Nature Alley by Nature Ali © Alison Sheehey

KERN COUNTY BIRDING LOCALITIES

Click on the words below to go to the region described

Northern Valley    West Central Valley    Kern River     Bakersfield area      Southern Valley     Transverse Range      Tehachapis    Sierra Nevada  Kern River Valley   North Desert    Mid Desert    South Desert

Click map to view larger version © Alison SheeheyKern County birding can be extremely rewarding. Three of North America's ten floristic provinces intersect in Kern County making this region one of the most ecologically diverse counties in the state. The county comprises the southernmost section of the San Joaquin Valley, the southern Sierra Nevada, Tehachapi's, and the westernmost Mojave Desert. It has an area of 8,172 square miles. The following are some of the county's better birding spots.

Caution: Unless otherwise directed please respect private property and bird only from the road.

Listing the birding hotspots is an extremely time intensive project and was started because of a list that John Wilson had put together for the Kern County Board of Trade. All suggestions for areas to add are happily accepted. If you would like to add your favorite birding spot, know of someplace that has been missed, or have comments - please contact Alison Sheehey.

Habitat destruction by park staff bother you? Please send notes to all park and recreation supervisors letting them know how important these parks are to our sport/hobby. Send them an email letting them know just how many birders they get visiting their parks and spending money in their community. Most of these people are really nice they just don't know how many of us there really are!

Kern County Parks & Recreation

Bakersfield Dept. of Recreation & Parks

California City Parks & Recreation

North of the River Recreation and Park District

West Side Recreation & Park District

Kern/Pixley National Wildlife Refuge Complex


Northern Valley - Kern County

Annette area – This northwestern grassland offers unique birding opportunities for county listers. Annette/Davis Roads are the only roads that Yellow-billed Magpies have been recorded in the county. In winter the area offers Vesper Sparrows and Rough-legged Hawks. In summer the area is visited by Grasshopper Sparrow, Cassin's and Western Kingbirds.
DIRECTIONS: Highway 46 – 3 miles east of the 46/33 junction - Take Bitterwater Valley Road 12 miles southwest. Turn right on Simmler/Bitterwater Rd. (San Luis Obispo County) - drive 7.5 miles turn right onto the unmarked Annette Road (back into Kern County), there is an abandoned building at the intersection signed Greensberg General Store. Annette Rd. continues as a no outlet road at the intersection with Davis Rd. Davis Road offers two more miles of Kern birding before the San Luis Obispo County line.

Click map to view larger version © Alison SheeheyKern National Wildlife Refuge - KNWR has a 6.5-mile auto-tour route through the wetlands and most of the rest of the refuge is open to hiking. I am working with the staff to open a special riparian birding route; currently they have agreed to escort birders by special arrangement. Open 7 days a week from dawn to dusk. Hunting season closures to birding are Wednesdays and Saturdays from October through January. The rest of the year there is no restriction on access to the tour route. Birding is best from November to April. Summer birding is also rewarding although extreme temperatures can be uncomfortable. Due to the effects of El Niño, 1998 was a banner year for wildlife because 2000+ acres of this 10,600-acre refuge remained flooded all year (although a problem with heat and water causes botulism during summer with huge losses of life.) Waterfowl species to look for include: Northern Pintail, Mallard, Cinnamon/Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Redhead, and Canvasback. Refuge staff is working hard to keep many ponds shallow for shorebirds. Recently White-faced Ibis and Great Blue Heron have begun nesting at the refuge. Watch for winter Peregrine Falcon and Bald Eagle, and all year Yellow and Tri-colored Blackbirds, Burrowing Owl, Black-tailed Jackrabbit, Desert Cottontail, Striped and Spotted Skunk, Coyote, California Ground Squirrel, and Bobcat. KNWR is home to the following endangered and sensitive species: Buena Vista Lake Shrew, San Joaquin Kit Fox, Blunt-nosed Leopard Lizard, and Tipton Kangaroo Rat. A checklist of birds of the KNWR can be found at ..\checklists\knwr_bird_list.htm
DIRECTIONS: From I-5 - take Hwy. 46 exit and head east on Hwy 46 for 5 miles - turn left onto Corcoran Rd - drive north 10.6 miles until you reach the entrance to the refuge on the left at the intersection with Hwy 155/Garces Hwy.
From Hwy 99 - if traveling from Delano or further north - exit at Garces Hwy. Drive west for 19 miles - the refuge entrance is at the intersection of Corcoran Rd. and Garces Hwy. Hwy 99 - if traveling from Wasco or further south - exit Hwy. 46 exit and head west on Hwy 46 to Corcoran Rd. - turn left onto Corcoran Rd - drive north until you reach the entrance to the refuge on the left at the intersection with Garces Hwy. For information or riparian tour reservations contact Refuge Manager - at (661) 725-2767

