Coastwalk hosted a birdwatching walk of the Malibu Lagoon on Saturday, February 19th, 2011, and the weather could not have been more perfect! After a rainy night, we were treated to clear blue skies with very little wind. Don Nierlich, our Coastwalk host had invited Lu Plazoles of Santa Monica Bay Audubon to lead the group. We had beginners as well as some experienced birders, and everyone had a great time, while learning about the birds native to this environment.
The Lagoon walk is always a treat: We have the intersection of different ecosystems - chaparral, riparian, estuarine and of course coastal - which gave us the chance to see many different types of birds. We had the friendly Mallards in the parking lot, with Western Gulls overhead. These two species can always be counted on to make an appearance. Due to winter migration, we were fortunate to also see Green Wing Teals, Ruddy Ducks, Gadwalls and Buffleheads; all beautiful ducks. We also saw our Great Egret and Snowy Egret, and Lu pointed out how to differentiate the two. A Great Blue Heron perched high in the pine tree, these large wading birds can be seen year round here in the lagoon. Trekking along the path, the Giant Coreopsis, with its bright yellow daisy-like flowers, cheered our way; another native, Galvezia, the Island Snapdragon displayed its red blossoms. This habitat is home to Song Sparrows, Bewicks Wrens, Towhees and Audubons Warblers, just a few of the "chaparral birds" we saw.
Next, we walked out to the beach, where we saw a large flock of Black Bellied Plovers, and the cute little "in and out" birds, the Sanderlings. Both these species travel thousands of miles in their yearly migrations, more the reason to make sure they are not disturbed while they visit our beaches. We had the good luck to see the endangered Snowy Plovers, a tiny sandpiper-like bird which is rapidly losing its habitat. I spoke with Ranger Gunn of the California Park Service, who informed me they will soon erect some fencing to alert the public about these little birds' plight.
Lu gave us a lesson in gulls, just don't call them "sea" gulls!! We have Western, Ring-Billed, California and the white-headed gray-bodied Heermann's Gulls; additionally, we saw the much smaller Bonaparte's Gulls. Another interesting bird, the black and white, bright red-billed Skimmer was here, our only bird with the lower bill, or mandible, longer than the top one - enabling him to glide over the water and scoop up his dinner. Too bad these three were taking a nap, that would have been fun to see!
The final tally was over 30 different species of birds, I would say our walk was a big success!