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Our Own Very Local Bird Festival

November 24, 2015

SAMO_BirdFest_flyer_102615In its second year, the Santa Monica Mountains Bird Fest will be held at King Gilette Ranch, near the intersection of Mulholland Highway and Los Virgenes Dr. on Saturday December 5th. This is a friendly outreach type of birding event, not a competitive birding marathon. Lasting from 9AM to 3:30PM the festivities include bird walks, exhibits by local conservation groups and presentations on local bird topics, including a talk by our own Chuck Almdale on the past and present of the birds of Malibu Lagoon. An early walk starts at 8:30AM, exhibits and presentations start at 9 at the Interagency Visitor Center. There will be a food truck. Parking and participation are free. Sponsored by San Fernando Valley, Conejo Valley, and Santa Monica Bay Audubon societies, the Western National Parks Association, and hosted by the National Park Service, California State Parks and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. We specially recommend this for those who think they might be interested in becoming birders–bring a friend!


Better Ballona Birding, …Duck?

November 19, 2015
Great Blue Heron (R.Ehler 2/22/15)

Great Blue Heron (R.Ehler 2/22/15)

Last year, when we visited Ballona Lagoon we timed our walk to the standard “Second-Saturday” schedule typical of our field trips. Our species count suffered because of a relatively high tide. This year we are planning the trip for Saturday, November 21st in order to see more of those feathered species hunting for food on exposed rock. As an added attraction, note that the male Long-tailed Duck has been residing in the channel for ten days now.

Join us at the del Rey Lagoon parking lot at 8:30AM. We will scan the lagoon, walk to the Ballona/Marina del Rey jetty and possibly cap our morning’s birding with a short walk at the Freshwater marsh across from Playa Vista. Bring bins, hat, water and sunscreen. Good solid shoes recommended for the uneven rock stretches of the jetty. It’s called “rip-rap”. For your navigation system, the meeting place is at 6599 Pacific Ave., Playa del Rey, in the free parking lot between Pacific Ave and the del Rey lagoon.

President’s Annual Appeal – Addendum

November 16, 2015

We have updated the blog post of the President’s Annual Appeal letter to mention that – in addition to the self-addressed envelope enclosed with the annual appeal letter – donations to SMBAS can also be made with the PayPal Widget permanently located on the right side bar of the blog. You do not have to join PayPal to donate, just have your credit card “standing by.” Please take a moment and make a donation today.

Remember, this is our only fund raising effort. Your help allows our all-volunteer group to accomplish much each year. Your donations are used to further our mission “to be a center for wildlife education, habitat protection, and conservation issues that involve birds.”

SMBAS is a 501(c)(3) corporation; as such, all donations are fully tax-deductible and will be used exclusively in direct support of our programs.  We hope you will consider the solid positive impact of our group and make a contribution.

The members of the Board of Directors thank you…and the birds thank you.


President’s Annual Appeal

November 15, 2015

Now is the time of year when we ask our fellow members and friends for their support. Remember, this is our only fund raising effort. Your help allows our all-volunteer group to accomplish much each year. Your donations are used to further our mission “to be a center for wildlife education, habitat protection, and conservation issues that involve birds.”

You can DONATE using either the self-addressed envelope enclosed with the annual appeal letter, or with the PayPal Widget located on the right side bar of the blog.  You do not have to join PayPal to donate, just have your credit card “standing by.” Please take a moment and make a donation today.

We continue our strong support of all things bird, habitat, native plants, the environment and conservation through education, field trips, bird monitoring, speakers and grants to students and conservation groups.

  • Our evening speaker programs are diverse and insightful. Meetings are held the first Tuesday of October through May, except January. We meet locally in Santa Monica. Locations vary so keep in touch via this BLOG or Facebook. By signing up to receive email notification via our BLOG, you will always be on top of upcoming trips, meetings and important local news
  • Our field trips are for the beginning birder as well as the experienced. Please verify times and locations here before you venture out to join us, phone numbers are provided. We hope to see you at our monthly Malibu Lagoon walks on the fourth Sunday of every month
  • We continue to reach out to the community. We can be found on Facebook which you can go without joining Facebook. Pay us a visit and check out the bird quiz and photos.
  • You also can follow us on Twitter
  • Again in February, we will offer the very popular field class designed to improve birding skills of beginning and intermediate birders, and to learn the birds of the Los Angeles Basin.
  • We gave three research grants to UCLA graduate students and their assistants. We ask the grantee to give short presentations at a general meeting in the spring.
  • We continue our support of the Student Conservation Association, Friends of Big Morongo, American Bird Conservancy, and Birder’s Exchange.
  • Monthly we count Snowy Plovers at Malibu Lagoon and Santa Monica Beach. This year we sent one representative to the annual USFWS Snowy Plover Recovery Plan Conference. Next year we will send two representatives to the meeting
  • We funded ten bus grants for schools wanting to participate in the Ballona Wetlands Audubon Education Program. A number of chapter volunteers have contributed dozens of hours in local classrooms, bringing the birds to the kids and taking the kids to the birds
  • We have joined Point Blue: Pacific Flyway Shorebird Survey and continue to participate in monthly bird counts at the Ballona Fresh Water Marsh and Malibu Lagoon.
  • We continue our long term support of Butterbredt Spring, site of our annual Christmas Count.