Lake Woollomes - Near Delano the park is 455 acres in size and has a lake that covers 300 acres. It is owned by the Bureau of Reclamation and leased by the Kern County Parks Department. An equalizing reservoir for the Friant-Kern Canal, the waters attract many ducks, geese and other waterfowl. The park offers year round picnicking, fishing and boating. Fall through spring are the best seasons for viewing waterfowl in the southern valley. DIRECTIONS: From Hwy 99 - 3 miles southeast of Delano, CA - exit at Pond Road - Lake Woollomes follow the signs to the lake.


Central Valley - Kern County

Santa Maria Valley/McKittrick – Along Hwy 58 bird the road from McKittrick to the Kern County line. This quiet drive through upland scrub, grassland savanna, and oak woodland habitats gives rise to an interesting assortment of birds. Find Phainopepla in the oak/juniper habitat and a significant number of wintering buteos below in the grassland. Along the road you should see Loggerhead Shrike, Grasshopper Sparrow (summer only), and Western Meadowlark. Although no one has reported yet, I suspect the summit harbors visiting Yellow-billed Magpies, if you ever observe this species here, please let me know right away. This drive is within some of the most significant habitat left for the San Joaquin Kit Fox and other endangered species. East of this area is the oil town McKittrick - just south of town along Hwy 33 – tar seeps catch significant amounts of wildlife, bones of recent victims are readily seen. Hwy 58 west leads to the Carrizo Plain, where one finds over 100,000 acres of mostly undisturbed valley grassland, scrub, and alkali sink habitats. DIRECTIONS: From Hwy 33, south to Hwy 58. From I-5 take the Hwy 58 exit west toward Buttonwillow. The town of Buttonwillow has the last easy gas and food, so fill up there. The road winds for many miles through the northern reaches of Elk Hills and through the town of McKittrick continue west up to the summit and the Kern County / San Luis Obispo County line.

Drive along the road - please respect private property - and bird only from the road.

Taft/Maricopa Area – (Le Conte’s Thrasher country) Interspersed throughout the saltbush scrub this elusive thrasher can be found early in the morning singing from the tops of the bushes. The best season is spring when the males are most vocal. Several good spots to find the birds are along Kerto Rd., Petroleum Club Rd., and Honolulu Rd. Off of Airport Dr. The California thrasher is also in the area and I have seen some very strange thrashers here (hybrids?). Sage sparrows make their home here as well. During winter Peregrine Falcon, Ferruginous Hawk, and Rough-legged Hawk soar above the valleys. Burrowing Owl, Golden Eagle, American Kestrel, Prairie Falcon, and several different morphs of Red-tailed Hawk can be observed year-round. DIRECTIONS: From Hwy 33 south, through the town of Taft, turn left at the intersection with Hwy 119, and then right .... From I-5 drive 18 miles to Taft - Off of Taft Hwy 119 – turn left..... at Airport Rd. - drive to the summit of the hill and take a left on Honolulu Rd. Drive to the end of the paved road and turn around. You may have to drive on dirt road down the hill and keep bearing left back to the road that heads up the hill. Drive back to Airport Rd. Turn left at Hwy 119/33 and head toward Maricopa. Turn left at Petroleum Club Rd. (across from the wooden derrick), stop at the washes and listen for singing thrashers. The best spot for seasoned veterans has been on Kerto Rd. The area where the Lakeview Gusher occurred is a great place to spot Le Conte's Thrashers. Take Hwy 99 or I-5 to Maricopa turn right on Hwy 33 - head north 1.3 miles to Kerto Rd turn right. At Kerto and Petroleum Club park along the road. Walk up the wash on the northeast side towards the railroad tracks - look ahead in the bushes for the thrasher. The best time to see Le Conte's Thrasher is when the males are singing in April.

