Hello Everybody!

Let me start by introducing you to Mary McLean, a member of your Board of Directors and our new Chairperson of the Education Committee. Kristy Liercke, our outgoing Chairperson is turning over the reins and will tell you a bit about Mary in a brief sketch below. So, if you're interested in education, have time to volunteer, or just have some thoughts to share, contact Mary at marydmclean@verizon.net.

If you missed our last Audubon Afternoon and the talk given by National Audubon's Taldi Walter on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, take a look at the talk sponsored by the Sierra Club on issues concerning Alaska and the Oil Industry (information in the sidebar of this newsletter). Steve Bruckner, a member of our Advocacy Committee and the Chair of the Conservation Committee of the Great Falls Sierra Club chapter will present the discussion and will share the stage with Taldi Walter who will comment on her lengthy experience with the ANWR. If you missed ours, don't miss this.

Finally, we get a fair amount of requests for speakers to give generic one hour presentations of birds of the mid-Atlantic. These range from grade school classes to retirement homes and things in between. They're usually during the day but occasionally in the early evening. These are important to us in a small fund raising way but much more important in terms of community outreach and the only outstanding problem is that there are more requests than we can handle. So, if you're a good all-round birder and would enjoy talking for an hour about our local birds before small groups, we'll fix you up with a laptop and slide show of our representative local birds to assist you with your talk. If you're interested, give us a shout at info@audubonva.org

Stay in touch, Bruce

Seeking Board Nominations

The nominating committee is hard at work, along with the rest of the board, developing a list of dedicated and talented people to be nominated at our annual meeting in June as new board members. If you have any suggestions regarding nominations for the board, please contact the chair of the nominating committee, Kevin Munroe at kevin.munroe@fairfaxcounty.gov. Kevin's fellow committee members are Bruce Johnson and Bill Brown. We're looking for dedicated, talented folks that live in the area, have time and energy to donate to a great cause and have an interest in environmental issues.

Mary McLean New Chair of Education Committee

ASNV is pleased to announce that Mary McLean is the new chair of the Education Committee. Mary has been on ASNV Board of Directors for the last year and she brings years of experience in outdoor education to her volunteer work with ASNV. She currently works on contract as Naturalist with Audubon Naturalist Society in Maryland and as Intersession Outdoor Subjects Teacher at Mt. Vernon Elementary in Alexandria. Mary volunteers with the Master Naturalist program and the Outdoor Lab of Arlington. Her project is invasive species in Tuckahoe Park in Arlington. Each summer she monitors the blue bird boxes of Ft. C.F. Smith in Arlington. She volunteers at Ramsey Elementary in Alexandria after school for NOVA Outside. Besides serving on the education committee of Audubon, Mary also is a member of the education committees of Arlington/Alexandria's Master Naturalist and Master Gardeners.

Mary has worked as the Outdoor Learning Coordinator of Tuckahoe Elem. in Arlington for the previous five years. Mary has presented aspects of outdoor education at: the Maryland Association of Outdoor and Environmental Educator's Conference; Outdoor Ed Schools' meetings in Northern Virginia; National Horticultural Society's Symposium on Children's Gardens; Environmental Excellence Awards; and American Horticultural Therapy Association.

Mary’s philosophy is that people learn better by doing, and best by learning outside. Active parent from pre-school to high school Mary served as P.T.A. president twice and always with a special interest in teachers and helping students learn. Mary decided to make her avocation her vocation with a M.A. in ESL Education from Marymount. Prior to the births of her three children she worked as a researcher for the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Department.

Thank you, Mary, for taking the lead on the Education Committee. Now that you know about Mary, please contact her and let her know what sorts of topics you would like to see offered through ASNV. Our education program is called LEAPP, which stands for Learn, Enjoy, Appreciate, Preserve and Protect. Mary can be reached at marydmclean@verizon.net.

Great Backyard Bird Count Begins Today

Friday, February 18 – Monday, February 21, 2011
Bird watchers of all ages are encouraged to join with thousands of others in counting birds during this four-day event in order to create a real-time snapshot of where birds are across the continent and in Hawaii. Anyone can participate, from beginning bird watchers to experts. You can spend as little as 15 minutes on one day or count for as long as you like every day of the event. You can count anywhere, not just a backyard. Learn more online.

