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The Mono-logue » Staff Musings

‘Staff Musings’ Category

The 2016 Mono Lake guided bird walk season

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016 by Mono Lake Committee Staff
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This post was written by Sandra Noll, Birding Intern in 2014, 2015, & 2016.

Hard to fathom that season of guided bird walks has come to an end. Erv and I led our last County Park bird walk yesterday and State Park ranger Dave Marquart led his last on Sunday. It seems we just arrived to serve our third summer as Mono Lake Committee Birding Interns!

An adult Osprey perches watchfully atop a tufa tower near its nest . Photo by Sandra Noll.

An adult Osprey perches atop a tufa tower near its nest . Photo by Sandra Noll.

It has been a great season of birds from “locals” and early spring migrants through the nesting season to, most recently, early fall migrants. These include large numbers of Eared Grebes and phalaropes beginning to stage on Mono Lake where they molt and gain weight for the final legs of their migrations to wintering areas further south. Mono Lake’s status as an internationally important bird area is especially apparent this time of year.

It has been a delight and privilege to introduce visitors from the US and around the world to this beautiful, bountiful place and the work of the Mono Lake Committee to protect, restore, and educate. And it is my pleasure to leave you with a few highlights!

(more…)

Coming to an end: Reflections from two summers in the Mono Basin

Friday, August 19th, 2016 by Mono Lake Committee Staff
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This post was written by Adam Dalton, 2014 & 2016 Mono Lake Intern.

“My unorthodox journey to the Eastern Sierra and first two weeks of work at the Mono Lake Committee have been life-changing experiences (especially for someone who had never lived on his own or seen the American West before)….” —me, two years ago

Gabby, Grace, Adam and Connor hear about the LA Aqueduct from Geoff during intern training. Photo by Erv Nichols.

Gabby, Grace, Adam and Connor hear about the LA Aqueduct from Geoff during intern training. Photo by Erv Nichols.

Over two years ago the Mono Lake Committee took a chance and hired me, despite my intended economics major, failure to travel west of Omaha, Nebraska, and previous work experience consisting solely of foodservice-based work study at Grinnell College and technology replacement duties for Mason City, Iowa’s community school district. As you can see in my previous Mono-logue post, I was absolutely blown away by my initial experiences in the Mono Basin.

A lot has changed in my life since I first interned at the Mono Lake Committee two years ago; I’ve graduated from (more…)

Luna: A full moonrise during a trip to Mono Lake

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016 by Mono Lake Committee Staff
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This post was written by Lisa Godenick, 2016 Outdoor Education Instructor.

The full moon begins to show its subtle beauty as I sit atop Sagehen Mountain looking towards the White Mountains. We are here with Pacoima Beautiful, the first environmental justice non-profit in the Northeast San Fernando Valley.

This was the first moonrise some of the Pacoima Beautiful students had ever seen. Photo by Santiago Escruceria.

This was the first moonrise some of the Pacoima Beautiful students had ever seen. Photo by Santiago Escruceria.

There are ten students and four leaders, and we are all huddled together beneath the stars in awe of the moonrise; nothing separates us from the Milky Way. The air feels cool, but not cold, despite the wind. After contemplation, the students embark on a solo walk back to the vehicles. This is a chance for everyone in the group to meditate and practice presence, something difficult to come by in our modern world. (more…)

Destruction and renewal

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016 by Mono Lake Committee Staff
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This post was written by Sandra Noll, Birding Intern in 2014, 2015, & 2016.

The presence of wildfires has made me think about the seemingly contradictory aspects of destruction and rebirth a lot this summer.

smoldering Marina fire

The Marina Fire’s smoldering aftermath on the west side of Highway 395 evidences stark contrast to the unaffected trees, grasses and shrubs east of the highway. All photos by Sandra Noll.

June’s Marina Fire came uncomfortably close to Mono Lake Committee headquarters in Lee Vining. It was the nearest I have personally been to wildfire and, while awed and inspired by the response of firefighters from multiple agencies and the impressive accuracy of helicopter and aircraft pilots dropping water and fire retardant in turbulent winds and updrafts, I was also fearful with a dramatic new awareness of fire’s destructive capacity. This fire’s aftermath, still quite visible from (more…)

Wilson Fire, Clark Fire updates

Friday, August 5th, 2016 by Arya, Communications Director
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Well, it’s definitely fire season in the Eastern Sierra.