Tule Elk State Reserve - The reserve is located at the northern edge of the mouth of the Kern River. There is a park fee ($8.00 honor system). The elevated elk viewing area is also good for birding, as an artificially watered marsh is located just beyond the fence. Yellow-headed, Tri-colored, Red-winged, and Brewer's blackbirds can be seen here. House, Brewer’s, and Marsh Wren as well as rails inhabit the marsh. For the last few years an albino American Robin has been visiting the park. A Swainson's Hawk began nesting in the park in 2001. Nearby alfalfa fields have attracted Peregrine and Prairie Falcon. DIRECTIONS: From I-5 take the Stockdale Hwy exit west - approximately 3 miles to Morris Rd. - turn left - turn right on Station Rd. Behind the scenes tours of the reserve can be arranged. For more information or to arrange tours call (661) 764-6881


Southern Valley - Kern County

Bittercreek National Wildlife Refuge - This 14,054-acre preserve is condor foraging habitat. It supports many upland passerine species. Some birding available from the road - no easement access is granted due to the extremely sensitive nature of condor recovery. DIRECTIONS: from Hwy. 99 or I-5 – drive west on Hwy 166 - through Maricopa - left on Cerro Noroeste Rd. - as you begin to ascend into oak woodland you will notice the signs for the NWR.

Wind Wolves Preserve - Private funding purchased this 95,000-acre ranch at the base of the Grapevine. A major foraging habitat for the California Condor, it also supports raptors and many upland passerine species. DIRECTIONS - Hwy 99 or I-5 - west on Hwy 166 - to Landslide Lease. This preserve is not open to the general public so call for permission - David or Sheryl Clendenen (661) 858-1115.


Transverse Range - Kern County

Los Padres National Forest -Mt. Pinos District - At the southwestern tip of Kern County you will find a wonderful resource. Los Padres National Forest contains the Chumash Wilderness an area set aside for the California Condor.

Mt. Abel - North of Mil Potrero Park - Mt. Abel is nice Pine Forest almost as high as Mt. Pinos. Montane species such as Northern Flicker, White-headed Woodpecker, Steller's Jay, Mountain Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Pygmy Nuthatch, Clark's Nutcracker, Cassin's Vireo, and Yellow-rumped Warbler are found regularly. Look for Condors on the way back down.

Mil Potrero Park - I-5 to Frazier Park exit - West on Frazier Park Road - right on Cuddy Valley Road, and bear right at Y with Mil Potrero Hwy and Cuddy Valley road. Mil Potrero road to Pine Lodge.