Results of the 2010 Manassas - Bull Run Christmas Bird Count

The 29th Manassas-Bull Run Christmas Bird Count was conducted on December 19, 2010, under far better weather conditions than last year. We started the day with temperatures below freezing with a little breeze, but a warming sun gave good viewing light and many interesting birds. A total of 68 people participated, counting 84 species and 21,509 birds.

Our counters were especially diligent and sharp-eyed this year. We had ten all-time high counts (Canada goose, mallard, green-winged teal, hooded merganser, common merganser, red-breasted merganser, merlin, red-breasted nuthatch, white-breasted nuthatch and chipping sparrow) and two ties for all-time high counts (cooper’s hawk and brown thrasher). We also had (relatively) high numbers for barred owl, red-bellied woodpecker, yellow-bellied sapsucker, and eastern phoebe). Other highlights included 6 horned larks (Mary Alice Koeneke and Glenn Koppel), rusty blackbirds (10 by Larry Cartwright and Nick Nichols, 2 by Phil Kenny), first northern shovelers since 2003 and first double-crested cormorants since 2001.

In terms of species trends, blue jay, American crow, Carolina chickadee and tufted titmouse continue to rebound from low points in 2003 and 2004. Northern harriers are seen much less often than 10-15 years ago, not surprising with the development of open land in our count circle. American kestrel and merlin are hanging on with a few of each species reported each year.

Copies of the full results for the count are available from the ASNV office, from any of our sector leaders, or from the compiler, Bob Shipman. We also plan to post them on the ASNV website.

We give our grateful thanks to all the enthusiastic participants who came out and counted so well!

Wood Frogs and Vernal Pools

Cliff Fairweather, ASNV Naturalist

By the end of this month or early March, small, isolated wetlands called vernal pools will come alive with breeding amphibians. Wood frogs and various mole salamanders, including spotted, marbled, and Jefferson salamanders in our area, are vernal pool obligates, meaning they must use these wetlands as breeding sites for their best reproductive success. Of these, wood frogs are the easiest to observe.

Wood frogs are a little less than three inches long and have a distinctive dark mask on their faces. During most of the year they range through woods and meadows, hunting for invertebrates. In the winter, they just dig under the leave litter a bit. Up to forty percent of their body can freeze while natural antifreeze protects them from cell damage.

With the first warmish days of late winter, wood frogs thaw out and head en masse for nearby vernal pools. Male wood frogs call while floating on the surface of the pool, sounding like a muffled flock of quacking ducks. As the female arrive, a frenzy of mating occurs; this spectacle only lasts for a few days at most, then the frogs return to their terrestrial haunts.

You can usually see their gelatinous egg masses floating at or near the surface for a week or so, looking like bunches of clear grapes with black seed inside each one. Those “seeds” are developing embryos. A symbiotic algae soon invades the gelatin mass around the eggs, making them harder to see.

The advantage of breeding in vernal pools is that they are fish free because they dry out by late spring or early summer. The downside is that in some years the pools dry out before the eggs hatch or the tadpoles or salamander larvae metamorphose into young frogs and salamanders ready for life on land.

Still, this strategy works well enough to sustain wood frogs and mole salamanders -- as long as we leave their habitats intact. Vernal pools and associated uplands receive little legal protection and are often lost to development. They need better protection at the local and state level.

Join Virginia vernal pool expert Mike Hayslett for Vanishing Vernal Pools on Sunday, March 12 – see details under LEAPP programs.

ASNV Completes 17th Year of Breeding Bird Data Collection – 2010 N. Va. Bird Survey (NVBS) Summary

Although it may be difficult to imagine now, last June, when the NVBS was in full swing, we were setting records at the high end of the temperature scale. Many thanks to the thirty-nine hardy volunteers who surveyed 585 grid points at over twenty-five survey areas and counted 8,859 birds representing 99 species including two new to the survey, American coot and spotted sandpiper. Common grackle, northern cardinal, and tufted titmouse were the top three species number-wise. Northern cardinal, tufted titmouse, and the ubiquitous Neotropical migrant red-eyed vireo were distribution winners. Crow numbers barely budged from the year before. Total number of birds counted and database records accumulated during the seventeen years of the NVBS were 165,210 and 90,335 respectively. We continue to share our count data with those who manage the parks and other sites that we survey.

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.

Occoquan Bay NWR

Saturday, February 19, 8:00 AM
Join Larry Meade to explore the varied habitats of this special refuge. For directions and additional information, click here.

