Phalarope mural to further connect saline lakes

The sight of phalaropes flocking at Mono Lake is truly something to behold. Inspired by both the phalaropes as well as the coordinated international efforts to protect their saline lake habitats in North and South America—we have hatched a plan for a phalarope mural here at Mono Lake.

Inspired by a mural at Laguna Mar Chiquita

In December 2022 Mono Lake Committee staff attended a celebration of the new Ansenuza National Park at Laguna Mar Chiquita. Part of the celebration was the unveiling of a mural depicting Wilson’s Phalaropes and their three saline lake habitats across the continents. Painted by artist Franco “Vato” Cervato Cozza, the three-story mural is an eye-catching way to spotlight these diminutive birds and the global importance of protecting saline lake habitat.

This spring we are excited to bring Vato to Mono Lake to paint a phalarope mural on the front of the Mono Lake Committee Information Center & Bookstore. In addition, a local property owner has agreed to have a mural painted on their building on the east side of the road in town, just north of the Mono Lake Committee.

Messages via murals

Wilson’s and Red-necked Phalaropes breed in the Arctic tundra and rest and refuel at saline lakes in the Andes and the Pacific Ocean off South America, respectively. While at Mono Lake and Great Salt Lake the phalaropes gorge on alkali flies—doubling their body weight, from the mass of one AA battery, to the mass of two AA batteries—before they fly non-stop, more than 3,000 miles to South America. Phalarope season at Mono Lake is generally June to August.

Phalarope fun with the mural at Mar Chiquita. Photo by Arya Harp.

Mono Lake has been formally connected with Laguna Mar Chiquita and Great Salt Lake since 1992 through the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network. In recent years phalarope research is once again gaining momentum. Ryan Carle, who grew up in Lee Vining, now studies phalaropes with Oikonos Ecosystem Knowledge, and has been bringing phalarope researchers together to coordinate research and protection efforts.

Ryan writes, “If you are lucky, you have stood on the shores of a saline lake as thousands of tiny swimming shorebirds known as phalaropes take to the air, swirling and making lightning quick hairpin turns in unison. Maybe you’ve heard the “whoosh” of their wings as hundreds fly low over your kayak. If so, you’ll know these diminutive charmers embody the unique spirit of saline lakes and can capture your heart.”

Support the mural

Our goal with this mural is to capture more hearts and minds with phalaropes by illustrating their magnificent migration and connection to our sister saline lakes. The timeline is fast–we will be unveiling the mural on Sunday, June 18, 2023 along with our conservation partners from Argentina in conjunction with the Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua and the Phalarope Festival.

Click here to see the mural project flyer, and the button below to support this project.

Top photo by Arya Harp.