Mono Lake offers ‘birding by ear’ workshops

State park sponsors interpretive program

How many times have you heard a bird sing and wondered what it was? Wouldn’t it be satisfying to be able to identify birds by their song or call?

Beginning near the shores of Mono Lake next week, participants in a “Birding by Ear” workshop, sponsored by the state park, will visit a variety of habitats during their choice of two different four-hour workshops (June 8 and June 19), gradually working their way up to an elevation of about 8,000 ft. 

Dave Marquart, park interpreter with the Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve, has been listening to birds and interpreting their individual vocalizations for decades and will lead the workshops.

He said he can help participants in his workshops listen to singing birds in a way they perhaps never have, and help them find a way to develop techniques to identify and remember those birds, long after the workshop is done.

“What I first try to deal with in teaching these workshops is to teach people how to consciously pay attention to the sounds around them, to help them turn on an inner switch that rarely gets activated,” he said.

“Birds are always singing, calling, or vocalizing around us every day in the spring and summer, but most people aren’t paying attention. Once people allow themselves to experience this added awareness, we can then focus on the details of the bird’s songs or calls.

“For example some birds have a very musical quality to their song such as a robin or a chickadee. Others may produce a raspy or hoarse song or call, like a raven or a Steller’s jay or a Clark’s nutcracker. Some bird songs are fast-paced, others slow, some high, some low. Opening up to the intricacies of the sounds around us as we do in these workshops can open us up to a much greater breadth of awareness of our natural environment.

“Listening to bird vocalizations more clearly and acutely also carries over into other aspects of our daily life. I’ve had people come back to me long after one of these workshops saying, ‘I’m now hearing all kinds of sounds that I never paid attention to like the weird sound my refrigerator makes or the quality of the wind blowing through the pine tree in my back yard.’

“They’ll also say, ‘I’m also hearing birds in the background in movies or TV shows and trying to figure out what they are! These people can sometimes posses this glee that comes from their increased awareness of a part of the world around them that often went unnoticed before.

“For some people, consciously listening to birds sing can have a relaxing and therapeutic effect,” he said. “Imagine what listening to singing birds for four hours can do.”`


  • What: These four-hour “Birding by Ear” workshops begin at 8 a.m. and are oriented for beginning and intermediate bird watchers, but all levels of birders are welcome.

The workshops are sponsored by the Friends of Mono Lake Reserve and the Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve.

When: June 8 and June 19, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Cost: $25 per person, limited to 12 participants

For more information: Call 760-647-6331 to make reservations or email the State Reserve at:

 All proceeds go to support the interpretive programs at Mono Lake.