I know we are not out of the winter woods just yet but it certainly does feel like Spring now after all that snow. Frogs are vocal, birds are certainly active and there’s a lot of pleasant noise out there so get out of the house or office and enjoy it!
Speaking of getting out, Meadowood is going to need a bit of help in late April or early May. For those of you who may not know it, Meadowood is a lovely 800 acre property managed by the Bureau of Land Management down off Gunston Road near Mason Neck State Park. It is part of the Lower Potomac Important Bird Area that we are helping with. Jim Waggener leads year-round bird walks there on a regular basis as advertised in our newsletter. We are also helping with the Quail Unlimited group to create a suitable habitat to encourage the return of the Northern bobwhite at Meadowood and part of that will include a request for volunteers to help plant a variety of native shrubs to act as hedgerows and cover for the quail. Meadowood and ASNV will appreciate any time you can give on an upcoming Saturday or Sunday. Stay tuned for a specific date.
We are also in the final stages of putting together our Spring Birdathon which will be bigger and better in terms of prizes and rewards than last year. We really want to hit it out of the park this time around and it’s a lot of fun as those of you who participated last year will remember. It doesn’t take a lot of your time but the benefits are very important so start to think about your teams now and keep an eye peeled for upcoming details in the newsletter. stopping in Delaware Bay to feast on horseshoe crabs and replenish its energy reserves. It should be a fascinating evening so come on out!
In the meantime, please stay in touch
Taking Action with Audubon At Home
By Cliff Fairweather, ASNV Naturalist
As the new ASNV naturalist, I'm thrilled to be part of an organization that takes habitat protection and restoration as seriously as ASNV does. I grew up in Northern Virginia and have witnessed the loss of local native habitat firsthand. Skunks and box turtles were occasional visitors to our yard at my childhood home in Alexandria and a small forest stood nearby.
That home still stands, but the last turtle or skunk appeared there decades ago and the forest is now houses. This is just a microcosm of what's been happening to natural habitat and biodiversity regionally.and globally. Not to start my series of columns in the Potomac Flier on a downer, but we've got to face facts. We're living in an era of dramatic, global habitat loss and consequent biodiversity decline.and human activities are the cause.
Continued impoverishment of biodiversity isn't inevitable, but we need to take action at all levels -- global to individual (that's you and me) -- to reverse it. Now the good news: we can do something about local biodiversity loss around our homes, schoolyards, places of worship, and businesses by restoring native habitat.
The Audubon At Home program can help you do your part by helping you create your own wildlife sanctuary. We've added an incentive this spring with the launch of our new Wildlife Sanctuary certification program. We'll certify properties that provide habitat for at least 10 specified "sanctuary species", including birds, insects, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. Many of these can even be drawn to small spaces, including townhouse backyards. Certified sanctuaries can display an attractive sign designating their status.
We'll send a well-trained volunteer, an Audubon At Home Ambassador, to visit your property and provide you with guidance on how to make it a wildlife sanctuary. To learn how you can participate, call or email me (contact information below).
We're training new Audubon At Home Ambassadors and our recent orientation workshops attracted nearly 30 participants, over half of whom indicated that they wanted to become Ambassadors. This tremendous response means that we'll soon have more capacity to guide homeowners and certify wildlife sanctuaries.
Cliff manages the ASNV Audubon at Home program; he can be reached at email@example.com or 703-256-6895.
Waterfowl Survey Results
Fifteen ASNV teams took to the field on January 23 and 24 to count waterfowl and other water-related birds. Under Larry Cartwright’s capable management, they surveyed sections of the Potomac River from Great Falls downstream to Quantico, as well as several inland lakes and ponds, such as Huntley Meadows and Burke Lake.
With just three years of data (the survey was switched from December to January in 2008), it is difficult to draw any conclusions, but there were some significant changes in the counts from last year to this. For example, the teams found far fewer Canada geese -- down from 14,935 in 2009 to 8,724 in 2010 -- and there were similar declines, proportionately, for mallards, common mergansers, and American black ducks. On the other hand, the counts for lesser scaup, ruddy ducks, and northern pintails increased significantly over last year’s count. Perhaps the most exciting find did not involve waterfowl at all; namely, king rails and Virginia rails overwintering at Huntley Meadows. King rails bred there last summer for the first time in 10 years, and Virginia rails made their first documented breeding attempt there, so it is a real treat to have them during the winter as well.
