Muriel Kotin is a bird buff who wants to share with others the vast array of birds that fly in and out of Southern California each year.
Clad in jeans, sturdy hiking boots and a green vest with multiple pockets, she is off to see some of the 200 birds at the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Area in Encino.
In one vest pocket is an informative book that identifies the species with color photos. Around her neck is a pair of binoculars, and on her head is a white hat decorated with numerous bird pins.
About a decade ago Kotin started bird-watching, and six years ago she began leading free group walks in and around the Valley as a volunteer with the San Fernando Valley Audubon Society.
On Saturday at 8:30 a.m. she will help conduct a 2 1/2-hour walk for beginners and children at the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Area, and on Sunday at 8 a.m. Kotin will be among the volunteers to lead a four-hour advanced walk at Malibu Creek State Park near Calabasas.
Binoculars and a detailed list of birds will be included in the walks, and Kotin will bring along her book, a spotting scope and a large chart that illustrates some of the species more common to the area.
Ask her anything about local birds. She knows their mating habits, what they eat and how to tell similar-looking species apart.
In the Sepulveda Basin you'll find lots of turkey vultures, colorful ducks, mallards, song sparrows and double-crested cormorants.
The large, white Sepulveda Dam wall is also nearby, but the 100-acre wildlife area is lush with large trees and an 11-acre lake.
Golden eagles are often seen at Malibu Creek State Park, but bald eagles rarely make appearances.
Because there are more oak trees and chaparral at Malibu Creek than the hotter and sunnier Sepulveda Basin, different types of birds reside there.
For instance, the 7,000-acre park is infested with acorn woodpeckers, phainopeplas and white-breasted nuthatches.
It's also a more scenic place to go bird-watching because there are hidden waterfalls, sheer rocky cliffs, stream-side forests and oak woodlands. You really get the illusion that you're in the wilderness and away from nearby hectic city life.
"In the Sepulveda Basin, the best time to see birds in large numbers is October through March," Kotin said. "But at Malibu Creek Park, you can see them in large numbers year-round."
Bird walks--See more than 200 kinds of birds on two walks by the San Fernando Valley Audubon Society this weekend. Saturday's beginner-family walk starts at 8:30 a.m. at the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Area. An advanced walk will be held Sunday at 8 a.m. at Malibu Creek State Park near Calabasas. Both events are free. Information: (818) 783-4293.