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2019 in review: The 5-Mile Radius challenge at Mono Lake

Monday, January 6th, 2020 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide

A coyote trots along the wintry shore of Mono Lake on January 1, 2019. Photo by Nora Livingston.

In 2019, I set out to dig deeper into the natural history of the Mono Basin so I can better share it with visitors and locals alike. I took on a quest called the 5-Mile Radius (5MR) challenge that focuses on getting to know the flora and fauna within five miles of my home. It is more than keeping lists of birds seen and plants found—it is a way to pay careful attention to my community. It is a way to fall in love every time I set foot outside my door. In my particular case, it is also (more…)

Mono Lake CBC results

Friday, January 3rd, 2020 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide

The Mono Lake Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is a one-day citizen science effort to tally all wild birds in the Mono Lake area. The 40th annual Mono Lake CBC was held on December 17, 2019.

Pinyon Jays in a Jeffrey pine. Photo by Nora Livingston.

Twenty-two birders, mostly local residents, counted every bird in the 15-mile diameter CBC circle centered on the northwestern edge of the lake. The circle includes all of Lee Vining south to the intersection of Highway 158 north and Highway 395 at Cain Ranch, west into the Sierra including Bohler, Lee Vining, Lundy, and Virginia canyons, north to Conway Summit, and east just past the islands in Mono Lake, which includes the areas of County and DeChambeau ponds, and the Black Point shoals.

The weather this year was (more…)

Christmas Bird Counts around the corner

Wednesday, December 11th, 2019 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide

Each winter, tens of thousands of people get together all over the Western Hemisphere and count birds in what is possibly the largest community-science project in the world. The Christmas Bird Count, or CBC, has been going on for 119 years—the 2019–2020 season is the 120th CBC!

A Clark’s Nutcracker with food in its crop (a special pouch in its throat), on last year’s Mammoth Lakes CBC. Photo by Nora Livingston.

Last year, about 80,000 people tallied over 48.6 million individual birds during the count window. The previous year’s count was over 56 million. These counts help show trends in bird populations, because the areas where people are counting are standardized into individual 15-mile-diameter count circles and the counts are repeated the same way every year.

Want to participate in a count near you? (more…)

Phalarope researchers and their muses flock to Mono Lake

Monday, November 4th, 2019 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide

If you’ve been to Mono Lake in late July, you may have been lucky enough to have seen the elegant aerial ballet of a flock of Wilson’s Phalaropes.

Phalarope surveyors counted birds through binoculars in a clockwise transect around Mono Lake. Photo courtesy of Ryan Carle.

This summer there were thousands of phalaropes along Mono Lake’s south shore, so visitors were fortunate to have the chance to witness these small shorebirds in magnificent flocks dancing above the reflective lake surface, turning on a dime, flashing their white bellies all at once before seeming to disappear in the dark mountain background when they turn their brown and gray backs in unison. This flocking behavior is a truly breathtaking sight to behold. It was a notable phalarope summer at Mono Lake in several other ways as well. (more…)

Genny Smith memorial naturalist hikes

Saturday, June 29th, 2019 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide

Join us on July 13 and August 24 for hikes in memory of naturalist Genny Smith. Photo courtesy of Andrew Aldrich.

Genny Smith was the Naturalist Queen of the Eastern Sierra. She wandered many Eastern Sierra trails in search of flowers, birds, mammals, and quiet serenity, and in turn learned about the important interactions between all of the life in these habitats and the ancient geology that sets the stage. These experiences inspired her (more…)

Another Chautauqua in the books

Tuesday, June 25th, 2019 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide

Last weekend, the eighteenth annual Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua took flight in the basin as hundreds of birders and nature enthusiasts flocked to the area to seek out friends—both feathered and human—knowledge, and fun.

Birders take in the evening at Rattlesnake Gulch surrounded by flowers and granite spires. Photo courtesy of Karen DeMello.

This birding festival brings birders and naturalists together to enhance appreciation and understanding of the Mono Basin’s diverse and abundant bird life and to educate the public about this area’s value to birds and people. This year’s event featured over 100 programs to fill the days, including field trips, lectures, workshops, and more.

This year’s coterie of birders and field trip leaders tallied (more…)

Tioga Pass watch: Current conditions

Monday, May 20th, 2019 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide

Dana Meadows, at the top of Tioga Pass, looking northeast towards Tioga Peak. Photo by Nora Livingston.

On Saturday, May 18, I tagged along with a researcher studying sparrows up Tioga Pass. We drove all the way to the Yosemite National Park entrance station to check out the current conditions and set up a weather station for her study plot. It is still a winter wonderland up there! (more…)

Birds galore in the Mono Basin

Thursday, May 9th, 2019 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide

On Saturday, May 4, I participated in the eBird Global Big Day, which encourages birders around the world to contribute to citizen science efforts by birding and entering checklists into eBird on a single day.

Green-tailed Towhee singing from a pinyon pine. Photo by Nora Livingston.

I decided to use this Big Day as a chance to scout my local hotspots and catch up with migration. In the past two weeks, neotropical migrants have been moving north to their breeding grounds, so there have been new species arriving daily. As the (more…)

2019 Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua programs now online

Friday, March 22nd, 2019 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide

Registration for the eighteenth annual Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua is less than a month away, beginning at 6:30am PDT on Monday, April 15, 2019.

Black-billed Magpie. Photo by Nora Livingston.

The full schedule of field trips, presentations, and workshops is now online, including the grid schedule, which shows (more…)

A storm to remember

Sunday, February 10th, 2019 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide

Last Friday, February 1st, a few snowflakes began to fall as we were leaving work for the day. Anticipating the forecasted storm, Mono Lake Committee staff hurried home to make sure woodpiles were covered and houses were ready for “the big storm.” And what a storm it was!

Day one at the Information Center & Bookstore. Photo by Andrew Youssef.

It started out slow, with only 4 inches of wet heavy snow falling overnight, but by Sunday, the temperatures had dropped and 9 more inches of dry fluffy snow had (more…)

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