Hello Everybody!

As we slowly slip into winter from a delightful Fall season, there are still plenty of reasons to get outside with your binoculars. Out in my neck of the woods in western Loudoun, all of the woodpecker species are particularly abundant -- especially the downy, hairy and pileated -- and you can always see the not-so-common red headed woodpecker out at Sky Meadows State Park managed by DCR's Tim Skinner and his staff. And, of course, all of our "year 'rounder" species seem to be everywhere: the chickadees, tufted titmouse, and even the raptors that stick around such as the red tailed, red shouldered and Cooper's hawks. If you're looking for something to see and don't know where to go, you can always ask us at 703-438-6008 or info@audubonva.org.

Also, we want to remind everyone, experienced and beginner alike, that we'll be running our Christmas Bird Count on December 19 this year. If you're a regular, Bob Shipman or one of his sector leaders will be getting in touch with you. But, if you're new to the CBC, give us a call and we'll give you the information you need. The CBC is extremely important in monitoring the state of birds across the continent. It's also an awful lot of fun. So, by all means, come out, have fun and give us a hand.

And, staying on a winter theme, we will also run our annual Winter Waterfowl Count later in January. If that interests you, call us and we'll put you in touch with Larry Cartwright, who is always looking for new volunteers.

Finally, looking way into spring, it seems pretty clear at this point that we will have an opportunity of assisting in a ornithological study to examine stress factors in habitat loss in two identified songbird species being conducted by the biology department at Mary Washington University in conjunction with the Fairfax County Park Authority. Specifically, we at ASNV will be looking for birders who can dedicate several hours a week to conduct a breeding survey which in turn will lead to netting, banding, and blood sampling. This is a wonderful opportunity to really expand your knowledge of birds and bird behavior and if this is something you would like to get involved in, give us a call and we'll start to compile a list of those interested. Although the protocols of the project are still being formulated, we will be looking for volunteers who will agree to participate in a regular team effort over a period of several months.

Stay in touch, Bruce

Time to Sign Up for our Annual Manassas-Bull Run Christmas Bird Count!

Our annual Manassas-Bull Run Christmas Bird Countwill be on Sunday, December 19. Our count circle is around Centreville and includes Manassas Battlefield, parts of Bull Run Regional Park, undeveloped areas south of Dulles Airport, and many stream valley parks and undeveloped locations from Clifton to west Fairfax City. As in the past, we’ll be offering a hot lunch to participants.

We have had good turnouts the past couple of years, but we still need new volunteers. Those of you who participated last year will be contacted by your sector leader in the near future to ask about this year. If you don’t hear from your sector leader, or if you would like to be in a different sector, please contact the ASNV office.

Also, this year, we will be offering an opportunity for feeder watchers. If you or someone you know lives within the count circle and cannot go out on the count, he or she can sit inside and count the birds that come to a feeder on count day as an alternate way to participate. If you are new to CBCs and want to volunteer, contact the ASNV office at info@audubonva.org or 703-438-6008.

More information will be provided in next month’s newsletter.

ASNV's Nature Afternoon: An Audubon Update on the Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill

The Gulf oil spill, the largest environmental catastrophe in U.S. history, has unprecedented impacts for the people and wildlife of the Gulf region. Although the oil leak has stopped, the damage it has caused to the Gulf Coast’s most vital and diverse habitats has dire implications for both people and wildlife.

Migratory bird species depend on at-risk habitats like those along the Gulf Coast and the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Shortly after the spill, National Audubon Society mobilized volunteers who played a significant role in wildlife rescue, clean-up, and monitoring.

Join ASNV at our Nature Afternoon, when Taldi Walter, Assistant Director of Government Relations for the National Audubon Society, will present an update on what Audubon has been doing and continues to do on the ground in the Gulf region and how the Gulf spill provides a cautionary tale for how our country approaches energy development.

When: Sunday, December 12, 3-5 p.m.

