Summer Birding Notes & Arrival Dates
MAPS & DIRECTIONS TO BIRDING HOTSPOTS
Annual Kern River Valley Hummingbird Celebration workshop weekends, Kern River Preserve & Southern Sierra Nevada...
Wood Duck - Kern Valley Fish & Game Habitat nest box program on KRP. Forty nest boxes, 90%+ occupancy rate. Increasingly scarce as summer passes.
Yellow-billed Cuckoo - The first individuals normally arrive during the first to second weeks of June. Best looked for in the first week of July after all summer pairs have arrived.
Hummingbirds - June through mid-July, Black-chinned and Anna's are abundant at the Kern River Preserve, Costa's are common to very common in the deserts, and Calliopes are common at the feeders at Black Rock Ranger Station, Sequoia National Forest. Late July and early August, six hummingbird species are possible: Black-chinned, Anna's, Costa's, Calliope, Allen's and Rufous. Allen's and Rufous Hummingbirds may be present as early as late June and build to peak numbers the second half of August, the males migrate earlier than females and hatch year birds.
Willow Flycatcher - Easily heard and seen in the Kern River Preserve Headquarters area and from the ranch road leading west from Headquarters, do not interfere with these ENDANGERED birds in any way. It is illegal to use recordings to bring this bird in (unless you are a licensed researcher).
Brown-crested Flycatcher - Hard to find. These seem to have stopped nesting along the South Fork and now can only be found reliably at our Kelso Creek Sanctuary. In prior years only 5-8 nesting pairs could be found along fourteen miles of river. Observations have been made in the main forest accessed from the ranch road leading west from KRP Headquarters, along the trail to Migrant Corner accessed from the northeast side of the Sierra Way Bridge over the South Fork Kern River, from the Public access Trail at the Canebrake Ecological Reserve, on the Kern River Preserve east of Fay Ranch Road (docent-led access only), and from both the north and south side of the South Fork Wildlife Area (Sequoia National Forest) west of the Kern River Preserve. Be careful in your identification, Ash-throated Flycatchers are much more numerous.
Summer Tanager - Can be heard and seen consistently along the Nature Trail at the Kern River Preserve (KRP). Also seen at the Canebrake Ecological Reserve from along the Public Access Trail.
Blue Grosbeak - Commonly observed along the 1/2 mile stretch of Fay Ranch Road north of the South Fork Kern River bridge.
Lazuli Bunting - Abundant in June and early July. Numbers detected lessen as summer progresses.
Indigo Bunting - When present normally seen in the vicinity of the Fay Ranch Road Bridge over the South Fork Kern River.
Tricolored Blackbird - Numbers will get progressively scarce as summer passes. Look for this species among any flocks of blackbirds you encounter along Hwy. 178 in the South Fork Valley. Nesting colonies on Fish & Game land on Fay Ranch Road and Canebrake Ecological Reserve.
Lawrence's Goldfinch - This species numbers peak in early June, then rapidly dwindle as summer passes.
Following are some sample birding strategies...
Kern River Preserve Headquarters Morning (5:30am-10:30am): Headquarters (5:30am-6am), ranch road west from Headquarters (6am-7:30am), Headquarters (7:30am-8am), Nature Trail east from Headquarters (8am-10am), Headquarters (10am-10:30am), head for the mountains - Breckenridge, Greenhorns, Piute Mountains, or Trail of 100 Giants (10:30am)...
Kern River Preserve/Sierra Way Morning (5:30am-9:30am): Migrant Corner Trail east from northeast side of Sierra Way Bridge (5:30am-7am), Sierra Way Bridge at car (7am-7:15am), Sierra Way Bridge south along edge of Sierra Way and west into Prince's Pond and back (7:15am-8:45am), Sierra Way Bridge to KRP Headquarters taking Paul's Place Road en route (8:45am-9am), Headquarters (9am-9:30am), head for the mountains...Breckenridge, Greenhorns, Piutes, or Trail of 100 Giants (10:30am)...
