October 2019

Quick Links

Shout Outs!

Congratulations to Jim Waggener for receiving National Audubon Society’s prestigious Great Egret Award in recognition of his outstanding citizen science contributions. Read our story 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.

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)
  • October 16
  • November 13

Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge 

(7:30 a.m - noon)
  • October 30
  • November 27

Butterfly and Dragonfly Surveys 

April through October
(8:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.)
  • Occoquan Bay NWR: October 4
  • Meadowood Recreation Area: October 11
  • Metz Wetlands Preserve: October 18
  • Occoquan Regional Park: October 25

Make a Difference!  
Speak Up!


Volunteer Needed, Bird-Safe Buildings

National Audubon has asked its members to advocate for the federal Bird-Safe Buildings Act NAS Bird Safe Windows, and ASNV wants to address the issue on a local level. If you have expertise in architecture, city planning or bird-safe building measures, the Advocacy Committee would like to hear from you. If you can help, please contact Connie Ericson at http://audubonva.org/contact-connie.

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.

Sign Up for the 38th Annual Manassas-Bull Run Christmas Bird Count!

The Manassas-Bull Run Christmas Bird Count (CBC) will be on Sunday, December 15. The center of the 15-mile diameter count circle is near the intersection of Routes 28 & 29 in Centreville. Birders of all skill levels are needed. A complimentary hot lunch will be available to participants.

If you participated last year, your sector or route leader should to be in touch soon. If you don’t hear from anyone, or if you’d like to be in a different sector, contact Phil Silas at epsdcva@aol.com

We’ll also be offering an opportunity for feeder watchers. If you or someone you know lives within the count circle and cannot go out in the field, he or she can observe from inside, counting the birds that come to a feeder or yard on December 15 as an alternate way to participate.

Signing up is easy! Just contact Phil Silas with your phone, email, and birder level (B=Beginner, I=Intermediate, E=Expert), and any notes or comments.

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


The fascinating lives of birds and how to help them

By Tom Blackburn, ASNV President

When I first became interested in birds about 15 years ago, I was simply attracted by their diversity. But the more I observed them, the more I recognized what amazing creatures they are.  

I continue to wonder:
  • How can a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, weighing as much as a dime, fly 500 miles across the Gulf of Mexico without stopping to rest or eat?  
  • How do three species of boobies – red-footed, blue-footed, and Nazca – exist on the small Galapagos Islands without competing for food and nesting territory?  
  • How do birds learn their songs? Do bad singers lose out in the mating competition?
  • Did some species of manakins actually compromise their ability to fly when they evolved to make sounds that are more attractive to females?  

I have found great enjoyment learning about birds but there’s been a depressing side to my education. People who have been birding far longer than I have, lament that there are so many fewer birds than there were in previous decades.  

It turns out they are right. 

A recent study in the journal Science, tells us that we have lost more than one in four birds in North America since 1970. 

The loss of 2.9 billion birds has to be worrisome to anyone who cares about the future of our planet.  

How can you help make our environment more bird-friendly? 
  • Begin by going to 3billionbirds and discover 7 Simple Actions you can take to help birds. 
  • Visit our website audubonva.org for ways to help ASNV in our efforts to stop bird declines.
  • Become a better birdwatcher so that you can participate in citizen science efforts.
Becoming a better birder is an important reason to enroll in our fall course, “Ornithology – Fundamentals of Avian Biology: The Study of Birds.” It begins on October 3, and includes six classes and two field trips.  The instructor, Chris Haney, is a nationally recognized expert on birds, a prolific writer, and dynamic teacher. You can learn more about the fall course and register for it here:  Ornithology

Please join us. 

We need everyone who cares about birds to learn more and support all efforts to save them.

Upcoming Classes and Events 

Ornithology - Fundamentals of Avian Biology: Fall Session

Classroom Instruction:
Dates: Thursdays, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.; October 3, 10, 17; December 5, 12, 19
Location: National Wildlife Federation, 11100 Wildlife Center Drive, Reston 20190

Field Trips: October 12; December 14
Location: TBD 

This course is designed and presented at an introductory, university level in 6 parts, with each classroom session 2 hours long. Ornithology: Fundamentals of Avian Biology will feature major underpinnings to ornithology within a context of U.S. national history. Topics covered in this class encompass: the origins and then separation of amateur from professional interest in birds; form and function in the avian body; avian flight mechanics, movement, and dispersal; bird distribution and biogeography; evolutionary relationships and naming systems for birds; and standardized field methods used to study birds. Whenever appropriate, contrasting perspectives are offered, including controversial views that arose from reliance on different theories or applications. Instructional presentations will include PowerPoint slides, auditory or video supplements, and some in-class participatory exercises.

