Important Bird Areas

San Pasqual Valley - Lake Hodges

California

The San Pasqual Valley refers to the lower Santa Ysabel Creek drainage east of the city of Escondido, including a portion of the upper San Dieguito River. Aside from the high-quality riparian woodland along the creek, it still features large tracts of Diegan Coastal Sage Scrub, grassland, and patches of oak woodland. The San Diego Wild Animal Park, essentially a large zoo without cages, protects hundreds of acres of lush coastal sage scrub and several ponds that have become attractive to nesting waterbirds.

Ornithological Summary

The San Pasqual Valley is one of the most significant lowland riparian habitats in Southern California, supporting about 150 pairs of Least Bell's Vireo and 2-4 pairs of Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, along with strong numbers of other lowland riparian breeders. This valley is also one of three locales in the bioregion with recent records of summering Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Santa Clara River and Prado Basin being the others), suggesting their reestablishment as a nester in the future. The open habitat in the valley is well-used by coastal sage scrub species, and, together with the grassland, appear to be important for wintering raptors, positioned between two other major San Diego raptor areas, Pamo Valley and Ramona Grasslands. Of local interest, the ponds at the San Diego Wild Animal Park support rookeries of all the colonial waders, including one of the few rookeries of Great Egret in southern California.

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Conservation Issues

Like the San Luis Rey River IBA, the San Pasqual Valley area has seen proposals for resort hotels and associated development to support the region's growing popularity as an Indian Gaming area. While the open space surrounding the lake is reasonably secure from development, problems associated with unchecked active recreation must be addressed to ensure the persistence of its sensitive species. At Lake Hodges, W. Pray (in litt.) recommends increased visitor education and ranger activity to manage unauthorized OHV use (a very popular activity in San Diego Co.), which has degraded large areas of the coastal sage scrub through direct contact and by igniting fires. It would also encourage dog-owners to keep pets leashed, particularly during the nesting season near sensitive habitats such as freshwater marsh and coastal sage scrub.

Ownership

Portions of this IBA are owned by The San Diego Wild Animal Park and the City of San Diego Lake Hodges.

Habitat

The San Pasqual Valley includes to the lower Santa Ysabel Creek drainage east of the city of Escondido, including a portion of the upper San Dieguito River. This IBA also encompasses the Lake Hodges area just to the west, which extends along the south side of Escondido west of I-15. Lake Hodges is one of several large (>1000-acre) reservoirs in San Diego County, and is surrounded by 2350 acres of coastal sage scrub and grassland, 500 acres of chaparral, and smaller amounts of oak woodland, riparian woodland and freshwater marsh. Nearby Kit Carson Park (just northeast of the reservoir) supports a similar array of habitats, and seems to be more of a migrant hotspot, particularly during April and May. Aside from the high-quality riparian woodland along the in the area, it still features large tracts of Diegan Coastal Sage Scrub, grassland, and patches of oak woodland. The San Diego Wild Animal Park, essentially a large zoo without cages, protects hundreds of acres of lush coastal sage scrub and several ponds that have become attractive to nesting waterbirds.

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