2016 Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua
Program Information


Friday, June 17Saturday, June 18Sunday, June 19

Leader and presenter biographiesOther things to do during Chautauqua weekGroup size limits, kids, and things to know

Programs highlighted in blue do not count toward your Chautauqua program total
and are open to the public.


Thursday, June 16, 2016

Pre-Chautauqua Events


Lundy Canyon trail work & clean-up party (volunteer project)

Paul McFarland & Friends of the Inyo

Get out and give back to the land! What better way to kick off the Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua than to help care for this place we all enjoy? This year's project will focus on maintaining the popular Lundy Canyon trail and trailhead area. Trail work will consist of light trail maintenance (mainly lopping brush to clear a safer, more discernible path), while at the trailhead itself, we'll work to pick up trash and spruce up aging facilities. Gloves, trash bags, and tools will be provided, but be sure to bring sunscreen, wear close-toed shoes, and be prepared for the elements. Parking is limited, so carpooling is encouraged. No charge, open to all, camaraderie gratis. (est. driving miles 24)
Thursday 9:00am–11:30am
Meet at the Mono Lake Committee Information Center & Bookstore




The high country responds to a changing climate (presentation)

Caelen McQuilkin, Geoff McQuilkin, Connie Millar, Greg Stock, & Sarah Stock
The Mono Basin’s climate action group (350 Mono) will present a day of education on high elevation climate issues in the Eastern Sierra. Bird enthusiasts are invited to spend an extra day in the area, and attend a series of afternoon talks from experts in climate issues. We hope attendees will be inspired to take action in their own lives and communities to encourage climate progress. No charge and open to all.
Thursday 1:00pm–5:00pm
Mono Basin Scenic Area Visitor Center auditorium




Birding between the breweries (field trip; $60 additional program cost)

Nora Livingston and additional guide

Mono County is notable for spectacular scenery, great birding, and a rising collection of high-elevation breweries. Combine your love for birds and brews on this relaxed afternoon trip. Birding between the breweries will introduce you to some great birding at a few local hotspots as well as great beer at some hotspots of another kind. Bring your binoculars, proof of age, and a thirst for birds (beginners and experts welcome alike). We will provide a ten-person van and a sober birding guide. One beverage per person per brewery is included in tour fee; guests may purchase additional beverages and food. Please drink responsibly. (Maximum Group Size is 10). Does not count towards your registration limit. Open to all (age appropriate), camaraderie gratis.
Thursday 1:00pm–6:00pm
Meet at the Mobil Gas Station


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Friday, June 17, 2016

Mono Basin brush birds (field trip)
Tom Hahn
Some of the most ubiquitous habitats in the Mono Basin are the brushy shrub-steppe and dry chaparral  . The dominant plants of these habitats achieve at most “large shrub” stature. These habitats are home to some of the signature land birds of the Great Basin, and the Mono Basin is one of the best places in the world to observe and get to know these fascinating species. On this field trip we will focus our attention on exploring brushy habitats of the basin and adjoining Eastern Sierra slope, and spend our time observing and discussing the habits of Brewer’s Sparrows, Sagebrush Sparrows, Green-tailed Towhees, Spotted Towhees, Fox Sparrows, Sage Thrashers, Gray Flycatchers, and Vesper Sparrows. A surprising number of other species also make extensive use of the shrub-steppe and chaparral , including House Finches, Brown-headed Cowbirds, House Wrens, Lazuli Buntings, and Mourning Doves. We will of course take what comes, but the main objective of this trip is to spend time observing and getting to know the behavior, sounds, and natural history of the common brush-land species, rather than maximizing our species list for the day. (est. driving miles: 20)
Friday 6:00am–11:00am
Lee Vining Community Center




Birding meadows, moraines, & mountains (field trip)
Stephen A. Shunk
Join Oregon naturalist Steve Shunk as he explores the diverse habitats of Sawmill Canyon and Upper Walker Creek just south of Lee Vining. See wrens, warblers, woodpeckers, and more, with a chance to see or hear Mountain Quail. We will begin by driving up Sawmill Canyon, with stops in key habitats, finally reaching the Bloody Canyon trailhead campground. We will then hike up, over, and back down the southern lateral moraine above Walker Lake, and then into the lush wetlands at the head of the lake. The trip will involve 4 miles of hiking on good trails with mixed grades, up to nearly 8,200 feet elevation (trip involves strenuous hiking). (est. driving miles: 20)
Friday 6:00am–11:30am
Lee Vining Community Center




Birding the Bridgeport Valley (field trip)
Peter Metropulos
Bridgeport Reservoir sits within beautiful Bridgeport Valley between the Sierra Nevada and Sweetwater ranges. Waterfowl, grebes, terns, pelicans, and shorebirds grace the surface and shores of this popular fishing reservoir. Join Peter Metropulos for an exploration of the wetlands and lake habitat of Bridgeport Reservoir. After birding along the eastern shore of the reservoir we will head north, pausing here and there to investigate the riparian corridor and pinyon pine woodland bordering the East Walker River along Highway 182. In 2008 a pair of Sandhill Cranes nested at Bridgeport Reservoir—a new record for Mono County documented by Peter! (est. driving miles: 70)
Friday 6:30am–11:30am
Lee Vining Community Center




Snag forest bird walk (field trip)
Christy Sherr
We will explore two recently burned forests, looking for snag-dependent birds like White-headed, Hairy, Lewis’, and Black-backed woodpeckers and secondary cavity nesters like Mountain Bluebirds and Tree Swallows. We’ll discuss the many ways that mixed-intensity fire supports biodiversity and ecological health in conifer forests, and a habitat created by high-intensity fire called “complex early seral forest,” which is the rarest, most biodiverse, and most threatened of all forest habitat types in the Sierra Nevada. Many declining wildlife species depend upon this habitat, yet there are no meaningful protections for it. Easy to moderate walking on dirt roads. (est. total driving miles: 45)
Friday 6:30 am–11:30 am
Lee Vining Community Center




Jewel of Mono: Rush Creek Delta (field trip)
Justin Hite
Join us for a stroll to one of the most beautiful parts of the Mono Basin where the bubbling waters of Rush Creek meet the salty waters of Mono Lake. The riparian woods, sagebrush desert, freshwater wetlands, and sandy beaches are home to many of the Mono Basin’s finest birds, and the relaxed pace of life at the delta makes it a great place to take in the true nature and beauty of the recovery of the Mono Lake ecosystem. (est. driving miles: 15)
Friday 6:30am–11:30am
Lee Vining Community Center




Rush Creek romp (field trip)
Chris McCreedy
We will begin in big sagebrush scrub habitat, then move to the Rush Creek narrows, a scenic cataract pinching the Rush Creek floodplain. We will look for sagebrush birds including Green-tailed Towhee , Sage Thrasher, Sage Sparrow, and Gray Flycatcher. The Rush Creek narrows signifies the confluence of Walker Creek and Rush Creek, and it marks a boundary between trembling aspen riparian of higher elevations, and mixed willow-cottonwood riparian of lower elevations. Riparian birds include Dusky Flycatcher, Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Warbling Vireo, Black-headed Grosbeak, MacGillivray's Warbler, and often, singing Willow Flycatchers. You will learn to identify Dusky, Gray, and if present, Willow Flycatchers. In addition, the narrows meadow is a frequent location for vagrant sightings. Time permitting, we will then journey to the Rush Creek delta, a prime shorebird haunt on Mono Lake. (est. driving miles: 20; bring water & snacks)
Friday 6:30am–1:30pm
Lee Vining Community Center




Lundy Canyon bird walk (field trip)
Will Richardson
We will head up Lundy Canyon with open minds regarding what we may see, enjoying the wonderful assemblage of breeding birds in this Eastern Sierra drainage. The mixture of open water, riparian, coniferous, and sagebrush habitats found in this canyon attracts a nice diversity of birds, and these habitats are quite accessible via the main road and short trails along the creek. Since it will be the heart of nesting season, we will likely spend some time observing birds at various stages of their breeding cycles. Among the birds to be expected are sapsuckers, woodpeckers, pewees, vireos, jays, nuthatches, creepers, wrens, chickadees, grosbeaks, swallows, warblers, Western Tanagers, juncos, towhees, sparrows, and finches. We will be walking mostly on dirt roads/trails with some light off-trail walking possible. (est. driving miles: 25)
Friday 7:00am–11:30am
Lee Vining Community Center




Mountains & birds: Birding the Virginia Lakes basin (field trip)
Kristie Nelson
This half-day trip will explore habitats and avifauna of the local montane region. We’ll begin in the aspen and conifer riparian ecosystem along Virginia Creek and its adjacent sagebrush-steppe. We’ll continue on to the Virginia Lakes area, an elevation of near 10,000 feet (drivable). We hope to see a diverse assemblage of birds, and the scenery should be memorable. Species we may encounter include Western Tanager, Mountain Chickadee, Fox Sparrow (Sierra-Nevada sub-species), and more. If luck is with us, we may see more elusive species like Western Flycatcher, Red Crossbill, or Gray-crowned Rosy-finch. (est. driving miles: 40)
Friday 7:00am–12:00noon
Lee Vining Community Center




