New Years is for the birds
Kern National Wildlife Refuge
January 1, 2005
I came down with a cold just before New Years but I felt well enough on New Year's
Day to head out on a little excursion so I went west into the great Central or San
Joaquin Valley of California. It was an amazing dayâ€¦ big fluffy clouds filled the sky and
raindrops would fall now and then but for the most part it was sunny and warm. In the
morning the snow-bright Sierra were shining and I paused to take a few pictures of the
mountains as I headed down into the valley.
They tell me most of the San Joaquin Valley used to look like this - marsh and lake and
wetland as far as the eye could see. Early settlers had to skirt the foothills on both
sides to move north. Millions of waterfowl, great herds of antelope, elk, and deer, plus a
rich diversity of other wildlife inhabited this area. Unfortunately, most people thought
of it as a wasteland and sought to drain it and convert it to agricultural farmland.
The Kern NWR was established in 1960 to replace a small portion of the vast Central
Valley wetland nearly destroyed in the 1800's. It is about 11,000 acres about half of
which is flooded in the fall to create habitat vital to migratory species on the Pacific
Flyway. It is also home to many endangered and threatened species including the Bald
Eagle, the Peregrine Falcon, Sandhill Cranes, White Faced Ibis, American White Pelicans,
the San Joaquin kit fox, the Tipton kangaroo rat, and the blunt-nosed leopard lizard.
Anyway, I had a fun time exploring this little-visited gem of the Central Valley and I donâ
€™t feel so bad about not being able to go to Death Valley this weekend now :)
Then I headed over to Kern National Wildlife Refuge and it actually has good public
access unlike Pixley. Some of its roads are closed this time of year but that was fine by
me because that left me to be the sole person out walking on them. And, wow, I am
definitely going to go back to Kern NWR! I saw so many birds including 5 Hawks, 4 Great
Egrets, Red-winged blackbirds, a Roadrunner, a Curlew, and terns, coots, grebes,
sandpipers, teals, and ducks galore. The air was filled with bird calls of which I love that
of the Western Meadowlark the most.
It was a beautiful day for photography as the clouds drifted above and let through beams
of light. I even saw a rainbow!
I headed first towards Pixley National Wildlife Refuge. Well, I think it would be more
aptly named Pixley National Dairy Cow Refuge. They were about the only animal I saw out
there of any kind. I was about to give up when I found a pond teeming with Black-crowned
Night Herons, there must have been 40 or 50 of them!