One of the largest natural lakes in California, Goose Lake straddles the Oregon border just west of the Nevada line. An enclosed system fed only by rainfall, the lake is still fresh water (somewhat alkaline), and supports an important native fish community. Its levels fluctuate depending the previous year's rainfall, which supports vast alkali mudflats along its southern end. This section of the IBA also features impressive natural sand dunes and constructed impoundments with freshwater wetlands. Along its east end, irrigated alfalfa fields along Hwy. 395 give way to extensive wet alkali meadow habitat leading down to the shore of the lake. The more remote west side is rocky with lava deposits, but supports extensive bulrush marshes. Several low-lying islands along the east end are alternately exposed and submerged depending on rainfall the winter before.

Ornithological Summary

Remote and rarely visited by birders, Goose Lake is known to be a critical late-summer staging area for waterfowl where tens of thousands of Canada Geese and ducks, including large numbers of Canvasbacks, molt (and are therefore flightless) during August. A large breeding colony of Snowy Plover occurs on alkali flats, and upwards of 30,000 migrant shorebirds per day utilize the impoundments and the southeastern lake shore in spring and fall (DS). Over 10,000 American Avocets were recorded here during a single aerial survey in August 1995 (Warnock et al. 1998), a period when lowered water levels results in little shorebird habitat on the state's refuges. These shorebirds have been shown to commute between this site, Honey Lake to the south, and Summer/Abert lakes in Oregon (Ibid). The wetlands surrounding Goose Lake support very large numbers of breeding terns (Forster's and Caspian) and in 1997 held almost 10% of the state's nesting Ring-billed Gull population (Shuford and Ryan 2000). Regionally, this IBA was found to hold some of the largest colonies of Caspian and Forster's terns in northeastern California, and historically supported breeding American White Pelican (Shuford 1998). The area also contains one of the largest Pronghorn Antelope breeding areas left in California.

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Conservation Issues

As with most wetlands in the Great Basin, water levels are critical to avian use and productivity at Goose Lake. Low lake levels cause a decline in marsh and island habitat, and poor nesting success for breeding birds. Fortunately, the area is still very remote, and increased development is probably at least several decades away.

Ownership

Land surrounding Goose Lake is owned by BLM and Modoc National Forest. Goose Lake State Recreation Area is located on the eastern shore of the lake.

Habitat

An enclosed system fed only by rainfall, the lake is still fresh water (somewhat alkaline), and supports an important native fish community. Its levels fluctuate depending the previous year?s rainfall, which supports vast alkali mudflats along its southern end. This section of the IBA also features impressive natural sand dunes and constructed impoundments with freshwater wetlands. Along its east end, irrigated alfalfa fields along Hwy. 395 give way to extensive wet alkali meadow habitat leading down to the shore of the lake. The more remote west side is rocky with lava deposits, but supports extensive bulrush marshes. Several low-lying islands along the east end are alternately exposed and submerged depending on rainfall the winter before.

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