First Day Hikes, Mason Neck State Park

Mason Neck State Park is celebrating the new year with free entrance to the park and three guided hikes.

At 10 a.m. is a 3.5 mile hike of moderate difficulty but at an easy pace.

At 11 a.m. the park will feature a fast-paced, heart pumping hike incorporating several trails that will cover 6.2 miles. (That’s 10K for those who are metric system challenged!)

At 3 p.m. is a leisurely stroll on the Bay View Trail covering 1.0 miles and at an easy pace.

Of course you are always welcome to hike on your own. Mason Neck is a dog friendly park! You must have your four legged friend on a leash at all times.

The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation also is sponsoring a New Years Challenge and and a First Day Hikes Photo Contest. Prizes of up to $500 will be awarded to the winners. More information is available at http://bit.ly/vspfdh2018.

So come out to the park on January 1 and get a good start to the year!

Monday, January 1, 2018

10:00 AM — 4:00 PM

Visitor Center, Mason Neck State Park

 

Come See the Tundra Swans! January 6th, 9-11 AM

Join the Friends of Mason Neck State Park for a walk to the see the Tundra Swans! Each year, the Mason Neck area is host to one of Northern Virginia’s largest concentrations of Tundra Swans.  Depending on the day, you may see between 200 and 400 swans and hear their haunting calls.  You may also see other waterfowl, including Northern Pintails, American coots, Black Ducks and Mallards — and who knows what else?  Bring your binoculars if you have them.  If not, there will be binoculars and telescopes for people to share. The tide will be high when the group gets there, which will maximize the likelihood that the birds will be close.

Gather at the Woodmarsh parking lot, which is on the left of High Point Road about a quarter mile BEFORE the Mason Neck State Park Contact Station, at 9:00 AM.  It is about a 1-mile walk on level ground to the bird blind at the marsh.

There is no charge for the hike, and there is no need to pay the State Park entrance fee since the walk will be outside the park.

Read-a-thon of A Sand County Almanac is January 14

Come celebrate Aldo Leopold’s 132nd birthday (January 11th) and hear sections of this still-popular book on Sunday, January 14, 5-7 p.m., at the Shirlington Busboys and Poets, 4251 South Campbell Avenue, Arlington VA 22206. Let Northern Virginia Conservation Trust know if you want to be one of the readers by emailing Daniel Saltzberg at dsaltzberg@nvct.org. Look for more details on the NVCT website as they become available.

Environmental Quality Advisory Council public hearing, January 10, 2018

The Environmental Quality Advisory Council will hold its annual public hearing on the environment on Wednesday, January 10, 2018.

The public hearing will be held at 7:30 PM in Conference Rooms 9 and 10 of the Fairfax County Government Center, 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, VA.  All interested parties are encouraged to sign up to speak.  To sign up to speak, call the Department of Planning and Zoning at 703-324-1380 or send an e-mail message (EQAC@fairfaxcounty.gov) and/or submit written testimony.  Or, if you’d prefer, just contact Noel Kaplan, Senior Environmental Planner, Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning, and he’ll sign you up and answer any questions you may have.  He is available by email (Noel.Kaplan@fairfaxcounty.gov) and phone at 703-324-1369.

Please note that EQAC is again providing the opportunity for interested parties to present video testimony. You can upload your video testimony (5 minutes or less is preferred) to YouTube, Ustream or Vimeo and then let EQAC know how to access your video.  Your video will be presented at the public hearing.*  The deadline for posting your video on-line and informing EQAC (by e-mail to eqac@fairfaxcounty.gov) of the URL through which EQAC can access the video is 5:00 PM on Wednesday, January 3.  No more than one video may be submitted per person.

*All videos will be screened by county staff prior to the public hearing. Each video must address one or more environmental topics. Any video with profanity or other objectionable material will not be presented at the public hearing. You will be notified if county staff determines that your video is unsuitable for presentation. You do not need to attend the public hearing for your video to be presented.

Swanfall Celebration at Mason Neck, 3 December

The Friends of Mason Neck State Park will hold their annual Swanfall celebration this Sunday, December 3, from 2 to 4.

There will be a light buffet, followed by a talk by Paul Bacich on the intriguing Winter Waterfowl of Mason Neck.  Paul is the co-author of the just-published The Crossley ID Guide: Waterfowl and has been a volunteer in Huntley Meadows Park’s Wood Duck and Hooded Merganser nest box program for nearly 25 years.

Registration is required; the cost is $10 per person.  More information and a registration page are at http://www.masonneckstateparkfriends.org/event-2692645.

Sign Up the 36th Annual Manassas-Bull Run Christmas Bird Count!

Sign Up the 36th Annual Manassas-Bull Run Christmas Bird Count!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

7:00 AM  11:30 AM

The Manassas-Bull Run Christmas Bird Count will be on Sunday, December 17th.  The 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.   A hot lunch will be served to participants.  Birders of all skill levels are needed.

If you participated last year your sector leader will be in touch soon.  If you don’t hear from your sector leader, or if you would like to be in a different sector, contact Bob Shipman.  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 or yard on count day as an alternate way to participate.

Sign up here.

World Wildlife Fund hosts The Nature of Change: The Science of Influencing Behavior

Behavior change has not yet been extensively incorporated into conservation practice planning, design, or overall thinking. This year’s Fuller Symposium, December 4, brings together a diverse array of experts from the behavior sciences to tackle how we can better integrate behavioral strategies and interventions into conservation practice to produce more effective outcomes for nature.

Attend in person at the National Geographic Society’s headquarters, or by by web streaming.

