Important Bird Areas

Salt Spring Valley

California

The Salt Spring Valley is located due east of Stockton at the base of the Sierra foothills, separated from the rest of the Central Valley by a low, northwest-southeast-trending range covered with oak woodland (Gopher Ridge). It features extensive, level grassland dotted with large oaks, as well as several small drainages with riparian thickets and about 500 acres of vernal pools (TNC 1998). In the center of the valley, the Salt Spring Valley Reservoir is a typical Sierra foothill reservoir, managed for water storage and active recreation (not to be confused with the Salt Springs Reservoir along the Mokelumne River).

Ornithological Summary

The Copperopolis area may be a center of abundance for the remaining resident Burrowing Owl in the central Sierra Foothills (fide K. Brunges), and supports nesting Loggerhead Shrike, which has also declined sharply recently in the foothills. As with many remnant valley grasslands, the wintering raptor community is diverse. Salt Spring Reservoir receives little coverage by birders, but was recently found to support extremely high numbers of Pied-billed Grebe in late fall (e.g. >400 birds in Nov. 1999, JL).

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Conservation Issues

Currently, this area sits in the middle of a wide swath of wild open habitat up into the Sierras from the valley floor (via San Andreas and Angels Camp), which is likely to emerge as an important habitat corridor as the foothills develop further. This portion of the foothills (including the Copperopolis area) is experiencing a surge in development of sprawling "active retirement communities", with associated mansions and golf courses. Though the entire area is grazed, much of the Salt Spring Valley is still owned by a single ranching family who have shown concern for keeping the area attractive to wildlife (JL).

Ownership

Much of the Salt Spring Valley is still owned by a single ranching family.

Habitat

The Salt Spring Valley is separated from the rest of the Central Valley by a low, northwest-southeast-trending range covered with oak woodland (Gopher Ridge). It features extensive, level grassland dotted with large oaks, as well as several small drainages with riparian thickets and about 500 acres of vernal pools (TNC 1998). In the center of the valley is the Salt Spring Valley Reservoir.