The 2017 Program is coming soon!

Please check back later for updated information. We've included a smattering of last year's programs as examples of what we've offered in the past.


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


Birding between the breweries (field trip; $80 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


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


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


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


Saturday, June 18, 2016


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


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


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


Sunday, June 19, 2016


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


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 12:00 noon
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.




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.




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 the Event Details page.