We live within walking distance of the park, and we relish its concentration of migrants in spring and fall. Turkey Vultures circle on thermals high overhead, while warblers, flycatchers, grosbeaks, and Yellow-headed Blackbirds flit in the trees and reeds. Big pines on the north side of the main lake often hold warblers and other songbirds, and cattail beds around the lakes are great for blackbirds. Also, listen for the resident Great Horned Owls duetting in the trees around the lakes.
The park also has a reputation for attracting vagrants. In fall 2012, the tally included Evening Grosbeak and several eastern warblers: Northern Parula, American Redstart, Louisiana Waterthrush, and Magnolia, Chestnut-sided, Black-throated Blue, and Kentucky Warblers. And in October, a Pacific Loon, an ocean bird, turned up on our desert lake and stayed for a few days. We’re still excited about it. — Laura Mogg and Susan Flakes
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location: 35°7’53.14″N 117°56’39.68″W
Suburban park, pine trees, 30-acre lake, several man-made ponds.
Flat, with small knolls.
Spring and fall: grebes, egrets, Cinnamon and Green-winged Teal, Wood, Ruddy, and Ring-necked Ducks, Northern Shoveler, Bufflehead, Common Merganser, Osprey, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Spotted Sandpiper, Black-chinned and Rufous Hummingbirds, Belted Kingfisher, Lesser Nighthawk, woodpeckers, flycatchers, swallows, nuthatches, kinglets, thrushes, Western Meadowlark, vireos, warblers, sparrows, goldfinches. Residents: herons, Red-tailed and Cooper’s Hawks, Great Horned Owl, Red-winged, Yellow-headed, and Brewer’s Blackbirds, Great-tailed Grackle, Anna’s Hummingbird, Horned Lark, Common Raven, Marsh Wren, Northern Mockingbird, Black and Say’s Phoebes. Rarities: Evening Grosbeak and eastern warblers.
When to go
Mid-April to early May and September through November.
Covered picnic tables with barbecue pits, restrooms. Park information at Strata Sports Center next to the parking lot. Restaurants nearby on California City Blvd. Golf courses surround park.
City park. Open daily 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. No fees.
Wear layers. Mornings can be cool, afternoons hot. Hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen needed. Bring and drink plenty of water; this is the desert!
For more info
California City Park and Recreation
Kern Audubon Society
Kern County Birding listserv
Birds of Kern County checklist
Desert Tortoise Natural Area
Seven miles east of park on Randsburg-Mohave Rd. Le Conte’s Thrasher, Costa’s Hummingbird, Horned Lark, Loggerhead Shrike, and the endangered desert tortoise.
Thirty miles from California City off Hwy. 14. Four-wheel-drive vehicle recommended. Premier spring migration location. A small spring in a low crossing of the Sierra Nevada attracts songbirds. Arrive before dawn.