Look for full details of the count to appear on the ASNV website soon.
Upcoming Field Trips
Registration is not required unless noted. Contact the ASNV office at 703-256-6895 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.
Winter Only Slowed Us Down
Mother Nature and Old Man Winter collaborated to cancel and/or postpone most of our walks in February, but we persevered. The trip to Southern Maryland, led by Sean Duffy, produced most of its target birds -- snow bunting, brown-headed nuthatch, horned larks, American pipits, a barn owl, bald eagles, plus many sea and freshwater ducks. Kevin Munroe’s tour of Reston's lakes turned up wood ducks, American black ducks, ring-necked and ruddy ducks, common and hooded mergansers, plus Cooper’s, red-shouldered, and red-tailed hawks and a merlin. When the snow finally cleared from the paths at Riverbend, 14 people walked up and down river and found ring-necked ducks, common mergansers, American coots, buffleheads, a pair of wood ducks, bald eagles and hundreds of ring-billed gulls. Two V's of Canada geese, numbering at least 100 birds each, flew high over us, headed north.
Soon the woods will be filled with songbirds and wildflowers, so look over the list of upcoming walks and join ASNV as we enjoy the outdoors.
Algonkian Regional Park
Tuesday, Mar. 23, 8:30-11:30 AM
The Potomac River and lots of edge habitat make this trip to Algonkian Regional Park into a productive outing. Check for red-headed woodpeckers with Bill Brown. For directions and additional information, click here.
Sky Meadows State Park
Saturday, April 10, 1-3:00 PM
Explore a variety of habitats at Sky Meadows State Park with Bill Brown, looking especially for red-headed woodpeckers, returning spring migrants and soaring raptors. For directions and additional information, click here.
Runnymede Park, Herndon
Sunday, April 11, 7:30-10:30 AM
Runnymede Park follows Sugarland Run and includes oak woods, pine and cedar woods and a large meadow. We’ll look for lingering winter birds and early spring migrants. The path will be muddy in places and has a rocky stretch. Wear appropriate footwear. Jay and Carol Hadlock will lead. For directions and additional information, click here.
Gesher Jewish Day School
Sunday, April 18, 8:30 AM
Join Jeanne Leckert for a nature walk at one of Fairfax County’s newest dedicated “green” spaces. Woods, meadows, a pond and vernal pools make for an abundance of wildlife. For directions and additional information, click here.
Wildflowers at Riverbend
Sunday, April 18, 2-4:00 PM
Riverbend Park has a spectacular display of spring wildflowers and Katy Simenson will share her extensive knowledge of them. For directions and additional information, click here.
Silver Lake Regional Park
Saturday, April 17, 7:30 AM
Our first visit to this new park in Prince William County was in winter; join Marc Ribaudo to see what it looks like in spring. No limit, but please sign up with the ASNV office at email@example.com or 703-256-6895. For directions and additional information, click here.
Bles Park, Ashburn New!
Tuesday, April 20, 7:30 AM
Bles Park is an interesting mix of wetland, open space and riparian forest along the banks of the Potomac and Broad Run. Bill Brown will lead the search for spring migrants. For directions and additional information, click here.
Bright Pond, Reston
Sunday, April 25, 7:30-10:30 AM
There is always a nice mix of spring migrants and returning summer residents in this natural area. Andy Rabin will lead the walk. For directions and additional information, click here.
Burke Lake Park
Friday, April 30, 8-11:00 AM
Beginners are welcome on this walk, led by Kathleen Britts and Jen Connors. Check the woods and the lake for spring migrants at Burke Lake Park. Meet at the carousel parking lot, first left after entering the park. Limit 10. Please sign up with the ASNV office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 703-256-6895. Questions? Call Kathleen at 703-250-9225. For directions and additional information, click here.
Warblers at Riverbend Park
Saturday, May 1, 12 Noon-3:00 PM
Saturday, May 8, 12 Noon-3:00 PM
If you like to sleep in on weekends, but don’t want to miss out on spring migration, don’t worry -- Rob and Crystal Young are offering 2 opportunities to find these colorful jewels of spring at Riverbend Park. No limit, but please sign up with the ASNV office at email@example.com or 703-256-6895. For directions and additional information, click here.
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 703-256-6895. 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.
