December 2018

View this email in your browser

Quick Links

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 AM - 12 PM)
  • December 5
  • January 16

Occoquan Bay NWR 

(7:30 AM - 12 PM)
  • December 19
  • January 30

Butterfly and Dragonfly Surveys—will resume in April

(8:30 AM - 12:30 PM)

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.

Climate Change

We also 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.

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 the ASNV office.

President's Corner

The weather has turned cold, and migratory birds have all left for the winter—nothing to see until spring, right? Not so fast! There are plenty of birds to see from now till March, and even casual birders can get excited about them.

Let’s start with the big birds. Have you seen the Tundra Swans? Depending on the day, you can count as many as 400 of these magnificent birds from the Woodmarsh Trail, a one-mile level walk in the Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge in Lorton. Lots of other water birds are frequently seen there as well, including Northern Pintails—for my money the most elegant bird on the water—along with Black Ducks, Northern Shovelers, and others. If you would like a day trip to chase away the winter blahs, head for Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge near Cambridge, Maryland, where you generally can see 20,000 Snow Geese. Watching the entire flock burst into flight, calling all the while, every 20 minutes or so is simply awe-inspiring. And if you need a place to warm up, the excellent Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Museum is just a couple of miles from the visitor center.

Bald Eagles?  Go to Pohick Bay Regional Park in late winter. You can find as many as 100 mature birds in the trees as eagles migrating from the south meet up with those that haven’t left to go further north. One person commented that there were so many they looked like popcorn in the trees. American Coots are a favorite winter meal for the Bald Eagles, and there are plenty of them in the bay too. If it’s really cold further north, you’ll find rafts of thousands of waterfowl in the bay, where they come to find shelter and ice-free water.

Woodpeckers are much easier to spot now that the leaves are off the trees. On a good day you can find Red-bellied, Downy, Hairy, Pileated, and Red-headed Woodpeckers in one morning at Huntley Meadows Park.

Many people are not all that interested in the Little Brown Jobs that winter here. But how can you resist White-throated Sparrows, with their bright yellow lores and beautiful “Sweet Canada, Canada, Canada” call? You can’t miss the Carolina Wren—the loudest bird per ounce in the woods. If you can’t tell the LBJs apart by their plumage, just listen for their songs.

There are lots of other winter birds of course—too many to list here—and lots of places to see winter birds. Check out ASNV’s list of bird walks on our website here. Whether you are a birding fanatic or just casually interested, get out there and enjoy our feathered friends this winter.
Tom Blackburn    

Nine Things to Know about Birding in Panama

  • At about 29,000 square miles, Panama is roughly the size of South Carolina and three-fourths the size of Virginia, but the Central American nation’s bird list includes more than 950 species.
  • Of the bird species tallied in Panama, 650 occur in the Panama Canal watershed.
  • Panama is home to about a dozen bird species found nowhere else.
  • Panama harbors about 10,000 varieties of plant, of which about 1,200 are orchids.
  • The largest one-day count for hawk migration occurred in Panama in 2014, numbering more than 2 million birds.
  • Panama’s national bird is the American Harpy Eagle. Females can weigh up to 20 pounds, about twice the size of a large male, and wingspan can reach more than 7 feet, making this increasingly rare species a rival for the title of world’s largest eagle.
  • Panama City is the only national capital that includes a rainforest within city limits.
  • ASNV is sponsoring a birding trip to Panama in February. See details below.
  • If two more participants sign up for the trip, the travel company handling arrangements will donate $1,600 more to ASNV, helping the society to advance its work on bird conservation.  

Travel with ASNV to Panama

Sign up soon for ASNV’s eight-day, seven-night, Panamanian birding adventure, including two nights at the Canopy Tower, three nights at Canopy Lodge, and two nights at Gamboa Rainforest Resort.


With more bird species than any other Central America nation, and with diverse ecosystems ranging from rainforest to coastline, Panama is a perfect destination for birders and nature lovers. Accompanied by an expert local birding guide, you’ll discover Panama’s tropical ecology and biological diversity while learning about current efforts to protect the country’s important wildlife habitats. Visit many well-known birding trails, woodland habitats, tropical rainforests, and the iconic Miraflores Locks at the Panama Canal.