Instructor: Dr. Chris Haney's expertise straddles the fields of ornithology, including: marine science, climate change, wildlife biology, ecosystem management, and conservation policy. His projects and scholarly work have taken him to Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Bahamas, Lesser Antilles, several countries of southern Africa, and the former Soviet Union. He has authored over 80 peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, and technical notes, and over 150 reports, abstracts, and testimony. He has delivered more than 150 seminar, conference, and workshop presentations. Dr. Haney’s knowledge and enthusiasm in the classroom is contagious! 

Limit: 30 students. Don’t delay, this class will sell out quickly.

Fee: $250 members, $275 non-members



Upcoming Classes and Events (continued)


Project FeederWatch Workshop
 Saturday, November 9
Time: 9:00 to 11:00 a.m.
Locaton: National Wildlife Federation, 11100 Wildlife Center Drive, Reston 20190

Project FeederWatch is the easiest citizen science you will ever do! From the comfort of your home, you simply count the winter birds that visit your feeders and report your data to Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
This FREE workshop will cover a bit of the history of Project FeederWatch, 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. Light refreshments will be served.
Instructor: Carol Hadlock, volunteer extraordinaire and pioneer with the Audubon at Home program, will instruct this workshop.  
Although the workshop is FREE, registration is required.


Christmas Bird Count Workshop
Sunday, November 24
Time: 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.
Location: National Wildlife Federation 11100 Wildlife Center Drive  Reston, VA 20190

Join Phil Silas, the Manassas-Bull Run Christmas Bird Count compiler, to learn about this long-running citizen science bird survey. Phil will cover its purpose, and scope, explain how we organize our CBC and show where the data goes and how it is used. The workshop offers tips on preparing for a winter bird count and will review how to identify many of the birds seen in our area in winter. Light refreshments will be served.

Instructor: Phil Silas is a popular field trip leader and volunteers on many counts and surveys in the area. 
This workshop is FREE, but registration is required.



Birding in Colombia with ASNV **WAIT LIST ONLY!**

With over 1,900 avian species—more than any other country in the world—Colombia is a birder’s paradise waiting to be discovered. This 10-day program focuses on the highlights of the Central Andes region, famed for its high level of species diversity, including the Nevado del Ruiz, Rio Blanco Reserve, and Otún Quimbaya Fauna and Flora Sanctuary. Explore high elevation mountains, humid tropical forest, páramo, wetlands, and highland savanna habitats in search of an array of tropical avifauna, including flycatchers, hummingbirds, tanagers, toucans, and more. Throughout your journey, discover the story of conservation in Colombia, and recent efforts to utilize birding as a sustainable development resource.

Click here to visit the Holbrook Travel site for trip details. Contact Gerry Abbott to be added to the wait list.

October Birds of the Month: Albert, the Black-browed Albatross and Wisdom, the Laysan Albatross

By Elise Brosnan


“Water, water every where,
Nor any drop to drink.”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s most quoted (and misquoted) poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” tells the story of a sailor who shoots a friendly albatross, cursing himself and his crew. As punishment, he is forced to wear the bird around its neck, making the albatross a symbol of his burden and regret. Good omens in life and bad omens in death, albatrosses have become symbols of both good and bad luck. Fittingly, while some real albatrosses have been fortunate, others have had tough luck.
Albatrosses have the world’s largest wingspans, maxing out at nearly 11 feet, with the record exceeding 12 feet. They can glide for hours on their massive wings, relying on wind currents to travel where they need to go. However, albatrosses are not so good at flapping. Found in the South Atlantic, South Pacific, and North Pacific, albatrosses stay away from the tropics, and for good reason. The area of ocean around the equator is what scientists call the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) and what sailors call the doldrums, a place where hot air rises straight upwards, and transverse breezes are few and far between.
Albatrosses are so dependent on temperate sea breezes that if they find themselves on the wrong side of the ITCZ, they may not be able to cross back. One particularly unlucky Black-browed Albatross, Albert, has been trapped in the North Atlantic Ocean since a freak storm carried him north in 1967. Originally, a native of Argentina, Albert spent 40 lonely years returning to a Northern Gannet breeding colony in Scotland, looking for love, but finding only Northern Gannets. While albatrosses do not belong in the North Atlantic, strandings may not be all that uncommon. On the tiny Faroe Islands between Iceland and Norway, the word for albatross is “gannet king,” describing lost albatrosses’ habit of seeking gannets for company.
Other albatrosses are more fortunate. With an expected lifespan of 70 years, they are some of the longest-lived birds. The record holder is Wisdom, a Laysan Albatross who was first banded in 1956. Wisdom nests on Midway Atoll in the Pacific. In 2011, an earthquake off the coast of Japan triggered a tsunami on the island that killed over 100,000 nesting birds. Fortunately, Wisdom survived, and has since thrived. Last year, at the approximate age of at least 68, she hatched another chick, bringing her total number of offspring to nearly 40.
Albatrosses are a lot like people: some are lucky, and some are seriously unlucky. If you would like to learn about how you can give all kinds of albatrosses some extra help, follow the link here: help albatrosses

