The gregarious and fearless yellow-rumped warbler is one of the most common Malibu winter garden birds, but it's just one of dozens of seasonal avian residents. All photos © 2015 S. Guldimann
Rich meanings of the prophet-Spring adorn,
Unseen, this colourless sky of folded showers,
And folded winds; no blossom in the bowers;
A poet's face asleep in this grey morn.
Now in the midst of the old world forlorn
A mystic child is set in these still hours.
I keep this time, even before the flowers,
Sacred to all the young and the unborn.
—Alice Meynell, In February
There are a lot of poems about February. Many are bleak and full of snow, and often the poet mourns the absence of bird and blossom. It makes me feel inexplicably guilty, since quite a lot of those lamented birds missing from there are actually here for the winter.
February in Malibu is a paradise for birds, and birdwatchers often find they have a front row seat for the colorful panoply of winter migrants right in their own garden. Here's a look at some of the winter visitors spotted here at the Malibu Post.
The American robin usually arrives around Christmas and heads north again as soon as warmer weather arrives.
The lesser goldfinch is a year round resident, but we only see them in the garden during the winter, when they come to forage for the seeds of the Mexican evening primrose plants and other wildflowers that have been left to go to seed.
The western meadowlark is one of our shyest winter residents. It's easy to recognize this bird in spring by its beautiful call, which you can listen to here. In winter, the usually solitary meadowlark gathers into flocks, but they are almost always silent and can be remarkably hard to spot. Although the front of the bird is bright yellow and marked with a heraldic-style black chevron, they keep their bright colors carefully hidden, presumably to avoid standing out to predators (and photographers).
This post contains a small sample of Malibu's winter birds. It features just the ones that held still long enough for me to snap a photo, recording their passage.
I recently read a State Coastal Conservancy report that described Malibu, the Santa Monica Mountains, and the entire South Coast region as "considered to be one of the 25 most important 'hotspots' of biological diversity on earth."
Birdwatchers who would like to help document the local bird population are encouraged to take part in this year's Great Backyard Bird Count, February 13-16. The event, cosponsored by Cornell University's Bird Lab and the Audubon Society, attracts participants from around the world. Last year, nearly 150,000 checklists were submitted, recording nearly 18 million birds and 4,296 species. There were 263 species just in Los Angeles County, and the Malibu Lagoon and Point Dume State Park were among the top bird hot spots. More information is available here.
While cameras and binoculars are helpful, all that is required to participate in the bird count is the time to go out and look, and it's always worth taking the time to look. You never know what you might see.
7 February 2015
|An osprey glides across the Malibu sky at sunset.