Birding Column: Shorebirds in Malibu

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Talking to Birders

During my visits to Malibu Lagoon State Beach, I have been very impressed with how helpful other birders have been to me. Total strangers, they have identified the pie-billed and eared grebes; explained the difference between royal, elegant, Caspian, and Forster's terns; and even pointed me in the direction of a small corner of reeds where an extremely rare (for this location) sora was hanging out, making brief forays every now and then into the shallow water to gorge on large clumps of green algae.

What this taught me was never to be shy with other birders out in the field—and there's no such thing as a dumb question.

One day in early October, a fellow birder at Malibu Lagoon State Beach informed me that the MacGillivray's, Wilson's, orange-crowned, and yellow warblers could be seen flitting through the trees and bushes along the shore. My goodness, I thought, I just saw these species two months ago up at Devil's Postpile National Monument, more than 300 miles (480 kilometers) to the north. Could they possibly be migrating through Malibu, right on cue?

Sure enough, on closer inspection, I saw not only these four warblers, but the common yellowthroat as well. I even noticed a juvenile white-crowned sparrow in the reeds along the water, newly arrived on its wintering grounds.

As I say, it always pays off if you talk to fellow birders out in the field!

Mathew Tekulsky writes a regular column about birding in his backyard and neighborhood in Bel Air, California. You can follow his encounters with the birds of the Santa Monica Mountains here on National Geographic News Bird Watcher every fortnight or so.

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For more Birdman of Bel Air stories, scroll to bottom.

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