Citizen Science at ASNV

By Lisa Mackem


On September 22, ASNV awarded James (Jim) Waggener National Audubon Society’s prestigious Great Egret Award in recognition of his outstanding citizen science contribution. Jim is only the second person from ASNV to receive this award. He is a naturalist, who began the Occoquan Monitoring Program 30 years ago after retiring from the Foreign Service. His survey draws volunteers from across the region who help document the presence and abundance of birds, butterflies, dragonflies, and first bloom dates of plants in the Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Julie Metz Memorial - Neabsco Creek Wetlands Preserve, and Meadowood Special Recreation Management Area.

The September 22 Audubon Afternoon focused on citizen science. Speakers, Leslie Ries and Elise Larsen, from the Georgetown University Ries Laboratory of Butterfly Informatics, summarized the history of citizen science. Leslie started with Frank Chapman, who began Christmas bird counts in 1900. In those early days, Chapman had to promote the idea of counting birds rather than shooting them. In the 1950’s, Fred Urquhart became interested in monarch migration and engaged the public to tag them. Chip Taylor took over this program in 1992. Both speakers cited Ernie Pollard, who developed a method for surveying butterflies in England in the 1970’s. His surveys accounted for fluctuating abundances throughout the season and for weather sensitivity. Pollard developed the most common survey protocol for butterflies and Pollard Walks and counts continue today.

Jim Waggener has also developed survey protocols. His Occoquan Monitoring Program was one of the first general butterfly monitoring programs, and anticipated a trend toward multi-species surveys. Leslie Ries learned about Jim’s surveys through Laura McDonald, ASNV Program Manager, and has begun to digitize the surveys’ data. 

Occoquan data has been added to eBird, Cornell Ornithology Lab’s online data base for bird observations. Leslie Ries noted promising trends in suburbs – when people planted native plants and stopped using pesticides they saw butterflies return. 

Jim Waggener credited digitization, application of INaturalist, the daily work of volunteers in the field, and resources of the Northern Virginia Audubon Society for his survey’s success. 

Occoquan Monitoring Program, the Christmas Bird Count, Birdathon, and other wildlife counts continue regularly and always need volunteers. 


Take Action


“As important as it is to change the light bulb, it’s much more important to change the policies.” 
Former Vice President Al Gore, MSNBC, September 19, 2019


Elected Officials, the Key to Conservation

A September study found that since 1970, bird populations in the United States and Canada have plummeted by 29 percent, almost three billion birds. There are several causes of this decline, but to save birds, we have to save and restore habitat

Virginians will elect the entire state legislature and many local officials on November 5. Between now and November 5 is the time to ask candidates at the state and local level questions like, 
  • How will you conserve and restore native habitat and biodiversity?
  • How will you curb stormwater runoff pollution?
  • What steps will you propose and support to curb greenhouse gas emissions locally?
  • How will you reduce air pollution so that Northern Virginia meets the federal ozone standard?
For Virginia election information, including who’s on your ballot, visit Elections VA.



Let’s Elevate Conservation in Virginia

Virginia conservationists will gather in Richmond on October 11 and 12 for Virginia’s Environmental Assembly to discuss the challenges facing the state. You can learn about the speakers and register here VA Conservation Assembly.

The Virginia Conservation Network (VCN) VCNVA, sponsor of the Assembly, has published their annual environmental briefing book titled, “Our Common Agenda,” which outlines state conservation priorities for the coming year, especially issues anticipated in the 2020 session of the Virginia General Assembly. Topics include clean energy, conserving landscapes, and restoring rivers and streams. You can find it here common-agenda.

VCN is a partnership of over 100 organizations, including ASNV.

Save the Date: January 28, VCN Lobby Day in the General Assembly



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 the Claude Moore farm area of Turkey Run Park near McLean. NPS has prepared some concepts which are online as of September 26, the first day of a 30-day comment period. This is an opportunity to advocate for the conservation and restoration of natural resources and for enhancing habitat along the George Washington Memorial Parkway.

