April 2019

Quick Links

Shout Outs

Audubon at Home thanks Board Member Doug Everhart and volunteer Phil Divine for updating our GIS map of Certified Wildlife Sanctuaries with data through November 2018. A process of regular updates will soon keep the map current.

Conservation Counts

Join Jim Waggener in his ongoing natural resource surveys at two of Northern Virginia's best birding spots. Surveys alternate between Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and Meadowood Special Recreation Management Area on Mason Neck. From April through October, surveys are conducted primarily for butterflies and dragonflies at those two locations and two others—Occoquan Regional Park and Julie J. Metz Memorial Wetlands Preserve.

Each survey is limited to four participants, and reservations are required. More information is available on the ASNV website.

Contact Jim for more details or to reserve your space.

Meadowood on Mason Neck 

(7:30 a.m. - 12 p.m.)
  • April 10
  • May 15

Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge 

(7:30 a.m - 12 p.m.)
  • April 24
  • May 29

Butterfly and Dragonfly Surveys—will resume in April

(8:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.)
  • April 5, Metz Wetlands Preserve
  • April 12, Occoquan Regional Park
  • April 19, Occoquan Bay NWR
  • April 26, Meadowood Recreation Area

Make a Difference!  
Speak Up!


E-Activist Network 
Volunteers Needed

The National Audubon Society invites all Auduboners to join its e-activist network. When you subscribe to the Society’s newsletter, you'll receive alerts about important congressional actions and information about how you can affect legislation by contacting your members of Congress.

Advocate Against Climate Change

We need passionate volunteers across Virginia who can help persuade elected officials to support actions designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If you would like to help make a difference with climate change and other important issues, please contact Glenda Booth.

AAH Seeks Driver To Deliver Tabling Supplies

Audubon at Home seeks a volunteer driver to pick up supplies from the ASNV office at the National Wildlife Federation headquarters in Reston, to deliver them to a site for tabling events in Fairfax or Arlington County, and to pick up unused supplies afterward for return to ASNV in Reston. Drivers will be needed for up to three events per month. Trips can generally be made outside rush hour at the driver's convenience and will be scheduled by driver and AAH participant using a Doodle poll or via phone call. Interested? Write AAH@audubonva.org.

Got a Hot Story? Let Us Know!

The Potomac Flier wants to deliver local bird-centered news that matters to you. Therefore, if there’s something you want us to write about, let us know at communications@audubonva.org.

President's Corner

by Tom Blackburn

Every other Wednesday morning, as he has done for the last thirty years, Jim Waggener arises early and drives to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge or Meadowood Recreation Area, where he joins a band of volunteers who survey birds and other wildlife. Every Friday morning from April through October, Jim and other volunteers survey butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies at four sites in southern Fairfax County.

Why do Jim and the other volunteers do this when they could be drinking a leisurely cup of coffee and reading the newspaper or sleeping in? They are Citizen Scientists, whose surveys create valuable population data used by conservation managers, scientists, and the general public to understand and protect our birds and other wildlife.
Most of us know that bird populations are in steep decline. During the last 40 years, songbird populations in the United States have declined by 40%. Citizen Scientists gather data on wildlife population distribution, abundance, habitat changes, and trends. Without survey data we wouldn’t know which birds and other wildlife are at risk and be able to implement conservation actions.

Over the last thirty years, Jim Waggener and other volunteers have amassed more than 8,000 hours of field work and 56,000 hours of volunteer time, documenting 30,000 species records for one of the longest-running surveys in North America. They have identified 256 bird species at Occoquan Bay alone, about 80 species each of butterflies and dragonflies/damselflies, and more than 900 plants, annotated by site and date of bloom. The bird data are being incorporated into Cornell Lab’s eBird database, and the butterfly and dragonfly/damselfly data are being added to the Pollardbase and Odonata Central database.

