Text and photos from National Audubon Society IBA Database Site Profile
Sierra Meadows – Northern Site Description
This IBA refers to several distinct meadow systems in the northern Sierra Nevada, both north and south of Lake Tahoe:
- Yuba Pass Meadows, Sierra Co. (incl. Lavezola/Empire Ck. located north of Hwy. 49)
- Loney Meadow, Nevada Co. (north of Emigrant Gap/Hwy. 80)
- Upper Truckee Meadows, Sierra/Nevada Co. (incl. Perazzo and Kyburz meadows and Sagehen Creek;
- north of Truckee/Hwy. 80)
- Martis Ck./Alpine Meadows, Nevada/Placer Co. (southwest of Truckee/Hwy. 80)
- Kirkwood Meadows, Amador/Alpine Co. (along Hwy. 88 south of Lake Tahoe)
- Leavitt Meadows, Mono Co. (along Hwy. 108 west of Hwy. 395)
The Yuba Pass Meadows, with their lack of roads and old growth forest, have emerged as major conservation priorities for the Sierra Nevada (TB). All of these sites include USFS land dedicated to timber production and/or recreation, and several have a private component, such as an in-holding by developers (e.g. Kirkwood Meadows). Very little receives formal protection such as Wilderness Area status, and all but Loney Meadow are accessible by paved roads. The Yuba Pass Research Station (Sierra Nevada Field Campus of San Francisco State University) has been conducting research on the avifauna within this IBA for over a decade.
The meadows located along major Sierran highways, including Kyburz, Sagehen Creek, Martis Creek, Kirkwood and Leavitt receive the heaviest use, with Martis Creek and Kirkwood emerging as popular outdoor recreation destinations year round (hiking/camping in summer, cross-country skiing in winter). Recent proposals for vacation homes at Kirkwood Meadows could have major consequences for the more sensitive components of the bird community there, and recreation pressures on the other sites are expected to increase with development in the Tahoe Basin and the foothills east of Sacramento (fide T. Beedy). Summer grazing by cattle and logging in and around these meadows (including the removal of dead and dying trees) continue to be major conservation concerns within this IBA.
These meadows have two principal bird communities. First, there are the species that depend directly on the willow thickets for breeding and post-breeding dispersal. These include taxa such as Lincoln’s Sparrow, Wilson’s Warbler and Willow Flycatcher, with a large proportion of the world’s breeding brewsteri race of the flycatcher occurring within this IBA. There are also species that seem to concentrate nesting and foraging at the interface between meadow and forest, such as several species of owls, woodpeckers (especially Pileated) and flycatchers (e.g. Olive-sided). Nearly all of the characteristic Sierran taxa are found in and around these meadows, including Pine Grosbeak and Williamson’s Sapsucker. Kyburz Meadow stands out as supporting 1-2 pairs of Sandhill Crane and irregular nesting by Black Tern (DS).
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