Kern River Valley CBC
Thanks to 23 hardy birders, the Kern River Valley CBC enjoyed one of the
more successful counts in the 28 years of this count. Count Day species
numbered 129 plus 3 added during count week, with a total of 23,239
The day started out quite lovely, while it was cool and overcast, there was
no wind to speak of and the morning was really pleasant to bird. The
afternoon started out nice but the sky opened up with rains that began in
earnest by around 1:30. The rest of the afternoon was either a wash (more so
for some. pun intended) or done by car.
While this has been my CBC season for owls, I tried for Spotted Owl on
Greenhorn Mountain, but had no luck as the mountains were a dry hole where
all hoots went unanswered. Although I didn't intend to stop as the mountains
were my owling goal, it was fortuitous that I stopped on my way up the hill
at the Kern River Preserve/South Fork Wildlife area just in case the other
owling team wasn't able to get out in time. I had not even shut the engine
off before I heard the ping pongee toot of a Western Screech owl, three more
answered back from deep inside the forest. The day before I had heard and
seen a Northern Saw-whet while owling with Denise LaBerteaux on her count,
so I imitated the saw-whet and to my absolute surprise one answered from
near the South Fork Kern Bridge. Then although it was pitch black. a slow
monotonous toot began from an area right in front of my beaming headlights.
a Northern Pygmy Owl! As I stepped out of the car a Barn Owl swooped over my
head as 6 Great-horned Owls began hooting their symphony.
Two species were brand new to the count: Ross's Goose and Green Heron.
Several species were unusual: American Crow, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Pygmy
Nuthatch, and Great-tailed Grackle. There were multiple species that were
seen in higher numbers than ever: Hooded Merganser, Eared Grebe, Great
Egret, Osprey, California Gull, Mourning Dove, Western Screech-Owl, Oak
Titmouse, American Dipper, Phainopepla and House Finch.
I am surprised that after 28 years no other Green Heron had been detected, I
think this bird should be around as there is plenty of good habitat for it,
thanks to Bruce and Denise for finally finding this elusive bird. The Ross's
Geese that my team found were both juveniles, and most likely part of the
great fallout that China Lake experienced this year. My pre-count birding
yielded 2 American Crows up near Shirley Meadows, so when John Schmitt
reported 3 crows, I expected that these were the same birds. I called for
details and found this not to be the case. apparently he has been observing
nesting crows at Tillie Creek campground and said he assumed these were the
pair with one of the eight young that hatched this year. I didn't know the
CBC could also help with BBS data as well. Terri Gallion reported a
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher calling at Goat Ranch in her area, and then John
reported another one at Tillie Creek yesterday. The Pygmy Nuthatches, I
found these during count week just south of Shirley Meadows upper ski lift.
A flock of up to 9 came through with many mountain chickadees and brown
creepers. It is fortunate that Denise and Bruce passed through the Weldon
South Lake territory on their way to their territory as they picked up 2
Great-tailed Grackles in the process. These birds should no longer be listed
as rare but the South Lake/Weldon/Mtn. Mesa territory needs one more team to
help cover the area. Actually this count would benefit from several more
birders to help coordinate territories and really beat the bushes.
High numbers were helped by the glasslike sheen on the early morning
reservoir. Bob Barnes and Frank Gibson diligently scoped every blip on the
lake and then added names and numbers to the thousands of birds enjoying the
still waters. Every team provided so many wonderful sightings and details.
It is a joy to compile this count, I thank you all, Ellen, Marya, Darrell,
Radley, Terri G., Sandra, Bob B., Frank, Ashley, Steve, John, Diana, Bob S.,
Susan S., Terri M., Sam, Pete, Susan M., Bruce, Denise, Reed, and Chana.
Although, we did have some big misses for the count: Ring-necked Duck,
White-throated Swift, Vesper Sparrow, Northern Pintail, Tricolored
Blackbird, Ruddy Duck, Spotted Sandpiper, Lesser Scaup and Least Sandpiper.
It was overall one of the most productive counts, even without nice weather
in the afternoon. What a strange CBC season, flooded N. Cal counts and
temperatures in the 80's in S. Cal. I expected depressed montane species
numbers in most counts, and lots of rarities, it seems at least from my
participation that this was mostly the case.
I really appreciate the final coup d' grace for our New Year's Day count,
dinner at Ron Gillentine's, for the past two years Ron has graciously
prepared the meal for team members. While I suggested last year that we
should have a simple spaghetti feed after the count, he took up the
challenge. No simple spaghetti for our crew. pasta Bolognese, spinach
lasagna, mixed green salad, corn bread, and fresh raspberry tiramisu. Plus
wine, coffee, tea, and hot cocoa. What a treat! Thank you, Ron and Rob.
With a great start for the Kern River Valley birding year, I am conducting
my own personal Kern Valley/County big year. If others want to join we can
make it a cooperative big year. I look forward to another great birding
Alison Sheehey - Kern River Valley CBC compiler
KRV CBC 2005/06 Tally
American Green-winged Teal
American White Pelican
Great Blue Heron
Great Horned Owl
Northern Saw-whet Owl
Northern (Red-shafted) Flicker
Yellow-rumped (Audubon's) Warbler
Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler
Dark-eyed (Oregon) Junco
Dark-eyed (Slate-colored) Junco
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