Donate Index Calendar Nature Land Protection Stewardship Newsroom Contact

Directions to Local Birding Sites


Mammals    Birds     Reptiles     Amphibians      Fish    Insects   Spiders     Dragonflies     Grasshoppers     Butterflies     Crayfish

NOTE: There is no collecting, fishing, or hunting on the preserve. If you see any animal or plant on the preserve, please take only pictures and memories. Do not disturb nesting birds. Do not go off trail.


Beginning Bird Identification

Bird Feeding Instructions

Feeding Hummingbirds


Kern River Valley Birds Checklist

Kern Valley Spring Nature Festival Birds

Audubon Kern River Preserve Winter Birding Guide

Audubon Kern River Preserve Spring Bird Arrival Guide

Audubon Kern River Preserve Summer Birding Guide

Audubon Kern River Preserve Fall Birding Guide


Canebrake Ecological Reserve

Birding on the Kern River Preserve and South Fork Kern River

KRV Hummingbird Finding Guide

Visitor and Travel Information Page


Summer Tanagers on the Kern River

Tricolored Blackbird - May 2008

White-crowned Sparrows in the Kern River Valley and beyond


Bird Banding on the Kern River Preserve and South Fork Kern River

Kern River Valley Turkey Vulture Community Watch


America's birdiest inland county 2010

Kern County 2008, America's birdiest inland county!

Kern County, America's birdiest inland county in 2007

Kern River Valley Christmas Bird Count History

Schedule of KRV Christmas Bird Counts

The Kern River Valley offers impressive birds & birding within thirty air miles of the Kern River Preserve. Habitats include: chaparral, desert oasis & scrub, dry & wet meadow, Giant Sequoia, grassland & shrub, Great Basin sage, irrigated pasture, Joshua tree, marsh & pond, mixed conifer, oak, pinyon-juniper, reservoir, residential/town, varied riparian woodland, rocky cliff & hillside, and stream & river. When following the directions below remember mileage may vary depending on calibration of odometer, treat all mileages as close estimates.

KRV checklist is updated as soon as new birds are seen in the area or their seasonal status changes. Caution due to the large file size, the page is a little slow in loading.

Kern River Valley

Click map to view larger version  Alison SheeheyChecklist of Birds of the Kern River Valley and Watershed

Isabella Reservoir - This huge body of water is so huge and deep, birding can be a challenge. Best by boat. The lake has attracted some very rare coastal birds in the past. From the shore one can see gulls, terns, grebes, shorebirds, and kingfishers near the water's edge. To view either the main dam or auxiliary dam enter the Sequoia National Forest Visitor Center from Hwy 155, continue on the dirt road beyond the visitor center building, to the left takes you to the boat launch on the main dam fork, to the right takes you to the Auxiliary Dam. The reservoir is best viewed before the afternoon winds, which normally get brutal around 1 p.m.

The next few paragraphs lead you on a tour around the reservoir from Hwy 155 which becomes Wofford Heights Blvd which then becomes Kernville Road, turning right on Sierra Way, turning right on Hwy 178 back to Isabella.

Main Dam - Winter this side has lot's of grebes, mergansers, loons, and other goodies. The water can be viewed from the visitor center or from French Gulch Marina off Hwy 155.

Keyesville south - enter from Hwy 155 just across from the Sequoia NF Visitor Center. Drive all the way down to the river bearing left at the bottom of the hill. Good dipper and canyon wren territory.

Main Dam Campground - In winter this campground is locked but you can park at the entrance along Hwy 155. The trees can hold many goodies. Four species of sapsucker have been found here in winter. Along the river canyon wrens dance with black phoebes.

French Gulch Marina - Enter off Hwy 155 between Lake Isabella and Wofford Heights, park at the top of the hill and scope the main dam area. Best in the morning before the wind picks up.

Tillie Creek Campground / North Fork Marina is 19.0 miles and takes about 25 minutes to get to from the Kern River Preserve.

