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Wildflowers in full bloom along Lee Vining Creek

June 4th, 2016 by Mono Lake Committee Staff
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This post was written by Sandra Noll, Birding Intern in 2014, 2015, & 2016.

Not far from the Mono Lake Committee headquarters and bookstore, the Lee Vining Creek trail offers multi-sensory delights this time of year. Early morning and late evening are best for birding but anytime of day is great for wildflowers.

Yellows predominate from the profuse tiny blossoms of bitterbrush and buckwheat to the stately single stems of western wallflower and from button-like rayless daisies to sunflower-like blossoms within the long fuzzy leaves of woolly mule’s ears.

The Lee Vining Creek trail flanked by yellow bitterbrush and sagebrush. Photo by Sandra Noll.

The Lee Vining Creek trail flanked by yellow bitterbrush and sagebrush. Photo by Sandra Noll.

… more »

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

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 »

For the love of Mono Lake’s Osprey

May 30th, 2016 by Mono Lake Committee Staff
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This post was written by Erv Nichols, Birding Intern in 2014, 2015, & 2016.

For me, the love of Ospreys really began last year, my second year here with the Mono Lake Committee. I was as familiar with them as I was with all the other birds of Mono—being, along with my partner Sandra—half the Birding Intern team. But somewhere about mid-summer I developed a real fondness for their behavior, grace, and devotion to their young.

Osprey pairs build nests atop tufa towers where they are safe from predators. Photo by Erv Nichols.

Osprey pairs build nests atop tufa towers where they are safe from predators. Photo by Erv Nichols.

Soon I was spending my free hours at Old Marina or the far reaches of South Tufa to observe the interactions of male, female, and chicks on the tufa nests they prefer. These nests are huge, six to eight feet across constructed from branches flown in from the nearby woods. Sometimes they will actually fly into a dead tree and snap off a preferred branch with a loud “CRAACK!” holding on to it with their strong talons and carrying it back as far as five miles to place in just the right spot. (Honestly, I have actually seen this!) … more »

Summer 2016 Mono Lake Newsletter now online

May 25th, 2016 by Arya, Communications Director
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Newsletter-Su-coverA full moon canoe tour on Mono Lake should be on your bucket list. There’s nothing like it. With the cool salty air off the water, the moonglade, the tufa towers even more otherworldly, birds and bats skirting through the quiet open sky—it’s like floating in the middle of a giant unbelievable black and white photograph.

While you’ve got your bucket list out, I recommend turning to page 14 of this Newsletter. The full moon canoe tour is just the beginning—the Mono Lake Committee is offering a whole slew of new guided trips and tours in addition to our regular offerings. We’ve pulled together some of the most knowledgeable, experienced, and fun people around to guide folks who are curious and want to see, learn, and do more in the Mono Basin. … more »

Memorial Day weekend hours at the Mono Lake Committee Information Center & Bookstore

May 24th, 2016 by Lily, Information Center & Bookstore Manager
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Spring and California Gulls are in the air, and the Mono Lake Committee Information Center & Bookstore will be extending its hours for Memorial Day weekend. From Friday, May 27 to Monday, May 30 we will be open from 8:00am to 6:00pm to accommodate holiday travelers.

Stop by during Memorial Day weekend! Photo by Jessica Horn.

Stop by during Memorial Day weekend! Photo by Jessica Horn.

We will return to our normal hours (9:00am–5:00pm) on Tuesday, May 31. We hope to see you here soon!

Native plant conditions at Mill Creek improve

May 23rd, 2016 by Robbie, Restoration Field Technician
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On May 18, 2015 I wanted to assess the types and quantities of invasive plants that were present at Mill Creek. Melilotus albus (sweet clover) was quickly identified as the most prolific and abundant invasive plant species present along Mill Creek, which I documented with GPS points and photos. With the help of volunteers and school groups, we were able to remove over 730 pounds of sweet clover from Mill Creek in 2015 from mid-June to mid-August by manually pulling and clipping the invasive plants. Now in 2016 the difference is noticeable.

Image on the left shows an island in Mill Creek totally dominated by invasive Sweet Clover on May 18th, 2015. The image on the right shows the same island on May 13th, 2016 with only a small patch of Sweet Clover in the center of the island; the rest of the vegetation consists of native clovers, moss, and willow saplings.

