Sunrise light on a grove of tufa towers emerging from the water of Mono Lake with soft green and dusty-red wild grasses in the foreground, Canada geese in the shallow water with reflections of the rocky towers, and desert hills in the distance.

Mono Lake CBC results

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 chilly but decent with partly cloudy skies and temperatures ranging from 19°F to 37°F. Calm wind in the morning became a light breeze by the afternoon. Birders in seven teams tallied 65 species with a total of 3,306 individual birds.

There were a few unusual species. Notably, 1) a juvenile NORTHERN SHRIKE was found between Cain Ranch and Horse Meadows, 2) a NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD at Pop’s Place/County Park, and 3) a DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT flew over a team at DeChambeau Ranch.

All the teams had the impression of a general lack of birds both in species diversity and abundance. This impression is confirmed by the results. Many species had a lower-than-average tally of all counts in the past three decades, though there were no “low count” records, other than species that were not detected. There was a startling lack of sparrows and sparrow species. High counts were only established for CALIFORNIA GULL (328), and EVENING GROSBEAK (30).

Red-breasted Nuthatch. Photo by Santiago Escruceria.

Many thanks to all the generous volunteers who make the Mono Lake CBC possible. A special thanks goes to Brian Scavone for hosting the post-count tally potluck and making divine pizza. See you next year!