My Year Playing with Litter: Exploring the Effects of Leaf Litter Removal on Insect Communities, November 14th

Virginia Native Plant Society, Potowmack Chapter
2021 Annual Meeting & Program
Sunday, November 14, 2021
2:30 pm
Register here.

Annual meeting begins at 1:30 with social time, then annual business meeting and elections. The presentation by Max Ferlauto begins at 2:30.

Max Ferlauto outlines his PhD dissertation research and discusses preliminary results.

Max grew up in Arlington, Virginia where he gained an appreciation for native plants and insects through local environmental organizations, such as the Potowmack Chapter of VNPS. He received his bachelor’s degree in Plant Ecology from Juniata College. He is now a 3rd year PhD student at the University of Maryland Entomology Department in Karin Burghardt’s Lab. Dr. Burghardt is a former student of Doug Tallamy and has published research with him.
Max studies how landscaping practices, such as leaf litter management, affect urban ecosystems.

Call of the Wild Conference, November 19-21, 2021

Photo: Wildlife Center of Virginia

Friday, November 19 – Sunday, November 21, 2021
Three day ticket $100, Single day ticket $50
Through the Whova Event app
Click here for more Information, Conference Schedule, and Registration

The Wildlife Center of Virginia invites you to the 26th annual Call of the Wild conference on wildlife rehabilitation, co-sponsored by the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources. Wildlife rehabilitators, veterinary professionals, wildlife biologists, environmental educators, and wildlife enthusiasts from Virginia and beyond will share ideas and knowledge that can benefit wildlife, the environment, and the continually evolving field of wildlife rehabilitation.

This is an excellent learning opportunity for rehabilitators of all skill levels — and a chance for you to relax, rejuvenate, and be inspired to continue the great work you do!

Earth Sangha Needs Fall Volunteers

Earth Sangha Wild Plant Nursery
6100 Cloud Drive, Springfield
Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays
9am – 1pm
Must register here.

Fall is upon us! Join the Earth Sangha team at the Wild Plant Nursery for a morning of repotting, divisions, weeding, watering, sowing seed, and more! Please wear shoes that can get muddy, bring your own water and gloves, and wear a mask.

Fairfax Master Naturalists Tour State of the Art Sewer Plant

Photo: Melissa Atwood

Article by FMN Mike Walker

A group of Fairfax Master Naturalists had a unique opportunity to visit the Noman M. Cole, Jr., Pollution Control Plant, located on Route 1 in southern Fairfax County recently.  The visit, organized by chapter president Marilyn Parks, was actually a continuing education “field trip” incident to the state-wide “on-line” annual meeting of Virginia Master Naturalists Chapters.

The Cole facility, located on 400 acres,  serves about 40 percent of Fairfax County and is among a handful of water or sewage treatment plants in  the United States operating at “state of the art” efficiency. With advanced wastewater treatment systems, the facility is able to remove or “digest” water pollutants, nutrients and contaminants at an exceptionally high level, earning recognition as being in the top tier of the 16,000 publicly owned treatment facilities in the United States, an important achievement for Fairfax County and our local rivers and the  Chesapeake Bay.  About 75% of sanitary  wastewater is treated by similar facilities. The remaining 25 % of waste winds up in private septic tanks.

Photo: Marilyn Parks; climbing to the MBBR site

The facility, which celebrated its 50 year anniversary in 2020, uses a four-stage process to treat south Fairfax County’s wastewater: primary, secondary, advanced treatment and final treatment. After the secondary phase, the effluent moves to three five-million gallon holding ponds. Wildlife thrives in these ponds and 89% of treatment facilities in our country stop their treatment here. The Cole facility, however, goes two stages beyond, which includes using Moving Bed Biologic Reactors (MBBR). This microbiologic process uses tiny, pasta-shaped plastic pieces on which to grow algae to feed “good “microbes that convert nitrates to nitrogen gas. (Nitrogen is the primary gas in our atmosphere.) By the time the effluent is released to Pohick Creek, it is cleaner than the water in the creek.

