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The Mono-logue

Trail report: The McQuilkin family’s John Muir Trail trek going well

August 4th, 2015 by Arya, Communications Director
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Mono Lake Committee Board Chair, Sally Gaines and her husband Rick Kattelmann recently resupplied Executive Director Geoff McQuilkin, his wife Sarah Taylor, and kids Caelen, Ellery, and 11-month-old Cassia on their month-long hike of the John Muir Trail. The report is that they are all having a blast, and everyone is doing well.

JMT McQs

Sally Gaines reported that Geoff and the family are having a great time on the John Muir Trail. Photo courtesy of Rick Kattelman.

Birds and Basques in the Mono Basin

August 3rd, 2015 by Sandra, Birding Intern
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An elegant 60-year-old arborglyph, likely Basque in origin. Photo by Sandra Noll.

An elegant 60-year-old arborglyph, likely Basque in origin. Photo by Sandra Noll.

Birding is often about much more than birds, a truth evidenced by the breadth of offerings at the annual Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua. Recently I arranged a birding excursion with friends to one of the Mono Basin’s many canyons, where I was equally enchanted by Red-breasted Sapsuckers flying in and out of tree-cavity nests with morsels for hungry chicks and by historic Basque, Mexican, and South American carvings on the aspen trees.

A Red-breasted Sapsucker checks its nest cavity before flying off to forage in response to its chick’s incessant demands for food. Photo by Sandra Noll.

A Red-breasted Sapsucker checks its nest cavity before flying off to forage in response to its chick’s incessant demands for food. Photo by Sandra Noll.

Aspen tree carvings (arborglyphs) were created by sheepherders—initially Basques from the Pyrenees Mountains straddling today’s France and Spain, and later by shepherds from Mexico and South America—during their lonely summer vigils tending large flocks in remote high country pastures. Campsites were often established in cool aspen forests near a creek; habitats similar to Bohler Canyon. It’s quite an experience to be birding and suddenly come face to face with historic documents growing on trees! … more »

Uncovering 20 years of Mono Lake naturalist notes

August 1st, 2015 by Andrew, Project Specialist
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Last week, while looking around the office, I uncovered a binder hidden among the office supplies entitled “The Birds and the Bees, the Weather and the Trees of the Mono Basin.” Assuming it would be a collection of handouts on the natural history of the area, I was delighted to find that in fact it was a collection of handwritten naturalist notes from Mono Lake Committee staff members over the years.

Naturalists flock to the Mono Basin for its incredible beauty and diversity of life from Osprey to brine shrimp. Photo by Andrew Youssef.

Naturalists flock to the Mono Basin for its incredible beauty and diversity of life from Osprey to brine shrimp. Photo by Andrew Youssef.

The notebook contains observations as early as 1994 (by some of our staff members who are still here, more than 20 years later) with a focus on birds, flowers, and other sightings in the region. I’ve spent quite a bit of time drooling over all the rare birds and other creatures documented in the binder, but for this post I decided to narrow my focus to this week in history. … more »

The unBEARable truth

July 31st, 2015 by Gabrielle, Project Specialist
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Welcome to the Sierra Nevada, home to 40% of California’s black bear population! Here in the Mono Basin bears are our neighbors and it’s important that we keep good relationships with them. To do this we have to ensure they aren’t eating human food.

In a rare sight, a blonde black bear was spotted running on the east shore of Mono Lake in late August, 2007. Photo courtesy of Chris McCreedy.

In a rare sight, a blonde black bear was spotted running on the east shore of Mono Lake in late August, 2007. Photo courtesy of Chris McCreedy.

The moment a bear gets its first taste of high-calorie human food, its life expectancy gets cut in half. Before long bears start coming further into town, putting themselves in danger and causing serious property damage.

The good news is that we can prevent all of this. All we have to do is keep our food out of their reach. Here are some bear safety tips:

  • Never leave food or garbage outside
  • Use and lock bear-proof dumpsters and trash cans when throwing things out
  • Never, ever, ever leave food in your car (bears open cars as easily as we open cans!)
  • Never leave trash, sunscreen, chapstick, grocery bags, wrappers, or coolers in your car (bears in this area have learned to recognize these things as signs of food)
  • Use bear boxes to store food when camping or leaving a trailhead
  • Use approved bear canisters when camping in the the backcountry (you can rent these at the Mono Basin Scenic Area Visitor Center or the Wilderness Centers in Tuolumne Meadows and Yosemite Valley)
  • Most importantly, remember that bears don’t want to hurt you but they are incredibly powerful creatures

Be bear aware to keep our bears wild and healthy!

Local Caltrans crews repair damaged Lee Vining Creek Trail

July 29th, 2015 by Lisa, Eastern Sierra Policy Director
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On Monday, July 13 after several days of heavy rains, the Lee Vining Creek Trail at the south end of town was so damaged by erosion and undercutting it was no longer safe to use.

