February 2019

Quick Links

We Did It!

Thanks to all our generous donors, we have reached the fundraising goal for our Annual Appeal.
Because of your financial support for ASNV, we’ll be able to continue to conduct citizen science, offer bird walks and classes on birds and birding, advocate for birds and the environment, and work to preserve and improve habitat in Northern Virginia. So thank you to each of you who has helped make it possible.
And if by chance you have not yet gotten around to making a donation to help ASNV, it’s not too late. Any additional funds we receive will enable us to expand our existing plans to do even more in the months to come! You can donate online at http://audubonva.org/donate/ or send a check to us at 11100 Wildlife Center Drive, Suite 100, Reston, VA 20190.

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.)
  • February 13
  • March 13

Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge 

(7:30 a.m - 12 p.m.)
  • February 27
  • March 27

Butterfly and Dragonfly Surveys—will resume in April

(8:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.)

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.

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

We are very fortunate to live in an area exceptionally rich in habitat diversity, and we benefit from the variety of birds that are attracted to those habitats. But each of us who enjoys wandering in the woods, surveying a marsh, or walking alongside meadows has a responsibility to help ensure that these areas are preserved. We all know about the “macro” threats such as climate change. But frequently there is too little attention paid to “micro” threats that, together, can have substantial impacts on the larger environment 
Several examples of these smaller threats come to mind. Right now, there is controversy over whether Fairfax County should delete plans for two conceptual bike paths through Huntley Meadows Park that could harm sensitive wetlands. 
In Arlington County, plans are under consideration to add bike paths through several county parks that could harm stream health and tree cover, among other concerns.
 I don’t want to just pick on bike paths­–I am an enthusiastic biker myself. So, consider Fairfax County’s decision to cut staff expenses in its parks by 15 percent through next June to address a shortfall in expected Park Authority revenues. This decision could affect those parks’ ability to maintain and protect their environment.
There’s also a relatively new Virginia law prohibiting any state or local governmental entity from restricting the flying of drones. This statute makes it impossible for local parks to restrict drone flying that may disrupt nesting birds and annoy people attempting to enjoy nature. 
What can we do to help protect our local environment so that we can continue to enjoy it?
  1. Be vigilant. To preserve our natural habitat we must be alert to EVERY threat to the environment. Lost wetlands, tree cover, bird nesting sites, and native plants cannot easily be recovered.
  2. Each of us needs to be willing to take action on local issues important to the environment. These issues are generally overlooked by national organizations, which tend to focus on the “macro” threats.
For those of you who don’t want to take an advocacy role yourself, local organizations, including ASNV, can use your donations and your volunteer time to help protect the environment.
“Think globally, act locally” might be an overused phrase, but it’s the best way to ensure that we can continue to enjoy the habitat and birds we love. 
Tom Blackburn    

Great Backyard Bird Count Workshop

There are still a few spots left!
February 2, 1 to 3 p.m.
National Wildlife Federation
11100 Wildlife Center Drive
Reston, VA 20190

The GBBC provides a snapshot of where birds are in real time.  It’s spontaneous; unlike Project Feederwatch, you’re not restricted to your own backyard or to a particular feeding area, and there is no commitment to 2 specific days every week for 6 months. You can count anywhere, for as little as 15 minutes or as long as a walk through a park. This workshop will teach you how to count and how to report your count, and we’ll do some “real time” practice.

Launched in 1998 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, the Great Backyard Bird Count was the first online citizen-science project to collect data on wild birds and to display results in near real-time. Now, more than 160,000 people of all ages and walks of life worldwide join the four-day count each February to create an annual snapshot of the distribution and abundance of birds.
Join Carol Hadlock to learn the history of the count, how to prepare your feeders or join the count at Walker Nature Center. We’ll spend some time practicing with the birds at the ASNV feeders. This workshop is FREE, but registration is required.

February 2019: The Audubon Welcomes Two New Writers

Elise Brosnan
I live in Annandale with my parents, my brother, and a very spoiled dog and (indoor) cat. I started birding with my family as a kid, and we always keep a pair of binoculars on the windowsill in case something interesting flies by. My favorite bird is probably the mourning dove, because of its low, haunting call, or the cedar waxwing because it’s pretty. I’m looking forward to doing some advocacy work while I develop my writing skills.
Lisa Mackem
I live in Reston, and enjoy the diversity of birds nearby. My husband and I like to identify the birds at our feeders and nesting around our house. The barred owls are our favorites, and they are frequent visitors. We have seen two seasons of barred owl chicks being raised in our neighborhood trees. Many of them don’t seem to mind posing for photos. I’m looking forward to getting to know more about the local birds and improving my birding skills.
We would like to thank our outgoing communications director Roger Di Silvestro for his seven months of dedication. We wish him the best of luck as he finishes writing his book.