Mt. Pinos - I-5 to Frazier Park exit - West on Frazier Park Road - right on Cuddy Valley Road, and bear left at Y with Mil Potrero Hwy and Cuddy Valley road. A road goes 2 miles up to the view site which is where a condor was spotted in spring. It can be partially driven by passenger car, but high clearance is required for the last 1/4 of the trip. Most of Mt. Pinos except the summit is in Kern County (summit = Ventura)


Tehachapi Mountains - Kern County

Tehachapi Mountain Park - This conifer forest is isolated like many others that ring the great valley. It provides unique birding opportunities. DIRECTIONS: The park lies 8 miles southwest of the town of Tehachapi. It is located on the southern side of Hwy. 58 between Mojave and Bakersfield, CA. Woody's Peak (elevation, 7986 ft.) overlooks the park from its dominion in the Tehachapi Mountains, the dividing line between the San Joaquin Valley and the Los Angeles Basin.


~~~~~Kern River~~~~~

Buena Vista Aquatic Recreation Area - The mouth of the Kern River used to drain into the 34,000 acre Buena Vista Lake Bed which dried up when Lake Isabella Dam was completed in 1953. In 1973, an artificial lake was created for boating enthusiasts. The 20-year absence of suitable habitat eliminated nesting activity of many species. Though pelicans and cormorants no longer nest in the area, they have returned as winter residents. During winter, at the west end of the park, Lake Evans is the best place in the county to have close encounters with American White Pelican. Numbering sometimes in the hundreds, they can be a nuisance to fishermen. The mild winter climate can cause some unusual behavior in the winter residents. In 1992, the Buena Vista Christmas Bird Count saw both Western and Clark's Grebes with young as well as nesting Mourning Doves. Other species of note: The larger lake (Lake Webb) Double-crested Cormorant, Cinnamon Teal, Green-winged Teal, Bufflehead, and Bonaparte's Gull, Green Heron, Great Egret, Common Merganser, Common Snipe, Osprey, and Great-horned Owl. Make sure you let the park staff know why you are there, so the park administration will get the message that birding creates revenue. Click here for the Buena Vista checklist
DIRECTIONS: From I-5 take Taft Hwy 119 exit - Drive west toward Taft - the first crossroad is Hwy 43 - Enos Lane - turn left - drive approx. 2 miles south to Buena Vista Recreation area entrance. Entrance fee - 1-10 people in vehicle $6.00.

Kern Water Bank - Good birding is found at this site when water is present although access is limited to invitation only. Contact Cheryl Harding (661) 398-4900 for information.

City of Bakersfield Water Resources Dept. 2800 acres Recharge Area – A fantastic riparian marsh is what the City of Bakersfield has created in their water recharge effort. Egrets, waterfowl, raptors, shorebirds, kingfisher, quail, gnatcatchers, flycatchers, passerines, and so much more live in the area. When the area has water it is almost as good as the national wildlife refuge, and it is within the boundary of the City of Bakersfield. The area can be reached off of Hwy 43 (Enos Lane), where it crosses the Kern River just north of Panama Lane. Turn onto the dirt road and park. Hike into the area beyond the fence. Please call Bakersfield DWR, in advance for permission. (661) 326-3715.


BAKERSFIELD AREA

Mount Vernon Sewer Ponds – Take the Mount Vernon Ave. exit off of Hwy 58. Regular visitors include waterfowl, shorebirds, cattle egrets, Peregrine Falcon. Access is limited, you must call for access. Wastewater Division at (661) 326-3249. DIRECTIONS: Hwy 58 east, take the Mt. Vernon exit, turn right (south) and drive approximately one mile. Turn right and check-in at the office.

Kern River Parkway - Bakersfield area - The parkway is located along the Kern River between Manor Street and the CSUB campus and offers 10 miles of scenic bike path for birders, hikers, bicyclers, joggers, and roller blading. The newest section of the bike path is northeast of town and runs along the Kern River from Hart Park past the Kern County Soccer Park, California Living Museum and goes to Lake Ming. Eventually the bike path will stretch from Buena Vista Lake to the mouth of the Kern River Canyon. The following are places along the valley portion of the Kern River where birders can gain access. All along the bike path no permission is necessary to gain access, but below CSUB you need permission to trespass. Kern River Parkway Checklist of Birds