Breeding bird survey: Owens River Road (field trip)
Bob Power
Please join Bob for a sweet walk along the Forest Service dirt roads criss crossing the Owens River Road burn area. We'll combine traditional field trip experiences of sight and sound identification of the East side’s yummiest birds with a practical discussion of breeding behaviors, breeding codes, and adding value to your eBird checklists. (est. driving miles: 42)
Friday 7:00am–12:00noon
Lee Vining Community Center




Crafty Corvids east of the crest (field trip)
Nora Livingston
Jays, magpies, nutcrackers, and ravens are the East side's intellectual avian trouble-makers and problem-solvers. These Corvids are known for their spatial memory, complex social interactions, and their elusiveness in the Mono Basin (well, some of them). On this field trip we will explore the habitats and natural history of as many of the local Corvids as possible, with a focus on finding Pinyon Jays and Western Scrub-jays in the Rancheria Gulch area. (est. driving miles: 40)
Friday 7:00am–12:00noon
Lee Vining Community Center




Birding Devils Postpile & vicinity (field trip)
John Sterling
We will spend most of the day in the Devils Postpile National Monument west of the town of Mammoth Lakes. Plan on walking a lot. We will hike the trails to the magnificent columnar basalt formation (the Postpile) and to Rainbow Falls in search of Black-backed Woodpecker, Pine Grosbeak, Black Swift, and other montane species. Good sturdy shoes and a packed lunch with water are necessary. In the afternoon, with time permitting, we will travel back to Mammoth and then to Crowley Lake Reservoir where we will search the sagebrush flats for Greater Sage Grouse, Sage Thrashers, and other desert species, and for waterbirds on the lake. (est. driving miles: 95; bring lunch and snacks)
Friday 7:00am–5:30pm
Lee Vining Community Center



Yosemite High Sierra transect (field trip)
Michael Ross
We’ll make our first stop at Tioga Pass, the highest highway pass in California, so we can get a taste of the Sierra Nevada’s alpine zone. A short walk in the thin air here may turn up White-crowned Sparrow, Prairie Falcon, Cassin’s Finch, and Clark’s Nutcrackers. From here we descend to Tuolumne Meadows for a longer walk that will include lodgepole forest, riparian zones, open meadows, and some lively ponds. Williamson’s Sapsucker, dusky flycatcher, Townsend’s Solitaire, Hermit Thrush and Mountain Chickadee are prospects here. Further west we’ll make other stops at in hopes of encountering Sooty Grouse, Mountain Quail, and Pine Grosbeaks. Bring a lunch, water, warm layers, and a full gas tank. We’ll aim to picnic at a scenic spot and see what birds come to us. Strong sunscreen, UV sunglasses, and a sun hat are important equipment for the high elevations. We’ll be driving Highway 120 as far west as Porcupine Flat, about 70 miles round-trip. The park entry fee will be waived for this educational excursion.
Friday 7:30am–3:30pm
Lee Vining Community Center




Learning the language of birds (field trip)
Peter Bergen
Bird language is an ancestral skill that people have used to help them survive and thrive for thousands of years. Only recently entering the scientific dialogue, bird language is made up of a collection of skills and principles that are being revived by modern peoples. When routinely practicing the routines of bird language, learners experience direct feedback on their own engagement with awareness and sensitivity to other species. Through this feedback loop, people learn to walk with less impact and more conscious awareness. During this experiential workshop, seasoned Bird Language and Nature Connection mentor Peter Bergen will immerse participants in a group-learning model that can be brought to any education center where nature experience is celebrated. As Joe Ellis, NAS board member remarked after his initial bird language experience, “Birds talk to each other, we can understand it, and it’s fun.” Come join the fun! (est. driving miles: 8)
Friday 7:30am–12:00noon
Lee Vining Community Center




Birding the Lakes Canyon trail (field trip)
Rodd Kelsey
This hike begins in the sagebrush at the Lundy Lake dam at about 7,800 feet in elevation and will take us steadily uphill above the south shore of the lake through willows, aspen, and conifer groves. Because of the variety of habitats we’ll be visiting we should see and hear a variety of bird species, including multiple species of warblers, fox sparrows, Brewer’s Sparrows, Cassin’s Finches, woodpeckers, Warbling Vireos, and others. We will not trek all the way to the lakes but will stop at an elevation of about 8,800 feet near the wilderness boundary. This is a moderately strenuous hike with spectacular views of lakes, streams, and high peaks. (est. driving miles: 25)
Friday 7:30am–12:00noon
Lee Vining Community Center




Birding Lee Vining Canyon (field trip)
Kirk Hardie
Lee Vining Canyon is one of the Eastern Sierra’s premier birding locations. It offers a variety of habitats and breathtaking views. Of particular interest is the habitat progression as Lee Vining Creek drains from the high alpine mountains of Yosemite and Tioga Pass down through the canyon and out into the arid sagebrush scrub surrounding Mono Lake. American Dipper, Townsend’s Solitaire, Warbling Vireo, Yellow Warbler, and nuthatches are among the many species that we may see on this trip. (est. driving miles: 20)
Friday 7:30am–11:30am
Lee Vining Community Center




Walk quietly & carry a big lens (field trip)

Santiago Escruceria
Join Santiago for an easily accessible and gentle stroll next to a beautiful riparian corridor to photograph birds. With our own cameras we will shoot for orioles, finches, wrens, swallows, Osprey, and eagles. We will investigate basic technique and take advantage of morning light. (est. driving miles: 22)
Friday 7:30am–11:30am
Lee Vining Community Center



Learning to listen: Birding by ear for beginners (field trip)
Karyn “Kestrel” O’Hearn
This is a field trip/workshop for those who want to begin to identify birds by sound. We will develop listening skills by participating in skill-building activities while exploring Lee Vining Canyon. Lee Vining Creek drains from the high alpine mountains of Yosemite and Tioga Pass down through the canyon and out into the arid sagebrush scrub surrounding Mono Lake, offering breathtaking views as well as a wide variety of habitats and a diversity of bird sounds. The goal of this trip is to begin to identify common bird sounds, distinguish between some basic bird song patterns, introduce various ways to “see” a bird song, and link what you are hearing with what you see. Bring your notebook, pencil, binoculars, and ears. (est. driving miles: 25)
Friday 8:00am–11:30am
Lee Vining Community Center




Birding the wildflowers (field trip)
Ann Howald
The location for this wildflower walk will be selected just before the Chautauqua begins to take advantage of the best place for flowers. This may mean a return to Lundy Canyon, or we may visit another location. Along with the flowers, stops for birds are frequent. Plan on a walk of about 2 miles with a modest elevation gain. Bring lunch and plenty of water. (est. driving miles: 20)
Friday 8:00am–12:30pm
Lee Vining Community Center




Bennettville birding (field trip)
Karen Amstutz
Come look for birds 9,700 feet above the sea! High in the mountains this 2.5-mile trail winds its way through red metamorphic rocky benches, past blue-green tarns and ruins from the days of the Great Sierra Consolidated Mining Company. Here some unique birds breed while others pass through on their way to lower elevations. A flurry of development had this region growing from 1882–1884 though no gold was really ever found. Let’s search for the ghosts and see what birds dare to spend summers way up here. Summer residents include Cassin’s Finch, White-crowned Sparrow, Clark’s Nutcracker, Chipping Sparrow, Golden Eagle, Bald Eagle, Williamson’s Sapsucker, Spotted Sandpiper, Northern Goshawk, and many others. (est. driving miles: 20)
Friday 8:30am–1:30pm
Lee Vining Community Center




Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep afield (field trip)
John Wehausen
Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep are a separate subspecies of bighorn sheep that have state and federal endangered status. They were introduced to the Mono Basin in 1986. In mid-June ewes with new lambs can usually be spotted from the trail in Lundy Canyon. John Wehausen will lead a group there and discuss the history and challenges of restoration efforts for these sheep. (est. driving miles:25)
Friday 8:30am–1:00pm
Lee Vining Community Center




Birds of the red fir-lodgepole pine forest (field trip)
David Wimpfheimer
The expansive forest of red fir, lodgepole, and Jeffrey pine surrounding Deadman Creek and Summit is the destination for this field trip. These conifers, and more importantly, their cones and seeds, provide critical feeding habitat for many finches, woodpeckers, warblers, and other birds. Uncommon species like Williamson’s Sapsucker, plus White-headed and Black-backed Woodpeckers can be found here among the more expected Hairy Woodpecker and Northern Flicker. Depending on the seed crop, Red Crossbills can be moderately common in the pines. Cassin’s Finch and Pine Siskin are the common breeding finches here, but we’ll also be searching for Evening and Pine Grosbeaks. The diversity in the area is augmented by aspen groves and streamside willow stands where Green-tailed Towhee, Fox Sparrow, and Orange-crowned and MacGillivray’s Warblers breed. The field trip will consist of several short walks in which we focus on identification and behavior of a wide variety of birds. (est. driving miles: 25)
Friday 1:00pm–5:00pm 
Lee Vining Community Center




