Hello Everybody!

It's getting colder out there, isn't it, but there's still a lot of time for birding. Our Christmas Bird Count, for example, was just this past Sunday. It's the oldest citizen-science project going and great fun, as well as a good learning experience since you never know what migrant might show up as a life bird for you. If you weren't able to participate this year, we hope you'll join in the fun in 2011.

Following the Christmas Count, we have our annual Winter Waterfowl Count in January. Larry Cartwright runs that for us and he will also have a Winter Waterfowl workshop the weekend prior to the count. Although real cold mornings are a possibilty, Larry's counts are great fun and a wonderful time to be along the Potomac and its tributaries. If you haven't done one before you really owe it to yourself to sign up. Just contact us at info@audubonva.org and we'll put you in touch with Larry.

Finally, please check out our website. We're doing a lot of work on it and over time will be linking topical events in The Flier with lengthier articles on the web and we've added new Pay Pal features to enable you to donate more easily online. As you all know, our annual Fall Fundraising Drive is in progress and it's just about the only time we ask you, our members, for a lift. You all know the kinds of programs we run and I think you all know that we're always striving to create new ones or make old ones better, so if you can this season, please donate whatever is comfortable for you and we promise to put it to good use.

Thanks, everyone and enjoy the joys of the season.

Stay in touch, Bruce

ASNV Gains a Voice with Partners in Community Action

Deer Management Working Group

ASNV has been invited to join a new Deer Management Work Group, approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and initiated by Vicky Monroe, the county wildlife biologist. The group plans to meet monthly through next spring. Our ASNV representative is Terry Liercke, board member and chairman of the conservation committee. The work group has some 20 members by invitation and includes both public and private sector representatives, including home owners associations, developers, animal rights people, and county and state agencies. The purpose of the group is to develop ideas and recommendations for improving and expanding the county's deer management program, which now consists of organized and regulated hunts on public lands, individual bowhunters, and police sharpshooters. ASNV members who have comments, suggestions, or questions they might like passed to the working group are invited to send them to Terry at tliercke@verizon.net.

Fairfax County Restoration Project (FCRP)

ASNV is a partner in another county initiative, FCRP, which is a public-private partnership chartered to "strengthen the relationship between people and nature through community action." For information on FCRP, go to the website www.fcrpp3.org . The leadership team for FCRP includes the Sierra Club, the Virginia Native Plant Society local chapter, Lands and Waters, as well as ASNV. Public sector partners are the state Department of Forestry, state Soil and Water Conservation District, the county Department of Public Works and Environmental Services, the Park Authority and VDOT. FCRP grew from concerns by HOAs about environmental damage along the beltway where HOTlanes are being developed. Apart from discussions with VDOT and it's contractors, FCRP has proved to be a useful organization for communicating and coordinating programs among a range of interested groups and organizations. ASNV is exploring with several partners the promotion of newly developed national standards for sustainable landscape design and maintenance, called the Sustainable Sites Initiative. See www.sustainablesites.org . This initiative is consistent with everything ASNV has been promoting through the Audubon at Home program and wildlife sanctuary certification. Again, ASNV members are invited to direct any questions or comments to Terry Liercke at the above email address.

Time for evergreens to shine

Cliff Fairweather, ASNV Naturalist

Bringing evergreen plants indoors is a tradition that dates back at least to Rome and pre-Christian northern Europe. The need to have some green around us in the depths of winter as an assurance that life will endure until warmer times return is an ancient one. I think anyone who has walked through a leafless deciduous forest against a bitter northwest wind on a sub-freezing day can appreciate this desire!

In summer, green is everywhere in our local forests and evergreens don’t stand out. Change that scene to winter, though, and a stand of mountain laurel or Virginia pine appears like a green beacon among the leafless frames of deciduous trees and shrubs. They also provide vital cover for birds and other animals seeking concealment from predators and shelter from the elements.

