The holiday season may be over -- and I hope that everyone had a wonderful one -- but it's still winter and a cold one at that. The Christmas Bird Count was a lot of fun and we had a great turnout. Bob Shipman is making a tally of the count which we will get out to you at some point soon. I overheard him at the post-count lunch, organized by Terry Liercke and his wife Kristy, that a high point was a couple of Merlins hunting along a Reston golf course over in Carol and Jay Hadlock's sector. Not a rare bird but one we just don't see that often. If that would be a life bird for you, come on out to our scheduled walks and get involved!
Our winter waterfowl count, which Larry Cartwright is organizing, is coming up this weekend. These counts are always are a real good way to look at the quality of our wetland environment. And, what better way to spend a cold morning than to be along a stretch of the Potomac you may never have seen and to be able to hear nature waking up with the call of Canada geese moving around, watching the bald eagles surveying their territory, and squadrons of ducks wheeling around. If you have never experienced any of this, check out our information about this weekend's winter waterfowl count. And, if you can't make it this weekend, we'll be giving walks throughout the year so give us a call (703-438-6008), or check out our website.
There's a good chance we will be on the look-out soon for new members to our Board of Directors as we begin to approach our big summer all-hands meeting. If you would like to get to know us better and help us move forward on new initiatives, by all means give us a call, and believe me, there's nothing daunting about it, so come on and join us.
Happy New Year.
Stay in touch, Bruce
Upcoming Bird Counts
Rusty Blackbird Blitz
Saturday, January 29 – Sunday, February 13, 2011
Help scientists learn why the rusty blackbird has undergone drastic declines over the past few decades by counting and reporting them during this period. The Blitz will take place in Virginia (as well as other states across the bird’s wintering range) as a coordinated effort to acquire information on the bird's distribution and habitat use. Participation is easy. Anyone with good rusty blackbird identification skills is encouraged to look for them. They like swamps, wet woodlands, and pond edges. Look as often as you want during the Blitz period. Then, submit your data online via Virginia eBird. Learn more about the Rusty Blackbird Blitz.
Great Backyard Bird Count
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.
Audubon at Home Gears Up for Another Season
Cliff Fairweather, ASNV Naturalist
We are gearing up the Audubon at Home program for the new year with expanded training programs, new on-line resources, and recruiting drives for more Audubon at Home Ambassadors and Wildlife Sanctuary program participants. Last year ended on a strongly positive note when Vienna’s Northside Park becoming our newest certified Wildlife Sanctuary. This certification included an impressive citizen effort to document the presence of Audubon at Home sanctuary species in the park. Thank you to Vienna Parks and Recreation director Cathy Salgado for her hard work in organizing this effort and to the mayor and town council for their support!
To help kick off another year of Audubon at Home, we’ll be holding on Audubon at Home Orientation Meeting on Sunday, March 6, from 1:00 – 3:30 PM at the National Wildlife Federation building in Reston (directions available online). We’ll cover the basics of creating native habitat on your property, getting your habitat certified as a Wildlife Sanctuary, and -- for those who want to have even more impact on habitat restoration in our region -- how to become an Audubon at Home Ambassador. Ambassadors play a key role in Audubon at Home by providing on-site guidance to homeowners and other in creating native habitat.
We will be including two new Audubon at Home on-line resources on the website at the end of this month. These will include Top 10 Native Plant Lists for trees, shrubs, wildflowers, deer-resistant wildflowers, and ground covers and a Frequently Asked Questions page. The Top 10 lists offer native plant recommendations for a range of growing conditions, with a focus on plants that are adaptable to urban/suburban conditions and that provide benefits to wildlife. The Frequently Asked Questions page will address common questions about habitat gardening and related topics.
Finally, I hope you will consider participating in the Wildlife Sanctuary program or even becoming an Ambassador. Feel free to contact me at 703-438-6025 if you have any questions about the program.
Upcoming Field Trips
Registration is not required unless noted. Contact the ASNV office at 703-438-6008 or firstname.lastname@example.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.
Crisfield, MD, and surrounding areas
Saturday, February 5, all day
Sean Duffy will again lead a trip to the Eastern Shore. Birds of interest include sea ducks, loons, grebes and other waterfowl, raptors, winter passerines, and possibly short-eared owls. Limit of 12 people and 4 cars. Reservations are required. Contact Sean at email@example.com for more information, and to sign up. Participants will car pool from the Alexandria area at 7AM, and will return to Fairfax County between 6 and 8 PM.
Sunday, February 6, 9:00 - noon
Walk along the river in search of wintering waterfowl, winter birds in the woods, and possible Bald Eagles. Leaders, Carol and Jay Hadlock. For directions and additional information, click here.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Virginia General Assembly Begins Work
The Virginia General Assembly convened 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 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.
A New U. S. Congress
The 112th Congress has begun its work and many observers are predicting that the Congress will to try to limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to protect the environment. Some House of Representatives’ leaders have said that they would like to limit EPA’s authority, to, for example, reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the current Clean Air Act. There were several unsuccessful efforts to limit EPA in 2010. Senator Lisa Murkowski and Senator John Rockefeller have introduced bills along those lines. You can read their bills on the Library of Congress' website, either by entering the bill numbers, a key word or browsing by name.
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 National Audubon Society has identified climate change as a top priority and urges Auduboners to urge Representatives and Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb to oppose bills that would limit EPA’s authority to protect the environment.
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.
Speak Up on National Parks and Refuges in Northern Virginia
Auduboners have several upcoming opportunities to encourage conservation in national parks and refuges in Northern Virginia:
- Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck and Featherstone National Wildlife Refuges. Public meetings: February 2, 2 - 4 PM and 6:30 - 8:30 PM, Potomac Community Library, 2201 Optiz Boulevard, Woodbridge, VA 22191 and February 3, 6:30 - 8:30 PM at Gunston Elementary School, 10100 Gunston Road, Lorton, VA 22079. Draft comprehensive plan available online. Send comments by February 21 to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Fort Hunt Park. Public scoping meeting to help determine site development plans: January 27, 6 - 8 PM, Martha Washington Library, 6614 Fort Hunt Road, Alexandria, 22307. Submit comments online, until February 11.
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.
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
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
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.
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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.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.