Skip to content

Free email delivery

Please sign up for email delivery in the subscription area to the right.
No salesman will call.

Early notice–local March Mystery site revealed

February 28, 2015

Lu’s spring hike’n’bird adventure in the Santa Monica Mountains this year will be at Sycamore Canyon. You may remember the Camarillo Springs fire of May 2013. It covered well over 20 thousand acres, and recently in December of 2014 homes in Camarillo were destroyed by resulting mudflows.
I hiked through the Point Mugu highlands in the spring of 2014 and it was still gray, black, and depressing. I promise you an altogether more positive image of fire ecology of the Santa Monica’s as we wander up Sycamore Canyon, and possibly up the Serrano Trail, …two weeks hence!
In a gathering storm, yesterday, I spotted over 20 species of birds in what was a barren gray and black landscape just a year ago. Let’s explore the effect of a fire together on “our” mountains. We’ll spot a few birds, add a few plants ( I ID’d 11 flowering spp. in 1/2 and hour !)
Meet at the Sycamore Canyon State Park day-use parking lot, near the restrooms. Two left turns after the entry kiosk ($12). Carpool, carpool, carpool! … but get there by 8:30AM on Saturday March 14th. This is 23 winding miles north of Santa Monica on recently-reopened PCH, so in the best conditions you have to plan on 45 mins. from Channel Road at the edge of Pacific Palisades.
Species hints: CA TH, CA WR. Both sing at this time of year!)

Please note: Sunday 1 Mar predicted rain may affect road conditions. PCH was closed for 9 weeks until three days ago. PLEASE! make sure you check this blog for possible updates/cancellations at/after 10PM Thursday March 12th.


Malibu Lagoon Trip Report: 22 February, 2015

February 28, 2015

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Here upon a Sunday dreary, birders gathered, bleak and bleary,
Sullen visages we, fearing that the rain would pour —
Is that a truck? No, merely thunder. Might the heavens break asunder?
From the rear then someone wondered, “Afore we venture on yon
Malibu’s near-halcyon* shore…might there be a coffee store?”

“Merely Starbucks, nothing more.”

* Halcyon: Genus of eleven old world species of kingfishers found from Japan to South Africa, including Gray-headed Kingfisher, featured in our upcoming Uganda show.
Also: (Greek) A mythical bird, long associated with the kingfisher, which nested on the sea. Beloved of the gods, them calmed the waves while it incubated and raised its young. Such days of peace and calm became known as “halcyon days.” – A Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names, Jobling.

A pair of Northern Shovelers (R.Ehler 2/22/15)

Northern Shoveler pair (R.Ehler 2/22/15)

Grim forebodings notwithstanding, it was actually a nice morning with the smallest amount of rain possible for it to still be considered rain, not fog or mist. Fear of rain kept people home, apparently, and we had a smaller group of about 20 birders including some first-timers, friends of regular attendees.

Double-crested Cormorant with rings on legs (R.Ehler 2/22/15)

Double-crested Cormorant with rings on legs
(R.Ehler 2/22/15)

A Double-crested Cormorant on the rocks just south of the PCH bridge had rings on its legs. Right leg ring was of dull metal, left leg ring was bright yellow with EN3 on it. We had to scope it from far to the side in order to confirm the code: the picture doesn’t quite capture the letters. One (or more) birders thought that perhaps it had become oiled and captured for cleaning, with the rings placed before release. If so, the bird looked well.

Closeup of rings - EN3 on left leg of DC Cormorant (R.Ehler 2/22/15)

Closeup of rings EN3 on left leg of DC Cormorant (R.Ehler 2/22/15)

Long-billed Curlews are infrequent visitors at the lagoon, and we’ve recorded them only 17 times in 35 years. They prefer seeking invertebrates in grassy fields or on mudflats sufficiently soft to permit their shoving their long bills deeply in. I can’t remember a time when the lagoon was suitable for that. As a result, this species may rest briefly at the lagoon, but they don’t stay long. On the other hand, the smaller and similar Whimbrel is a regular winter resident in small numbers, with 244 appearances of one or more birds over the same 35 years.

