Saturday, May 07, 2005

6th May - The last full day

Vitty was to stay in Kernville today to have a go at white water rafting while I spent the day birding – or at least that was the plan; we didn’t know then that the rafting had been cancelled. I started off at Kern River Preserve, having braved my way through the flooded entrance drive. Some of the trail was under flood water too, but I managed to get round and see a few birds.

One of my targets was Willow Flycatcher but I hadn’t realised it was a bit early for these. One had been reported the day before though, and I’m pretty sure I saw one, but not well enough to clinch it. I was quite pleased with myself for picking up a Brown-crested Flycatcher on call though, the second place I had seen this rather scarce species.

This place seemed to hold an impressive population of House Wren – not that they were particularly uncommon elsewhere but I saw far more here than anywhere else. There was also a good selection of warblers and a flock of 10 Western Tanagers.

Three species of woodpecker were seen: Ladder-backed, Hairy and Northern Flicker. I had found Hairy quite common in upland coniferous areas but hadn’t seen many in this sort of habitat. There seemed to be a bit of a passage of White-throated Swifts, with at least 40 passing through in the space of a few minutes.

By the centre there were feeders crammed full of Hummingbirds, busily coming and going – I reckon I saw 30 at once but there were probably far more than this in all. Most of these were Anna’s but there were also quite a few Black-chinned. The seed feeders held Pine Siskins and Lesser Goldfinches.

At the entrance there was a flock of 75+ Tricolored Blackbirds. Other interesting species included White-breasted Nuthatch and a Swainson’s Thrush.

Next I returned to Kelso Creek Road where I found Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Say’s Phoebe, Blue Grosbeak, Lazuli Bunting and a family of Canyon Wrens amongst other things. What may have been yesterday’s Golden Eagle showed again, giving even better views than before and landing on the deck in full view.

I then checked another spot along the Kern River, between the Preserve and Lake Isabella. Here I spent a long time trying to get views of what I thought was going to be my first Hermit Thrush. In the end it turned out to be just another Swainson’s, but the wait was worthwhile because it resulted in me finding my last lifer of the holiday. A couple of call notes sounded the alarm bells – I was pretty certain it was a species which I had spent quite a bit of time looking for at a few places during the previous couple of weeks but had now given up hope of seeing. Even though I could hear it there was little chance that I would see it though, but it was kind to me and on first look there it was, a magnificent Virginia Rail. Not rare, but a very welcome sight on what was looking like it would be the first day in nearly 3 weeks that I hadn’t seen a new bird.