If you’re a Mono Lake Intern, mornings start early on the weekends. Six-thirty finds three sleepy interns and the Canoe Coordinator all making their way, eyes half-closed, through the crisp morning air in Lee Vining to meet at the back door of the Mono Lake Committee. Despite the early hour and memories of warm and cozy beds, spirits are high. It’s canoe tour day!
Canoe tour days involve a sunrise wake-up call for Mono Lake Interns. Luckily, sunrise is one of Mono Lake’s best times of day. Photo by Erv Nichols.
Every Saturday and Sunday the ritual repeats. Canoe days are hard work. It takes a lot of energy to load and unload the fleet of shiny silver canoes from the canoe truck, to spend the entire day paddling Mono Lake’s (hopefully!) glassy waters, and all the while maintain the excitement of sharing the wonders of the Mono Basin with a fresh group of visitors—three times in a row. Yet there isn’t one among us who would even think about trading a canoe tour shift. On days like this, we all feel like we have the best job in the world. (more…)
Thursday, July 16th, 2015 by Greg, Information & Restoration SpecialistcloseAuthor: Greg, Information & Restoration SpecialistName: Greg Reis Title: Information & Restoration Specialist About: Since his Committee internship in 1995, Greg has been involved with Mono Basin stream restoration and with maintaining the Committee's computers, Websites, and Research Library, and researching and compiling information for our programs. His B.S. degree from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in Forestry and Natural Resources with a concentration in Environmental Management and a Senior Project in Hydrology reflect his interests in natural resources management, watershed management, and habitat restoration. He is a member of the California Society for Ecological Restoration and he also works for the Rivers and Delta Program of The Bay Institute.See All Posts by Greg (171) Contact Greg
At the Cain Ranch weather station, five miles south of Lee Vining, as of July 13, 1.57 inches of rain had fallen in July. That makes this month already the second-wettest July on record after the 1.98 inches of rain in July 1965. Records at this location began in 1931. Rain fell on all but two days between July 1 and 10, and while it has been dry there since July 10, it still has been raining in other parts of the Mono Basin almost every day.
This wet July continues the wet May–June centered on Mono County. This map from the Western Regional Climate Center shows April–June precipitation in percent of average.
Lee Vining Creek above the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) diversion dam experienced its peak flow of about 124 cubic feet per second on July 11, from rain and melting fresh snow. Below the dam, the minimum flow is being released, and the floodwaters are being diverted to Grant Lake Reservoir, which has been slowly rising since May.
Aside from brief floods due to thunderstorms, the Mono Basin’s creeks are dropping to the very low levels that were otherwise expected this summer. If the thunderstorms stop, we will start seeing new low flow records later this month, especially in watersheds without glaciers, such as Walker Creek. The April–September snowmelt runoff forecast issued by DWP in May predicted 19% of average runoff, with a lower bound of 7% and an upper bound of 32%. Nineteen percent is less than half of the runoff measured in 1977, the driest year on record; 32% is still much drier than the driest year on record. Thanks to the recent wet weather, Mono Basin runoff is on track to reach 32%.
Saturday, July 11th, 2015 by Bartshé, Education DirectorcloseAuthor: Bartshé, Education DirectorName: Bartshé Miller Title: Education Director About: Bartshé directs the Committee's Outdoor Experiences Program, Canoe Program, and Interpretive Programs, and manages the Mono Basin Field Station. He has been an Eastern Sierra resident since 1993.See All Posts by Bartshé (47) Contact Bartshé
After four years of drought in California snow has become a rare sight in the Sierra Nevada, but in July?! Last week an upper-level low-pressure system moved westward across California and generated thunderstorms, rain, hail, and a local dose of real snow to the Tioga Pass region, especially in the Lee Vining Creek headwaters. The area around Saddlebag Lake, in particular, received a solid coating of snow, estimated between 6-10″ in the early morning hours of July 9. The morning was reminiscent of January, except for highlights of bright green vegetation struggling through an unfamiliar white blanket. With a strong El Nino building in the Pacific, might this be a harbinger of the winter ahead? California, the Sierra Nevada, and Mono Lake are greatly in need of anything close to a normal snowpack, but as this past week illustrates, there is no normal with precipitation in California, just variability.
Mt. Dana, above Tioga Pass on July 9, 2015.
Mt. Excelsior and ridge in fresh snow behind Saddlebag Lake, July 9, 2015.
