Important Bird Areas

Mogollon Rim Snowmelt Draws

Arizona

Snowmelt Canyons flowing north from the Mogollon Rim on the Coconino and Apache Sitgreaves National Forests. East boundary is Chevlon Butte Road (FS Route 99); South boundary is the Rim Road (FS 300); West boundary is FR 147; North boundary is T12 1/2 North (Latitude 34 degrees 27? 49? N).
Coconino National Forest Snowmelt Canyons and side draws: Kehl, Miller, Hi Fuller, Crackerbox, General Springs, Box, Fred Haught, Bear, Maverick, Barbershop, Dane, Yeager, Leonard.
Apache-Sitgreaves Forest Snowmelt Canyons and side draws: Leonard, Gentry, Turkey Creek, Beaver, Bear, and Willow Creek.
The drainages are located within 8 km of the edge of the Mogollon Rim, an abrupt cliff that represents the southern extension of the Colorado Plateau. The edge of the rim has a narrow band of moist vegetation (e.g., maple) associated with greater precipitation formed by the upward deflection of air at the rim face. No history of fire in over 50 years in these drainages..22 snowmelt drainages located on the Mogollon Rim in central Arizona at ;2600 m elevation are part of a long term ecological study. Project Title: Effect of Climate Change on Population Trajectories and Trophic Interactions in a High Elevation Riparian Ecosystem Principal Investigator: Thomas E. Martin, USGS Montana
Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit.

Ornithological Summary

A significant breeding habitat in Arizona for species of conservation concern Olive-sided Flycatcher MacGillivray?s Warbler, Red-faced Warbler, Virginia?s Warbler, Grace's Warbler,
32 species of breeding birds have been studied for over 25 years by Dr. Tom Martin and associates. Nests of all species have been studied on 22 plots since 1985. Individuals of all bird species are counted on the same nine plots from mid-May to mid-June each year from 1985 through 2005. Bird abundance is standardized to numbers of pairs per the standard 625 m length across all plots.

A long-term study (since 1986) of a high elevation riparian ecosystem and bird community in north-central Arizona demonstrates complex effects of climate impacts on this ecosystem. Birds in this system also breed earlier in warmer years: However, earlier breeding did not affect demography of birds. Instead, other ecosystem responses to climate variation affected bird populations. Long-term declines in winter snowfall have been associated with a decline in deciduous trees because it influences over-winter presence of elk that overbrowse the habitat in winters with lower snowfall. Bird species, such as MacGillivary's Warbler, Red-faced Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, Hermit Thrush, and Green-tailed Towhee have declined in association with the loss of plants that represent their preferred habitat. In general, Virginia?s Warblers prefer xeric microhabitats dominated by locust high on slopes. Gray-headed Juncos prefer open grassy sites with an abundance of locust, indicating a tendency toward xeric sites. Red-faced Warblers prefer more mesic sites dominated by small firs and maple relatively low on the slope, and Orange-crowned Warblers prefer mesic microhabitats dominated by maple low on the slope (Martin 1998).
http://www.umt.edu/mcwru/personnel/martin/docs/ResearchProjectsDetails/C... accessed 06/30/2010

A general observation by Tom Martin, etal (1988) noted that numbers and species diversity was greater within the snowmelt draws than in the adjacent uplands.

Cavity-nesting bird breeding data from 22 snowmelt drainages located on the Mogollon Rim in central Arizona at 2600 m elevation. Pingjun Li and Thomas E. Martin. Nest-site selection and nesting success of cavity-nesting birds in high elevation forest drainages. The Auk 108: 405-418. April 1991.