This is your chapter and we hope that you will join us in many of these activities. We welcome your input to this diverse program of events. We are in need of new board members; the time commitment is only a couple of hours a month. Please, won’t you consider volunteering for the board?

Please remember that SMBAS is a 501(c)(3) corporation; as such, all donations are fully tax-deductible and will be used exclusively in direct support of our programs. We hope you will consider the solid positive impact of our group and make a contribution.

The members of the Board of Directors thank you…and the birds thank you.

Chuck Bragg


Ballona Birding trip report Nov. 21,2015

November 24, 2015
Brandt's Cormorant J. Waterman Marina de Rey 11/21/15

Brandt’s Cormorant                                         J. Waterman,   Marina de Rey 11/21/15

The Santa Ana winds, typical of this season, had just started sweeping into the region and we enjoyed warm, dry weather on the coast. However, this was not ideal birding weather. Our low-tide planning and the two rarities (Long-tailed Duck and Common Murre) did not make an appearance, but we still reach the 60-species mark with a short walk at the Freshwater Marsh where two atypical species (Fox Sparrow and Common Gallinule) were present on the busy Lincoln Blvd. side of the marsh. Surprising bird of the day: a Canada Goose seen in the distance off Dockweiler Beach, well beyond the surf. Also a not-so-typical dominance of Brandt’s Cormorants over the usually more numerous Double-crested.

Royal Tern J.Waterman 11/21/15 Ballona Creek

Royal Tern                                                                                 J.Waterman 11/21/15                  Ballona Creek

Canada Goose                        10

Gadwall                      6

American Wigeon      8

Mallard                       40

Cinnamon Teal          2

Northern Shoveler    13

Lesser Scaup              4

Surf Scoter                 35

Bufflehead                 8

Red-breasted Merganser     1

Ruddy Duck   5

Common Loon           3

Pied-billed Grebe      5

Horned Grebe                        2

Eared Grebe              7

Western Grebe          20

Brandt’s Cormorant  350

Double-crested Cormorant  20

Pelagic Cormorant    2

Brown Pelican           40

Great Egret                1

Snowy Egret              4

Osprey                        1

Red-tailed Hawk        1

Common Gallinule     1

American Coot           40

Black-bellied Plover  12

Killdeer                      1

Black Oystercatcher  1

Willet  3

Whimbrel                   1

Marbled Godwit        3

Ruddy Turnstone      2

Black Turnstone        3

Surfbird                     2

Sanderling                 25

Least Sandpiper        7

Bonaparte’s Gull        1

Heermann’s Gull       3

Ring-billed Gull          1

Western Gull              8

Herring Gull               1

Royal Tern                 2

Rock Pigeon               18

Mourning Dove         1

Allen’s Hummingbird           1

Anna’s Hummingbird           2

Belted Kingfisher      1

Black Phoebe             1

Say’s Phoebe             1

Cassin’s Kingbird      2

American Crow          4

Bushtit                        20

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher          3

Northern Mockingbird         1

American Pipit                       1

Orange-crowned Warbler    3

Common Yellowthroat          1

Yellow-rumped Warbler      30

Savannah Sparrow   1

Fox Sparrow              1

White-crowned Sparrow      22

House Finch               2

Iridescent male Bufflehead J. Waterman 11/21/15 del Rey Lagoon

Iridescent male Bufflehead                                                J. Waterman 11/21/15                  del Rey Lagoon

Evening Meeting, Tuesday, December 1st. Pine Siskins: Natural History and New Discoveries

November 23, 2015

Our speaker will be Dr. Heather Watts from Loyola Marymount. She writes, “Pine Siskins, as well as some of their relatives, are unusual among temperate zone birds because they have very flexible annual cycles. Events in their lives such as breeding and migration occur much less seasonally and predictably compared to most temperate zone birds. In this talk, I will discuss the natural history of the Pine Siskin and research my lab is doing to understand how these birds time their breeding and migrations.”

Dr. Heather Watts is an Associate Professor of Biology at Loyola Marymount University. She received her B.S. in Biology from Duke University and a joint Ph.D. in Zoology and Ecology, Evolutionary Biology & Behavior from Michigan State University. She then did a postdoctoral fellowship at UC Davis before moving to Loyola Marymount University in 2010. Her research focuses on how variation in the environment in which an animal lives influences its behavior and physiology. She has studied savanna baboons, spotted hyenas and lions, as well as several species of cardueline finches.


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]

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

November 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 )

Lots of migrants and wintering birds and dwindling crowds of humans make it a great day for the lagoon. Usually sunny, sometimes cool, with dolphins dancing in the waves. Forget those Thanksgiving table birds: see your birds here with us.

Some of the great birds we’ve had in November are: Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, Lesser Scaup, Surf Scoter, Bufflehead, Red-breasted Merganser, Pacific & Common Loons, Horned & Western Grebes, Brandt’s & Pelagic Cormorants, Osprey, American Kestrel, Merlin, Snowy Plover, American Avocet, Spotted Sandpiper, Marbled Godwit, Boneparte’s & Glaucous-winged Gulls, Elegant Tern, Allen’s Hummingbird, Belted Kingfisher, Say’s Phoebe, Common Raven, Bushtit, Bewick’s, House & Marsh Wrens, California Towhee, Great-tailed Grackle, Lesser Goldfinch.

Prior checklists:
2015:    Jan-May
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 Lu (310-395-6235) 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)


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