An Afternoon in Anaheim Hills Rounds Up Birds by the Heard

Benjamin Epstein is a free-lance writer who contributes frequently to The Times Orange County Edition.

The Anaheim Hills are alive with the sound of music--and the birds are making the music. And now there are even CDs.

11 to 11:20: You can leave your binoculars at home and still see birds at Oak Canyon Nature Center's John J. Collier Interpretive Center. And most of them won't even move.

They range from a tiny stuffed hummingbird to a great horned owl and red-shouldered hawk, from the sora rail, hermit thrush and a host of little warblers to a big stuffed crow. Mid-size models include the California thrasher and Oregon junko.

There's even a display of bird feet using what appears to be real bird feet. It shows how pheasant feet are made for scratching, parrots' feet for climbing, hawks' for grasping, thrushes' for perching, coots' for swimming and gallinules' for wading.

A number of birds are wired to the ceiling overhead. Around the rim of the ceiling are insects fashioned from balsa; actual specimens are displayed below.

Butterflies include mourning cloak and Mormon's metalmark. Among beetles are the armored stink beetle, predacious diving beetle and even more provocatively named toe biter. An insect called tarantula hawk probably has a story behind it, but why would they name one earwig?

Stuffed animals include a skunk, long-tail weasel and California mole. Among live animals are a kangaroo rat and California tree frogs. Near the reading library is the one live bird, a small falcon known as a kestrel.

11:20 to 12:30: The interpretive center was fresh out of bird-watching lists, but I was told I might see road runners, as well as red diamondback rattlesnakes, up on Roadrunner Ridge, so that's where I headed. It's also the longest trail in the park, seventh-tenths of a mile and "challenging."

On the way were identification markers indicating that I might see cactus wren and quail. A park brochure suggested I watch for scrub jays and acorn woodpeckers.

Lizards scampered about in all directions, but there was nary a meep meep! on Roadrunner Ridge. I turned right on Quail Trail, made my way down to the stream, then hooked up with shadier Bluebird Lane and Wren Way.

Despite the surrounding homes, and the phone lines that bisect it, the park is an island of serenity. Unfortunately, with the untrained eye of a non-bird-watcher, I heard infinitely more birds than I saw. Even the crane peeking over the ridge was of the mechanical species. Then on my way out I noted the sign suggesting that visitors listen for birds.

Too late. At the corner of Wren and Bluebird, I decided if you can't see 'em, eat 'em.

12:30 to 1:30: Yves' Bistro has a lovely outdoor patio; inside it's all pastels. The menu has any number of holdovers from the days when cream sauces were king and offers at least eight different styles of chicken including chicken crepes topped with a mushroom cream sauce ($6.25) and poulet Calvados, breast of chicken flamed in an apple brandy cream sauce ($9.25). But I settled on a more modest duck salad ($5.95), and just for duckies, started with snails-- escargot in mushroom caps with a Pernod garlic butter sauce ($6.95).

1:30 to 2: Maybe the best place to find birds is in your own back yard. At least that's the philosophy at Wild Birds Forever.

The store specializes in hummingbird feeders and accessories. It also carries oriole feeders, metal chimes in the shape of quail and woodpeckers and whimsical houses for all kinds of birds. A bird feeder system called Wingsong brings the sounds of the birds in your yard right into your home via a wireless microphone and sound monitor.

Hummingbird accessories include an ant trap. "It's a moat," explained shop owner Bill Benner. "Ants crawl down there and . . . poor things." Bee Condo provides "a home for the gentle bees of the garden." Bee Guards keep bees away, but Flower Guards don't keep flowers away--they attract bees.

For "superior attraction of wild birds year-round," there's KT Insect Suet Dough or Peanut Suet. There's half a dozen shelves of books filled with such titles as "The Beak of the Finch," "Atlas of Quails" and "Hummingbird in My House: The Story of Squeak."

There are even recordings at Wild Birds Forever.

"Classical Loon II" pairs music with the hoots, tremolos, wails and yodels of the common loon. Who'd want to listen to that? I asked. "Who? " responded Benner, almost owl-like. "Songbird Symphony" marries bird song with classical masterpieces such as Mozart's Clarinet Quintet, K. 581, while "Jazz Loon" promises "improvisational riffs of two uncommonly expressive species." One assumes they mean humans and the other loons.


1. Oak Canyon Nature Center

6700 Walnut Canyon Road

(714) 998-8380

Open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

2. Yves' Bistro

5753A E. Santa Ana Canyon Road

(714) 637-3733

Open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 5 to 10 p.m.

3. Wild Birds Forever

5769 E. Santa Ana Canyon Road, Suite E

(714) 283-5101

Open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday noon to 5 p.m.


Parking: There is ample parking in lots at each location

Buses: OCTA Bus 30 and 38A run north and south along Imperial Highway until Santa Ana Canyon Road. Riverside Transit bus 149 runs east and west along Santa Ana Canyon Road with stops at Imperial Highway and Anaheim Hills Road.

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