1.  Turn right onto Highway 178 westbound drive 12.6 miles 

2.  Take exit 43 onto Highway 155/Wofford Heights turn right drive 6.1 miles

3.  Turn right onto Old State Rd toward the reservoir drive 0.3 miles

4.  Turn right toward the Jesse James Trailer Park/North Fork Marina, then turn immediately left onto a paved spur, flip a u-turn and park on the dirt next to the pavement. People use this to drive down to the shore so don't block the road. From here you can walk through the campground or down to the shore of the reservoir without fee. Walk into the campground keeping right away from the campers. Do not use park on weekends or holidays

Ospreys and bald eagles (winter only) hang out on the snags in the water. Phainopepla and other oak woodland species are found in the campground. Peregrine Falcons hunt along the shoreline.

Wofford Heights Park - This small park is found off East Evans Road. At the Hwy 155/Evans Road junction turn right down toward the reservoir. Park and walk - depends on your vehicle if you want to drive along the shore of the reservoir - high clearance and good traction required. Drive or walk down to the willows near the shore. Interesting species can sometimes be found hanging around the willows between the park and North Fork Marina, for several years this has been the winter hangout for a Northern Shrike.

Kernville - Trees and the river throughout town are hit or miss for osprey and great blue heron. There are a few nice delis in town and Riverside Park is a nice area to picnic along the perennial river. Near the bridge oak titmice and white-breasted nuthatch can be found. At the end of Kernville road, if you turn left it will take you upstream to Johnsondale, Giant Sequoia Monument (road closed in winter), Sherman Pass and the Kern Plateau. Turn right to continue around the reservoir.

Camp 9 -  This campground is found along Sierra Way to the east of Kernville. Along the shore, you will find one of the more frequent hangouts for wintering Bald Eagles. A dark morph Red-tailed Hawk frequents the telephone poles along Sierra Way by the entrance. The campground is fee based, tell them you are birding and most of the time they will just let you drive around. From this point on, most of Sierra Way is frequented by roadrunners and rock wrens so look along the rock/grassland edges for these two species.

Hurricane Point - Not marked as such but you will know why this is called this when you encounter the winds at this turnout along Sierra Way, just above Stine Cove, it is a great spot to find birds of all types riding thermals along the cliffs. In summer terns, in winter gulls, eagles, and other raptors. Below on the reservoir is where you can see Western and Clark's grebes, American White Pelicans, and waterfowl. Best viewed early in the morning before the wind gets too brutal. Bring your scope for this spot.

Gale Point - This turnout is found above Robinson Cove, not much difference in the winds, but the nickname hurricane point was already taken. Birding is different here, birds nest on the metamorphic cliff above the road, and you get better views of the pelicans from this spot. A close inspection of the rock just below the southern side of the cliff is strewn with bedrock mortars from the Umubflap village of the Pahkanapil people that lived here before being displaced by roughneck settlers in the 1850's. Look across Robinson Cove on the slopes facing this vista, this is the end of a lime dike that cuts through the Piute Mountains. Just above the dirt road on this slope is the furthest northern Joshua Tree forest. These are pygmy Joshua trees, an unique variety of this plant found nowhere else in the world. This population may disappear because unfortunately most developers ignore unique members of our planetary society in order to line their pockets.

Hanning Flat - Enter this drive, keeping straight takes you along the old road known as Patterson Lane. The rock pile is called Rabbit Island, named after the reservoir was built, rabbits and other creatures took refuge here as the water rose. The road gets very sandy here so walking is best beyond Rabbit Island. Closer looks at the pelicans which stay on the spits of sand between here and Kissack Cove. This is the best area to find shorebirds. If you turn right as the pavement ends, you can continue to drive toward a spring where icterids, warblers, and wrens nest. Bearing left along the road under the hill takes you along the lime dike, high clearance vehicles only on this bumpy rock strewn trail. I have found teals, gadwalls, grebes, and blackbirds frequenting the shallow water here.

South Fork Wildlife Area 1 - A part of the Sequoia National Forest this area is a remnant of the great riparian ecosystem that once graced this valley. Endangered and threatened species nest here. From Sierra Way there is a parking area just north of the South Fork Kern Sierra Way bridge. Park and walk in. Frequently flooded from November to June depending on rainfall.