Evergreens hold onto their leaves, shedding only a few at a time, to conserve nutrients. Hence, they are more common where nutrient poor soils or dry or short growing seasons tend to favor plants capable of greater nutrient conservation. These factors are less of an issue for plants in most of Northern Virginia and so our evergreen flora is relatively limited.

Common local evergreen trees include American holly, eastern red cedar and Virginia pine. A few other species of pine, such as pitch, white, and Table Mountain, occur in specialized habitats. We have only a few evergreen shrubs, with mountain laurel being the most common. My favorites, however, are the diminutive sub-shrubs, such as spotted wintergreen, trailing arbutus, and partridgeberry.

Please enjoy our local evergreens where you find them and resist the temptation to bring them inside, no matter how cold and bleak winter gets. Over-collection of some evergreens, such as ground pine and other lycopodiums, has destroyed populations of these plants in some areas. Leave them to cheer other winter walkers.

Upcoming Field Trips

Registration is not required unless noted. Contact the ASNV office at 703-438-6008 or info@audubonva.org for more information. Participants should dress for the weather and bring binoculars. Visit our website for more information about these and other upcoming field trips.

Ocean City, MD

Sunday, January 16, 2011
Bundle up for some winter birding with Jay and Carol Hadlock. We'll stop in Cambridge to check the Choptank River for wintering ducks, then on to Ocean City and surrounding areas. There is always the possibility for a rarity, and always interesting birds. Limit 10. Reservations required. Please contact Carol or Jay at carol_inawren@verizon.net or 703-437-7451 to reserve a spot and get more information. For directions and additional information, click here.

And more!!

Remember to check our website regularly for more walks, classes and other activities.

Take the LEAPP®!

The LEAPP® (Learn, Enjoy, Appreciate, Preserve, and Protect) program offers the opportunity to learn more about the natural world and be informed, active stewards for its care and protection. To register or for more information, please visit our website, email us or call the ASNV office at 703-438-6008. Don’t miss out – register early! Please note that registration is not complete until payment is received. Visit our website for more information about these and other upcoming LEAPP programs.

Winter Waterfowl Identification

Saturday, January 8, 2011, 9 AM – noon
Join us for an introduction to winter waterfowl identification, in preparation for our annual ASNV Waterfowl Count. (The Waterfowl Count itself will be held on Saturday/Sunday, January 22/23, 2011.) Get to know some of the many waterfowl species that winter in the open waters of our region, from lesser scaup to green-winged teal, hooded mergansers and buffleheads, to tundra swans, and more. This will be an outdoor field trip and bird walk, so dress for the weather. We will visit the Great Marsh and Belmont Bay on the Mason Neck peninsula. Bring binoculars and a scope if you have one. The leader will have a scope and waterfowl identification guides. For directions and additional information, click here.

Introduction to Geology: Lecture and Field Trip

Co-sponsored by Potomac Overlook Regional Park
Class: Sunday, February 27, 2 – 4 PM
Field Trip: Saturday, March 5

Participants will learn the basics of geology, including rock and mineral identification, geologic time, fossils, and landforms of the United States. The lecture includes a slide show and first-hand examination of Potomac Overlook’s excellent rock, mineral, and fossil collection as well as a short walk to look for fossils. The field trip will be to Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah National Park. This hike is about 8 ½ miles and is moderate to strenuous – participants must be in good physical shape. (Lecture open to all. Field trip participants must attend lecture.) For directions and additional information, click here.

Audubon at Home Orientation

Sunday, March 6, 1 – 3 PM
Learn how you can help restore native habitat on your own property, local school, place of worship, common property, or business by participating in the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia’s Audubon at Home Wildlife Sanctuary Program. This session is also a required training for those who wish to become Audubon at Home Ambassadors, our trained volunteers who consult with homeowners and others in developing native habitat on their property. For directions and additional information, click here.

