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Looking back on the 2018 Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua

Tuesday, June 26th, 2018 by Nigel, Birding Intern
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A record-setting crowd of over 330 people convened in the Mono Basin for the seventeenth annual Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua. Over the course of the weekend, participants enjoyed over 100 field trips, workshops, and presentations that covered the area’s tremendous diversity of birds and other wildlife.

Birders enjoy a spectacular view of the Sierra crest on a field trip to the Rush Creek Delta. Photo courtesy of Sarah Angulo.

This year’s Chautauqua participants racked up an impressive list of 171 bird species. For many, the avian highlight was a Grace’s Warbler that entertained birders all weekend along Bald Mountain Road east of the June Lake Loop. Other notable sightings included Indigo Bunting in Lundy Canyon (for the second year in a row!), Sandhill Crane and Common Grackle at Bridgeport Reservoir, and Common Loon at Crowley Lake. (more…)

The future of Sierra Nevada snow: Dr. Alex Hall on the climate future of the Sierra

Saturday, June 23rd, 2018 by Geoff, Executive Director
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What will happen to the Sierra Nevada’s snowpack as climate change impacts accumulate through the 21st century? This question is vital to both the ecological health of the Range of Light and to water delivery systems throughout California. And, it matters a great deal to Mono Lake and its many miles of tributary streams, which depend on Sierra runoff for their vitality.

A view of the Eastern Sierra from Virginia Canyon to Mt. Conness, including Mono Lake. Photo by Geoff McQuilkin.

Forecasts of the future rely on complex climate modeling, and I talked with Dr. Alex Hall, Professor of Atmospheric & Oceanic Sciences at UCLA, about the work he and his team have been conducting to produce actionable climate science. Dr. Hall heads the Center for Climate Science, where they have developed cutting-edge downscaling techniques to create geographically detailed climate projections for the Los Angeles area and the Sierra Nevada.

Geoff: Thanks for taking time to talk, Alex. You have just released a major report, Climate Change in the Sierra Nevada: California’s Water Future. What are the big takeaway messages?

Alex: Temperatures across the Sierra Nevada are warming (more…)

Summer interpretive activities begin at Mono Lake this weekend

Thursday, June 21st, 2018 by Gabrielle, Project Specialist
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Days are longer, evenings are warmer, and the Mono Basin is buzzing with activity. Summer is in full swing and when you visit there are many things to do: South Tufa tours, bird walks, Panum Crater walks, Stars Over Mono programs, and canoe tours!

Guests observe alkali flies on a free South Tufa Tour. Photo by Sandra Noll.

Join us daily for free South Tufa tours to learn about the political and natural history of Mono Lake. Tours last approximately one hour and your guide will lead you through towering groves of tufa, help you observe Mono Lake’s endemic shrimp, and if you’re lucky you may even catch a glimpse of nesting Osprey. Meet at the South Tufa kiosk, daily at 10:00am & 6:00pm. (Tours are free, however there is a $3 fee to visit South Tufa.)

The Mono Basin is a birder’s paradise. Free bird walks (more…)

Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua programs still have space

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018 by Gabrielle, Project Specialist
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The seventeenth annual Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua starts this week! This year’s festival is sure to be an incredible weekend with over 300 participants and more than 50 presenters. If you haven’t had a chance to register, don’t worry—there are still programs available.

Yosemite ranger Karen Amstutz leads a trip near Virginia Lakes. Photo by Elin Ljung.

Click through to see a list of programs that still have space. Full trip descriptions can be found on the event website.

OPEN PROGRAMS (more…)

Conservation groups sue to protect migratory birds

Monday, May 28th, 2018 by Nigel, Birding Intern
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Led by the National Audubon Society, a coalition of conservation organizations is suing the US Department of the Interior over the new, and significantly weaker, interpretation of the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). The lawsuit, filed on May 24, 2018, challenges a new Department of the Interior memorandum that removes protections related to “incidental take” of migratory birds.

Mono Lake hosts tens of thousands of Wilson’s and Red-necked Phalaropes each summer, as an important stop on the Pacific flyway. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

Under the new interpretation, the only actions that can be regulated using the MBTA are intentional ones—such as hunting. Actions that cause unintentional yet predictable bird deaths no longer fall within the parameters of the MBTA. This latter category encompasses a broad swath of industrial threats, such as oil spills and collisions with power lines, and while they are not designed to kill birds, they are known to lead to significant migratory bird deaths nonetheless.

Mono Lake is an important piece of the migratory flyway (more…)

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…)

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