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Malibu Lagoon Field Trips: Sunday, 24 May, 8:30 & 10am.

May 21, 2015
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 )

A few wintering birds remain, the migrants continue to come through and our nesting birds will be so busy they’ll hardly notice you.

Some of the great birds we’ve had in May are:   Brant, Pelagic Cormorant, Green Heron, Whimbrel, Bonaparte’s Gull, Royal, Least, Forster’s, Royal & Elegant Terns, White-throated Swift, Anna’s & Allen’s Hummingbirds, Pacific Slope Flycatcher, Common Raven,  Violet-Green, Barn and Cliff Swallows, Bushtit, Bewick’s Wren, Cedar Waxwing, Spotted Towhee, Red-winged Blackbird, Hooded and Bullock’s Orioles.


Prior checklists:
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.

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 showed us the birds; now it’s our turn.

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)

Butterbredt Springs Weekend Trip: 25-26 April, 2015

May 17, 2015

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It was a very special Spring outing to Butterbredt Spring. We do it annually, but this year was different: one of our founding members, who has hosted us for years, turned 90. That is an achievement in itself, but how many 90-year olds do you know who drive in fence posts and stretch wire across them to keep out errant motorcycles? I am referring to Keith Axelson, who became so fond of the beautiful Mojave desert that 20 years or so ago he left

Front porch birding (R.Seidner 4/25/15)

Front porch birding (R.Seidner 4/25/15)

Los Angeles and bought a property at a spring near Butterbredt and moved there. No telephone, gas or electricity, water only from his spring — and it’s beautiful. The spring supports large cottonwood trees and lots of watercress, and Keith has his own collection of trees. Wildlife is abundant and includes California Quail, Say’s Phoebes, Pine Siskins, various warblers, Lazuli Bunting, Western Screech-Owls, a local Bobcat, and Keith’s feeders attract many hummingbirds and finches.

Western Bluebird male off for some more bugs (R.Seidner 4/24/15)

Western Bluebird male off for some more bugs (R.Seidner 4/24/15)

Also nesting Western Bluebirds, two sets, feeding young at the nesting boxes. It is a pleasure to sit on his patio and watch. Before we head off for Keith’s, we spend Saturday morning at Butterbredt Spring, which is now under the ownership of California State Parks.

Cliff over Butterbredt spring (R.Seidner 4/24/15)

Cliff over Butterbredt spring (R.Seidner 4/24/15)

They have improved the access gate and put up a sign, listing Santa Monica Bay Audubon Society as one of the entities managing it, and declaring it to be an IBA — an Important Bird Area. Even at the wide space where we parked, there were birds. A pair of particularly colorful Ash-throated Flycatchers were cavorting on the fence, and mourning doves were everywhere. On the drive to the spring, one of us was delighted to spot a Golden Eagle. At the spring in the nearby dry wash were many Warblers: Wilson’s were abundant and MacGillivray’s caused much joy to those who saw them. Lawrence’s and Lesser Goldfinches were busy feeding young. Mr and Mrs Black-headed Grosbeak were present. We saw many hard-to-identify empids, including the Pacific-slope Flycatcher, as well as the similar Hammond’s Flycatcher.
Among the pleasures of going there in Spring is the wildflowers — including a strange thing looking like a mushroom with purple flowers on it called Broomrape, also known as scaly stemmed sand plant, which is parasitic on the roots of Burrobush or Cheesebush. Also Prince’s Plumes, Chia, Prickly Poppies, Paperbag Bushes, Desert Sunflowers, bright rose flowering Beavertail Cacti and Mormon Tea made this a very colorful walk.

Prince's Plume (R.Seidner 4/24/15)

Prince’s Plume (R.Seidner 4/24/15)

And then it was on to the party! You would have thought Keith would be overwhelmed by all the people there, – 17 or so, who assembled from great distances — but he had a constant smile on his face, and I believe he enjoyed every minute.
[Elizabeth Galton and Mary Prismon]

Still life with frog - Keith's lower pond(R.Seidner 4/25/15)

Still life with frog – Keith’s lower pond
(R.Seidner 4/25/15)