Long-billed Curlew (R.Ehler 2/22/15)

Long-billed Curlew (R.Ehler 2/22/15)

Snowy Plovers were mysteriously absent, no explanation given. Neither were there any Sanderlings. Both species are normally present in February.

Gull flock with Malibu Canyon in distance (R.Ehler 2/22/15)

Gull flock with Malibu Canyon and PCH bridge in background
(R.Ehler 2/22/15)

We had plenty of time to search the several large flocks of gulls. Only one Heermann’s Gull was found; the rest may have left for their breeding grounds on islands near the south tip of Baja California, where really hot weather necessitates an early breeding season. Most were California Gulls, with about 5% each of Western and Ring-billed Gulls. Four Glaucous-winged Gulls were found, one of which was an adult bird in breeding (alternate) plumage, which we rarely see at the lagoon. Glaucous-wings breed in southwestern Alaska from Anchorage to Nome, and winter regularly to Portland, OR. They winter in small numbers in SoCal, but most are first-winter birds. This particular individual was a beautiful gull and it was nice to see it. Royal Tern numbers continued to grow as the morning wore on, and some of them were already in alternate plumage. The Elegant Terns are still off on their winter break, but they’ll probably be back next month.

Male Northern Pintail, no longer common at the lagoon (R.Ehler 2/22/15)

Male Northern Pintail, no longer common at the lagoon (R.Ehler 2/22/15)

Some very nicely plumaged ducks tooled around the lagoon and channel (see pictures). Overhead the Osprey regularly glided by, but I never saw him catch a fish despite the presence of large and eminently desirable “jumping” mullet in the lagoon.

Osprey (R.Ehler 2/22/15)

Osprey (R.Ehler 2/22/15)

Many thanks to Randy Ehler who contributed all of the photos today. Randy’s many photos have graced and vastly improved the appearance and interest of our reports, beginning with his contribution in October, 2013 of nine photos.

Birds new for the season were:
Long-billed Curlew, Common Raven, Hermit Thrush, California Towhee. We don’t consistently get over to Adamson House during the winter when the lagoon outlet cuts through the beach, which may be why birds that are always around like Anna’s Hummingbird and House Finch have been missed.

Our next three scheduled field trips:  Hiker Lu’s Santa Monica Explorama, 14 Mar, 8:30m; Malibu Lagoon, 22 Mar, 8:30 & 10am; Wilson, O’Melvany or Walker Ranch, 11 Apr, 8:30am.

Our next program: Tuesday, 3 Mar, 7:30 pm. Birds, Primates and other Animals of Uganda, presented by Edie Gralle. PLEASE NOTE THAT OUR MEETING PLACE HAS CHANGED TO DOUGLAS PARK, 2439 WILSHIRE BLVD.

NOTE: Our 10 a.m. Parent’s & Kids Birdwalk meets at the shaded viewing area. Watch for Willie the Weasel.
Links: Unusual birds at Malibu Lagoon
Aerial photo of Malibu Lagoon from 9/23/02.
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
  Jan-June  July-Dec

The 10-year comparison summaries created during the project period remain available on our Lagoon Project Bird Census Page. Very briefly summarized, the results unexpectedly indicate that avian species diversification and numbers improved slightly during the period Jun’12-June’14.   [Chuck Almdale]

