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Results are in for the 38th Annual Tioga Pass Run

Saturday, September 15th, 2018 by Nigel, Birding Intern
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Last Sunday, September 9, athletes from near and far joined us in the Eastern Sierra for the 38th Annual Tioga Pass Run.

Runners make their way up the Tioga Road just past the midpoint of the race. Photo by Dick Erb.

Starting outside the Mono Lake Committee Information Center & Bookstore in Lee Vining, the grueling but beautiful 12.4-mile course follows the Tioga Road up Lee Vining Canyon to the eastern gate of Yosemite National Park, topping out at 9,943 feet above sea level. A total of 148 runners and walkers completed the race this year, a new record!

This year’s overall winner, finishing in a time of 1:40:16, was (more…)

Successful invasive sweet clover removal at Mono Lake

Thursday, August 23rd, 2018 by Nigel, Birding Intern
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This summer, Mono Lake Committee staff, volunteers, and guest naturalists made substantial progress toward removing invasive white sweet clover (Melilotus albus) from the Old Marina area. This annual project is a crucial piece of the Committee’s mission to restore native habitats throughout the Mono Basin.

Volunteers Joy and Maddog add to the growing pile of pulled sweet clover. Photo by Nigel Bates.

Sweet clover can quickly overtake an ecosystem if it is not held in check, so our yearly invasive removal events are critical to maintaining the biodiversity of the area. Over the course of two mornings, we removed 199.75 pounds of sweet clover! This marked one of our most efficient summers ever, with each participant pulling an average of 17 pounds. Thanks to all of our volunteers for their hard work and good spirits.

As we pulled sweet clover, we were treated to informal lectures by our guest naturalists (more…)

Monitoring California Gulls on Mono Lake’s islands

Sunday, July 15th, 2018 by Nigel, Birding Intern
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Last week, I traveled to the Negit and Paoha islets in the middle of Mono Lake to help with the ongoing California Gull research project. (Please note that the islands are closed to the public until August 1 to protect the nesting gulls.)

Counting gull chicks in a fenced-off plot on the Paoha Islets. Photo by Nigel Bates.

This project, conducted by Point Blue Conservation Science and supported by the Mono Lake Committee, has monitored long-term trends in the breeding gull population for the past 35 years. Mono Lake supports one of the largest California Gull colonies in the world, so the success of this population is critical to the survival of the species. I joined Point Blue lead researcher Kristie Nelson and Institute for Bird Populations intern Sarah Hecocks for three days of data collection at the gull colony. (more…)

Join us on a free bird walk!

Tuesday, July 10th, 2018 by Nigel, Birding Intern
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Looking for something fun to do on a weekend morning in the Mono Basin? The Mono Lake Committee and California State Parks offer free bird walks at 8:00am every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday throughout the summer. Join a naturalist for a leisurely 2-hour excursion through some of the most productive bird habitats in the area. The Friday and Sunday morning walks are at Mono Lake County Park, and the Saturday morning walk explores Lundy Canyon. All experience levels are welcome! We’ll provide loaner binoculars if you don’t have a pair.

The lush riparian habitat at County Park is a great place to spot Western Tanagers. Photo by Sandra Noll.

Fridays and Sundays: Meet at Mono Lake County Park (5–10 minute drive from Lee Vining). Take Highway 395 north from Lee Vining for 5 miles, then turn right on Cemetery Road (signs for County Park/Mono Lake Access). Follow Cemetery Road for a 1/2-mile to the parking lot on the right.

Saturdays: Meet at the Lundy Lake Resort (15 minute drive from Lee Vining). Take Highway 395 north from Lee Vining for 7 miles, then turn left on Lundy Lake Road. Follow the Lundy Lake Road for 5 miles to the Lundy Lake Resort, where you can park on the shoulder just before the main cluster of buildings.

For more information, contact the Mono Lake Committee at (760) 647-6595, stop by the Information Center and Bookstore in Lee Vining, or email Birding Intern Nigel. We hope to see you out in the field!

Scanning for birds along Cemetery Road at County Park. Photo by Erv Nichols.

Looking back on the 2018 Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua

Tuesday, June 26th, 2018 by Nigel, Birding Intern
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A record-setting crowd of over 330 people convened in the Mono Basin for the seventeenth annual Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua. Over the course of the weekend, participants enjoyed over 100 field trips, workshops, and presentations that covered the area’s tremendous diversity of birds and other wildlife.

Birders enjoy a spectacular view of the Sierra crest on a field trip to the Rush Creek Delta. Photo courtesy of Sarah Angulo.

This year’s Chautauqua participants racked up an impressive list of 171 bird species. For many, the avian highlight was a Grace’s Warbler that entertained birders all weekend along Bald Mountain Road east of the June Lake Loop. Other notable sightings included Indigo Bunting in Lundy Canyon (for the second year in a row!), Sandhill Crane and Common Grackle at Bridgeport Reservoir, and Common Loon at Crowley Lake. (more…)

Conservation groups sue to protect migratory birds

Monday, May 28th, 2018 by Nigel, Birding Intern
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Led by the National Audubon Society, a coalition of conservation organizations is suing the US Department of the Interior over the new, and significantly weaker, interpretation of the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). The lawsuit, filed on May 24, 2018, challenges a new Department of the Interior memorandum that removes protections related to “incidental take” of migratory birds.

Mono Lake hosts tens of thousands of Wilson’s and Red-necked Phalaropes each summer, as an important stop on the Pacific flyway. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

Under the new interpretation, the only actions that can be regulated using the MBTA are intentional ones—such as hunting. Actions that cause unintentional yet predictable bird deaths no longer fall within the parameters of the MBTA. This latter category encompasses a broad swath of industrial threats, such as oil spills and collisions with power lines, and while they are not designed to kill birds, they are known to lead to significant migratory bird deaths nonetheless.

Mono Lake is an important piece of the migratory flyway (more…)

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