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…)
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.
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…)
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!
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…)
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.
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 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…)
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.
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…)
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…)
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.
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…)
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!
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…)