The Upper Santa Ynez River Watershed lies within the Southern Coast Range directly north of Santa Barbara. The area is characterized by strips of riparian vegetation winding through dense chaparral and patches of oak woodland, with pinyon-juniper stands in the Mono Creek area. Ironically, some of the best-developed riparian habitat here occurs in association with Gibraltar Reservoir, where draw down areas provide the fluctuation of water necessary to support dense stands of willows. Rugged hills extend up to 4500' both north and south of the river in this IBA, which is wholly included in Los Padres National Forest.

Updated September 2008

Ornithological Summary

The willow riparian habitat of the upper Santa Ynez and Mono Creek supports the northernmost large population of Least Bell's Vireos in California, with up to +/- 10 pairs pairs regularly breeding, as well as a handful of Southwestern Willow Flycatchers. An estimated 11 pairs of California Spotted Owl are known from the watershed (JG). Other localized taxa occurring here that were historically more common in California include nesting Common Merganser (irregular; southernmost breeding area in state, No. Lake Piru had several pairs in 2005 (Surveys for UWCD of Santa Paula, CA and J. Greaves pers. comm.), Long-eared Owl and Bell's Sage Sparrow. More than 5000 ducks and grebes winter on the open water of Gibraltar Reservoir. Like other areas with extensive riparian habitat at middle elevations (e.g. Lopez Lake Area) this IBA supports a large diversity of breeding birds, including 4 species of vireo (Bell's, Cassin's, Hutton's and Warbling). Finally, long-term research conducted on Least Bell's Vireo on the site has been widely used to manage this and other sensitive riparian species throughout the western U.S.

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Conservation Issues

Cowbird control, "intermittently applied" by the USFS from 1989 to 1994 (fide J. Greaves) was apparently necessary for the persistence of nesting songbirds within this IBA. Efforts by the USFS to eradicate exotic species (e.g. tamarisk, bullfrogs) from the drainage should also be encouraged.

Ownership

The majority of this IBA is contained within the Los Padres National Forest.

Habitat

The Upper Santa Ynez River Watershed lies within the Southern Coast Range directly north of Santa Barbara. The area is characterized by strips of riparian vegetation winding through dense chaparral and patches of oak woodland, with pinyon-juniper stands in the Mono Creek area. Ironically, some of the best-developed riparian habitat here occurs in association with Gibraltar Reservoir, where draw down areas provide the fluctuation of water necessary to support dense stands of willows.

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