The conference is free and counts toward VMN continuing ed credits

You can attend in person or online. Register here

This year’s winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics, Richard Thaler, was recognized for his contributions to behavioral economics, a critical component in understanding how we make decisions about our health, wealth, etc. (Book recommendation: Nudge, with his coauthor, Cass Sunstein). Dan Ariely, one of the presenters at the symposium, is another prominent behavioral economist, and a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal. (Book recommendation: Predictably Irrational.)

Stream Monitoring Events: Serve and Learn

Certified Monitors Networking and Team Building Workshop

Saturday, November 18

Time: 11am – 1pm

Location: Manassas National Battlefield, Administrative HQ Building

The Northern Virginia and Prince William Soil and Water Conservation Districts are proud to announce the first networking and team building event for certified volunteer stream monitors! Meet fellow certified monitors, discuss best practices with long-time volunteers and staff from the two Conservation Districts, and hear about new national-level stream initiatives from the Izaak Walton League, the coordinators of the Virginia Save Our Streams Program. For more information or to RSVP, please contact Dan Schwartz. Open only to volunteer monitors who have passed their certification test.

 

Stream Monitoring Workshop: Reston

Monday, November 20

Time: 10am – 1pm

Location: Snakeden Branch behind the Walker Nature Center, Reston

Join Walker Nature Center staff as they monitor Snakeden Branch in the forested parkland behind the Center. To RSVP and get directions, please fill out a Reston Volunteer Application and then sign up through the event calendar.

The Trees of Fraser Preserve, Led by Margaret Chatham

The Potowmack Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society

Saturday, November 18, 2017
10 am to 1 pm

Fraser Preserve
101 Springvale Road
Great Falls, VA 22066

VNPS programs are free and open to the public. Space is limited on walks, so please register at https://vnps20171118.eventbrite.com

Join Margaret Chatham for a tour of the Trees of Fraser Preserve, Saturday, November 18, at 10 am. Some fifty species of trees have been recorded for Fraser Preserve. Come see how many of them we can spot with the help of turning colors, with the certainty of viewing the State Champion American Elm down by the river.
This will be a somewhat energetic hike, downhill and up several times. You might want to bring binoculars and a walking stick in addition to water and the usual dress for the weather.
Margaret is a devoted Fraser Preserve Volunteer Visitation Committee Member who removes invasive barberry shrubs in winter and wavy leaf basket grass in summer and knows the preserve intimately. She is also editor of the VNPS Potowmack News newsletter, a volunteer at the VNPS propagation beds at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria, and an Arlington Regional Master Naturalist.

A Day of Discovery at Huntley Meadows

Birdwatching on the boardwalk at Huntley Meadows (Photo by Ana Ka’ahanui)

Huntley Meadows Park offered our gaggle of naturalists a perfect view of its 1,500 acres of wetlands, meadows, and forests for our second fall field trip, on 7 October. In the morning, Rentz Hilyer and Mary Benger directed our eyes skyward as we looked and listened for birds. Alonso Abugattas, Jr.’s afternoon herps walk kept us earthbound as we tried to spot the creatures that slither and swim. And wiggle. And sometimes just lollygag in the weeds.

Rentz, land steward specialist at the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust, and Mary, a graduate of the FMN program, helped us track the movements and calls of the more than 200 species of birds known to live in the park. As a group we observed 29 species of birds including Great Blue Herons, Hairy, Downy, Red-Bellied and Red-headed Woodpeckers, Great Egrets, Red-winged Blackbirds, Carolina Wrens and Chickadees, Northern Flickers, Mourning Doves, Wood Ducks, Canada Geese, Northern Rough-winged Swallows, Eastern Phoebes, Gray Catbirds, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Brown-headed Cowbirds, Belted Kingfishers, Blue Jays, American Robins and more. Rentz introduced us to the app eBird so that we can contribute to its ever-growing database as citizen scientists.

Gorgeous afternoon for discovering the park’s biodiversity. (Photo by Ana Ka’ahanui)

After lunch, we trekked back out into the park in search of herps with Alonso, the natural resources manager for the Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation. With the recent drought, we weren’t sure how many critters we would find, but the beautiful day was good to us. We observed Eastern Ribbon and Eastern Garter Snakes; Snapping, Spotted, and Eastern Painted Turtles, as well as Southern Leopard, Pickerel and various other types of frogs. We learned that a group of frogs is called an army, and a group of toads is called a knot. Alonso has published a great resource called the The Reptiles and Amphibians of the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area and leads a Facebook group called Capital Naturalist, both of which are helpful to naturalists looking to identify the great diversity of life in Northern Virginia.

Alonso gives us a closer look at a painted turtle. (Photo by Ana Ka’ahanui)

In addition to animals, we observed all manner of plant species, such as Lizard’s Tail, Swamp Rose Mallow (a type of hibiscus), Winterberry, Arrowwood Vibernum and Wood Asters, to name a few. We learned that Jewelweed is a natural preventative and treatment for poison ivy and poison oak and that Turtlehead Flowers are a favorite treat of grazing deer.

Insects were plentiful, too, and some were vocal, such as the Handsome Meadow Katydid. The Long-jawed Orb Weaver spiders spun impressive webs at angles to best catch their prey. Common Whitetail Dragonflies and electric blue and red Damselflies whizzed over the wetlands as we wandered over the trails and boardwalk.

While we saw some evidence of the local beavers—lots of chew marks and piles of wood—they proved elusive that day. We did, however, see a lone muskrat cruising around in the marshes. The day was filled with nature discoveries galore and was a perfect learning lab for our Master Naturalist class.

Class photo on the observation deck

Click here to view photos from our outing.