Sanctuary Species Workshop

Sunday, March 20, 1 - 5 PM
Would you like to learn how to attract Flying Squirrels, Tiger Beetles and Baltimore Orioles to your suburban yard? How about dragonflies and Five-lined Skinks? Join us for a fun and dynamic afternoon of instructive presentations, group discussion and outdoor exploration as we learn about Sanctuary Species, the keystone of Audubon’s Wildlife Sanctuary Program. We’ll talk about how the Wildlife Sanctuary Program works, how YOU can create one on your property, and specifically how to use the Fact Sheets created for each of the 30 specially selected Sanctuary Species. If you’d like to learn how to create habitat for Giant Silk Moths, Red-backed Salamanders and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, all in your own back yard, this is the class for you. If you’re an Audubon at Home Ambassador, or would like to become one, this will be an especially interesting and useful afternoon. For directions and additional information, click here.

Plant Lore and Ethnobotany

Class: Thursday, April 28, 7 - 9:30 PM
Field Trip: Sunday, May 1, 11:30 AM 3:30 PM

Ethnobotany is the study of how people use indigenous plants. Virginia's flora has a rich history of both real and imagined uses. This LEAPP workshop will familiarize participants in local floral legend, lore, and ethnobotany. The focus will be on native plants, but exotic species (and how some were used by people) will also be covered where appropriate. Plant identification, natural history, and animal associations and interactions will also be part of what is studied. The participants will also discuss the ethics and legality of collecting and the promise and danger of medicinal uses. The field trip will be to Thompson Wildlife Management Area in Linden, VA (see below for directions). Carpool arrangements will be discussed in class. The Thompson Wildlife Management Area one of the largest (millions!) great white trillium displays in the world! This area is resplendent with many (often rare) wildflowers and trees, including native orchids, which is why it is a wildflower registry site for the Virginia Native Plant Society. On the somewhat rocky 2-mile trail, we'll discuss plant folklore, ethnobotany, identification, and any other natural history we have a good chance to happen upon. Bring a bag lunch and water to eat on the trail. For directions and additional information, click here.

Chesapeake Bay Ecology: Lecture and Field Trip

Co-sponsored by Potomac Overlook Regional Park
Class: Sunday, May 15, 2 – 4:15 PM
Field Trip: Saturday, May 28

An introduction to how the Chesapeake works! Learn about living communities such as baygrasses and marshes, the tides, flora and fauna and more. The Chesapeake, still one of the most productive estuaries in the U.S., needs our understanding and positive help to remain as a healthy ecosystem. For the field trip, join a naturalist in a morning exploration of a lush lowland forest and wetland along the Chesapeake Bay . Highlights include excellent birding, a beaver wetland and fossil hunting at a protected beach. Binoculars are highly recommended. In the afternoon, the group will visit Battle Creek Cypress swamp and the Calvert marine museum. (Lecture open to all. Field trip participants must attend lecture.) For directions and additional information, click here.

Advocacy Update: Conservation Depends on You

State Legislature to Convene Soon

The Virginia General Assembly will convene on January 12 for a 45-day “short” session. A number of energy, transportation and environment-related bills are expected to be considered. To learn more, visit the Virginia Conservation Network's website or download their 2011 Conservation Briefing Book (pdf).

Interested Auduboners are also invited to go to Richmond on January 17 for Conservation Lobby Day.

The Virginia Conservation Network has legislative contact teams for each state delegate and senator. Serving on these teams is an excellent way to get to know your elected officials, other conservationists and to influence state policy. Learn more online.

To learn more about the issues and your elected officials' voting record, take a look at the Virginia League of Conservation Voters' 2010 Conservation Scorecard.