Jim’s surveys are not the only ASNV Citizen Science projects. We participate in the Winter Waterfowl Count and the Great Backyard Bird Count in February, the Migratory Bird Count in May, the Northern Virginia Bird Survey in June, the North American Butterfly Association Butterfly Count each summer, and the Christmas Bird Count in December. We conduct butterfly counts in Huntley Meadows Park and will begin butterfly counts at Ft. Belvoir this spring. ASNV’s bird walk leaders routinely enter bird lists into eBird.   

You too can be a Citizen Scientist. Wildlife surveys offer an opportunity to enjoy nature as you create data to protect wildlife and our environment. Anyone can participate, and we welcome you to join ASNV’s Citizen Science activities. Check our website or send us an email at info@audubonva.org.

Upcoming Classes and Events

How to Lead a Bird and Nature Walk
Saturday, April 6, 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
National Wildlife Federation, 11100 Wildlife Center Drive, Reston, VA 20190

Back by popular demand! Do you love birds? wildflowers? frogs? fungi? or some other aspect of nature? Would you like to share that love with others in an organized way, but are not sure how to do it? If so, this workshop will answer a lot of questions and give you good tips on how to be a successful leader. We will spend some time in a classroom setting and follow that up with a walk to practice what you’ve learned. Register here.

Instructor: Dixie Sommers has been an Audubon member since 1986 and became a serious birder in 2006, adding to her long interest in nature photography and travel. She is an avid e-bird user and enjoys using photography to help learn the birds and sharing her photos on www.ddpix.smugmug.com. In addition to favorite places in Virginia, her recent birding travels include Alaska, Cuba, Ecuador, Ohio, South Florida, Antarctica, and Argentina. Dixie lives in Alexandria, Virginia, and retired from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics after a long career of counting jobs and workers. Now she counts birds!  

Fee: Members $10, Non-members $15


Birding by Ear Boot Camp
Sunday, April 14, 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Julia Metz Wetland Preserve & Leesylvania State Park, Woodbridge, VA 

Spend a full day learning bird song in the field and on the trails with birding expert Greg Fleming. Some basic birding knowledge is a prerequisite, such as being able to identify some common local birds by sight. Bring a bag lunch; we'll be out in the field all day but will break for lunch at Leesylvania State Park. Register here.
Instructor:  Greg Fleming is a wildlife biologist who has spent most of his career performing bird surveys on eight different military installations in the Eastern and Central United States. He has recorded sightings of over 1,600 different bird species in North America, including the first ever sighting of Cinnamon Teal in Virginia, a feat that earned him recognition by the Virginia Society of Ornithology. Throughout his career, he has had a primary interest in habitat management for at-risk birds, as well as other wildlife.
Limit: 15
Cost: Members $50, Non-members $60


Birdathon 2019
Friday, April 19 – Sunday May 19

Spring is on its way, and so is Birdathon! It’s time to organize your teams and sign up for our annual spring migration birding competition.
The concept is simple: Participants can bird in teams of two to five. Team members then make their own donations or secure pledges from friends,family members, colleagues, neighborhood merchants, etc. Then, during any 24-hour period between April 19 and May 19, teams search Northern Virginia to see how many bird species they can identify. The two principal rules are Have Fun and Raise Funds. For the rest, click here. Click here to register your own team or click here to pledge support for your favorite team.


Tuesday, April 30, 7 p.m.
Alexandria Country Day School, 2400 Russell Road, Alexandria, VA
Field Trip: Saturday, May 4, 8 a.m. (rain date, May 5)
Monticello Park, 320 Beverley Drive, Alexandria, VA

Warblers show more color and variety than any other family of birds in the Washington area. Some of them stop to breed here, but a greater number pass through on their way to nesting grounds to our north. Bill Young will show you how to identify the 35 warbler species that you have a chance to see, focusing on appearance, vocalizations, behavior, and other factors. Register here.
Instructor: Bill Young is a local writer and co-creator of the MPNature website, which is designed to teach people about the nature at Monticello Park. His book The Fascination of Birds: From the Albatross to the Yellowthroat explores the connections between birds and a broad range of subjects, such as biology, ecology, literature, music, history, politics, economics, religion, geography, physics, chemistry, linguistics, the visual arts, the performing arts, sports, and comedy. Bill's YouTube channel, which features his natural history videos, has more than 500 subscribers and more than 320,000 views. 

