June 2019

Quick Links


Our 2019 Birdathon is still accepting donations. This year we have seven teams from around the area ranging in age from the “Scarlet Teenagers” to several senior teams. Birdathon is a friendly competition to see which team can spot the most species of birds in one 24-hour period while raising funds for ASNV. The winners of “Most Species Seen” and “Most Funds Raised” will be announced at our Annual Meeting and Audubon Afternoon on June 9 at 2:30 p.m. at the National Wildlife Center. Join the fun and donate to your favorite team!


Audubon at Home welcomes Jill Spohn as their new Program Assistant. Jill is an AAH Ambassador, a Fairfax Master Naturalist, an avid gardener, and wildlife enthusiast. 

Read more about Jill here.

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. - noon)
  • June 12
  • July 17

Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge 

(7:30 a.m - noon)
  • June 26
  • July 31

Butterfly and Dragonfly Surveys—will resume in April

(8:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.)
  • June 7, Occoquan Regional Park
  • June 14, Occoquan Bay NWR
  • June 21, Meadowood Recreation Area
  • June 28, Metz Wetlands Preserve
  • June 29  Annual Occoquan Bay-area Butterfly Count

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.

Advocate Against Climate Change

We 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.

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

by Tom Blackburn

If you talk to long-time bird watchers, they will tell you that birding used to be easier and more fun because there were so many more birds. The statistics bear them out. Bird populations in North America declined from 11.5 billion birds in 1970 to only 10 billion birds today. Many species have suffered declines of 40% in that period, and some species have lost nearly 2/3 of their numbers. 

Everyone knows that habitat loss is a critical cause of the decline in bird populations. But how much thought have you given to other factors that contribute to the problem? A joint study by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that cats kill about 2.4 billion birds per year in North America – that’s nearly one quarter of the bird population! 1.7 billion of those deaths are caused by unowned cats, and 700 million birds per year are killed by pet cats that are allowed to roam outside. 

The American Bird Conservancy estimates that up to one billion birds per year are killed by collisions with buildings. Brightly lit buildings attract birds that migrate at night, causing them to stray from their migration routes or collide with them. During the day, birds fly into glass windows and reflective surfaces because they don’t recognize them as obstacles. This is a growing problem in Northern Virginia. As more high-rise buildings are constructed in the Tysons area, Reston and other commercial centers, the threat to birds from lighting and reflective surfaces is increasing.  

Light pollution also causes disruptions in the circadian rhythms and reproductive behavior of birds. That makes it more difficult for them to produce enough young to offset the losses. 

ASNV is working to address the key threats to birds. We talk with county officials and the public about the threat to birds from cats and we advocate for bird-friendly legislation on a state and national level. We also support reductions in outdoor lighting in non-commercial areas and LED lighting that is less disruptive to birds and other wildlife. Recently, we have been urging developers to design buildings that are less hazardous to birds.

You can help reduce the threats to our area’s birds. Keep your pet cats indoors, and don’t support “community cats” – the unowned cats that are so destructive to birds. The America Bird Conservancy has good ideas on how to reduce the likelihood that birds will collide with the windows in your house. You can join ASNV’s efforts to urge our government officials to work for more bird-friendly buildings and environments. Email me at President@audubonva.org if you’d like to help. And don’t forget to vote on June 11 for candidates who are enthusiastic about protecting our environment. The birds are depending on you!

Why You Should Add “Pelagic Trip” To Your Vocabulary

Sign up for our Pelagic Birds and Mammals Workshops on June 4 and 11 plus Join us July 6 in the Outer Banks for a Pelagic Trip

By Greg Butcher

And now for something completely different!

Most birdwatchers start out feeding birds in their backyard or at the duck pond. During spring migration, we all get excited by warblers and orioles and tanagers.

But there’s a whole other world out there – the ocean!

And ASNV has found the perfect ocean interpreter – Chris Haney. Chris has been a professional marine biologist for decades and also an avid birdwatcher basically all his life.

We asked Chris to teach ornithology for us, which he will do next fall, but he urged us to offer a marine birds and mammals course as well.

The field trip is scheduled for July 6 out of the Outer Banks in North Carolina (about a five-hour drive from northern Virginia). The pelagic trips out of North Carolina are the best on the East Coast – and normally the closest to us.

Notice that the course is about mammals as well as birds! July in North Carolina is not a good time to see the big whales, but there are almost certain to be Bottlenose Dolphins and there are chances to see Atlantic Spotted Dolphins and Gervais Beaked Whales (a small whale, but still a lot bigger than a dolphin!). And a big marine turtle or sunfish (Mola mola) is possible too.

