L.A. diversity is an avian concept

There may be wild parrots in Pasadena and red-tail hawks swooping onto sidewalks along Wilshire Boulevard, but to the untrained eye, bird-watching in Los Angeles seems to consist mainly of spotting pigeons. Yet Los Angeles County has one of the most diverse bird populations in California, and the new UCLA Extension course, "Field Studies of California Birds," is designed to tell you about it.

"It's an overload for some people to see so much nature so close to home," said biologist James Bland, who teaches the course. "A lot of [people] that have grown up in L.A. have never experienced anything like it."

Meeting every other week, the class consists of Tuesday evening lectures and Saturday morning field trips linked by subject. Malibu Lagoon, with pelicans, gulls and ducks, is first, followed by Sepulveda Basin (a freshwater marsh with warblers, flycatchers, black birds and geese), Malibu Creek State Park (an oak woodland with woodpeckers and various birds of prey) and Solstice Canyon (a coastal chaparral that is home to thrashers, gnatcatchers and ravens).

The class, open to novices and experts, is "a great opportunity for beginning bird-watchers to set their eyes on a bird for a while and really soak it up," Bland said.

"Field Studies of California Birds," Tuesday through March 8, Tuesday lectures from 7 to 9:30 p.m.; Saturday field trips begin at 8 a.m. The Tuesday evening lectures are at UCLA, Botany Building, Room 325, L.A.; Saturday morning field trips to be announced. Students provide their own binoculars. $245. (310) 825-7093 or www.uclaextension.org.

-- Susan Carpenter

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