Bakersfield Educational Studies Area - This area has many acres of valley grassland and riparian habitat. Acorn Woodpeckers, Downy Woodpeckers, Turkey Vultures, and Red-tailed Hawks can be seen almost every day. Access off of Coffee Rd. and Truxtun or from CSUB.

Lake Truxtun - Parking is available on Truxtun Extension at Mohawk St. Ring-billed Gulls (winter), Caspian Tern (summer), Pied-billed Grebe, and many shallow and deep-water species use this lake and the nearby river. Rose-ringed Parakeets frequent the cottonwoods near the parking lot.

Beale Park - This park is home to many from the naturalized flock of Rose-ringed Parakeets.

Yokuts Park - This park is located off Truxtun Ext. to Empire Dr. the Kern River runs along this park.

Beach Park - An older park along 21st St. and Oak St. the city of Bakersfield tries to have water in the river next to this park during major holidays and during high rainfall years.

Pin Oak Park - This park has two wetland areas that provide an amazing diversity of bird life. A checklist of the birds of Pin Oak Park can be found here.

Elm St. - Take 24th St. to Elm St. Head towards the river. A small park on Elm St. has a footbridge crossing a canal that runs parallel to the river. Observe Kingfisher, egrets, gulls, and Osprey.

Kern County Water Agency - Explore the KC Water Agency ponds off of Rio Mirada Dr. Take Buck Owens Blvd. (Pierce Rd.) to Rio Mirada Dr. drive to water agency offices and ask to bird the property.

Riverview Park - Take Airport Dr. to -right- Roberts Lane to -right- Oildale Drive to -left- Willow Dr. to Riverview Park. This is the easiest place to access the Kern River west of Chester Ave. Bridge.

Manor Street - Hwy 178 to Union head north towards Bakersfield College - Just past Columbus Ave. Union reaches a Y in the road - veer to the left heading downhill as the road changes into Manor St. Take a left at the light at Delores St. into the Bike Path parking area.

Panorama Park - Overlooking the Kern River and the Kern River oilfields many raptors ride the thermals along the bluffs. Hwy 178 to Union head north towards Bakersfield College - Just past Columbus Ave. Union reaches a Y in the road - veer to the right heading uphill - road changes into Panorama Dr. Continue on Panorama and park along the road.

China Grade Loop / Gordon's Ferry - From Hwy 99 - take the Hwy 58 / 178 exit - turn right onto Hwy 178 / 24th St. Drive east to Mt. Vernon Ave. exit - left onto Mt. Vernon - 1.3 miles to the Intersection with Panorama Dr. continue straight as Mt. Vernon becomes Alfred Harrell Hwy - near the bottom of the hill take the road to the left heading towards Oildale. Take the first left and park on the side of the road by Darrell's Mini Storage.

Heritage Park - Mt. Vernon Avenue and Bernard Street. This older park gets a lot of downslope winter migrants, one of the few places in winter that Mountain Chickadee can occasionally be found.

Hart Memorial Park - The showcase for Bakersfield Birding - Hart Park is located along the Kern River. For 25 years the Bakersfield Christmas Bird Count has been centered at Hart Park. This CBC averages ± 140 species each year. DIRECTIONS: From Hwy 99 - take the Hwy 58 / 178 exit - turn right onto Hwy 178 / 24th St. Drive east to Mt. Vernon Ave. exit - left onto Mt. Vernon - 1.3 miles to the Intersection with Panorama Dr. continue straight as Mt. Vernon becomes Alfred Harrell Hwy - continue 8 miles to the park entrance. Checklist of Birds of Hart Park

Lake Ming - The last large body of water before the mouth of the Kern Canyon. Bald Eagles winter here and migrating waterfowl inhabit the lake and the river nearby. In 1999/2000 over 100 Great Egrets wintered. A pair of Cassin's Kingbirds have taken up residence here. DIRECTIONS: From Hwy 99 - take the Hwy 58 / 178 exit - turn right onto Hwy 178 / 24th St. Drive east to Alfred Harrell Hwy. Turn left and drive 3 miles to the first stop sign. Turn right - drive down to the lake and explore the lake and the campground.

Rancheria Road - A small dirt parking area on the south side of Rancheria Rd. bridge leads to a river trail that is not maintained. Look for wood ducks and other waterfowl floating on the water up and downstream of the bridge. Pygmy Nuthatches have been observed in the cottonwoods and oaks along the river during winter. DIRECTIONS: Take Hwy 178 east toward the mouth of the canyon, as you head down a fairly steep hill notice a road that turns left at the base. This is Rancheria Rd.


