Important Bird Areas

Bright Hour Watershed

Florida

Desoto County
47,235 acres (19,116 hectares), of which 31,989 acres (12,945 hectares) are under perpetual conservation easement

In southeastern Desoto County east of the town of Arcadia, south of State Road 70 and east of State Road 31. A citrus grove that reportedly is the largest in the world occupies a huge area north of the IBA.

Two ranches partly or fully under perpetual conservation easement. Several thousand additional acres (and hectares) of non-native pasture within one of the ranches are not part of the SOR Project but have been included within the IBA boundary because the pastures are important to Crested Caracaras.

Ornithological Summary

Significant populations of Threatened species; exceptional diversity of dry prairie species; and significant natural habitats.

This IBA supports or previously supported nearly all species of dry prairies. It also supports a ?substantial and apparently viable? +(Stith 1999) population of Florida Scrub-Jays. The Bright Hour scrub-jays have vocalizations distinct from those on the Lake Wales Ridge, about 20 miles (32 km) to the east, and represent a ?highly isolated? population +(Stith 1999). ?High concentrations? of wading birds, ?great flocks? of Wild Turkeys, and ?presumably excellent populations? of ?Florida? Sandhill Cranes, Crested Caracaras, and possibly Mottled Ducks were found in May and June 1996 +(TNC 1996), but numerical data were not available due to the brevity of the surveys. Parts of the Watershed were designated by +Cox et al. (1994) as a Strategic Habitat Conservation Area for wading birds, the Mottled Duck, Swallow-tailed Kite, Crested Caracara, ?Florida? Sandhill Crane, and ?Florida? Grasshopper Sparrow. Only a rudimentary bird list is available.

Conservation Issues

development (portions of the ranches not within the conservation easements), lowering of surface-water levels through drainage or future extraction of ground water.

By 1996, Florida Scrub-Jay habitat onsite was succeeding to xeric hammock +(TNC 1996); restoration activities are planned but have yet to take place (M. Barnwell pers. comm., Southwest Florida Water Management District). ? Two singing male ?Florida? Grasshopper Sparrows were discovered in 1990 but apparently were extirpated by 1997. However, an extensive amount of dry prairie is preserved within this IBA, and the site should be considered for translocation.

Several large ranches between the Bright Hour Watershed and protected areas of the Lake Wales Ridge retain extensive amounts of natural communities. It seems advisable to target additional perpetual conservation easements on these ranches to better protect native flora and fauna of the De Soto Plain. ? Proper habitat management of the

Ownership

private owners (perpetual conservation easements monitored by the Southwest Florida Water Management District)

Habitat

Florida dry prairie, freshwater marsh, temperate hammock, non-native pastures, riverine, bayhead, xeric oak scrub, longleaf pine scrubby flatwoods, cutthroatgrass seep, citrus groves

Land Use

conservation, grazing, crop production