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Explore vernal pools at Lake Accotink, April 14th

Saturday, April 14th

1.00-4.00 pm, Lake Accotink

The Friends of Accotink Creek invite you to join them for a vernal pool exploration led by Mike Hayslett, a passionate and dedicated champion of these special habitats! This is an excellent opportunity to enjoy a lovely spring day in nature, learning about some of our intriguing neighbors like fairy shrimp and spring peepers and spotted salamanders!

The group will meet in the lower parking lot at Lake Accotink, below the dam.
Youth are welcome! Please dress for the weather. Some areas will be muddy, and there’s some possibility of ticks and poison ivy, so long pants and boots are recommended.

Mike Hayslett (Virginia Vernal Pools LLC), a state expert on vernal pools, is conducting an inventory of vernal pools in Fairfax County, as part of an initiative by the Fairfax County Park Authority. Vernal pools are seasonal wetlands, rare ecological features that provide essential habitat for a variety of living beings, including frogs and salamanders. They are vulnerable to a variety of threats associated with human impact, and this inventory will support efforts to monitor and protect them.

Please RSVP at the meetup  or by email to krisunger@gmail.com. If the group doesn’t get enough participants (12) then they will need to cancel the event, so it’s important to RSVP!

Mason Neck State Park Eagle Fest–Live Animal Presentations

Saturday, May 12th
10.00 am to 6.00 pm (8.00 am for a pre-opening bird walk)
Mason Neck State Park, 7301 High Point Rd, Lorton, VA 22079

See shows and talks in two tents, including live animal presentations by Reptiles Alive, Secret Garden Birds and Bees, and Wildlife Center of Virginia; and, with luck, there will be a visit from Buddy the Bald Eagle.  In addition, there will be hay rides, pony rides, food for purchase, two live bands, walks to view nesting bald eagles and (hopefully) their young, a live Bald Eagle Cam, and mini-clinics by REI, Inc. Check out the booths set up by environmentally-oriented groups such as the Fairfax Master Naturalists, Audubon Society of Northern Virginia, Dogue Hollow Wildlife Sanctuary, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Potomac Riverkeepers, and the Virginia Sierra Club.

Weather permitting, we’ll also have a Boating Bonanza, where you can try out canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddle boards.  Presented by Friends of Mason Neck State Park. Learn more or volunteer to help at the event.

Wood Frogs in Ellanor C. Lawrence Park

Ellanor C. Lawrence Park

Friday, 9 March, 7.00-8.30 pm

Wood frogs are breeding in vernal pools at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park.  Assist in collecting and releasing frogs and recording data for our amphibian survey.  Wear waterproof boots and bring flashlights.  Cost:  $7.00 per person.  Register with Fairfax County Park Authority Parktakes.

FrogWatch USA looking for volunteers to monitor calls this summer. Training in March

FrogWatch USA at the National Zoo is in its sixth season. To date, they have monitored 75 sites in DC, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Maine and have submitted 1,650 frog call observations.

Tracking frog populations throughout the United States, FrogWatch invites participants to choose a monitoring site that is easily accessible and close to where they live or work to listen to frogs that are calling throughout the warmer months.

Three indoor trainings will help orient people to the frogs that are in the DC-metro area and their calls. Content is the same, so choose one training that fits your schedule. If you are interested please contact Matt Neff: neffm@si.edu

Trainings:

Sat., March 3rd, 3:00-6:00pm @ NZP – Rock Creek Campus

Thur., March 8th, 6:00-9:00pm @ Huntley Meadows Park, Alexandria, VA

Sat., March 17th, 3:00-6:00pm @ NZP – Rock Creek Campus

 

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.