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I love Mono Lake

July 21st, 2015 by Mono Lake Committee Staff
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This post was written by Erv Nichols, Birding Intern in 2014, 2015, & 2016.

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.

Swallows perching on road and bushes

July 19th, 2015 by tdomf_e48ef
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Date of sighting: 7/18/15

Just north of the Walker Creek diversion pond there were dozens of cliff swallows on the road and in the tops of bushes. Our approaching cars flushed them into the air, but as we left they settled back down in the tops of bushes. I haven’t seen this behavior before and suspect they were eating insects.

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!

The Mono Basin’s wettest July since 1965

July 16th, 2015 by Greg, Information & Restoration Specialist
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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.

The 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.

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%.

Seminar spotlight: Introduction to High Country Plants & Habitats

July 15th, 2015 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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It’s one of the worst droughts on record, so that means there aren’t any flowers in the Mono Basin this year, right? Wrong!

Caption caption. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

Species of paintbrush are blooming brightly at many Mono Basin elevations, from riparian corridors where interns measure streamflow to alpine meadows. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

It’s one of the best wildflower years in the Eastern Sierra, thanks to the above-average precipitation we’ve received in May, June, and so far in July. The flowers are responding enthusiastically, so don’t miss the Introduction to High Country Plants & Habitats field seminar, scheduled for the peak of the summer bloom. Plants, animals, insects, geology, and weather all interact quickly during the short growing season, and this seminar is a guide to it all.

Introduction to High Country Plants & Habitats • July 31–August 2 • $165 per person/$150 for members • sign up here … more »

Mono Lake Committee divests from fossil fuels

July 13th, 2015 by Geoff, Executive Director
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The Mono Lake Committee has now fully divested from fossil fuels. Photo by Arya Degenhardt.

The Mono Lake Committee has now fully divested from fossil fuels. Photo by Arya Degenhardt.

A worldwide fossil fuel divestment movement has begun involving governments, educational institutions, foundations, faith-based groups, individuals, and non-profit organizations. Participants range from Stanford University to the City of Seattle to the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation to Britain’s Prince Charles. We’re pleased to inform members that the Mono Lake Committee is part of the movement.

As inspirational climate leader and Mono Lake Committee member Bill McKibben says, divestment is a simple, direct action that counters “the scary new math of climate change.”

The Committee’s savings account hardly rivals those of big institutions. But similar to our solar panel installation several years ago, we need to continue to do our part to counter carbon pollution—an issue close to home as we grapple with the effects of a changing climate at Mono Lake.

While coal, gas, and oil companies were never a special focus in the Committee’s investments, they were often present in the diversified funds we used to safeguard endowment gifts, member bequests, and other savings. But no longer. The Mono Lake Committee has now fully divested from fossil fuels.

This post was also published as an article in the Summer 2015 Mono Lake Newsletter.

July, the new January?

July 11th, 2015 by Bartshé, Education Director
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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. Dana, above Tioga Pass on July 9, 2015.

New snow above Saddlebag Lake

Mt. Excelsior and ridge in fresh snow behind Saddlebag Lake, July 9, 2015.

Saddlebag Lake and the Tioga Ridge

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.

Penstemon newberryi

Mountain Pride, Penstemon newberryi, in fresh snow, July 9, 2015. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

Caltrans Hwy 395 rockfall project report #6

July 10th, 2015 by Robbie, Restoration Field Technician
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Caltrans-rockfall-update-graphic

Caltrans has released the sixth road report for the Lee Vining Rockfall Safety Project on Highway 395 along Mono Lake just north of Lee Vining.

Lee Vining Rockfall Safety project update #6


Capture 6aCapture 6c
Capture 6 b

Updates are also posted regularly on Twitter and Facebook.
Click here for all project updates and background.
Text from the official update is below.

Caltrans-rockfall-update-graphic … more »

A toast to Randy Arnold and 25 Barefoot years at Mono Lake

July 10th, 2015 by Arya, Communications Director
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Randy Arnold. Photo by Arya Degenhardt.

Randy Arnold, Barefoot Wine ambassador and Mono Lake champion. Photo by Arya Degenhardt.

In spring 2003, the Mono Lake Committee got an intern application that stood out—Randy Arnold, 13-year ambassador for Barefoot Winery and 20-year Mono Lake Committee volunteer and member, wanted to be the Birding Intern. We were probably as surprised as his employers—Barefoot Wine founders Bonnie Harvey and Michael Houlihan, who had just given their #1 employee a sabbatical to follow his dream of working for Mono Lake.

Fast-forward to 2015 and Randy is celebrating his 25th anniversary with Barefoot. He continues to make good on the promise he made at age 14 (when he first visited Mono Lake on his way to 4-H summer camp) to return to the Eastern Sierra as often as possible. … more »

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