This large IBA encompasses primarily all of the San Emigdio Mountains which run east to west between the Carrizo Plain to the west and the Techacapi Mountains to the east. The southern boundary of this IBA is formed by the San Andreas rift zone. Three primary protected parcels include Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge (14,700 acres) along the western end of the San Emigdio Mountains and extending into the San Joaquin Valley foothills of the (14,000 acres); Wind Wolves Preserve (97,000 acres) along the northern edge of the San Emigdio Mountains and the slopping hills to the San Joaquin Valley floor; and Fort Tejon State Historic Park (600 acres) on the eastern edge along the Grapevine, and bordering Tejon Ranch. The majority of the rest of the Techapcapi Mountains is owned by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. Habitat ranges from high elevation oak/pine forests, chaparral, mixed hardwood forest, and prairie.
The Wind Wolves Preserve, managed by the non-profit Wildlands Conservancy, protects the watersheds of several major streams, including San Emigdio Canyon, that flow into the San Joaquin Valley. As such, it is the site for rare megafauna, including Pronghorn, Tule Elk and California Condor. Its diverse habitats range from atriplex scrub and grassland on the valley floor at the base of the hills, through chaparral, pinyon-juniper woodland, oak woodland and finally yellow pine woodland on the highest peaks. Substantial areas of riparian woodland and freshwater marsh add diversity to this phenomenal area.
Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge ranges in elevation from 1,600 to 4,680 feet. Purchased to protect dwindling California condor foraging and roosting habitat in 1985, reintroduced condors today feed and roost on the refuge. In addition to the California condor, the Refuge provides habitat for other rare species in grassland, oak woodland, chaparral, pinion pine/juniper/oak woodland, and riparian and wetland habitat.
Within San Emigdio Canyon on Wind Wolves Preserve, one of the largest colonies of Tricolored Blackbirds in southern California breeds in its marshes, and the surrounding riparian growth supports breeding Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, Yellow Warbler and Yellow-breasted Chat, along with strong numbers of other riparian obligates. Least Bells Vireo have been heard singing (J. Grantham, 2008). Yellow-billed Cuckoo is expected to colonize at least San Emigdio Canyon, particularly with recent riparian restoration efforts (D. Clendenen, pers. comm.). The canyon also supports large numbers of spring migrants, especially during "fall outs" and species that have been observed include Swainson's Thrushes, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Western Tanagers, Blue Grosbeaks, Lazuli Buntings, Orange-crowned, Nashville, Yellow, and Wilson's Warblers, Cassin's and Warbling Vireos, and Bullock's Orioles.
The upper portions of these canyons support a rich foothill breeding bird community, which includes California Spotted Owl, and likely harbors several undescribed species of endemic salamanders (TNC 1998). The atriplex scrub at lower elevations supports breeding populations of Sage Sparrow (canescens race) and Brewer?s Sparrow. The grasslands on the lower slopes, some of the most extensive in southern California, support colonies of Grasshopper Sparrow and a large and diverse raptor population, including Burrowing Owl, Northern Harrier, Prairie Falcon and Golden Eagle, the latter also breeding in the surrounding hills. Owls on the property include Pygmy, Screech, Great Horned, Barn, and possibly Short-eared Owl (J. Grantham, pers. comm.. 2008)
Approximately 35 condors are using Wind Wolves now, for roosting and feeding (feeding sites are located on the Preserve). All condors also use Bittercreek National Wildlife Refuge. It is one of the Condor Recovery Program's major feeding site. Both sites are part of the historical range.
Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge is an integral part of the Service's condor monitoring activities. In addition to the California condor, the Bitter Creek Refuge provides grassland, oak woodland, chaparral, pinion pine/juniper/oak woodland, and riparian and wetland habitat for Federally-listed endangered San Joaquin kit fox, blunt-nosed leopard lizard, giant kangaroo rat, and species of Federal concern such as western spade foot toad, western horned lizard, and tri-colored blackbird. Other terrestrial species on the refuge include coyote, bobcat, mountain lion, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, tule elk, and western rattlesnake. A total of 119 bird species have been recorded on the refuge including 90 migratory species.
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Most of the San Emigdio Mountains are either privately or publicy protected so this IBA is for the most part secure.
The majority of this IBA is protected as the Wind Wolves Preserve.
Its diverse habitats range from atriplex scrub and grassland on the valley floor at the base of the hills, riparian habitat, through chaparral, pinyon-juniper woodland, oak woodland and finally yellow pine woodland on the highest peaks. Substantial areas of riparian woodland and freshwater marsh add diversity to this phenomenal area.