You and Your Land: A Guide for the Potomac Watershed

The Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District has published an on-line book directed to the people who live within the Virginia portion of the Potomac River watershed. The discussion on soils and plants and the references cited are all specifically related to this geographic area. This hands-on publication is packed with practical information designed to aid homeowners in the economical care and maintenance of their property. It provides a simple step-by-step approach to solving common problems found in most yards, gardens or common areas.  Topics include:

Climate and local conditions: Find out how our home landscapes are directly influenced by local climate and geology.
Soils and drainage: Many landscape problems are soil or drainage-related. Learn about common problems related to runoff, wet areas and erosion.
Landscaping and gardening: Learn how to choose and install plants, prune, compost and more!
Controlling pests: Environmentally sensitive management of landscape and garden pests.

And much more!  Find the book here.

Caterpillars Count! Join new citizen science project

Caterpillars Count! is a citizen science project sponsored by the National Science Foundation for measuring the seasonal variation and abundance of arthropods like caterpillars, beetles, and spiders found on the foliage of trees and shrubs. Arthropods are an important food source for birds and other wildlife.

Climate change is affecting the timing of spring leaf out, insect activity, and bird migration and breeding. But are the plants, insects and birds all responding to the same degree? If either insects or birds are not keeping up with the shifts of the other organisms that they depend on, then further climate change may have negative consequences for their populations.

Caterpillars Count is part of a multi-university study of phenological mismatch across three trophic levels in eastern North America. The lead universities are University of North Carolina, Georgetown University, and University of Connecticut, with co-investigators from University of Florida, Institute for Bird Populations, Penn State, Evergreen State College, and Ontario Forest Research Institute.

Participants will monitor a site at the Walker Nature Center in Reston for Georgetown University. We will examine 50 leaves on each of 10 trees weeklyor bi-weekly thoughout the spring and summer.  We will count and classify the arthropods we observe. Each monitoring session will take about one hour. There will be approximately 16 monitoring sessions. Volunteeers are not required to participate in every session and the timing is up to the volunteers who are participating. Volunteers must sign-up in advance for training and schedule coordination.

This project is eligible for credit for master naturalists under code C-254.

Learn more

Identify shorebirds with Audubon instructor Marc Ribaudo, 16 August

Join instructor Marc Ribaudo for an evening class and accompanying field trip that will cover identifying shorebirds.  The class is recommended for anyone who would like to tackle shorebird identification on their own.

The group will spend an evening in the classroom covering identification tips for shorebirds that can typically be seen in our region. Emphasis will be on shorebirds that pose the biggest identification challenges, such as peeps.

On the Saturday following the class, the group will visit Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware to put into practice what they’ve learned in class. Bombay Hook is one of the top shorebird spots in the northeast and provides ample opportunities to view many species of shorebird in close proximity to each other. The group may also visit Port Mahon or Taylor’sDitch, depending on tide and what is being seen at the time.

Fairfax High School, Fairfax, Virginia; Bombay Hook NWR, Smyrna, DE
Thursday, 16 August 2018; Saturday, 18 August 2018
$50/member; $60/non-member

Learn more and sign up

 

Get involved in Audubon’s Wildlife Sanctuary Program

Certifying properties as “Wildlife Sanctuaries” is a volunteer-driven project of the Northern Virginia chapter of the National Audubon Society.  It embraces the principles of the National Audubon Society’s Bird-Friendly Communities and promotes citizen participation in conserving and restoring local natural habitat and biodiversity.

The largest volume of acreage available for conservation and restoration of healthy green space in Northern Virginia is “at home” in our own backyards.  Incentives for participation include making a difference in aiding the environment and pride in property certification and registration as an “Audubon at Home Wildlife Sanctuary.”

The program is open to residential properties, homeowner associations, schools, places of worship, parks and commercial properties and other potentially sustainable wildlife habitats, both public and private seeking.

Learn more about criteria, sanctuary species, and the certification process.

Hoot Owl Hoot, by Peaceable Kingdom

Reviewed by Marilyn Kupetz

I heard about Hoot Owl Hoot from a colleague with a 3-year-old, and I live in a neighborhood with lots of small fry who come visit. A cooperative rather than a competitive game (think oxytocin rather than cortisol) to play with my guests? Eco-friendly packaging? Nature-friendly theme? Fifteen-minute time commitment?

Had to try it out. My test subjects over several sessions were one 3-year-old, three 8-year-olds, one 33-year-old, one 56-year-old, and me (the first time through only, of course).

The goal of Hoot Owl Hoot as a game is to help six young owls make it back to their nest before the sun rises. The goal of Hoot Owl Hoot as an activity is to make it possible for the players to help each other help those owls. 

Because the luck of the draw tends to interfere in competitive games, in this one, any player can move any owl. In fact, the instructions suggest that players be encouraged to talk about their hands and plan their strategy together. The game dynamics otherwise lend themselves to the skills and emotional cadence of pre-school- and elementary-age children and others who are young at heart. No reading necessary as the board and pieces are graphical.

Feedback from the test group: 

  • “I want a sun card!” (3-year-old)
  • “Oh, wow, we can help each other?!” (8-year-old)
  • “Cute!” (56-year-old)

Pluses: if you lose a piece, Peaceable Kingdom will replace it gratis. The entire kit is biodegradable.

The game reinforces positive the most central message of of the human role in nature and nurture: We are all in this together.

