January 2019

Quick Links

Conservation Counts

Join Jim Waggener in his ongoing natural resource surveys at two of Northern Virginia's best birding spots. Surveys alternate between Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and Meadowood Special Recreation Management Area on Mason Neck. From April through October, surveys are conducted primarily for butterflies and dragonflies at those two locations and two others—Occoquan Regional Park and Julie J. Metz Memorial Wetlands Preserve.

Each survey is limited to four participants, and reservations are required. More information is available on the ASNV website.

Contact Jim for more details or to reserve your space.

Meadowood on Mason Neck 

(7:30 a.m. - 12 p.m.)
  • January 16
  • February 13

Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge 

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

President's Corner

How are your backyard birds doing this winter? Is your bird feeder full? Some folks are reluctant to use bird feeders because they worry that if they forget to fill the feeder, the birds that depend on it will starve. But that’s not so. Birds can find other food sources, and they do that even if your feeder is full. The bird feeder just makes their lives a little easier, since they don’t have to expend as much energy to find food. And since we have done so much to disrupt their environment (think about what your neighborhood looked like before the houses were built), it seems fitting to make their food-hunting a little easier. 
There’s no evidence that bird feeders are significant sources of disease for birds. Feeders should be washed every couple of weeks with a non-chlorine bleach solution to minimize the possibility that they might spread disease, but the risk seems small. 
Do you have water and shelter for your birds? Having an ice-free source of water can be very helpful to our feathered friends. And shelter in the form of underbrush or woody vines is important too. The native honeysuckle in my backyard seems to hold as many as 20 birds at a time in winter. 

If you haven’t put out a suet feeder, consider doing it this winter. High-calorie suet is a particularly good source of energy for birds. I’ve even seen Carolina Wrens and crows taking a turn at my suet offering. My wife and I make our own, which attracts more birds than any of the commercial varieties. You can find a good cold-weather recipe at https://www.audubon.org/news/make-your-own-suet.
Who gets the biggest benefit from bird feeders in the winter? I think people get at least as much benefit as the birds. The other morning I watched a cardinal, a downy woodpecker, and a blue jay jockeying for position at the feeder. It was fascinating to watch which birds dominate the others, which try to slip in without alerting the bully on the other side of the feeder, and which patiently wait on the sidelines for a conflict-free free turn. So keep your bird feeders full and relax a little while you watch the action!

Tom Blackburn    

2018 Manassas-Bull Run Christmas Bird Count

The 37th Annual Manassas-Bull Run Christmas Bird Count, held December 16th, was highly successful. Occasional rain was not too great a deterrent, and the day was relatively warm as about 120 people scoured woods, lakes, fields, and ponds counting about 65 species and several thousand individual birds. Abundant species included the Canada Goose, American Robin, European Starling, Ring-billed Gull, White-throated Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, and Dark-eyed Junco. For the third consecutive winter, we recorded a Northern Shrike at the Sully Woodlands. The Red-breasted Nuthatch was a welcome addition to the tally as it does not winter this far south every year.

About half the participants enjoyed a delicious complimentary lunch at Cabell’s Mill in Ellanor C. Lawrence Park, where birders swapped tales and shared in the camaraderie of the birding community. The full results are being tabulated, and new high and low counts by species will be reported soon. Copies of the full results for the count will be made available on the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia (ASNV) website and from the ASNV office, any of our sector leaders, or our compiler, Phil Silas. 

We at ASNV gratefully thank all the enthusiastic birders who helped out, both new and returning. We hope you had a good time and will be back for next year’s count, which will be on Sunday, December 15, 2019.

Six Virginia Birds That Speak Their Names

The easiest way to name a bird is to have it name itself! We know these six Virginia birds by names derived from their calls.
American Crow
“Crow” is one of the oldest words in the English language, descended from its Old English variant, “crawe.” Although there are no Old English speakers left to ask, the name is believed to be derived from the Crow’s unmistakable caw.