Kern River Preserve/Fay Ranch Road Morning
Canebrake Ecological Reserve Morning
Chimney Peak Backcountry Byway Morning
Isabella Reservoir before 1pm winds kick up
Breckenridge Mountain 3/4 to All Day
Greenhorn Mountains/Old State Road 3/4 to All Day
Greenhorn Mountains/Portuguese Pass 3/4 to All Day
Greenhorn Mountains/Saw Mill Road 3/4 to All Day
Piute Mountains 3/4 to All Day
Sherman Pass Road 3/4 to All Day
Western Divide Highway 3/4 to All Day
Kern Plateau (via Chimney Peak Rd.) All Day
Kern Plateau (via Nine Nile Canyon Rd.) All Day
Birding is best in the early morning. If you are going to cut your birding day short, it is highly recommended that you do so at the end of your birding day rather than at the beginning. The most successful birding in the Kern River Valley and vicinity requires an early start (30-45 minutes before sunrise). Spend the mornings in the valley and desert areas and the afternoons in the mountains. If you are able to spend several days birding this area, try to visit the mountains before noon for the best bird experience (in the afternoon on a summer's day find many species of butterflies).
ACCESS FOR THE LESS ABLED: Universal access varies depending on time of year.
Seed and hummingbird feeders at the Kern River Preserve may be viewed from vehicles displaying handicapped placards in the handicapped parking area, all others should park in the parking lot and sit at the picnic tables for ease of viewing feeder birds. Canebrake Ecological Reserve has a wheelchair accessible trail but the gate to the parking area requires an able bodied person to open. There are many pullouts and vehicle access points all the way around Isabella Reservoir and most of the campgrounds around the lake have paved interior roads that wheelchairs can move easily on. Tillie Creek Campground is an amazing birding area and except on busy holiday weekends has many closed roads that provide a leisurely birding experience. The Trail of 100 Giants is wheelchair accessible. The road leading to the trail is open after snow season between May 1st and Memorial Day Weekend each year.
BIRDING STRATEGIES - MORNINGS/HALF-DAY, FULL DAY, and MULTI-DAY TRIPS:
Kern River Preserve Headquarters, Half-Day (All Summer) -
1. Arrive before sunrise at Headquarters. Check here for sunrise and sunset input Lat. 35.66733 and Long. 35.66733 2. Check out the birds in and around the yard for several minutes. Bird for 30-90 minutes west along the Farm Road trail leading from the southwest corner of the parking lot. Look for Summer Tanager in the planted trees in the overflow parking area. Listen and look for Willow Flycatcher, Western Wood-Pewee, Northern Flicker, and Red-shouldered Hawk in the forest to the left as you walk west. 3. Return to Headquarters for a birding break of 15-30 minutes in the yard. 4. Bird the Nature Trail for one to two hours. 5. Return to Headquarters for a birding break of 15-30 minutes in the yard. 6. Bird the entrance driveway out to the open pastures, look for Tree Swallows, and Western Bluebirds in the bird boxes. 7. Return to Headquarters for lunch. Target Birds: Yellow-billed Cuckoo (after mid-June), Nuttall's Woodpecker, Willow Flycatcher (after mid-May), Western Bluebird, Yellow-breasted Chat (after late April), Summer Tanager (after late April), Blue Grosbeak (after late April), Lazuli Bunting (after late April), Indigo Bunting (after mid-May), Kern Red-winged Blackbird, Tricolored Blackbird, Bullock's Oriole (after late March), Lesser Goldfinch, Lawrence's Goldfinch (after late March).
Kern Plateau Full Day - 1. Lower Chimney Peak Road (year round) 2. Chimney Creek Campground (after mid-May) 3. 5000'-6000' Kennedy Meadows Road (after mid-May) 4. 7000' Troy Meadow Campground (after Memorial Day and not on weekends) 5. 8000' Black Rock Ranger Station (after Memorial Day) 6. 9400' Bald Mountain Lookout. Target Birds: 1. Cactus Wren, Black-throated Sparrow, Scott's Oriole 2. Plumbeous Vireo 3. Pinyon Jay 4. Williamson's Sapsucker, Clark's Nutcracker, Mountain Bluebird, Townsend's Solitaire, Red Crossbill 5. Calliope Hummingbird, Green-tailed Towhee 6. Sooty Grouse, Clark's Nutcracker.
KRV birding guide...Bob Barnes local area guide to bird locations and seasons.
Venture Out into the Wilds with local volunteer researchers