This IBA lies along Hwy. 101 north of the Cuesta Grade, a high ridge between San Luis Obispo and Atascadero. Encompassing the headwaters of the Salinas River (Santa Margarita Lake), it features low, rolling hills cloaked with Blue and Valley oak savannah, extensive grassland, and numerous riparian draws, particularly Trout Creek, with massive Western Sycamores.

Ornithological Summary

The species of this IBA represent a diverse mix of lowland and foothill species, many of which become rare in southern and central California, including breeding Sharp-shinned Hawk, Wood Duck and Purple Martin. Cassin's, Warbling and Hutton's vireos coexist in riparian areas, which also support Yellow Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, and a Great Blue Heron Rookery. Bald Eagle nest regularly at Santa Margarita Lake, and Osprey, Golden Eagle and Peregrine Falcon are regularly observed in the area and considered likely nesting around the lake. Clarks and Western Grebes both nest on the lake. In 2008, 40 nests were observed in one cove alone. Pied-billed Grebes also nest and Eared Grebes occur in winter.

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Conservation Issues

This IBA is dominated by private lands in a rapidly-urbanizing region. As developers buy up sprawling ranches that are no longer economically successful, a typical scenario would involve a ranch subdivided into 20-acre lots with a dream house on the highest point, surrounded by sterile, newly-installed vineyards. Sprawling, "planned communities" have already begun appearing in the area, resulting in massive habitat alteration, particularly along creeks. An immediate concern is the potential development of portions of Santa Margarita Ranch. A concerted regional planning effort is needed to identify, protect, and link the most ecologically sensitive areas in and around this IBA.

Ownership

This IBA is dominated by private lands in a rapidly-urbanizing region.

Habitat

This IBA lies along Hwy. 101 north of the Cuesta Grade, a high ridge between San Luis Obispo and Atascadero. Encompassing the headwaters of the Salinas River, it features low, rolling hills cloaked with Blue and Valley oak savannah, extensive grassland, and numerous riparian draws with massive Western Sycamores.

Forested Upland - deciduous forest oak: refers to Valley Oak

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