Thursday, April 8 from 7 - 9:30 PM (classroom)
Saturday, April 10 from 1:30 - 3:30 PM (field trip)
Learn to identify some common spring wildflowers and plant families as well as 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 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.
Classroom location: Fairfax High School, 3501 Rebel Run, Fairfax, VA
Field trip location: Riverbend Park
Instructor: Marijke Gate has worked as a naturalist at Riverbend Park for 15 years. She has a Ph.D. in zoology and was previously a biology lecturer in southern Africa. However, spring wildflowers are her favorite topic.
Cost: $35 members; $40 non-members
Plant Lore and Ethnobotany
Thursdays, April 22 and 29 from 7 - 9:30 PM (classroom dates)
Saturday, May 1 from 10 AM - 2:30 PM (field trip)
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.
Classroom location: Fairfax High School, 3501 Rebel Run, Fairfax, VA
Field trip location: Thompson Wildlife Management Area in Linden, VA from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Meet at Parking Lot #6 in the Thompson Wildlife Management Area.
Getting there: Go West on I-66 to the Linden/Front Royal exit. You turn left over the highway and then left again onto VA-55 (you'll see a large gas station straight ahead after the turn). Travel one and 1/2 miles to the hamlet of Linden and make another left onto Freezeland Rd. (county rd 638). About a mile later you bear right toward the Blue Mountain Estates. Go about 4 miles up the mountain to parking lot #6 which is near the fire tower (that has the best options for plants).
Instructor: Alonso Abugattas is both a Master Gardener and a Naturalist, as well as an instructor for both. He is currently the acting manager of Long Branch Nature Center in Arlington County and is a well known local naturalist and storyteller. He is a former officer for the Virginia Native Plant Society, including past president of the local Potowmack Chapter.
Cost: $50 members; $60 non-members
May 4 and 11 from 7 to 9:30 PM (classroom dates)
Saturday, May 15 at 7 AM (field trip)
The Eastern United States is the best place in the world to see warblers, and 37 species are expected annually in Virginia alone! Warblers delight birders with their beautiful colors and cheerful songs, but they can also be frustrating to observe when they just won’t sit still or when a flock passes by in the fall with many species looking similar to one another. This workshop will focus on tips for identifying spring males and females, the grouping of warblers by genus, conservation issues related to warblers, and where to see warblers in the Northern Virginia area. Warblers of the Great Lakes Region and Eastern North America by Chris Earley is a recommended text. Great pictures, well written descriptions, and migration timetables are all included.
Classroom location: Fairfax High School, 3501 Rebel Run, Fairfax, VA
Field trip location: Huntley Meadows Park at the South Kings HWY/Telegraph Road entrance
Instructor: Nolan Britt teaches environmental science and biology at Bishop O’Connell High School. He has been an active participant in regional Christmas Bird Counts and hawk watches and serves as co-leader of the Northern Virginia Teen Bird Club.
Cost: $50 members; $60 non-members
Audubon At Home and Beyond
Saturday, May 8 OR Saturday, May 22, 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. This workshop will be offered twice this spring on May 8 and May 22. Please specify which day you are enrolling in.
Location: 515 Alabama Drive, Herndon
Cost: $25, to cover class materials and a light lunch
Instructor: Carol Hadlock is an ASNV Master Naturalist and national Wildlife Federation Habitat Steward.
Limit: 10 students
Advocacy Update: Conservation Depends on You
Stop the Highway through Winkler
The Virginia Department of Transportation needs to hear from many concerned people about their proposal to put a ramp and road through the Winkler Preserve just off I-395 in Alexandria at the Mark Center. The most important thing you can do to help SAVE THE WINKLER PRESERVE is to submit online comments on the Virginia Department of Transportation's (VDOT) website NOW. Tell VDOT not to put a ramp and road through the Winkler Preserve for the Mark Center (BRAC 133) Access Study.
To Read the report and share your thoughts online. go to: http://www.vamegaprojects.com/faqsdocuments/mark-center-documents/.
The Virginia Department of Transportation has released a report concluding that building a 34-foot exit ramp and highway through Alexandria’s Winkler Preserve is the better of two options for creating access to the Pentagon’s new office tower at the Mark Center. The ramp and road would take 30 percent of the nature preserve through condemnation.
Why is this a bad proposal?
- Winkler is a natural park in a densely-developed city. It is one of the largest forested parks in the city.