Birding Lower Parker Canyon (field trip)
Santiago Escruceria
Join Santiago on this leisurely bird walk on level terrain through lower Parker Canyon. We will explore riparian and meadow habitats in this quiet region of the Mono Basin. We may encounter a good variety of birds from Red-breasted Sapsucker to Mountain Bluebird and warblers to Long-eared Owl (no promises). Be prepared to walk a couple of flat, mostly shaded miles and to enjoy spectacular views of the Sierra crest and Mono Lake. (est. driving miles: 20)
Friday 1:00pm–5:00pm
Lee Vining Community Center




Fly casting clinic (outdoor workshop)
Trout Unlimited
Have you always wanted to learn how to cast a fly fishing rod? Or improve your current casting stroke? Members of the Eastern Sierra Chapter of Trout Unlimited will provide a free fly casting demonstration clinic that will help you improve regardless of your current level of experience. This clinic is open to all ages from beginners to advanced casters. Rods and reels will be provided or you can bring your own equipment. No charge and open to all. (Zero driving)
Friday 1:00pm–3:30pm
Lee Vining Community Center




Birding for beginners (field trip)
Ryan DiGaudio
Are you new to watching birds? Or are you perhaps the partner of an avid birder, willing to go along but not ready to call yourself a birder? Do you maybe have a cast-off pair of binoculars but don’t understand what the numbers on them mean, or how to use them? And what’s with bird books: why aren’t the birds alphabetized? If some of the Chautauqua offerings seem over your head or beyond your patience, this is the program for you! We’ll go over some basic binocular information, practice using this equipment, and check out some different bird guides. We will be outdoors for this workshop. As we wander, we’ll look at some of the more common birds in and around Mono Lake, practice identifying them, and learn about their fascinating natural history. Mono Lake County Park and the DeChambeau Ponds are our territory, and we should see several varieties of woodpeckers, songbirds, swallows, and blackbirds. This workshop is geared towards ages 10 and up. (est. driving miles: 20)
Friday 1:00pm–4:30pm
Lee Vining Community Center




Protecting Conway Ranch (field trip)
Kay Ogden, Susanna Danner, & Tim Alpers
Looking down on the Mono Basin from the viewpoint just below Conway Summit, Eastern Sierra residents and visitors have marveled at the picturesque expanse of Conway Ranch for decades. Owned by Mono County, this historic stretch of open land northwest of Mono Lake provides critical habitat to birds, mule deer, and other wildlife, and it supports the region’s economy with opportunities for sustainable grazing and commercial fish rearing. Today, this iconic panorama and its community resources are protected forever thanks to an innovative, cross-agency collaboration between the Eastern Sierra Land Trust, Mono County, and funding partners. But did you know that Conway Ranch nearly became a large-scale housing and resort development? Join Eastern Sierra Land Trust Executive Director Kay Ogden, and Land Conservation Program Director Susanna Danner as they team up with Mono County Supervisor Tim Alpers for an afternoon spent exploring this iconic property, looking for wildlife, and learning about Conway Ranch’s natural and political history and future.
Friday 1:00pm–4:00pm
Lee Vining Community Center




Touring policy hot spots
Geoff McQuilkin
Join Mono Lake Committee Executive Director Geoff McQuilkin for a tour of the Mono Basin with discussions focusing on the fifth year of drought in the Mono Basin and what that means for Mono Lake and the tributary streams. Stops will include Grant Lake Reservoir, Rush Creek bottomlands, and an overlook from Black Point toward the expanding landbridge to Negit Island. Geoff will describe the Committee’s role in documenting the changes we’re seeing and will explain the measures already in place to safeguard Mono Lake’s level. (est. driving miles: 40)
Friday 1:00pm–4:30pm
Lee Vining Community Center




Bird sounds workshop (workshop)
Roy Poucher
Bird songs are nature’s music. We can plug into this magic no matter how good we are at finding birds with our eyes. These sounds are already coming at us from 360 degrees. The focus of this workshop is to increase our birding enjoyment via improving our skills as auditory birders. Some prior experience trying to identify birds by ear will surely be useful, but motivation to learn trumps experience with this; folks of all experience levels are welcome. We will explore the principles of describing bird vocalizations in general as well as become familiar with specific vocalizations of common birds in the Mono Basin area. This workshop is a prerequisite for the Sunday Bird sounds field study field trip.
Friday 1:30pm–4:30pm
Scenic Area Visitor Center conference room




Racing against extinction: The future of Kauai’s forest birds (presentation)
Justin Hite
Only eight native forest birds remain on Kauai, and two of these—the Akikiki and Akeke’e— are at the very brink of extinction. We will explore the plight of these two honeycreepers, their future, and the dramatic work being done to save them. But first Justin will make sure you understand just how truly delightful they are, and why the Akikiki in particular has completely captured his heart.
Friday 2:00pm–3:00pm
Scenic Area Visitor Center auditorium




Creative fusion: Art & science of Charley Harper (presentation)
Erik Westerlund
Discover the sights and sounds of Yosemite, test your powers of observation, and find hidden treasures, while learning about the natural world through the whimsical art of renowned artist Charley Harper. Using art, music, games, and storytelling, Erik takes the audience for an armchair tour of Yosemite’s flora and & fauna by exploring one of Harper’s masterpiece works, The Sierra Range.
Friday 3:30pm–4:45pm
Scenic Area Visitor Center auditorium




Fifteenth annual gala dinner & gathering
Chef Linda Dore
Join us early Friday evening at the Lee Vining Community Center as we continue our fifteenth annual Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua! Meet old friends, chat with field trip leaders and presenters, socialize, eat, and make merry. Dinner will once again be prepared by one of the Eastern Sierra’s finest chefs, Linda Dore.
Menu:
Soy-ginger marinated Certified Angus tri tip, horseradish sauce
Grilled chicken in an apple cider-mustard-maple sauce
Pasta with garlicky white beans, tomato (gluten-free kale pasta alternative available too)
Fresh summer vegetables
Organic greens salad
Carrot ribbons and toasted pine nuts, balsamic vinaigrette

Dinner breads, butter

Lemon cheesecake bars with raspberry swirl
Chocolate cake with pumpkin butter cream frosting
Fresh strawberries with butterscotch dip
Iced tea, lemonade

Friday 5:00pm–7:00pm
Lee Vining Community Center
$22 additional program cost


The gala dinner is a separate à la carte event. You can register friends and family.

For a shorter queue, plan to arrive at the Community Center after 6:00pm.



Twilight birding (field trip)
Scott Dietrich & Ali Sheehey
Late June brings some of the longest and most active birding days of the year in the Mono Basin. Get ready for an early evening adventure of birding into the dusk. We will ply some active birding spots in the Mono Basin for early evening activity that may include nighthawks, poorwills, and Winnowing Snipes. We may even search for an owl or two once daylight is extinguished. We will use our ears as well as our eyes in this nearby bird outing. Bring layered clothing for cooler weather after the sun sets. This program will take up to 20 participants. (est. driving miles: 25)
Friday 7:00pm–9:30pm
Lee Vining Community Center




Twilight birding 2 (field trip)
Ryan DiGaudio
This program will take a similar path in a different direction to its sister field trip. Get ready for an early evening adventure of birding into the dusk. We will ply some active birding spots in the Mono Basin for early evening activity that may include shorebirds, waterfowl, nighthawks, poorwills, and Winnowing Snipes. We may even search for an owl or two once daylight is extinguished. We will use our ears as well as our eyes in this nearby bird outing. Bring layered clothing for cooler weather after the sun sets. (est. driving miles: 25)
Friday 7:00pm–9:30pm
Lee Vining Community Center




The world of pikas: Ecology, behavior, & conservation (evening presentation)
Andrew Smith
The charismatic American pika that inhabits our western mountains delights all adventurers lucky enough to spot one scrambling across its rocky habitat gathering hay and munching flowers. This talk will introduce the natural history of pikas (approximately 30 species worldwide) and highlight the fascinating contrasts between the rock-dwelling American pika and the burrowing meadow-dwelling Plateau pika of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. Although these two species look virtually identical, they exhibit dramatic differences in their ecology and behavior, keyed to the different habitats they occupy. Contemporary and pressing conservation issues facing Plateau and American pikas will be discussed.
Friday 7:30pm–8:30pm
Scenic Area Visitor Center auditorium




Enchanted evening: Stories & stars on the lakeshore (evening presentation)
Ane Carla Rovetta & Lisa Murphy
In the days before internet, TV, and radio, there were more Chautauquas, campfires, and storytelling. We bring them all together under the splendor of a dark Mono Basin sky where stories and stars come alive. Master storyteller Ane Carla will usher in the creatures of the night with her vivid and illuminating natural history stories and legends. Yosemite National Park ranger Lisa Murphy will lead us across the night sky for an evening of astronomical wonder. Bring a blanket or low chair and dress warmly. This program is open to humans of all ages! (est. driving miles: 17)
Friday 8:00pm–9:30pm
South Tufa: From Lee Vining, drive approximately 5 miles south on Highway 395. Turn left on Highway 120 East and travel another 5 miles to the South Tufa/Navy Beach turn-off. Turn left following the signs to the left toward the South Tufa parking lot.