Reston Lakes

Sunday, February 20, 7:30 - 10:30 AM
Kevin Munroe leads this outing every winter and almost every year surprising things turn up on Reston’s lakes. If the birding is good, the time and number of sites may be extended, but participants should feel free to leave when they wish. For directions and additional information, click here.

Woodcocks at Huntley Meadows

Saturday, March 12, 5:45 PM
This is the time for male Woodcocks to be doing their amazing courtship displays. Join Marc Ribaudo and Rich Rieger for a walk at Huntley Meadows to hopefully witness this wonderful display. For directions and additional information, click here.

Upper Snakeden Stream Valley, Reston

Sunday, March 13, 7:30-10:30 AM
This walk is co-sponsored by ASNV, Reston Association Environmental Advisory Committee and The Bird Feeder. Meet at the Nature House. We will walk downhill to the stream and do a loop through the stream valley. Come early for coffee and donuts. For directions and additional information, click here.

Algonkian Regional Park

Tuesday, March 15, 8:00 AM
Join Bill Brown at the boat launch to check the river for wintering ducks, then walk through the park to look for resident and winter birds, and any early arriving spring visitors. For directions and additional information, click here.

Lake Fairfax Park

Saturday, March 19, 7:30 AM
Explore a mix of habitats with Bill Brown, looking for winter birds that are still here and any early arriving migrants we can find. For directions and additional information, click here.

Coming Soon!! Delaware Bay Weekend Fieldtrip

May 20-23, 2011
Ray Smith will again lead this trip at the height of shorebird migration. The Beacon Motel in Lewes, DE, will be our base, with birding starting at Cape Henlopen State Park on Friday, May 20. In the evening, Ray will hold a shorebird identification class, and discuss the natural history of the Horseshoe Crab. Saturday will be spent at several great places on the Bay that are famous for Horseshoe Crab eggs that feed the migrating shorebirds—Broad Kill Beach Rd., Prime Hook, Satellite Beach, and Mispillion Lighthouse. On Sunday, we will drive to Port Mahon and Bombay Hook. Reservations are needed. Limit is 20. Contact Ray to sign up at 571-286-7856 or bluebird58@verizon.net. More information available online.

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.

Audubon at Home Orientation

Sunday, February 27, 3 - 5:30 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.

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, fees 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.

Vanishing Vernal Pools

Saturday, March 12, 9 AM - 4 PM (lecture only is 9 - 11:30 AM)
Call them vernal pools, disappearing ponds, or just big wicked puddles, these temporary wetlands are critical habitat for some of our most interesting and mysterious creatures. Join us for a day with Virginia vernal pool expert and Sweet Briar College biologist Mike Hayslett. We’ll start with a morning lecture at the National Wildlife Federation in Reston and then explore one or more nearby field sites. Mike is a deeply knowledgeable and passionate advocate for the study and conservation of vernal pools and you’ll find his enthusiasm contagious! For directions and additional information, click here.

Biodiversity of the Potomac Gorge

Sunday, March 27, 10 AM - 1 PM The Potomac Gorge is one of the most densely biodiverse locations on the East Coast, boasting endemic plant communities and hundreds of state rare plants. All this survives in the middle of an urban region. Join Mary Travaglini from The Nature Conservancy at Great Falls Park, Virginia, for a lecture and walk to discover how rare plant communities, geology, and the flooding of the Potomac River combine to create an ecological treasure in our own backyard. One highlight will be early spring wildflowers. For directions and additional information, click here.

Beginning Birding Workshop

Class: Thursday, April 7, 7 - 9 PM
Field Trip: Saturday, April 9, 7:30 AM - ?

This workshop is an entry level introduction to birding in the Northern Virginia area. We’ll go over some birding basics, including field guides and binoculars, as well as seasonal information on what birds to look for and where to look for them. The workshop includes one, two-hour classroom session and one half-day field trip at a local park. If you have binoculars, be sure to bring them. For directions and additional information, click here.

Bird Life and Behavior

Class: Wednesday, April 27, 7 - 9 PM
Field trip: Saturday, April 30, 7:30 AM - ?
Explore the fascinating world of bird biology and natural history in this introduction to ornithology. Some of the topics to be covered in the lecture include aspects of anatomy and physiology that make birds supremely adapted for flight; maintenance behaviors that promote the well being of the individual bird; social behavior and interactions between birds; major habitat types; migration; reproduction, nest building, and raising young; plumage variations, including keys to identification. We will talk about threats to birds and some conservation strategies and ways that citizens can participate. Field trip will visit several different habitats and provide an opportunity to observe birds doing the things that have been talked about in the lecture. 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.