Image on the left shows an island in Mill Creek totally dominated by invasive sweet clover on May 18, 2015. The image on the right shows the same island on May 13, 2016 with only a small patch of sweet clover in the center of the island; the rest of the vegetation consists of native clovers, moss, grass, and willow saplings. Photos by Robbie Di Paolo.

Areas of Mill Creek where we focused sweet clover removal efforts in 2015 are now showing native plants retaking the prized riparian habitat in 2016 (as demonstrated by the photo above), which is exactly what we want to be seeing.

Unfortunately, we can’t take all the credit. Seasonal variation has a big impact on what plants dominate a landscape year to year and compared to the last three years, we had much more snow this year. That snow probably helped a lot with inhibiting sweet clover growth and development. But I believe with continued efforts, we are giving the native plants a chance to secure their place along Mill Creek for years to come.

Special thanks to outdoor clothing company Patagonia Inc. for their support of the Mono Lake Committee’s restoration stewardship program.

2016 Andrea Lawrence Award presented to Dan & Leslie Dawson

May 21st, 2016 by Lily, Information Center & Bookstore Manager
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On May 13th community members, friends, and family of Andrea Mead Lawrence gathered at Mammoth Mountain’s Parallax Restaurant to commemorate Andrea’s life and those who embody her spirit of community and conservationism through the presentation of the Andrea Lawrence Award.

Geoff McQuilkin and Quentin Lawrence with Leslie & Dan Dawson, recipients of the 2016 Andrea Lawrence Award. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

Geoff McQuilkin and Quentin Lawrence with Leslie & Dan Dawson, recipients of the 2016 Andrea Lawrence Award. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

Andrea was a visionary environmental leader, two-time Olympic gold medalist, mother of five, 16-year Mono County Supervisor, and Mono Lake Committee board member. Since her passing in 2009, the Mono Lake Committee has hosted the Andrea Lawrence Award Dinner to celebrate her influential life and those who continue to improve and protect the Eastern Sierra through their passionate engagement with community and the land.

The 2016 award was presented to Dan & Leslie Dawson, who recently retired from the Valentine Eastern Sierra Reserve, for their 37 years of tireless work improving upon and expanding both the Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Lab (SNARL) and Valentine Camp—together referred to as the Valentine Eastern Sierra Reserve, which is part of the University of California Natural Reserve System. … more »

Free bird walks at Mono Lake County Park begin this weekend

May 19th, 2016 by Mono Lake Committee Staff
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This post was written by Sandra Noll, Birding Intern in 2014, 2015, & 2016.

Several events mark the beginning of the Mono Lake Committee’s summer season. One of them is the start of weekend bird-walks at Mono Lake County Park, a joint program with California State Parks.

A Western Tanager in its brilliant breeding plumage. Photo by Sandra Noll.

A Western Tanager in its brilliant breeding plumage. Photo by Sandra Noll.

You are invited to join experienced guides every Friday and Sunday at 8:00am (meet at the County Park parking lot) for a two-hour guided walk through a variety of habitats including an aging woodland with dead snags, sagebrush scrub, grassland, riparian oasis, and the shore of Mono Lake. As you can imagine, this variety of habitats supports a wide variety of birds.

These following photos of a few of the species seen on a preview walk earlier this week are … more »

Tioga Pass opening today at noon

May 18th, 2016 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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News from Yosemite National Park: Tioga Pass (Highway 120) will open all the way through the park today at noon.

Mono Lake seen from the Yosemite high country. Photo courtesy of karlcbl via Instagram.

Mono Lake seen from the Yosemite high country. Photo courtesy of karlcbl via Instagram.

This is good news for us Eastsiders who are eager to visit the Yosemite high country, and for folks on the west side who have been waiting to visit Mono Lake all winter. The spring weather is perfect these days—come on over!

See more information about hiking conditions, campgrounds, and services from the National Park Service press release below: … more »

Lower gate on Highway 120 opens; Tioga Pass remains closed

May 12th, 2016 by Andrew, Digital Engagement Coordinator
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Near Tioga Pass, the snow is over six feet deep from the plowing operations. Photo by Andrew Youssef.

Near Tioga Pass, the snow is over six feet deep along the road. Photo by Andrew Youssef.

This morning, Caltrans opened the lower gate on Highway 120 up to Tioga Pass. Highway 120 is still closed, however, beyond Tioga Pass into Yosemite National Park.

I excitedly made the trip up the road during my lunch break today for the first time since November and found considerable snow still on the ground above 9,000 feet … more »

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