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VALLEY NEWSWATCH / A SPECIAL REPORT: BIRDWATCH

November 04, 1996|Jill Leovy

Back in Town: It's fall and migratory birds are back. . . . Some of this year's more unusual guests include white pelicans, sighted in Encino, and baffled Mandarin ducks, seen near Studio City. The Asian natives possibly blundered into the wrong hemisphere.

Counting Crows: Estimates of bird populations are fuzzy. So the Los Angeles Audubon Society is compiling the county's first "breeding bird atlas." This four-year study has revealed surprises--mountain bluebirds, for example. It may also answer questions, like whether there are more crows. "People claim crows are taking over," says atlas coordinator Mark Wimer. "But you can't prove it now."

Goose Chase: Such studies require sharp-eyed volunteers. Sandy Wohlgemuth's list so far? Twenty-nine species and counting. . . . Another local study, the Canada Goose Project, tracks the dwindling numbers of geese that winter here. Rosemarie White, above, rose at dawn Sunday to count them from a vantage point at Encino Reservoir.

Gone Wild: Snowbirds mingle with year-round residents, such as red-crowned parrots. Thousands now breed in the wild in Sylmar, descended from escaped pets. Ornithologist Kimball Garrett, who is counting them, calls the Valley "a big zoo."

Bird Brains: One bird who's been down for the count is a great horned owl found dazed in Placerita Canyon. She's been nursed back to health by the Raptor Rehabilitation and Release Center in Simi Valley and will soon return to the wild. Her injury was typical--head trauma. Birds of prey dive into things, said Director Jerry Thompson. But their small brains can recover quickly.

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