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Get your ducks in a row: Chautauqua registration is April 15th

March 23rd, 2016 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide
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Mallard mama with ducklings. Photo by Nora Livingston.

If you are planning to come to the Fifteenth Annual Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua, now is the time to gather your ducklings and make sure you’re prepared for registration—you don’t want to miss out on a trip because you haven’t decided which trips to register for! Registration opens on Friday, April 15, at 6:30am sharp. Many field trips fill within minutes, so rise before the sun, sip your coffee with your list of events in hand, and be ready to go at 6:30am. The schedule is up on the website now, and the full program with trip descriptions and leader biographies will be up very soon, so make sure you have your field trip and program choices prioritized for registration day. Check out our Facebook page for real-time updates. We look forward to seeing you in June!

Announcing Mono Lake Guided Trips

March 22nd, 2016 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide
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We are excited to share our new Guided Trips program—a new way to visit the Mono Basin and the Eastern Sierra with an experienced guide to get the most out of this incredible place and fall in love with the region like we have, while also supporting Mono Lake.

Lead Naturalist Guide Nora Livingston (third from left) leads a group of birders at the Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua. Photo by Arya Degenhardt.

Lead Naturalist Guide Nora Livingston (third from left) leads a group of birders at the Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua. Photo by Arya Degenhardt.

Our new program has over 45 day-trips scheduled from May to October, ranging in focus from birds to volcanoes and everything in between. Walk with us and learn to identify wildflowers, butterflies, birds, and mammals. Transport your mind into the past while we visit historical Paiute, mining, and logging sites. Slip into the lake in a canoe as the full moon rises—serenity is waiting.

We also offer custom guided trips for an even more personalized visit. We will work with you to design … more »

2016 Mono Lake Committee Scholarship now open for applicants

March 21st, 2016 by Robbie, Restoration Field Technician
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Each year the Mono Lake Committee supports local students pursuing higher education who display a personal connection with Mono Lake and the Mono Lake story with two $1,000 scholarships. Mono County resident high school seniors who have firm plans to attend a two- or four-year college within a year of graduation qualify.

Carson Bold won one of the 2015 Mono Lake Committee Scholarships; Communications Director Arya Degenhardt presented it to him at graduation. Photo courtesy of Susan Morning.

Carson Bold was a recipient of one of the 2015 Mono Lake Committee Scholarships; Communications Director Arya Degenhardt presented it to him at graduation. Photo courtesy of Susan Morning.

If you are interested in applying, you can find the application here. The application deadline is: Friday, April 29, 2016 at 5:00pm. … more »

El Niño delivers more drought to the Eastern Sierra

March 19th, 2016 by Bartshé, Education Director
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Despite a strong El Niño and recent rain and snow in California, drought conditions continue to plague the Eastern Sierra and Mono Lake. As of March 16 extreme and exceptional drought conditions persist in Mono and Inyo counties, a drought that is now in its fifth year. Recent winter storms brought very little precipitation east of the Sierra crest and the outlook for the rest of March looks generally dry.

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Extreme and exceptional drought conditions persist up and down the Eastern Sierra and throughout a large portion of California.

This means that many precipitation measuring stations east and west of Highway 395 will end up between 40% and 75% of normal for April 1. The one exception … more »

Rush Creek dodges another setback: Mono Lake Committee action prompts flow adjustment

March 16th, 2016 by Lisa, Eastern Sierra Policy Director
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Despite some snow on the peaks and forecasters still calling for an El Niño weather pattern, Grant Lake Reservoir remains at a precariously low level. With three Southern California Edison (SCE) reservoirs upstream, and four years of drought to catch up from, Grant will be the last reservoir to benefit from this year’s runoff. Since lower Rush Creek is dependent on Grant Lake Reservoir for its water, and because special water management rules are triggered when Grant drops to a certain level, the Mono Lake Committee was busy in December ensuring that the best possible situation was secured for Rush Creek for the remainder of the winter.

A snow-covered Grant Lake Reservoir at the lowest it has been since 2009, showing the current low volume of water (approximately 11,000 acre-feet) and exposed banks. Photo by Santiago Escruceria.

A snow-covered Grant Lake Reservoir at the lowest it has been since 2009, showing the current low volume of water (approximately 11,000 acre-feet) and exposed banks. Photo by Santiago Escruceria.