  • Explore Soberanía National Park, home to 525 bird species, and hike the world-famous Pipeline Road.
  • Seek out target species such as the Blue Cotinga, Snowcap, endemic Stripe-cheeked Woodpecker, raptors, tanagers, and more.
  • Stay in a tower where you can have unlimited eye-to-eye looks at species seldom seen below the rainforest’s canopy layer.
  • Visit the Panama Rainforest Discovery Center and watch for the 14 hummingbird species that observers have recorded at center feeders.
Find details of the trip, including itinerary, pricing and other information, at holbrook.travel/asnv-pn19, where you can download the trip brochure and sign up for this birding adventure.  
If you have questions, contact Gerry Abbott at gerry@gerryabbott.net  or at 870-219-2929.

Travel Dates: February 15-22, 2019
Cost: $3,550 per person, not including international airfare; single-room supplement, $200

Audubon Afternoon: A Panama Preview

ASNV’s next Audubon Afternoon will focus on Panama and its birds.
Date: January 6
Time: 2:30 to 5 p.m.
Speaker: Bill Young
Finger food and beverages will be offered.
Bill Young, author of the book The Fascination of Birds: From the Albatross to the Yellowthroat, will provide an overview of Panama’s flora and fauna. Though barely the size of South Carolina, Panama harbors more bird species than all of North America as well as a rich array of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects, plants, and other life forms.
In addition to his book on birds, Bill has worked with Ashley Bradford, a local naturalist, to create the MPNature website, which features natural history information and resources for visitors to Monticello Park in Alexandria. His YouTube channel has had more than a quarter of a million views of his natural history videos.
For information on ASNV’s upcoming trip to Panama, go here.

Needed: Communications Director

Do you have an interest in writing and publishing information about birds and the environment? We need a volunteer to coordinate the work flow to our excellent volunteers who do the technical work on our website and our monthly newsletter, “The Potomac Flier”. If you can write one or two articles a month, or do a little editing, that would be even better. Our current communications director will be leaving at the end of December, and we need someone to take over. We’ll provide all the training you need to help you move seamlessly into this role. This is a volunteer position, but you’ll have the satisfaction of helping to get ASNV’s message out to our 4,500 members. For more information, please email communications@audubonva.org.

Manassas-Bull Run 2018 Christmas Bird Count

Sign Up for the 37th Annual Manassas-Bull Run Christmas Bird Count!

The Manassas-Bull Run Christmas Bird Count (CBC) will take place Sunday, December 16th. The center of the 15-mile-diameter count circle is near the intersection of Routes 28 and 29 in Centreville. Birders of all skill levels are needed. A complimentary hot lunch will be available to participants.

If you participated last year, your sector or route leader ought to be in touch soon. If you don’t hear from anyone, or if you’d like to be in a different sector, contact Phil Silas.

We’ll also be offering an opportunity for feeder watchers. If you or someone you know lives within the count circle and cannot attend the count, then participate indoors on count day by tallying birds that come to a feeder or yard.

Signing up is easy! Just contact Phil Silas with your phone, email, and birder level (B=Beginner, I=Intermediate, E=Expert), and any notes or comments.

New to the count or just want to brush up on your survey skills? Join us for our free CBC Workshop. You will learn the history, how, and why of this citizen science endeavor. The workshop will be Sunday, December 2 at 2 p.m. at the National Wildlife Federation Building, 11100 Wildlife Center Drive, Reston.

Registration is still open! To register, click here




Sign Up for the ASNV Winter Waterfowl Count Workshop

Workshop: Thursday, January 24, 7 to 9 p.m.
Where: National Wildlife Federation, 11100 Wildlife Center Drive, Reston, VA 20190
Field Trip: Saturday, January 26, TBD
Join Greg Butcher, ASNV board member and migratory species coordinator for U.S. Forest Service International Programs, for an introduction to waterfowl identification. Get to know many of the species that winter in the open waters of our region. You’ll learn how to tell a Bufflehead from a Hooded Merganser, and, with luck, you will see the beautiful Tundra Swans that winter in our area. Strategies will include identification by shape and color pattern. This workshop will include an outdoor field trip and bird walk on Saturday, January 26—details will be given in class. After the workshop and field trip, you’ll be ready to rally for a tally during our 11th Annual Waterfowl Count, Saturday, February 9, and Sunday, February 10. Limit: 30. Fee: FREE
To register, click here.