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Saturday, June 18, 2016



The road less birded: Benton Crossing Road
Peter Metropulos
Join Peter on an adventurous journey to some his “secret spots” off the beaten track. Starting at Layton Springs at the northeast side of Crowley Lake Reservoir we will head east through vast expanses of pinyons and sage to Wildrose Canyon, an isolated riparian corridor/aspen grove in the Glass Mountain Range. Eventually we will make our way to the historic old “town” of Benton Hot Springs. Finally we will loop back toward the Mono Basin on Highway 120 through the Adobe Valley, “land of the wild mustangs.”
What to expect: gorgeous scenery, interesting and unique birds, awesome rock formations, and a historic old town. What NOT to expect: public restroom, gas station, food, store, cell phone reception. Short, easy to moderate walking near vehicle stops; bring lunch and plenty of water. (est. driving miles: 120; bring lunch, snacks, and plenty of water)
Saturday 6:00am–3:00pm
Lee Vining Community Center




Big day & more! Southern basin transect (field trip)
Bob Power & David Wimpfheimer
The main theme of this program is to observe a wide variety of birds by visiting several habitats. However, there is also a secondary focus on taking the time to appreciate plants and other aspects of the area’s rich natural history. The pace will be less frantic than other big day birding tours so there will be more time to focus on bird identification by sight, sound, and behavior. The group will concentrate on the southern part of the Mono Basin; from conifer forest above the June Lake Loop to riparian woodland, to sagebrush steppe and the Jeffrey pine burn area near Mono Mills. Please bring your hand-held radios for communication between vehicles if you have them. We will be out all day so be sure to bring lunch, sunscreen, and plenty of water. This program will take up to 20 participants. (est. driving miles: 110; bring lunch, snacks, and plenty of water)
Saturday 6:30am–4:30pm
Lee Vining Community Center




Bodie Hills: Birds & blossoms (field trip)
Jora Fogg & Scott Dietrich
The Bodie Hills form the northern boundary of the Mono Basin and provide habitat for Greater Sage- Grouse and many other birds and over 500 species of plants. The view from the crest of the range is one of the most awe-inspiring in all of the Eastern Sierra. We will spend the morning exploring the remains of two historic mine sites and bird in an old-growth aspen stand at Masonic. Then we’ll go over the Geiger Grade to the head of Aurora Canyon to look for birds of open shrub habitats, mule deer, and pronghorn. We should see Townsend’s Solitaire, MacGillivray’s Warbler, nesting House Wren and Warbling Vireo, and various nuthatches and & woodpeckers, among others. Bring sunscreen, water, lunch, and good walking shoes. This trip involves extensive driving on dirt roads. (est. driving miles: 80, high clearance required; bring lunch, snacks, and plenty of water)
Saturday 6:30am–3:30pm
Lee Vining Community Center




Crowley Lake: Marshes, migrants, mountains, & mud (field trip)
Dave Shuford
Crowley Lake Reservoir, formed by the damming of the Owens River and cradled in the Long Valley caldera, offers spectacular views of the High Sierra to the west and the Glass Mountain and White Mountain ranges to the east. Besides its wetland habitats hosting a variety of breeding and migrant waterbirds, Crowley is nestled amid a mix of sagebrush, wet meadows, and small alkali lakes, with riparian and pinyon woodlands nearby. June is the peak of the breeding season, and we should see several species of nesting ducks, shorebirds, and grebes, plus perhaps some over-summering non-breeders or late or early migrants. We also will view the largest Bank Swallow colony in the Eastern Sierra, Common Nighthawks harvesting the insect-rich air space over the lake, and typical sagebrush denizens, such as Sage Thrashers, Brewer’s Sparrows, Sage Sparrows, and, with luck, Loggerhead Shrikes and Greater Sage Grouse. (est. driving miles: 90; bring lunch, snacks, and plenty of water)
Saturday 6:30am–3:00pm
Lee Vining Community Center




DeChambeau to Virginia Lakes (field trip)
Nora Livingston
We’ve all seen how habitats change as you make your way up a mountain pass in the Eastern Sierra. Small changes in elevation can dramatically alter bird diversity and species richness within each habitat. In this field trip, we will explore two opposite sides of the Mono Basin habitat and elevation spectrum—lakeside marsh and sagebrush scrub (~6,500 feet above sea level) and high elevation sub-alpine habitat (~9,770 feet) at Virginia Lakes—as well as a few stops in between with the intention of seeing a diversity of species in these vastly different habitats. We will start low in search of sagebrush birds like Sage Thrasher, Green-tailed Towhee, Sage Sparrow, and others, then work our way up to Virginia Lakes where we hope to see and hear Hermit Thrush, White-crowned Sparrow, Bald Eagle, and, if we are very lucky, catch a glimpse of the elusive Gray-crowned Rosy-finch. Bring a sack lunch and water for the day; we will be picnicking at the Virginia Lakes trailhead. (est. driving miles: 40; bring lunch, snacks, and plenty of water)
Saturday 6:30am–1:30pm
Lee Vining Community Center




Snag forest bird walk (field trip)
Christy Sherr
We will explore two recently burned forests, looking for snag-dependent birds like White-headed, Hairy, Lewis’, and Black-backed woodpeckers and secondary cavity nesters like Mountain Bluebirds and Tree Swallows. We’ll discuss the many ways that mixed-intensity fire supports biodiversity and ecological health in our conifer forests, and a habitat created by high-intensity fire called “complex early seral forest,” which is the rarest, most biodiverse, and most threatened of all forest habitat types in the Sierra Nevada. Many declining wildlife species depend upon this habitat, yet there are no meaningful protections for it.Easy to moderate walking on dirt roads. (est. total driving miles: 45)
Saturday 6:30am–11:30am
Lee Vining Community Center




Birding the Bridgeport Valley (field trip)
Ted Beedy & Keith Hansen
Join Ted Beedy and Keith Hansen for an exploration of wetlands and lake habitats of Bridgeport Reservoir. Bridgeport Reservoir sits within beautiful Bridgeport Valley between the Sierra Nevada and Sweetwater ranges. Waterfowl, grebes in courtship, terns, pelicans, and shorebirds grace the surface and shores of this popular fishing reservoir. A pair of Sandhill Cranes has recently been nesting at Bridgeport Reservoir and there is a chance of seeing or hearing these rare Mono County birds. Participants typically see more than 50 species of birds on this field trip. (est. driving miles: 65)
Saturday 6:30am–11:30am
Lee Vining Community Center




Birds & butts (field trip)
Kristie Nelson
This trip will focus on birds and butterflies of the region. At the convergence of the Great Basin and Sierra Nevada, the Mono Lake area is a prime birding hotspot where a fairly astounding variety can be observed. But did you also know this area has one of the highest diversities of butterflies in temperate North America? The Tioga Pass region alone has the highest diversity of Coppers in the world (coppers are a charming group of gorgeous little butterflies). We will visit multiple habitats in order to see and appreciate this regions’ unique assemblage of birds and butts (a k a butterflies). Be prepared for moderate hiking, some at near 10,000 feet in elevation; bring layered clothing and a lunch. (est. driving miles: 75)
Saturday 7:00am–4:00pm
Lee Vining Community Center




Walker Fire revisited (field trip)

Justin Hite & Paul McFarland
On the evening of August 14, 2015, an illegal campfire along the north shore of Little Walker Lake blew out of control. After nearly two weeks of shifting winds, nearly 3,600 acres of mixed conifer forest, sagebrush and bittterbrush shrubland, dry meadows, and riparian aspen forest between Horse Meadows and Bloody Canyon had burned. Less than a month after the fire, new aspen shoots emerged and bunchgrasses resprouted. With a series of short, meandering walks participants will explore the various stages of recovery across a wide variety of Mono Basin ecosystems nearly a year after this conflagration. From seed eaters on renewed grasslands to cavity nesters in charred snags, we'll enjoy discovering what's remained, what's coming back, and the interactions of birds with a landscape arising from the ashes. Expect driving and walking on dirt roads. (est. driving miles: 16)
Saturday 7:00am–11:30am
Lee Vining Community Center




Birding Burger's Retreat (field trip)
Will Richardson
We’ll drive up and over a steep moraine out of Lee Vining Canyon on our way to a privately-owned secluded nature reserve only a short distance from the masses of visitors passing through Yosemite. We’ll stroll through a rich variety of habitats including sagebrush, meadow, willow thickets, aspen groves, conifers, and outcroppings of rocks. Green-tailed Towhee, woodpeckers, warblers, flycatchers, and many others may make an appearance. (est. driving miles: 6)
Saturday 7:00am–11:00am
Lee Vining Community Center




Lundy Canyon bird walk (field trip)
Colin Dillingham
Spend a morning enjoying birds and other forms of wildlife in one of the Mono Basin’s most spectacular locations—Lundy Canyon. The mixture of aspen-cottonwood-willow riparian habitat with mature conifers provides prime habitat for a variety of Eastern Sierra birds. The awesome scenery, including displays of wildflowers, picturesque historical sites, beaver lodges, butterflies, and breathtaking rocky peaks should provide additional flavor to the outing. During one or two miles of walking we will make a special effort to locate nesting birds, as well as to locate birds by song. (est. driving miles: 25)
Saturday 7:00am–11:00am
Lee Vining Community Center




