Audubon Afternoon: Raptors of Virginia, Maryland, and DC, June 9

Sunday, June 9, 2019
2:30-5:00 PM
National Wildlife Center, 11100 Wildlife Center Drive Reston, VA, 20190

Please join the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia for an exciting Audubon Afternoon.

As Secret Garden Birds and Bees presents “Raptors of Virginia, Maryland and DC,” they will have with them five live raptors for us to see and photograph, including a Red-tailed Hawk and a Red-shouldered Hawk.

The audience will gather for refreshments at 2:30 p.m., have a brief Annual Meeting to elect officers and directors at 3:00, and begin the main program at about 3:15.

This is an event the whole family will enjoy!  As always, they welcome any food and drink that you would like to share with everyone.

If we work together, we can be a true force for nature

Cathy Ledec

If variety really is the spice of life, my work with Fairfax Master Naturalists is a tasty dish indeed. I engage with many projects throughout the year: as the president of the Friends of Huntley Meadows Park, the chair of the Fairfax County Tree Commission, as an Invasive Management Area site leader and Resource Management Volunteer for the Fairfax County Park Authority, Audubon-at-Home Ambassador, and as President of the Pavilions at Huntington Metro Community Association.

Mt. Vernon Government Center before our project

One of the most rewarding projects has been establishing a Natural Landscaping Demonstration project at the Mount Vernon Governmental Center, in Alexandria, Virginia. I attend meetings at this Fairfax County building frequently, and observed that the landscaping around the building had no variety, included mostly turf grass, and lacked blooming plants. The center needed some TLC! When I mentioned my observations and thoughts to Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck, he was enthusiastic. So I marshaled resources and my network and went to work.

Next steps towards implementation included preparing a planting plan, with drawings of the landscaping beds; and researching and preparing plant lists. I consulted with fellow Fairfax Master Naturalist (FMN) Betsy Martin, who is also an Audubon-at-Home Ambassador and very knowledgeable about native plants. Betsy provided great guidance on low-impact ways to establish the mulched planting beds. These methods included covering the large areas of turf grass with cardboard or newspaper and covering with 3-4 inches of mulch. 

Betsy Martin and George Ledec deep in the mulch

We established the first planting bed in November 2017, with one of Betsy’s friends donating of a huge load of mulch. Consulting with technical experts from the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District and Earth Sangha was especially important to the research and writing that resulted in our receiving two grants from these organizations for this project. (The grant writing process was fast, only taking a few months).  

Someone said to me once, “If you don’t plan, plan to fail.” So plan I did! The first planting event was in early April 2018. At the same time that I was planning for the planting, I started pursuing the needed permissions from the Fairfax County Facilities Management Division (FMD). This process was more challenging than I expected, but I kept the end goal in mind and eventually signed off on the needed Memorandum of Understanding with FMD. I knew that once this was signed, it would pave the way for future projects of this type for my fellow FMNers.

The goals of this project were to restore and improve environmental conditions. Converting turf grass areas to mulched planting beds would result in:

  1. Improved stormwater management
  2. Reduced urban heat island effect
  3. Restoration of wildlife habitat
  4. Improved visual appearance of the building
  5. Trees planted to shade the building, reduce summer cooling costs, provide natural privacy screen for staff working inside, and improve the view to the outside for staff working inside

Anticipating questions from the visiting public, I also prepared outreach materials on the project that could be shared with interested visitors.   

Concurrently, I was also contacted during the planning phase by a scout leader looking for an outdoor project for his scouts—what great luck!—and an excellent project for this scout troop and their families. This serendipity brought in more than 90 volunteers to establish the planting beds and the spring planting. The scouts dug holes, planted trees, moved mulch, and completed their work in one weekend. Volunteers rock! Thanks to FMNer Patti Swain for her help guiding the scouts.  

FMNers Maryann Fox and Chris Straub

We did a second planting in the fall of 2018, with thanks to FMNers Christine Straub and Maryann Fox, who helped with weeding and the fall planting. Special thanks to Supervisor Storck and his wife Deb for their help with the planting. Supervisor Storck’s support for this project was key to our success. 

