The aerial photography and surveys from LightHawk flights has been invaluable for ongoing research conducted since 1996. Robbie recently reached out to LightHawk about two findings from a published paper from December 2020 he contributed to titled Abundance, Distribution and Migration Patterns of North American Eared Grebes (Podiceps nigricollis). Robbie specifically noted critical pieces of information that inform MLC moving
1). Conducting multiple flights from late-August to mid-November is critical to understanding Eared Grebe timing and numbers at Mono Lake. Previously it was thought that one mid-October flight would sufficiently characterize Eared Grebe visitation to Mono Lake, but resulting data had inexplicable spikes and dips between years. Multiple surveys in subsequent years, which were made possible thanks to LightHawk, have allowed us to demonstrate that peak abundance timing can be inconsistent. Future research will seek to further characterize trends in the migration to Mono Lake utilizing multi-flight methodology.
2). The surveys suggest a strong correlation between the number and timing of Eared Grebe at Mono Lake and the number and timing of brine shrimp (Artemia monica) in the lake. Enhanced inland aquatic research will now be conducted at Mono Lake on an annual basis to provide better shrimp counts and better inland aquatic analysis overall. This enhanced research will have great potential to help us better interpret and understand Eared Grebe numbers from our aerial surveys.
We're grateful to VP Wayne Sayer, and all the pilots who have generously provided flights for the Mono Lake Committee, and the ongoing critical Eared Grebe conservation research! The Mono Lake Committee is dedicated to the restoration of Mono Lake and recognizes Eared Grebes as one of the bird species of special significance due to the historical and current reliance on Mono Lake. Mono Lake Committee acknowledges the important role volunteer pilots provide and are planning additional Eared Grebe surveys in 2023.