Eastern Whip-poor-will
Nocturnal, adeptly camouflaged, and very still, the Whip-poor-will is much more likely to be heard than seen. If you do hear a Whip-poor-will, you will probably continue to hear it—they repeat their simple song tirelessly on warm summer nights. According to the National Audubon Society, one patient observer recorded a Whip-poor-will that repeated its song 1,088 times in one unbroken stretch.
Closely related to the Whip-poor-will, the Chuck-will’s-widow’s song suggests that poor Chuck Will’s wife was an unlucky person.
Carolina Chickadee
The namesake call of a Carolina Chickadee may sound cheerful, but it is, in fact, a highly sophisticated alarm system. Researchers at Eastern Kentucky University found that the number of “dees” at the end of a Chickadee’s alarm call directly correlates to the threat level of a predator, with an Eastern Screech-owl eliciting up to twelve rapid-fire “dees.”

Eastern Towhee
Eastern Towhee, or Chewink? This bird has been known by both names, which come from different interpretations of its two-note call.
Veeries are known for their gracefully descending song, described by National Audubon as “ethereal” and by Bird Watcher’s Digest  “as if a ghost were playing electronic music.” However, the name comes from their harsh scolding call, a distinct “veer.”

12 Things to Know about ASNV Conservation Actions

ASNV’s Annual Report, now online, reviews major activities from July 2017 through June 2018, underscoring that ASNV has had a very productive fiscal year, during which the society:
  • Encouraged officials of the Fairfax County Park Authority to limit the flying of recreational drones in parks because of potential adverse impact on birds and persuaded the officials to remove Laurel Hill Park, near Lorton, from its drone pilot program,
  • Submitted comments on the draft Tree Action Plan of Fairfax County’s Urban Forest Management Division,
  • Continued work on free-roaming and unowned cats, urging Fairfax County to find solutions other than its trap, neuter, and release policy, which fails to protect birds,
  • Submitted comments to the National Park Service on its draft environmental impact statement for rehabilitation of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, asking that the agency protect natural resources and avoid construction activities that could disturb nesting Bald Eagles,
  • Opposed federal efforts to weaken the Clean Power Plan, urged elected officials to pass legislation supporting clean, non-carbon-based energy production, and supported National Audubon Society efforts to fend off congressional plans to weaken the Endangered Species Act,
  • Sponsored six Audubon Afternoons educational programs, garnering more than 300 attendees,
  • Expanded habitat restoration through the Audubon at Home program by certifying more home wildlife sanctuaries, expanding contiguous areas, and increasing the number of clients,
  • Used Citizen Science projects to collect, share, and analyze new data about Northern Virginia birds and other fauna, including the Northern Virginia Bird Survey, Christmas Bird Count, Winter Waterfowl Count, and a year-long bird count in Prince William County’s Cockpit Point Civil War Park,
  • Adopted the Lower Potomac River Important Bird Area, promoting conservation there for the past four years,
  • Worked with the federal Bureau of Land Management to restore meadowland at Meadowood Special Recreation Management Area,
  • Launched new youth education programs and partnerships while maintaining long-time commitments, such as leading bird hikes at the Friends of Wolf Trap First-Time Campers weekends, and
  • Initiated ambitious goals for providing more educational opportunities for youth and more support for schools and youth organizations.
To help ASNV continue its vital work for Northern Virginia wildlife and habitat, please make a tax-deductible contribution.

ASNV Panama Trip: Only Two Seats Left

Places on ASNV’s eight-day, seven-night Panamanian birding adventure are disappearing fast and down to the last two. The trip includes two nights at the Canopy Tower, three nights at Canopy Lodge, and two nights at Gamboa Rainforest Resort. See a sample of Panamanian bird life at the Canopy Lodge’s new live Panama Fruit Feeder Cam.


With more bird species than any other Central America nation, and with diverse ecosystems ranging from rainforest to coastline, Panama is a perfect destination for birders and nature lovers. Accompanied by an expert local birding guide, you’ll discover Panama’s tropical ecology and biological diversity while learning about current efforts to protect the country’s important wildlife habitats. Visit many well-known birding trails, woodland habitats, tropical rainforests, and the iconic Miraflores Locks at the Panama Canal. Visit here for a view of the Common Species at the Panama Fruit Feeder Cam.
Find details of the trip, including itinerary, pricing and other information, at holbrook.travel/asnv-pn19, where you can download the trip brochure and sign up for this birding adventure.  
If you have questions, contact Gerry Abbott at gerry@gerryabbott.net or at 870-219-2929.

