There's a lot of air travel into Oakland these days, and I don't mean passenger flights. It turns out our town is a winter resort for birds coming down from Alaska, Canada and other northern environs.

Artist Rita Sklar has been painting some of the most curious and colorful birds of a feather, including the elusive belted kingfisher. "It's a very small bird, often perched on tops of trees on islands in Lake Merritt," she says. "It's got a wide white belt under its neck."

Sklar first started noticing the birds on her walks around the lake -- especially the many varieties of ducks. Soon, she started walking with a bird book -- which meant she was getting less exercise but new material for her paintings. "I hadn't been painting birds, but I started," she says. "Their variety, diversity, uniqueness and how they adapt to the environment -- they are all so interesting."

The Oakland resident focuses on birds in decline as a way to alert us to stress factors like stray cats, climate change, pollution and development. Her nationally recognized exhibit, "Wild Birds of Oakland," opens March 3 and runs through March 28 at Oakland City Hall, third floor, Frank Ogawa Plaza. For a preview, check out www.ritasklar.com.

Around town: Oakland natives and longtimers may want to mark this event on the calendar. The Oakland Museum of California will hold its first "Lost Landscapes of Oakland" event from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday. It's a chance for folks to share memories and stories of our town while watching rare, archival films of Oakland's history. The show and discussion are free with your paid admission.

Email bag: Reader Leah Becherer got a rainy day surprise recently when she learned that the solar-powered parking meter she'd just plugged in Montclair wouldn't print out a ticket. Not only that, it wouldn't reimburse her the 75 cents she'd put in the slot. When she reported it to the city, she was told there was no system in place to deal with cash reimbursement from the new meters. Becherer likens it to stealing. "We constantly are hearing about break-ins or about the many problems with the police in Oakland, but maybe change for the city needs to start just there ... with the change," she says.

Sports star: Congratulations to longtime hills journalist Dave Newhouse, who's being inducted into the Multi-Ethnic Sports Hall of Fame on Feb. 28. Since its opening in Oakland in 2000, the hall of fame has honored more than 180 retired athletes and coaches as well as community leaders and sports media. Dave is one of the best -- having written more than 13 sports books and hundreds of articles as a sportswriter for the Oakland Tribune.

Got news? You can reach Ginny Prior by email at ginnyprior@hotmail.com or on the web at www.ginnyprior.com.