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GREAT HIKES: Trail Birding:

While I like birds as much as the next hiker, and occasionally enjoy the odd sighting of a hawk or wild parrot, there are apparently a lot of folks out there who take their bird-watching much more seriously.

August and September are packed with organized hikes that focus on our feathered habitants. On Saturday, August 27, at 8 p.m., you can take a free 2-1/2 hour guided tour of the Morning Birds of Franklin Canyon. Organized by the Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority and the William O. Douglas Outdoor Classroom (310.818.7272 x131), bird experts will help you locate and identify the many species of morning birds that occupy the park. No dogs! Bring your binoculars and sturdy shoes.

On Sunday, August 28, the folks at Malibu Lagoon State Beach will host a beach and wetlands bird watch for the experienced and beginners, all ages welcome. This is a great opportunity to get introduced to the hobby with supervision by an Audubon Society expert. Call (310) 393-6205 for more information.

For the somewhat stronger of heart, Topanga State Park hosts a 3-hour bird adventure for “buffs and beginners.” Water, snacks and binoculars are recommended for this 8:00 a.m. hike, led by the good folks at the Sierra Club.

To round out your avian education, head back to Franklin Canyon on Saturday, September 10, for a 6:30 p.m. “Evening Bird” experience. You’ll learn how active birds are as the sun goes down on this twilight trek.

Although we don’t necessarily know what we are looking at, our Monday–Wednesday night hiking group frequently spots interesting bird moments, as well as an occasional flitting bat. One of our favorite sightings was on Los Liones when a hawk swept down only a few feet in front of us and snatched a mouse off the ground and soared above us with its catch dangling — almost as if it were showing off its trophy.

We also admire flying predators seemingly floating without a flap atop Trailer Canyon as well as over the canyon above Trippet Ranch in Topanga. If just one person on a hike is alert to the fauna it can really enrich the experience for everyone else. Even if birds are not your passion, these organized bird-watching hikes may awaken your interest or at least enhance the hiking experience.Fearless readers interested in free Monday and Wednesday night hikes, should call Scott Regberg at (310) 475-5735.

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