Limit: 20
Cost: Members $50, Non-members $60


Birding by Ear Boot Camp 2
Sunday, May 19, 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Julia Metz Wetland Preserve and Leesylvania State Park, Woodbridge, VA 

Spend another full day learning bird song in the field, this time focusing on late migrants. Some basic birding knowledge is a prerequisite, such as being able to identify some common local birds by sight. Bring a bag lunch; we'll be out in the field all day but will break for lunch at Leesylvania State Park. Register here.
Instructor: Greg Fleming

Limit: 15
Cost: Members $50, Non-members $60


Marine Birds and Mammals of the Southeastern U.S.
Tuesday, June 4 and Tuesday, June 11, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.
National Wildlife Federation, 11100 Wildlife Center Drive, Reston, VA 20190
Field trip (whole day at Outer Banks): TBA Early July 2019

Marine birds have feathers, and marine mammals breathe air. But in almost every other way, these ocean denizens bear almost no resemblance at all to their counterparts on land. This workshop introduces participants to the identification, foraging strategies, behavior, and nesting/breeding ecology of marine birds and mammals typical of the southeastern Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States. Join Dr. Chris Haney, founder of Terra Mar Applied Sciences, for this two-part classroom instruction and pelagic field trip. Register here.

Cost: Members $100, Non-members $140


2019 Native Plant Sales

Hello spring and summer gardening! As you buy, remember that native plants supply critical nutrition for birds and other wildlife. A list of local native plant sales can be found here. And please, no invasives! Besides from being nutritionally deficient themselves, invasive plants smother native plants, creating environmental food deserts. A list of invasive plant species to avoid can be found here.

Take Action


Apply for ASNV Conservation Grants

Do you have a great idea for how to improve habitat for birds and other wildlife, but don’t have the funds to do it? Audubon Society of Northern Virginia can help your idea come true. We have budgeted $3,300 for conservation grants for this year, and applicants may apply for all or any part of the available funds.
We are looking for applications from individuals, non-profit organizations, and public schools. Projects submitted by individuals should have a connection to public or non-profit lands. Grants are available for projects that will protect or improve habitat for birds, butterflies, other wildlife, and/or native plants in ASNV’s territory, including Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, and Stafford Counties, and the independent cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Fredericksburg, Manassas, and Manassas Park.
You may apply between April 1 and May 10, 2019 by requesting an application form from Greg Butcher, ASNV Vice President, at gregbutcherwi@hotmail.com. Grant awards will be announced by June 10, 2019. Successful applicants must sign an agreement to provide periodic progress reports and a project completion report specifying how the funds were expended and the project outcomes.
Please send us your project­­–the birds and other wildlife of Northern Virginia need your help!


Volunteer with Audubon at Home 

People-oriented volunteers are needed to help spread the word about the Audubon At Home Wildlife Sanctuary Program at community and regional events. We schedule the dates, provide all the materials, and brief you on our message—you supply the enthusiasm!
To volunteer or for more information, contact us here.


Report Loggerhead Shrike Sightings

The loggerhead shrike, or butcher bird, has seriously declined over the last half century, with current numbers estimated to be only a quarter of what they were in 1966. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) is currently working to understand what is driving the decline. You can report banded or unbanded shrikes to dgifweb@dgif.virginia.gov or call 804-367-0143. Try to identify the color bands and provide date, time, location (the more precise the better), and other pertinent information—behaviors, for example. Photos are welcome but not required.

Want to learn more? ASNV’s own, Glenda Booth, has written an excellent article about these unusual birds.

Congratulations to Kirk Treacle, 2019 Hog Island Scholarship Recipient!