Woodpeckers in healthy riparian habitats (field trip)
Stephen A. Shunk
The aspen-lined canyons of the Mono Basin offer some of the most exciting and productive summer birding in California. Join Oregon naturalist and North American woodpecker specialist Steve Shunk to explore the riparian richness of the region. Expect a thorough primer on the natural history of aspen woodlands and especially their nesting woodpeckers. In addition to studying woodpecker behavior, we will also search for a host of nesting songbirds, including Mountain Bluebird, MacGillivray’s Warbler, Western Tanager, Bullock’s Oriole, and Black-headed Grosbeak, as well as many birds of the adjacent mixed-conifer forest. (est. driving miles: 35)
Saturday 7:00am–11:00am
Lee Vining Community Center




Convict Lake: Birds & botany, rocks & remnants (field trip)
Steve McLaughlin
Mile-long Convict Lake, located at 7,600 feet above sea level about 40 miles south of Lee Vining, lies in a glacial basin under Laurel Mountain and Mt. Morrison, two towering metamorphic peaks. The trail encircling the lake goes through a range of habitats with a high diversity of shrubs, trees, and flowers, including many uncommon and interesting species of plants. Expect to see many characteristic Eastern Sierra birds including Yellow Warblers, House Wrens, Green-tailed Towhees, Dusky Flycatchers, and Red-breasted Sapsuckers. Other species ranging from Calliope Hummingbirds to Bald Eagles may be found. Convict Creek, which can be viewed safely from a boardwalk, roars into the west end of the lake. Wear sturdy shoes, and bring your binoculars and a snack. A walking stick is helpful for short sections of the trail. (est. driving miles: 80)
Saturday 7:30am–12:30pm
Lee Vining Community Center




Exploring Black Lake Preserve (field trip)
Kay Ogden & Susanna Danner (Eastern Sierra Land Trust)
Be sure to have your binoculars in hand on Saturday morning as you explore the remote and beautiful meadows surrounding Black Lake. A rare wetland in the midst of the California desert, the Adobe Valley’s Black Lake is home to a vast variety of unusual flora and fauna. Designated as an Important Bird Area, Black Lake is critical to supporting avian populations: It serves as a breeding outpost for dozens of migrating bird species, as well as providing a vital water source for pronghorn, mule deer, golden eagles, and more. Thanks to a generous donation in 2014 by the property’s former owner, Black Lake and its surrounding meadows is now a wildlife preserve managed by Eastern Sierra Land Trust. Join Eastern Sierra Land Trust Executive Director Kay Ogden and Land Conservation Program Director Susanna Danner as they lead a walking tour of this protected landscape and hope to glimpse some of the unusual plants and wildlife that make the region so special.
Saturday 7:30am–11:30am
Lee Vining Community Center




Birding Horse Meadow (field trip)
Karyn “Kestrel” O’Hearn
Horse Meadow is perched up among moraines south of Lee Vining Canyon situated between stunning views of Mt. Dana and Mt. Gibbs, and a gorgeous, bird’s-eye view of Mono Lake. In this less-traveled area of the Mono Basin our walk will explore Upper Horse Meadow and environs, including the mix of meadow, sagebrush, aspen, and conifer forest habitats, which often provides a wide range of bird sightings. (est. driving miles: 15)
Saturday 7:30am–11:30am
Lee Vining Community Center




Lee Vining Canyon bird walk (field trip)
Sarah Stock
Lee Vining Canyon is one of the Eastern Sierra’s premier birding locations. It offers a variety of habitats and breathtaking views. Of particular interest is the habitat progression as Lee Vining Creek drains from the high alpine mountains of Yosemite and Tioga Pass down through the canyon and out into the arid sagebrush scrub surrounding Mono Lake. American Dipper, Townsend’s Solitaire, Warbling Vireo, Yellow Warbler, and nesting bluebirds, swallows, and woodpeckers are among the many highlights that we may see on this trip. (est. driving miles: 20)
Saturday 7:30am–11:30am
Lee Vining Community Center




Walk quietly & carry a big lens on Saturday too (field trip)
Santiago Escruceria
Join Santiago for an easily accessible and gentle stroll next to a beautiful riparian corridor to photograph birds. With our own cameras we will shoot for orioles, finches, wrens, swallows, Osprey, and eagles. We will investigate basic technique and take advantage of morning light. (est. driving miles: 22)
Saturday 7:30am–11:30am
Lee Vining Community Center




Birding for beginners (field trip)
Hillary Behr
Are you new to watching birds? Or are you perhaps the partner of an avid birder, willing to go along but not ready to call yourself a birder? Do you maybe have a cast-off pair of binoculars but don’t understand what the numbers on them mean, or how to use them? And what’s with bird books: why aren’t the birds alphabetized? If some of the Chautauqua offerings seem over your head or beyond your patience, this is the program for you! We’ll go over some basic binocular information, practice using this equipment, and check out some different bird guides. We will be outdoors for this workshop. As we wander, we’ll look at some of the more common birds in and around Mono Lake, practice identifying them, and learn about their fascinating natural history. Mono Lake County Park and the DeChambeau Ponds are our territory, and we should see several varieties of woodpeckers, songbirds, swallows, and blackbirds. This workshop is geared towards ages 10 and up. (est. driving miles: 20)
Saturday 8:00am–11:30am
Lee Vining Community Center




Tarns & kettles (field trip)
Karen Amstutz
Come spend the morning at the crest of the Sierra. At nearly 10,000 feet above sea level, we will find ourselves immersed in the beauty of the alpine edge and the edge of Yosemite National Park. Among glacial tarns and kettles, lodgepole and whitebark pines, peaks and meadows we will meander in search of nesting Mountain Bluebird, Spotted Sandpiper, Cassin’s Finch, and many more. Tioga Pass is a thoroughfare for birds and we could easily be surprised by a rare sighting as we explore seeking birds and other wildlife in this rich variety of habitats. Bring a hat, sunscreen, warm layers, water, and snacks. (est. driving miles: 25)
Saturday 8:00am–12:00noon
Lee Vining Community Cente
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Kayaking the south shore of Mono (field trip; $85 additional program cost)
Stuart Wilkinson & guide
Late spring reveals snow-capped mountains towering over a glassy Mono Lake—a great time to kayak! Join Stuart Wilkinson of Caldera Kayaks and a Mono Basin naturalist for a guided expedition along Mono’s south shore. This natural history kayak tour will cover a wide variety of topics relating to this unusual Great Basin lake, such as birds, geology, ecology, history, and politics. Expect to see underwater tufa towers, brine shrimp, lake-bottom springs, and a variety of birds. Some kayak experience is helpful, but not necessary; kayaks and safety equipment are provided. Minimum age is 14 years old, and minors must be accompanied by a parent. Does not count towards your registration limit.
Saturday 8:30am–1:00pm
meet at Navy Beach




Fly casting clinic (outdoor workshop)
Trout Unlimited
Have you always wanted to learn how to cast a fly fishing rod? Or improve your current casting stroke? Members of the Eastern Sierra Chapter of Trout Unlimited will provide a free fly casting demonstration clinic that will help you improve regardless of your current level of experience. This clinic is open to all ages from beginners to advanced casters. Rods and reels will be provided or you can bring your own equipment. No charge and open to all. (Zero driving)
Saturday 1:00pm–3:30pm
Lee Vining Community Center



Mindfulness in nature: A deep nature connection adventure (outdoor workshop)
Peter Bergen
This full immersion “dirt time” experience into the natural world is an invitation to spend a day in the field exploring, grounding, and having fun connecting with our own wild and true selves, one another, and the natural world. This curiosity and passion-led program for adults provides unforgettable experiences, while developing an appreciation for the beautiful and wild places of the Mono Basin. “Dirt time” means hands-on fun, so be prepared to get a little dusty and dirty!
Saturday 1:00pm–4:00pm
Lee Vining Community Center




Pikas at the extremes (field trip)
Andrew Smith
This adventure will take us to two sites in Mono County representing the extremes of habitat in which American pikas thrive. We will first travel to the Virginia Lakes trailhead and hike 0.75 miles to a very typical high- elevation talus field occupied by pikas (with ample opportunity to see pikas and lots of birds along the way!). Elevation gain from 9,800–10,050 feet. We will then visit the Mono Craters—which is like seeing pikas on the moon—to highlight the adaptability of this species and the extreme environments that it occupies. Participants can partake of just the first part, if desired, as we will pass through Lee Vining on our way south to the Mono Craters. (est. driving miles: 65)
Saturday 1:00pm–4:30pm
Lee Vining Community Center




The mysteries of sparrow identification & natural history (workshop & field trip)
David Jaffe
"I am often asked why I like 'boring little brown birds.' In part, it's because I don't find them boring." —James Rising, author of The Sparrows of the United States and Canada
This seminar is designed for folks interested in exploring the veil of secrecy shrouding these LBB’s (little brown birds) and will be generally geared towards beginners, although all are welcome. We will spend about an hour indoors learning some natural history of sparrows, key identification features to help us differentiate these LBB’s in the field, and how not to confuse them with their look-alikes. (est. driving miles: 20)
Saturday 1:00pm–5:30pm
Mono Lake Committee Theater & Gallery




