The Point Mugu area, located along the coast halfway between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, is dominated by the western end of the Santa Monica Mountains terminating in Mugu Rock, a large block of sandstone on the western side of Pacific Coast Highway. The important bird habitats include two estuaries, Mugu Lagoon (c. 2000 acres) at the mouth of Calleguas Creek, and remnant saltmarsh habitat at Ormond Beach (c. 200 acres) farther up the coast. The former is the largest coastal estuary between Morro Bay (San Luis Obispo Co.) and Bolsa Chica Lagoon (Orange Co.). A long, sandy barrier island connects the two wetlands, which runs the length of the Pacific Weapons Station Point Mugu (DoD). Just inland is the broad coastal plain known as the Oxnard Plain, which is bounded by Port Hueneme, Oxnard and Camarillo. These rich agricultural fields are planted with sod, strawberries, and other low-growing crops that are regularly flooded. Scattered windbreaks of eucalyptus and tamarisk dot the landscape, which is quickly losing ground to urbanization (mainly big box warehouses) from the north and west. The interface of the plain and the estuaries features several freshwater ponds, the largest ones managed for waterfowl as two private duck-hunting clubs, one of the last in southern California. Finally, a small portion of the western Santa Monica Mtns. falls within the boundary of the weapons station, including some excellent, cactus-rich coastal sage scrub.

Updated by Ventura Audubon, April 2008

Ornithological Summary

Mugu Lagoon is one of the key coastal wetlands in the state, supporting over 60,000 shorebirds each spring, up to 10,000 in winter (Page and Shuford 2000), and thousands of ducks during migration and winter. One of the world's largest populations of Belding's Savannah Sparrow is found here (400 pr., California Department of Fish and Game 2000), among all the expected southern California saltmarsh and coastal breeders, including the farthest-north remaining population of Light-footed Clapper Rail. Peregrine Falcon has recently become regular into early summer, causing speculation that a pair may be nesting in the nearby Santa Monica Mtns. (T. Keeney, via email). The lagoon supports the largest remaining natural Brown Pelican roosting area (non-breeders) in southwestern California (Jaques et al. 1996). The Oxnard Plain is also important for migrating shorebirds, particularly in fall, when hundreds may be seen foraging in the fields when tidal fluctuations push them out of the mudflats along the coast. The agricultural fields (esp. the sod farms) are one of just four regular wintering areas for Pacific Golden-Plover in the state, and the scattered windbreaks are often filled with migrant songbirds in September and October. Like Goleta Point in Santa Barbara Co. (see Goleta Coast IBA), tens of thousands of seabirds stream north past Mugu Rock just south of Mugu Lagoon each spring.

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Conservation Issues

This IBA is being seriously encroached upon by "big box" warehouses and residential developments from the north and west. A recent shift in philosophy within the DoD has resulted in the Navy's investigating major changes to Mugu Lagoon and the surrounding wetlands in hopes of minimizing the chances of collisions between birds and aircraft (KG). While some key bird habitats along the immediate coast are receiving much-needed attention from conservation groups like the Coastal Conservancy, the Nature Conservancy and Ventura Audubon (e.g. Ormond Beach), others just inland are receiving virtually none (e.g. agricultural fields). Agricultural easements should be explored to halt the conversion of open space to urban use, and the existing open-space connections between coastal wetlands, the Oxnard Plain and the vast Santa Monica Mountains (see Point Mugu State Park below) should be maintained. Now essentially an urban area, human disturbance to species, particularly at the remaining wetlands remain high.

Ownership

The estuaries are owned by Department of Defense and upland of the estuary, the plain is scattered with agricultural fields and encroaching development.

Habitat

The important bird habitats include two estuaries, Mugu Lagoon (c. 2000 acres) at the mouth of Calleguas Creek, and remnant saltmarsh habitat at Ormond Beach (c. 200 acres) farther up the coast. A long, sandy barrier island connects the two wetlands. Just inland is the broad coastal plain known as the Oxnard Plain, which is bounded by Port Hueneme, Oxnard and Camarillo. These rich agricultural fields are planted with sod, strawberries, and other low-growing crops that are regularly flooded. Scattered windbreaks of eucalyptus and tamarisk dot the landscape. Finally, a small portion of the western Santa Monica Mtns. falls within the boundary of the weapons station, including some excellent, cactus-rich coastal sage scrub.