Kirk Treacle is our newest recipient of our Hog Island Educator’s Week Scholarship. The scholarship sponsors a week of classes on National Audubon’s Hog Island in Maine, where educators take classes and swap methods for sharing their love of nature with their students.
Kirk is Head Librarian at Rachel Carson Middle School in Fairfax County, where he has worked diligently for over two decades to the benefit of his school. He is sponsor of the Going Green Club, a student environmental group that has installed solar panels, implemented recycling and composting programs, planted native trees and pollinator gardens, and designed a rain garden to minimize stormwater runoff with the county Soil and Water Conservation District. His efforts were instrumental in helping his school earn the National Wildlife Federation Green Flag Eco School Distinction in June 2017.
As a former science teacher, Kirk tends to approach environmental problems from an analytical framework, looking at both the effectiveness of a project and how much the project allows his students to take ownership and feel passionate about their ability to make difference. As Principal Gordon Stokes writes, “his work truly embodies the life and spirit of Rachel Carson herself,” the famous biologist turned environmental advocate, in that it demonstrates a lifelong commitment to environmental conservation, education, and appreciation. At Hog Island, Kirk hopes to learn methods to inspire his less technical students to connect with nature through language and the arts.
ASNV is proud to honor Kirk with the Hog Island Scholarship, and we look forward to hearing from him after his trip!

Birdwatching in Panama with ASNV

by Lisa Mackem

In February, nine ASNV participants traveled to Panama for a birdwatching tour. Gerry Abbott, the ASNV coordinator, worked with Holbrook Travel for travel and tour arrangements. Kristine “Kris” Lansing, a local participant, thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Kris became interested in birding six years ago and is certified as a Virginia master naturalist. She leads the weekly bird walk at Great Falls Park and helps lead the Riverbend Walk. She has also traveled to Cuba with ASNV.

Kris went on both trips to become a better birder and both trips accomplished that goal. She described the Panama trip as a blur of bird colors - beautiful and different from local birds. She also saw various mammals, including an anteater, western night monkey, Rothschild racoon, and sloths. Most of the bird expeditions took place during the day, but the birders also went on a night ride and saw owls. The birders could see an entryway to the Panama Canal from their accommodation at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort. When they visited the canal, they saw a Swallow-tailed Kite in its nest. Two of the birders’ accommodations, Canopy Lodge and Canopy Tower, are part of the Canopy webcam group, which was one of Kris’s incentives to take this trip. Canopy Tower is a former U.S. army radar tower turned eco-tourism complex. Kris described her stay there as “living in a big tin can”. From the 5th floor main lobby, guests could climb a ladder to the tree canopy and see birds at eye-level.

Kris recommends ASNV birding trips for their easy travel arrangements and experienced local contacts – “Just do it”, she says. After signing up, travelers only need to show up. Holbrook Travel handles all travel planning. Kris added that interested travelers, and especially novice birders, should check the itinerary of any trip. The Panama trip provided eight hours of birding each day, but the schedule was not demanding. Kris said that the birders were on the road by 7-7:30 a.m. There was a mid-day lunch stop, or lunch where they were staying on a day when they were not in transit between accommodations. An afternoon siesta followed the lunch stop. At 2-3 p.m., the birders went back out until 6-6:30 p.m. for a bird count. Dinner followed the bird count, and evenings were free except for the day that included the night ride. In Panama, people could take breaks in the mornings or afternoons because the birders spent multiple nights in the same place. Travel between accommodations was broken up among the days of the trip. The longest travel day was four hours, and other travel days were only two hours. In Panama, the birders could eat the local fruit and drink the local water, although they used bottled water whenever possible. Dietary special needs were accommodated, and a variety of food was served daily.

Bird Walks

Bright Pond, Reston, VA
Sunday, April 7, 7:30 to 10:30 a.m.

Welcome April with a walk along woods and pond edge in a beautiful part of Reston. Robin Duska Huff leads. Sponsored by the Reston Association, the Bird Feeder of Reston, and ASNV. 