Sierra Nevada Mountains - Kern County

Kern Canyon - Along Hwy. 178 just inside the canyon - Canyon Wrens and Rufous-crowned Sparrows are found on the rocky hillsides. Look for White-throated Swifts flying above the canyon. American Dippers can frequently be seen diving from the rocks into the rapids. DIRECTIONS: Take Hwy 178 east into the canyon - park safely in turnouts (people drive way too fast in the canyon beware).

Sequoia National Forest - Kern County has two Ranger Districts - Greenhorn RD encompasses the Piutes, Breckenridge Mountain, and the Greenhorns. Cannell Meadow RD encompasses Lake Isabella, the Kern Plateau, and the land near Kernville.


Kern River Valley

Click map to view larger version © Alison Sheehey

Checklist 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 - Along Hwy 155 as you enter Wofford Heights from the west, just before the road turns into a four lane divided road, you will find Old State Road on the left and Tillie Creek Campground entrance on the right. Turn into the campground road. Drive until the road tee's, turn toward the right and then turn left onto a little stub of pavement with an old boat dock sitting there, park along the sides, 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. 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 I call it this when you encounter the winds at this turnout along Sierra Way, just about Stine Cove, this 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 my 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 Joshuas, 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 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.

Audubon Kern River Preserve
- Home to breeding populations of Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, Summer Tanager, and Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo, this preserve is a private attempt to restore the great riparian forest ecosystem.
DIRECTIONS: The preserve is located along the scenic South Fork of the Kern River.

From Bakersfield -Take Hwy. 178 northeast through the Kern River canyon and past Lake Isabella - continue through the communities of Mtn. Mesa and South Lake. Slow down at the T-intersection of Hwy 178 and Sierra Way as the preserve is 1.1 miles beyond this point. On the left is a large sign for Audubon California's Kern River Preserve, you are almost there. Turn left and drive down the dirt road - slowly as cattle are frequently in the field. The field is not preserve property - the road is an easement - so please respect the landowner and do not stop or park until you reach the parking area inside the preserve.

From the Mojave Desert - The preserve is located approximately 30 miles from Hwy 14. From Hwy. 14 take Hwy. 178 west through Walker Pass - Canebrake - Onyx and almost through Weldon. The preserve is 0.6 miles beyond the South Fork Elementary School and only 100 yards past Kelso Valley Road at milepost 57.00. On the right is a large sign for Audubon California's Kern River Preserve, you are almost there. Turn right and drive down the dirt road - slowly as cattle are frequently in the field. The field is not preserve property - the road is an easement - so please respect the landowner and do not stop or park until you reach the parking area inside the preserve.

Canebrake Ecological Reserve - 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.

Audubon Kelso Creek Sanctuary - This 156-acre Audubon owned 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.

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. Scattered throughout the grassland, horned larks and pipits will flush.

Paradise Cove - At Paradise Cove winter flocks of 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.


North Mojave Desert - Kern County

Ridgecrest - Many great species have been found throughout the area. The Ridgecrest sewer ponds are a watchable wildlife area, you access this along County Line Road. Check out the Kerncrest Audubon Society website for details on this amazing region. While in Ridgecrest Maturango Museum they have a nice selection of area checklists.

