This IBA encompasses the dozens of marshy reservoirs that dot the Modoc Plateau, a high, forested steppe in extreme northeastern California. Its rough boundaries would extend from Clear Lake east to Goose Lake, south to Alturas, and thence west to vic. White Horse on the Siskiyou/Modoc Co. line. Though many of the wetlands are somewhat artificial, being dammed streams constructed in the early 1900s to provide additional water for cattle and to improve waterfowl hunting, they have offset aspects of the destruction of natural wetlands for agriculture elsewhere in northeastern California (especially the Klamath Basin). These wetlands freeze up in mid-winter and burst into life in summer, and occur in a mosaic with extensive grassland, sagebrush flats and large tracts of coniferous forest in this wild and virtually unpopulated corner of the state. Public lands dominate, with most of the Modoc Plateau managed as Modoc National Forest. Some of the more important breeding areas for wetland birds on the plateau include Big Sage Reservoir, Taylor Creek wetlands and Egg Lake.

Ornithological Summary

The wetlands of the Modoc Plateau boast the highest diversity of breeding waterfowl in the state, and if Common Loon were to be rediscovered breeding in California, the Modoc Plateau might be the most likely area. The network of small, marsh-edged ponds are productive for some of the largest concentrations of breeding Black Tern in the state (e.g. Boles Meadow, Widow Valley; Shuford et al. 2001), and support major state populations of Bufflehead, Sandhill Crane and Forster's Tern. Big Sage Reservoir was identified as having California's largest breeding colony of Ring-billed Gull in recent surveys (Shuford and Ryan 2000). The sagebrush scrub between Clear Lake and Big Sage Lake has been one of the last Greater Sage-Grouse strongholds (hundreds of birds) in the state, but even this population is apparently down to just a single lek (DS). The coniferous woods are distinctly northern, with Black-backed Woodpecker and Gray Jay nesting, but also contain Great Basin elements such as Juniper Titmouse.

Conservation Issues

Nearly all the land within this IBA falls under management of the Devil's Garden Ranger District of Modoc National Forest. Owing to its remoteness, it very lightly-used and considered secure at this time.

Ownership

Public lands dominate, with most of the Modoc Plateau managed as Modoc National Forest.

Habitat

This IBA encompasses the dozens of marshy reservoirs that dot the Modoc Plateau, a high, forested steppe in extreme northeastern California. Though many of the wetlands are somewhat artificial, being dammed streams constructed in the early 1900s to provide additional water for cattle and to improve waterfowl hunting, they have offset aspects of the destruction of natural wetlands for agriculture elsewhere in northeastern California (especially the Klamath Basin). These wetlands freeze up in mid-winter and burst into life in summer, and occur in a mosaic with extensive grassland, sagebrush flats and large tracts of coniferous forest in this wild and virtually unpopulated corner of the state.

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