February 2019 Bird of the Month: Turkey Vulture

Turkey vultures, also known as turkey buzzards, are a common sight throughout the state of Virginia. As one of the most widespread birds in the western hemisphere, their range extends west to California and south to the tip of South America. Turkey vultures are often seen gliding on thermals, buoyed by a wingspan that can reach up to seven feet. 

Most birds have no sense of smell, which makes turkey vultures extremely unusual, as they rely entirely on their noses to detect prey. They do so by detecting a byproduct of carrion called ethyl mercaptan. This same compound is commonly added to petroleum gas, causing confused turkey vultures to congregate around gas leaks.
While most birders are acquainted with turkey vultures, they may not know the important role that they play in the ecosystem. Like all vultures, turkey vultures are equipped with a powerful digestive system that is capable of killing harmful bacteria, such as the bacteria responsible for anthrax. In fact, when vulture numbers decline, rates of human diseases go up. In India, falling vulture populations correlated with higher rates of both anthrax and rabies.
Turkey vultures have no natural predators, but they face one significant man-made threat: contamination from lead bullets. When game is shot with lead, the bullets break apart and contaminate the meat, making it toxic for both human and vulture consumption. California Condors, turkey vultures’ larger cousins, have to be regularly treated for lead poisoning to prevent species collapse.
Vultures are the sanitation workers of our ecosystem, disposing of carrion and keeping diseases in check. Therefore, the next time you see a turkey vulture, you should give it thanks. After all, it’s a dirty job but someone’s got to do it.
Source: Haskell, David George. The Forest Unseen: A Years Watch in Nature. NY, NY, U.S.A.: Penguin Books, 2013.

ASNV Scholarship for Educators Week at Hog Island Camp, Maine

Are you an educator who would like to learn practical approaches to environmental education in a wonderful outdoor setting?  Apply now for ASNV scholarship to attend National Audubon Society’s Educator’s Week at its Hog Island Camp in Maine! 

The scholarship, which covers full tuition and transportation, is available to public classroom teachers, specialists, or school administrators working in the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, and Stafford or the cities of Alexandria, Falls Church, Fredericksburg, Manassas, and Manassas Park.

Time is short! Applications must be submitted by February 15. You can find more details on Educator’s Week and the scholarship application at http://audubonva.org/hog-island-scholarship/. We’ll announce the scholarship winner on March 15.  

Reports from Richmond


Federal Government Shutdown

During the longest-ever federal government shutdown in late 2018 and early 2019, many public lands were at risk, as most Department of Interior agencies were closed except for “essential” employees. The media has reported damage to parks, like cutting down trees in California’s Joshua Tree National Park and camping and driving in unauthorized areas. Former National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis wrote in January, “Leaving the parks open without these essential staff is equivalent to leaving the Smithsonian museums open without any staff to protect the priceless artifacts... It is a violation of the stewardship mandate....”  

Local national parks like the George Washington Memorial Parkway and Manassas National Battlefield had little staff on duty as trash cans have overflowed, attracting foraging wildlife and littering land and waters. Nationally, around 16,000 to 19,000 NPS employees were furloughed.  

The government has been reopened for three weeks while negotiations continue. ASNVers may wish to urge their U.S. Senators, Representatives, and the Trump Administration to come to a resolution to keep the government open, in order to protect our valuable natural resources.

2019 General Assembly Session Is Well Underway

The Virginia General Assembly convened on January 9 and is meeting for 45 days, in what is known as the “short session.” They are considering many bills, including bills addressing wildlife corridors, caterpillar suppression, tree preservation, litter, climate change, coal ash storage, and more.
To read the various bills, here are three sources of information:  
The legislature is also considering several budget amendments. The Virginia Conservation Network has provided this summary of Governor Northam’s natural resources budget proposals:
  • Virginia’s agricultural cost-share program, which supports farm conservation practices and related programs, would receive approximately $90 million for fiscal year 2020.
  • The Stormwater Local Assistance Fund, which provides matching grants to localities for projects that reduce polluted runoff, would receive $50 million for fiscal year 2020.
  • The Virginia Land Conservation Foundation, which provides state matching grants for the preservation of special lands in the Commonwealth, would receive $11 million for fiscal year 2020.
  • For the Department of Environmental Quality, an increase of $2.5 million would support staff that monitor and enforce regulations that protect natural resources.
Virginians will elect all members of the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate in November 2019.

