the film industry, now retired.

Common Yellowthroat (Jim Kenney 3-22-10)

Common Yellowthroat (Jim Kenney 3-22-10)

Our meetings return to Christine Emerson Reed Park, 1133 7th Street. (between 7th St. & Lincoln Blvd., California Ave. & Wilshire Blvd.), Santa Monica. Previously known as Lincoln Park. If you’re coming from outside Santa Monica, exit the #10 Fwy at Lincoln Blvd., turn north  and drive 5 blocks north to Wilshire Blvd.

Link to Google Map
Meeting Room: Mid-park in Joslyn Hall, accessible from Lincoln Blvd, California Ave. and 7th St.  Its glass wall faces north towards St. Monica Church on California St.  If you’re walking from Lincoln Blvd., it’s located directly behind (west) of the large Miles Playhouse building. Not accessible directly from Wilshire Blvd.

Meetings begin at 7:30 sharp with a little business, and then our main presentation. Refreshments are served afterward. 

Parking: The entire block between Wilshire and California Ave, 7th and Lincoln, on the sides closest to the park, is metered. Meter enforcement ends at 6PM, so free parking for the meeting!  We had almost 50 attendees in February and we know of only two people who couldn’t find parking. However, the local natives are engaged in a survival-of-the-fittest scramble for free parking, so the after-6pm free parking spaces disappear quickly.  We suggest that you arrive no later than 7:15 pm.

If all those spaces are filled, go south of Wilshire, not north of the park, as resident-only permit parking zones abound to the north. The east side of Lincoln Blvd. is also by permit parking only. We found plenty of spaces on 7th St. or Lincoln south of Wilshire. Most of those seem to be “until 6PM” meters also. Wherever you park, please read parking signs carefully and avoid a big fat $40+ parking ticket.   [Adrian Douglas]

Our Favorite Bird Has Its Own Conference

January 27, 2016

In addition to armed take-overs of bird refuges, copious amounts of rain, and new brew pubs still opening up, Oregon was host this year to the annual Range Wide Western Snowy Plover Conference, in Portland. This conference takes place annually in one of the six regions along the eastern Pacific where Snowy Plovers call home. It is attended by biologists, and others involved in Snowy Plover recovery, monitoring and research. From Tijuana to Los Angeles is Region Six, and here in Region Six we have a goal each year of 500 breeding pairs of Snowy Plovers. The good news is we are very near that goal at 484, which is impressive considering the challenges in this locale that other more remote areas don’t face, such as millions of beach-visits by people (and sometimes, their dogs),  rampant coastal development, and military bases on breeding sites. Los Angeles County, including all the plover habitats along our own stretch here on Santa Monica Bay, has a local goal of zero breeding pairs. That’s right, a big fact zero–and we are proudly meeting that goal every year because this area is very important. So why are the Snowy Plover roosting sites along Santa Monica Bay considered so important when they are home to no chicks or breeding pairs?
snowy plover.jpgBecause here on the bay, our sandy beaches provide important winter roosting sites. We don’t allow driving on our beaches as in many other areas up and down the coast. We generally don’t allow dogs. We don’t host vast influxes of people all at once on the beach for clamming season, and we have cooperative life guards who look our for the plovers and alert the public to their presence. Other ecological reason contribute to the importance of the bay as a winter roost as well, so although this area does not provide habitat to plover chicks, when they get a bit older, they will likely spend some time here in fall and winter when they need safe space to forage and rest.
rain beach (3).jpg
So when the temperature is in the sixties and the sky is grey or drizzly, grab your camera because it’s a great beach day–to see our wintering snowy plovers. You’ll usually find them at Zuma Beach, Malibu Lagoon, Santa Monica Beach near the Annenberg Beach House, Dockweiler Beach and Redondo Beach. To find out more:

Credits: Jenny Erbes, top photo, text by Laurel Hoctor Jones

Malibu Die-off?

January 24, 2016

Occasionally at our monthly Malibu Lagoon walks, a birder brings us somewhat mystifying and somewhat unbelievable stories about birds. This morning, the story was mystifying but very believable since the bearer, a Malibu artist of note, also had pictures of her tale. It turns out that Dominique Sanders had gone down to Point Dume beach with her daughter but instead of tide pooling, had found dozens, if not hundreds of dead birds semi-submerged in, and stacked on the sand. And not small ones, either! (my note: these appear to be mostly Brandt’s Cormorants.)

Cormorant in sand copyright 2016 d. Sanders Pt. Dume 1/223/2016

Cormorant in sand. Copyright 2016 D. Sanders          Pt. Dume 1/23/2016

Pallet of cormorants

Pallet of cormorants   Copyright D. Sanders 2016      Pt. Dume 1/23/2016

She tells us that a friend of hers saw a number of dead birds on the same beach already last week. This beach is one of those State/County supervised beaches, however, apparently there has not been active patrolling of that spot in the past week.
Just so you don’t take this as a necropsy article, we have also included her excellent picture of two intergrade American/Black Oystercatchers, one of which is catching a…mussel.

Intergrade American/Black Oystercatchers Copyright D. Sanders Pt.Dume 1/23/2016

Intergrade American/Black Oystercatchers Copyright D. Sanders Pt.Dume 1/23/2016


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