Saddlebag Lake, Shepherd Crest (upper-left) and the Tioga Ridge on July 9, 2015. Note heavy snow near the ridge and Dore Pass (from upper-middle to upper- right). Photo by Bartshe Miller.
Mountain Pride, Penstemon newberryi, in fresh snow, July 9, 2015. Photo by Bartshe Miller.
An important piece of the Mono Lake Committee’s mission is to restore Mono Lake’s tributary streams and their riparian (streamside) habitats. These environments provide a lush area for many of the native plants of the Mono Basin to grow and flourish. Since the streams were damaged by years of excessive water diversions, they are in the process of recovering, and non-native invasive plants can sometimes encroach, outcompete the native vegetation, and slow the restoration process.
Native cow clover recolonizing riparian habitat along Mill Creek. Photo by Robert Di Paolo.
This summer the Mono Lake Committee is continues to focus on removing invasive plants along Mill Creek, the third largest tributary to Mono Lake located in the north Mono Basin. White sweet clover is the main target as this fast-growing weed quickly dominates sections of Mill Creek and poses the greatest threat to native plants. Already this summer we have removed over 300 pounds of invasive white sweet clover and the native flowers and plants are noticeably establishing in the previously invaded habitat, which is both encouraging and beautiful to witness.
Botanist Ann Howald will join the restoration crew on July 21st to talk about rare plants and conservation issues. Photo by Robert Di Paolo.
Come join us this July on Tuesday the 14th and Tuesday the 21st to see for yourself and to help keep this important habitat healthy, beautiful, and diverse. On the 21st we will be accompanied by guest naturalist Ann Howald, a botanist who specializes in rare plants and conservation issues and who has lead the High Country Plant Field Seminar for the Mono Lake Committee for over a decade. She has an amazing wealth of knowledge of the Sierra Nevada and this will be a rare chance to pick her brain.
To join us: meet at 8:30 am at the Mono Lake Committee Information Center & Bookstore, located on the corner of Highway 395 and Third Street in Lee Vining. If you are interested in volunteering for either of the restoration events this July or if you have any questions about July or August events, please contact Robbie Di Paolo at (760) 647-6386 x122.
Outdoor Education Center participants, Pacoima Beautiful, after a day of invasive plant removal. Photo by Melissa Boyd.
Saturday, July 4th, 2015 by Sandra, Birding InterncloseAuthor: Sandra, Birding InternName: Sandra Noll Title: About: Sandra Noll and her partner Erv Nichols travel extensively as volunteers for nature. The retired couple exchanges their skills as naturalists, photographers, and interpretive guides for an RV hook-up or lodging at a wide variety of National and State Parks, Fish & Wildlife Service Refuges, Audubon Centers, and now the Mono Lake Committee for a second summer. Whether from an information desk, viewing deck or lecture hall, leading bird walks, night hikes or canoe excursions, their passion connects people with our nation's special landscapes and wildlife.See All Posts by Sandra (13) Contact Sandra
The month of June has flown and it’s time to unveil the top ten bird encounters; birds seen within a half-hour driving radius of the Mono Lake Committee headquarters. It was a great month enhanced by the seasonal hatching and fledging young and by sightings at the 14th annual Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua held June 19–21.
A Mountain Bluebird with food for its hungry nestlings. Photo by Erv Nichols.
1. Northern Saw-whet Owl—a cavity nest with several owlets was discovered in the Obsidian Dome area during the Bird Chautauqua
2. Mountain Bluebirds—nesting behind the gas station at south entrance to June Lake Loop (more…)
Friday, July 3rd, 2015 by Greg, Information & Restoration SpecialistcloseAuthor: Greg, Information & Restoration SpecialistName: Greg Reis Title: Information & Restoration Specialist About: Since his Committee internship in 1995, Greg has been involved with Mono Basin stream restoration and with maintaining the Committee's computers, Websites, and Research Library, and researching and compiling information for our programs. His B.S. degree from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in Forestry and Natural Resources with a concentration in Environmental Management and a Senior Project in Hydrology reflect his interests in natural resources management, watershed management, and habitat restoration. He is a member of the California Society for Ecological Restoration and he also works for the Rivers and Delta Program of The Bay Institute.See All Posts by Greg (171) Contact Greg
On the evening of July 1st, rain falling on Mono Lake during thunderstorms could be heard two miles away. Photo by Geoff McQuilkin.
