Virginia & Waterways Cleanup – the Friends of Accotink Creek are starting their Fall Cleanups, various dates

GET YOUR BRAIN WET! Join Friends of Accotink Creek to get trash out of our waterways while participating in the International Coastal Cleanup in Fairfax County.

Saturday, September 18, 2021 Cleanup Locations:

9:00 AM – 11:00 AM     Accotink Creek at Fullerton Road bridge , Directions

12:00 PM – 2:00 PM     Accotink Creek at Franconia-Springfield Parkway bridge , Directions
(Including cleanup of Hooes Road dumpsite)

3:00 PM – 5:00     Accotink Creek at Telegraph Road bridge , Directions

Saturday, September 25, 2021 Cleanup Locations:

9:00 AM – 11:00 AM     Accotink Creek at Fairfax Blvd bridge , Directions

12:00 PM – 2:00 PM     Accotink Creek at Chain Bridge Road , Directions

3:00 PM – 5:00 PM     Accotink Creek at Old Lee Hwy bridge , Directions

Saturday, October 2, 2021 Cleanup Locations:

9:00 AM – 11:00 AM     Accotink Creek at King Arthur Road bridge , Directions

12:00 PM – 2:00 PM     Accotink Creek at Little River Tpk bridge , Directions

3:00 PM – 5:00 PM     Accotink Creek at Braddock Road bridge , Directions

Saturday, October 9, 2021 Cleanup Locations:

9:00 AM – 11:00 AM     Accotink Creek at Pickett Road bridge , Directions

12:00 PM – 2:00 PM     Accotink Creek at Barkley Dr bridge , Directions

3:00 PM – 5:00 PM     Accotink Creek at Woodburn Road bridge , Directions

Thursday, November 11, 2021 Cleanup Location:

10:00 AM – 12:00 noon     Americana Drive Veterans Day cleanup

Other opportunities to be part of the solution in the Accotink Creek watershed:

  • Saturday, October 16, 2021 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM: Fort Belvoir Accotink Bay
    Contact Fort Belvoir Public Works EMAIL

Taking Nature Black, Re-entry Roundtable, September 14th

Tuesday, September 14, 2021
2-3:30 pm
Register here.

Join Audubon Naturalist Society for this FREE 90-minute roundtable hosted by ANS’s Taking Nature Black Conference, with sponsorship from the U.S. Forest Service’s Office of Urban and Community Forestry.

This discussion will help elevate holistic strategies that connect the green movement with second chance/re-entry programs, services, and advocacy with a focus on social supports, social and economic justice, recidivism, and prevention.

Expanding career opportunities for the re-entry community is a way to extend healing to this community and to our land.

Raptors are Heading South-Get Ready for Fall Migration!

Wednesday, September 15, 2021
4-5 pm
Register here.

Peak raptor migration is almost here! Are you ready to observe hawks, eagles, falcons, and more, heading South?

In this webinar, you’ll learn when and where to find migrating raptors this fall. You’ll also get an up-close look at a live raptor on camera and learn more about these birds’ distinctive features and amazing abilities. And, since some raptor populations are in decline, you’ll learn what American Bird Conservancy is doing to conserve them and what you can do to help.

Fewer Inputs to your Landscape, More Butterflies and Birds

Photo: Plant NOVA Natives

As more and more people buy native plants to beautify their yards, control stormwater and attract birds and butterflies, they are discovering additional opportunities to harmonize their property with the local ecosystem while maintaining a beautiful landscape. They are dropping some of their standard yard chores in favor of a slightly more relaxed approach.

Maintenance of native trees and shrubs is little different from maintenance of non-native ones, but chemical fertilizers are not generally recommended, and of course pesticides would be counterproductive, as they destroy the very ecosystem that the native plants were installed to enhance. The value of the native trees and shrubs is greatly increased if their fallen leaves are left in place. Within that leaf layer is where fireflies, butterflies, and many other interesting and beneficial insects complete their life cycles. Leaving the leaves where they lie has the added benefit of eliminating the chore and the incessant racket of gas-powered leaf blowers that disturb humans and songbirds alike.

Flower gardens with native plants also can be treated much the same as any other, as long as the gardener recognizes that most of these plants are perennial and not annual. The advantage of perennials is that they only need to be planted once. The disadvantage is that weeding will be needed, along with the ability to distinguish emerging weeds from emerging desirable plants, a task made easier for beginners by limiting the number of different species planted to three or four or by sticking to native groundcovers. These gardens cannot be handled the way maintenance crews typically deal with the plantings in public spaces. That method requires no knowledge of plant identification and consists of removing all the plant material each season, installing new annual plants, mulching heavily, then spraying any bare mulch with herbicides to kill everything else. (This practice explains the expanses of empty (and chemical-laced) mulch beds that we see in so many business areas.)

