10 Bird-Watching Excursions led by volunteer guides to favorite sites

Here are 10 scheduled guided walks, led by expert volunteers at different times of the year.

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, Huntington Beach. Information: (714) 897-7003.

Guided tours five Saturdays of the year, beginning the first Saturday in October through March. Meet at parking lot on Pacific Coast Highway, across from main entrance of Bolsa Chica State Beach. (Group tours can be arranged by calling office.) Walks begin between 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Plan to observe mainly migratory shore birds and waterfowl (especially in fall and winter), such as avocets, herons, egrets, the black-crested night heron, black-necked stilt and three kinds of terns, including the Caspian and endangered least tern. Also, a variety of raptors (hawks) can usually be seen in surrounding eucalyptus groves.

Antelope Valley. Information: (818) 998-9873.

Fred Heath leads four trips a year to this western extreme of the Mojave Desert. The next one is scheduled for August. Group meets at south end of the Antelope Valley in Palmdale area at the Lamont-Odett Overlook. Small ranches in the area attract numerous desert species. Trip usually covers the Edwards Air Force Base marsh, where county records have been set in sighting shore birds. The very rare ladder-back woodpecker and Le Conte's thrasher have been sighted regularly in this area.

Ballona Wetlands, Marina del Rey. Information: (213) 545-2867.

To go on this guided tour near the south side of Marina del Rey, meet at the north end of Pacific Avenue in Playa del Rey at the bridge over Ballona Creek. Walks led by Bob and Roberta Shanman begin at 8 a.m. the second Saturday in August and are scheduled monthly until April, 1987. Species identified in the area are predominantly shore and water birds, such as brown pelicans, cormorants, gulls, terns, sandpipers, plovers, herons, egrets and kingfishers. Accidentals--birds far from their usual territories--have included a bald eagle, the peregrine falcon, black skimmer and the rare white-faced ibis (see "Here's How . . . to Become a Southland 'Birder' "). All together, 175 species have been sighted on the center jetty and along the banks of Ballona Creek in the last eight years.

Eaton Canyon Nature Center, 1750 N. Altadena Drive, Pasadena. Information: (818) 794-1866.

Naturalist Hill Tenfold leads a two-hour walk the third Saturday of the month at 8 a.m. (In June, the walk will be led by Walt Teilmann.) Oaks, willows, chaparral and surrounding streams typically attract scrub jays, towhees, goldfinches and several hawk species. The black-headed grosbeak and northern oriole are often sighted here. Walks are co-sponsored by Pasadena Audubon Society.

Descanso Gardens, 1418 Descanso Drive, La Canada. Information: (818) 790-5571.

Wrren Peterson conducts an early-bird walk at 8 a.m. the second and fourth Sundays of each month. Within Descanso are rose gardens, native chaparral, stands of oak and possibly the largest collection of camellias in the world. This varied habitat attracts waterfowl (including herons and ducks), hummingbirds, five species of hawks (including red-tailed and American kestrel) and three species of owls. Peterson says it's not uncommon to identify 40 to 60 species within a typical two-hour walk.

L.A. State and County Arboretum, 301 N. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia. Information: (818) 446-8251.

The first Sunday of each month at 8 a.m. Barbara Cohen leads groups through this popular arboretum with its two natural lagoons and sections duplicating the foliage of South Africa and Australia. The former area, Cohen says, attracts hummingbirds, including Costa's hummingbird. In addition to ring-necked ducks and black-crown night herons, which are permanent residents, bird watchers recently saw the extremely rare gray flycatcher. Another major sighting was the chestnut-sided warbler, which set a state record for wintering. Drawing both serious world birders and beginners, this arboretum is the home of a great-horned owl family, resident Canadian geese, peacocks and the red-whiskered bulbul, a bird introduced from India.

Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens, 1500 N. College Ave., Claremont. Information: (714) 625-8767.

On the first Sunday of each month a beginner's bird walk is led by Dan Guthrie, biology professor at Claremont College, or another member of the Pomona Valley Audubon Society. The ponds and native vegetation on this 85-acre nature reserve attract about 90 species: California quail, Cooper's hawk and the barn owl are permanent residents. "The Victory Garden" filmed a segment on the many varieties of hummingbirds at Rancho Santa Ana, to be shown this summer on PBS stations. This fall, the Botanic Gardens education department will offer a basic class, "Birds: Their Biology and Identification," taught by Dr. Henry C. Childs Jr. Call (714) 626-1917.

Sepulveda Basin, Encino. Information: (818) 999-2658.

Steve Ducatman leads a two- to three-hour walk at 8 a.m. the first Sunday of each month, except this July. Park in first grass lot at water-treatment plant south of Woodley Avenue between Victory and Burbank boulevards and meet at the plant. A varied landscape of parkland, farmland and riparian terrain attracts 40 to 45 species, among them meadowlarks, horn larks and hawks (including red-tailed and red-shouldered species). The blue grosbeak and yellow-breasted chat were recently seen. Water and shore birds, including a variety of sandpipers, are also found at the nature ponds and the Los Angeles River.

South Coast Botanic Gardens, 26300 Crenshaw Blvd., Palos Verdes Peninsula. Information: (213) 772-5813.

Mark Kincheloe leads a three-hour walk at 8 a.m. the first Sunday of the month, and Georgine Foster leads a walk at 8 a.m. on the third Wednesday of the month. This 85-acre botanical garden is home to Allen's hummingbird, a species found only in this coastal area. About one-third of all birds found in the country have been identified here, totaling almost 250 species. Warblers, orioles and egrets are common. A man-made stream attracts a variety of waterfowl and other birds. Eric Brooks teaches an introductory bird-watching class at the Botanic Gardens through the Community Services program at Harbor Community College.

Whittier Narrows Nature Center, 1000 N. Durfee Ave., South El Monte. Information: (818) 444-1872.

David White conducts walks from the nature center, which is between Peck Road and Santa Anita Avenue, on varying dates. It is generally the third weekend of the month, alternating Saturdays and Sundays. For specific dates, check the Audubon Society's recorded message, changed weekly on Thursdays, at (213) 874-1318. The terrain is gentle, with two miles of well-defined paths. Three lakes attract many species of waterfowl between October and March. Spring and fall migrations bring warblers and vireos. Summer residents include orioles and the black-headed grosbeak. Bell's vireo, a rare bird, has also been sighted here.

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