Black-capped Petrel, Eric Bowles via FlickrNorth Carolina is the best place in the world to see Black-capped Petrels, very rare birds with a very restricted range – and our July trip should have several to many. Other petrels are possible as well, but there will almost certainly be 4-6 species of shearwaters, 2 or 3 species of storm-petrels, and an interesting tern or two (perhaps Sooty or Bridled).
Worried about sea-sickness? There are several new techniques for fighting it,including a prescription that works for almost everyone. Chris can provide the details – and explain the difference between a petrel and a storm-petrel.

The field trip has been separated from the course, so you can do one or the other. The course is 2 Tuesday nights – June 4 and 11 – but it might be worth it even if you have to miss one of the nights.

So, take this opportunity for a new adventure. Please sign up right away so we can finalize our plans.

Upcoming Classes and Events

Marine Birds and Mammals of the Southeastern United States Workshop Classroom
Dates: Tuesdays, June 4 and June 11
Time: 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.
Location: National Wildlife Federation, 11100 Wildlife Center Drive, Reston, VA 20190

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 two-session 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 a pelagic field trip on July 6. The trip will depart from Hatteras Village on the Outer Banks, North Carolina. There is no limit on registrations for the workshop but the pelagic trip is limited to the capacity of the boat (19 people).

Members: $100
Non-members: $140


Marine Birds and Mammals of the Southeastern United States Workshop Field Trip
Date: Saturday, July 6, 2019
Location: Outer Banks, NC
Fee: $175 (includes gratuity; participants are responsible for accommodations)



Audubon Afternoon: “Raptors in Virginia, Maryland, and DC”
Date: Sunday, June 9
Time: 2:30 to 5:00 p.m.
Location: National Wildlife Federation, 11100 Wildlife Center Drive, Reston 20190

Please join us for an exciting Audubon Afternoon, when Secret Garden Birds and Bees will present “Raptors of Virginia, Maryland, and DC.” Secret Garden will bring five live raptors for us to see and photograph, including a Red-tailed Hawk and a Red-shouldered Hawk. We’ll gather for refreshments at 2:30 p.m., have a brief Annual Meeting where we elect officers and directors at 3:00 p.m., and begin the main program at about 3:15 p.m. This is an event the whole family will enjoy!  As always, we welcome any food and drink that you would like to share with everyone.


FREE Butterfly Workshop
Date: Monday, June 24
Time: 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.
Location: National Wildlife Federation, 11100 Wildlife Center Drive, Reston, VA 20190

The sight of butterflies fluttering around on a warm day is one of the most iconic signs of summer. These beautiful insects usually only live for a few weeks as adults, but they make quite an impression while they are in their full glory. There is a large variety of butterfly species in our area and we are going to census them on June 29 during the 19th Annual North American Butterfly Association (NABA) Count sponsored by ASNV. The NABA count takes place in and around our Occoquan Bay Count Circle. In preparation, Dr. Leslie Ries will be teaching a butterfly workshop focusing on identifying butterflies in Northern Virginia. The classroom portion of the workshop is FREE, but registration is required.


Catherine Ledec, Champion of Nature

By Lisa Mackem

The Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations has named conservation advocate and long-time ASNV member Catherine (Cathy) Ledec as the County’s Citizen of the Year. Cathy’s dynamic volunteer leadership includes several Fairfax County Park Authority programs and other volunteer efforts across Fairfax County.

“Conservation begins at home”, says Cathy, who began planting native plants in her own garden near Huntley Meadows Park in 1993. She began to see more wildlife – some spilling over from Huntley Meadows Park. While volunteering at the Huntley Meadows Park Visitor Center one day, Cathy saw a flyer for the Christmas Bird Count. She was hooked. “How can you not be intrigued by what’s around you?” She asked. She attended more bird counts and met her husband at one of them. They were married in 2005.

Cathy and her husband participate annually in the DC and Fort Belvoir Bird Counts and Cathy has used the data collected to inform recommendations on land use projects in the area. In reviewing these development projects, knowledge of the wildlife present in the area that could be impacted by a project is crucial. “It is important for all of us to participate in citizen science and the Christmas Bird Count is a fun way to do this,” she says.
Cathy volunteers as President of her HOA and also leads activities in local parks. She participated and chaired (2014-2018) the Environment and Recreation (E&R) Committee for the Mount Vernon Council of Citizens Association (MVCCA), which hears land use and other project cases in the Mount Vernon District. MVCCA advises the Mount Vernon District Supervisor and Planning Commissioner on land use and other projects in the District. During her tenure as E&R Committee Chair, Cathy worked hard to lead and guide environmental recommendations, writing or contributing to more than fifteen MVCCA Resolutions that provided environmental recommendations for local development projects.

