Birding Burris Park in Kings CountySep 27, 2018 11:00AM ● By Enjoy Magazine
By Michael O'Brien
LOCATING SPOTS to bird watch in the vast San Joaquin Valley often takes creative effort. There are wildlife oases amongst the orchards and fields of grain, and Burris Park is one of them.
Located in Kings County, Burris Park occupies land once ranched by David Burris. An early Tulare County pioneer, Burris eventually acquired 5,000 acres, 57 of which were never ranched. Kings County received this undeveloped land from Burris’ sons as a gift. On June 27, 1924, Burris Park was opened to the public.
Today, this popular family picnic and play area is also home to the Kings County Museum at Burris Park. Museum curators study, preserve and exhibit fossils, Native American and early pioneer artifacts from King County’s history. Over time, the deciduous, live oak and conifer trees on this land have matured and created ideal habitat for migrating and local bird species.
Two approaches are available to bird this area. The first is through the park’s main entrance from Clinton Avenue, and into the park itself. Plan to bird early before the arrival of the inevitable crowds of people who frequent this park. Walk the grounds, binoculars in hand and field guide in pocket. Scan the trees for clown-faced Acorn Woodpecker. Watch the air for the undulating flight Nuttall’s Woodpecker. The bright orange flash high in the trees will indicate Bullock’s oriole. Confirm that sighting with your binoculars. Scan for the nervous flitting of tiny Bushtit, which pervade tight areas in small bands, then seem to vanish, only to reappear a few yards away.
Birding by ear is often as rewarding as by sight. Identify the nasal “ink ink ink” call that indicates White-breasted Nuthatch. Place your binoculars on a spot of a tree where you’ve heard a distinct “ka-BEER, ka-BEER” of Ash-throated Flycatcher. High overhead, you’ve seen Red-tailed Hawk if you hear its single “skreeeeeeee.” A repeated “keyuur keeyuur keeyuur” tells you that it’s a Red-shouldered Hawk. California Quail inhabit the brush at the south end of the park. Often the only way to experience this reclusive bird is by their “pup waay pop pop” chatter as they move by stealth in dense understory. Don’t be surprised, though, to see a proud male sitting high on a dead branch, belting out “chi-CA-go!”
Other species available here are western U.S.-range warblers in season, Belted Kingfisher, Northern Flicker, House Wren, Western Tanager, Lesser Goldfinch and Black-headed Grosbeak.
The second option to bird this area is especially useful should you care to engage in dusk birding and find the park crowded, or should you find the park closed altogether. The old entrance to the park, aptly originating from the intersection of Burris Park Drive and 6th Avenue, is marked by two stone gate posts on either side of the road and a green farmhouse to the immediate south. Slowly motor along Burris Park Drive about one-half of a mile to the park’s back gate. Exit your vehicle and look for Mockingbird, Western Scrub Jay, Black Phoebe, Western Kingbird Ash-throated Flycatcher.
An entirely different habitat of massive oaks, both alive and dead, and creek bed surrounded by orchard land and private property gives birds here a quieter and more diverse landscape. Walk the road back to 6th Avenue, taking your time and stopping often. Remember that birds have wings and they use them. Waiting for them to come to you while sitting on the ground or on a portable chair is an effective birding method.
On this walk, scan the orchards for songbirds, and the tops of dead trees for raptors and woodpeckers. An irrigation ditch flowing under the oaks provides water and riparian habitat. Watch for waterfowl and thirsty critters along the banks. Spotted and California Towhees work the oak understory detritus by kicking up leaves with their legs. The rustling sound this makes will lead you to spotting these birds. Listen for the rambunctious Oak Titmouse’s strong “tuwituwi” high in the Live Oaks as they ply branches for insects and other morsels. Their distinctive crown and intense black eyes identify these birds as rulers of this oak forest. •
If you go: 6500 Clinton Ave., Kingsburg
(559) 852-2707 • www.CountyOfKings.com
Park open Friday, Saturday and Sunday only, 10 am – 7 pm
Park closed November – March