Click map to view larger version  Alison SheeheyKern River Preserve migrant corner trail - At the northeast corner of the Sierra Way bridge there is a pedestrian bypass that leads to the migrant corner trail (an unmaintained track use at your own risk). In spring this corner is awash in migrants hundreds of Lawrence's Goldfinch have been seen here. Walk the trail look up for desert species, look below for riparian species. Walk about 3/4 mile to a meadow/marsh then turn back. The trail is 2.3 miles and takes about 4 minutes to get to from the Kern River Preserve headquarters.

1. Turn right at Highway 178 westbound drive 1.1 miles

2. Turn right onto Sierra Way - drive 1.2 miles

This is an uneven trail that is best during migration. The trail is about 0.75 miles one-way.

Audubon Kern River Preserve - Home to breeding populations of Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, Summer Tanager, and Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo along with almost 100 other species of nesting birds.

South Fork Wildlife Area 2 - A part of the Sequoia National Forest this area is a remnant of the great riparian ecosystem that once graced this valley. Endangered and threatened species nest here. Enter from Hwy. 178 just east of South Lake and just west of Sierra Way. Drive down a dirt road about 1/4 mile, the entrance to the wildlife area is on your right. Park and walk in. Can be flooded from November to June in high rainfall years, normally dry.

Kissack Cove - Continue driving along Hwy 178 back toward Lake Isabella. Drive through the town of Mountain Mesa and just west there is an entrance to Kissack Cove. See American White Pelicans, Osprey, California Gull, Double-crested Cormorants from the shore. Scattered throughout the grassland, horned larks and pipits will flush. At the east end there is a wetland that attracts waterfowl and shorebirds.

Paradise Cove - On the water north of Paradise Cove winter flocks of western, Clark's and eared grebe number in the hundreds.

Auxiliary Dam - Can also be entered from the South side off Highway 178 and reach by entering campground entrance. Good deep water pelagic species found here. Loons, grebes, and gulls.

Other areas in the Kern River Valley

Canebrake Ecological Reserve   is 9.7 miles and takes about 12 minutes to get to from the Kern River Preserve. A 1400-acre wildlife sanctuary owned and managed by the California Dept of Fish & Game. This is a great birding spot for migrating and breeding birds. This area is home to dozens of species absent or rare downstream. Canebrake is approximately 11-miles east of Audubon's Kern River Preserve on Hwy 178. An ADA constructed trail leads from the parking area off of Highway 178 through the Joshua tree woodland down to a wooden bridge that crosses Canebrake Creek. The path then winds through a site restored by Audubon and Fish & Game in the late 1990's and early 2000's. The trail is 1.2 miles to a picnic table that sits below a steep slope that leads to the Domelands Wilderness. As for birds, there is a nesting colony of Tri-colored Blackbirds, nesting Summer Tanagers, Blue Grosbeak, Yellow Warblers, Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Nuttall's Woodpeckers, and Song Sparrows. Lots of great vagrants migrate through in spring. Northern Parula have been spotted here. An Eastern Phoebe spent the winter a few years ago. In winter Buteos rule. Red-tailed Hawks and Ferruginous Hawks are common along with occasional Rough-legged Hawks. Golden Eagles nest in the nearby mountains. Other wildlife include: Raccoon, American Black Bear, Bobcat, Coyote, Mountain Lion, Gray Fox, and various rodents.

1. Turn left onto Highway 178 eastbound drive 9.7 miles. Public access is via a dirt parking lot on the north side of Highway 178 just before a big blind curve.

2. Turn left at the green gate where there is a Canebrake Ecological Reserve sign. You need an able bodied person to open and shut the gate at the entrance to the parking lot.

Trail of Hundred Giants is 48.0 miles and takes about 1 hour 25 minutes from the Kern River Preserve.

1.  Turn right at Highway 178 westbound drive 1.1 miles

2.  Turn right onto Sierra Way - drive 16.4 miles

3.  Sierra Way morphs into Mountain-99 continue driving 21.1 miles

4.  Mountain 99 morphs into Mountain 50 at Lloyd Meadows Road continue to Western Divide Highway drive 6.5 miles

5.  Turn right onto Mountain 90/Western Divide Hwy drive 2.6 mi

6.  There is a $5 (may increase) fee to park at the trailhead. The trail is paved and suitable for wheelchairs but is only open after the snow melts (May/June through November).