The Clark Fire is burning near Bald Mountain, east of Highway 395 and north of Owens River Road. The fire was caused by lightning and was detected yesterday afternoon—it is currently estimated to be about 1,600 acres and is 10% contained. The smoke plume from the fire is visible from Mono Lake and Lee Vining.

Clark Fire from South Tufa

The Clark Fire seen from the shore of Mono Lake on Thursday, August 4 around 6:30pm during a South Tufa tour. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

The Wilson Fire north of Mono Lake, south of Highway 167, and three miles east of Highway 395 is mostly contained, with fire crews mopping-up and watching for flare-ups as winds pick up. It is suspected that this was a human-caused fire, though this is still being investigated. (more…)

Guided Trips in August: Volcanoes, natural history, birding, and more

Thursday, July 28th, 2016 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide
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A Sierra wave sunset over Mono City. Photo by Nora Livingston.

A Sierra wave sunset over Mono City. Photo by Nora Livingston.

It’s getting to be that time of summer when thunderstorms roll through in the afternoon and the clouds make for some lovely sunsets. It’s a great time to visit the Mono Basin! Spend your morning doing something fun (like a guided trip!) and spend your afternoons watching the storms sweep through from the window of a coffee shop or the Mono Lake Committee Information Center & Bookstore, then watch the tumultuous sky turn peach and gold and charcoal.

We have some fun guided trips for you to join in on, coming up in the next three weeks: (more…)

Upcoming guided trips July 21–31

Monday, July 18th, 2016 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide
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It’s amazing how many different plants, animals, and insects you can see when you are paying attention to your surroundings. Just focusing your gaze beyond one aspect of nature can bring you almost endless new things to see.

2016-07-16 Rattlesnake gulch lizards, chipmunks, butterflies, birds NL (56)

Juvenile Green-tailed Towhee snagging a meal. Photo by Nora Livingston.

For instance, you see a bird perched on a branch and identify it as a Green-tailed Towhee. A lot of times, it is easy to stop there, saying “I identified the bird! Yay me!” But what if you asked, “what kind of tree is it perched on?” (more…)

Mono Basin high country in bloom

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide
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A Hermit Thrush is perched low and well hidden in a Western Hemlock, singing his ethereal sonata that is simultaneously uplifting and sad. His song echoes through the pines, drifts out over Tioga Lake, and wafts up towards Mt. Dana.

Mountain heather, Phyllodoce breweri, and granite. Photo by Nora Livingston.

Mountain heather, Phyllodoce breweri, and granite. Photo by Nora Livingston.

(more…)

Mono Lake Committee seasonal staff are here and summer is in full swing

Sunday, June 12th, 2016 by Gabrielle, Project Specialist
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Summer is here! With the warm weather comes many changes; deer and birds are migrating, bears have woken from hibernation, and the Mono Lake Committee’s flock of seasonal staff has finally arrived. Training began June 1 and we’ve been busy from day one, excitedly preparing for the months ahead.

Andrew, Sara, and Grace paddle the route that Mono Lake Committee canoe tours take during the summer months. Photo by Gabby Renteria.

Our first day was filled with the usual: introductions, paperwork, and an awesome talk from Mike Hogan who is working hard to make sure the Caltrans Rockfall Project not only solves the issue of falling rocks but also leaves the hills on the west side of Mono Lake beautiful and habitable for the many animals here in the Mono Basin.

After that we wasted no time and jumped straight in with two days of canoe training. The first day was spent practicing (more…)

Cassin’s, Wilson’s, Brewer’s…. What’s the deal with bird names?

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016 by Mono Lake Committee Staff
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This post was written by Matt Rice, 2015 & 2016 Mono Lake Intern.

Being new to birding, I find myself flipping through guidebooks and being overwhelmed by the variety of species of birds that the Mono Basin has to offer. Tired of the confusion, I decided to make a list of all the birds I might encounter this summer. During this process, I came across some birds that shared the same common names, like Wilson and Brewer, and I decided to do a little research on who these birds were named after. I found the histories of these ornithologists fascinating and thought that I would share some of my favorites!

Steller's Jay. Photo by Sandra Noll.

Steller’s Jay. Photo by Sandra Noll.

Steller’s Jay: Named after the German botanist, zoologist, physician, and explorer Georg Wilhelm Steller (1709–1746). Steller was enlisted by Vitus Bering as a (more…)

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