Trip List 2014-15 9/28 10/26 11/23 12/28 1/25 2/22
Temperature 68-75 62-72 60-70 39-61 73-81 55-63
Tide Lo/Hi Height H+5.35 H+5.93 H+6.41 L+1.70 L+1.32 H+4.51
Tide Time 1149 1044 0849 0903 0705 1137
Gadwall 3 26 22 30
American Wigeon 10 18 18
Mallard 23 3 2 10 12 12
Northern Shoveler 4 25
Northern Pintail 2 3
Green-winged Teal 1 12 25 12
Surf Scoter 13 15
Bufflehead 8 4 2
Hooded Merganser 4
Red-brstd Merganser 25 25 4 2
Ruddy Duck 2 36 42 38 35
Red-throated Loon 3 1
Pacific Loon 6 1 3
Common Loon 1 1
Pied-billed Grebe 11 3 1 8 2 1
Horned Grebe 2 2 4 2 1
Eared Grebe 6 18 8 12 3
Western Grebe 6 12 2 5 15
Brandt’s Cormorant 1 2 130 1
Dble-crstd Cormorant 45 26 9 120 35 50
Pelagic Cormorant 3 1 1 1
Brown Pelican 42 26 32 95 50 28
Great Blue Heron 1 2 4 3 2 2
Great Egret 3 4 4 4 2
Snowy Egret 15 20 20 18 16 26
Blk-crwnd N-Heron 1
Turkey Vulture 1
Osprey 1 1 1 1 1
White-tailed Kite 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
Cooper’s Hawk 1
Red-shouldered Hawk 1 1 1
Red-tailed Hawk 3 1 1 1
American Coot 85 20 100 135 88 145
American Avocet 1
Blk-bellied Plover 95 40 45 38 62 85
Snowy Plover 40 34 40 25 29
Killdeer 18 1 1 17 12 12
Spotted Sandpiper 5 4 2 6 3 3
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Willet 45 6 4 10 4 3
Whimbrel 9 1 1 1 4 4
Long-billed Curlew 1
Marbled Godwit 4 5 3 12 12 10
Ruddy Turnstone 12 4 6 6 5
Sanderling 10 32 32 28 8
Least Sandpiper 2 1
Boneparte’s Gull 2 2 1
Heermann’s Gull 4 5 1 18 17 1
Ring-billed Gull 3 60 65 150 90
Western Gull 95 40 81 230 170 95
California Gull 1500 1650 1600
Herring Gull 1
Glaucous-wingd Gull 3 5 4
Forster’s Tern 2 3
Royal Tern 8 22 42 35
Elegant Tern 18 17 4
Rock Pigeon 15 6 6 4 5
Mourning Dove 3 2
Vaux’s Swift 3
Anna’s Hummingbird 1 1
Allen’s Hummingbird 6 3 4 2 3
Belted Kingfisher 1
Nuttall’s Woodpecker 1
American Kestrel 1 1 1
Peregrine Falcon 1
Yel-chevroned Parakeet 2
Willow Flycatcher 1
Pac.Slope Flycatcher 1
Black Phoebe 12 2 1 2 1 2
Say’s Phoebe 3 2 2 1
Cassin’s Kingbird 1
Warbling Vireo 2
Western Scrub-Jay 1
American Crow 6 7 8 4 6
Common Raven 2
Rough-wingd Swallow 3
Barn Swallow 1
Cliff Swallow 3
Oak Titmouse 1 1
House Wren 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1 2
Hermit Thrush 2
Northern Mockingbird 3 2 2 1 1
European Starling 115 60 60 25 45 3
Cedar Waxwing 2
Ornge-crwnd Warbler 3
Nashville Warbler 2
Common Yellowthroat 9 4 2 4 3 3
Yellow Warbler 3 1
Yellow-rumpd Warbler 40 2 15 7 8
Townsend’s Warbler 1
Spotted Towhee 1
California Towhee 4 1 1
Savannah Sparrow 3
Song Sparrow 7 2 3 2 6
White-crwnd Sparrow 15 15 35 4 12
Bobolink 1
Western Meadowlark 6 6 7 14 24 10
Great-tailed Grackle 1 3 1 5 4
House Finch 22 4
Lesser Goldfinch 15 3 1 2
Totals by Type Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb
Waterfowl 26 5 64 141 138 154
Water Birds – Other 193 102 166 516 187 247
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 20 26 28 25 18 30
Quail & Raptors 7 4 2 5 2 2
Shorebirds 240 127 135 144 139 119
Gulls & Terns 128 66 151 1839 2035 1825
Doves 15 6 0 6 7 7
Other Non-Passerines 13 3 1 4 3 3
Passerines 242 150 76 114 106 61
Totals Birds 884 489 623 2794 2635 2448
Total Species Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb
Waterfowl 2 2 4 9 9 10
Water Birds – Other 7 8 8 11 9 11
Herons, Egrets & Ibis 4 3 3 3 2 3
Quail & Raptors 5 4 2 5 2 2
Shorebirds 10 9 10 10 9 8
Gulls & Terns 5 5 6 7 7 6
Doves 1 1 0 1 2 2
Other Non-Passerines 5 1 1 1 2 1
Passerines 27 15 8 12 16 14
Totals Species – 103 66 48 42 59 58 57

