Hello Everybody!

I hope everyone is enjoying this great weather, and is getting outside and enjoying it even if most of the migrants have left the area.

Speaking of migrants, be sure to come to our next Audubon Afternoon on Sunday December 12 from 3-5 to hear a wonderful and informative speaker, Taldi Walter, who comes to us courtesy of the National Audubon Society and who will give a presentation of the BP gulf oil spill and the ramifications for birds and mammals. Walter will discuss National Audubon's role, from their command post on the Mississippi coast, in preserving wildlife. She will also be able to tell us how the spill may affect migration patterns. So, save your questions and don't miss it!

Stay in touch, Bruce

Of All the Gall(s)

Cliff Fairweather, ASNV Naturalist

Scientists often describe them as an abnormal, tumor-like growth on a plant that is for the benefit and under the control of an outside agent. I think that the naturalist writer Edwin Way Teale summed up a gall quite nicely as an “edible home.” Regardless of how you describe them, galls are a fascinating, if somewhat obscure part of nature.

Most galls look like a swelling, a bump, or an ill-formed fruit on a plant. They can be caused by a number of agents, including viruses, bacteria, fungi, mites, and insects. I find the insect galls to be the most interesting of these because of their diverse shapes, curious life histories, and, once you know what to look for, widespread occurrence.

Gall-making insects occur mostly among a few families of wasps, flies, beetles, moths and aphid-like insects. Usually, gall formation is initiated through a substance released by the larval form of the insect that hijacks the growing mechanism of a part of a plant, such as a leaf or a twig. The result of this natural genetic engineering is a shelter and food supply for the larva. Researchers still don’t fully understand how this process works.

Galls can occur in a wide variety of forms on a wide range of host plant species, but each host -- gall-maker combination creates a unique gall. These can range from just a subtle fold in a leaf to golf ball-sized or larger structures on leaves or stems. Galls can occur on any growing part of a plant, such as leaves, fruits, twigs, or roots.

Our eastern deciduous forests hold a rich diversity of galls and autumn is a great time to look for them. To learn more about insect galls and the animals that make them, as well as their parasites and predators, join us for Of All the Gall(s) on Sun., Oct. 31 from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. See the listing in this issue of the Potomac Flier for more information.

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.

Huntley Meadows Park

Saturday, October 30, 8:00 AM
No matter what time of year, Huntley Meadows is always a great place to bird. Join Bill Brown to explore the wetland and the woods. For directions and additional information, click here.

Burke Lake Park

Thursday, November 4, 8:00 AM
Rained out in September, let’s try again! Beginners are welcome on this walk, led by Kathleen Britts and Jen Connors. We’ll check the woods and the lake for residents, lingering summer visitors and arriving fall migrants. Meet at the carousel parking lot, first left after entering the park. Limit 10. Registration required. Contact the ASNV office at 703-438-6008 or info@audubonva.org to reserve your space. For directions and additional information, click here.

Occoquan Bay NWR

Sunday, November 7, 8:00 AM
Winter birds should be arriving; join Rich Reiger to explore this mix of habitats. For directions and additional information, click here.

Lake Newport and Brown’s Chapel, Reston

Sunday, November 21, 7:30-10:30 AM
Kevin Munroe will lead this exploration of an “under-birded” area of Reston. Lake, open field and woods habitats should yield a variety of species. For directions and additional information, click here.

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.

Of All the Gall(s)!

Sunday, October 31, 9 AM - 1 PM
Scientists call them an abnormal growth on a plant for the benefit and under the control of another organism. Edwin Way Teale called them an edible home. By whatever definition, gall-making insects have fascinating and often bizarre life histories. Join ASNV naturalist Cliff Fairweather for an introduction to insect galls in a lecture and walk at the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship. While we’re sharpening our gall search image, we’ll also keep an eye out for fall migrants and other signs of the changing seasons. For directions and additional information, click here.

And more!!

Remember to check our website regularly for more walks, classes and other activities.

Advocacy Update: Conservation Depends on You

U. S. Representatives at Stake in November Election

Virginians will elect all members of the U. S. House of Representatives on November 2. For information on filed candidates and deadlines, click here. To volunteer to help the candidate of your choice, Google his or her name to find the campaign office. To learn about the 2009 environmental record of incumbents in the current U. S. Congress, view League of Conservation Voters' scorecard.

The Job’s Not Done, Moving to a Clean Energy Economy

Please plan to attend a November 6 workshop and learn how we can move to a clean energy, jobs-producing economy and address climate change. It will be from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Merrifield Garden Center, Fairfax (NOT in Merrifield) and is sponsored by the Northern Virginia Climate Action Network (NOVACAN). ASNV is a leader in and founder of NOVACAN, which includes nine conservation organizations representing over 25,000 people in every Northern Virginia locality.

Why care about clean energy? Birds are already being harmed by rising temperatures.
  • Many birds are shifting their traditional ranges. The northward and inland movement of North American birds provides new and powerful evidence that global warming is having a serious impact on natural systems, according to Audubon scientists.
  • Scientists found that 58 percent of the 305 widespread species that winter on the North American continent moved significantly north since 1966, some by hundreds of miles.
  • "Experts predict that global warming will mean dire consequences, even extinction, for many bird species, and this analysis suggests that the process leading down that path is already well underway," warned former Audubon President John Flicker. "We're witnessing an uncontrolled experiment on the birds and the world we share with them."
This free workshop is a great opportunity to hear leaders talk about federal policies under consideration, the impact of climate change on human health and to hear local experts discuss the potential for solar, wind and renewable energy and energy-efficient retrofits, alternatives to traditional, more polluting forms of energy that lead to global warming.

