IBA Megin, Moyeha, Watta and Pretty Girl Watersheds
Hot Springs Cove, British Columbia
Site Summary
BC081 Latitude
49.496° N
125.980° W
0 - 1,500 m
538.85 km²
coniferous forest (boreal/alpine), alpine grassland, rivers/streams
Land Use:
Nature conservation and research, Forestry
Potential or ongoing Threats:
IBA Criteria: Nationally Significant: Threatened Species
Conservation status: Provincial Park (including Marine)
Restricted access for IBA coordinators
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Site Description
The Megin, Moyeha, Watta and Pretty Girl river watersheds are adjacent watersheds on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Clayoquot Sound is about 20 km to the south. The larger Megin and Moyeha river watersheds extend about 15 to 20 kilometres inland.

Western Hemlock dominates the forest in the lowest vegetation zone, although Sitka Spruce forms a narrow belt adjacent to the ocean. Western Redcedar at lower elevations and Yellow Cedar at higher elevations are common tree species, while Amabilis Fir, Shore Pine and Red Alder also occur. At sub-alpine elevations Subalpine Fir, Mountain Hemlock and Creeping Juniper are the common conifers.

This and three other forested sites on Vancouver Island in British Columbia have been identified as IBAs for breeding Marbled Murrelets (a nationally threatened species) even though it is still uncertain whether these are the best Canadian sites for the species. Given the state of the information at this time (early 2001) it appears that these sites are probably amongst the highest quality sites, but others may be equally as good, or better. Since the species is very difficult to survey, the habitats and favoured breeding areas are poorly known. The IBA includes the whole of each watershed because Marbled Murrelets may breed in both low and high elevation areas, although most researchers believe that lower elevation forests are preferred.

In 1991, surveys were conducted at 140 sites throughout Vancouver Island. These surveys used visual and auditory detections to assess the use of an area by breeding season Marbled Murrelets. Although this method does not give population estimates and is a somewhat weak method it does give some idea of the comparative use of areas. Detection surveys in the Megin River portion of the site in 1991 recorded 46 detections.

Between 1996 and 1998, University of Victoria and BC Ministry of the Environment researchers conducted radar surveys of a large section of western Vancouver Island located between Hesquiat Peninsula and the Kennedy River. These radar surveys are thought to be more accurate than the detection surveys as they record all the birds flying into a watershed at dawn. There is still uncertainty over whether all birds detected are using the associated watershed, but most are believed to be. Parts of the province with less steep topography than at this site can not be surveyed accurately using the radar survey method.

During the 1996 to 1998 radar surveys an average (average within each three years averaged) of 1,737 Marbled Murrelets were recorded on dawn surveys. This is about 3% of the Canadian population of the species. A maximum one-day count of 755 birds were recorded in the Moyeha watershed alone, and a maximum of 899 birds were recorded at the Watta station (which includes the east portion of the Megin River). Also, a crude density estimate (number of birds/area of watershed) results in the Pretty Creek watershed having the second highest density of murrelets out of the twenty watersheds surveyed by the researchers. It should also be noted that it is not known what portion of murrelets recorded in the radar surveys are actively breeding birds.

IBA Criteria
SpeciesT | A | I Links Date Season Number G C N
Marbled Murrelet 1991 - 1997 SU 46 - 1,737
Western Screech-Owl 1992 FA 1
Note: species shown in bold indicate that the maximum number exceeds at least one of the IBA thresholds (sub-regional, regional or global). The site may still not qualify for that level of IBA if the maximum number reflects an exceptional or historical occurrence.
Conservation Issues
Almost all of the Megin and Moyeha river watersheds are within Strathcona Provincial Park, and thus will not be logged. The smaller watersheds of the Pretty Girl River and north Watta River are outside the park.

The IBA Program is an international conservation initiative coordinated by BirdLife International. The Canadian co-partners for the IBA Program are Birds Canada and Nature Canada.
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