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The Mono-logue » Natural History

‘Natural History’ Category

Sign up for a Mono Lake canoe tour today

Friday, April 27th, 2018 by Andrew, Digital Engagement Coordinator
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Celebrate the Mono Lake Committee’s fortieth anniversary this summer by taking a guided canoe tour!

Experience Mono Lake in a new way by joining a guided canoe tour this summer. Photo by Arya Degenhardt.

Canoeing on Mono Lake is an unforgettable experience. See the lake in a completely new way as you float over bubbling springs forming new tufa towers, examine some of the trillions of tiny brine shrimp that inhabit the lake, and experience the peace and tranquility of this wild place. Prepare to take in breathtaking views of the Mono Basin and the dramatic Sierra Nevada crest, which rises 6,000 feet above the lake. (more…)

2018 lake level forecast: Will Mono Lake rise or drop this year?

Friday, April 20th, 2018 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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In April, once a new runoff year (April 1 to March 31) has begun, the Mono Lake Committee forecasts what Mono Lake’s level is likely to do over the next year. And the answer? According to our forecast, Mono Lake is likely to drop a little less than a foot.

This graph shows the range of possible Mono Lake elevations for the time period of April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019. The “highest likely” and “lowest likely” projections are produced by Committee modeling using historical wet and dry hydrology sequences that can reasonably be expected given current conditions. Mono Lake Committee graph (click to enlarge).

To forecast Mono Lake’s level for a whole runoff year, we read the lake level gauge on April 1 to get the starting point, and then factor the runoff forecast into the equation to predict what Mono Lake might do going forward. When we read the lake level gauge on April 1 together with staff from the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power the lake was 6381.9 feet above sea level. As of April 16 the runoff forecast is 85% of average. Using those two data points, plus historical wet and dry hydrology sequences that can be reasonably expected given current conditions, our modeling indicates that the most probable lake level for March 31, 2019 is 6381.1 feet above sea level.

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…)

Practice the new Chautauqua registration system today

Sunday, April 8th, 2018 by Andrew, Digital Engagement Coordinator
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We’re excited to announce a brand-new registration system for the 17th Annual Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua. You may recognize it if you’ve attended the Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival or the Monterey Bay Birding Festival. The new system makes it faster to sign up for trips and easier to register groups, all without needing a username or password.

This year’s Chautauqua has one hundred field trips to choose from, spanning a range of topics including birds, botany, butterflies, bats, art, and more! Photo by Elin Ljung.

(more…)

Mono Basin snowpack increases to 76% of average

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018 by Greg, Information & Restoration Specialist
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Snow surveys conducted around every April 1st coincide with the average date of peak snowpack. This year, the surveys were completed at the end of March and revealed a large increase in snowpack over the previous month—from 50% of average to 76% of average!

Map by Robbie DiPaolo.

Map of snow survey locations compiled by Robbie DiPaolo. The Lee Vining Creek watershed above the DWP diversion dam and the Rush Creek watershed above the SCE powerhouse are outlined in red.

(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!

35th year for California Gull study: Research documents changes in gull population and nesting habitat

Thursday, March 8th, 2018 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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In 2017 Point Blue Conservation Science continued its Mono Lake California Gull monitoring study with the goal of better understanding how the gulls respond to changes in lake conditions over time. Indeed, 2017 was a year of change for both the gulls and this critical long-term study, which is supported by the Mono Lake Committee (read the full report online here).

Approximately 27,000 California Gulls nested on Mono Lake’s islets in 2017, well below the 35-year average of 46,000 nesting adults. Photo courtesy of Kristie Nelson.

Following two years of testing, the nesting gull counts were done using aerial photography instead of the previous method of ground counts. Results indicate that counting nesting gulls from the aerial photographs matched ground count tallies by 96%, and the new survey method is less disruptive to the gulls.

Lowest-ever number of nesting gulls

The population of nesting California Gulls (Larus californicus) in 2017 was the lowest ever recorded at (more…)

We’re hiring: Mono Lake Committee seasonal jobs available

Wednesday, February 21st, 2018 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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If you’ve always wanted to spend a summer at Mono Lake, now is your chance—we still have open seasonal staff positions for summer 2018, including Mono Lake Intern, Canoe Program Coordinator, Outdoor Education Instructor, and Information Center & Bookstore Assistant.

Seasonal staff positions are still available—apply to spend a summer canoeing on Mono Lake with us. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

Summer at Mono Lake is the busiest and most activity-filled season, and seasonal staff jobs include leading interpretive tours, helping visitors in the bookstore, and canoeing on Mono Lake, among many other varied tasks. We accept applications from people of all ages, whether you’re looking for an internship between college semesters, or you’re interested in a post-retirement summer of work.

To apply, please send a cover letter and résumé to Office Director Jessica Horn, either by email or by mail to PO Box 29, Lee Vining, CA 93541.

Field Seminar registration opens for non-members March 1

Sunday, February 18th, 2018 by Andrew, Digital Engagement Coordinator
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The complete list of all the Mono Lake Committee’s 2018 Field Seminars is online here, and registration opens for those who are not Mono Lake Committee members at 9:00am on Thursday, March 1st.

Learn about the fascinating volcanic history of the Mono Basin with Nora Livingston on a field seminar this summer. Photo courtesy of Andrew Aldrich.

This year’s slate of 40 field seminars spans many topics: basketry, oil painting, mammals, moonlight photography, volcanism, mining history, Basque sheepherders, kayaking, and more. (more…)

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…)

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The Mono Lake Committee is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.