Important Bird Areas

Lower Oak Creek

Oak Creek begins as a fissure on the Mogollon Rim and drains a riparian wooded canyon linking the Colorado Plateau to the upper Sonoran desert. Lower Oak Creek emerges from the steep canyon walls among the red ramparts of Sedona - just a mile or two upstream of Red Rock State Park and meanders the next several miles to Page Springs where it meets the onrush of 21st century development. Most of the surrounding land is U.S. Forest Service, Coconino National Forest, interspersed with a few small private in-holdings in the riparian zone. The 175-acre property of Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD), Page Springs Fish Hatchery, comprises riparian gallery (cottonwood/willow/sycamore), mesquite / hackberry bosque, recovering floodplain terrace and upslope prickly pear grassland. Other mature riparian gallery forests on well-developed floodplains occur at Echo Valley, Hidden Valley, Deer Creek, and Red Rock State Park. The identified IBA is the river corridor, extending upslope to approximately the rim level on either side of the river extending from Red Rock State Park south to just south of Page Springs Fish Hatchery. Northern Arizona Audubon Society (NAAS) and AGFD jointly manage the vegetated land at Page Springs for the benefit and diversity of wildlife. A public-access trail system with educational signage has been put in place and plant restoration programs are on-going. NAAS is the steward for this site. More information about Northern Arizona Audubon Society and how you can help as a volunteer can be found at /http://www.nazas.org/

Ornithological Summary

Lower Oak Creek supports the broad species diversity that accompanies the mingling of the northern plateau with the rising arid desert lands from the south. This riparian corridor IBA is exceptional for Arizona in two respects, 1) it is a significant migration corridor that supports exceptional landbird diversity and abundance in spring and fall migration, and 2) it is a premier riparian habitat corridor supporting numerous riparian obligate species, many of which are species of conservation concern in Arizona.

Fourteen species of special conservation status [including Federal T &E, AZ Threatened species, AZ Partners in Flight Priority Species (APIF), Audubon WatchList-Red and Yellow listed, and USFWS Birds of Conservation Concern] use the habitats within this IBA during some part of the year.

Breeding species within the IBA include: Common Black-Hawk (APIF) 8-10 pairs, Yellow-billed Cuckoo (APIF) 4-6 pairs, Belted Kingfisher (AZ Threatened) (1 pair), Lucy's Warbler (Audubon-Yellow listed), Yellow Warbler (USFWS), Bell's Vireo (Audubon-Red listed), and Abert's Towhee (Audubon-Yellow listed). Golden Eagles (USFWS) are frequently observed soaring over the cliff ramparts along this corridor, nesting is quite possible in this habitat, but to date not yet confirmed. Other riparian obligates breeding in the IBA include: Vermilion Flycatcher, Summer Tanager, Brown-crested Flycatcher (common breeder), Cassin's Kingbird, Yellow-breasted Chat, Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting and Song Sparrow (resident ssp. saltonis).

Migrants reported using the river corridor include: Southwestern Willow Flycatcher (Endangered), Lucy's, MacGillivray's (APIF), and Virginia's Warblers (Audubon-Yellow listed), and other neotropical migrant species, such as Olive-sided Flycatcher, Hammond's Flycatcher, Dusky Flycatcher, Gray Flycatcher, Warbling Vireo, Western Tanager, Nashville, Black-throated Gray, and Wilson's Warbler. All the western swallows are common here in migration. Sixteen species of both ducks and raptors are recorded at Page Springs.

Special status wintering species supported in this IBA include: Bald Eagle (Threatened), Red-naped Sapsucker (APIF), and Hutton's and Juniper Titmouse (APIF), as well as riparian obligates such as Common Yellowthroat.

Three other species that are very rare in Arizona, and only found in a few locations statewide, use the Oak Creek riparian corridor, they include the Wood Duck (abundant local nesting population, > 50 pairs estimated), the Osprey (rare nesting and common in migration and winter), and the Common Merganser (rare nesting and common in the winter).

Many cavity nesting species are supported in great abundance due old growth gallery forest within this IBA, they include: American Kestrel, Gila Woodpecker, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Bewick's Wren, Bridled Titmouse, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Violet-green Swallow and Lucy's Warbler. Belted Kingfisher and Common Merganser nest in the creeks banks. A total of 174 bird species have been recorded at the AGFD property at Page Springs, the southern state-owned section (175 acres) of this IBA, and to date the most thoroughly inventoried section over the last 5 years.

Other Flora/Fauna
The federally listed endangered Page Springsnail persists almost entirely on the AGFD property at Page Springs.

Research/Conservation Projects
NAAS and AGFD jointly manage the vacant land at Page Springs for the benefit and diversity of wildlife. A public-access trail system with educational signage has been put in place and plant restoration programs initiated. A bird-banding program will commence in 2004. A pilot partnership between NAAS and private landowners on a 30-acre site within the Lower Oak Creek IBA commenced in 2003 with bird surveys, a nest box program and an education component. Plant community restoration at this site is in progress.

Protected Areas
Page Springs Cultural Fish Station is a protected state land with an area of 175 acres.

Conservation Issues

Most all southwestern waterways are at risk of dewatering. While most of the large scale irrigation extraction from Oak Creek is downstream of the IBA (two irrigation ditches originate from the Page Springs property) the rapid conversion of pasturelands to ranchettes and residential lots watered by new private wells in the riparian zone amplifies both the loss of water and of riparian gallery. Associated channelization hampers the flood regime and greatly diminishes recruitment of new cottonwood and willows. The spread of invasive non-native plants is of considerable concern. Russian olive and tamarisk are preventing natural re-colonization of some riparian areas following flooding. The USFS lands are subject to cattle grazing.

Ownership

Page Springs Cultural Fish Station is a protected state land with an area of 175 acres. NAAS and AGFD jointly manage the undeveloped land at Page Springs for the benefit and diversity of wildlife. A public-access trail system with educational signage has been put in place and plant restoration programs initiated. A pilot partnership between NAAS and private landowners on a 30-acre site within the Lower Oak Creek IBA commenced in 2003 with bird surveys, a nest box program and an education component. Plant community restoration at this site is in progress.

Habitat

Oak Creek flows year round and floods periodically during spring and monsoon seasons. Biotic communities are dominated by Fremont Cottonwood (Populus fremonti), sycamore (Plantanus wrightii), Velvet ash (Fraxinus velutina), Arizona alder (Alnus oblongifolia) in the riparian zones, and Velvet Mesquite (Prosopis velutina) Netleaf hackberry (Celtis reticulate) and Barberry (Berberis fremontii) in the regenerating bosque. Some cottonwood and Gooding Willow plantings have been initiated as part of the joint-management plan administered by Northern Arizona Audubon Society and AGFD at Page Springs. Exotics including tamarisk and Russian olive are being removed, and natives are being reintroduced.

Other Flora/Fauna
The federally listed endangered Page Springsnail persists almost entirely on the AGFD property at Page Springs.

Land Use

Research/Conservation Projects

Northern Arizona Audubon Society(NAAS) and Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD) jointly manage the vacant land at Page Springs for the benefit and diversity of wildlife. A public-access trail system with educational signage has been put in place and plant restoration programs initiated. A bird-banding program will commence in 2004. A pilot partnership between NAAS and private landowners on a 30-acre site within the Lower Oak Creek IBA commenced in 2003 with bird surveys, a nest box program and an education component. Plant community restoration at this site is in progress.

Protected Areas

Page Springs Cultural Fish Station is a protected state land with an area of 175 acres.