Spring migration offers a great opportunity for observing many species of birds. John Yrizarry, noted birder and artist, is offering classes on four Saturdays--April 29, Brooklyn Botanic Garden; May 13, Forest Park (Queens); May 20, Jamaica Bay (Brooklyn); June 3, Sterling Forest (Bear Mountain area)--from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Cost for all four classes: $49 member, $54 nonmember. Register by fax (718-857-2430) or mail (BBG, 1000 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn, NY, 11225). Telephone: 718-623-7200.

Alley Pond Environmental Center in Douglaston, Queens, offers two free events in April: "Celebrate Earth Day 2000 Tulip Trail Walk," with botanist Dr. Andy Greller leading a wildflower walk (for adults) on Saturday, April 22, at 10 a.m.; and the "21st Annual Arbor Day Celebration" on April 21, 10 a.m. to noon. Demonstrations include composting and wildlife rehabilitation. Call for May schedule. Telephone: 718-229-4000. --Wista Jeanne Johnson


The International Center of Photography (860-1776, ext. 156) lives up to its grandiose name with a comprehensive arsenal of daylong seminars ($185), weekend workshops ($395 and up), five- and 10-week courses ($300, $500, and up, respectively), study-abroad programs, and public programs designed for everyone from beginners to graduate students--all led by seasoned professionals. Students can rent darkroom space for $9 an hour (plus per-print charge).

Nothing beats exploring the world with an all-manual 35mm camera. Pratt Manhattan's (461-6040) "Introduction to the Camera" workshop ($85) may save you thousands otherwise spent on bland point-and-shoot prints. Explore deeper in 10-session courses including "Introduction to Photography" and "Intermediate Photography" ($350).

The sticklers at U.S. News and World Report rated the School of Visual Arts's (592-2000) graduate photography department among the top 10. I would bet some of that prestige spills into their continuing education program, or, uh, at least you'd be using the same rest rooms as all those art-star instructors. Classes range from $360 to $540. --Bryan Zimmerman

religion & spirituality

The Theosophical Society (753-3835) is your affordable guide to the "perennial wisdom underlying the world's religions, sciences, and philosophies." Lectures, courses, and workshops include, among many others, "Intro to the Kabbalah" ($250 for 13 sessions or $20 per session), "Gregorian Chant" ($65), and a lecture exploring "Pascal Beverly Randolph: A 19th-Century Black American Occultist" ($5).

With dozens of lectures, courses, performances, and workshops in subject areas including Buddhism, Judaism, Meditation, Spiritual Inquiry and Practice, Sufism, Tantra, Taoism, Western Spiritual Traditions, and Zen, the New York Open Center (219-2527) is so "open" that it might be overwhelming. Browse through $6 lectures and one-day workshops starting at $60.

Decide for yourself at the New School (229-5690), where you can take courses with contemporary perspectives on subjects including Mexican mythology; "American Indian Worldviews and Traditions of the Spirit"; "African Dance, Drums, and Religion in the Americas"; "Myths, Dreams, and Religion"; and tarot ($190-$395). Summer courses begin June 5. --Bryan Zimmerman

visual arts

Would you like to learn how to draw or paint, but are intimidated by the idea of large classes? Well, if you are in search of individual instruction, then the Art Ark (832-7740) is for you. The school, at 790 Lexington Avenue, has been in existence for over 20 years. The institute offers classes in drawing and painting in a variety of mediums, and gives basic drawing lessons in all classes. Hour-long sessions ($30) for adults and children are held once or twice a week.

Instruction in lithography, photogravure, and monotype are just a few of the classes that are offered at Manhattan Graphic Center (219-8783). The school has a wide range of experienced and professional instructors. Classes are offered afternoons and evenings, weekdays and weekends. Sessions run from two to four months. Cost: $175-$440.

You've taken the four-week art classes, created a few beautiful pieces; some are even calling you the next Picasso. Now what? If you are ready to take your talents to the next level, the School of Visual Arts (592-2000) may be what you're looking for, offering classes in the graphic and fine arts. For more information on tuition and additional courses, contact the school or check out --Danielle Douglas


Know a bored teenager with a yen to write? Youth Speaks Creative Writing and Spoken Word Workshops are the perfect solution. These free, after-school youth salons are held at Tompkins Square Park NYPL 4 to 6 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays (5-7), and Wednesdays (4-6), at various other locations. Get an open-mike taste at NYPL-Tompkins May 9 at 6 p.m. Contact Jen Weiss for more info, at 691-6590, ext. 24; or

You've seen the Gotham Writers' Workshop (974-8377; catalogs advertising all the courses and one-day intensives. Why not fall prey to the promotion like 4000 other people have and check it out? With schools in Brooklyn and Manhattan, location is not a problem. If you have a computer, it's located online. Tuition: $395-$445.

Founder Phillip Schultz is Socrates and the Writers Studio (78 Charles Street, #2R, 255-7075) is his academy. Scholarly former students teach newcomers prose and poetry with a focus on craft. Ten-week summer sessions begin May 22. Cost: $320. --Lou Bardel

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