Butterbredt Spring 2015 2013 2012
Spring Trips 4/25-26 4/25-27 4/27-30
Mallard X
Mountain Quail X X
California Quail X X X
Chukar X X
Turkey Vulture X
Golden Eagle X
Sharp-shinned Hawk X
Swainson’s Hawk X
Red-tailed Hawk X X X
American Coot X
Killdeer X
Eurasian Collared-Dove X X X
Mourning Dove X X X
Greater Roadrunner X
Western Screech-Owl X X
Great Horned Owl X
Common Poorwill X
Anna’s Hummingbird X X
Costa’s Hummingbird X X X
Rufous Hummingbird X
Ladder-backed Woodpecker X X
Nuttall’s Woodpecker X X X
Northern Flicker X
American Kestrel X
Olive-sided Flycatcher X
Western Wood-Pewee X
Hammond’s Flycatcher X X
Dusky Flycatcher X
Pacific-slope Flycatcher X X X
Say’s Phoebe X X
Ash-throated Flycatcher X X X
Cassin’s Kingbird X
Western Kingbird X X
Loggerhead Shrike X X
Cassin’s Vireo X X X
Warbling Vireo X X
Western Scrub-Jay X X
Common Raven X X X
Bushtit X X X
Red-breasted Nuthatch X
White-breasted Nuthatch X
Rock Wren X X
Bewick’s Wren X X X
Cactus Wren X X
Ruby-crowned Kinglet X X X
Western Bluebird X X
Townsend’s Solitaire X
Hermit Thrush X X
California Thrasher X
Northern Mockingbird X
European Starling X X
Phainopepla X
Orange-crowned Warbler X X X
Nashville Warbler X X
MacGillivray’s Warbler X X
Common Yellowthroat X
Yellow Warbler X X X
Yellow-rumped Warbler X X
Black-throated Gray Warbler X
Townsend’s Warbler X X
Hermit Warbler X
Wilson’s Warbler X X X
Green-tailed Towhee X
Spotted Towhee X X
California Towhee X X
Chipping Sparrow X X
Brewer’s Sparrow X
Black-throated Sparrow X
Bell’s Sparrow X X
Fox Sparrow X
Song Sparrow X
Lincoln’s Sparrow X X
White-throated Sparrow X
White-crowned Sparrow X X
Golden-crowned Sparrow X X X
Dark-eyed Junco X
Western Tanager X X X
Black-headed Grosbeak X X
Lazuli Bunting X X X
Red-winged Blackbird X X X
“Bicolored” Blackbird X
Western Meadowlark X
Brewer’s Blackbird X
Brown-headed Cowbird X
Hooded Oriole X
Bullock’s Oriole X X
Scott’s Oriole X X
House Finch X X X
Pine Siskin X
Lesser Goldfinch X X
Lawrence’s Goldfinch X X
Total Species – 90 37 58 69

Black Rock Campground & Morongo Valley Preserve Trip Report: 2-3 May, 2015

May 15, 2015

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Cactus Wrens sound like a birthday party toy (D. Erwin 5/3/15 Black Rock)

Cactus Wrens sound like a birthday party toy (D. Erwin 5/3/15 Black Rock)

We weren’t even out of our campervan before California Thrashers, Gambel’s Quail and Western Scrub-Jays came by to (maybe) check us out. Colorful lizards sunned themselves in the cactus garden. Unlike the movie, it would be a good day at Black Rock.

Speckled Lizard - Black Rock (R. Seidner 5/2/15)

Speckled Lizard – Black Rock (R. Seidner 5/2/15)

A few years ago we broke this trip into two parts: Saturday afternoon at Black Rock Campground; Sunday morning at Morongo Valley Preserve & adjacent Covington Park. Late afternoon, after the heat of the day, when birds begin rousing themselves for a final burst of feeding, is a good time for Black Rock. Many birders had already taken to moteling Saturday night in Yucca Valley, close to the campground five miles south into northwestern Joshua Tree Nat. Park. The best time to see Piñon Jays is shortly before sunset, when they fly up and downslope above the campground. Other birds are always around the campground, but – as do most birds everywhere – they make themselves scarce mid-day.