Species Scientific Name building incubating feeding Total
Northern Flicker Colaptes auratus 6 (4/2/0) 9 (9/0/0) 22 (21/1/0) 37 (34/3/0)
Red-naped Sapsucker Sphyrapicus varius 6 (5/1/0) 7 (6/1/0) 7 (7/0/0) 20 (18/2/0)
Williamson's Sapsucker Sphyrapicus thryoides 6 (6/0/0) 16 (14/0/2) 14 (14/0/0) 36 (34/0/2)
Hairy Woodpecker Picoides villosus 1 (1/0/0) 2 (1/0/1) 5 (5/0/0) 8 (7/0/1)
Downy Woodpecker Picoides pubescens 1 (1/0/0) 1 (1/0/0) 1 (1/0/0) 3 (3/0/0)
Acorn Woodpecker Melanerpes formicivorus 3 (2/0/1) 6 (6/0/0) 4 (3/1/0) 13 (11/1/1)
Cordilleran Flycatcher Empidonax difficilisa 18 (5/2/11) 14 (4/1/9) 3 (3/0/0) 35 (12/3/20)
Mountain Chickadee Parus gambeli 7 (2/0/5) 7 ( 4/1/2) 15 (15/0/0) 29 (21/1/7)
White-breasted Nuthatch Sitta carolinensis 0 (0/0/0) 4 (1/1/2) 6 (5/0/1) 10 (6/1/3)
Red-breasted Nuthatch Sitta canadensis 6 (3/1/2) 6 (3/2/1) 2 (2/0/0) 14 (8/3/3)
Pygmy Nuthatch Sitta pygmaea 5 (4/0/1) 4 (3/0/1) 9 (9/0/0) 18 (16/0/2)
Brown Creeper Certhia americana 2 (1/0/1) 0 (0/0/0) 3 (3/0/0) 5 (4/0/1)
House Wren Troglodytes aedon 53(35/3/15) 26 (18/2/6) 41 (41/0/0) 120(94/5/21)
Western Bluebird Sialia mexicana 1(0/0/1) 4 (3/0/1) 3(3/0/0) 8(6/0/2)
We found 356 nests, including 140 in 1987, 119 in 1988, and 97 in 1989

?Aspen was heavily selected as the tree species for cavity nesters. 100% for downy, hairy and acorn woodpeckers, western bluebird and red-naped sapsucker. Maples were second in preference and third were conifer species. Cavity-nesting species on our study sites con- sistently chose nest patches with more aspen snags, live aspens, and large conifers than there were on random plots. The tendency to choose patches with more aspens may reflect choice of patches with more potential nest sites, as aspens provided 88% of all nest sites. The general importance of the abundance of nest sites provided by aspen is indicated by the extremely diverse (14 species) assemblage of cavity nesters that existed on these sites where conifer snags were rare.?

Conservation Issues

Large herbivores have been found to impact a variety of systems, and aspen in the western North America seems particularly susceptible. Other important deciduous plants also appear to get hit hard by large herbivores. Maple, locust, aspen and other deciduous plants have declined dramatically in this high elevation (7800' elev) snowmelt drainages riparian system. Aspen has had ZERO recruitment for at least 50 years in these drainages. The decline in these plants and lack of recruitment may also be influenced by climate change, which is also being studied. To separate browsing and climate effects on this ecosystem, a large-scale experiment was initiated in the summer of 2004. Entire drainages of 9 ha (600 m long by 150 m wide) were fenced to exclude elk and deer. Study plots are snowmelt drainages that drain from ridges into canyons.

Ownership

Coconino and Apache Sitgreaves National Forests. East boundary is Chevlon Butte Road (FS Route 99); South boundary is the Rim Road (FS 300); West boundary is FR 147; North boundary is T12 1/2 North (Latitude 34 degrees 27? 49? N).

Habitat

Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), white fir (Abies concolor), Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), southwestern white pine (Pinus strobiformis), quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), and Gambel?s oak (Quercus gambelii). Young plants of these canopy trees, plus canyon maple (Acer grandidentatum) and New Mexico locust (Robinia neomexicana) dominate the understory woody species. The drainage areas contrast with surrounding forest, which is primarily ponderosa pine with Gambel oak in the subcanopy and little understory vegetation.
The drainages are located within 8 km of the edge of the Mogollon Rim, an abrupt cliff that represents the southern extension of the Colorado Plateau. The edge of the rim has a narrow band of moist vegetation (e.g., maple) in the north flowing draws.