Edwards Air Force Base, about 1.5 hrs. north of Los Angeles along the Kern County border, encompasses 300,000 acres of largely pristine west Mojave Desert habitats. These include some of the most extensive mesquite woodland in the region, as well as several massive dry lakes, Buckhorn, Rosamond and Rogers, that fill with water during wet winters and support variably-sized, marshy alkali grassland and alkali flat habitats. These wetlands are augmented by water from treatment facilities that is spread into two main sets of large ponds on the southern edge of the base, including Piute Ponds in Los Angeles Co. Both sets of ponds feature extensive cattail and bulrush marsh (best developed at Piute Ponds), as well as exposed mudflats when water levels are optimal. Because these wetlands are not used directly by the military, a select number of birders have been granted access privileges. A long-term data set of observations of the wetlands been maintained by Kimball Garrett, and the base has conducted bird monitoring programs (e.g. base-wide point counts) for years.

{link:For IBA map, click here.|http://www.audubon.org/bird/iba/maps/CA/CA266m_Edwards_Air_Force_Base.pdf}

Ornithological Summary

The Piute Ponds support some of the only large breeding colonies of White-faced Ibis and Tricolored Blackbird in the Mojave Desert, all of which have been widely extirpated from coastal southern California. They also support a sizable proportion of southern California populations of several breeding marsh birds, such as Redhead, Gadwall and Yellow-headed Blackbird. The shorebird migration through here can be phenomenal, with to 10,000 birds regularly recorded on fall days (July-September) and somewhat lower numbers in spring (KG, MSM). These wetlands are an important post-breeding congregation area for many waterbirds, notably American White Pelican, Black Tern and numerous herons and egrets. Small numbers of Snowy Plover breed on alkali playas here (e.g. Rosamond Dry Lake), which can support large numbers of north-bound shorebirds after winter rains. Spring, fall and winter bring tens of thousands of ducks, which are also present at the Lancaster Water Treatment Plant, square, un-vegetated ponds of the just southwest of the base, near the intersection of Hwy. 14 and Avenue D. The mesquite woodlands on Edwards, as those in other parts of the desert, can be alive with migrating passerines in March and April, and numerous isolated (and undisturbed) rock outcrops still support nesting raptors in a region where they are constantly disturbed by vandals, OHV riders, etc.

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Conservation Issues

These wetlands receive no formal protection whatsoever, and are increasingly being seen as a liability to the DoD, which fears that the incidence of bird strikes with aircraft outweigh the value of providing or retaining wildlife habitat. Changes in water treatment practices could have devastating effects on the waterbird community that has developed associated with the constructed wetlands and with Rosamond Dry Lake, which collects leakage from the impoundments. As the Antelope Valley urbanizes (Lancaster-Palmdale's population is already nearly 350,000 people and increasing), the lands surrounding these wetlands will be increasingly urban, which will bring the associated ills (e.g. feral cats).

Habitat

Edwards Air Force Base encompasses 300,000 acres of largely pristine west Mojave Desert habitats. These include some of the most extensive mesquite woodland in the region, as well as several massive dry lakes, Buckhorn, Rosamond and Rogers, that fill with water during wet winters and support variably-sized, marshy alkali grassland and alkali flat habitats. These wetlands are augmented by water from treatment facilities that is spread into two main sets of large ponds on the southern edge of the base, including ?Piute Ponds? in Los Angeles Co. Both sets of ponds feature extensive cattail and bulrush marsh (best developed at Piute Ponds), as well as exposed mudflats when water levels are optimal.

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