This essay, written by Bill Trush, appears in the 2017 Mono Lake Calendar.
Each field season traveling south to “the lake” I stop at the Highway 395 overlook located just before the highway twists its way down to the Mono Basin floor. If I am lucky, no one else is there. I get out of the car, stretch (after the ten-hour drive from Humboldt County), then find just the right boulder to sit on, or two boulders to nestle between, depending on the wind. This is my time to get reacquainted. I have been privileged to study an incredible ecosystem that has schooled me patiently and made me a better scientist. I particularly like arriving near nightfall.
Hello Mono Lake. Nice to be here again. Remember me? I inhale deeply to taste and smell the thin air. I strain to see Rush and Lee Vining creeks on the far side of the lake. Just as I thought, both creeks are still there. I note the lake (more…)
Mono Lake’s California Gulls and coyotes appear in the winter issue of Audubon Magazine, in an article by Jane Braxton Little: Amidst California Drought, Coyotes Creep Closer to Mono Lake’s Gull Colonies.
Little spoke with Committee Executive Director Geoff McQuilkin and local Point Blue Conservation Science researcher Kristie Nelson about plans to install a temporary electric fence across the emerging landbridge, intended to deter coyotes from reaching the gulls’ nesting islets. You can support the fence project here.
Little hit the nail on the head, writing, “Even if the fence thwarts the coyotes, the basic predicament at Mono Lake isn’t predators eating prey: It’s the loss of water.” So while we prepare to build the fence we’ll also be watching the weather closely for any sign of a break in this record-setting California drought.
Join us this Wednesday, July 13 at 4:00pm in the Mono Lake Committee Gallery for the first of our Refreshing ‘Ologist series: Recovery and Conservation of Native Herptiles in Yosemite.
In this summer’s first lecture we will hear from Yosemite Wildlife Biologists Ninette Daniele and Molly Thompson. They will discuss the current conservation strategies being used to protect native herptiles, like the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog, Yosemite toad, and other herptiles in Yosemite National Park. They will also discuss how well these strategies are working and what types of recoveries they are seeing. Join us to learn more!
This Winter & Spring 2016 Mono Lake Newsletter article was written by Kristie Nelson, Point Blue Conservation Science.
Monitoring of the Mono Lake California Gull colony by Point Blue Conservation Science researchers and volunteers to help understand how wildlife populations respond to ecological change over time continued in 2015.
It was a very successful year for the gulls: both population size and chick production were above-average. Chicks were numerous and heavy, which indicates that they were (more…)
Mono Lake is a critical migratory staging ground for Eared Grebes (Podiceps nigricollis). Surveys have confirmed that 30–50% of the entire continent’s population of Eared Grebes utilize Mono Lake, with over one million birds visiting on their fall migration route to feed on brine shrimp. Since 2008 the Mono Lake Committee has collaborated with Canadian research biologist Sean Boyd from the Pacific Wildlife Research Centre in British Colombia to carry out annual aerial Eared Grebe surveys.
It had previously been observed that Eared Grebes were most prolific at Mono Lake in mid-October (as recently as 2013), but (more…)
Recent updates on the Mono Basin Clearinghouse include the following items:
Point Blue has finished its 2015 report on the nesting success of California Gulls at Mono Lake. According to project coordinator Kristie Nelson, it was an above-average year—a welcome finding after a downward trend of below-average populations over the last ten years.
Mono’s streams fare better than expected: Record summer precipitation spared streams worst of the droughtTuesday, November 10th, 2015 by Lisa, Eastern Sierra Policy Director
A surprising thing happened this year in Lee Vining: record-breaking spring and summer precipitation which, thankfully, minimized drought-related stress on vegetation and trout in Mono Lake’s tributary streams. Instead of the brown-gray colors of drought, we saw unusually green vegetation for most of the summer—even the wildflowers were surprisingly robust. The rain was mostly
associated with thunderstorms, when twenty-degree drops in ambient air temperature weren’t unusual. This cooling effect, in the form of rain and air temperature, helped keep the creeks cool enough for trout.
But as soon as the effects of the precipitation dropped off in August, vegetation immediately responded to the extremely dry conditions—an indication that the plants had been living off surface moisture and not a healthy groundwater system.
Committee expands monitoring program
In an effort to better understand the effects of the drought, the Mono Lake Committee added bi-monthly monitoring of (more…)
Nearly half of all the Eared Grebes in North America visit Mono Lake every autumn by the hundreds of thousands to feed on trillions of brine shrimp (Artemia monica). The bountiful food supply makes it possible for grebes to double their weight and fly to overwintering habitats at the Gulf of California and Salton Sea. But in the last two months, there has been a startling scene of hundreds of dead Eared Grebes on the shores of Mono Lake. These dead birds, according to one ornithologist, are juveniles that starved.
This is not a new occurrence at Mono Lake—hundreds of dead grebes were also found on the shore in 2011 and 2014. While some dead grebes will be found along Mono Lake’s shore every year during the fall migration, in some years there is much higher mortality than in others. Why does this happen every few years? While grebe mortality is poorly understood, we suspect that it is linked to changes in Mono Lake’s ecosystem. In 2014, Mono Lake Committee staff noticed (more…)