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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…)

Take a guided trip to experience the majesty of winter at Mono Lake

Sunday, December 23rd, 2018 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide

With the winter solstice behind us, winter has officially begun and the days are getting longer! Join us here at Mono Lake for the Winter Ecology field seminar on February 9, 2019 for a guided trip into the mysteries of the winter season.

We’ve had a few winter storms already and we are hoping for lots more! Winter is a unique time to visit the Mono Basin—it’s a time for quiet solitude and reflection, for exploring curiosities on a smaller scale than during the bustle of summer.

Snow blankets Lee Vining canyon. Photo by Nora Livingston.

One question I hear people ask a lot is “what do animals and birds do to survive in the winter when snow covers the ground or it is so cold that we humans need to add several extra layers to stay warm enough?” (more…)

Christmas Bird Counts are on the horizon!

Sunday, December 9th, 2018 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 118 years—the 2018–2019 season is the 119th CBC!

Rough-legged Hawks are typically only in Mono County during the winter months, and they blend right in with the patchy snow. Photo by Nora Livingston.

Last year, people tallied over 56 million individual birds during the count window. These counts help show trends in bird populations (more…)

A glimpse into Lee Vining’s nightlife: Foxes, raccoons, and more!

Sunday, October 21st, 2018 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide

Last week, diners at Epic Cafe at the south end of town observed a red fox running through the cafe’s lawn at night, sniffing for scraps dropped by messy eaters.

Here’s the red fox seen at Epic Cafe. Notice its black ears, black feet, and white tip of the tail. It is larger than a gray fox, with longer legs and a bushier tail.

Not only is this stunning creature beautiful for visitors to observe, it is also quite rare in the area and the sighting sparked the interest of local agencies, including Yosemite National Park and the California Department of Fish & Wildlife. It has the potential to be an extremely rare Sierra Nevada red fox (Vulpes vulpes necator), a subspecies of the more widespread red fox (Vulpes vulpes)It could also be a non-native subspecies with Great Basin or fur farm ancestry. The only way to tell for sure is to gather genetic data—either fur or scat. (more…)

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