The Mono Basin is a land of extremes, and this year’s weather is no exception. Temperatures since January are the warmest on record. October–March precipitation in Lee Vining was the lowest on record. April–September precipitation, on the other hand, already is the highest on record—and we are only halfway through that time period! This water year (October 1, 2014–September 30, 2015) is the first time Apr–Sept precipitation has exceeded Oct–Mar. This reversal of the warm and cold season Mediterranean precipitation patterns has allowed invasive plants like cheatgrass to (more…)
Daily walking tours and weekend canoe tours are underway for the season! Come join us and learn the natural and political history of Mono Lake and the surrounding area, discover Panum Crater, look for birds, or explore the night sky. There is an activity for everyone….
Join Mono Lake Committee and State Park birders at County Park on Friday and Sunday mornings at 8:00am for a free guided bird walk. Photo by Elin Ljung.
South Tufa Walk: Daily tours at 10:00am, 1:00pm, and 6:00pm. Meet at the South Tufa kiosk. Bird Walk: Sunday and Friday mornings at 8:00am. Meet at Mono Lake County Park. Panum Crater Walk: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings at 10:00am. Meet at Panum Crater parking lot. (more…)
Friday, June 26th, 2015 by Lily, Canoe CoordinatorcloseAuthor: Lily, Canoe CoordinatorName: Lily Pastel Title: About: Lily graduated from Humboldt State University in May 2014, where she majored in Environmental Science. She was drawn to the Mono Basin by the beauty of the area as well as the Mono Lake Committee's worthy cause. After working through the winter on projects like the Andrea Lawrence Award Dinner and the Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua, Lily is paddling the waters of Mono Lake for the summer. Contact Lily if you are interested in taking a canoe tour on Mono Lake.See All Posts by Lily (15) Contact Lily
Paddle among tufa towers, catch brine shrimp, see bubbling underwater springs, and taste alkali flies on a guided canoe tour with the Mono Lake Committee. Photo courtesy of the American River Conservancy.
Whether you are brand new to paddling or a seasoned veteran of the lake, you are welcome to participate in our guided programs. Floating in a canoe is one of the best ways to take in Mono Lake. Peer down into the water to see bubbling tufa towers and clouds of brine shrimp and enjoy the mountain views while migratory birds flock nearby. Our friendly canoe guides (more…)
Tuesday, June 16th, 2015 by Terry, Information Center & Bookstore ManagercloseAuthor: Terry, Information Center & Bookstore ManagerName: Terry McLaughlin Title: Information Center & Bookstore Manager About: Terry worked as one of the Committee's Outdoor Experiences Instructors during the summer of 2012, fulfilling her passion for being outdoors and connecting others to the natural world. She has taught outside (and taught others how to teach outside) for nearly 30 years near Lake Superior, in Washington state, and on both sides of the Sierra Nevada. During the summer of 2015 she is filling in as the Committee's interim Bookstore Manager.See All Posts by Terry (6) Contact Terry
The summer travel season in the Eastern Sierra brings migrants and pilgrims.
The birds, attuned to nature’s siren song, have winged their way to the Mono Basin. The long days and warm nights bring the fecundity back to the brush and pines. These feathered migrants perch, peck, and peruse our shores and sage, feeding their young in hope for the next generation. Blue, black, yellow, green, orange, red, and white tufted flyers startle across skies.
Likewise, with open passes and the promise of adventure, come the pilgrims. Join them.
Monday, June 15th, 2015 by Lisa, Eastern Sierra Policy DirectorcloseAuthor: Lisa, Eastern Sierra Policy DirectorName: Lisa Cutting Title: Eastern Sierra Policy Director About: Lisa concentrates on the Mono Basin's policy issues such as protecting the integrity of the Scenic Area, coordinating with regional agency staff, and working with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and scientists on the ongoing restoration of Mono Lake and its tributary streams. Lisa uses sleuthing-out good fly fishing spots as another excuse for hiking, and it's always a treat when her happy golden retriever Abbey comes to visit the office!See All Posts by Lisa (13) Contact Lisa
After three years of meetings and discussions, in-depth analysis and testing, expert recommendations and collaboration, the Lee Vining Rockfall Safety Project is underway.
The Lee Vining Rockfall Safety Project will reduce rocks falling onto the highway while improving the visual quality of old roadcuts at the same time. Photo by Arya Degenhardt.
The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) project will improve motorist safety by reducing rockfall incidents along a one-mile section of Highway 395 near Old Marina. The project will stabilize and revegetate six eroded slopes using a combination of anchored mesh, soil rehabilitation, and revegetation tailored specifically to the Mono Basin’s unique soil composition. (more…)