Two significant and complex conservation activities impacting Huntley Meadows Park (HMP) in Alexandria, VA are Cathy’s proudest accomplishments. First, she led the Friends of Huntley Meadows Park and a team of colleagues through the complex state regulatory process with the State Corporation Commission, successfully challenging a 2.6-mile transmission line rebuild project on HMP property. As a result of this challenge, the utility company agreed to change the project design to avoid permanent damage to a historic viewshed and to reduce the transmission line collision risk for birds. Ultimately, the proposed monopoles were lowered from 125 to 100 feet so that they are at or only slightly over the top of the tree line. Huntley Meadows Park is a regionally and globally recognized wetland wildlife and bird refuge, and the reduced collision risk is good news for large raptors (including Bald Eagles), herons, waterfowl, and many other birds. Cathy’s activism also protected rare and threatened species of plants in Huntley Meadows by requiring the utility contractors to exercise care while working on park property for this project.

The second major effort at Huntley Meadows Park resulted in the removal of two conceptual paved bike trails (intended as cut-through commuter corridors) from Fairfax County’s Plans. In the process, Cathy secured more than 6,500 letters of support from organizations and individuals. Her tireless efforts on behalf of the park and its wildlife led to the Board of Supervisors’ unanimous vote in favor of removing the proposed trails from the County’s plans. As a result, Fairfax County’s largest conservation area is now protected from the direct and indirect impacts of these proposed transportation corridors. 

Cathy says that it is humbling to follow in the footsteps of the late Norma Hoffman, one of the founders of the Friends of Huntley Meadows Park who is best known for halting the construction of a road through the park in the 1980s. Cathy is a Virginia Master Naturalist (Fairfax Chapter) and an ASNV Audubon-at-Home Ambassador, advising individuals and groups about native plants and trees in their gardens. She is a bluebird box monitor at Huntley Meadows and Site Leader for the Invasive Management Area program of the Fairfax County Park Authority. Cathy’s favorite bird is the Eastern Towhee.


ASNV is primarily a volunteer-driven organization. We rely on people like you to carry out most of our organization’s functions.

If you would like to volunteer your time to help support birds and the environment, check out the following opportunities. If you are interested, please send me an email at president@audubonva.org and if you have other ideas about projects you’d like to undertake, let me know about those too.

Volunteer Coordinator: We need an enthusiastic person to help us manage our volunteers. You would keep a roster of volunteers, publicize volunteer opportunities in our newsletter and website, coordinate the volunteers’ activities, and help ensure that their volunteer experiences are good ones.

Speaker: We receive requests from time to time for speakers who can talk about birds, wildlife, habitat, and conservation. Let me know if you would like to join our Speakers Forum. ASNV can provide some training, access to photographs from the National Audubon Society website, and an already-prepared slide show of common birds that you can use or modify to suit your preferences. 

Public Events Representative: ASNV attends festivals and conferences, where we set up a table with information about our organization and items to purchase such as hats and books. We also have a wide variety of children’s activities. You would pick up materials for the event from the National Wildlife Federation building in Reston and be our representative to the public, discussing ASNV’s mission and current activities and encouraging people to join. 

We have a specific need coming up at Ellanor Lawrence Park 12:00 to 2:00 p.m. on May 11 to celebrate World Migratory Bird Day. This year’s theme for WMB Day is “Protect Birds: Be the Solution to Plastic Pollution.” Let us know if you can help.

Finance Committee Member: We need one person with some financial/investment experience to help us manage our investments. You would meet, either by phone or in person, with our other committee members four times each year to discuss whether we should update our investment strategy.

Tom Blackburn


Take Action

by Glenda Booth

Elect Conservation-minded Officials

Virginians will elect the entire Virginia General Assembly this year and local officials in some jurisdictions. It’s important to elect candidates who support conservation and the environment. Primary elections to elect the candidates for the Democratic Party in all jurisdictions and for the Republican Party in some jurisdictions will be held on June 11. Information on the election and candidates can be found on the website for each county and city. 

Posing questions and expressing your views to candidates is critical to encourage them to support strong conservation policies. Check your candidates’ websites or call them for information on town meetings and other appearances. 

The Future of Claude Moore Park

The National Park Service (NPS), George Washington Memorial Parkway office, is undertaking a planning process to decide on the future of Claude Moore farm area of Turkey Run Park near McLean. ASNV sent comments advocating for more natural habitat and native plants that support birds and other wildlife. ASNV recommended that park officials conduct a comprehensive biological inventory in all seasons to inform decision-making about future uses. For more information, visit go.nps.gov/ClaudeMooreFuture.