Grant can only go so low

In 1994, the California State Water Resources Control Board, by way of Decision 1631, had the foresight to protect flows in Rush Creek from scenarios in which Grant Lake Reservoir gets abnormally low. … more »

Planning update from the Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua team

March 14th, 2016 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide
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Photo by Santiago Escruceria 2015

An American Kestrel, Falco sparverius, perches regally on a snag. Photo by Santiago Escruceria.

Planning a birding festival takes a significant amount of work and time. We, along with our organizing partners at California State Parks, now have 14 years of experience under our belts, so our Fifteenth Annual Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua planning is progressing smoothly. We’ve assembled a complete schedule in grid form and it is now available to view on the website for all you pre-planners out there. Our program information with trip descriptions and leader biographies will be up on the website in the next two weeks. This will give attendees plenty of time to plan for registration on Friday, April 15. Remember, the Fifteenth Annual Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua is June 17–19 this year. … more »

Will Mono Lake rise in 2016?

March 12th, 2016 by Geoff, Executive Director
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The question for 2016: Will the winter be big enough to make Mono Lake rise? The short answer is: stay tuned to see what happens in the second half of winter. Snowpack conditions are the key to lake level forecasting, and they are currently far better than the last four drought years. But the snowpack is not yet above average for the Mono Basin.

Mono Lake Committee staff walked to the narrow moat of water that still separates Negit Island from the mainland last November. Photo by Elin LJung.

Mono Lake Committee staff walked to the narrow moat of water that still separates Negit Island from the mainland last November. Photo by Elin Ljung.

Will water exports be allowed?

The lake level is currently 6378 feet above sea level. The rules controlling water exports to Los Angeles recognize the ecological jeopardy the lake is in when it approaches 6377 feet, and they add a twist. As usual, the lake level gets measured on April 1—if it is below 6377, no exports are allowed for the following 12 months. That part is straightforward and easy.

The twist comes in when the hydrologic modeling … more »

The sixth grade science of Mono Lake

March 9th, 2016 by Greg, Information & Restoration Specialist
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Last week, I received a text message from Luis Santos, a friend and coordinator of The Grateful Dads, a hiking group to which I belong. He was wondering if I could come talk to his sixth grade students about Mono Lake, since they were studying it in science class.

MLC Information & Restoration Specialist Greg Reis speaking to sixth graders at Ecole Bilingue Berkeley. Photo by Luis Santos.

The Committee’s Information & Restoration Specialist Greg Reis speaking to sixth graders at Ecole Bilingue Berkeley. Photo courtesy of Luis Santos.

I immediately was excited about the idea. I love sharing the Mono Lake story, and my field seminars have been highly rated. Also, my own sixth grade science class and my teacher, Mr. Lewis, were very influential in my life, and I can trace many of my current interests and scientific curiosity back to that time. … more »

Winter & Spring 2016 Mono Lake Newsletter now online

March 1st, 2016 by Arya, Communications Director
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Newsletter-WiSp-coverIt is often said that hope is not a strategy. At the Mono Lake Committee we take that to heart. Hope plays an important role, but it’s not a strategy. Balancing hope for a “big winter” with a dedication to tracking the sometimes-sobering realities of what the weather patterns are actually delivering is a challenge—especially after four drought years and in the flurry of excitement about and promise of the current El Niño.

Don’t get me wrong, Committee staff are the first to rejoice in any snowfall that comes our way. On any given day you might find Bartshe skiing up Tioga Pass at lunch; Jess finding new lines off of June Mountain; Robbie, Lily, Andrew, and Nora laying fresh tracks by moonlight; Lisa out checking on trout while walking Tucker; Elin telemarking with friends; or Geoff with his not-yet-two-year-old on her first set of skis. … more »

Keeping an eye on Mono Lake’s California Gulls

February 27th, 2016 by Geoff, Executive Director
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As the winter of 2015–16 unfolds in the Mono Basin, those of us lucky enough to live here are enjoying tracking every storm and taking the measure of El Niño’s effects. After years of drought, many Mono Lake issues are critically affected by the size of this winter’s snowpack.

But we can’t wait until the final snowflake has fallen to plan for 2016. This is especially true for the protection of the California Gulls that nest on Negit Island and surrounding islets, because the magnitude of the winter will directly determine how safe the nesting ground is this year.

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Nesting gulls were safe from coyotes in 2015 but Committee wildlife camera observations confirmed that coyotes are active in the landbridge area. Photo from a Mono Lake Committee wildlife camera.

California’s four-year drought has lowered Mono Lake more than five feet, causing the re-emergence of a substantial portion of the landbridge that connected the north shore to the gull nesting grounds in … more »

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