Well, Happy New Year!
And, let me start off by thanking each and every one of you who contributed to our annual Fall Appeal. Your generosity was wonderful and we can't thank you enough. Your help will ensure our ability to advance and grow our programs and move ahead with new ones we've been contemplating. In fact, let me describe one for you. For some time we've been thinking of ways to introduce birding to a younger audience while at the same time creating new partnerships with our local park systems. So, if you'll go to our website you'll see a button on the side titled Northern Virginia Birds and when you click on it it will take you to a series of birding events designed for newcomers that we are planning in concert with the Potomac Overlook Regional Park in Arlington. This is a work in progress so stay tuned as we enlist other parks and venues and further tweak our webpage design. We're obviously continuing all our other ASNV bird walks and field trips, so please bear with us as we lay out all these birding events in an easy-to-understand manner. The aim is to introduce the wonderful world of birding to all ages and all levels of experience so that a mom and dad could choose a particular walk, take the children along, and everyone could derive fun and satisfaction out of it.
Speaking of birding events, I hope you will remember that our annual Winter Waterfowl Count takes place the weekend of January 21 and 22, and there is always room for more participants. Please see our website for sign-up details.
Please stay in touch, Bruce
Occoquan Bay-Area Wildlife Surveys
A long-term, ASNV-sponsored citizen science project to document the population status of local birds and other wildlife has entered its 23rd year. Led by Jim Waggener, volunteers survey the Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge near Woodbridge, and the Meadowood Recreation Area on Mason Neck. The surveys occur on Wednesday mornings, up to three times per month, year-round. From April through October, the surveys expand to count butterflies and dragonflies at Occoquan Regional Park and the Metz Wetlands south of Woodbridge, as well as at OBNWR and Meadowood, alternately on Friday mornings.
In 2011, 89 separate surveys, amounting to over 2700 volunteer hours in the field, generated substantial new information on birds, butterflies, and dragonflies. For example, the number of bird species documented at OBNWR grew to 246 with the addition of mute swan, common moorhen, and Lapland longspur, and the surveys documented continuing positive population trends for American black duck, osprey, and several warbler species. Unfortunately, the survey data also reflected the continued depressed or declining populations of several other species, such as American kestrel, eastern meadowlark, great blue heron, red-tailed hawk, bobwhite and field sparrow.
ASNV shares the survey information with the managers of the properties surveyed and the public. We make the latest data available on our website under Counts and Surveys. See the survey dates and contact information to the right, under Conservation Counts, if you are interested in participating in the surveys.
Thinking Like Wildlife
Cliff Fairweather, ASNV Naturalist
Now that the holidays are over and the sun is lingering a little longer, I'm sure a lot of us are starting to think about what to do with our yards and gardens this year. I hope that you'll include birds, butterflies, native bees and other beneficial wildlife in your thinking. After all, the greatest opportunity to restore habitat for wildlife in our heavily developed region is in our yards and gardens.
Gardening for wildlife means getting into the heads of animals and seeing the world from their perspective. Wildlife needs four basic habitat components: water, food, shelter and space. If you can provide these components, you've gone a long way towards creating a wildlife sanctuary of your own.
None of this needs to be complicated. Water can be just a bird bath (kept clean!), although a pond or pool with gently sloped sides and a shallow end supports more kinds of wildlife. Bird feeders, (again, kept clean) provide food for many bird species, but fruit and seed producing native plants offer even more choices for a wider array of wildlife. Just as importantly, native plants feed and shelter a variety of native insects that become food for birds, lizards, frogs, and other small predators.
Those plants also provide shelter for nesting songbirds, butterflies sitting out a storm and a vast array of other creatures. By letting dead stems of native wildflowers stand through the winter, you'll provide shelter for native bee pupae hidden inside. A water feature can shelter dragonfly larvae, tadpoles, juvenile salamanders and other aquatic animals.
Space is simply someplace for an animal to live its life. The space an animal needs depends to a large extent on its size and habits. Space for a migratory bird, such as a gray catbird, might span more than one country. Nonetheless, your backyard is a vital part of its space if that's where it nests and raises its young.
We can help you get started attracting beneficial wildlife with a free Audubon at Home consultation. Also, starting a little later this year, we will be offering our Native Plant Starter Kits – 4 native wildflowers and a shrub for $35 -- to anyone getting a consultation. We'll have more details next month.
Beyond Coal -- This Weekend!
Attend this free, public event to learn more about how conservation-minded Virginians can urge smart energy solutions -- efficiency, solar power and bird-safe wind facilities, for example -- investments that would create tens of thousands of green jobs and stem global warming. The featured speaker is Phillip Ellis, field organizer for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. He will discuss how to move electricity-generating plants to cleaner energy sources. Attendees can also learn how to get involved and make a difference in moving the nation toward a cleaner energy future.