We planted over a dozen tree seedlings and more than 100 native plants. There will be continuing need for maintenance, so you’ve not heard the last on this project. You, too, can join with us on our next maintenance day (I’ll send out a note and put it on the calendar), and record service hours to Stewardship project S256.

Blooming New England Aster with bumble bee in Summer 2018

This past April, I was honored for my work improving our environment with the 2018 Fairfax County Citizen of the Year award, both a humbling and thrilling recognition.

It remains very rewarding to watch the landscape our little team built fill in, bloom, and attract the birds and the bees. Every time I go by, there is a new flower blooming, with bees in attendance.


Native groundcovers

Margaret Fisher, Plant NOVA Natives

Are you seeking a groundcover that is both beautiful and friendly to the ecosystem? Try looking beyond the old standbys to the new trend in gardening circles: native Virginia plants.

Bare ground in a garden is an invitation to weeds and erosion. The conventional landscaping solutions are either to pile on wood mulch or to plant an aggressive plant – such as English ivy, Japanese pachysandra, Vinca, spreading Liriope, or Yellow Archangel – then let it take over. The problem with those plants is that they take over more than just our gardens: they spread where they are not wanted by inexorably creeping along and by producing seeds that allow them to leap into our few remaining natural areas, where they crowd out the native plants and ruin the local ecosystem.

To prevent these unintended consequences, landscapers are now turning to plants that evolved locally, of which there are numerous examples that provide the “look” we are used to: a dense, low-growing monoculture for shade or part shade areas. Some are evergreen, others deciduous. A few have the additional feature of colorful spring flowers. Some can tolerate the bone-dry conditions under a tree; others prefer constant moisture. With the exception of Golden Ragwort (Packera aurea) and Common Violet (Viola sororia), none would be accused of being aggressive. Isn’t it nicer to have a beautiful groundcover that supports the ecosystem than to have a bare mulch garden? Details and photos can be found on the Plant NOVA Natives website.

Apply for a Conservation Grant, Deadline May 10th

Do you have a great idea for how to improve habitat for birds and other wildlife, but don’t have the funds to do it? Audubon Society of Northern Virginia has funds available that can help your idea come true. They have budgeted $3,300 for conservation grants for this year, and applicants may apply for all or any part of the available funds. We are looking for applications from individuals, non-profit organizations, and public schools. Projects submitted by individuals should have a connection to public or non-profit lands.

Click here for more information and application.

World Migratory Bird Day Workshop (WMBD), May 9th

National Wildlife Federation
11100 Wildlife Center Drive, Reston, VA 20190
Thursday, 9 May 2019
7-9 pm

Join the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia (ASNV) for a FREE workshop to prepare for the longest running annual spring bird count in this area. The class will include an overview of WMBD, the Lower Potomac River Important Bird Area (LPR-IBA), key species, and techniques (eBird) used to count them. You’ll also learn how the data is used. Follow up what you’ve learned in the classroom by participating in the count on Saturday, May 11 with Jim Waggener.

Instructor: Larry Meade. Larry is President of the Northern Virginia Bird Club, and a former Board member of the Virginia Society of Ornithology. He has served as a Sector Leader for a number of years for several of our local Christmas Bird Counts and is an avid nature photographer (

This event is FREE, but registration is required.

Volunteers Needed – Fairfax County Watershed Cleanups, Apr. 27th

Photo (c) by Barbara J. Saffir

Due to the weather and flooding this past Saturday, cleanups at four parks have been rescheduled to this coming Saturday, April 27. Over 100 volunteers are needed to finish up this year’s Fairfax County Watershed Cleanups with The Nature Conservancy and Fairfax County Park Authority.

If you can help at any of these parks, please let Maggie Hankerd know and she’ll send complete confirmation details.