Rally for a Tally: Join the Winter Waterfowl Count

ASNV will conduct its Winter Waterfowl Count Saturday, February 9, and Sunday, February 10. Volunteer teams will survey the Potomac River from Algonkian Regional Park in Loudoun County south to Quantico Marine Base in Prince William County. Several important inland ponds, lakes, and marshes are included in the survey. Questions? Contact compiler Larry Cartwright.

To register, click here.

Four Ways to Make Your Home Safer for Birds

By Elise Brosnan

The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center estimates that between 365 million and 998 million birds die in the United States each year from collisions with windows. This mortality makes window collisions the third most deadly human-made risk to birds, after predation by domestic cats and habitat loss. Birds become confused by the reflections in windows, which mirror an unbounded expanse of landscape or sky. Glassy skyscrapers might seem as if they deserve the blame for all of this mayhem, and it is true that, per structure, tall buildings are more deadly than shorter ones. However, because short buildings vastly outnumber tall buildings, shorter buildings are responsible for a great number of avian deaths. In fact, residences between one and three stories high account for a staggering 44 percent of all fatal collisions, or an estimated 161 million to 439 million deaths yearly. Many species of forest bird have adapted to flying low in tight spaces, which can make a small, low-to-the-ground window just as dangerous as a large high one.
Fortunately, homeowners can accident-proof their windows in multiple ways. Here are some options:

Make Your Windows More Visible

If you choose to do one thing on this list, choose this measure! By disrupting a window’s reflective ability, you are directly reducing the risk to birds. There are many ways to make windows more visible to birds, running from affordable to posh. An excellent list can be found here.

Move Your Bird Feeder Farther Away

It is a good idea to monitor when and where collisions occur so you can reveal patterns of activity. Often collisions occur when birds move to and from popular sites, such as birdbaths and feeders. Moving these objects farther from buildings will reduce risk of injury.

Move Your Bird Feeder Closer to Windows

This approach may seem counterintuitive, but if space does not allow you to move your bird feeder farther from windows, you may be able to help your birds by moving it closer. If the feeder is less than 3 feet away, it is unlikely that any birds will gather enough speed to hurt themselves seriously in a collision.

The Wood Thrush is particularly vulnerable to collisions with windows.


Know How to Help a Stunned Bird

Although a bird that has just struck a window may appear lifeless, it may be only stunned and unable to move. If predators are active nearby, it is a good idea to monitor a fallen bird until it revives. If your bird is injured, you can get help from a wildlife rehabilitation group, such as the Wildlife Rescue League.

Take Action

Fairfax County Offers Chance for You to Express Your Environmental Support
Auduboners will have an opportunity in January to share views and suggestions on improving the local environment in Fairfax County.
The Fairfax County Environmental Quality Council will present its annual report on the state of the county’s environment to the Board of Supervisors on November 20 and hold a public hearing on January 9. Speakers can discuss what’s in the report, what’s missing, or other environmental issues. This annual report typically examines topics such as ecological resources, parks, air and water quality, wildlife management, and land use. 
The January 9 public hearing is set for 7:30 p.m. in conference rooms 4 and 5 in the Fairfax County Government Center, 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax. The panel will accept written, oral, and video testimony. You can sign up to speak at EQAC@fairfaxcounty.gov or by calling 703-324-1380.