ASNV Supports Parks

ASNV commented on Fairfax County’s Great Parks, Great Communities plans in November. Here are some of the major points we made:
  • We strongly urge FCPA to create more natural resource parks, to acquire more land for parks, to restore degraded areas and to create more connectivity among natural areas. FCPA should be a leader in acquiring, restoring and managing natural areas, both to provide outdoor opportunities and to improve the overall health of the environment.
  • The county has placed a high priority on creating recreational areas and facilities. While they are no doubt needed and appreciated, we urge FCPA to put an equal priority on creating natural resource parks like Huntley Meadows, including setting a standard or other metric for having more natural resource parks. As the population ages, more ball fields may be unnecessary. Furthermore, ballfields are usually monocultures and do little to nurture biodiversity or restore healthy habitat.
  • We urge the county to set a higher goal than 10 percent for county parks. While 10 percent is a worthy goal, it is low, especially in light of the poor quality of our streams, rivers, tree canopy, biodiversity and air. Ten percent covers all types of parks, so natural resource parks are a very small part of that.
  • Several studies have found that many children have “nature deficit disorder.” Children spend 38 hours a week watching television, movies and videos and playing on the computer (Kaiser Family Foundation). Children spend four hours a day watching television. (American Academy of Pediatrics). Kids today can identify a zebra because of their storybooks but not a squirrel or cardinal in their backyard. Becoming good stewards of our natural resources should start early.

ASNV Speaks Up in Arlington

Thank you, Cliff Fairweather, for speaking for ASNV on Arlington’s natural resources plan. Here are some highlights of Cliff’s presentation:
  • We are particularly encouraged by the detailed attention given to the protection of rare and uncommon species, habitats, and ecosystems identified through the county’s Natural Heritage Resource Inventory.
  • Urban areas often harbor important reservoirs of biodiversity. Moreover, urban natural resources support critical ecosystem services important to urban populations, such as water supply and water quality protection, air pollution mitigation and urban cooling. These resources also promote physical and mental health of urban populations.
  • Adopt a “zero-loss” of county natural lands policy. ASNV fully endorses this recommendation. This is a policy that should be adopted by all jurisdictions in the region to stop ongoing threats to convert publicly-owned remnant natural areas to other uses, such as athletic fields. Such conversions are a significant threat to our region’s remnant natural areas and result in a loss of natural habitat and ecosystem functions and services.
  • Develop a natural resources management plan for each county park with a NRCA. This is a logical next step to ensure protection of resources at smaller scales and helps ensure that individual park managers fully understand their responsibility for natural resources under their authority.
  • Actively pursue preservation of open space and green corridors through strategies such as conservation easements and acquisitions and encourage public participation in such efforts. We concur with this recommendation. The plan should include an explicit policy to encourage homeowners and other park and open space neighbors to establish buffers of natural vegetation on their properties adjacent to county-owned natural areas.
Cliff made many more excellent points.

Congress may Block EPA

Most observers expect the new Congress, to convene in January 2011, to try to limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to protect the environment. What laws, programs or initiatives will be attacked are not known at this time.

Many people predict that legislators may try to limit the agency’s ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the current Clean Air Act. There were several unsuccessful efforts to limit EPA in 2010.

The Senate rejected Senator Lisa Murkowski’s bill, S. J. Res. 26, and both Senators Webb and Warner voted against it. In Senate debate on June 10, 2010, Senator Webb said he would support Senator Jay Rockefeller bill, S. 3072, to prevent EPA from acting for two years. You can read Senators Murkowski’s and Rockefeller’s bills online by entering the bill numbers.

The current Clean Air Act is designed to protect human health and welfare. Greenhouse gas emissions are a threat to human health, many experts say. As the planet warms, for example, climate change will worsen health problems like heat-related mortality, diarrheal diseases and diseases associated with exposure to ozone and allergens from the air. Warmer temperatures encourage the formation of ozone, which aggravates asthma.

The Virginia Commission on Climate Change reported that more extreme weather events from climate change could compromise water and food supplies, increase waterborne and food-borne illnesses and increase the incidence of respiratory and cardiovascular conditions.

EPA administers several laws designed to protect the public health. The Obama administration is using the authority under the current Clean Air Act to tighten up on vehicle emission standards. Without a comprehensive law, the Clean Air Act authority is EPA’s primary legal tool for controlling greenhouse gas emissions.

Every day the Congress fails to act means continued dependence on imported oil and fossil fuels, little resolution of the threats to our national security posed by imported oil and climate changes, more extreme weather events like hurricanes and droughts and more threats to public infrastructure and health. Inaction on climate change adds costs to government at every level, from increased flooding from sea level rise to damage from more extreme weather events.