RSVP required: Call 703-528-5406 to reserve your space.
When: Sunday, January 22, 2 - 4 PM
Where: Potomac Overlook Regional Park, 2845 Marcey Road, Arlington, Va.
Birding with Dr. Andrew Dolby at Stratford Hall in 2012
A series of four programs is scheduled in 2012 with Dr. Andrew Dolby, chair of the University of Mary Washington's Department of Biological Sciences and president of the Virginia Society of Ornithology. Dr. Dolby's research interests include the evolution of bird song complexity and its functions. He teaches courses in ornithology, animal behavior, ecology, and evolution. A presentation he brought to ASNV in 2009 was fascinating and exceptionally well received. This educational series will take place at Stratford Hall on the scenic Northern Neck about 40 miles from Fredericksburg, at 483 Great House Road in Stratford, Virginia. The programs will take place from 9a.m. to 1 p.m. and cost $25 per person. Attendees are invited to spend the night at Stratford Hall for an additional $85 per night, which includes continental breakfast. The area is also great for birding.
For information or to register please contact Jon Bachman at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 804-493-8030 ext. 2010. Program dates are as follows:
April 21, 2012: Songs and Calls: No Idle Chatter, covers the sophisticated avian communication system, along with the anatomy, physiology, and ecology of bird song. It will explain the modern tools that biologists are using to decipher their hidden messages.
June 16, 2012: Nesting and Chick Development: Nature's Architects, will discuss astonishingly complex nest architecture, as well as the most frugal nesting behavior that has evolved to protect eggs and developing young in different environments.,
September 29, 2012: Bird Migration: Nature's Incredible Journey, delves into the physiological, ecological, and behavioral mechanisms that make possible one of the great athletic performances in all of nature -- the regular mass movement of birds from over vast, often inhospitable distances. Discussion covers advances in modern technology that have allowed increasingly detailed study of bird migration.
Upcoming Field Trips
Registration is not required unless noted. Contact the ASNV office at 703-438-6008 or email@example.com 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.
Saturday and Sunday, January 21-22
Not a walk, exactly, but some of the best birding this month will be had by participating in the ASNV Waterfowl Survey. Contact the office at 703-438-6008 or firstname.lastname@example.org for details and to sign up. Click here for complete details, directions.
Virginia Beach Weekend
FULL -- Call to be put on a waiting list
Friday, January 27 - Sunday, January 29
Reservations required. Cost: $20, plus extra for police escort on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel islands and a tram ride at Back Bay NWR. Limit 20. RSVP to Ray Smith at 571-286-7856 or email@example.com. After registering with Ray, please send your check for $20, made payable to ASNV, to ASNV, 11100 Wildlife Center Drive, Suite 100, Reston, VA, 2019020190.
This unique winter trip, led by Ray Smith, will include the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel islands, Back Bay NWR, Eastern Shore of Virginia NWR, Kiptopeke State Park and other interesting places. Many unusual birds are possible, including harlequin ducks, purple sandpipers, eiders, gannets and more.Click here for complete details, directions and reservation / payment information.
Rappahannock River and Northern Neck
Saturday, February 4, all day
Fee $20. Reservations required. Maximum 12 people/4-5 cars. For details and to register, email Sean at firstname.lastname@example.org. After you have registered, send your check for $20, payable to ASNV, to ASNV, 11100 Wildlife Drive, Reston, VA 20190.
If you missed the weekend Northern Neck trip, here’s a second chance to see many of the same birds. Sean Duffy knows the good places to visit for eagles and other raptors, waterfowl, rusty blackbirds and red-headed woodpeckers, and maybe an end-of-the-day search for short-eared owls. Click here for complete details, directions and reservation / payment information.
Sunday, February 12, 7:30-10:30 AM
Kevin Munroe leads this outing every winter and almost every year surprising things turn up on Reston’s lakes Click here for complete details, directions and reservation / payment information.
Sunday, February 19, 8 AM
We’re happy to welcome Jenny Vick as a new leader for ASNV. We will walk along the river, upstream and down, checking for wintering waterfowl and keeping an eye out for winter birds in the woods.Click here for complete details, directions and reservation / payment information.
Saturday, February 25, 7:30 AM
Meet Bill Brown in the parking lot by the visitor center and explore the varied habitats in the park and around the lake.Click here for complete details, directions and reservation / payment information.
Remember to check our website regularly for more walks, classes and other activities.
Take the LEAPP®!
