About halfway between Redding and Alturas, this large valley lies in the triangle formed by Hwy. 89 and Hwy. 299, and is formed by the Fall River which runs along the floor of the valley, and by the much larger Pit River, which drains west from the Warner Mtns. into Shasta Lake and forms the southern edge of this IBA. Habitat diversity is high in this transition area between the Cascades and the Modoc Plateau, with mixed oak-coniferous forest, oak-dominated chaparral, and large, shallow lakes with extensive, marshy borders. Private lands, nearly all of it grazed, dominate here, and the floor of the Fall River Valley is covered by irrigated agricultural land. Public lands are limited to Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park in the northeast Fall River Valley, and McArthur Burney Falls Memorial State Park in the far west, which includes Lake Britton along the Pit River. Though public lands protect excellent examples of upland habitat, much of the wetland habitat is privately held, including large wetlands associated with Eastman Lake (a.k.a. Big Lake) adjacent to Ahjumawi S.P., which is owned by Pacific Gas and Electric.

Updated October 2008

Ornithological Summary

The Fall River Valley supports a high diversity of breeding ducks and shorebirds (incl. Long-billed Curlew, Willet and Wilson's Phalarope) and a handful of breeding Sandhill Cranes. Thousands of ducks and geese over-winter here, and large numbers of the tiny Cackling Canada Geese (a rare subspecies) stage during spring migration. Both the Pit and Fall rivers support large populations of breeding and wintering Bald Eagle and Osprey, and the agricultural areas and grasslands are an important foraging area for wintering raptors. The Rat Farm Road area is home to breeding Long-billed Curlews and Swainson's Hawks. Breeding Burrowing Owls have been intermittent in the last three or four years (B. Yutzy via email). Bank Swallows nest locally along the Pit River, and more than 20 pairs of Black Swift, by far the largest colony in the state (C. Collins, pers. comm.), breed at McArthur-Burney State Park. The oak woodland here supports one of the few regular Purple Martin colonies in northeastern California (Williams 1998). As an interesting biogeographical note, California's characteristic oak woodland avifauna approaches its northeastern limit here, with Band-tailed Pigeon, Acorn and Nuttall's woodpecker, Oak Titmouse, Wrentit and Lawrence's Goldfinch all breeding north to vic. Day, Modoc Co. (JS).

Help us learn more about the birds at this IBA! Enter your birding data online at Calfornia eBird! (http://ebird.org/california/)

Conservation Issues

Fairly remote and still very undeveloped, this IBA seems to have remained a well-kept secret. Though recent shifts in agriculture from cattle pasture to wild rice cultivation have made the habitat more appealing to certain waterbirds (esp. shorebirds) and less suitable for raptors, the overall landscape is still attractive to a thriving bird community (B. Yutzy, via email). Potential conflicts involve the allocation of water from Big Lake, which is owned by Pacific Gas and Electric. The ranchers don't want wetlands expanded to impact grazing opportunities, and PG&E wants the water reserved for hydropower, which may leave relatively little for wildlife (B. Yutzy, via email).

Ownership

Private lands, nearly all of it grazed, dominate here, and the floor of the Fall River Valley is covered by irrigated agricultural land. Public lands are limited to Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park in the northeast Fall River Valley, and McArthur Burney Falls Memorial State Park in the far west. Though public lands protect excellent examples of upland habitat, much of the wetland habitat is privately held, including large wetlands associated with Eastman Lake (a.k.a. Big Lake) adjacent to Ahjumawi S.P., which is owned by Pacific Gas and Electric.

Habitat

This large valley lies in the triangle formed by Hwy. 89 and Hwy. 299, and is formed by the Fall River which runs along the floor of the valley, and by the much larger Pit River, which drains west from the Warner Mtns. into Shasta Lake and forms the southern edge of this IBA. Habitat diversity is high in this transition area between the Cascades and the Modoc Plateau, with mixed oak-coniferous forest, oak-dominated chaparral, and large, shallow lakes with extensive, marshy borders.

Stay abreast of Audubon

Our email newsletter shares the latest programs and initiatives.