Experience Ambientalia celebrates World Migratory Bird Day

Lee Vining students participating in the Experience Ambientalia program celebrated World Migratory Bird Day on Sunday, October 15. In partnership with the Mono Lake Committee, DeChambeau Creek Foundation, Eastern Sierra Audubon Society, Inyo National Forest, Beaver’s Sporting Goods, local high school teachers, and our colleagues at Laguna Mar Chiquita in northern Argentina, the students took part in a bird outing and assisted in restoring vital wetland habitat in the Mono Basin. During the outing, students saw and learned about the natural history of Loggerhead Shrikes, Northern Harriers, American Coots, and more. Students then participated in Duck Days, an interagency service day aimed at restoring wetland habitat for waterfowl in the Mono Basin. Students helped remove overgrown vegetation that prevented water from properly flowing into wetland ponds.

Experience Ambientalia students from Lee Vining went birding on October 15, World Migratory Bird Day. Photo courtesy of Sarah Taylor.

Experience Ambientalia is a community group that seeks to better connect youth to their home ecosystems and cultivate a sense of environmental stewardship. The Mono Lake chapter of Experience Ambientalia parallels a much larger program and contingent of students in Argentina, where Experiencia Ambientalia was founded in 2021 to engage youth in conserving Laguna Mar Chiquita. Mono Lake is a sister lake with Laguna Mar Chiquita within the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network because of their combined role in providing critical habitat for Wilson’s Phalaropes.

The Lee Vining students also helped with waterfowl habitat restoration. Photo by Ryan Garrett.

Students on both sides of the hemisphere are now doing concurrent environmental stewardship and educational activities at Laguna Mar Chiquita and Mono Lake throughout the fall. To celebrate World Migratory Bird Day, 50 students in Argentina participated in their own bird outing and saw more than 70 species (ten times the number the Lee Vining students saw on our chilly October outing in the Mono Basin). By circumnavigating Laguna Mar Chiquita via kayak, boat, horse, and off-road vehicle, the bird that every Argentinian student saw was the Wilson’s Phalarope, which just a few months ago were at Mono Lake fueling up for their migration by feasting on alkali flies and brine shrimp.

Experiencia Ambientalia students from Argentina also went birding on World Migratory Bird Day—on foot, by kayak, and on horseback on and around Laguna Mar Chiquita. Photos courtesy of Experiencia Ambientalia.

Our goal is that students from each location will travel across the hemisphere to visit each sister lake next summer. In June 2024, students from Argentina will travel to Mono Lake to spend a week with our local students at the Mono Basin Outdoor Education Center and participate in the Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua. And in July, the Lee Vining students will travel to Laguna Mar Chiquita to connect with the roots of the program.

Top photo by Ryan Garrett: The Lee Vining Experience Ambientalia students ready for a day of birding and restoration work on World Migratory Bird Day.