Ghosts, guns, & gold: Bodie revealed (field trip)
Terri Geissinger
Bodie, one of California’s most famous state parks, was once known as the most lawless, wildest, and toughest mining camp in the West and boasted a population of 8,500 people in the 1880s. Join Terri, the Bodie Foundation historian, for a fascinating walk through town and hear stories about the characters who lived in this legendary settlement. We’ll then get a special tour through the 110-year-old stamp mill that processed much of the gold and silver and still houses some of the original equipment. The weather at this 8,400-foot elevation can be unpredictable so wear sunscreen and dress in layers. (est. driving miles: 62)
Saturday 1:00pm–6:00pm
Lee Vining Community Center




Biomimicry: Copying nature’s inventions (presentation)
Burleigh Lockwood
Nature has inspired many human inventions from the beginning of time. Burleigh Lockwood chooses a number of these inventions and highlights how various adaptations in birds have led to many of the devices and gadgets we commonly use today. From powdering your baby’s bottom to super-sonic flight, come and learn ways in which nature has been a valuable and practical teacher.
Saturday 1:30pm–2:30pm
Scenic Area Visitor Center conference room




Lundy Canyon bird walk (field trip)
Kirk Hardie
We will head up Lundy Canyon with open minds regarding what we may see, enjoying the wonderful assemblage of breeding birds of this Eastern Sierra drainage. The mixture of open water, riparian, coniferous, and sagebrush habitats found in this canyon attracts a nice diversity of birds, and these habitats are quite accessible via the main road and short trails along the creek. Since it will be the heart of nesting season, we will likely spend some time observing birds at various stages of their breeding cycles. Among the birds to be expected include sapsuckers, woodpeckers, pewees, vireos, jays, nuthatches, creepers, wrens, chickadees, grosbeaks, swallows, warblers, Western Tanagers, juncos, towhees, sparrows, and finches. We will be walking mostly on dirt roads/trails with some light off-trail walking possible. (est. driving miles: 25)
Saturday 1:30pm–5:30pm
Lee Vining Community Center




Birding Lower Parker Canyon (field trip)
Santiago Escruceria
Join Santiago Escruceria on this leisurely, bird walk on level terrain through lower Parker Canyon. We will explore riparian and meadow habitats in this quiet region of the Mono Basin. We may encounter a good variety of birds from Red-breasted Sapsucker to Mountain Bluebird and warblers to Long-eared Owl (no promises). Be prepared to walk a couple of flat, mostly shaded miles and to enjoy spectacular views of the Sierra crest and Mono Lake. (est. driving miles: 20)
Saturday 2:00pm–5:30pm
Lee Vining Community Center




History of science & exploration at Mono Lake (presentation & panel discussion)
Gayle Dana, Dave Herbst, & David Winkler
Science, at its best, is a process of exploration of the unknown and storytelling. Tales from places and of things heretofore undiscovered. Doing science at Mono Lake, an other-worldly place, gives the sense of looking into a realm where few have ventured and mystery abounds. In this panel presentation with members of the original team of student researchers at the lake in 1976—40 years ago—we will discuss the early explorers such as Israel Russell and William Brewer, delve into discoveries made along the way about these strange waters and inhabitants, and reminisce about working and camping at Mono in 1976 and beyond. No charge and open to all.
Saturday 2:00pm–3:30pm
Scenic Area Visitor Center auditorium




A bird’s-eye view of bugs (field trip)

Michael Ross
As birds know, the world is full of tasty bugs and a few yucky ones. With “bird eyes” we’ll search for bugs on the ground, leaves, bark, soil, and in the air. And maybe even take a taste test of our own. Open to kids of all ages and parents. No charge and open to all.
Saturday 2:00pm–4:00pm
Lee Vining Community Center




Fields' guide to Osprey (field trip)
Lisa Fields
We will drive to South Tufa where we will walk to the lake to view active Osprey nests, discuss why a fish-eating bird is living at a fishless lake, and answer questions about Osprey natural history. South Tufa is the best area to view active nests and if we are lucky the chicks will be large enough to offer us a glimpse. Updates to the current research will also be discussed, which includes some dispersal, migration, and local foraging data thanks in part to Chautauqua grants for the banding and telemetry study. We may adjust our route (and possibly our location) based upon current Osprey activity. We will be in exposed areas so please bring a hat, water, and sunscreen. Open to kids of all ages. (est. driving miles: 22)
Saturday 2:30pm–5:30pm
Lee Vining Community Center




Gone batty: A hands-on look into the mystery & magic of Chiroptera (workshop)
Burleigh Lockwood
Going batty is not difficult for Fresno’s “Bat Lady.” Myths, misconceptions, managing bats around your house, and the threat of White-Nose Syndrome are all part of the discussion of native bats (and some exotics) and their role in the environment. Skulls, skins, and skeletons help illustrate the truth about these marvelous creatures. Open to kids of all ages.
Saturday 3:00pm–4:30pm
Scenic Area Visitor Center conference room




Twilight birding (field trip)

Ted Beedy & Keith Hansen
Late June brings some of the longest and most active birding days of the year in the Mono Basin. Get ready for an early evening adventure of birding into the dusk. We will ply some active birding spots in the Mono Basin for early evening activity that may include shorebirds, waterfowl, nighthawks, poorwills, and Winnowing Snipes. We may even search for an owl or two once daylight is extinguished. We will use our ears as well as our eyes in this nearby bird outing. Bring layered clothing for cooler weather after the sun sets. This program will take up to 20 participants. (est. driving miles: 25)
Saturday 7:00pm–9:30pm
Lee Vining Community Center




Twilight birding 2 (field trip)
Colin Dillingham
This program will take a similar path in a different direction to its sister field trip. Get ready for an early evening adventure of birding into the dusk. We will ply some active birding spots in the Mono Basin for early evening activity that may include shorebirds, waterfowl, nighthawks, poorwills, and Winnowing Snipes. We may even search for an owl or two once daylight is extinguished. We will use our ears as well as our eyes in this nearby bird outing. Bring layered clothing for cooler weather after the sun sets. (est. driving miles: 25)
Saturday 7:00pm–9:30pm
Lee Vining Community Center




The art & architecture of the amniotic egg (workshop)
Ane Carla Rovetta
What is inside nature’s amazing amniotic egg? Scientists know that this marvel of evolution enabled reptiles and birds to colonize the land, but, did you know that this egg is also a rich resource for making art? Come and hear about the embryology of modern birds while making two kinds of historic egg paints. Our elixirs will then be used to create a small art piece. Open to adventurous spirits of all ages.
Saturday 7:00pm–8:30pm
Scenic Area Visitor Center conference room




How woodpeckers can save the world (or at least our local forests) (evening presentation)
Stephen A. Shunk
Woodpeckers represent one of the most specialized bird families in the world, and North America's woodpeckers play a critical role in our continent's forests and woodlands. In fact, nowhere else on Earth are woodpeckers such important contributors to forest ecology. What is it that makes woodpeckers so important, and how did they get this job in the first place?
Join naturalist, author, birding guide, and hopeless woodpecker vagabond Steve Shunk for an exciting journey into the lives and times of North America's woodpeckers. Steve will discuss the origin of the woodpecker family, and how these woodland carpenters evolved to fill keystone roles in our forests. He will take you inside the woodpecker anatomy, and he will translate anatomical adaptation into a host of fascinating behaviors. He will explore the natural history of California’s diverse woodpecker populations, and he will send you home with a mission. Prepare to be entertained, educated, and inspired as you become new ambassadors for woodpecker and woodland conservation.
Saturday 7:30pm–8:30pm
Scenic Area Visitor Center auditorium




Our wonderful western finches (evening presentation)
Tom Hahn
Birds that can breed in January when the snow lies deep on the ground, or in July. Birds that perfectly match the calls of their mates. Birds that pack their songs with beautiful imitations of the sounds of other species. Birds that seldom breed in the same place two years running. Birds that we can only tell apart by their flight calls. Birds that can breed “in the streaked plumage of youth.” Birds whose mandible tips don’t even line up. Who are these birds? The Cardueline Finches, of course! We have a particularly wonderful array of these birds—goldfinches, siskins, crossbills, grosbeaks, rosy-finches, rose-finches, redpolls—in western North America, and many of them frequent the Eastern Sierra and Mono Basin. This presentation will take you on a tour of the amazing natural history, behavior, morphology, and physiology of our wonderful western finches.
Saturday 7:30pm–8:30pm
Mono Lake Committee Theater & Gallery



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Sunday, June 19, 2016



Pinyonder wander (field trip)
Justin Hite
The dry pinyon-juniper woodlands are a bizarre and beautiful avian paradise. This walk will take us through the realm of many hard-to-find California birds, including Juniper Titmice, Plumbeous Vireos, and Pinyon Jays. (est. driving miles: 35)
Sunday 6:30am–11:00am
Lee Vining Community Center




Birding the Bridgeport Valley (field trip)

Ted Beedy
Join Ted Beedy for an exploration of wetlands and lake habitats of Bridgeport Reservoir. Bridgeport Reservoir sits within beautiful Bridgeport Valley between the Sierra Nevada and Sweetwater ranges. Waterfowl, grebes in courtship, terns, pelicans, and shorebirds grace the surface and shores of this popular fishing reservoir. A pair of Sandhill Cranes has recently been nesting at Bridgeport Reservoir and there is a chance of seeing or hearing these rare Mono County birds. Participants typically see more than 50 species of birds on this field trip. (est. driving miles: 65)
Sunday 6:30am–11:30am
Lee Vining Community Center