Audubon At Home and Beyond

Saturday, June 4, 9 AM - 3 PM
Carol Hadlock's backyard will be your classroom for this workshop, where you will learn to put the principles of Audubon at Home to work in your yard, creating a healthier environment for you, your family, and pets, while at the same time giving birds and pollinators a helping hand. Things should be popping in the garden, the birds will be singing, and outdoor activities will make this a fun, informative day. For directions and additional information, click here.

Advocacy Update: Conservation Depends on You

Are Our Local Governments Addressing Natural Resources and Parks?

Northern Virginia’s local governments are now developing their budgets for the next fiscal year, planning public hearings and trying to decide how to spend revenues and what to cut. You might want to look at what they are planning for parks and natural resources and speak out.

Here are some Web sites to visit for information:

Tell Your State Legislators You Care

The targeted adjournment date for the Virginia General Assembly is February 26. Between now and then, many decisions will be made. To learn about conservation issues and what you can do, visit http://vcnva.org/anx/ and let your legislators know you care. To find your legislators, go here: http://conview.state.va.us/whosmy.nsf/main?openform.

The Future of Mason Neck, Featherstone Refuges

Auduboners may wish to submit comments on the comprehensive conservation plans for the Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck and Featherstone National Wildlife Refuges. The deadline is February 21. These plans will determine how the refuges will be managed over the next 10 years, issues like managing the health of the forests and wetlands, addressing climate change, controlling invasive species and protecting sensitive areas. You can weigh in online. If you have suggestions for what should be included in ASNV’s comments, please send them to me, Glenda Booth, by February 18, to gbooth123@aol.com.

Congress Watch

The new House of Representatives is expected to advance several bills to curtail the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and curb other authorities designed to protect our air, water and natural resources. Step up Virginia Auduboners! Let our U. S. senators and your congressman know you care.

How to contact Virginia's U.S. Representatives: 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 on scheduled Wednesdays, 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
  • February 23
  • March 30
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
  • March 16
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.

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.

Alaska's Public Lands and the Oil Industry

Steve Bruckner, Conservation Chair, will show a short video, The Refuge, that celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This will be followed by a slide presentation on Alaskan Public Lands issues and the oil industry. Be sure to take advantage of this opportunity to learn more about the Refuge, the National Petroleum Reserve and other Alaskan environmental challenges including oil drilling in the Arctic Seas and preserving the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area. Sponsored by the Sierra Club.

WHEN: Monday, February 28; 7:00 PM

WHERE: Great Falls Library, 9830 Georgetown Pike, Great Falls, VA

CONTACT: Janet al-Hussaini at jalhussaini@msn.com or 703-757-9518

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.

Wildlife Center of Virginia: Spring Open Hous Schedule

The Wildlife Center of Virginia, the nation's leading teaching and research hospital for native wildlife, has scheduled six open houses for Spring 2011. These are rare opportunities to see the inner workings of the Waynesboro facility, as well as meet some of the wildlife that serve as the Center's education ambassadors.

The open houses will be held on:
  • Saturday, February 19
  • Saturday, February 26
  • Sunday, March 6
  • Sunday, March 20
  • Saturday, April 2
  • Sunday, April 10
The Center will have three separate sessions each day – at 12:30 p.m., 2:00 p.m., and 3:30 p.m. Each session lasts about an hour. As a wildlife emergency room and hospital, the Wildlife Center is not usually open to the public. The seasonal open houses are the times during the year when visitors may tour the Center. There is no charge to participate in an open house; however, reservations are required by phone (540-942-9453) or email. A limited number of spaces are available for each session.

The Mystery and Majesty of Owls

Join the Friends of Dyke Marsh, the Raptor Conservancy of Virginia and the Northern Virginia Bird Club on March 2, 2011, 7:30 PM, at Huntley Meadows Visitor Center, 3701 Lockheed Boulevard, Alexandria, Virginia 22306; 703-768-2525 to learn about owls.

John Spahr will share his knowledge and images of these nocturnal birds. Mr. Spahr will cover some of the unique and special adaptations, behaviors and "lifestyles" of owls and offer some facts about common eastern owls. A retired pathologist, Mr. Spahr has observed birds on most continents. In 2010, he traveled 54,000 air miles and 33,000 miles by car all over the U.S. and counted 704 species of birds, “an exhausting and exhilarating” experience, he says.

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
703-438-6008 • info@audubonva.org

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