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Efforts to rid Mono Lake’s islets of Bassia continue

Thursday, March 12th, 2020 by Elin, Communications Coordinator

Since mid-February’s successful prescribed burn on Twain Islet to clear breeding habitat for California Gulls, the Mono Lake Committee has been working with the Inyo National Forest and Point Blue Conservation Science to schedule another burn before the gulls return to nest for the season.

Mono Lake Committee and State Parks staff returned to Twain Islet in late February to continue efforts to restore California Gull nesting habitat. Photo by Andrew Youssef.

However, a combination of windy and rainy weather, the complex logistics of getting all parties out to the islands, and Point Blue biologists’ observations of gulls already returning to Mono Lake means that the burn window has closed for this spring.

Even though (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…)

Connie Millar honored with American Geophysical Union’s Ambassador Award

Saturday, December 28th, 2019 by Lisa, Associate Policy Director

Earlier this month at the annual American Geophysical Union (AGU) conference, Dr. Connie Millar was recognized as one of five recipients for the prestigious Ambassador Award, which recognizes individuals for their outstanding contributions to one or more of the following areas: societal impact, service to the Earth and space community, scientific leadership, and promotion of talent/career pool. The Ambassador Award honors individuals whose achievements extend beyond those recognized by traditional scientific awards.

Connie Millar backpacking in the mountains of Nevada. Photo courtesy of Connie Millar.

(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…)

2019 Mono Lake Committee Annual Report

Saturday, December 7th, 2019 by Arya, Communications Director

The Mono Lake Committee’s 2019 Annual Report is now available online and in print!

The 2019 Mono Lake Committee Annual Report is now available online. Photo courtesy of Thomas Piekunka.

The report is full of photos of the Mono Lake Committee in action in our focus areas of protection, restoration, education, and scientific research. It also has the Committee’s (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…)

Monitoring willow growth along Rush Creek

Tuesday, October 29th, 2019 by AnnaLisa, Mono Lake Intern

After tumbling out of the car following a jaunt down Forest Service roads to Rush Creek, fellow intern Meghan and I started the steep, sandy descent to a location known as Vestal Springs, weaving our way between fragrant sagebrush and rose shrubs.

AnnaLisa measuring a willow stem as Robbie looks on. Photo by Meghan Cihasky.

The springs are named for California Fish & Game Biologist Elden Vestal (1914–1998), an expert on Mono Lake’s tributary streams and a critical witness during the courtroom and State Water Board proceedings leading up to the 1994 Mono Lake decision.

Vestal Springs support a lush, grassy oasis separate from the nearby riparian habitat of Rush Creek. In addition to grasses and wildflowers, the area is scattered with large willow trees. It is these trees that Meghan and I came here for. (more…)

For the love of grebes

Sunday, October 20th, 2019 by Robbie, Restoration Field Technician

In British Columbia Robbie assisted Dr. Boyd with telemetry studies to determine annual migration patterns of Eared Grebes. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

They’re not an endangered species, they’re not an invasive species, and they’re not a mascot for a sports team—according to a recent paper these are indicators that we shouldn’t expect Eared Grebes to start trending on Google anytime soon. In fact, a paper published in the National Academy of Sciences journal identified grebes as one of the least-popular bird groups in the United States.

I learned this not-so-fun fact while I was in Riske Creek, British Columbia, capturing Eared Grebes with Dr. Sean Boyd and his colleagues from Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). While cradling a little one-pound grebe in my hands, the bird patiently waiting to be released, I felt baffled about why such a cool and unique bird was not more loved.

Eared Grebe aerial photo surveys at Mono Lake have been conducted almost every year since 1996, and the Mono Lake Committee has (more…)

A bountiful year at Mono Lake

Monday, September 30th, 2019 by Geoff, Executive Director

If you wanted to summarize this past summer at Mono Lake in one word it would be this: phalaropes.

Phalaropes flocked in spectacular formations at South Tufa this summer. Photo by Andrew Youssef.

The dainty Mono-loving migrators put on spectacular displays at South Tufa for many days, dipping and weaving in tight flocks of thousands. Visitors stopped in their tracks and canoes floated in place to watch the aerial acrobatics. Mono Lake Committee staff captured one dramatic episode on video and it quickly became our most-watched video ever; you can see it for yourself here.

The phalaropes have now headed to points south for the winter, but like many things at Mono Lake, their summer displays were possible thanks to protection work behind the scenes (more…)

Refreshing ‘Ologists: Rock glaciers as under-explored hydrologic reservoirs and climate refugia

Saturday, September 7th, 2019 by Ellie, Mono Lake Intern

Join us on Tuesday, September 10 at 4:00pm in the Mono Lake Committee gallery for this week’s Refreshments with Refreshing ‘Ologists. Connie Millar, Senior Scientist with the US Forest Service, will be here to discuss rock glaciers as under-explored hydrologic reservoirs and climate refugia. If you can join us for this free event, please register here. Please note: This talk is on a Tuesday!

Gibbs Rock Glacier and Kidney Lake, seen from Dana Plateau. This is an active, ice-embedded rock glacier, moving at a rate of about 0.5 meters per year, and producing a steady output of cold groundwater. Photo courtesy of Connie Millar.

Despite their ubiquity, rock glaciers are little-recognized land forms of the high Sierra Nevada and other Great Basin mountains. Long studied globally by glacial specialists, their unique properties as enduring sources of cold-water springs and lakes, and their related roles in providing habitat for (more…)

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