Indian Wells Valley - Northeastern Kern County, California, and includes parts of Inyo and San Bernardino counties. The valley is on the northern edge of the high Mojave Desert and is bounded on the north by the Coso Range, on the east by the Argus Range, on the south by the El Paso Mountains, and on the west by the Sierra Nevada. The Indian Wells Valley has a wide variety of habitats and is on many migration routes, which has produced a total of over 325 species of birds on the local checklist.

Cerro Coso College - 3000 College Heights Blvd. Ridgecrest, the campus has a park like setting near the parking area and on the southeast side of campus there is a trail through the creosote desert find Verdin in the native habitat. The


Mid Mojave Desert - Kern County

Red Rock Canyon - The Red Cliffs support an amazing number of White-throated Swifts. LeConte's Thrashers are reported nearby. Just south of the park along Hwy 14 you will find Cantil. Oases around this area also attract some amazing migrants.

Butterbredt Spring - A Nationally Important Bird Area, this conservation easement is supported by Santa Monica Audubon Society. It provides the best place for vagrant warblers in Kern County. A springtime don't miss site. From State Highway 178 at Weldon take Kelso Valley Road 38 miles south turning left at Jawbone Canyon Road turn left to Butterbredt Spring Road. --OR-- From State Highway 14 south of Red Rock Canyon State Park, take Jawbone Canyon Road 14 miles west to Butterbredt Spring Road on the right. The Springs are marked with a sign from Santa Monica Audubon Society. The roads are mostly dirt and the Jawbone and Kelso Valley Roads are passable by passenger car. The road to the spring is steep and can degrade to not passable by passenger car after storms.

California City - Central Park is a birding delight. Mature trees and several ponds, make this a birding oasis. Lots of vagrants can be seen here. From Hwy 14 take California City Boulevard through town. Find the park just after the McDonald's and the bridge over the road, turn left at the first street, follow the road around to the right. The road dead-ends in the parking lot. California City Golf course is next door where many more migrants like to stop. Send them an email letting them know of how many birders they get visiting their parks and spending money in their community. And ask them to stop mowing down the tules in Central Park. parksandrec@ccis.com

Galileo Hill - One of the most unique oasis's in the desert - Galileo Hill is home to the Silver Saddle Ranch. The variation in management leaves this a question as for recommending. Still a worthwhile trek if you are in California City... it may or may not be open for birding.


South Mojave Desert - Kern County

Edwards Air Force Base - Edwards is not open to the public for the most part, but it can offer some rare glimpses of desert birds. Most of Edwards is untouched native Mojave Desert. Just over the county line in Los Angeles County is Edwards sewage discharge area "Piute Ponds", 400+ acres of prime birding.

Mojave - A quick trip around Mojave offers a snapshot of bird life in the urban desert. Look for parks and watering holes.

Rosamond - A nice quiet drive up Willow Springs Rd. through Rosamond takes you through creosote bush habitat up to the windmills of Tehachapi. Along the way there are a few springs with riparian vegetation, spring migrants can be found in these little gems of habitat.


 
View Kern, Tulare, Kings and Inyo County Birding Spots in a larger map

Kern County Birding by Michael McQuerrey - A listserve discussion group of Kern County Birding

CalBirds by Steve Sosensky - A listserve discussion of rare birds, birding events and other things significant to California birders

The Bird Digest by Dave Ranney - A digest of bird discussion around California.

Ventura County Birding by Oscar Johnson

Los Angeles County Birding Locations by Dan Cooper

San Diego County Birding Locations


Nature Ali Publications - keeping you informed about the past, present, and future of the natural environment in Kern County.

The focus of Nature Ali Publications will always be the natural history of Kern County, California, specifically the Southern San Joaquin Valley. You are invited to share in the development of a few of my books and explore some of the pages of as they are written. Thanks for visiting.

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This site was created on October 4, 1998 and was last updated on Friday, December 20, 2013