Saving the Birds and Butterflies
On January 24, 2019, the Virginia House of Delegates' Counties, Cities and Towns Subcommittee #3 held a hearing on House Bill 2495, which would prevent localities from spraying any pesticide to kill fall cankerworms  between March 1 and August 1.  The bill, which was sponsored by Delegate Kathy Tran (D-Fairfax), was introduced because spraying for fall cankerworms kills all caterpillars, which are important food sources for birds during migration and breeding season.  Delegate Tran offered a substitute to the original bill to permit spraying only on properties whose owners request it.  

Speaking for the bill were Delegate Tran; Ashley Kennedy, Entomologist, University of Delaware;  Glenda Booth, Audubon Society of Northern Virginia; Pat Calvert, Virginia Conservation Network; and Steve Lovejoy, Virginia Sierra Club. Speaking against the bill were Chris Sigler, Fairfax County; Ron Jordon, Prince William County; and the Virginia Agribusiness Council.

On a motion offered by Del. Riley Ingram (R-Chesterfield), the subcommittee voted 5 to 4 to lay the proposed bill on the table, meaning consideration of the bill was suspended indefinitely.  It unlikely that the bill will be considered further during this legislative session.

Take Action


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.


Attention Prince William County Members: We Need Your Help!

Prince William County is reviewing its Comprehensive Plan this year. The Comprehensive Plan is vitally important for county planning of amenities such as parks and natural recreation areas. The county has far less parkland per resident than is called for by its own standards, a situation that will only get worse as population increases. You can read more about this at http://www.pwconserve.org/newsletters/current.htm. ASNV would like to help advocate for increases in county parkland and protection of the existing lands during the Comprehensive Plan review. But we need help from residents of Prince William County who are willing to get involved in the process. Would you like to help? Drop an email to info@audubonva.org with the subject line Prince William County Volunteer. You’ll be glad you did!


Oppose Development in Arlington County

Last month, ASNV sent comments to Arlington County staff (and Board members) on a proposed Bicycle Element to the County’s Master Transportation Plan. ASNV forcefully opposed two proposed off-street bike trails that would endanger natural resources in Glencarlyn and Barcroft Parks, including Moses Ball Spring, the associated creek to Long Branch Creek, and the globally significant Magnolia Bog. ASNV also opposed widening or adding lighting to the W&OD and Four Mile Run trails in natural areas of Glencarlyn and Bluemont Parks. The formal comment period on the draft plan is closed. It will be further revised and presented to the Planning Commission and the Transportation Commission, and then it will go before the Arlington County Board. If you are interested, you can assist our advocacy on these issues by writing to members of the Arlington County Board between now and April, when action is anticipated on the Plan.


February 2019: Upcoming Classes and Events


2018 Audubon Photography Exhibition Winners
February 8–27
Walker Nature Center
11450 Glade Drive
Reston, VA 20191

Mark your calendars now! Join us and our good friends at Walker Nature Center during the month of February to celebrate the 2018 Audubon Photography Awards Winners. Audubon judges, including Nature's Best Photography co-founder Steve Freligh, bird expert and Audubon editor Ken Kauffman, and National Audubon Society photography director Sabine Meyer, had the difficult task of selecting from more than 8,000 entries! Images were submitted by photographers from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and 10 Canadian provinces. Events include a photo exhibition, bird watching, kid friendly activities and a documentary.

Nature House Hours:

Monday and Wednesday – Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 
Closed Tuesdays
Saturday  10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Sunday  1 to 4 p.m.

Great Backyard Bird Count Workshop
February 2, 1 to 3 p.m.
National Wildlife Federation
11100 Wildlife Center Drive
Reston, VA 20190

The next GBBC is February 15-18. Bird enthusiasts of all ages count birds to create a real-time snapshot of where birds are ranging. Join Carol Hadlock to learn the history of the count, prepare your feeders or join the count at Walker Nature Center (details below). This workshop is FREE, but registration is required.