The LEAPP® (Learn, Enjoy, Appreciate, Preserve, and Protect) program offers the opportunity to learn more about the natural world and be informed, active stewards for its care and protection. To register or for more information, please visit our website, email us or call the ASNV office at 703-438-6008. Don’t miss out – register early! Please note that registration is not complete until payment is received. Visit our website for more information about these and other upcoming LEAPP programs.
Winter Tree Identification
Class: Thursday, February 9, 7-9 PM
Field trip: Sunday, February 12, 9 AM - noon
Introduction to winter tree identification based on features such as branching structure, bark, buds, leaf scars, as well as other clues, including persistent and fallen fruits and leaves, aromatic twigs, and habitat. One two hour lecture and one field trip. For directions and additional information, click here.
Wetlands: Watersheds to Plastic Pipes, and Beavers In-between
Saturday, February 11, 1-5 PM
!! NEW DATE !!
Join Huntley Meadows Park Manager Kevin Munroe for a dynamic discussion about wetland ecology and management. After a summary and introduction about what makes a wetland, we’ll learn about the difference between habitat specialists and habitat generalists. Next we’ll use photos and monitoring data to explore the cycles of a beaver marsh, the inhabitants of a hemi-marsh, and the many issues connected with actively managing for biodiversity. We’ll end the class with an update and discussion regarding Huntley’s wetland restoration project, one of the largest ecological restoration projects attempted in Northern VA.
After a break and opportunity to explore the park’s exhibit-filled visitor center, we’ll head out for a two-hour guided nature walk into the park’s woodlands and wetland boardwalk, ending in a climb up the wildlife observation tower. We’ll use the walk to look for and examine concepts discussed during the class, including wetland ecology, management techniques and challenges, biodiversity in a suburban setting and hemi-marsh wildlife. Bring your binoculars and help us find winter ducks, bald eagles, snipe, swamp sparrows, beavers, muskrat lodges and other wetland wildlife. For directions and additional information, click here.
Sunday, February 26, 10 AM - 3 PM
Geologist Dr. Barbara Frank will teach a course with a general introduction to earth materials and geologic time followed by a hike to see folded mountain features, igneous activity dating back to Paleozoic Period. Present day processes, such as erosion and weathering , in particular pothole formation, frost-wedging will be covered. For directions and additional information, click here.
Saturday, March 10, 11 AM - 3 PM
If you would like to learn about birds and how to provide some fun birding activities to kids and adults, sign up for Flying WILD. Flying WILD is a conservation education guide featuring interdisciplinary hands-on classroom and outdoor activities. You will receive a guide and curriculum that contains activities and lesson plans. Key concepts include migration, adaptation, the importance of habitat, and bird conservation efforts. The curriculum was originally designed for middle school teachers and students, but the guide contains activities suitable for anyone who wants to teach about birds. For directions and additional information, click here.
Amphibians of Northern Virginia
Class: Saturday, March 24, 2-3:30 PM
Field trip: Saturday, April 7, 7-8:30 PM
Join expert naturalists for an “up close and personal” look at amphibians in our region. We will explore local frogs, toads, and salamanders through a slideshow and with live specimens! Be prepared to learn calls, habits, and life cycles of these amazing animals. Please note: The class session is mandatory for those wishing to go on the field trip. For directions and additional information, click here.
Class: Thursday, April 19, 7-9:30 PM
Field trip: Saturday, April 21, 10 AM - noon
Did you know that ants are the seed dispersers for 30% of spring wildflowers? Learn how to pronounce myrmecochory, how to identify some common spring wildflowers and plant families, and the folklore associated with plants in this area. The field trip will be held at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County Park Authority’s only riverfront park which has over 400 acres of forest, meadows, and ponds. Riverbend’s location along the Potomac River makes it a naturally unique and sensitive area with spectacular spring wildflowers. For directions and additional information, click here.
Introduction to Birds and Birding
Class 1: Wednesday, April 18, 7-9 PM
Field trip 1: Saturday, April 21, time TBD
Class 2: Wednesday, April 25, 7-9 PM
Field trip 2: Saturday, April 28, time TBD
In Class 1 -- Basic Ornithology -- you will gain a basic understanding of taxonomy and species; bird biology; the natural history of birds, including behavior, reproduction, migration; and the great diversity of birds and habitats. In Class 2 -- Beginning Birding -- you will learn how to choose and use binoculars, explore various field guides and learn the language and tricks of identifying birds in the field. Please note: Participants must register for both Basic Ornithology and Beginning Birding. For directions and additional information, click here.
Introduction to Local Stream Life
Class: Saturday, May 26, 1-3 PM
Field trip: Saturday, June 9, 2-4 PM
Join Potomac Overlook naturalists for an exploration into the world that exists in our smaller local streams. Common fish, amphibians, birds, insects, crustaceans, amphibians, and other invertebrates will be covered through an interpretive slideshow. Live specimens will also be on hand for participants to observe. Please note: The class session is mandatory for those wishing to go on the field trip. For directions and additional information, click here.