Localities Request Legislation
Every year, area jurisdictions prepare requests for legislation that they send to the Virginia General Assembly. Here is Fairfax County’s wish list: https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/legislation/sites/legislation/files/assets/documents/pdf/draft-2019-ga-program-nov-20-2018-public-hearing.pdf.
The New Congress
The November 6th election brought a change in party leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 116th Congress. Many Washington observers predict that House committees will conduct more oversight of federal-agency actions. Virginians elected three new members of the House and returned incumbent Senator Tim Kaine (D) to the U.S. Senate. You can read the election results at https://results.elections.virginia.gov/vaelections/2018%20November%20General/Site/Congress.html.
To learn about National Audubon’s federal priorities, visit https://www.audubon.org/takeaction.
What Is the State of Fairfax County’s Environment?
The Fairfax County Environmental Quality Advisory Council will hold a public hearing January 9 on their annual report on the state of the county’s environment. Speakers can discuss the report’s content, what’s missing, or other environmental issues.
This annual report examines such topics as climate change, ecological resources, parks, air and water quality, wildlife management, and land use. You can read it here.

The January 9 public hearing will be at 7:30 p.m. in conference rooms 4 and 5 in the Fairfax County Government Center, 12000 Government Center Parkway. The panel will accept written, oral, and video testimony. You can sign up to speak at EQAC@fairfaxcounty.gov or by calling 703-324-1380.
More Native Plants and Habitat
At the initiation of Mount Vernon Supervisor Dan Storck, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on November 20th authorized consideration of a comprehensive plan amendment to include natural landscaping at county facilities in the county’s Policy Plan. You can read it here.

Since 2005, ASNV has urged the county to do more natural landscaping with native plants, and now staff are reviving and formalizing a plan for certain county properties. Staff is recommending several steps, including inventorying current sites using this approach, identifying possible retrofit projects, preparing cost estimates, and prioritizing projects. Auduboners may wish to advocate for this Audubon-at-Home approach with their planning commissioners and supervisor.
A Greener Loudoun?
Loudoun County officials are updating the county’s comprehensive plan, a guiding land-use document. The Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy (LWC) (www.loudounwildlife.org) is advocating for stronger natural resource protection provisions. You can read the draft plan and LWC’s comments here

Bird Walks


Silver Lake Regional Park, Haymarket, VA 
Sunday, December 2 - 8:00 to 11 AM

Check out the quarry and lakeshore for winter arrivals with leader Toby Hardwick. Sponsored by ASNV.

Getting there:  Exit 40 (Route 15) from I-66 24 miles west of I-495. Go south on Route 15 (toward Haymarket) for 0.3 miles to Route 55. Turn right on Route 55 and then after 0.9 miles turn right onto Antioch Road. At 1.3 miles turn right on Silver Lake Road to park entrance at 16198. Continue to end of park drive; meet at parking lot near the lake.


Laurel Hill Equestrian Center, Lorton, VA 
Wednesday, December 12 - 8:30 to 11:30 AM

Join leader Marc Ribaudo in this meadow terrain that’s great for sparrows. Sponsored by the Northern Virginia Bird Club

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


Burke Lake, Burke, VA
Wednesday, January 9 - 8:30 to 11:30 AM

Enjoy a walk in the woods and scan the Lake from different points to see who’s come to spend the winter. Phil Silas leads. Sponsored by the Northern Virginia Bird Club.

Getting there: Entrance is off Route 123, south of Burke Lake Road. Follow signs to Park, turning left at second traffic light past Burke Lake Road. Take an immediate left in the park, then meet at the lot on the right (near the mini golf course). 7315 Ox Road, Fairfax Station, 22039.



Royal Lake, Lakeside Park, Fairfax, VA
Thursday, January 31 - 8:30 to 11:30 AM

The Lake has proved productive for winter waterfowl, while the trail around it has been good for kinglets and woodpeckers.  Phil Silas leads for the Northern Virginia Bird Club.

Getting there: From I-495 take exit to VA-620, Braddock Road going west and continue 2.36 miles. Turn left onto Route 651 Guinea Road and continue 0.64 miles.  Stay straight at intersection with Commonwealth Blvd (do not turn left to follow Guinea Rd.)  Go 0.4 mile and turn left on Pommeroy Dr and then turn right at the intersection with Bronte Dr. to the entrance leading to the parking lot. 5216 Pommeroy Dr, Fairfax 22032.

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