Mission Bay is a highly-altered estuarine complex within the City of San Diego that is currently developed primarily for aquatic vehicle recreation, with large hotels and vacation homes built atop former saltmarsh. Aside from the open water (which covers 1220 acres of eelgrass), the exposed shoreline of the bay and several scattered sandy and alkali flats (c. 10 acres), the most ecologically valuable habitat, saltmarsh, is restricted to two areas: the 40-acre Northern Wildlife Reserve (City of San Diego; University of California Reserve) and the 200-acre wetland that has developed along the soft-bottomed stretch of the San Diego River channel on the south side of Mission Bay.

Ornithological Summary

Both the Northern Wildlife Reserve and the San Diego River channel support thousands of waterfowl, shorebirds (over 5000 in winter, Page and Shuford 2000), and waders during migration and winter, along with small populations of Belding's Savannah Sparrow and (river channel only) Light-footed Clapper Rail. Least Terns have begun nesting on specially-constructed sandbars and alkali flats around the Bay, and Brant appear in small numbers in winter and spring, feeding on eelgrass beds as on nearby San Diego Bay.

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Conservation Issues

Virtually all of the available open space in and around Mission Bay is addressed in the 1994 Mission Bay Park Master Plan (fide J. Martin), which lays out guidelines for restoration and enhancement of remaining and potential saltmarsh and wetland habitat. Though the tiny reserves of Mission Bay and the flood control channel are secure from development, direct human disturbance remains a constant threat, particularly near the mouth of the channel, which has been designated an official off-leash dog area by San Diego Dept. of Parks and Recreation. This often results in harassment to roosting birds (often encouraged by dog owners), especially to several dozen Snowy Plover that roost principally on dry sand during fall and winter. Nightly fireworks displays during the summer from neighboring Sea World (a large amusement park) represent another potential source of disturbance (J. Martin, USFWS, via email).

Ownership

The most ecologically valuable habitat, saltmarsh, is restricted to two areas: the 40-acre ?Northern Wildlife Reserve? (City of San Diego; University of California Reserve) and the 200-acre wetland that has developed along the soft-bottomed stretch of the San Diego River channel on the south side of Mission Bay.

Habitat

Mission Bay is a highly-altered estuarine complex. Aside from the open water (which covers 1220 acres of eelgrass), the exposed shoreline of the bay and several scattered sandy and alkali flats (c. 10 acres), the most ecologically valuable habitat, saltmarsh, is restricted to two areas: the 40-acre ?Northern Wildlife Reserve? (City of San Diego; University of California Reserve) and the 200-acre wetland that has developed along the soft-bottomed stretch of the San Diego River channel on the south side of Mission Bay.

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