Birding Antelope Valley & Topaz Lake (field trip)
Colin Dillingham
We will caravan to the southern tip of Antelope Valley and investigate cottonwood riparian, agriculture, and sage/juniper/pinyon pine woodlands. Pinyon Jay and Juniper Titmouse are likely, as well as raptors, sparrows, and neotropical migrants. After a couple hours in the valley, we’ll travel north to the southern part of Topaz Lake where we will use spotting scopes to scan the lake. We will walk along the southern shore of Topaz Lake to investigate what species might be breeding in the hidden southeast corner of the lake. We will end our trip at Topaz Lake, and for those heading north into Nevada and northern California, we can continue the trip to Washoe Valley for a trip extension. (est. driving miles to and from Lee Vining: 130)
Sunday 6:30am–11:30am
Lee Vining Community Center




Birding the June Lake Loop (field trip)
John Sterling
Join John on this birding tour of the scenic June Lake Loop. The route covers a variety of habitats and therefore we should see a variety of birds. Reservoirs such as Grant Lake may hold lingering loons or mergansers. Mountain conifers and riparian aspens are home to many species—Mountain Chickadees, Olive-sided Flycatchers, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Western Tanagers, and many more. We may also explore the June Lake burn area near Highway 395, which will undoubtedly yield woodpecker species. (est. driving miles: 35)
Sunday 6:30am–11:30am
Lee Vining Community Center




Bird sounds field study (field trip)
Roy Poucher
This field trip is the “hands-on” companion to the Bird sounds workshop on Friday afternoon. The goal is to solidify the general principles explored on Friday, and provide practical experience with field identification of specific Mono Basin bird sounds. We will primarily be standing at different locations for short time segments, silently noting on paper what bird sounds we are individually hearing, then, as a group, discussing, analyzing, and identifying these sounds. Though useful, binoculars are not necessary. Notebooks to write in will be needed. The Friday afternoon Bird sounds workshop is a prerequisite for this event. Total walking distance will be about 1.2 easy miles. (est. driving miles: 28)
Sunday 6:30am–11:30am
Lee Vining Community Center




Birding Burger's Retreat (field trip)
Dave Shuford
We’ll drive up and over a steep moraine out of Lee Vining Canyon, with spectacular views of Mt. Dana and beyond, on our way to a privately-owned secluded nature reserve only a short distance from the masses of visitors passing through Yosemite. We’ll stroll through a rich variety of habitats including sagebrush, meadow, willow thickets, aspen groves, conifers, and outcroppings of rocks. Green-tailed Towhee, woodpeckers, warblers, flycatchers, and many others may make an appearance. (est. driving miles: 6)
Sunday 7:00am–10:30am
Lee Vining Community Center




Lundy Canyon bird walk (field trip)

Peter Metropulos
Spend a morning enjoying birds and other forms of wildlife in one of the Mono Basin’s most spectacular locations—Lundy Canyon. The mixture of aspen-cottonwood-willow riparian habitat with mature conifers provides prime habitat for a variety of Eastern Sierra birds. The awesome scenery, including displays of wildflowers, picturesque historical sites, beaver lodges, butterflies, and breathtaking rocky peaks should provide additional flavor to the outing. During one or two miles of walking we will make a special effort to locate nesting birds, as well as to locate birds by song. (est. driving miles: 25)
Sunday 7:00am–11:00am
Lee Vining Community Center




The mysteries of sparrow identification & natural history (workshop & field trip)

David Jaffe
"I am often asked why I like 'boring little brown birds.' In part, it's because I don't find them boring." James Rising, author of The Sparrows of the United States and Canada.
This seminar is designed for folks interested in exploring the veil of secrecy shrouding these LBB’s (little brown birds) and will be generally geared towards beginners, although all are welcome. We will spend about an hour indoors learning some natural history of sparrows, key identification features to help us differentiate these LBB’s in the field, and how not to confuse them with their look-alikes. (est. driving miles: 20)
Sunday 7:00am–11:30am
Mono Lake Committee Theater & Gallery




Birding South Tufa & the Jeffrey pine forest (field trip)
Scott Dietrich
In a small area around the southwest shore of Mono Lake we’ll find birds that nest in sagebrush scrub and in dry, mature coniferous forest. These may include Lewis’ Woodpecker, Gray Flycatcher, Violet-green Swallow, Pinyon Jay, Clark’s Nutcracker, Rock Wren, Sage Thrasher, Western Tanager, Green-tailed Towhee and Brewer’s and Sage Sparrows. We’ll also identify and talk about shoreline waterbirds. (est. driving miles: 30)
Sunday 7:00am–11:30am
Lee Vining Community Center




Birds & burns (field trip)

Stephen A. Shunk
For too many years, we have branded fire as an enemy of our forested wildlands, but fire is actually a critical ecological component of healthy forests. From fire comes life; take this chance to see for yourself. On this trip we will explore several burned patches of the world’s largest Jeffrey pine forest, including the 2015 Walker Burn, just south of Lee Vining. Wandering through blackened columns left by lightning-caused fires, we’ll discover a rarely enjoyed new world of wildflowers, resprouting shrubs, and once-proud pines fast becoming homes for Black-backed and Hairy woodpeckers and other cavity-nesters. Join North American woodpecker specialist Steve Shunk for an interpretation of western forest ecology, including the critical role of fire and the keystone roles of the forests’ woodpeckers. Expect a moderate meander of approximately 4 miles through one of the Eastern Sierra’s most under-appreciated ecosystems. (est. driving miles: 60)
Sunday 7:00am–11:30am
Lee Vining Community Center




Behavior, physiology, & natural history of High Sierra birds (field trip)
Tom Hahn
This trip will make a couple of stops in Lee Vining Canyon on the way up into the Tioga Pass vicinity, and provides a great opportunity to observe many of the birds of the eastern slope and Sierra crest. We’ll use the species we find as jumping-off points to talk about the various research on physiology and behavior of high-elevation birds that has been done over the past 40 years around Tioga Pass, with particular emphasis on how the steep eastern escarpment provides opportunities for small birds to escape life-threatening weather, and how residents and migrants orchestrate their annual schedules of breeding, plumage molt, and migration in this capricious environment. We’ll make a particular effort to find, observe, and discuss the natural history of Mountain White-crowned Sparrow, Dusky Flycatcher, Hermit Thrush, Cassin’s Finch, and Rock Wren, and we’ll keep our eyes and ears peeled for Gray-crowned Rosy-finch, Pine Siskin, and Red Crossbill—all of which have been studied in the area (some since 1968). We will of course check out any and all other birds encountered. (est. driving miles: 20)
Sunday 7:00am–11:30am
Lee Vining Community Center




Birding Bohler Canyon post-fire (field trip)
Ryan Burnett
For years we've led Chautauqua field trips to one of the Mono Basin’s lesser-visited treasures, Bohler Canyon. This area recently burned in the Walker Fire (August 2015), so the old aspen stands are now scorched and the sagebrush is gone, but this treasure is not destroyed—in fact, it is still bustling with birds and green buds that will flourish in spring and summer. This year's walk will focus on how habitat bounces back after fire and what it means for the wildlife that inhabit it. We will still see cavity nesters like woodpeckers, bluebirds, and wrens, as well as juncos, phoebes, and more. (est. driving miles: 10)
Sunday 7:00am–11:30am
Lee Vining Community Center




Birding Lee Vining Canyon (field trip)

Rodd Kelsey
Lee Vining Canyon provides great Eastern Sierra birding from the top to the bottom. The canyon covers high alpine habitats above Ellery Lake all the way to Great Basin sagebrush and riparian habitats down near Lee Vining, as Lee Vining Creek drains into Mono Lake. On this field trip we will spend some time walking at lower elevations, where species observed may include Warbling Vireo, Yellow Warbler, American Dipper, Black-chinned Hummingbird, and Green-tailed Towhee. Then we’ll head to the high country, driving up Lee Vining Canyon, stopping to look for Gray-crowned Rosy-finches on talus slopes near the lakes, followed by a walk along Saddlebag Lake Road (approximately 9,500 feet) to look for high elevation breeders like Townsend’s Solitaire, Cassin’s Finch, Clark’s Nutcracker, Dusky Flycatcher, Mountain Chickadee, and Mountain White-crowned Sparrow. Hopefully we’ll see some surprises too! (est. driving miles: 20)
Sunday 7:00am–11:30am
Lee Vining Community Center




Exploring the Mono Basin (field trip)
Greg Stock
Join Yosemite National Park geologist Greg Stock for a combination driving/hiking tour of the stunning geology of the Mono Basin. From volcanic craters to glacial moraines, massive mountains to tufa towers, the Eastern Sierra holds some of the most spectacular and accessible geology anywhere in the world. This field trip will present, in understandable fashion, the geologic stories behind such scenic wonders as Mono Lake, the Mono Craters, Lee Vining Canyon, and Tioga Pass. If you’ve ever wanted to know more about what formed the diverse landscapes of the Mono Basin, this trip is for you. (est. driving miles: 35)
Sunday 7:30am–11:30am
Lee Vining Community Center