Males Gambel's Quail, a desert bird, watches for his mate (D. Erwin 5/3/15 Black Rock)

Males Gambel’s Quail, a desert bird, watches for his mate (D. Erwin 5/3/15 Black Rock)

We found most of the Black Rock specialties: Gambel’s Quail came to water drips and called from the Joshua Treetops, the increasingly more common White-winged Dove, several hummingbirds worked the bushes and ephemeral flowers, Ladderbacked Woodpeckers drilled the Joshuas, the aforementioned Piñon Jay, Verdin with faces the color of yellow mesquite flowers, the squat-jumping Rock Wren and the cranky Cactus Wren, desert early-nesting Phainopeplas, the Black-throated Sparrow who never drinks water, and the lovely-to-see-and-hear Scott’s Oriole. Perhaps the most uncommon sightings were several Chuckwalla lizards warming on rock tops, and a large

Rattlesnake, either Western or Red - Black Rock (R. Seidner 5/2/15)

Rattlesnake, either Western or Red – Black Rock (R. Seidner 5/2/15)

Diamondback Rattlesnake (either Western or Red) near the front door of the ranger station. His rattles had broken off. Mary, temporarily alone, saw a Roadrunner the rest of

Black Rock campground - no wind, tents still in place (R. Seidner 5/2/15)

Black Rock campground – no wind, tents still in place (R. Seidner 5/2/15)

us missed. We then went off to dinner at La Casita in Yucca Valley, a good Mexican restaurant. Those of us camping returned, stuffed to the gills, to Black Rock and waited for the wind to rise. Infamous for its winds – we call it Windy Ridge – people have seen their tents sail away into yucca-strewn gullies, or been rocked to sleep – or to terror – by a wind-wobbled campervan.

Next morning, on the way from our Black Rock campsite to Morongo Valley, we spotted two Roadrunners, one road-crossing as we coasted down the long road back to the highway, and one crossing the highway itself, right in the middle of town. I almost forgot: Lillian and I witnessed a 6:05am flyover of 60-100 Piñon Jays, heading downcanyon directly above our campsite, each one calling in their peculiar quail-like purr.

Morongo Valley Preserve was moderately birdy and – for a change – neither windy nor unbearably hot. Warblers were few: we did see six of the eleven western warbler species, but

Male Summer Tanater at the seed feeder (D. Erwin 5/3/15 Morongo Valley)

Male Summer Tanater at the seed feeder (D. Erwin 5/3/15 Morongo Valley)

95% of them were Wilson’s Warblers. Summer Tanagers have apparently already paired up; we first spotted them whizzing back and forth, and later at the seed feeder by the warden’s house. Brown-crested Flycatchers were very vocal, as were Yellow-breasted Chats, and we heard them singing and calling over and over before we finally spotted either species. At least one pair of Vermillion Flycatcher were in Covington Park, and we saw a female sitting on her nest near the tennis court, her mate

Male woodpecker, probably a Nuttall's - Ladderbacked hybrid - misshapen black on shoulder (D. Erwin 5/3/15 Morongo Valley)

Male woodpecker, probably a Nuttall’s – Ladderbacked hybrid – misshapen black on shoulder (D. Erwin 5/3/15 Morongo Valley)

busily bringing her flies. Nearby, birds, including Lawrence’s Goldfinches, were coming to the small water drip someone had set up. White-winged Doves were frequently seen; a few years back we had to diligently search for this species, often missing it, but now they seem widespread. At the seed feeders we could admire their blue orbital ring.

Morongo Valley is one of the few areas where the ranges of the Nuttall’s and Ladderbacked Woodpeckers overlap, and they do interbreed. Of the photos taken, none are clearly one or the other species. Check the three photos for some of the annoying details.

This female woodpecker might actually be a hybrid - buffy lores with otherwise Nuttall's appearance (D. Erwin 5/3/15 Morongo Valley)

This female woodpecker might actually be a hybrid – buffy lores with otherwise Nuttall’s appearance (D. Erwin 5/3/15 Morongo Valley)

Female woodpecker belly seems too white to be pure Ladderbacked (D. Erwin 5/3/15 Morongo Valley)

Female woodpecker belly seems too white to be pure Ladderbacked (D. Erwin 5/3/15 Morongo Valley)

All told, we had 66 species in two days, down from 2013’s 76 species (see list below). A lot depends on which winds the birds encounter as they move north from the brushy shore of the Salton Sea. A good tail wind and they sail right on by, high over the hills. A stiff head wind like the screamers that come through San Gorgonio Pass, and they are forced to stay low and slow, moving up through Big Morongo Canyon to rest and refuel at the Preserve.

