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2015 Mono Lake California Gull report

Saturday, March 26th, 2016 by Mono Lake Committee Staff
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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.

A banded California Gull (Larus californicus) with its chick at Mono Lake. Photo courtesy of West Vane.

A banded California Gull (Larus californicus) with its chick at Mono Lake. Photo courtesy of West Vane.

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…)

Eared Grebe survey results from 2015

Thursday, March 24th, 2016 by Robbie, Restoration Field Technician
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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.

Aerial Eared Grebe survey data suggests that a shift toward an earlier peak in grebe population numbers at Mono Lake may be occurring.

Aerial Eared Grebe survey data suggests that a shift toward an earlier peak in grebe population numbers at Mono Lake may be occurring.

It had previously been observed that Eared Grebes were most prolific at Mono Lake in mid-October (as recently as 2013), but (more…)

Mono Basin Clearinghouse updates: Gull research and real-time data

Monday, January 4th, 2016 by Greg, Information & Restoration Specialist
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clearinghouse-updates-2015-CAGU-report_Page_01Recent 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.

We have updated the Mono Basin real-time data frames page to use pop-up windows instead of frames. This may not sound like an upgrade, but (more…)

Mono’s streams fare better than expected: Record summer precipitation spared streams worst of the drought

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015 by Lisa, Eastern Sierra Policy Director
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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.

Trout monitoring on Lee Vining Creek happens annually to track the health of individual fish and population numbers. Photo by Lisa Cutting.

Trout monitoring on Lee Vining Creek happens annually to track the health of individual fish and population numbers. Photo by Lisa Cutting.

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…)

Investigating Eared Grebe mortality at Mono Lake

Friday, November 6th, 2015 by Robbie, Restoration Field Technician
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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.

2015-10-12 Benchmark scouting castle tufa and dead grebes AD_2157

An Eared Grebe swimming in green Mono Lake in October 2015. Photo by Arya Degenhardt.

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…)

2015 Mono Lake Committee Annual Report

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015 by Arya, Communications Director
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The Mono Lake Committee’s 2015 Annual Report is now available online.

The 2015 Mono Lake Committee Annual Report is now available online. Cover photo courtesy of Phil Lindsay.

The 2015 Mono Lake Committee Annual Report is now available online. Cover photo courtesy of Phil Lindsay.

It is chock-full of photos of the Mono Lake Committee in action in our focus areas of protection, restoration, education, and (more…)

Mono Lake’s green mystery continues

Saturday, October 31st, 2015 by Bartshé, Education Director
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For the second summer in a row, Mono Lake remained impenetrably green through the summer season. The lake typically transforms into a blue, Lake Tahoe-like clarity as abundant Artemia monica (brine shrimp) graze microscopic algae from the upper water column. Satellite images from this summer continued to show a shrinking, and unyieldingly-green Mono Lake.

Green Mono Lake, as seen from the September 18, 2015 Eared Grebe survey flight. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

Green Mono Lake, as seen from the September 18, 2015 Eared Grebe survey flight. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

Artemia were present, but their numbers seemed to decline as the summer progressed. During the summer of 2014, the mean Artemia abundance was the fourth-lowest ever recorded since 1979, and the greatest decline in abundance (79%) took place from July to August—much earlier than typically seen in Mono Lake. It’s likely that a similar trend occurred in 2015; however (more…)

Presentation & book signing with Scott Stine, October 17 at the Mono Inn

Saturday, October 10th, 2015 by Arya, Communications Director
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a way acrossThe Mono Lake Committee is delighted to host Dr. Scott Stine discussing his newly released book: A Way Across the Mountain: Joseph Walker’s 1833 Trans-Sierran Passage and the Myth of Yosemite’s Discovery.

• Saturday, October 17, 4:30–6:30pm
• At the Mono Inn, 5 miles north of the town of Lee Vining on Highway 395
• Presentation begins at 4:30pm

If you are a Yosemite-phile like me, you have doubtless heard the legend of the first non-native person to see Yosemite Valley. We’ve all heard the legend of Joseph R. Walker who led a brigade of 58 fur trappers from the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming to the Pacific coast of central California in 1833. Toward the end of their journey the Walker brigade crossed the Sierra Nevada. (more…)

Refreshments with Refreshing ‘Ologists: Jonathan Fusaro on mesocarnivores

Saturday, September 5th, 2015 by Mono Lake Committee Staff
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This post was written by Sarah Angulo, 2015 Mono Lake Intern.

Coyotes, foxes, ring-tailed cats, and skunks—these are some examples of mesocarnivores, the subject of this summer’s final Refreshments with Refreshing ‘Ologists presentation. Join us this Wednesday, September 9 at 4:00pm in the Mono Lake Committee gallery.

A spotted skunk that jumped off a woodpile into this garbage can at a local residence. The skunk was released back into the wild. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

This spotted skunk jumped off a woodpile into this garbage can at a local residence, offering a good photo opportunity. The skunk was released back into the wild. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

California Department of Fish & Wildlife (DFW) environmental scientist Jonathan Fusaro will explain what is exactly a mesocarnivore, as well as what DFW’s Bishop field office is doing for research and management of mesocarnivores locally. Jonathan works closely in research for the management of black bear populations, and studied them for his master’s degree in wildland resources from the University of Utah. He is also heavily involved with the Eastern Sierra Black Bear Project.

If you want to find out more about the management and research of mesocarnivores, come to the Committee gallery this Wednesday afternoon. It’s free admission and light snacks and refreshments will be provided. Hope to see you there!

Refreshments with Refreshing ‘Ologists: Ben Hatchett on ice ages and megadroughts

Sunday, August 30th, 2015 by Mono Lake Committee Staff
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This post was written by Sarah Angulo, 2015 Mono Lake Intern.

Our lecture series continues this Wednesday, September 2 with our next presentation, Ice Ages and Megadroughts in the Eastern Sierra Nevada. Starting at 4:00pm, Ph.D. student Ben Hatchett from the University of Nevada, Reno will be discussing his work in aligning Mono Lake’s past with that of nearby glacial moraines to paint a better picture of past climate changes.

Photo by Arya Degenhardt with aerial support by Lighthawk.

The Mono Basin’s interesting glacial history has left remnants on the landscape, like the moraines near Williams Butte. Photo by Arya Degenhardt with aerial support provided by Lighthawk.

Because terminal lakes such as Mono Lake and Walker Lake (in Nevada) have no outlet to the sea, their surface elevations reflect the climatic balance of precipitation and evaporation. Glacial moraines formed during ice ages offer a similar window from which we can view the millennial pulse of Earth’s climate cycles. Through studies of lake level and glacier size variability, we can better understand both how different the climate must have been during ice ages and megadroughts and how sensitive are these environments to changes in climate. Understanding these past climate events is crucial in planning for future climate changes. Ben will share with us new findings from studies of these lake systems from both ends of the “extreme climate” window that place our historical and current climate into a paleoclimate perspective.

If you’re in the area and want to learn more about this topic, be sure to join us in the Mono Lake Committee gallery. It’s free admission, and light snacks and refreshments will be provided. Can’t wait to see you!

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