Where: 11100 Wildlife Center Drive, Reston

Directions: From Sunset Hills Road, turn into Lake Fairfax Business Center (Sunset Hills between Wiehle Avenue and Hunter Mill Road). Follow Business Center Drive to the end and turn left. Turn right into the National Wildlife Federation.

Insects in Winter

Cliff Fairweather, ASNV Naturalist

As fall grades into winter, insects disappear from the scene. Or do they? They are still out there, but mostly hidden from view or in forms we don’t readily recognize. A few, such as monarch butterflies, migrate to warmer regions, but most remain, usually as eggs, larvae, pupae or, in a few cases, adults. Those that remain through the winter need strategies to withstand freezing temperatures.

Some insects can supercool a process in which they go through physiological changes that inhibit ice formation within their bodies. These changes include reducing the amount of water in their bodies and eliminating body wastes around which ice crystals can form. Supercooled insects can withstand temperatures well below freezing without cell-damaging ice crystals forming. If they are disturbed while in a supercooled state, however, they will flash freeze and die. Consequently, supercooled insects try to find secluded and secure places in which to spend the winter.

Other insects take a different approach, called freeze tolerance. They actually allow ice to form inside their bodies, but in a controlled way that confines that ice to spaces outside the cells. This extracellular ice draws water from inside the cells, reducing their vulnerability to internal ice crystal formation. There is a limit to how much an insect can reduce water in its cells without causing fatal cell dehydration.

Some insects employ both supercooling and freeze tolerance and many insects also produce natural antifreeze to further retard ice formation. A few insects, such as winter stoneflies, use antifreeze to remain active in the winter. Watch for these small, slender, dark insects on rocks, bark or snow near streams. A variety of aquatic insects remain active underwater during winter. In fact, the highest diversity of these insects in our streams occurs in winter; most of these are larvae that will emerge as terrestrial adults in the spring and summer.

Whatever strategy they use for winter survival, insects and other overwintering arthropods provide an important part of the diet of many year-round and winter resident birds. Even entirely insectivorous species, such as ruby-crowned kinglets, manage to find enough insects to survive.

Upcoming Field Trips

Registration is not required unless noted. Contact the ASNV office at 703-438-6008 or info@audubonva.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.

Lake Fairfax Park

Saturday, December 4, 7:30 AM
Explore a mix of habitats with Bill Brown, looking for winter ducks on the lake and winter visitors in the woods. For directions and additional information, click here.

Runnymede Park, Herndon

Saturday, December 11, 8:00 AM
Join Carol and Jay Hadlock for a stroll through this stream valley park. The path is natural surface and may be muddy in places, and there is a rocky stretch. Wear appropriate footwear. For directions and additional information, click here.

Christmas Bird Count

Sunday, December 19
Please consider joining a team for the Christmas Bird Count, Sunday, Dec. 19. You will have a great walk and contribute to a very important survey. Contact the ASNV office to volunteer.

And more!!

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 Waterfowl Identification

Saturday, January 8, 2011, 9 AM – noon
Join us for an introduction to winter waterfowl identification, in preparation for our annual ASNV Waterfowl Count. (The Waterfowl Count itself will be held on Saturday/Sunday, January 22/23, 2011.) Get to know some of the many waterfowl species that winter in the open waters of our region, from lesser scaup to green-winged teal, hooded mergansers and buffleheads, to tundra swans, and more. This will be an outdoor field trip and bird walk, so dress for the weather. We will visit the Great Marsh and Belmont Bay on the Mason Neck peninsula. Bring binoculars and a scope if you have one. The leader will have a scope and waterfowl identification guides. For directions and additional information, click here.

Advocacy Update: Conservation Depends on You

Congress Should Not Choke EPA

The results of the November 2 election cloud prospects for many environmental bills in the next Congress, most Congressional observers predict. With the switch in control of the House of Representatives, from Democratic to Republican in January 2011, changes in the House’s agenda and priorities are anticipated.

Virginia’s House delegation changed from six Democrats and five Republicans to three Democrats and eight Republicans. All three Northern Virginia incumbents won (results have not yet been certified by the state): Jim Moran (D-8), Frank Wolf (R-10) and Gerry Connolly (D-11).

