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Monitoring California Gulls on Mono Lake’s islands

Sunday, July 15th, 2018 by Nigel, Birding Intern
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Last week, I traveled to the Negit and Paoha islets in the middle of Mono Lake to help with the ongoing California Gull research project. (Please note that the islands are closed to the public until August 1 to protect the nesting gulls.)

Counting gull chicks in a fenced-off plot on the Paoha Islets. Photo by Nigel Bates.

This project, conducted by Point Blue Conservation Science and supported by the Mono Lake Committee, has monitored long-term trends in the breeding gull population for the past 35 years. Mono Lake supports one of the largest California Gull colonies in the world, so the success of this population is critical to the survival of the species. I joined Point Blue lead researcher Kristie Nelson and Institute for Bird Populations intern Sarah Hecocks for three days of data collection at the gull colony. (more…)

Join us on a free bird walk!

Tuesday, July 10th, 2018 by Nigel, Birding Intern
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Looking for something fun to do on a weekend morning in the Mono Basin? The Mono Lake Committee and California State Parks offer free bird walks at 8:00am every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday throughout the summer. Join a naturalist for a leisurely 2-hour excursion through some of the most productive bird habitats in the area. The Friday and Sunday morning walks are at Mono Lake County Park, and the Saturday morning walk explores Lundy Canyon. All experience levels are welcome! We’ll provide loaner binoculars if you don’t have a pair.

The lush riparian habitat at County Park is a great place to spot Western Tanagers. Photo by Sandra Noll.

Fridays and Sundays: Meet at Mono Lake County Park (5–10 minute drive from Lee Vining). Take Highway 395 north from Lee Vining for 5 miles, then turn right on Cemetery Road (signs for County Park/Mono Lake Access). Follow Cemetery Road for a 1/2-mile to the parking lot on the right.

Saturdays: Meet at the Lundy Lake Resort (15 minute drive from Lee Vining). Take Highway 395 north from Lee Vining for 7 miles, then turn left on Lundy Lake Road. Follow the Lundy Lake Road for 5 miles to the Lundy Lake Resort, where you can park on the shoulder just before the main cluster of buildings.

For more information, contact the Mono Lake Committee at (760) 647-6595, stop by the Information Center and Bookstore in Lee Vining, or email Birding Intern Nigel. We hope to see you out in the field!

Scanning for birds along Cemetery Road at County Park. Photo by Erv Nichols.

Save the tufa!

Friday, July 6th, 2018 by Mono Lake Committee Staff
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Tufa is otherworldly, oddly enchanting, and one of Mono Lake’s most iconic and popular features. Tufa towers are important nesting sites for birds—from Osprey to owls—while underwater tufa is habitat for alkali flies. For years, photographs of tufa have played an important role in spreading the message that Mono Lake, and the tufa itself, needs protecting.

Fragile rock

Growing only underwater, tufa is a precipitate formed when calcium-rich spring water mixes with carbonate-rich Mono Lake water—slowly building up around seeps and springs. Though tufa towers are rock formations, they are fragile—they crumble, topple, and erode from wave action, high desert weather, and, unfortunately, from people being careless around them. (more…)

Discover more on Mono Lake Mobile: monolakemobile.org

Wednesday, July 4th, 2018 by Andrew, Digital Engagement Coordinator
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Have you ever been down at Mono Lake wondering: How many brine shrimp live in Mono Lake? Why do the tufa towers at Old Marina look different than the ones at South Tufa? What else can I do during my visit?

When you visit Mono Lake, pull up monolakemobile.org on your phone for a self-guided tour of South Tufa, directions, and more. Photo by Andrew Youssef.

You can find the answers to all of these questions and more by visiting monolakemobile.org on your phone. Designed to be mobile-friendly and used while visiting the lake, Mono Lake Mobile is the best way to learn about the lake on your own schedule and at your own pace. You can take a self-guided tour of South Tufa (complete with audio narration) and learn about other great sites to visit around Mono Lake including Old Marina and County Park.

You can also (more…)

Evidence of high flows persists on Mill Creek: Restoration potential reaffirmed

Monday, July 2nd, 2018 by Lisa, Eastern Sierra Policy Director
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Almost a year after the epic 2017 winter and resulting record Mono Basin runoff, positive effects from the high flows can still be seen on all of Mono Lake’s tributary streams—including, notably, the beleaguered floodplain of the Mill Creek bottomlands.

During last year’s record runoff, long-dry side channels in the Mill Creek bottomlands carried water; some of the rewatered channels were still flowing this spring. Photo by Elin Ljung.

Last summer, long-dry side channels in the bottomlands carried water when Lundy Lake Reservoir spilled for almost the entire summer. Some of these rewatered channels are still flowing despite low-flow early springtime conditions, and evidence of lasting restoration benefits is abundant. Back eddies and ponded areas well away from flowing channels continue to hold water. Below the surface, recharged groundwater is once again available for vegetation, and fine sediment deposited across floodplain cobble is primed for new seedlings to grow. All of this is a glimpse into Mill Creek’s bright future. (more…)

Fire restrictions to take effect July 2 on BLM land

Sunday, July 1st, 2018 by Gabrielle, Project Specialist
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Beginning Monday, July 2, the Bureau of Land Management will implement fire restrictions throughout Mono and Inyo counties. These restrictions are put in place each year to protect local communities and our public lands from wildfire.

In 2016 the Marina Fire burned just north of Lee Vining. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

Restrictions include: (more…)

The logistics of canoeing on Mono Lake’s unique water

Saturday, June 30th, 2018 by Alison, Canoe Coordinator
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As the new Canoe Coordinator, I arrived in mid-May to begin preparing for a summer packed with canoe tours on Mono Lake. My early season responsibilities included familiarizing myself with the area, reading all about the canoe program and how it functions, learning how to back up the canoe trailer, and taking inventory of all of the equipment before the first weekend of tours in late June.

A family enjoys a leisurely paddle on Mono Lake. Photo by Alison Kaplan.

To my surprise, the task that took up the most time out of all of these was the equipment inventory. I had read in the canoe program manual that some of the equipment had to be replaced every year due to damage, but I didn’t really understand the extent of that damage until I saw heavy-duty ropes and straps falling to pieces in front of my eyes.

Mono Lake canoe tours aren’t wildly adventurous or extreme; we paddle close to shore at a relaxed pace, observing the birds and wildlife while discussing the lake’s natural and political history. How, then, does the canoe equipment take such a beating each season? The answer lies in Mono Lake’s unique chemistry. (more…)

Aqueduct retrofit ensures export accuracy: Mono Lake Committee advocacy produces results

Friday, June 29th, 2018 by Geoff, Executive Director
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One thing the Mono Lake Committee and the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) can agree on is that accurate measurement of water exported from the Mono Basin is important. One might assume that measuring water sent out of the Mono Basin through the Los Angeles Aqueduct would be fairly straightforward, but due to infrastructure complexities, DWP has historically used a calculation to derive the export amount.

Aqueduct improvements in 2009, shown here, added equipment to directly measure water exports, but the system was unreliable until recent repairs, thanks to the Committee’s persistence. Photo by Greg Reis.

Getting from calculation to measurement

To understand why DWP couldn’t simply measure its (more…)

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…)

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