Of course, leaf mulch can be used in flower beds without applying herbicides and is a valuable addition to new plantings, cooling the soil and adding organic matter. In time, though, as the plants fill in, mulch becomes unnecessary and just an aesthetic choice. The plants themselves will shade the soil, and their dead foliage and stems if left over the winter add habitat for frogs and nesting areas for native bees. The days of “cleaning out” flower gardens in the fall so that only empty beds remain are rapidly fading away, as gardeners are learning that this is an unnecessary and somewhat harmful practice.

The watering requirements of native plants are generally light, if appropriate plants are chosen for the site. Unlike turf grass, which evolved in Europe and is poorly suited to Virginia summers, and annuals which start out the summer with very few roots, well-established native plants are adapted to our climate. Watering is needed right after planting, and for the first year or two in the case of trees larger than seedlings, depending on the size. Native plants in medium or large pots will need continued watering primarily when the temperature exceeds 90 degrees. Beyond that, supplemental watering may actually be bad for some plants.

Details on low-input yard maintenance can be found on the Plant NOVA Natives website. For those who don’t want to do the gardening themselves (which is most people, after all), there are landscaping companies that specialize in maintaining naturalized landscapes and who have workers who can identify the native plants and protect them. The website has a list of Northern Virginia companies that have self-identified as having the requisite expertise. Manuel Rivas, the owner of one of these companies, volunteered to be interviewed to explain the process in English and in Spanish. Three versions of that video are available on YouTube, in English alternating with Spanish and in the two languages separately.
English and Spanish version
Spanish only
English only

FMN Quarterly Chapter Meeting, September 20th

Monday, September 20, 2021
7-9 pm
Email [email protected] for the link

Fairfax Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists will hold their Quarterly Chapter Meeting in a remote format on Monday, September 20 from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm. We’re not quite ready to hold in-person meetings yet with our county maintaining a substantial level of COVID transmission per the CDC. Keep your fingers crossed for December.

We’re going to change things up this meeting. Instead of focusing on plants or animals, we’re going to lean towards geology and learn about historic shoreline change on the Potomac River, including substantial wrecks and ruins that are now fisheries habitat. OK, we may learn a little about local fish. Our speaker, Wayne Young, has an MS in Natural Resources, is a member of the Coastal Conservation Association, and is the author of four books about fishing reefs and maritime disasters on the Chesapeake and Potomac.

Trash Cleanup, Dyke Marsh, September 25th

Saturday, September 25, 2021
9-11 am
Register by sending an email to [email protected]

Join the Friends of Dyke Marsh (FODM) with their Potomac River and Dyke Marsh shoreline trash cleanup in partnership with the National Park Service (NPS).

Check in at the registration table near the Belle Haven Park south parking lot to pick up supplies. NPS and FODM will provide some gloves, tools and trash bags.

Wear sturdy shoes, long pants and sleeves, gloves and sun protection. Bring water. This will be canceled in case of lightning or severe storms.

Tackle Invasives at Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, December 4th

Photo: Plant NOVA Natives

Saturday, December 4, 2021
10am – Noon
Location below.
Register at [email protected]

Help Friends of Dyke Marsh remove invasive plants like porcelainberry vine, pictured above, on Saturday, December 4th. Meet at the native plant site. The native plant site is about half a mile down the Haul Road trail on the right side, past the second bench.  The site has a sign.
They will supply instructions, samples and trash bags.  Wear sturdy footwear, long pants and sleeves and sun protection.  Bring gloves, a hand clipper, insect repellent and water.  They have a few tools to share.

Haul Road Trail Directions and Parking:

GPS: 38.777739, -77.050540

Turn off the Parkway onto the road to Dyke Marsh Nature Preserve and Belle Haven Marina.
Take the first left to go up to Belle Haven Park parking.
Walk back to the marina road, cross the road, then 30 yards to the left is the beginning of Haul Road.
There are 2 posts with a chain across them.

Event canceled if lightning or severe storms are anticipated.

DWR Advises Following Best Practice Guidelines to Resume Feeding Birds

Photo courtesy of Virginia DWR

On Thursday, August 19, 2021 the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) released the following advice about feeding birds:

Press Release – Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources

In late May, wildlife managers in multiple states, including Virginia, began receiving reports of sick and dying birds that were exhibiting eye issues (swelling, crusts, discharge, etc.), along with neurological symptoms. No definitive cause(s) of illness or death have been determined. No human health or domestic livestock and poultry issues have been documented.  As of mid-August, reports of sick and dead birds have declined in many jurisdictions, and the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) is lifting its previous recommendation to cease feeding birds in affected areas. 