The National Audubon Society opposes bills to curb EPA’s authority to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and urges you to ask your current and, if you will have a new one in January, your new Congressman and Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb to oppose bills that would limit EPA’s authority to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that lead to climate change. How to contact Virginia’s U. S. Senators: You can also send an e-mail at your senator’s web site or through Audubon’s Action Center.

Visit the National Audubon Society's website for clean energy and climate fact sheets.

Check out Our Photo Album!

Have you visited our Flickr photo album recently? If not, you can stop by for a visit today to see the latest photos and comments. If you’re not a member yet, join today. It’s easy.

Conservation Counts

Join Jim Waggener in his ongoing wildlife surveys at two of Northern Virginia's best birding spots. Surveys are held every Wednesday, alternating between Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and Meadowood Special Recreation Management Area on Mason Neck. Each survey is limited to four participants, and reservations are required. Call Jim at 703-567-3555 for more details or to reserve your space.

Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Upcoming dates
  • December 29
  • January 12
Getting there
Take I-95 to Woodbridge exit 161. Go south on Rt. 1 to Dawson Beach Road, turn left, and go to the central parking area.

Meadowood on Mason Neck

Upcoming dates
  • December 22
  • January 19
Getting there
Take I-95 to Lorton exit 163. Turn left on Lorton Road, right on Rt. 1, and left on Gunston Road. About a mile past the elementary school you will see Meadowood’s horse pastures and signs on the right. Enter through the iron gateway, drive straight ahead and park by the stables.

Audubon Camp on Hog Island

In late May of 2011, the historic Audubon Camp in Maine, on spruce-covered Hog Island, will reopen for its 75th summer of residential adult and teen natural history programs. Kenn Kauffman, Pete Dunne, Scott Weidensaul and many other expert ornithologists and naturalist-educators will be in residence during various sessions.

For photos, costs, program descriptions, and registration instructions, visit the Hog Island Audubon Camp website or call Erica Van Etten at 607-257-7308, ext.14 There is a $50 Early Bird discount for registrations made by January 15, 2011.

Eakin Park Bird Walk

Every Monday morning, weather permitting

Hidden Oaks Nature Center (FCPA) sponsors weekly bird walks along the Accotink Stream Valley.

We meet every Monday morning (weather permitting) at the parking lot on Prosperity Ave. about half way between Routes 50 and 236 (Little River Turnpike). We begin at 7:30 a.m. Dec. through Feb. and 7:00 a.m. the rest of the year. No need to sign up. The walk generally goes for a couple of hours but can vary depending on how "birdy" it is and the weather. If you have any questions please contact the leader Carolyn Williams at 703-273-1961.

Are You Interested in Natural History?

The Education Committee of the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia coordinates ASNV's workshops. If you have ideas for classes, would like to teach a workshop, know of good instructors, or would like to help in any way, we welcome your thoughts. We meet approximately 4 to 6 times a year. Please send your feedback to Kristy Liercke at kliercke@verizon.net or 703-255-3021. Thanks!

Audubon at Home needs you!

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 Cliff Fairweather at cliff@audubonva.org or 703-256-6895.

You Can Help Make a Difference

The National Audubon Society invites all Auduboners to join their e-activist network. When you subscribe to their newsletter, you'll receive alerts about important Congressional actions and information about how you can affect legislation by contacting your Members of Congress. Visit www.audubonaction.org to learn more.

We need passionate volunteers across Virginia who can help us persuade our U. S. senators to support a strong climate change bill. If you would like to help us make a difference with climate change and other important issues, please contact Glenda Booth.

ASNV, 11100 Wildlife Center Drive, Suite 100, Reston, Va 20190
Phone: 703-256-6895 • Fax: 703-256-2060 • Email: info@audubonva.org

© 1999-2010 The Audubon Society of Northern Virginia. All rights reserved.