Exploring Rattlesnake Gulch (field trip)
Bob Power & David Wimpfheimer
This unique area, the oldest known gold mining site in the Eastern Sierra, is a quiet, dramatic place unlike any other location in the Mono Basin. A riparian habitat of willow and aspen holds typical breeding species such as Calliope Hummingbird, MacGillivray’s Warbler, and Green-tailed Towhee. Adjacent sagebrush and bitterbrush habitat offer a different group of birds. Rocky expanses and unlimited vistas provide good raptor watching. This is a fun and scenic area with lots of great boulders and old cabins that will not only interest birders, but photographers as well. Please bring your hand-held radios for communication between vehicles if you have them. (est. driving miles: 25)
Sunday 7:30am–11:30am
Lee Vining Community Center




Revisiting the science that saved Mono Lake, 40 years later (field trip)
Gayle Dana, Dave Herbst, & David Winkler
In 1976 there was little known about Mono Lake, and few who’d spent time here, but growing concern that the ecosystem of the rapidly receding lake was in trouble. Between them, the leaders of this trip have done most of the early research on the impacts of salinity and falling lake levels on shrimp, flies, and birds that set the stage for the quest of the Mono Lake Committee to save the lake. We will take this field trip back to some of the places where those studies were carried out and discuss what we found and how that led to an understanding of threats to Mono and what it would take to restore it. (est. driving miles: 24)
Sunday 8:00am–11:30am
Lee Vining Community Center




Butterfly ramble
Ali Sheehey
Sleep in like the butterflies do before taking off on this leisurely journey into butterflying around the Mono Basin. This walk will focus on viewing, identifying, and photographing—but not capturing—these beautiful creatures. Join Ali in exploring flight patterns and flower, plant, and tree relationships while enjoying the magic of the butterfly. Bring your binoculars and a butterfly book if you have one. Open to kids of all ages. (est. driving miles: 24)
Sunday 8:00am–11:00am
Lee Vining Community Center




Fields' guide to Osprey (field trip)
Lisa Fields
We will drive to South Tufa where we will walk down to the lake to view active Osprey nests, discuss why a fish-eating bird is living on a fishless lake, and answer questions about Osprey natural history. South Tufa is the best area to view active nests and if we are lucky the chicks will be large enough to offer us a glimpse. Updates to the current research will also be discussed, which includes some dispersal, migration, and local foraging data thanks in part to Chautauqua grants for the banding and telemetry study. We may adjust our route (and possibly our location) based upon current Osprey activity. We will be in exposed areas so please bring a hat, water, and sunscreen. Open to kids of all ages. (driving miles: 22)
Sunday 8:30am–11:30am
Lee Vining Community Center




California’s trout for kids: Invent your own fish & other trout crafts & games (workshop)
Levi Keszey
This hands-on morning session will introduce kids to the fish of the Eastern Sierra and what makes them so special. Kids will have the opportunity to invent their own trout species from appearance to diet and habitat, and will get to take their fish home as a hanging ornament. As time allows, we will do other trout-related activities such as macroinvertebrate tag or water conservation games.
Sunday 9:00am–11:00am
Lee Vining Community Center




Capturing birds with pencil & paper (workshop)
Keith Hansen
Join Keith Hansen for an in-class session of bird illustration. Learn to capture birds on paper with techniques that will aid and enhance your experiences while birding. Whether you want to render quick impressions of birds in the field for your note book, or create something of beauty that you have seen, this class will help you to achieve that goal. With step-by-step demonstrations, Keith will cover many elements, including basic anatomy and form, perspective, foreshortening, effects of lighting, negative space, back ground contrast, and others that will give you a good foundation for rendering your own images. From beginner to expert, this class will aid in and increase your overall enjoyment of your time spent in nature.
Materials to bring include:
Any kind of notebook or sketch pad you would like
2 or 3 pencils with various hardness from medium to soft
Razor blade/sharp pocket knife as well as some “not too rough” sandpaper for keeping pencils sharp
An eraser, either an “Art Gum” or “Magic Rub”
Sunday 9:00am–11:30am
Lee Vining Community Center




Picnic & music at Mono Lake County Park
(and the bird calling contest)
Join us Sunday afternoon for a picnic in the park complete with live music. This is a perfect way to kick off your summer by enjoying lunch, relaxing in the green shady glow of County Park, and immersing yourself in music. Feel free to bring your own lunch or consider purchasing lunch for $10 at County Park, which benefits Lee Vining High School. We'll continue our traditional bird calling contest. Come enjoy good food and live music with new and old friends as we recap the weekend's bird sightings or steal away down the boardwalk for a last-minute glimpse at the birds. This is a great way to end the Chautauqua! A fun event for family pods and humans of all ages.

This year’s live musical guest: Idle Hands String Band

Lunch fundraiser for Lee Vining High School
The Lee Vining Lunch Bunch is returning to provide lunch for the Chautauqua picnic once again. Help improve both academic and extracurricular opportunities for the local high school while you eat a delicious lunch! The $10 lunch menu includes a choice of burgers served with whole wheat bun, mixed greens, onion, and tomatoes (all can be ordered without cheese): turkey burger with pesto and goat cheese, garden burger with Swiss cheese, or sirloin burger with Cheddar cheese. Lunch also includes a garden salad (kale, broccoli, cabbage, carrot, and balsamic vinaigrette), watermelon, brownie, and drink.

Sunday beginning at 12:00noon
Mono Lake County Park


To get to County Park from Lee Vining, head north on Highway 395 approximately 5 miles and turn right on Cemetery Road. Go down the hill and look for parking directions. Carpooling from Lee Vining is highly recommended.

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Other things to do during Chautauqua week

Birding at Mono Lake County Park & Tufa State Natural Reserve boardwalk
Wrens, warblers, woodpeckers, and waterbirds can be seen in this rich variety of habitats. We’ll make our way from the sagebrush through the old cottonwoods, around the willow thickets, and down the boardwalk to the shoreline of Mono Lake. Led by a Mono Lake Committee naturalist. Open to kids of all ages.
Friday 8:00am–10:00am. No registration required.
Sunday 8:00am–10:00am. No registration required.
Meet in the parking lot at Mono Lake County Park.

Strange waters: South Tufa walk
Discover the unique waters and wildlife of Mono Lake at South Tufa off Highway 120 east. It is an easy, 1-mile, 1.5-hour walk with a naturalist among the spectacular tufa towers on the lakeshore. Bring water, a hat, sunscreen, and binoculars. Entrance fee is $3.00 per person for a one-week pass. Visitors ages 15 and under are admitted free. Open to kids of all ages.
Saturday 1:00pm–2:30pm. No registration required.
Sunday 1:00pm–2:30pm. No registration required.
Meet at the South Tufa site. From Lee Vining, drive approximately 5 miles south on Hwy 395. Turn left on Hwy 120 East and travel another 5 miles to the South Tufa/Navy Beach turn-off. Turn left following the signs to the left toward the South Tufa parking lot.

Mono Lake Committee Information Center & Bookstore
The Mono Lake Committee Information Center & Bookstore offers a free film, educational exhibits, and an art exhibit. You'll also find an excellent selection of regional books, maps, T-shirts, posters, local crafts, and specialty gifts. The Committee also houses the Lee Vining Chamber of Commerce with information on lodging, dining, and recreation opportunities as well as weather and road conditions.
The Mono Lake Committee will be open from 8:00am–9:00pm daily during the Chautauqua, call (760) 647-6595 for more information.

Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area Visitor Center
The Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area Visitor Center features an excellent view of Mono Lake, interpretive displays, natural history trails, and the Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association bookstore. Make sure to check it all out during the Chautauqua! The dramatic Mono Lake film Of Ice and Fire will be shown in the theater when possible. Call (760) 647-3044 for more information. A great place for kids of all ages.
The Visitor Center will be open 8:00am–9:00pm on Friday and Saturday with the exhibit hall closing at 6:00pm during the Chautauqua.
Regular Visitor Center hours are 8:00am–5:00pm daily; call (760) 647-3044 for more information.

Mono Basin Historical Society Museum
The Mono Basin Historical Society Museum, located in Lee Vining at Gus Hess Park, houses a fascinating collection of materials and photographs from the Mono Basin's past. See Native American artifacts, gold mining implements, and even the legendary upside-down house! A great place for kids of all ages. Call (760) 647-6461 for more information.

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A note about programs, limits, kids, etc.

Presentations range between 25 and 100 people, depending on the venue. Workshop attendance can vary between 12–25 people. Field trips are typically limited to 15 registered participants to each leader, except where otherwise noted. We reserve the right to adjust trip size in order to not split up couples, or to allow volunteers and trip leaders a chance to attend trips. We consult with field trip leaders, and we are strict about registration limits.

Special events, the dinner, and the picnic do not count toward your Chautauqua registration limit, but you may still have to register for them. Check the program information carefully. Special events are not listed on the master schedule, and you don't have to register for them, so make a separate note of them if you're interested.

Many programs are great for kids because of the dynamic subject, location, or leader. When we say kids, we mean kids of all ages, so you will find a lot of adults in these programs as well. Kid-appropriate programs are noted with "Open to kids of all ages" text.

For more information about Chautauqua etiquette, transportation, what to bring, etc, see Chautauqua Skinny.