July 30, 2012

California Wanderings, Part 8: Mono Lake

On June 23, we drove from Lake Tahoe, across the beautiful Sierra Nevada to the salty waters of Mono Lake.  Covering 60 square miles and being over 700,000 years old, Mono Lake is one of the oldest lakes in North America.   

Faux Cattle Guard (painted lines on the road), Mono County
Are cattle that dumb?
By Renée Haip

Sierra Nevada, Mono County - by Renée Haip

Wilson's Phalarope, Mono County - by Joel Such

With only an afternoon to explore this scenic location, we only had time to make a few stops.  Around Mono Basin’s visitor center, we picked up our first sage dwelling species of the trip.  The trills and buzzes of a singing Brewer’s Sparrow was the first to be heard shortly followed by singing Sage Thrashers and a Sage Sparrow.  A scorpion was additionally discovered under a rusty piece of metal.

Brewer's Sparrow - by Joel Such

Sage Thrasher - by Joel Such

Our next stop was at Old Marina on Mono Lake’s western shore, a location known for its colony of California Gulls nesting on a rocky island a short distance offshore.  California Gulls were everywhere along with Brewer’s Blackbirds, Green-tailed Towhees, Violet-green Swallows, and a singing Lazuli Bunting.  Here we were able to watch some of the foraging techniques of the California Gulls including one, which was running, mouth open, through a swarm of Brine Flies.

California Gull Nesting Colony - by Joel Such

Scanning the Lake - by Renée Haip

California Gull Chowing Down Brine Flies - by Marcel Such

California Gull Foraging on Brine Flies - by Joel Such

Brine Flies - by Joel Such

California Gull - by Joel Such

Along the far northwest corner of Mono Lake, we ambled down Mono Lake County Park’s boardwalk through willows and marsh to the shore of the lake.  A variety of birds were present including Canada Geese, American Avocets, Yellow Warblers, Song Sparrows, Red-winged Blackbirds, and a Virginia Rail darting through the partially submerged grass followed by a black fluffy chick.

View from the Boardwalk - by Renée Haip

Violet-green Swallow - by Joel Such

With time slipping away, we closed the afternoon with a hike through the famous South Tufa area.  We saw Say’s Phoebes, Savannah Sparrows, California Gulls sifting through the water for brine shrimp, and two occupied Osprey nests constructed on the tops of island tufas.  Saltier than seawater, no fish live in the water requiring the Osprey to fish elsewhere.

Tufa Towers - by Renée Haip

By Renée Haip

California Gulls - by Renée Haip

California Gulls - by Joel Such

Brewer's Blackbird atop Tufa Tower - by Joel Such

California Gull - by Joel Such

Osprey Nest - by Joel Such

Male Brewer's Blackbird - by Joel Such

Female Brewer's Blackbird - by Joel Such

Female Brewer's Blackbird - by Joel Such

Our next entry will feature Yosemite National Park!

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