Getting there: Take the Reston Parkway north from the Dulles Toll Road or from Baron Cameron Avenue. Turn right on Bright Pond Lane and park around the cul-de-sac and along the street.


Claude Moore Park, Vestal's Gap Visitor Center, Sterling, VA
Wednesday, April 10, 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Join us to explore this park's trail and pond in nearby Loudoun County. Jean Tatalias. Can be muddy after rains. Sponsored by the Northern Virginia Bird Club.

Getting there: From the beltway, take Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) west for about 12.3 miles. Use the left 2 lanes to turn left onto VA 637 (Potomac View Road) In 1 mile, turn left onto VA 1794 (Cascades Parkway). In 0.2 miles, turn left onto Old Vestal's Gap Road. Drive to the Visitor Center parking on the left. (Do NOT use the entrance from Loudoun Park Lane which serves the ball fields and Community Center.)


Tuckahoe Park, Arlington, VA
Saturday, April 20, 8:00 to 9:45 a.m.

Looking for a walk in the Arlington/Falls Church area? Mary McLean will lead this walk along the wooded trail in her favorite neighborhood park. Sponsored by ASNV.

Getting there: From Arlington, take I-66 West to exit 69 for VA 237 (N. Sycamore). The park is about ½ mile on your left. From further west, take I-66 East to exit 69 (Fairfax Boulevard/Washington Boulevard) Turn left to go north on VA 337 (Sycamore Street). The park on the left at 2400 North Sycamore. Or take the Orange Line Metro to the East Falls Church Metro Stop and walk north ½ mile on Sycamore Street.



Laurel Hill Equestrian Center, Lorton, VA
Thursday, April 25, 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.

The scrub fields of Laurel Hill are rich with birds as their type of habitat gets harder to find in our denser suburban areas. Phil Silas leads. Sponsored by the Northern Virginia Bird Club.

Getting there: From I-495, take I-95 South about 13 miles to Exit 163 (Lorton Road) Continue 1.4 miles west on Route. 642 (Lorton Road) Turn left on Route 611 (Furnace Road) and then immediately right onto Dairy Road Proceed to the parking lot where we'll meet.



Lower Glade Stream Valley, Reston, VA
Sunday, April 28, 7:30 to 10:30 a.m.

The trail is usually a great place for woodland and stream-side birds, and this time of year should be great for finding them. Joanne and David Bauer lead. Sponsored by the Reston Association, the Bird Feeder of Reston, and ASNV.

Getting there: From I-66 West, take Exit 60 to go north on Route 123. Turn left on Hunters Mill Road/Route 674. Turn left on Lawyers Road, Route 673. Turn right on Twin Branches Road. Park near intersection with Glade Drive and meet leaders at the corner.



Walker Nature Center, Reston, VA
Wednesday, May 8, 8:30 to 11:00 a.m.

The wooded trail here leads down to Snakeden Stream and yields a variety of birds. We should see migrants as well as nesters. Tom Nardone leads.  Sponsored by the Northern Virginia Bird Club.

Getting there: From VA-267 W/Dulles Toll Road take exit 14 (Hunter Mill Road/VA-674). Turn left onto Hunter Mill Road (VA-674), right onto Sunrise Valley Drive, left onto S Lakes Drive, left onto Twin Branches Road. Then take third right onto Glade Drive. Meet at the Nature House at 11450 Glade Drive in Reston.



Mason Neck State Park, Lorton, VA
Saturday, May 11, 8:30 to 10:30 a.m.
Registration required; check the website.

Visit the Park for the Eagle Festival and join the bird walk and eagle viewing. Check the website of Friends of Mason Neck State Park for info.

Getting there: From I-495, take I-95 South 7 miles to Lorton exit. Go left (east) on Route 642 to Route 1. Go right (south) on Route 1 and then left (east) on Gunston Road, Route 242. In 4 miles, turn right into Mason Neck Management Area. 7301 High Point Road, Lorton, VA 22079-4010.