ASNV sent comments earlier 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. You can comment here. https://www.nps.gov/gwmp/learn/management/claude-moore-farm-area-at-turkey-run-park.htm



Natural Landscaping, Fairfax County Properties

The Fairfax County Planning Commission is preparing a comprehensive plan amendment to support natural landscaping at county facilities. Commissioners discussed draft language on September 26. This is an ASNV initiative begun by then-Chairman Gerry Connolly in 2006.


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. 

Tom Blackburn

Save the date for the BIG SIT!

The Big Sit! is an annual, international birding day sponsored by Bird Watcher's Digest and Swarovski Optics. This family fun event was founded by the New Haven (Connecticut) Bird Club to promote the sport of birding.
The BIG SIT! is like a Big Day or a Birdathon—participants tally bird species seen or heard within a given time period. It’s called the BIG SIT for a good reason—it’s like a tailgate party for birders. Bring a chair and your binoculars. Snacks will be provided. You may also want to join us on a guided bird walk or participate in a kid-friendly activity. This event is FREE of charge and open to the public.

Join ASNV and Meadowood Bureau of Land Management staff

Date: Saturday, October 1
Time: 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Location: Meadowood Special Recreation Management Area
10702 Harley Road, Lorton, VA, 22079

Keep your eye on our web site for more details!

Bird & Butterfly Walks


Bles Park, Sterling, VA
Wednesday, October 9, 8:30 to 11:00 a.m.

Jean Tatalias leads this walk sponsored by the Northern Virginia bird club. 

Getting there: From the intersection of VA Route 28 and VA Route 7, travel west on Route 7 for 1.3 miles and turn right onto Loudoun County Parkway. Turn right on George Washington Boulevard, then left on Riverside Parkway Bles Park will be on your right at the end of Riverside Parkway.



Bright Pond, Reston, VA
Sunday, October 13, 7:30 to 10:30 a.m.

Linda Fuller leads this walk sponsored by the Reston Association and The Bird Feeder of Reston.

Getting there: Take the Reston Parkway north from the Dulles Toll Road or from Baron Cameron Avenue. Turn right on Bright Pond Lane and park around the cul-de-sac and along the street.



Walker Nature Center, Reston, VA
Sunday, October 20, 8:00 to 11:00 a.m.

Robin Duska leads this walk for the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia

Getting there: From VA-267 W/Dulles Toll Road take exit 14 (Hunter Mill Road/VA-674). Turn left onto Hunter Mill Rd (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.



Laurel Hill Equestrian Center, Lorton, VA
Thursday, October 24, 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Phil Silas leads this walk sponsored by the Northern Virginia Bird Club. 

Getting there: From I-495, take I-95 south about 13 miles to exit 163 (Lorton Road). Continue 1.4 west on Route 642 (Lorton Road). Turn left on Route 611 (Furnace Road) and then immediately right onto Dairy Road. Proceed to the parking lot where we’ll meet.


Bristoe Station Battlefield Heritage Park, Bristow, VA
Sunday, November 3, 8:00 to 11:00 a.m.

Toby Hardwick leads this walk sponsored by ASNV.

Getting there: From  I-66, take Route 234 south (exit 44). Travel 4.5 miles and turn right onto Route 28 (Nokesville Road). Travel 1.5 miles and turn left onto Route 619 (Bristow Road). Travel 0.25 mile and turn right onto Iron Brigade Unit Avenue. The parking lot is located on the left at the traffic circle. 10708 Bristow Road, Bristow VA 20136.


Meadowood Recreation Area, Lorton VA
Sunday, November 10, 8:00 to 11:00 a.m.

Larry Cartwright leads this walk sponsored by ASNV.

Getting there: Go South on I-95 to exit 163 to Lorton. Turn left onto Lorton Road at the end of exit ramp. Go under second overpass and turn right onto Lorton Market Street. (You will see Shoppers Food Warehouse). Go about 1.5 miles to traffic light at Route 1. Go straight through light (road name changes to Gunston Road) and go about 1 mile to entrance on the right.


Lower Glade Stream Valley, Reston VA
Sunday, November 17, 7:30 to 10:30 a.m.

Joanne and David Bauer lead this walk sponsored by the Reston Association, The Bird Feeder of Reston, and ASNV.

Getting there: From I-66 west, take 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 near intersection with Glade Drive and meet leaders at the corner.


Dyke Marsh, Alexandria, VA
Wednesday, November 20, 8:30 to 11:00 a.m.

Dixie Sommers and Tom Nardone lead this walk sponsored by the Northern Virginia Bird Club.

Getting there: From Alexandria, take GW Parkway south. Cross I-495; continue 1.2 miles to Belle Haven Park entrance on the left. Meet at the south parking lot. 6401 George Washington Memorial Parkway, Alexandria, 22307

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 ASNV