Walker Nature Center Open House
February 10, 1 to 3 p.m.
Walker Nature Center
11450 Glade Drive
Reston, VA 20191

Nature activities for all ages include a welcome presentation, hands-on activities for kids, and guided bird walks. 

Great Backyard Bird Count
February 17, 1 to 4 p.m.
Walker Nature Center
11450 Glade Drive
Reston, VA 20191

Bird identification and citizen science for all ages. "This count is so fun because anyone can take part—we all learn and watch birds together—whether you are an expert, novice, or feeder watcher.” – Gary Langham, Chief Scientist, National Audubon Society 

Screening of "Bird of Prey," a Documentary on the Philippine Eagle
February 22, 7-9 p.m.
Walker Nature Center
11450 Glade Drive
Reston, VA 20191

Join us at Walker Nature Center for a documentary film about the largest and rarest eagle on earth – the Philippine Eagle. Registration required through Walker Nature Center at 703-476-9689. $5 suggested donation. 

Audubon Afternoon: “What Birds Eat” with Ashley Kennedy
March 24, 2:30 p.m.
National Wildlife Federation Cafeteria
11100 Wildlife Center Drive
Reston, VA 20190

Reserve the afternoon of March 24, when Ashley Kennedy, an entomologist at the University of Delaware, will present “What Birds Eat.” Ashley has used a unique combination of video cameras and citizen science in a detailed study of the insects that various bird species eat. Her informative talk is filled with wonderful photos and videos of birds gathering food and feeding it to their nestlings. She’ll also discuss how to attract birds to your yard by planting flowers and other plants that attract birds looking for insect meals. 
We’ll meet in the cafeteria of the National Wildlife Federation at 2:30 for a social gathering and begin the program at 3 p.m. If you’d like to bring some snacks to share, we’d really appreciate it! 

Bird Walks

Burke Lake, Burke, VA
Wednesday, February 13, 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Waterfowl on the lake are always changing—or at least those we can see change in their variety. And the resident eagles should be busy. Jean Tatalias 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.

Reston Lakes Tour, Reston, VA
Sunday, February 24, 7:30 to 10:30 a.m.
Weather permitting (i.e., the lakes are not all frozen!)

We’ll meet and then drive to the various Reston lakes to check for waterfowl at a number of locations. Let’s hope for open water this year! Sponsored by The Reston Association, the Bird Feeder of Reston, and ASNV.

Getting there: Take Reston Parkway north from the Dulles Toll Road and turn right on Baron Cameron Avenue.  Meet in the parking lot for the tennis courts on Village Road, north of Baron Cameron Avenue.

Huntley Meadows, Alexandria, VA
Wednesday, February 27, 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Huntley remains an oasis for birds of many habitats. Tom Nardone leads this walk sponsored by the Northern Virginia Bird Club.

Getting there: From I-195, take Route 1 south for 3 miles. Turn right on Lockheed Blvd. and in 0.5 miles turn left into park entrance. 3701 Lockheed Blvd. Meet in parking lot.


Buttermilk Creek, Reston, VA
Sunday, March 10, 8:00 to 11:00 a.m.

Our path will take us through the woods and along the shore of Lake Fairfax. Robin Duska Huff and Kris Lansing lead this ASNV-sponsored walk.
Getting there: From the Dulles Toll Road West, exit north on Wiehle Avenue. Go about 1.5 miles to the second entrance to N. Shore Drive on the right. At the intersection of N Shore with Ring Road, turn into the parking lot for the swimming pool and tennis courts. 11032 Ring Road, Reston.


Brown’s Chapel/ Lake Newport, Reston, VA
Sunday, March 17, 7:30 to 10:30 a.m.

The edge of Lake Newport and the brushy woods around the Chapel grounds make a fun and easy walk. Linda Fuller leads. Sponsored by the Reston Association, the Bird Feeder of Reston, and ASNV.

Getting there: From Route 7, go west on Baron Cameron Avenue, and turn north on Village Road. (opposite Lake Anne Village Center). Make an immediate right onto Brown’s Chapel Road. and park by the ball field. 1575 Brown’s Chapel Road.


Eakin Park, Fairfax, VA
Wednesday, March 27, 8:30 to 11:00 a.m.

Eakin offers lots of woods and some stream edges as well as bordering fields.
Jean Tatalias leads for the Northern Virginia Bird Club.

Getting there: From Route 50 outside the beltway, take Prosperity Avenue South one mile to the entrance to the parking lot on the left (east) side. 3401 Prosperity Avenue, 22031. 

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