Drones in Fairfax County

On May 21, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the Public Safety Unmanned Aircraft Systems program developed by staff for law enforcement and emergency management operations. ASNV participated in an advisory task force in developing the user manual and advocated for consideration of natural areas, natural resource parks, refuges and other places where birds and other wildlife are likely to be present. On May 22, Roy Shrout, the County’s Deputy Coordinator for Emergency Management, wrote, “Thank you for the support and all the great things your team brought to the program.”

Alexandria’s Environmental Action Plan

Alexandria seeks comments on its draft Environmental Action Plan, on 10 topics including tree canopy, climate change, energy conservation, air quality and reducing automobile dependency. You can read the draft plan here. The city council will consider it and hold a public hearing on June 15. Email your comments to Eco-City Alexandria@alexandriava.gov.

June Bird of the Month: Northern Mockingbird

by Elise Brosnan

A few years ago, while I was at the dentist’s, I looked out the window and saw a welcome distraction: a Northern Mockingbird landed on a telephone pole, jumped a few feet in the air, and then gracefully fluttered back down. It repeated this behavior for several minutes.
What was this bird doing? If I had seen the whole story, I might have figured it out: Bald Eagles engage in aerial combat, Mallards tussle on the ground, and Northern Mockingbirds have dance battles. In what an academic paper delightfully terms “hostile dancing,” mockingbirds “dance” to proclaim the boundaries of their territory and intimidate would-be usurpers.
Of course, mockingbirds’ dancing is not nearly as renowned as their singing. Northern Mockingbirds famously copy bird calls and other environmental sounds to create long and complicated songs of their own. Readers may be familiar with the old American lullaby “Hush Little Baby,” where a child is promised a singing mockingbird if he or she behaves. This is not an empty promise or artistic license: because of their ability to learn new songs, mockingbirds were often kept as pets throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. The birds were routinely poached from the wild, and populations suffered as a result. Mockingbirds rebounded after the passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which outlawed the capture and sale of native migratory birds.
Mockingbirds were a favorite pet of Thomas Jefferson, who owned many of them throughout his life. He kept at least four during his time as president, making Northern Mockingbirds the first birds to live inside the White House.


Bird Walks



Brawner’s Farm, Manassas National Battlefield Park, Manassas, VA
Sunday, June 2, 8:00 a.m. to noon

The fields of this area abound with sparrows, hawks, and butterflies. Join leader Larry Meade to find them all. Sponsored by ASNV.

Getting there: Travel west on I-66 to Exit 47B, Route 234 North (Sudley Road). Proceed past the turnoff to the visitor center and turn left on Route 29 (Lee Highway). At the west end of the park, turn right (north) on Pageland Lane. Look for the Brawner Farm Parking turnoff on the right.



Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, Vienna, VA
Sunday, June 9, 8:00 to 11:00 a.m.

The fields and wooded areas of the park, as well as the water edge, are good birding territory. Colt Gregory and Jean Tatalias lead this walk sponsored by ASNV and Meadowlark Gardens. Meet in the Visitor Center.

Getting there: The gardens are located off of Beulah Road, between Route 7 and Route 123, south of the Dulles Access Road. From the Beltway, take Route 7 toward Tysons Corner. Drive 4.5 miles west on Route 7, turn left onto Beulah Road and drive 2.5 miles to the gardens entrance on the right.



Walker Nature Center and Snakeden Stream Valley, Reston, VA
Sunday, June 16, 7:30 to 10:30 a.m.

Bring Dad on this Father’s Day walk to enjoy the cool path down to the stream to look for our breeding bird residents. Sponsored by Reston Association, The Bird Feeder of Reston, and ASNV.  

Getting there: From VA-267 W/Dulles Toll Road take exit 14 (Hunter Mill Road/VA-674). Turn left onto Hunter Mill Road (VA-674), right onto Sunrise Valley Drive, left onto S Lakes Drive, left onto Twin Branches Road. Then take third right onto Glade Drive. Meet at the Nature House at 11450 Glade Drive in Reston.


Twin Branches Trail, Reston, VA
Sunday, July 7, 7:30 to 10:30 a.m.

Wrap up your weekend with a bird walk in the cooler morning hours and see what breeding birds you can find with leader Robin Duska. Sponsored by The Reston Association, the Bird Feeder of Reston, and ASNV.  

Getting there: From I-66 west, to exit 60 to go north on Route 123. Turn left on Hunters Mill Road/ Route 674. Turn left on Lawyers Road, Route 673. Turn right on Twin Branches Road. Park along Glade Drive near the intersection with Twin Branches. Meet at the corner.


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 
Copyright © 2019 Audubon Society of Northern Virginia