Greenhorn Summit/Shirley Meadow is 29.0 miles and takes about 44 minutes to get to from the Kern River Preserve.

1.  Turn right at Highway 178 westbound drive 12.3 miles

2.  Take exit 43 onto Highway 155/Wofford Heights Blvd turn right drive 6.5 miles 

3.  Sharp left at Highway 155 W/Evans Rd drive 7.5 miles

4.  Turn left at Rancheria Rd (signs for Rancheria Rd/Shirley Meadows) drive 2.2 miles

The parking area for Shirley Meadows is packed when there is snow, best to park downhill in wide sections and bird from the road. Caution: drivers pay zero attention to other people be aware that staying to the side of the road is the best way to avoid an accident.

Audubon Kelso Creek Sanctuary This 156-acre sanctuary is 15-miles from Hwy 178 on Kelso Valley Road along Kelso Creek. Purchased in 2000 to protect the riparian habitat within the sanctuary, the loss of upland habitat recently makes the upland portions equally as important. The sanctuary is an interesting blend of Mojave and Great Basin Desert flora that offers a really unique vista. On winter mornings the sanctuary is a great place to look for Pinyon Jays. It is 15.3 miles and takes about 29 minutes to get to from the Kern River Preserve.

1. Turn left onto Highway 178 eastbound drive 486 ft

2. Turn right onto Kelso Valley Rd drive 15.2 miles

3. The sanctuary is located just south of a house with a white picket fence. The forest is quite decadent after several years of drought and a lowered water table. On the north side of the sanctuary there is a gray pedestrian pass through. Walk north to experience the waterfall (the down log across the rocks is the property boundary. There are no designated trails but there are foot worn paths. Please try to stay on those.

Butterbredt Spring - This is one of the premier spring migration locations in Kern County. Arrival before dawn is critical for the best views. The timing is best between the third week in April to the first week in June. Butterbredt Spring is 31.9 miles from Audubon's Kern River Preserve and takes over about 1 hour and 15 minutes to get to there.

1. Turn right onto Kelso Valley Rd - drive 24.7 mi
2. Turn left toward Jawbone Canyon Rd 0.4 mi
3. Continue straight onto Jawbone Canyon Rd 5.8 mi
4. Turn sharply left onto Butterbredt Canyon Rd 1.0 mi
5. Arrive at Butterbredt Spring

From Highway 14 at Jawbone Station.
1. Drive 6.4 miles bearing right at Y-intersection leaving the pavement. The next 6+ miles is dirt road that can be rough.
2. Drive 5.4 miles to Y-intersection where you'll see the Butterbredt Springs Bird Sanctuary sign, bear right.
3. Drive 1.0 miles on this road watching for motorcyclists and waterbars.

4. Arrive at Butterbredt Spring

Arrive at Butterbredt Spring on your right, park along the sides of the road so you do not block traffic. There is a fenced, designated, self-contained camping area just above the parking area. It is just beyond the Tree of Heaven area.

Squeeze through fence where there is PVC covering wire, stay on well worn foot paths. Birding is good in migration all the way down the trail and below the wash to the second fence.

View a Google Map of Kern, Tulare, Kings and Inyo County Birding Spots

KRV birding guide...Bob Barnes local area guide to bird locations and seasons.

Venture Out into the Wilds with local volunteer researchers

Bird Banding on the Kern River Preserve and South Fork Kern River

Volunteer Workdays     Restoration News     Habitat Restoration     Restoration Resources      Invasive Species Information     Research in the Kern River Valley

Important Bird Areas     Volunteer Workdays     How YOU can HELP!     Application 

KRP History     Kern Valley Pride Day         Achievements      Travel Information & Maps


Home Page | Site Map| About KRP | Education | KRP Supporters | Contact Us

Birding | Events | Wildlife
FESTIVALS: Spring Nature | Hummingbird | Turkey Vultures

Habitat Restoration | Hummingbird Banding Results | Summer Tanager | Willow Flycatcher | Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Kern River Preserve P.O. Box 1662 18747 Hwy. 178 Weldon, CA 93283 E-mail
Copyright 1998-2013 by Audubon California | National Audubon. All rights reserved.

This site was created on October 21, 1998. Please Email to make comments or offer suggestions.