Advocacy Update: Conservation Depends on You
Make Conservation Count
Join Virginia Conservation Network, the Garden Club of Virginia, and countless volunteers as we take our conservation priorities to the Capitol on January 23, 2012 at 8:30 AM.
Whether you discuss energy efficiency, green building, natural resource protection or other important conservation issues, your legislators need to hear from you. Every year General Assembly members learn important information about how to do the right thing for the environment from citizens like you. Not to mention that by taking the time to discuss your position on specific legislation you hold them accountable for their vote. We will gather in Richmond for briefings on the environmental issues the Virginia General Assembly will tackle and for some advocacy training.
RSVP online to reserve your space!
Cost: $30.00 (includes lunch and materials)
Getting there: Richmond CenterStage is located in downtown Richmond, between 6th and 7th Streets, and Broad and Grace Streets. The entrance to Rhythm Hall is located on the corner of East Grace Street and 7th Street.
Visiting your lawmakers: Participants are strongly encouraged to make appointments to visit their legislators on the 23rd and to leave the workshop as necessary to keep appointments. (Find your legislator online)
We will be sure to share talking points and positions on specific legislation at Conservation Lobby Day. In the meantime, you can take advantage of VCN's Conservation Briefing Book to learn background information on anticipated bills. With your help, we can keep changing Virginia for the better. Please register today.
General Assembly Convenes
The Virginia General Assembly convened on January 11 and new delegates and senators were be sworn in. Most people who follow conservation issues in Virginia say that passing strong conservation bills will be an uphill battle in this session.
Several bills may be considered. All the bills are not yet known.
Get Involved: A great opportunity to meet with your state legislators in Richmond is the Virginia Conservation Network's annual lobby day on January 23, described above. Consider taking the Amtrak train down the day or night before from the Alexandria or Washington, D.C., station.
- Clean energy: a bill to strengthen the state's voluntary renewable energy standard and to close loopholes so that power companies have stronger incentives to move away from carbon-intensive, polluting fuels like coal. Legislation to stop and/or discourage mountain-top removal for mining coal.
- Energy conservation: bills to provide tax and other incentives to encourage people to conserve energy, make homes more energy efficient and support public transit. Already filed is a bill to bar any state agency from assisting any federal agency in implementing global warming or climate change legislation. The bill also would exempt residential buildings and manufactured homes from federal residential energy efficiency standards if buildings comply with the state's uniform building code.
Information Resources on Virginia Legislation
Be a Contact for Your Legislator
The Virginia Conservation Network needs people in the district of every state senator and delegate to occasionally call, write or meet with them, especially during the session. To learn what's involved, visit www.virlcv.org.
One state senator has said, "If I hear from five people on a bill, that’s a lot." If legislators don't hear from you, they assume no one cares. Find your state legislator by clicking here.
ASNV has urged the Fairfax County Planning Commission to adopt policies encouraging bird-safe buildings in the county’s comprehensive plan. It would be helpful if ASNVers weighed in with Planning Commissioners. If you live in Fairfax County, you can find your commissioners by clicking here: www.fairfaxcounty.gov/bacs/fairfax_board.asp?lookup=23327.
From 300 million to one billion birds may be killed by collisions with buildings every year in the United States, according to the American Bird Conservancy. Between 50 and 90 percent of birds involved in collisions die, usually from internal hemorrhaging. Many stunned or injured birds fall prey to cats and other predators. If you live in another jurisdiction and you see an opportunity for ASNV to weigh in on this issue, let us know.
Learn about the Virginia Outdoors Plan
On January 25, the Northern Virginia Regional Commission will host two public meetings at 3 and 7 p.m. addressing the Virginia Outdoors Plan. The Department of Conservation and Recreation is leading that effort, but much of the work is done through the Conservation Corridors Planning Project for northern Virginia. The meeting will take place at NVRC's offices: 3060 Williams Drive, #510, Fairfax, VA 22031-4638; 703-642-0700.
Learn more about the plan and the upcoming meetings by clicking here: Virginia Outdoors Plan.
We'll have the results from the Manassas Bull Run Christmas Bird Count to share with you in our next newsletter.
Our Winter Waterfowl Survey will be January 21 and 22. The survey takes place at various points along the Potomac River and at inland lakes, ponds and other standing bodies of water that attract waterfowl. To sign up, send your name, address and contact information to email@example.com or call 703-438-6008.
Save the date!
The annual Great Backyard Bird Count will be February 17 - 20. 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.
Click here to learn more: The Great Backyard Bird Count.
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
- January 25
- February 29
- March 28
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.
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.