A Tour Of Wild Uganda, with Edie Gralla: Evening Meeting Reminder, Tuesday, 3 March, 7:30pm

February 27, 2015


Shoebill in his papyrus swamp habitat, looking for a tasty lungfish (E. Gralla)

The Shoebill, king of the papyrus swamp, looking for a tasty lungfish
(E. Gralla 9/12)

Grey-headed Kingfisher (E. Gralla)

Grey-headed Kingfisher (E. Gralla 9/12)

Of Edie’s and husband Jay’s several trips to Africa, the Uganda safari is their favorite because of the wide variety of terrain (and thus wildlife), the talents of their guide, the friendliness of the people, and the relative paucity of tourists. Uganda is well-known as the forested home of the Mountain Gorilla, but there are lakes, rivers, savannahs, and always more forests which shelter an astounding variety of birds, primates, and mammals large and small.  Her talk is a travelogue with lots of pictures that highlights the wonderful diversity of this unsung destination.

Edie Gralla worked for many years as a research biochemist at UCLA, studying how yeast, and by extension human cells, marshal their antioxidant defenses to cope with the great world outside. She found it very interesting and she still loves micro-organisms, but says, “I’m a biologist at heart and have always been drawn to wild animals and birds. So, now that Jay and I are retired but still fit enough to cope with the vagaries of traveling, we take several trips a year to different exotic places in the world. Whenever it is my choice, I pick wild places with birds and animals. I love photography and have indulged that passion on all our trips.  [Chuck Almdale]

Giraffe (E. Gralla)

Rothchild’s Giraffe (E. Gralla 9/12)

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 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. sides of the park are metered until 6 PM at $1/hour. 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 side of California St. (north end of the block) has no parking restrictions, but only 9 spaces. Other areas north, east and west 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]

Hot off the (real) Press!

February 19, 2015

An extensive, carefully-written article about our Western Snowy Plovers, is featured on the front page and covering most of three pages of today’s Argonaut newspaper. Thank you Rebecca Kuzins, a frequent participant in our monthly Malibu Lagoon walks.

On the web you can find the article at



Malibu Lagoon Field Trips: Sunday, 22 February, 8:30 & 10am.

February 19, 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 )

Still more birds than you can shake a stick at. What can I say? Birds you’ve never even heard of! Marbled Godwit, Black Turnstone, Faque’s Tourniquet,  Heermann’s Gull, Fraculated Wigulet, Pelagic Cormorant, Western Roof Owl, maybe 65 other species. A quiet beach on a quiet day. Who can complain about that? Dress in layers.

Most of January’s birds will still be with us, including: up to 11 duck species, 3 loons, 4 grebes, 3 cormorants, 4 herons & egrets, 4 raptors, 4 plovers, 8 sandpipers, 12 gulls & terns, 2 hummingbirds and 22 species of passerines. Come and meet them all.

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 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)


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 593 other followers