The story of the Wilson’s Phalarope, a new Mono Lake must-read

In a captivating and thoroughly enjoyable cover story in the Spring 2024 edition of Audubon Magazine, writer Andy McGlashen has done rare justice to the story of the curiously obscure Wilson’s Phalarope, the saline lakes they depend on, and the tireless scientists working to protect them. 

Audubon, Spring 2024, cover photo by Mary Anne Karren.

A flock of phalaropes in flight is among Earth’s great wildlife spectacles. A lucky visitor to a saline lake may see thousands of Red-necked or Wilson’s Phalaropes undulate and flow in a single, ­sinuous mass. Then, with a sound like a billowing sail, they tack as one, the smoky swarm whitening as they flash their chalky bellies.

On paper, however, phalaropes are a mess.

—Andy McGlashen, Audubon Magazine, Spring 2024

From the article “Saline Lakes Are Dying—Scientists Hope This Unusual Shorebird Can Help Save Them” : The top of this pole held by Arya Degenhardt, Mono Lake Committee communications director, marks the state-mandated target level that the California lake was supposed to have reached a decade ago. Water exports to Los Angeles and punishing drought have hampered its recovery from decades of overuse. Photo courtesy of Mike Fernandez/Audubon.

The phalaropes’ tale underscores the Mono Lake Committee’s campaign to restore Mono Lake to health and ensure Mono Lake rises to the State Water Board mandated healthy level of 6,392 feet above sea level. 

Top photo courtesy of Sherburn Sanborn.