What happens to your recycled items these days?

That’s a good question as the worldwide recycling market has changed dramatically in recent months, especially due to “Operation National Sword” in China.

Here in Fairfax County, the local third-party recycling processor says nearly 30 percent of material received is actually trash. To do our part in this worldwide process, we need everyone to focus on reducing the amount of contaminated materials placed in recycling bins. There are five ways you can help stop the practice of “wishful recycling” – placing items in the recycling bin because you think they will probably be recycled.

In the link below, we invite you to learn about:

— 5 Ways to Adjust Your Recycling Habits (No “Filthy Five!”)
— Download Our “Always/Never” Recycling Flyers
— Where Does Your Recycling Go?
— What the Recycling Process Looks Like
— Who to Contact With Questions

Stop “Wishful Recycling”

Habitat Manager needed at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park

Looking for a volunteer opportunity to put into action what you have learned through the Master Naturalist program? Or perhaps you have an interest in learning more about native plant gardening, historic gardening and/or invasive removal? If so, please consider volunteering at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park, located at the border of Chantilly and Centreville off Walney Road. Patricia Greenberg, the new Natural Resource Manager is looking for volunteers to support the park and its beautiful natural resources. Patricia will work with you on setting up a schedule that is convenient for you. She will also train you on the native, invasive and historic gardening practices she is helping manage at the park. Please contact Patricia at 703-631-0248 or [email protected].
Record your hours as S109: FCPA Habitat and Parkland Management.

Fall/winter service opportunities at Hidden Oaks Nature Center

Photo by Barbara J. Saffir (c)

Hidden Oaks Nature Center

7701 Royce Street, Annandale VA

Flying Squirrels Gliding in Tonight

Saturday, 8 December 2018

6:30-8:30 pm

Assist a naturalist in calling in these amazing night gliders and looking for flying squirrels at roosting boxes near the nature center. Teach families how to encourage flying squirrels to visit their yards. Contact Fiona Davies, [email protected]. Record hours as E110: FCPA Nature Programs. In the contacts field, record the number of people attending the program.

Office for Children Outdoor Play in Fall/Winter

Saturday, 15 December 2018


Assist naturalists in educating up to 50 child care professionals in sharing nature with preschoolers and outdoor play during fall and winter. Contact Suzanne Holland, [email protected]. Record hours as E110: FCPA Nature Programs. In the contacts field, record the number of people attending the program.

Visitor Information Desk

First and third Saturdays of the month, 12-5 pm

Greet visitors and orient them to the exhibits, park and programs. Answer natural history questions for the public.  Contact Fiona Davies, [email protected].  Record hours as E111: FCPA Nature Center Visitor Information Desk. In the contacts field, record the number of people you talk to.

Ongoing Needs
Assist naturalists in leading scout merit badge classes.  Scout programs are typically held on weekends.  Programs are generally held inside the nature center and frequently include a trail walk.  Sample topics include Environmental Science, Mammal Study, Reptile & Amphibian, Sustainability.

Join Clifton Institute Christmas bird count, 16 December

Photo by Barbara J. Saffir (c)

Clifton Institute invites you to the Plains Christmas Bird Count, to be held on Sunday, December 16th. Bird watchers of all skill levels are welcome!

The count will cover a 7.5 mile radius circle in northern Fauquier County and western Prince William county. We have a great variety of habitats in the count circle and always turn up a good diversity of species. Last year, we found 92 species, including Short-eared Owl and Cackling Goose.

Start times vary by sector leaders. Most meet around 7 am at various locations within the circle, ranging from Haymarket to Warrenton.  We will have food and hot drinks at compilation, which will be held at the Clifton Institute, north of Warrenton, just after sundown. Please contact Bert Harris directly ([email protected]) if you’d like to join!

Family event – Urban Birds of Northern Virginia, December 8th

Hidden Oaks Nature Center
7701 Royce St., Annandale VA
Saturday, 8 December 2018
3-4:30 pm

This program is designed to teach both children and parents what they can do to welcome wintering birds into their yards through nurturing their natural habitat. Expect activities like bird watching and identification, an outdoor nature walk and arts and crafts activities that can be brought home. For more information and to register, click here.

Brought to you by the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust.

Be a high school science fair judge starting Dec. 12th

Every year thousands of kids do Science Fair projects. Judges are needed to evaluate the projects done by our own Fairfax County high school students, and to give them an opportunity to practice their presentation skills. This is an opportunity to get to know a younger generation and to hear and challenge their thinking.

Judging typically occurs on a school day afternoon or evening, or on a Saturday morning. Judges work in groups according to their chosen fields within science, and judges are provided with the criteria to use in evaluating student work. Each judge is assigned to evaluate 8 to 12 specific projects, and each project is assigned to 2 or 3 judges. All the participating students with their projects are stationed in a large room until they have had the opportunity to present their project to their judges. Groups of judges meet afterwards to compare their evaluations of the projects and to identify those that should receive awards and be forwarded on to the countywide science fair. First time judges work with experienced judges to become familiar with the process, and some schools can even provide childcare for their judges!

About two dozen Fairfax County high schools will be having science fairs this winter, starting at Lee High School on Wednesday December 12, and continuing at other schools through February. The typical time commitment is four hours. This is a great opportunity to get to know teens who are working hard to gain skills and understand the world.  You will be impressed with how many of them care about good environmental stewardship.

