Silver Creek is a biologically rich and unique area. It is known as one of the best examples in the United States of how a watershed, surrounded primarily by private lands, can be preserved for the benefit of the environment, agriculture, and recreation. Silver Creek lies in a broad agricultural valley at the base of the Picabo Hills, and the site encompasses the headwaters of Silver Creek, a world-renowned fly fishing stream containing rainbow trout. Although the Silver Creek site is renowned for its fishery, the watershed also harbors a significant number of rare and unique plants, animals, and natural communities. This site is visited by over 150 species of birds annually, and provides critical habitat for large populations of waterbirds, migratory songbirds, and raptors.

Ornithological Summary

Many species of concern are found here, Trumpeter Swan. Bald Eagle, American White Pelican, Northern Goshawk, Peregrine Falcon, Black Tern, Burrowing Owl, and Loggerhead Shrike. There are breeding waterfowl (Canada Goose, Mallard, Green-winged Teal, Common Merganser), waterbirds (Sandhill Crane, American Coot, Ring-billed Gull, California Gull), and shorebirds (Killdeer, Long-billed Curlew, Spotted Sandpiper, Wilson?s Phalarope, Wilson?s Snipe). During migration there are multiple species of waterfowl, and during spring migration one may also see Long-billed Dowitchers, Willets, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Solitary Sandpipers, and American Avocets.

Conservation Issues

Water quality and quantity is a concern at this site, as the surrounding areas are being developed. Areas in close proximity are developing rapidly, which affects the water usage and water recharge areas. The preserve itself is protected from development, and there are many conservation easements in place surrounding the preserve.

Habitat

Silver Creek is considered a premier example of a high-desert cold springs aquatic community. Silver Creek?s constant flows, predictable year-round temperature (typically 40-60F), low gradient (<1%), alkaline chemistry (pH 8-9) and high mineral content are the primary abiotic factors which give rise to its unique biology and species richness. Silver Creek is in what was a formerly sagebrush/grass zone, but agricultural use dating back several decades has altered the native vegetation. A large portion of the valley is planted in barley and alfalfa. Artemisia tridentata and Artemisia tripartita dominate several areas of higher ground and adjacent hillsides. Emergent wetlands containing bulrush, cattail, and sedges alternate along stream channels with willows and birch. Shrubby cinquefoil shrublands and sedge dominated grasslands (dominated by small beaked sedge, clustered field sedge, and cusick?s sedge) are present in spring-fed meadows that have not been converted to agricultural use. Aspen stands are present in swamps on what may formerly have been spring heads. Thickets of wild rose are of occasional occurrence on drier ground on the valley floor. A large wetland complex is present near the confluence of Stalker Creek and Patton Creek. The complex includes open water, emergent wetlands dominated by bulrush and cattails, and seeps dominated by beaked spike rush, alkali cordgrass, and shrubby cinquefoil with significant amounts of alkali bluegrass.

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