The current Congress recessed in early October without passing a comprehensive clean energy and climate bill and now there are rumblings that legislators may try to limit the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the current Clean Air Act. There were several unsuccessful efforts to limit EPA this past summer.

The Senate rejected Senator Lisa Murkowski’s bill, S. J. Res. 26, and both Senators Webb and Warner voted against it. In Senate debate on June 10, 2010, Senator Webb said he would support Senator Jay Rockefeller bill, S. 3072, to prevent EPA from acting for two years. You can read Senators Murkowski’s and Rockefeller’s bills online by entering the bill numbers.

The current Clean Air Act is designed to protect human health and welfare. Greenhouse gas emissions are a threat to human health, many experts say. As the planet warms, for example, climate change will worsen health problems like heat-related mortality, diarrheal diseases and diseases associated with exposure to ozone and allergens from the air. Warmer temperatures encourage the formation of ozone, which aggravates asthma.

The Virginia Commission on Climate Change reported that more extreme weather events from climate change could compromise water and food supplies, increase waterborne and food-borne illnesses and increase the incidence of respiratory and cardiovascular conditions.

EPA administers several laws designed to protect the public health. The Obama administration is using the authority under the current Clean Air Act to tighten up on vehicle emission standards. Without a comprehensive law, the Clean Air Act authority is EPA’s primary legal tool for controlling greenhouse gas emissions.

Every day the Congress fails to act means continued dependence on imported oil and fossil fuels, little resolution of the threats to our national security posed by imported oil and climate changes, more extreme weather events like hurricanes and droughts and more threats to public infrastructure and health. Inaction on climate change adds costs to government at every level, from increased flooding from sea level rise to damage from more extreme weather events.

The National Audubon Society opposes bills to curb EPA’s authority to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and urges you to ask your current and, if you will have a new one in January, your new Congressman and Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb to oppose bills that would limit EPA’s authority to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that lead to climate change. How to contact Virginia’s U. S. Senators: You can also send an e-mail at your senator’s web site or through Audubon’s Action Center.

Visit the National Audubon Society's website for clean energy and climate fact sheets.

Clean Up the Chesapeake Bay

ASNV President, Bruce Johnson, sent Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell these comments on the state's watershed implementation plan:

On behalf of the more than 4,000 members of the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia, we are providing comments on Virginia’s draft Watershed Implementation Plan, part of the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency’s total maximum daily load (TMDL) effort to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, a treasured Virginia resource. We appreciate this opportunity.

The mission of the National Audubon Society is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth's biological diversity. The Chesapeake Bay ecosystem is a valued natural resource and important to the Commonwealth’s economy. It is an outdoor laboratory for hundreds students, scientists, researchers and outdoor and nature lovers. Despite twenty-five years of effort, the Bay is still degraded and we must take stronger steps toward a clean Chesapeake Bay and fishable rivers and streams. We need to put real, enforceable steps in place.

Several facts show the urgency of this mission:
  • 12,103 miles of rivers in Virginia were designated as impaired in 2010, 1,560 more miles than in 2008.
  • Eighty percent of Fairfax County’s streams are in fair to poor condition. Many do not meet standards for E. coli and PCBs, for example.
  • Stormwater runoff is a major, growing source of pollution and inadequately controlled by local and state laws, regulations and land use policies.
We are disappointed in Virginia’s draft watershed implementation/TMDL plan. We urge you to issue a more specific step-by-step plan that has clear requirements, provides funding and establishes real deadlines with the following provisions:
  • Requirements, incentives and specific actions to reduce polluted runoff from all sources.
  • Explicit strategies for controlling urban/suburban stormwater runoff (e.g. remove phosphorous from homeowner fertilizers, require low-impact development for new construction, limit the flooding and pollution from developed properties).
  • Sufficient funding in your proposed budget and a commitment to work with the legislature for sufficient funding.
  • Proposed legislation to the General Assembly and proposals to amend regulations so all pollution sources help stop the pollution of our waterways.
Clean water is a shared responsibility. All of us must act. Polls show that Virginians support cleaning up our waterways and the Chesapeake Bay.

