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Birding Mono Lake: A Big Day in May

Thursday, May 28th, 2020 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide

On May 9, to celebrate World Migratory Bird Day and eBird’s Global Big Day, my partner Kevin and I set out to see as many bird species as possible within a 5 miles radius (5MR) of the Mono Lake Committee office while contributing to the eBird Global Big Day citizen science project. Last year, I saw 76 species in my 5MR and my goal was to break 80 this year. Though the species count is a motivator, the birds are the prize! We had an amazing day. I have linked the eBird Checklists to each location I mention, so you can see what we were seeing and hearing.

A map of the 5MR. It includes many prime birding spots! Photo from Google Maps.

We started at 5:00am, hearing the pre-dawn crooning of American Robins and House Wrens. Then we drove up Lee Vining Canyon for the dawn chorus. I had been keeping track of the returning migrants diligently, but this week was bursting with new (more…)

Spring visitors at Mono Lake: Migrant birds

Wednesday, April 8th, 2020 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide

With our lives seemingly on hold, it can be hard to remember that the internal clock of all the nature around us keeps on ticking and spring is slowly but surely making its way to the Mono Basin.

A gorgeous Black-bellied Plover at Mono Lake. Photo courtesy of Ramona Robbins Clark.

The Red-winged Blackbirds arrived first and are singing their trademark “b-LEE-dle” song from the trees in town. Then the swallows, Tree first, then Violet-green, came swooping in. Hearing the grinding chirps of Violet-green Swallows on the wires in town is the official sound of spring to me. Yesterday evening at sunset near South Tufa, I heard Osprey calling and Sage Thrashers singing. (more…)

Winter & Spring 2020 Mono Lake Newsletter now online

Saturday, March 7th, 2020 by Elin, Communications Coordinator

The Mono Basin can feel completely quiet and isolated in winter. Mountain passes close for the season and visitors dwindle to a trickle. Birds have flown to warmer places and it’s as if the whole basin is far away from everything else in the world.

But during the prescribed burn on Twain Islet this month I was reminded of how many people see Mono Lake, even in the depths of winter.

Eastern Sierra neighbors hiking north of the lake took photos of the plumes of smoke rising near Negit Island. Locals came into the bookstore to inquire about the activity out on the lake. Someone called to ask if the volcanoes were erupting! Members keeping an eye on the Mono Lake webcams called in, curious about (more…)

The Tioga Pass lower gate is open

Friday, May 31st, 2019 by Elin, Communications Coordinator

At noon today Caltrans opened the lower gate on Tioga Pass, which opens 13 miles of Highway 120, from Highway 395 to the Yosemite National Park boundary. The gate at the park boundary remains closed.

The Tioga Pass lower gate on February 7, 2019. The snow has melted and the gate opened today. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

With the lower gate open, people can access the high country near the park boundary—it remains almost completely snow-covered with wintry conditions and variable weather. Visitors planning to leave the road should be prepared for such conditions. Ellery Lake and Tioga Lake are still covered in ice and snow, and Saddlebag Lake Road is still closed, so there is no vehicle access to Saddlebag Lake. Tioga Pass Resort and Saddlebag Lake Resort remain closed.

There is still no estimated opening date for Tioga Pass; plowing updates can be found here and a list of previous opening dates here.

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…)

Mono Basin roads and services begin to open for the season

Friday, April 19th, 2019 by Elin, Communications Coordinator

After a winter with above-average snowfall, warm spring temperatures have finally arrived! With Easter this weekend and fishing season opening next weekend (Saturday, April 27), roads and services are beginning to open up for the summer season.

Snow removal happening on Highway 120 West (Tioga Pass) on April 10, 2019. Photo courtesy of the Tuolumne Winter Rangers.

Visitor centers

The Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area Visitor Center opened for the season yesterday. Open Thursday through Monday, 8:30am to 4:30pm, with limited services. The Mono Lake Committee Information Center & Bookstore is open every day from 9:00am to 5:00pm. (more…)

April reading of Mono Lake’s level with DWP

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019 by Elin, Communications Coordinator

As is tradition in early April, this morning staff from the Mono Lake Committee and the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) met at Mono Lake’s shore to read the lake level gauge at the start of this new runoff year.

Mono Lake Committee and DWP staff determine Mono Lake’s level together each year in early April. Photo by Elin Ljung.

The lake’s surface was a bit unsettled due to a spring rainstorm passing through, but Maureen (Committee) and Jason (DWP) watched the fluctuations carefully and settled on an official lake level reading of 6382.07 feet above sea level. (more…)

How much is Mono Lake going to rise or fall this year?

Wednesday, March 20th, 2019 by Arya, Communications Director

It’s that time of year again, when all eyes are on the Sierra snowpack, the level of Mono Lake, and spreadsheets.

How much will Mono Lake rise or fall this year? Photo by Andrew Youssef.

Just imagining this winter’s snowpack flowing down Mono Basin streams this spring brings a gleeful sigh of relief. But … spreadsheets? Yep, because spreadsheets, forecast models, experts, and in-depth Mono Basin hydrologic knowledge, when carefully woven together, are how we figure out the big question for Mono Lake: how much is the lake going to rise or fall this year?

You can see the full (more…)

Winter & Spring 2019 Mono Lake Newsletter now online

Thursday, March 14th, 2019 by Elin, Communications Coordinator

When my husband and I were planning our courthouse wedding five years ago, we asked Judge Stan Eller to officiate. Judge Eller retired last year from a long, storied career that included preventing DWP from shutting off Rush Creek after a big flood returned water to it in the mid-1980s for the first time in decades (see page 11). I wanted to feel connected to Mono Lake on that very important day for us, and as Judge Eller pronounced us married, I did.

So many people feel connected to Mono Lake, and never more than during exciting periods of weather. This February has brought more days with snow than without, and we hear from (more…)

Peak streamflows on Mono Lake’s tributaries exceed expectations

Thursday, June 7th, 2018 by Greg, Information & Restoration Specialist

Peak snowmelt runoff on Mono Lake’s tributary streams is occurring!

Restoration Field Technician Robbie Di Paolo retrieves a temperature logging device in high flows on Rush Creek. Photo by Andrew Youssef.

Lundy Lake Reservoir is spilling, and the Rush Creek peak flow of 380 cubic feet per second (cfs) below Grant Lake Reservoir is being released over the next five days. So far, snowmelt runoff above the aqueduct has peaked at 272 cfs on Rush Creek, 238 cfs on Lee Vining Creek, 46 cfs on Parker Creek, and 23 cfs on Walker Creek. The flows should begin to subside soon given the rapid melting and limited snowpack. (more…)

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