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


AAH Launches Newsletter

The first edition of the Audubon at Home Newsletter was emailed to AAH clients and volunteer ambassadors on November 30. It is aimed at those interested in gardening that is designed to make a difference for wildlife by creating habitat one property at a time.
To date, more than 1,200 Northern Virginians have participated in the Audubon at Home program, and 606 properties on 5,500 acres have been certified as Wildlife Sanctuaries. If you would like to be added to the mailing list for future newsletters, write us at AAH@audubonva.org. For more information on the Audubon at Home program, visit our web page.
The newsletter can be viewed here. A hearty thank you to AAH Ambassador Margaret Fisher for taking the initiative to write and produce this first edition!

Upcoming ASNV Adult Education Programs

The New Year already has a varied slate of educational programs for adults. Please take a look below and plan ahead for your participation.


Waterfowl Workshop
This class is set for January 24th. For details, click here.


Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC)

Save the date! 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. 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.
This FREE workshop will cover the history of GBBC, its purpose, tips for identifying birds, and the protocols to be followed while counting. We’ll spend some time practicing with the birds at the ASNV feeders.
Classroom:  Saturday, February 2, 1 to 3 p.m.

To register, click here.


Early Spring Birding

Late March can offer spectacular birding, marking a transition between winter and spring, many of our winter birds, such as waterfowl and sparrows, are still around, but they are joined by early migrants returning to breeding territories. In this workshop, we will discuss birds that occur here at this time of year, with a special focus on species that are migrating into our region and their arrival dates. An ancillary field trip offers a chance to encounter many of these birds in their natural settings. Larry Meade, ASNV Education chair and president of Northern Virginia Bird Club, will lead. 
Classroom:  Thursday, March 28, 7 to 9 p.m.
Field Trip:  Saturday, March 30, TBD
To register, click here.


Dates to be determined
How to Lead a Nature Walk

Do you love birds? Wildflowers? Some other aspect of nature? Do you think you might like to share that love with others in an organized way but are not sure how to do it? If so, this workshop will answer a lot of questions and give you good tips on how to be a successful leader. We will spend some time in a classroom setting and follow that up with a walk to practice what you’ve learned. ASVN board member, world traveler, and photographer Dixie Sommers will lead.

Bill Young, author of the book The Fascination of Birds: From the Albatross to the Yellowthroat, will provide an overview of the jewels of spring migration. Bill has worked with Ashley Bradford, a local naturalist, to create a website that features natural history information and resources for visitors to Monticello Park in Alexandria. His YouTube channel has had more than a quarter of a million views of his natural history videos.
Birding by Ear Boot Camp

Spend a full day learning bird song in the field and on the trails with birding expert Greg Fleming. Some basic birding knowledge is a prerequisite, such as being able to identify some common local birds by sight. You won’t want to miss this workshop!
Night Sounds

Northern Virginia has a rich and diverse population of reptiles and amphibians. Learn more about them in a workshop led by Mark Khosravi, high school science teacher and part-time instructor and naturalist for Fairfax County Park Authority. The class will feature an evening lecture and hands on presentation on field herping and techniques.
Marine Birds and Mammals of the Southeastern United States

Marine birds have feathers, and marine mammals breathe air. But in almost every other way, these ocean denizens bear almost no resemblance at all to their counterparts on land. This workshop introduces participants to the identification, foraging strategies, behavior, and nesting/breeding ecology of marine birds and mammals typical of the southeastern Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States. Join Dr. Chris Haney, founder of Terra Mar Applied Sciences, for this two-part classroom instruction and pelagic field trip.

2018 Audubon Photography Award Winners

To Be Displayed in Northern Virginia
Winning images from the 2018 National Audubon Society annual photography contest, chosen by Audubon judges from more than 8,000 entries submitted by photographers from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and 10 Canadian provinces, are coming to Northern Virginia. The photographs will be displayed next month at Reston’s Walker Nature Center in an event co-sponsored by the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia.
Visit Walker Nature Center between February 8 and February 27 to see the winning entries and learn more about local birdlife.

Friday, February 8 to Wednesday, February 27
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Sunday 1  to 4 p.m.
Closed Tuesday
Walker Nature Center
11450 Glade Drive
Reston, VA 20191
Audubon Society of Northern Virginia
For more information on the annual Audubon Photography Awards contest, visit Awards.

