Extending between the Stanislaus and the Tuolumne rivers, the eastern borders of their eponymous counties features flat, extensive grassland dotted with vernal pools (of excellent quality, per TNC 1998) grading into a broad band of oak savannah to the east, at the toe of the Sierra foothills. Though rarely visited by ornithologists, hundreds of thousands of people drive past this northern edge of this area each year along Highway 120, the main thoroughfare between the Bay Area, Yosemite National Park and, farther east, Mono Lake. Much of the best grassland habitat is now limited to the center of this IBA, along Rock River and Cooperstown roads. Numerous and largely unexplored riparian areas are scattered throughout, with the best examples toward the east along Red Hills Road (Dry Creek).

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Updated by Stanislaus Audubon, September 2008

Ornithological Summary

The grasslands surrounding Cooperstown support a high diversity of wintering raptors, especially Ferruginous and Rough-legged hawks, and both Bald and Golden eagles. Burrowing (esp. along Tim Bell Rd.) and wintering Short-eared Owls (esp. along Rock River Rd.) are still familiar sights here, and Lewis' Woodpeckers winter in good numbers in the oaks along Cooperstown Rd. The riparian areas along the major rivers and the moist spots within grasslands near Chinese Camp in the north have Yellow-breasted Chat and breeding colonies of Tricolored Blackbird, as well as nesting Lawrence's Goldfinch (S. Salerno pers. comm.) Bell's Sage and Black-chinned sparrows, somewhat local in the Sierra, are common in the Chamise chaparral associated with the Red Hills on the eastern portion of the IBA.

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Conservation Issues

Planned communities are sprouting up each year along the Highway 120 corridor, and agricultural expansion (mainly orchards and vineyards) continues to claim more land here. Virtually no protected land occurs within this rapidly-developing IBA, which justifies its being assigned a "Critical" threat level.

Ownership

Virtually no protected land occurs within this IBA.

Habitat

This IBA features flat, extensive grassland dotted with vernal pools grading into a broad band of oak savannah to the east, at the toe of the Sierra foothills. Much of the best grassland habitat is now limited to the center of this IBA, along Rock River and Cooperstown roads. Numerous and largely unexplored riparian areas are scattered throughout, with the best examples toward the east along Red Hills Road (Dry Creek). Chamise chaparral can be found within the Red Hills on the eastern portion of the IBA. Agricultural expansion (mainly orchards and vineyards) continues to claim more land here.

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