01 October 2011

Mono Lake

South Tufa beach
When my travel plans went awry, I wasn't sure a visit to Mono Lake would still happen.  I'm so glad it did!  Views of the lake from afar were lovely, though nothing extraordinary.  It wasn't until walking down the path at South Tufa through the rabbitbrush and greasewood and coming out upon this scene, that the true beauty of Mono Lake became apparent.

The Tufa towers were created when fresh water flowing underground, rose up through the salt water of Mono Lake, at which point the interaction of salt and fresh water caused the minerals to precipitate out leaving these towers behind.  All of these were created underwater at a time when the lake level was much higher than it is now.

California Gull
Birds love Mono Lake and in particular, the California Gulls, who also nest on one of the islands in the lake.

Grackle eating Alkalie Flies
There were large flocks of grackles too, iridescent in the morning sun.

Alkalie Flies
Mono Lake has a small but unique eco-system.  No fish live in the lake as it is too salty; 2 1/2 times as salty as the ocean!  Instead the eco-system is based on just a handful of things. The algae, which the alkali flies and brine shrimp live on and the birds which eat the alkali flies and brine shrimp.  The black band along the beach is not sand, but rather masses of the alkali flies.  They don't swarm at humans or bite at all.  In places, they mound up as in the above photo.

It was so fun to watch the gulls eating.  They put their head down low and ran at the water, following the shoreline with beaks open, catching alkali flies and brine shrimp.  The alkali flies would part right in front of the gull as though the gull were a vacuum cleaner sucking them up.  The grackles would do the same thing!  Their beaks would come up full!

Tufa Towers
I was lucky to have the area to myself for nearly an hour.  The grand expanse of peace and quiet, but for the birds and lapping of the water, was a healing balm after having been sick for two days.  

Looking out across the water, there were hundreds of ducks and grebes all across the lake.  I can imagine what it must be like when thousands of birds stop here during migration!

Caterpillar Greasewood in bloom
The beauty continued on the walk back to the car.  The rabbit brush was nearly done blooming, but the greasewood was covered with these pink blossoms!

Birds in Flight
Just as I left, the grackles took flight.


3 comments:

sewdoc said...
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sewdoc said...

What wonderful photos you publish! and what inspiring scenery.You live in a wonderful part of the world. I come from South Africa and live in the UK and my only experience of your part of the world (or near it) was a train trip from Chicago to San Fransisco some 12 Years ago, so I would love to head back there and do some road travel one day! I think Lake Mono (and your description) is great!

Susan Elliott said...

Wow. I just read all four posts about your trip and there were so many amazing sights and sounds...magic. I felt like I just watched a National Geographic special...the fabulous photography and the commentary, all coordinated in such a way to tell the complete story of your trip. I enjoyed every single word and every single photo. I often admire you for waking up early to be the first for the sunrise. Magical things happen then I think. I also admire the fact that you get in your car and go...and you've gone to so many amazing places. Just when I think that surely you must have discovered everything within driving distance, you surprise me again. Thank you thank you for taking me on your trip. I only wish I'd been more a help when you got sick...

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