Let’s encourage them!

Contact Cathy Greulich [email protected] to match your availability with the location and dates of the science fairs at the various high schools, or contact your local high school to find their date and time.

(Fairfax Master Naturalists, record your hours as service project E152.)

Volunteers needed for the 2019 Mason Bee Monitoring Project

Kate LeCroy, graduate student at the University of Virginia, is recruiting participants for

Horn face mason bee

her 2019 Mason Bee Monitoring Project.  She is looking for people across all of Virginia to join in monitoring efforts for March – May 2019. Fill out this interest form to be considered for the 2019 Monitoring Project, and feel free to share with friends, fellow Virginia Master Naturalists, and neighbors: https://goo.gl/forms/cg4DTkALU4YpuYd22

Kate produced a video to share the data she has so far from the 2017 monitoring, as well as outline the timeline for getting the rest of the data for our projects. You can listen to and watch the webinar recording here in a video: https://video.vt.edu/media/VMN+CE+WebinarA+Mason+Bee+Project+Update/1_7c7dqr9a

You can contact Kate at [email protected].

(Fairfax Master Naturalists,  record your hours as C252: Native Blue Orchard Bee Monitoring Campaign.)

Opt outside on Black Friday and visit our parks

Embrace the cooler weather at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park as you learn about the signs of fall. Visit the Walney Visitor Center and get a fall identification chart for your park exploration.

At Frying Pan Farm Park, you can borrow a program backpack at the Country Store. Inside you will find instruction for activities at six trail stops to help your child learn about the natural wonders found at the park.

Visit Hidden Oaks Nature Center to enjoy a visual scavenger hunt along the 1/3-mile Old Oak Trail. There are options available for preschool and elementary age children and their families. Hidden Pond Nature Center is also offering a scavenger hunt to explore the surrounding trails.

Discover the plants and animals of Huntley Meadows Park. Come to the front desk in the Norma Hoffman Visitor Center and ask to borrow a scavenger hunt sheet to aid your outdoor adventure.

At Riverbend Park, families can look, listen, learn and create along the Duff N Stuff Trail. Stop by the Visitor Center to get a copy of a new Scavenger Hunt, designed by a local Girl Scout.

The county’s lakefront parks have ways to keep you busy, too. Burke Lake Park offers a tree scavenger hunt. At Lake Accotink Park, there are self-guided hikes, or you can go on a scavenger hunt at Lake Fairfax Park. Lakefront parks are open from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

All of these activities are free, and no registration is required. Please call the park offices for site specific check-in locations and activity times. Add to your day of outdoor fun by doing a little hiking, biking, picnicking or fishing on your own.

For more information and directions to each park visit Fairfax County Park Authority or please call their respective offices at:

Burke Lake Park 703-323-6600; Ellanor C. Lawrence Park 703-631-0013; Frying Pan Farm Park 703-437-9101; Hidden Oaks Nature Center 703-941-1065; Hidden Pond Nature Center 703-451-9588; Huntley Meadows Park 703-768-2525; Lake Fairfax Park 703-471-5414; Lake Accotink Park 703-569-3464; Riverbend Park 703-759-9018.

Learning opportunities with Friends of the National Zoo

Photo: Barbara J. Saffir (c)

Sunday, December 2

Animal Nutrition Talk: beginning at noon, Mike Maslanka, Manager of the National Zoo’s Animal Nutrition Department, will  discuss captive animal nutrition from perspectives of history, current science and research, interactions between researchers and institutions, application in zoos, as well as the National Zoo’s approach to all of these and its own work.

Sign up here!


Sunday, December 16.

Zoo Commissary Tour: beginning at 11 am, you will visit the place where animal food is stored and prepared. You will learn the  history and the concepts of the Zoo’s nutrition program as well as how the Zoo does this work and you’ll see some food prep in action.

Sign up here!


Learn what birds eat, December 2nd

Jammes House, Mason Neck State Park
Sunday, 2 December 2018
2-4 pm

Registration is now open for Swanfall 2018, the Friends of Mason Neck State Park‘s annual holiday party.  They will meet at 2 PM on December 2, 2018 at the Jammes House in Mason Neck State Park.  The Jammes House is a former hunting lodge in Mason Neck State Park, located on the banks of Occoquan Bay.  It will be decorated for the holidays, and has stunning views over the Bay and the Potomac River. The Jammes House is not normally open to visitors, so take advantage of this opportunity to see the house and experience its magnificent setting.  They’ll have lots of tasty treats for you to sample at a light buffet.

After you enjoy the buffet, take a fascinating look into the lives of  birds as you watch Ashley Kennedy’s stunning videos of birds bringing food to their young in her program “What Birds Eat.”  Ashley is a PhD candidate at the University of Delaware’s Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology.  Ashley’s research focuses on determining which insects are the most important in birds’ diets.  Learn what you can do in your own backyard to attract the insects that are vital to a healthy bird population.

Swanfall 2018 is open only to members of the Friends of Mason Neck State Park.  If you aren’t currently a member, you can join the Friends for as little as $20 per year at Join the Friends of Mason Neck State Park.  Once you join, you will be able to register for Swanfall at Swanfall 2018.  Each member can bring one guest.  The cost of the program is $10 per person and includes admission to the Park.

Please register soon.  This event always fills up, and you won’t want to miss this great event!