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Mono Lake’s California Gulls make headlines once again

Tuesday, December 17th, 2019 by Arya, Communications Director

In an article released today, “Non-native weeds are engulfing the ancient breeding grounds of Mono Lake’s California gulls,” the Los Angeles Times revisits the colorful history and challenging current situation on the gulls’ nesting islands.

It’s another chapter in the fascinating, colorful, and ongoing story of Mono Lake’s California Gulls.

In 1978 the National Guard made the first of two attempts to blast a moat across the landbridge to Negit Island. Archive photo from Storm Over Mono by John Hart.


California Gulls at Mono Lake featured on Science Friday

Wednesday, May 1st, 2019 by Andrew, Digital Engagement Coordinator

It wasn’t long ago when Mono Lake’s unique alkali flies made a splash in the news, and today another iconic Mono Basin animal is making headlines on Science Friday: the California Gull. Beloved by some and unpopular with others, the California Gull is a bird that is sure to generate a reaction—whether it’s of awe of their seasonal migration to inland salt lakes, like Mono, or of irritation because a clever gull once stole your ice cream cone.

Regardless of how you feel about California Gulls, Mono Lake provides a critical nesting habitat for these birds as well as an abundant natural food supply of brine shrimp and alkali flies. In the video posted today on Science Friday’s website, Kristie Nelson, Mono Lake Gull Project manager for Point Blue Conservation Science, discusses her research on this important population of birds at Mono Lake, numbering in the tens of thousands—one of the largest colonies of California Gulls in the world. I hope this video gives you a newfound appreciation for the gulls and Mono Lake.

Scaling back the fence thanks to a rising Mono Lake

Tuesday, July 11th, 2017 by Mono Lake Committee Staff

This post was written by Jenny Rieke, 2017 Birding Intern.

I recently had the opportunity to go out to the landbridge to help with maintenance of the gull fence. I woke up at 5:00am in order to get out there in time, and by 6:30am we were ready to head out, chest waders and all.

The north shore of the landbridge is a surreal, other-worldly landscape. Photo by Jennifer Rieke.

This was my first time to the north shore of Mono Lake and it was quite a contrast to the scenic southern shore I am used to. With Black Point behind us, we trudged over salt flats towards Negit Island. Passing skeletons of last year’s giant blazing stars and coyote scat, we approached the electric fence when suddenly I heard it—the clamor of the gull colony! I put my binoculars up to see the islets overflowing with California Gulls. This was a place I had only imagined in my mind, and now it was coming to life. (more…)

Mono Lake’s California Gulls safe for the season

Thursday, May 25th, 2017 by Geoff, Executive Director

A mile of citizen-funded solar-powered electric fence is up and running, protecting Mono Lake’s nesting gulls—one of the three largest colonies in the world—from mainland predators. The fence is the result of a year and a half of planning by the Mono Lake Committee and California State Parks along with other agency partners, a dedicated local installation team, and generous funding from Mono Lake supporters across the country.

The temporary electric fence stretching one mile across the landbridge has 11 motion-activated wildlife cameras with infrared nighttime flash capability along its length. In late April, camera #5 documented a coyote walking the fence line, confirming that the fence is functioning as a coyote barrier. Mono Lake Committee wildlife camera photo.

Why is the temporary fence—which will be removed when nesting is finished—needed? Five years of drought lowered Mono Lake seven feet, shrinking the protective moat of water between the lake’s north shore and Negit Island and adjacent islets—exposing a landbridge that allows coyotes access to the lake’s long-established nesting colony of California Gulls. Last summer signs were found on a few of these islets that coyotes had indeed walked the landbridge and then swum the remaining 500 feet or so of shallow water to prey on eggs and chicks, disrupting nesting and causing gulls to be suspicious of returning to these sites in future years.

Not a typical fence site

The electric mesh netting fence used for the project (more…)

Fence post: An update from Mono Lake’s landbridge

Friday, April 21st, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator

The temporary electrified fence protecting Mono Lake’s nesting California Gulls has been up and running for about three weeks now. After a long and snowy winter the gulls’ calls signal spring’s arrival, and it’s gratifying to know that as they build nests and lay eggs out on the islands, they are protected from coyote predation.

Gull researcher Kristie Nelson works on one of the fence sections that extends into Mono Lake. Photo by Geoff McQuilkin.

The fence stretches for about one mile across the landbridge, and is made up of five sections that overlap—an electrified long middle section, two shorter electrified sections at the ends near the water’s edge, and two passive sections at (more…)

Mono Lake Committee launches #LongLivetheGulls campaign

Monday, February 20th, 2017 by Arya, Communications Director

This spring, when tens of thousands of California Gulls return to their island nesting ground at Mono Lake, they will be in danger of having their once-safe colony raided by coyotes. During the drought, Mono Lake dropped 7 vertical feet—exposing a landbridge to the gulls’ nesting islands. It’s hard to believe that all of this snow and rain we’re getting won’t fix the problem naturally. The lake is rising, but the snow we’ve gotten this winter won’t melt and raise the lake in time to protect them when they lay their eggs in April. Help us put up a fence to save the gulls before it’s too late!



We’ve started a crowdfunding campaign to raise (more…)

Mono Lake island closure and Osprey closure in effect

Monday, May 25th, 2015 by Robbie, Restoration Field Technician
An Osprey on its nest atop a tufa tower in Mono Lake. Photo by Erv Nichols.

An Osprey on its nest atop a tufa tower in Mono Lake. Photo by Erv Nichols.

As Mono Lake lovers know, Mono Lake is critical habitat for millions of birds. Many of these birds stop by on migration for the shrimp and fly soup buffet, but there are a few that have made Mono Lake their annual summer home getaway to nest and reproduce.

California Gulls are one of the most iconic seasonal residents. Gulls nest out on Mono Lake’s islands, laying eggs and raising chicks to fledging there during each summer. The “island closure” takes effect from April 1st to August 1st in order to protect the thousands of gulls and their chicks, so people must stay at least one mile away from (more…)

2012 California Gull report

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013 by Mono Lake Committee Staff

This post was written by Erik Lyon, 2013 Project Specialist.

Volunteers count California Gull nests at Mono Lake. Photo by Russ Taylor.

You are on a rocky volcanic island surrounded by an alkaline sea. Your only protection from the high-desert sun is your khaki-colored Mono Lake Committee logo bucket hat. It’s also your only protection against the frenzied California Gulls flying every which way and trying, as you suspect, to whitewash you with an airborne “splat!” (more…)

California Gull nest count on Mono Lake’s islands

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011 by Mono Lake Committee Staff

Kristie Nelson of PRBO Conservation Science taking the crew out to the islands.

This post was written by Russ Taylor, 2011 Canoe Coordinator.

Each spring the Mono Lake Committee assists PRBO Conservation Science in doing a California Gull nest count on Mono Lake’s islands. PRBO, whose mission is to conserve birds and other wildlife, has been monitoring the population size and reproductive success of California Gull (Larus californicus) at Mono Lake since 1983. (more…)

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