Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Kern County and Gallileo Hill, CA

On Monday the 29th I made the 4 hour drive from Santa Barbara to Kernville with a stop in Bakersfield to look for rose-ringed parakeets.  I have never seen this introduced exotic that has successfully established itself in the Bakersfield area.  Maybe one day it will also be added to the ABA list of accepted birds.

It was mid afternoon and pretty toasty, but I had no problem locating a few of the parakeets (photos above and below--click on any photo to enlarge) as well as spotted doves at Beale Park.

I then finished driving to Kernville where I stayed for the next 3 nights.  I have wanted for awhile to bird Kern County in the spring because of both its resident and migratory birds.  On Tuesday morning I was up at 5 AM to make the short drive to Audubon's Kern River Preserve.  It was barely light when I first started walking part of the area.  I was treated to a small group of Lawrence's goldfinches which was one reason I had come to Kern County.  Back in 2010 during my big year I had spent many hours trying to track down this peripatetic bird.  I did not find but 2 one day in August on a country road east of San Francisco.

There were quite a few other species around including western kingbird; Bewick's and house wrens; California quail; pacific-slope and brown-capped flycatchers; tree swallow; lark and white-crowned sparrows; lesser goldfinch; Costa's, Anna's and black-chinned hummers; Bullock's oriole; summer and western tanagers; blue and black-headed grosbeaks; oak titmouse; yellow and yellow-rumped warblers; western bluebird; great-tailed and common grackles; mallards and wood ducks (photo just above); Brewer's, red-winged and tri-colored blackbirds of which the latter is in the photo just below.

I next drove up into the Chimney Peak Wilderness area to look for chukar and mountain quail, but found none.  I did see gray-throated warbler, plumbeous vireo, and chipping and rufous-crowned sparrows.

I stopped back in at my B&B to take a shower before heading up to Greenhorn summit to look for a sooty grouse that my friend Wes Fritz had told me about.  It did not make an appearance for me, nor even call.  At dusk I tried to do some owling, but it was too windy to hear well, so I headed back to the B&B for a good night's rest.

I was up again at 5 AM on Wednesday to try the Chimney Peak road a second time in hopes of coming across either a chukar or some mountain quail.  It was pretty windy still, and after 90 minutes of listening closely as I drove up and then back down the mountain, I once again came up with neither bird.  I did see black-throated sparrows and a cactus wren.  I also drove down Fay Ranch Rd. and found a prairie falcon eating its breakfast.

After I had a late breakfast back in Kernville, I went back up into the Greenhorn Mountain area and checked the same grouse spot for about an hour without any success.  So I made the slow 7 mile drive down another dirt forest road to get to Sunday Peak which is known to be the most consistent and most southerly location for sooty grouse.  I walked almost to the top of the 1.5 mile trail when I finally heard a sooty calling.  I walked in the direction of the calling to have the good luck of having the bird fly over my head.  On my way back down I saw mountain chickadees, ruby and golden-crowned kinglets, and a red-breasted sapsucker.  I decided to call it a day.

On Thursday morning I was once again up at 5 AM to drive 45 miles to Butterbredt Spring which is famous for having some days in the spring when very large numbers of migratory birds pass over the spring on their way north.  I had visited the spring a couple of other times, but never at the end of April.  I was pretty pumped on my way there, but was let down once I arrived because there was not a large movement of birds on Thursday.  I had the place to myself for 90 minutes, and then 3 birders from the San Fernando Valley arrived.  We birded together for another 45 minutes.  Some of the highlights were Cassin's vireo; lazuli bunting; green-tailed towhee; sage, Brewer's, white-crowned, golden-crowned and Lincoln sparrows; Wilson's, yellow-rumped, orange-crowned and MacGillivray's warblers; and Cooper's hawk.

We drove the 12 miles out to the main road, and then onto the Silver Saddle resort at Gallileo Hill.  I had read about this place but never had visited it.  It is like an oasis in the desert with lots of small ponds and trees.  We spent 2+ hours birding the grounds and found lots of birds.  We spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out the many empidonax flycatchers that were feeding hungrily.  In the end we concluded we had seen Hammond's, pacific-slope and dusky plus we also had 3 olive-sided flycatchers and several western wood pewees.  Some other birds we saw included black and Say's phoebes; ash-throated flycatcher; black-chinned and calliope hummers; Wilson's, yellow-rumped, orange-crowned and MacGillivray's warblers; hermit thrush; Townsend's solitaire; Wilson's snipe; red-breasted nuthatch; lark and white-crowned sparrows; and Bullock's oriole.

About 1:30 we all headed back towards LA.  I spent the night near the airport to be ready to catch an early plane back home. With just 2 days at home, I am now in Jasper, Indiana after driving 10+ hours today from Chapel Hill. NC.  I am here in hopes of seeing a spotted redshank near here tomorrow morning.  Stay tuned!

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