We look forward to Virginia improving the Virginia plan.

Focus on the State Legislature

On December 4, the Virginia Conservation Network will host the annual VCN Legislative Workshop at the state capitol in Richmond. Up to 150 conservation leaders and activists attend this annual preview of the coming General Assembly session. It runs 9 a.m. - noon in House Room 3 and Senate Room 3. Exhibitors will have information on current advocacy campaigns and speakers will discuss the top issues in VCN's "common agenda for conservation." State legislators are invited speak. Everyone who attends will get breakfast and a copy of the 2011 Conservation Briefing Book.

If you plan to go, please let Glenda Booth know. The Virginia League of Conservation Voters seeks members of their legislative contact teams for every member of the General Assembly. If you can volunteer, let Glenda know. It is not very time consuming.

Check out Our Photo Album!

Have you visited our Flickr photo album recently? If not, you can stop by for a visit today to see the latest photos and comments. If you’re not a member yet, join today. It’s easy.

Conservation Counts

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

Upcoming dates
  • December 1
  • December 15
  • December 29
Getting there
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

Upcoming dates
  • December 8
  • December 24
Getting there
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.

Audubon Camp on Hog Island

In late May of 2011, the historic Audubon Camp in Maine, on spruce-covered Hog Island, will reopen for its 75th summer of residential adult and teen natural history programs. Kenn Kauffman, Pete Dunne, Scott Weidensaul and many other expert ornithologists and naturalist-educators will be in residence during various sessions.

For photos, costs, program descriptions, and registration instructions, visit the Hog Island Audubon Camp website or call Erica Van Etten at 607-257-7308, ext.14 There is a $50 Early Bird discount for registrations made by January 15, 2011.

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.

Volunteer Need to Coordinate Science Fair

ASNV is looking for a volunteer to coordinate our assistance with the Fairfax County and Prince William County public schools science fairs. ASNV is invited every year to judge the science fairs, and this is an opportunity for ASNV to encourage young scientists in research, conservation, and the environment.

This is not a time consuming volunteer effort but does require:
  • Finding four judges (there are 2 or 3 people who have done this in the past and will readily volunteer to judge so it will probably be necessary to find another 1 or 2 judges)
  • Creating a certificate for the judges to give to the ASNV awardees. A certificate was given in the past but probably needs to be improved.
  • Coordinating with the ASNV Board of Directors for some prize to give to students.
  • Writing up the names of the winners and judges for the Potomac Flier.
  • Coordinating with the ASNV office to communicate with the science fair coordinators.
If you are interested, please contact Kristy Liercke at kliercke@verizon.net or 703-255-3021. Thanks!

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 kliercke@verizon.net or 703-255-3021. Thanks!

Audubon at Home needs you!

People-oriented volunteers are needed to help spread the word about the Audubon At Home Wildlife Sanctuary Program at community and regional events. We schedule the dates, provide all the materials, and brief you on our message -- you supply the enthusiasm! To volunteer or for more information, contact Cliff Fairweather at cliff@audubonva.org or 703-256-6895.

Local Events

Virginia Conservation Network Legislative Workshop, Richmond, December 4. Contact Glenda Booth for more information.

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 http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?llr=esv6y9cab&et=1103970862413&s=261&e=001stNP7mHrb-oxyXJO_mlSxF_pFllLKUSLuD7muv1vHa1uGcYCmeFbAtvaZXuQVbGpArR1pGDiG69BD6I29D-hNGB3qhAj_0nXZ5AXITBqGzFQ8ezvfDMSMg== 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.

ASNV, 11100 Wildlife Center Drive, Suite 100, Reston, Va 20190
Phone: 703-256-6895 • Fax: 703-256-2060 • Email: info@audubonva.org

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The Audubon Society of Northern Virginia, Inc. | 11100 Wildlife Center Drive | Suite 100 | Reston | VA | 20190