April 27th from 9-11:30 a.m.
• Arrowbrook Park, Herndon
◦ 35 volunteers needed
◦ Meet at 13391 Sunrise Valley Drive, Herndon, VA

• Dulles Rock Hill Park, Herndon
◦ 35 volunteers needed
◦ Meet in the parking lot located at 2343 Dulles Station Blvd, Herndon, VA

• Merrybrook Run Stream Valley Park, Herndon
◦ 30 volunteers needed
◦ Meet at the trail entrance directly across from Lutie Lewis Coates Elementary School, 2480 River Birch Rd, Herndon, VA 20171

April 27th from 8-11 a.m.
• Royal Lake Park, Fairfax
◦ 6 volunteers needed
◦ Meet at Royal Lake Park near the Tennis Courts or meet at the Picnic Tables at Lakeside Park a little before 8 a.m. in order to sign-in, get trash bags, and receive further instructions. It is important to arrive on time so you don’t get left behind. Royal Lake Park is located at 5344 Gainsborough Dr., Fairfax, VA 22032.

Help develop a feasibility study for community choice renewable energy options

The goal of this Thriving Earth Exchange project is to carry out a feasibility study for the creation of a Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program to provide options for the residents and businesses of Arlington, outside the incumbent electric utility, to choose their rate plans and energy sources. Arlington was chosen due to its transformative Community Energy Plan, though Arlington is not an official partner of this effort. This project will be accomplished through a study on CCA options to explore how Arlington could procure, generate and competitively fund renewable energy projects and inform policymakers and ratepayers of opportunities for renewable energy generation. The options to use of solar photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal energy in buildings has become increasingly cost-effective over time and aids in energy resilience to peak load events at the macro level when coupled with advanced energy storage. This project will align with Arlington County’s commitment to climate action and stand in accordance with the goals outlined in the Paris Agreement, and may serve as a demonstration model for similarly-urbanized communities or those with comparable energy use patterns and volumes.

The team will work in hand with Virginia Clean Energy led by local residents Silvia Zinetti and Morris Meyer. Virginia Clean Energy is a new nonprofit fiscally sponsored by LEAN Energy US, a 501 (c)(3) organization based in California.

Silvia and Morris seek a scientific partner to help Virginia Clean Energy with:

  • data analysis, visualization, and interpretation for the implementation of a technical study to incorporate renewable energy into the electricity market with a CCA.
  • resulting price structures and GHG reduction scenarios of various energy combinations.
  • Preparation and development of the findings for local conferences and County board meetings.

The community is looking forward to working with an energy engineer or energy economist and enthusiastic graduate student assistants with an interdisciplinary mindset.


Help with Water Quality Field Day, May 30

The Fairfax County Urban Forest Management Division is looking for volunteers to help out with a Water Quality Field Day. 175 Fort Belvoir 6th-grade students will come in small groups to various activities. Urban Forest Managment’s will be a game demonstrating how water moves through soil of various types.

Thursday, May 30
10:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Contact Katharine Layton to volunteer: 703-324-1857 or [email protected]

Sea Level Rise, Its Impact on the Potomac River Shoreline Ecosystems, May 15th

Norma Hoffman Visitor Center, Huntley Meadows Park
3701 Lockheed Blvd., Alexandria Virginia 22306
Wednesday, 15 May 2019
7:30 pm
FODM will host an informal social gathering at 7:00 p.m. before the event.

Join the Friends of Dyke Marsh to hear Geoffrey Sanders, a National Park Service (NPS) biologist, give a presentation on the impact of sea level rise on Dyke Marsh and other shoreline communities based on modeling of several scenarios. His study concluded that “significant habitat changes are likely at Dyke Marsh as a result of rising water levels,” including changes in vegetation.

From 1900 to 2017, sea levels rose about a foot and a half along the Chesapeake Bay, according to scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. An Old Dominion University study, “Climate Change, Global Warming and Ocean Levels,” assumes a mid-range estimate of a 3.7-foot increase in sea level rise by 2100. Former Governor Tim Kaine’s Commission on Climate Change in 2008 predicted that sea levels in the Chesapeake Bay region will be 2.3 to 5.2 feet higher by 2100.

The program is sponsored by the Friends of Dyke Marsh and cosponsored by the Environmental Council of Alexandria, the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust, the Four Mile Run Conservatory Foundation, and the Potomac Riverkeeper Network.

2018 in review for Fairfax Master Naturalists

Our year in numbers, courtesy of Michelle Prysby, Director, Virginia Master Naturalist Program

Heres’s the flyer

2018 infographic of FMN accomplishments