Virginia was one of the first states that received reports of birds displaying eye and neurological signs. Beginning in early June, the DWR, along with other local collaborating organizations, began documenting dead or sick bird reports and submissions to local wildlife rehabilitation hospitals. From these data, the DWR was able to target its response guidance to the areas of Virginia most likely to be affected by this mortality event, which included Alexandria, Arlington, Clarke, Fairfax, Falls Church, Fauquier, Frederick, Loudoun, Manassas, Prince William, Shenandoah, Warren, and Winchester.  The DWR recommended removal of bird feeders in these affected areas beginning in June in order to limit potential disease transmission.

Natural resource management agencies in the affected jurisdictions continue to work with diagnostic laboratories to investigate the cause(s) of this event. The U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center, the University of Georgia Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, the University of Pennsylvania Wildlife Futures Program, the Indiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, and multiple state labs have been involved.

As reported previously, based on results received to date, the following pathogens have not been detected in any of the birds tested: Salmonella and Chlamydia (bacteria); avian influenza virus, West Nile virus, coronaviruses, Newcastle disease virus, herpesviruses, and poxviruses; and Trichomonas parasites. Toxicology tests have been negative for heavy metals, common pesticides, and herbicides.  Additional diagnostic tests, including metagenomics work, are ongoing.

Residents that choose to feed birds or provide water in bird baths should remain vigilant for avian mortalities and consider the following best practice guidelines:

Clean feeders and bird baths at least once a week, then disinfect with a 10% bleach solution to prevent potential infectious disease spread between birds and other wildlife. After cleaning, rinse well with water and allow to air dry.

Wear disposable gloves when handling bird feeders and baths and wash your hands when finished.

• When feeding birds, follow expert recommendations, such as those listed in Audubon International’s Guide to Bird Feeding.

Keep pets away from sick or dead wild birds.

Avoid handling wild birds. If you must do so, wear disposable gloves or place an inverted plastic bag over your hand to avoid direct contact with the bird. Dispose of dead birds in a closed plastic bag in household trash. Alternatively, you may bury bird carcasses at least 3 feet to prevent any disease transmission to scavenging animals.

• If you observe any additional bird mortalities in Virginia, submit a mortality event to the DWR.

Bird mortality events are not uncommon.  Several aspects make this particular event unique, including the extensive geographic scope, the duration of reported mortalities, and the fact that the initial reports were received from an urban area. The response and resulting recommendations to this and most all avian mortality events, however, is essentially the same. Affected birds are sent to a wildlife health laboratory for diagnostic investigation and residents of known affected areas are advised to minimize potential disease transmission by removing bird feeders and baths until the event has concluded. Once all of the diagnostic investigations involving this event are complete, the DWR hopes to be able to better tailor its diagnostic investigative response and guidance to the public for future bird mortality events.

Wildlife disease investigations can be inherently challenging and sometimes are unable to identify a definitive cause(s).  The DWR greatly appreciates the assistance of the public and cooperating localities and facilities during this event, and when additional significant diagnostic results come to light, updated information will be shared.  For additional information on this mortality event in Virginia, please visit here.

Register Your Reptiles and Amphibians!

Photo courtesy of Virginia DWR

From the Virgnia Department of Wildlife Resources: If you are a Virginia resident and are in possession of any species of reptile and amphibian that is 1) native or naturalized to Virginia and 2) was in your personal possession before July 1, 2021, you need to register your animals with the Virginia Reptile and Amphibian Registry. These conditions apply to all animals regardless of origin (wild-caught or captive-bred), as well as animals obtained outside of Virginia. Individuals holding Exhibitor and/or Educator permits should also register their animals in the event you choose not to renew your permit in the future. Cornsnake morphs (ghost, snow, fancy, and other nonnative variations) and albino animals do not need to be registered. This registry will only be open until December 31, 2021. If you have any questions, please email  [email protected]. Your cooperation is sincerely appreciated.

For individuals with a Hold & Sell permit, which is required to captively breed and sell certain native species, the DWR will be removing scarlet kingsnake and mole kingsnake from the list and adding Northern pinesnake. The Agency will also be lifting the ban on the sale and possession of Mexican axolotls. These changes became effective August 1.

Learn more here.

Sea Turtle Rehabilitation at the National Aquarium: The Conservation Impact from Massachusetts to Florida, August 17th

Photo: naushad mohamed on Unsplash

Smithsonian Environmental Research Center webinar
Tuesday, August 17, 2021
7 pm
Register here.

Discover what goes into rescuing endangered sea turtles, with Animal Rescue Director Jenn Dittmar of the National Aquarium! All seven of the world’s sea turtle species are either threatened or endangered, though some are common, seasonal visitors to the mid-Atlantic and New England during warmer months. The National Aquarium has been rehabilitating sick and injured sea turtles for 30 years. But the conservation impact of this program reaches far beyond the waters of Maryland. The average sea turtle patient at the National Aquarium will travel more than 1,400 miles during rehabilitation – from the spot where it was stranded to its eventual release. In our August webinar, Dittmar will reveal the complex, team effort to conserve critically endangered sea turtles.