Sapsucker Woods, Reston, VA
Sunday, May 12, 7:30 to 10:30 a.m.

There are probably no sapsuckers left from the winter, but spring migrants and residents are arriving. Find them with leaders Carol and Jay Hadlock. Sponsored by The Reston Association, the Bird Feeder of Reston, and ASNV.

Getting there:Take the Dulles Toll Road West, to Exit 13, Wiehle Avenue. Turn left onto Wiehle, Right onto Sunrise Valley Drive, Left onto Soapstone Drive, and then Right onto Glade Drive. Meet in the parking lot of the Glade Community Pool and Tennis Courts. 11550 Glade Drive.


Laurel Hill Equestrian Center, Lorton, VA
Thursday, May 16, 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.

The trails lead along woods, fields, and brush—great habitats for a range of birds on a May morning. Phil Silas leads for the Northern Virginia Bird Club.

Getting there: From I-495, take I-95 South about 13 miles to Exit 163 (Lorton Road) Continue 1.4 miles west on Route. 642 (Lorton Road) Turn left on Route 611 (Furnace Road) and then immediately right onto Dairy Road Proceed to the parking lot where we'll meet.


Bristoe Station Battlefield Heritage Park, Bristow, VA
Sunday, May 19, 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

We’re on the look for dickcissels and meadowlarks in this park where they have nested in previous years. Join leader Toby Hardwick to enjoy the fields and woods of this great location. Sponsored by ASNV. 

Getting there: From I-66, take Route 234 south (exit 44). Travel 4.5 miles and turn right onto Route 28 (Nokesville Road). Travel 1.5 miles and turn left onto Route 619 (Bristow Road). Travel ¼ mile and turn right onto Iron Brigade Unit Avenue. The parking lot is located on the left at the traffic circle. 10708 Bristow Road, Bristow VA 20136.



Stratton Woods Park, Reston, VA
Sunday, May 26, 7:30 to 10:30 a.m.

Don’t miss the last days of Spring and the chance to enjoy the trail and the birds of Reston. Robin Duska Huff leads. Sponsored by The Reston Association, the Bird Feeder of Reston, and ASNV.

Getting there: From westbound Dulles Access Road, go south on the Fairfax County Parkway. From the Parkway, go west on Fox Mill Road and take the first right turn into the parking lot and park by the ball fields.  2431 Fox Mill Road, Reston VA 20171.



Huntley Meadows Park, Alexandria, VA
Wednesday, May 29, 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Join the walk at Huntley and look for wood ducks, bluebirds, and buntings, as well as the woodpeckers frequently found here. Dixie Sommers leads. Sponsored by the Northern Virginia Bird Club.

Getting there: From I-195, take Route 1 south for 3 miles. Turn right on Lockheed Boulevard and in ½ mile turn left into park entrance. 3701 Lockheed Boulevard. Meet in parking lot.


Brawner’s Farm, Manassas National Battlefield Park, Manassas, VA
Sunday, June 2, 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

The fields of this area abound with sparrows, hawks, and butterflies. Join leader Larry Meade to find them all. Sponsored by ASNV.

Getting there: Travel west on I-66 to Exit 47B, Route 234 North (Sudley Road). Proceed past the turnoff to the visitor center and turn left on Route 29 (Lee Highway). At the west end of the park, turn right (north) on Pageland Lane.  Look for the Brawner Farm Parking turnoff on the right.

Recurring Bird Walks

Several parks in the area have established year-round weekly bird walks. These walks are not run by ASNV, but may be of interest to ASNV members. They can be found here.       

Other News

Bird Feeder in Reston

This store offers a 10% discount to current ASNV members, good on all purchases excluding optics and sale merchandise. When you visit, just tell them you are a member of ASNV and ask for the discount. 
1675 Reston Pkwy, Ste J, Reston, VA 20194. (703) 437-3335