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The Mono-logue » Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide

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Returning a rescued Eared Grebe to Mono Lake

Thursday, April 19th, 2018 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide
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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.

This male Eared Grebe in breeding plumage had flown into a snowbank, but was uninjured. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

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…)

Seventeenth Annual Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua

Monday, March 19th, 2018 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide
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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.

Woodhouse’s Scrub-jay perched on a pinyon pine. Photo by Nora Livingston.

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!

The program information and grid schedule are all posted online, so it’s time to start planning your weekend. Hotels fill up quickly in the summer, so we recommend booking as early as possible.

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!

Tracks in the sand north of Mono Lake

Friday, February 16th, 2018 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide
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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.

Black-tailed Jackrabbit prints (hopping leftwards). Larger hind prints on the left, smaller staggered fore prints to the right. Photos by Nora Livingston.

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…)

Winter birding in Bridgeport

Monday, January 22nd, 2018 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide
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Just north of the Mono Basin lies a wide golden valley with a glittering half-frozen reservoir edged up against a pinyon pine forest. Winter is a fantastic time to look for birds in Bridgeport, and this winter in particular has drawn in some rare birds. The reservoir is packed with ducks like Redheads, Northern Shovelers, and Common Goldeneyes.

A half-iced-over Bridgeport Reservoir reflects the snowy Sierra Nevada, including Matterhorn Peak and the Sawtooth Ridge. Photo by Nora Livingston.

In December, the reservoir was just beginning to freeze over and the ice edge provided a perch for gulls to stand, or nap, without bobbing up in down in the cold water. A rare Black-legged Kittiwake spent almost two weeks (more…)

It’s Christmas Bird Count week!

Thursday, December 14th, 2017 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide
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Whether you are a seasoned birder or new to the delightful joy of watching birds, you can help gather data for the Christmas Bird Count, one of the largest citizen science data sets in the world! Every December and January, thousands of bird enthusiasts across the world count individual birds in specific areas to get a general idea of the population shifts throughout the years.

An Audubon’s Warbler in winter plumage. Photo by Santiago Escruceria.

The three local counts are coming up this weekend and next week:

Bishop CBC: Saturday, December 16
Contact Chris Howard by email.

Mammoth Lakes CBC: Sunday, December 17
Contact Santiago Escruceria by email.

Mono Lake CBC: Tuesday, December 19
Contact Kristie Nelson by email.

Do you want to volunteer where you live? The National Audubon Society has a stellar map to show you where all the count circles are and who to contact. If you’re not great at bird identification, you can help by taking notes and keeping track of numbers. You will be assigned to an experienced birder so you can learn a lot along the way.

The weather is looking cold and dry, so the counts will be accessible by hiking rather than snowshoes or cross country skis like in years past. Happy birding!

The Season Seldom Seen: Winter Ecology of the Mono Basin

Tuesday, December 12th, 2017 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide
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Have you ever wondered where all the tiny chipmunks that skitter up the lodgepole pines all summer go when the landscape is covered with several feet of snow? Or how they could possibly survive the cold temperatures and lack of food for months on end? What about how plants bounce back after being buried in snow? This winter we are excited to offer a new Field Seminar focusing on these questions and more!

A view of Mono Lake and the White Mountains from Lundy Canyon in January 2017. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

The Season Seldom Seen: Winter Ecology of the Mono Basin will investigate the connections plants and animals have with their winter environments in addition to what factors cause winter in the first place. Winter ecology reveals a new side of animal and plant life that is invisible until (more…)

Fall splendor in the Mono Basin

Wednesday, October 4th, 2017 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide
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Color starting to creep in at Walker Creek on October 3, 2017. Photo by Nora Livingston.

The fall colors are really starting to happen in the Mono Basin! We offer Fall Color Foray half-day field seminars where we guide you to groves with peak color, plus discuss aspen ecology and the science behind changing colors. Don’t miss it—we have two seminars left.

Check out the itinerary for the October 12 seminar.

Check out the itinerary for the October 16 seminar.

Sign up for either seminar here! More fall color photos after the jump…. (more…)

Mono Basin fall colors are just around the corner

Sunday, September 17th, 2017 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide
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I saw my first yellow leaves the other day, just a few golden specks fluttering amidst a sea of vibrant green along the June Lake Loop, and it got me very excited for fall.

Leaves are just starting to change from green to yellow and red. Photo by Nora Livingston.

Fall is perhaps my favorite time of year in the Mono Basin. It’s like the whole ecosystem relaxes, it takes a deep breath after the constant rush of summer and lets it all go. The air is crisp and clear, the sagebrush sea becomes silent after its birds have flown south, the aspen leaves flutter gold, and the clouds put on spectacular broody shows most evenings.

Each week in fall is unique because of the changing leaves in each individual canyon and hilltop—one week they are still lime green, the next they may be neon yellow, the next buttercream with ruddy streaks like flames licking up a log. When the leaves (more…)

Great Mother’s Day gift: A guided trip at Mono Lake

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide
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My mother, Kerry, at Black Point. Photo by Nora Livingston.

My mother loves the Mono Basin. She lives on the coast in the lush hills of West Marin, but she craves the dry expanse of sagebrush and the quiet aspen canyons of the Eastside, so she visits me as often as she can in the summertime. She and my dad set up their tent in Lee Vining Canyon and spend their days exploring Mono Lake, basking in the glory of the Sierra, and painting flowers with watercolors. She, like many of our visitors, likes to make the most out of her time here, filling her days with adventure, diving deeper into her experience here in the Eastern Sierra.

Last year, I gave my mom the gift of attending the Miwok-Paiute Basketry field seminar so she could learn the art of weaving willows from Julia and Lucy Parker. She was thrilled. She enjoyed the seminar immensely, and was very proud of her beautiful basket. In fact, she loved it so much, she signed up for the seminar again this year!

Why not give your mother the gift of learning and exploration for Mother’s Day this year? (more…)

Sixteenth annual Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide
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Get your binoculars ready for the sixteenth annual Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua, coming June 16–18, 2017!

Audubon’s Warbler. Photo by Santiago Escruceria.

We hope you’ll be here to celebrate and support the rich diversity of bird life, the legacy of avian research, and the ongoing conservation efforts in the Eastern Sierra—all while having a darn good time. This year we are offering many new programs and field trips as well as our most popular events from previous Chautauquas. (more…)

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