Within 24 hours of putting a call in to the Lee Vining Caltrans maintenance facility, the trail was fixed and safe again for visitors to use. Thank you to Randy Walker and local Caltrans workers for the swift and expert response! The creek trail—a local and visitor favorite—is once again available for those wanting to explore the beauty of Lee Vining Creek below town.

Before and after. Photos by Arya Degenhardt and Greg Reis.

Looking down the eroded trail on July 13, and looking back up on July 16 after the trail was repaired. Photos by Arya Degenhardt and Greg Reis.

A naturalist’s view of the Caltrans rockfall project: Spiders, cranes, and giant tube worms

July 27th, 2015 by Sandra, Birding Intern
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The Caltrans staff working on the Lee Vining Rockfall Project have a stunning daily view of the Mono Basin, and they share their work site with some strange "species...." Photo courtesy of Joe Blommer, Caltrans.

The Caltrans staff working on the Lee Vining Rockfall Project have a stunning daily view of the Mono Basin, and they share their work site with some strange “species….” Photo courtesy of Joe Blommer, Caltrans.

A confirmed “sidewalk superintendent,” I am fascinated by construction sites. At least once a week I drive alongside the Caltrans Lee Vining Rockfall Project on Highway 395 just north of town and watch the progress of hillside stabilization, erosion control, and revegetation preparation with great interest. As a naturalist and one of this year’s Mono Lake Committee Birding Interns, I am also on the lookout for interesting and unusual species. With observations enhanced by an active imagination, I’ve noted some strange mechanical creatures assisting their human counterparts in the effort—spiders, cranes and giant tube worms! … more »

Guided canoe tours: The best way to experience Mono Lake

July 23rd, 2015 by Sara, Mono Lake Intern
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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!

Caption caption. Photo by Erv Nichols.

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 »

I love Mono Lake

July 21st, 2015 by Erv, Birding Intern
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I love Mono Lake…. That being said, let me tell some reasons why.

Early  morning at Old Marina. Photo by Erv Nichols.

Early morning at Old Marina. Photo by Erv Nichols.

Mono Lake is beautiful. It has the beauty of wisdom only learned through age and hardship with the scars and wrinkles that serve as medals to that. And this is never more evident than on a stormy, cloud-filled, grey morning. On these mornings, dreary to most, I can be found in the early hours wandering the shores from Castle Tufa to Old Marina with just thousands of birds for company. Or maybe along an old shoreline high above the present lake where Native Americans long ago left their mark in the form of rock petroglyphs.

Since coming here two years ago with my partner and working for the Mono Lake Committee, I have made it my duty and passion to record these moments as best I can. Usually with my camera at hand, but sometimes just in my mind’s eye hoping Mono will reveal some of her ancient wisdom to me. Maybe before I leave here I will learn more of her secrets.

I hope so.

Eastern Sierra loses James Wilson

July 18th, 2015 by Lisa, Eastern Sierra Policy Director
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It is with heavy hearts and punch-to-the-gut reactions that we convey the news of James Wilson’s passing this past Wednesday at Renown Hospital in Reno. He died from complications of a stroke suffered the week before. He was 67 years old. He is survived by his wife Kay, his daughter Rosanne, son-in-law Bayard, and grandson Ansel.

Kay & James Wilson pictured last September at the Mono Basin Outdoor Education Center. Photo by Arya Degenhardt.

Kay & James Wilson pictured last September at the Mono Basin Outdoor Education Center. Along with Kay, James was a steadfast supporter of the Mono Lake Committee’s work on behalf of Mono Lake. Photo by Arya Degenhardt.

For residents and frequent visitors to the Eastern Sierra, James’ accomplishments are familiar and numerous. He was the founder of Wilson’s Eastside Sports in Bishop, co-founder of Friends of the Inyo, active member of Eastern Sierra Audubon, the California Wilderness Coalition, and the Bishop Rotary Club; the list goes on and on. Suffice it to say that James was involved in almost every environmental issue that emerged in the region for over 30 years, bringing his calm, principled, and collaborative approach to the table. He was driven by his passionate love for the Eastern Sierra and his strong desire to protect its wild places, encouraging others to get out and experience it firsthand.

As a dedicated and steadfast conservation leader in the Eastern Sierra, an avid birder and naturalist, and friend to many, James Wilson will be deeply missed.

The last of the day's light reflected in a pond in Lundy Canyon last Wednesday, on the evening that James passed away. Photo by Lisa Cutting.

The last of the day’s light reflected in a pond in Lundy Canyon this past Wednesday, the evening that James passed away. Photo by Lisa Cutting.

Trail Chic inspiration

July 17th, 2015 by Arya, Communications Director
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It’s T-minus one week until the Trail Chic fashion show fundraiser … is your runway gear ready? Here’s one minute of inspiration from years past for you:

Trail Chic video capture

If you’re wondering what Trail Chic is, click here.

If you’re interested in walking the runway, please contact me by email, and if you just want to come see what all the fun is about, we’ll see you at 7:30pm on Friday, July 24th at the Lee Vining Community Center!

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