Explore the Discovery Trail through Fairfax County Parks this summer

The Fairfax County Park Authority’s Discovery Trail Map features 12 sites across the park system that give children and adults the chance to discover each park’s special features. There’s a game built into the activities, so prizes are a possible outcome (e.g., bicycles, mini-golf, a carousel, train, tour boat, pedal boat, camping, wagon ride, RECenters and a boat rental).

This year’s free summer activities highlight the rich diversity of wildlife you’ll see in Fairfax County parks.

  • Now in its fifth year, the map encourages children and adults to explore and learn interesting facts about the wildlife that lives in the parks. Discover which bird’s wings beat up to 53 times per second, which park serves as the perfect habitat for the great blue heron and which creature could be called a party animal!
  • Discovery Trail Maps ware available now at staffed FCPA locations, Fairfax County Public Libraries, and Board of Supervisors offices (while supply lasts).  Maps also will be available online at Download Discovery Trail Map during the promotional period, May 26 – Sept. 3, 2018.
  • Each featured site has a sticker with a unique image that reinforces the educational messages on the map.
  • Pick up a sticker for each park at the sticker location listed in the table above, and place it in the corresponding box (participant must be present to receive a sticker).
  • Participants who visit at least eight of the featured sites will receive tickets to more park fun valued at $93 and be entered in a drawing for one of four bicycles donated by Spokes, Etc. through the Fairfax County Park Foundation.
  • Qualifying maps can be redeemed at Burke Lake Park, Frying Pan Farm Park and Green Spring Gardens.

Learn more

Attend Butterfly Identification Workshop, with Dr. Leslie Ries, 25 June

The sight of butterflies fluttering around on a warm day is one of the most iconic signs of summer. These beautiful insects usually only live for a few weeks as adults, but they make quite an impression while they are in their full glory. There is a large variety of butterfly species in our area and we are going to census them on June 30 during the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia Butterfly Count in and around our Occoquan Bay Count Ciricle.  

In preparation, Dr. Leslie Ries will be teaching a butterfly workshop focusing on identifying butterflies in Northern Virginia. The classroom portion of the workshop is FREE and will be on Monday, 25 June.

The field trip portion will be in conjunction with the count on June 30.

Register

National Wildlife Federation
11100 Wildlife Center Drive Reston, VA
Monday, 25 June 2018
7:00 PM-9:00 PM

Stream monitoring at Lake Accotink Park

GET YOUR BRAIN WET! Attention adults and children who enjoy helping our parks and environment!  Join Audubon Naturalist Society, Friends of Lake Accotink Park and Friends of Accotink Creek (FOAC) as they catch stream critters (macro invertebrates) to document the health of the stream. This family-friendly event is a great opportunity to learn about what lives in the creek by finding, identifying and counting these creatures.

For more information and to register, please visit the FOAC CALENDAR and click on “Biological Stream Monitoring.”

Accotink Lake Park
7500 Accotink Park Rd, Springfield, VA 22150
Meet in the parking lot behind Lake Accotink Park Administrative building
Saturday, June 9, 2018
9:30 – 11:30 am

Shop for native plants at the Earth Sangha Summer Open House

Earth Sangha is offering some specials for this event. Here are some highlights:

Pinxter Bloom (Rhododendron periclymenoides) is available, but only a limited number of pots. Earth Sangha doesn’t take pre-orders and so please come early if you want to get it.

They will also offer True Solomon’s Seal and False Solomon’s Seal. It took 3 years to just germinate these species from the seeds! This is the first year that Earth Sangha is able to offer them in sizable quantities.

They are also offering something rarely found in the wild: Curlyheads (Clematis ochroleuca). It is a Piedmont species, and according to the Digital Atlas of the Virginia Flora is found in, “dry forests, rocky woodlands, barrens, clearings, and road banks, usually in moderately to strongly base-rich soils. Frequent in the Piedmont; rare in the mountains and inner Coastal Plain.” Only a few pots can be offered for this species. This is the first time Earth Sangha is offering this!

Also, there is something special for members: Earth Sangha will offer a surprise 50% discount for select species for this occasion on June 16th only. That is, if you are a member, it will cost just $3.50 per pot instead of $7. Annual memberships start at $35.  Click here to join.

Earth Sangha Wild Plant Nursery

6100 Cloud Drive in Franconia Park in Springfield, Virginia

Saturday, 16 June 2018

10.00 am – 2.00 pm

Find new opportunities with Plant NOVA Natives

Label native plants in garden centers
Three nursery companies (Greenstreet Gardens, Meadows Farms Nurseries, and Merrifield Garden Center) have kindly agreed to allow volunteers to put Plant NOVA Natives stickers on their plant signs at a total of 12 garden centers. This will make it immensely easier for shoppers to recognize native plants. Plant NOVA Natives is looking for more volunteers to put on these stickers, so email plantnovanatives@gmail.com if you are interested in adopting a nursery. Experience is not needed, although the more familiar you are with Northern Virginia natives, the less time it will take you to do the job.

Sign up to be tapped as a volunteer
Whatever your experience or skills, the organization needs your help! If you tell them which county you live in and a bit about your background, then when opportunities arise, they will know whom to contact. You incur no obligation at all by signing up. Please fill out this form to get on their roster. They currently are seeking more help for their website from someone experienced in web design.