- The preserve’s diverse habitats represent a unique resource to the public.
- The proposal will diminish what is a naturally rich outdoor classroom and science lab for 12,000 students who have few comparable places to go in the city.
- The 6-acre increase in nearby impervious surfaces will likely create more runoff and pollution in the preserve.
- The Pentagon and VDOT should not overrule the wishes of the local government.
- Northern Virginians should not have an ill-conceived transportation project forced on them by a misguided Department of Defense decision. We cannot make up for their wrongs.
Winkler Preserve is a 44-acre nature preserve between I-395 and Beauregard Street in western Alexandria. It has forests, meadows, walking trails and a pond. A former pig farm and dump site, it was donated by the Winkler family in 1979 and endowed as a nature preserve. Some trees are over 100 years old. Winkler has a rich biodiversity and is largely restored. Over 700,000 native plants have been planted.
Because this is a local, state and federal issue, contact your local, state and federal legislators. VDOT must hear from many people.
Opponents of VDOT’s Plan
Congressman Jim Moran, Alexandria City Council; Delegate Charnielle Herring
For more info and to sign an online petition, visit Friends of Winkler online.
Were you lucky enough to see the varied thrush that’s been visiting Herndon? If not, you can see Larry Meade’s picture of the Western visitor on our Flickr site. If you’re not a member yet, join today. It’s easy..
Check out Our Photo Album!
Photos provided by ASNV members Bill Brown, Larry Meade and Sheryl Pollock. Thank you!
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
• March 31
• April 14
• April 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
• March 24
• April 7
• April 21
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
Hidden Oaks Nature Center (FCPA) sponsors weekly bird walks along the Accotink Stream Valley.
In addition to the usual winter birds (brown creepers, winter wrens, yellow-rumped warblers, white-throated sparrows, dark-eyed juncos) we’ve been seeing and enjoying the antics of a red-headed woodpecker, a species not seen at the park since 1992. The bird is quite handsome and vocal and has been busily caching food. As winter wears on there is an increasing possibility that we’ll hear or see our resident barred owls. Other raptors have been seen recently including sharp-shinned hawk, Cooper’s hawk, and red-shouldered hawk. The Cooper’s hawk was on the ground near the path and might have just tried to snatch breakfast. We never know what we’ll run into..
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.
Fairfax Master Naturalist -- Purple Martins
The next chapter meeting of the Fairfax Master Naturalists will feature Nanette Mickle, who will talk about purple martins from her vast experience. The meeting, which is open to the public, is March 23rd at 7pm in the Lemon Road Elementary School library.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 703-255-3021. Thanks!
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.
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 email@example.com or 703-256-6895.
Join us for a free screening of Coal Country -- a film about modern coal mining -- Friday, April 16, 2010, 7 p.m., Aldersgate United Methodist Church, corner of Fort Hunt Road and Collingwood Road, Mount Vernon area of Fairfax County.
There’s a good chance that your electricity is generated at least in part by burning coal mined from Appalachia. How can people of faith be better stewards of the environment and address clean energy and climate change? Several Mount Vernon-area congregations will host a screening of the film, Coal Country.
Learn more about the movie online.
Sponsors: The Green Team at Aldersgate United Methodist, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Mount Vernon Unitarian Church, Greater Washington Interfaith Power and Light, Friends of Huntley Meadows Park, Friends of Dyke Marsh, Chesapeake Climate Action Network
Contact Glenda Booth, National Audubon Society and Friends of Dyke Marsh, or firstname.lastname@example.org, Greater Washington Interfaith Power and Light, for more information.
Climate Change: Time is Running Out
The U.S. Senate is moving to consider a climate change bill. Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb are swing votes. They need to know that Virginians care. We must speak up.
Please contact your Senators today, and ask them to support a strong energy and climate change bill:
Senator James Webb, U. S. Senate, Washington, D. C. 20510
Senator Mark Warner, U. S. Senate, Washington, D. C. 20510
Click here for fact sheets on global warming.
Moran in Charge of Conservation Funding
Northern Virginia’s Eighth District Congressman Jim Moran, friend of ASNV, has become chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies. This subcommittee writes the annual appropriations bill that provides funds for national parks, refuges, wilderness areas, environment protection, Chesapeake Bay, climate change programs and other activities. Congressman Moran has been instrumental in securing funds for the Audubon at Home program. Congratulations, Congressman Moran!