Take Action


ASNV Speaks Out for Arlington County Natural Areas

ASNV submitted comments to the Arlington County Board in December on the final draft of Arlington County’s Public Spaces Master Plan (PSMP), which will guide public-space decisions for the next 20 years. ASNV urged the Arlington County Board to consider making the PSMP more unambiguously reflect the need for preservation of natural resources in Arlington County and the need for expansion of natural areas for public benefit. ASNV also urged the Arlington County Board to ensure that the plan clearly states that limited county resources are to be directed as a priority at improving and expanding natural areas and at providing for more such recreation opportunities as walking, hiking, observing nature, and cycling.
Because of intensive development in Arlington County and continuing pressures for even more development, the county must make natural resource management and restoration a higher priority. To that end, ASNV recommended that the board consider making the Urban Forest Master Plan and the Natural Resource Management Plan components of equal importance to the PSMP in the Comprehensive Plan Hierarchy, instead of subordinate elements of the PSMP. ASNV concluded that “reasonable and overdue structural change would help ensure that the priority natural area and natural resource goals identified in the 2016 Assessment are given the recognition they deserve and are not lost among multiple demands for other recreational amenities,”.


Tell Your State Legislators to Prioritize the Environment

On January 5, from 9 to 11 a.m., the Fairfax County General Assembly delegation will have a pre-session public hearing at the Fairfax County Government Center. To speak at the hearing register online here before January 3.

To learn about bills already pre-filed, visit www.vpap.org.


Speak Up for a Healthy Fairfax Environment

The Fairfax County Environmental Quality Advisory Council will hold a public hearing January 9 on their annual report on the state of the county’s environment. Speakers can discuss the report’s content, what’s missing, or other environmental issues.
This annual report examines such topics as climate change, ecological resources, parks, air and water quality, wildlife management, and land use. You can read it here:
The January 9 public hearing will be at 7:30 p.m. in conference rooms 4 and 5 in the Fairfax County Government Center, 12000 Government Center Parkway. The panel will accept written, oral, and video testimony. You can sign up to speak at EQAC@fairfaxcounty.gov or by calling 703-324-1380.


Conservation Lobby Day

The Virginia General Assembly will convene for its annual session on January 9 and meet for 45 days.
To ensure a strong conservation voice is heard early in the legislative session, please join fellow conservationists in Richmond on January 30, 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for the Virginia Conservation Network's (VCN) Conservation Lobby Day. Volunteer advocates and staff of network partners will meet with state legislators and encourage them to support environmental policy advancements. VCN will brief all attendees before visits with legislators.
This event is being held at Richmond’s Delta Hotel, where VCN has reserved a block of rooms at a discounted rate of $147/room for the night of Tuesday, January 29. This discounted group rate is valid only through December 31. Reserve your room at the discounted rate here.
Register at www.vcnva.org.  


More Drones Coming

Fairfax County law enforcement and emergency management staff are drafting an operations manual for using drones in their work. ASNV is participating in the task force drafting the manual. Below is the schedule. ASNVers may wish to speak at some of the public meetings or submit comments. 
  • January 7:  draft manual posted on website and open for public comment
  • January 7 to 31:  four public information sessions around the county
  • February 8:  end of public comment period
  • February 11:  last task force meeting, 7 p.m., place TBA
  • March 12:  present manual to the Board of Supervisors Public Safety Committee
  • April 9:  present manual to the full Board of Supervisors for approval 
For more details, contact Roy Shrout at Roy.Shrout@fairfaxcounty.gov.
For a National Audubon Society article about drones, go here: https://www.audubon.org/news/how-will-drones-affect-birds.

Bird Walks


Burke Lake, Burke, VA
Wednesday, January 9 - 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.

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

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



Brown’s Chapel/Lake Newport, Reston, VA 
Sunday January 20 - 8:00 to 10:30 a.m.

On this short walk we’ll stroll by the edge of Lake Newport and then walk through the woods and fields surrounding the Chapel. Meet leader Jean Tatalias in the parking lot. Sponsored by ASNV.

Getting there: From Route 7, go west on Baron Cameron Ave, and turn north on Village Rd. (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.


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

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

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

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. 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.

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