Brown-crested Flycatcher (D. Erwin 5/3/15 Morongo)

Brown-crested Flycatcher (D. Erwin 5/3/15 Morongo)

Ash-throated and Brown-crested Flycatchers both nest at the preserve. Very similar in appearance, even the thinner bill of the Ash-throated can be mistaken by some (moi!) for the chunkier bill of the Brown-crested. Fortunately, the latter bird has a much more liquid Whit! call and rolly song than the former. If you’re lucky, you’ll see one sing. [Added Note: The fact that this photo was captioned “Ash-throated Flycatcher” in the original email demonstrates how easily they’re confused.]   [Chuck Almdale]

The uncommon male Lawrence's Goldfinch (D. Erwin 5/3/15 Morongo Valley)

The uncommon male Lawrence’s Goldfinch
(Dennis Erwin 5/3/15 Morongo Valley)

Many thanks to Dennis Erwin and Roxie Seidner for all the great photographs!

Black Rock & Morongo Valley
Codes: B – Black Rock Campground
   M – Morongo Valley Preserve & Covington Park
   H – Heard Only
Species List 5/2-3/15 5/4-5/13
Gambel’s Quail MB MB
Green Heron M
Turkey Vulture MB M
Cooper’s Hawk M M
Red-tailed Hawk M
Virginia Rail M-H M-H
Rock Pigeon MB MB
Eurasian Collared-Dove MB M
White-winged Dove MB MB
Mourning Dove MB MB
Greater Roadrunner B
White-throated Swift M
Black-chinned Hummingbird MB MB
Anna’s Hummingbird MB MB
Costa’s Hummingbird MB MB
Allen’s Hummingbird M
Calliope Hummingbird M
Ladder-backed Woodpecker MB MB
Nuttall’s Woodpecker M M
American Kestrel M B
Olive-sided Flycatcher M
Western Wood-Pewee MB MB
Willow Flycatcher M
Pacific-slope Flycatcher M M
Black Phoebe MB MB
Say’s Phoebe B
Vermilion Flycatcher M M
Ash-throated Flycatcher MB B
Brown-crested Flycatcher M M
Cassin’s Kingbird M MB
Western Kingbird  M MB
Loggerhead Shrike M
Bell’s Vireo M M
Cassin’s Vireo M M
Warbling Vireo M M
Pinyon Jay B B
Western Scrub-Jay MB MB
Common Raven MB MB
Mountain Chickadee M
Oak Titmouse MB M
Verdin MB
Bushtit M M
Rock Wren B
House Wren M M
Bewick’s Wren MB MB
Cactus Wren B B
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher M
Western Bluebird MB MB
Townsend’s Solitaire M
Swainson’s Thrush M
Hermit Thrush M
California Thrasher MB MB
Northern Mockingbird B B
European Starling MB MB
Phainopepla MB MB
Orange-crowned Warbler M M
Nashville Warbler M
Common Yellowthroat M M
Yellow Warbler MB M
Yellow-rumped Warbler MB M
Black-throated Gray Warbler M
Townsend’s Warbler M
Hermit Warbler M
Wilson’s Warbler MB MB
Yellow-breasted Chat M M
Spotted Towhee MB
California Towhee MB MB
Brewer’s Sparrow B
Black-throated Sparrow B
Song Sparrow M M
Summer Tanager M M
Western Tanager M M
Black-headed Grosbeak M M
Blue Grosbeak M
Lazuli Bunting M
Great-tailed Grackle M
Brown-headed Cowbird M M
Hooded Oriole M M
Bullock’s Oriole M M
Scott’s Oriole B B
House Finch MB MB
Pine Siskin M
Lesser Goldfinch M MB
Lawrence’s Goldfinch M M
House Sparrow MB MB
Total Species – 85
66 76


Chuck checks Cactus Wren nest to see if anyone home - Black Rock (R. Seidner 5/2/15)

Just before the horribly disfiguring accident, Chuck checks a Cactus Wren nest in a cholla to see if anyone is home (R. Seidner 5/2/15 Black Rock)

A Fond Farewell to Maja

May 1, 2015
The deepening snow beneath the trees

The deepening snow beneath the trees

It was a day Maja would have loved….it snowed, and not just a bit, but sticking on the ground snow.  Kevin said on Friday it was beautiful up there, and he had hiked to the top.  We arrived to whiteness and 30°F with wind blowing the snow horizontally at times.

A chilly day

A chilly day

In attendance were the Braggs,  Maja’s family and close friend Christine & her family from North Carolina.

As I said to Kevin when we got out of the car, Maja was there with us and had ordered up the weather for the day, especially for us.