When: Saturday, November 6, 2-5 p.m.

Where: Fair Oaks Merrifield Garden Center (NOT in Merrifield), 12101 Lee Highway (near the Fairfax County Parkway and I-66), Fairfax, VA 22030

Info: Linda Burchfiel or Glenda Booth.

Speak Up for Parks

The Fairfax County Park Authority is preparing its 2010 - 2020 comprehensive park system plan, Great Parks, Great Communities, and invites the public to comment.

FCPA manages several types of parks, including athletic fields and recreation centers. FCPA also manages what they call natural resource or resource-based parks like Huntley Meadows Park. These tend to have less development and more natural landscaping. On several occasions, ASNV has advocated for more natural resource parks, given the death of natural areas in our highly-developed area.

The Fairfax County Park Authority is seeking additional public comment through the Great Parks, Great Communities planning initiative. Two public meetings have already been held, and the final two are scheduled for October 12 and October 14. If you cannot attend a public meeting, you may provide comments via the website, email or regular mail at Great Parks, Great Community; Fairfax County Park Authority, 12055 Government Center Parkway, Suite 927, Fairfax, Va 22035-1118. The comment period closes November 15.

The draft plan is available online. An interactive map allows web site users to focus and comment on the park system plan for their community.

Following these public meetings and the analyses of all public input, plan refinements will be made and the final plans will be submitted to the Park Authority Board for approval. The approved plan will then be used to provide community-based guidance to decision-makers on future parkland acquisitions, connections, service delivery and stewardship. For information regarding the draft plans, please contact Sandy Stallman in the Planning and Development Division at 703-324-8643 or Public Information Officer Judy Pedersen at 703-324-8702.

Birds and Towers: Update

ASNV is urging Fairfax County to take into consideration the impacts of communication towers on birds, other wildlife and habitats.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) estimates as many as 40 million birds may be killed annually at communication towers nationwide. Most bird deaths occur at lighted towers over 200 feet in height during migration seasons. The towers’ lights attract large numbers of birds and confuse their internal navigation systems. Many birds collide with the towers and the supporting guywires, as well as with each other, as they fly around the towers. Others appear to drop from exhaustion as they continuously circle the towers, unable to find their proper course because of the tower lights.

FWS has developed guidelines for the design and construction of communication towers. Among their recommendations are the use of towers under 200 feet, which are not required to be lighted; the use of white lights rather than red lights when towers are required to be lighted; the use of monopole towers without guywires; and the location of multiple antennas on a single tower whenever possible.

ASNV is also urging that localities evaluate the environmental impacts of towers’ footpring and that they not locate towers in parks and other natural areas.

Alexandria’s West End, Developed More?

City officials are planning more high rises and more dense development in the Beauregard Corridor. Some citizens in the West End of Alexandria are working to halt this development until the city begins building transportation solutions. You may join this effort by signing the petition online.

This comes in the wake of the Department of Defense’s plans that will bring thousands of new employees to the Mark Center just off Seminary Road and I-395. ASNV helped stop the construction of a road through the Winkler Preserve, a road intended to move employees to the Mark Center buildings.

How Did They Vote

The Virginia League of Conservation Voters has scored the 2010 conservation votes of all members of the Virginia General Assembly. Visit their website to learn how your state senator and delegate voted. The General Assembly will convene again in January 2011 and all delegates will be up for election next year.

NASA Has Guide for Kids on Climate Change

Start ‘em young! You’ll find a blinking red-eyed tree frog and a flitting butterfly when you log onto NASA Climate Kids website. Targeting grades 4-6, this guide de-mystifies one of the science of climate change. The site uses illustrations, humor, interactivity and age-appropriate language.

There’s a Climate Time Machine that reveals how global changes have affected or will affect our planet over time. Visit Climate Kids online.

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
  • October 27
  • November 10
  • November 24
  • December 1
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
  • October 20
  • November 3
  • November 17
  • December 8
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.

Butterfly and Dragonfly Surveys

Join Jim Waggener each Friday, from April through October, in his ongoing survey of the butterflies and dragonflies at four locations in Fairfax and Prince William Counties. Limit: 4 individuals each week. Reservations required. Call Jim at 703-567-3555 for reservations and directions.

Note: Surveys may be cancelled for inclement weather.

Upcoming dates:
  • October 15, Occoquan Bay NWR
  • October 22, Meadowood
  • October 29, Metz

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.

Manassas-Bull Run Christmas Bird Count

Our annual Manassas-Bull Run Christmas Bird Count will be on Sunday, December 19th.

This year, we will again be offering an opportunity for feeder watchers. If you or someone you know lives in the count circle and cannot go on the count, he or she can sit inside and count the birds that come to a feeder on count day as another way to participate.

If you helped us last year, your sector leader will be contacting you in November. If you are new to our CBC and want to volunteer or would like to be in a different sector, contact the ASNV office at info@audubonva.org or 703-256-6895.

More information will be provided in future newsletters.

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

Community Energy Forum, Arlington County, October 21.

Clean Energy Workshop, Fairfax, November 6.

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 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.

ASNV, 11100 Wildlife Center Drive, Suite 100, Reston, VA 20190 • Phone: 703-438-6008 • Email: info@audubonva.org
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