This IBA is located within the city limits of Prescott, AZ at 5100 ft. elevation. It occurs in two sections, Watson Lake east of Highway 89 and Willow Lake west of Highway 89. the immediate surrounding uplands, and 2 miles of Granite Creek flowing into Watson Lake. Prescott Audubon Society is the steward for this IBA. www.prescottaudubon.org Dedication Event was April 16, 2011 as part of the first annual Get Out..Get Into It Nature and Outdoor Festival.
Ornithological Summary: These two lakes are most notable for the number of waterfowl they support during the migration periods and during the winter period. These lakes are particularly important to large numbers of waterfowl and shorebirds during the fall passage. In wet years waterfowl numbers can exceed 5000 birds at one time, notably abundant are Northern Pintails and Northern Shovelers. Shorebird numbers in fall passage can exceed greater than 300 birds, comprised of Black-necked Stilts and American Avocets. White-faced Ibis and Forester?s Tern also regularly occur in the fall passage, and Marbled Godwits occur in the spring passage period. There are no other comparable lake systems within a distance of 200-300 miles east and west, and 60 to 150 miles north and south, thus indicating the importance of the lakes ecosystem as stop-over feeding and resting site for these migrants. Ruddy and Ring-necked Ducks and Common Merganser over-winter in this lake system in large numbers. Bald Eagles are also present (4-10 individuals) during the winter period, finding available prey among the waterfowl flocks. Wood Duck (approximately 50 pairs) are notable breeders within the two lakes ecosystem. There are Great Blue Heron and Double-crested Cormorant rookeries at Willow Lake as well. The riparian area is small, but supports breeding Yellow Warbler in abundance, and nesting Green Heron.
The City of Prescott has implemented some regulations regarding recreational use of the two lakes, most notably a ?no wake? regulation on Watson Lake with limited horsepower motors. Kayaking is the only boating allowed on Willow Lake. Kayakers do disturb the waterfowl in the winter, but this is intermittent, and the birds seem to stay in spite of these disturbances.
Prescott Creeks is currently restoring Watson Woods Riparian Preserve just south of Watson Lake and a part of this IBA. As part of the restoration project, avian monitoring is ongoing throughout the year. Data is submitted to the Arizona IBA program website. The website for Prescott Creeks is www.prescottcreeks.org.
Managed b the Town of Prescott as recreational lakes and natural areas. Prescott Creeks is a local nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection of the ecological integrity of the Granite Creek Watershed riparian systems and associated wetlands through conservation, restoration and education.
The riparian habitat is Fremont cottonwood gallery intermixed with Goodding willow, Arizona Ash, and seep willow. The uplands are Arizona desert grassland, with granite monoliths with scattered Pinyon pine. Three species of cottonwood are present Populus fremontii, P. angustifolia, and P. hinckleyana. Other vegetation within the IBA has yet to be fully documented, but will be completed during an avian and vegetation inventory conducted in 2004. There is a perennial pond within the preserve, bordered by lush riparian habitat as well. The open water of the lakes totals approximately 440 acres.
The lakes are water supply storage for the City of Prescott. Recreation use is primarily non-motorized boating, hiking, biking, and bird watching. Watson Lake and Woods include a developed hiking and biking trail that follows the granite Creek drainage.