Due to the weather we stood on the porch and held the service.  Kevin read a note from Misha (who could not come), and Chuck, Chuck, Kevin and a couple of others told a few Maja memories.  One that stands out was told by Kevin (more or less like this): Maja was driving her Mercedes down Sunset Blvd to the beach with the kids in the car.  Their friend was driving a VW and started to pass.  Kevin to Maja: “Mom, the VW is passing us” (sound familiar to anyone??), so Maja steps on the gas and goes around the bend on 2 wheels (as the memory goes) and then BLOP, back on all four wheels.  Anyone who remembers Maja’s driving, knows how true that story sounds!!!

Maja's favorite tree

Maja’s favorite tree

We also learned that when Maja went to Nursing School in San Bernardino, she and her German girlfriend (Christine’s mom) had the two highest GPA’s  for their graduating class.  Not bad for two ESLers!!!!!!!!!!!

Then we walked down to the meadow, and placed Maja’s ashes under a pine tree near the rock outcrop.  Kevin placed a lovely stone and pine cones over the needles to mark the spot.

Afterwards, back at the parking area, Christine’s twin girls (age 10), were ready to hike to the peak….so off they all went in the snow and wind.  The Braggs and Almdales left for birding adventures below the snow line.

Kevin and Maja

Kevin and Maja

Afterwards, back at the parking area, Christine’s twin girls (age 10), were ready to hike to the peak….so off they all went in the snow and wind.  The Braggs and Almdales left for birding adventures below the snow line.

Christine's twins have a small snowball fight

Christine’s twins have a small snowball fight

Kevin mentioned he asked his Mom what she thought death was like.  She replied that she imagined herself flying over the frozen mountains of some northern landscape, with icy fields and pine forests below, the snow glistening in the moonlight.

So, Maja, Saturday’s snowy whiteness was for you, letting us know you were there waiting for the iris to bloom and the birds to sing.

The group gathers to pay last respects to Maja

The group gathers to pay last respects to Maja

To Maja, we raise a toast.


Icelandic Birding, with Joyce & Doug Waterman: Evening Meeting Reminder, Tuesday, 5 May, 7:30pm

May 1, 2015


Barrow's Goldeneye pair, Laxa River (Joyce Waterman May'14)

Barrow’s Goldeneye pair, Laxa River (Joyce Waterman May’14)

Iceland’s Ring Road is 830 miles of fjords, sea cliffs, glacial lagoons, meadows, mountains, rivers and lakes.  Among the many birds encountered On The Road were fabulously plumaged breeding waterfowl, five species of Auk, three North American species whose regular European breeding site is ONLY in Iceland,  and a dramatic incident with an iconic bird. They look forward to sharing their Icelandic birding adventure with us.
Church and Saefellsjokull volcanic glacier,  Snaefellsnes Peninsula(Joyce Waterman May'14)

Church and Saefellsjokull volcanic glacier,
Snaefellsnes Peninsula (J. Waterman May’14)

 Joyce & Doug Waterman began birding together fourteen years ago. Joyce is a certified Southern California native, now retired from a career as a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist so she can devote full time to birding. Doug, native to the New York City suburban wilderness, worked for many years in television, video and film production, and has been a TV documentary producer for the past 23 years.

Rock Ptarmigan (J. Waterman May'14)

Rock Ptarmigan (J. Waterman May’14)

Our NEW meeting place is at Douglas Park, 2439 Wilshire Blvd.(between Wilshire Blvd, California Ave, Chelsea Ave & 25th St), Santa Monica. If you’re coming from outside Santa Monica, exit the #10 Fwy at Cloverfield Blvd., turn north, bear right onto 26th St. and continue north 9 blocks to Wilshire Blvd., turn left and go 2 blocks to Chelsea Ave. Street parking only.

Link to Google Map of Meeting Place

Meeting Room: The meeting place is on the NE corner of Chelsea & Wilshire.

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

Parking: The Wilshire, Chelsea, and 25th St. edges of the park are metered 1$/hour until 6 PM. We don’t know if the posted 3-hour limit is enforced on metered spaces after 6PM. Parking on Chelsea and 25th St. across from the park are non-metered but have a 2-hour limit until 10PM (if you park here, do not linger after the meeting.) The park edge of California St. (north end of the block) has no parking restrictions, but only 9 spaces. Other areas N, E and W of the park seems to be 2-hour parking until 10PM. Wherever you park, please read parking signs carefully and avoid a big fat $40+ parking ticket. [Chuck Almdale]

Turf Houses (Joyce Waterman May'14)

Turf Houses (Joyce Waterman May’14)



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