Birding in Mammoth Lakes
The Eastern Sierra is home to a wide variety of birds year-round, while many others migrate through. The birds of the Eastern Sierra offer both the casual and the dedicated birdwatcher a large and diverse population. Nearly 300 species of birds have been identified within the area. Some are year-round residents, others migratory visitors. With a pair of binoculars and a bird identification guide, birding in the Eastern Sierra can be rewarding for a few hours or for a lifetime.
The Eastern Sierra offers dramatic beauty and great birding. Mono County is blessed with an abundance of public land, most of which offers excellent birding. You may even witness the soaring flight of a Bald Eagle or Golden Eagle. A few of the Eastern Sierra birds you may see are the Peregrine Falcon, Prairie Falcon, Red-tailed Hawk, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Dark-eyed Junco, Hummingbirds, Mountain Bluebird, Western Tanager, American Goldfinch, Great Blue Heron, Osprey and the ever-popular Steller's Jay. For a list of the birds in the Eastern Sierra, visit the Valentine Eastern Sierra Reserve website. For up-to-date postings and sightings, visit the Eastern Sierra Audubon Society's website.
Mono Lake is the crown jewel when it comes to birding. Mono Lake is a salty, alkaline inland sea home to brine shrimp, alkali flies and the millions of birds that depend on them. One of the best-known birds is the California Gull. Mono Lake is home to the second-largest California Gull rookery in North America (Great Salt Lake is the largest). Approximately 50,000 California Gulls arrive in spring to feed, mate, select a nest site and lay their eggs.
By early fall, most will have migrated back to the coast. If you visit a beach in California and you see a California Gull, there's a high probability it was born at Mono Lake.
Every June, the town of Lee Vining hosts a weeklong event called the Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua. If you would like to learn more about the Bird Chautauqua, please call the Mono Lake Committee at 760-647-6595 or visit www.monolake.org.
Bird Watching with your Ears
You don't need a sound system to watch birds with your ears. All you need is to tune in to their songs. Each species makes unique sounds, and you can identify the birds by those sounds just as easily as you can by their shape or color. There are advantages to birding by ear. You can do it in the dark. A bird hidden in dense summer foliage will often sing out its identity for all who have ears to hear. Songbird songs serve a variety of purposes, from territorial defense to mate attraction.
Depending on the species, some songs are passed on genetically, some are learned and some combine a little of both. Some of the Eastern Sierra songbirds you will hear are Hermit Thrush, Mountain Chickadee, American Robin and the small Yellow Warbler. Some birds sing throughout the day, but you'll hear 100 times as much birdsong first thing in the morning. "Birding By Ear" Field Workshops are sponsored by Friends of Mono Lake.
Join biologists from the Point Reyes Bird Observatory as they conduct ecological monitoring of birds in the Soda Springs Meadow. This program allows visitors to get a close look at some of the 100 species of birds found in the Devils Postpile National Monument. Demonstrations start on the hour and half-hour from 7:00 to 11:00 a.m. Meet in the amphitheater next to the Devils Postpile National Monument Ranger Station. Summer months only.
The second Saturday in May is International Migratory Bird Day. Learn more about wild birds, take action to conserve birds and their habitats and simply have fun. Celebrate all species of birds whose annual movements enliven our lands, waters and skies.
If you find an orphaned or injured bird, only veterinarians or federally licensed wildlife rehabilitators can legally treat wild birds. Call Eastern Sierra Wildlife Care at 760-872-1487.
Bird watching is the very best kind of fun—easy, inexpensive and satisfying; and the Eastern Sierra is an immense, rugged and extraordinary landscape rich with birds.