Last Friday, February 1st, a few snowflakes began to fall as we were leaving work for the day. Anticipating the forecasted storm, Mono Lake Committee staff hurried home to make sure woodpiles were covered and houses were ready for “the big storm.” And what a storm it was!
It started out slow, with only 4 inches of wet heavy snow falling overnight, but by Sunday, the temperatures had dropped and 9 more inches of dry fluffy snow had (more…)
With the winter solstice behind us, winter has officially begun and the days are getting longer! Join us here at Mono Lake for the Winter Ecology field seminar on February 9, 2019 for a guided trip into the mysteries of the winter season.
We’ve had a few winter storms already and we are hoping for lots more! Winter is a unique time to visit the Mono Basin—it’s a time for quiet solitude and reflection, for exploring curiosities on a smaller scale than during the bustle of summer.
One question I hear people ask a lot is “what do animals and birds do to survive in the winter when snow covers the ground or it is so cold that we humans need to add several extra layers to stay warm enough?” (more…)
Each winter, tens of thousands of people get together all over the Western Hemisphere and count birds in what is possibly the largest community-science project in the world. The Christmas Bird Count, or CBC, has been going on for 118 years—the 2018–2019 season is the 119th CBC!
Last year, people tallied over 56 million individual birds during the count window. These counts help show trends in bird populations (more…)
Last week, diners at Epic Cafe at the south end of town observed a red fox running through the cafe’s lawn at night, sniffing for scraps dropped by messy eaters.
Not only is this stunning creature beautiful for visitors to observe, it is also quite rare in the area and the sighting sparked the interest of local agencies, including Yosemite National Park and the California Department of Fish & Wildlife. It has the potential to be an extremely rare Sierra Nevada red fox (Vulpes vulpes necator), a subspecies of the more widespread red fox (Vulpes vulpes). It could also be a non-native subspecies with Great Basin or fur farm ancestry. The only way to tell for sure is to gather genetic data—either fur or scat. (more…)
We had our first few fall color trips of the year this past week, and it is beyond gorgeous out there! The higher elevations (8,500′–10,000′) have some beautiful patches of red, yellow, and orange groves, and we just got dusted with the first snow of the season on tall peaks along the crest. Now the color is moving down the slopes—the canyons and creeks in the Mono Basin will be glowing in the next two weeks.
Want to learn more about the science behind fall colors and the natural history of these amazing trees that paint our mountains gold and crimson in the fall? Come join me on our Fall Color Foray field seminars and experience them for yourself—October 11 and 15, 8:00am to 12:00noon. I am also available for custom fall color tours to take you to the best spots for viewing and photography. (more…)
The summer is waning, the canyons are quieting down, birds have reared their chicks, and the young are independent as they prepare to head south to warmer climes for the winter. The Eastern Sierra is a great place to bird at this time, as the higher-elevation migrants move down to the lower basins and the birds from farther north pass through this corridor on their journey south.
There is space available in two amazing field seminars next week; now is your chance to watch the birds as they begin an incredible migration that will take many of them thousands of miles. Falling for the Migration: Bridgeport Valley & Mono Basin is August 16–17, and its partner seminar, Falling for the Migration: Crowley, Mammoth, Mono is August 18–19. You can sign up here or visit our field seminar page for more information.
Beginners as well as experts will enjoy these (more…)
On Monday, in the midst of a fiercely cold and windy snow storm, a traveling couple found an Eared Grebe in a snowbank on the side of Highway 395 near Deadman Summit. These compassionate souls scooped the small bird up into a towel and emptied their lunch out of their cooler and placed the bird inside. They drove on and brought the little guy into the Mono Lake Committee Information Center & Bookstore to ask for our advice.
Luckily, this is not our first rodeo. We know that Eared Grebes often try to land on wet asphalt because it reflects light and resembles a body of water. Perhaps it was too windy for this poor flyer to stay in the sky on his way north to his breeding grounds. (more…)
Dust off your field guides and get ready to welcome the birds back to their summer breeding grounds! The seventeenth annual Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua is June 15–17 this year.
This year’s event boasts one hundred exciting field trips, workshops, and presentations. We are also excited to announce the return of esteemed artist and naturalist John Muir Laws, who will be giving a presentation about how to think like a naturalist, as well as multiple drawing workshops and field trips.
Remember, the Chautauqua supports bird research and conservation in the Eastern Sierra, so you can feel good about celebrating the rich diversity of birds of this region with field trips, friends, and fun!
Registration opens Sunday, April 15 at 6:30am. We encourage you to register online at that time if you have particular events you’d like to attend, as many classes fill almost instantaneously.
We hope to see you at the Chautauqua this year!
Learning about the creatures that share our environment clearly enhances our experiences in the outdoors. It helps us notice more interactions as we explore and often paints a picture of what goes on when we are absent, exhibiting the mystery of life away from human eyes. I recently ventured out into the dunes on the north shore of Mono Lake to brush up on my knowledge of mammal tracks and immerse myself in the world of rabbits, kangaroo rats, and coyotes.
A common Mono Basin track is that of the Black-tailed Jackrabbit. These hares inhabit the sagebrush and dunes of the high desert, though they are widespread and found in many other habitats in North America as well. Often you don’t notice them until they shoot out from the next bush over, scaring the daylights out of you, and you just get to see their dark tail disappearing into the maze of brush in an instant. Their tracks are (more…)