Meet a Bay Area bird-watching guru

Rachel Levin

The rufous-sided towhee he spotted through a stranger's scope inBig Basin State Park back in college was what really got LesChibana going. Now, more than 35 years later, the self-proclaimed"bird nut" and creator of the playful website www.birdnutz.com still getsexcited when he talks about his very first sighting. "He had ablack hood, white spots on his wings, reddish-brown sides, andthese deep red eyes ... I was just knocked over!"

Since then, Chibana has taught birding classes, photographedbirdlife, and led all kinds of bird-watching outings and trips. Agraphic designer by trade, he also recently produced "Birding theSan Francisco Bay Trail," a guide published in August. With mapsoutlining the richest concentrations of birdlife from Alviso toPetaluma, the free flyer aims to make birding more accessible tothe wildlife-loving masses ― and inspire people to get outand explore the 270-mile-long Bay Trail running through theirbackyard. In winter, Chibana says, you can see up to thousands ofbirds, from long-necked snowy egrets to red knots, which are smallgray birds.

As both his guide and his website suggest, birding is foreverybody. "Sure, you get people who are really good at it,competitive," he laughs, but adds that his students are mostlyregular people in their 30s through 60s. Indeed, some of the bestbirding can come from the most common experiences. "Catch even yourbasic rock pigeon in the right sunlight, and it just glows."

INFO Visit www.birdnutz.com for informationon classes; to order a copy of "Birding the San Francisco BayTrail," call 408/946-6548. Birding walks offered by the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatorythe second weekend of each month ($10).

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