We were privileged that Cole’s superintendent Mike McGrath took time to personally escort our group on much of the tour, with operations manager Joshua and Melissa showing us the entire physical set up from the bar screen to the water sampling laboratory.

Sewage and sewage treatment is often a subject many choose not to think about: what is out of sight is out of mind. But the men and women of Fairfax County who work daily to run this amazing operation, from the 3,000 miles of collection sewers to the solid waste that is removed from the bar screen – including false plastic fingernails – this is a highly sophisticated, automated operation, that is a real success story that Fairfax residents can be proud of.

Audubon Afternoon: Birds of Jamaica with Dr. Herlitz Davis, November 14th

Photo courtesy of ASNV

Sunday, November 14, 2021
3-4:30 pm
Register here.

Join Dr. Herlitz Davis and Audubon Society of Northern Virginia for a personal journey through Jamaica, from Cockpit Country to the Blue Mountains. Dr. Davis will introduce you to the fascinating Avifauna of Jamaica through stories of his life growing up in nature, and through his doctoral research at George Mason University and the Smithsonian Institution. If you like good coffee, if you like hummingbirds and owls, if you like adventure, you will like this presentation!

Public bug enemy number one: The Spotted Lanternfly

Photo from Fairfax County Government Website

An adult insect was found recently in a shipment of produce at a local grocery store in Annandale. Any spotted lanternflies you detect should be killed immediately. They can cause serious damage to home and commercial gardens. Peach, apple, grape and wine industries in Virginia are threatened most by the spotted lanternfly.

Learn how to identify the developmental stages of the insect as well as how to destroy this very destructive invasive insect.

Here are more ways to destroy them.

Urban Bats: Studying and Protecting our Wildlife Neighbors, October 26th

Photo by Rick Reynolds on

Tuesday, October 26, 2021
7 pm
Register here.

When you think of urban wildlife, critters like rats, pigeons, and raccoons may come to mind – but what about bats? Bats have a scary reputation, but play an important role in ecosystems and face serious conservation threats. Dr. Ela-Sita Carpenter will discuss her study of bats in Baltimore, as well as ways we can all support these special creatures in our neighborhoods. Presented by Audubon Naturalist Society.

Poplar Island: An Innovative Model of Habitat Creation through Reuse, October 19th

Photo courtesy of

Tuesday, October 19, 2021
7 pm
Register here.

Join Kristina Motley, Senior Environmental Specialist, to examine why the Poplar Island project is such a successful model of reuse. This environmental restoration project located in the Chesapeake Bay in Talbot County, Maryland, relies on dredged material collected from the approach channels to the Baltimore Harbor to restore lost remote island habitat within the Chesapeake Bay. This results in restoration of almost 400 acres of wetland habitat where more than 400 different species of wildlife have been documented and more than 30 different birds have been confirmed as nesting. Join Audubon Naturalist Society to learn about this unique story of continuing habitat victories.

Celebrate Fall Color!

Photo and article courtesy of Plant NOVA Natives

As Northern Virginia continues to celebrate trees to mark the start of the five year regional native tree campaign, autumn colors move to center stage. We may not get New England’s sudden (and brief) burst of color from the dominance of sugar maples, but our region makes up for it with the more gradual unfolding of a warm and lingering fall.

Most deciduous trees are best planted in the autumn, which conveniently coincides with the best time to choose a tree for its fall foliage. Trees are like people: within one species, there is plenty of variability, so if fall color is a high priority for you, this is the time to go shopping.

If your attention is drawn to a particular tree on a forested slope in Virginia, chances are you have spotted a Black Gum tree, whose red leaves positively glow in the sun. Other native trees with markedly red foliage include the Red Maples and the Scarlet and Shumard oaks. All these trees are eminently suitable for planting in a yard. Hickory trees have bright yellow foliage and tend to have planted themselves, as they are harder to find in nurseries because their deep tap roots makes it hard to dig them up. The muted red leaves of the Flowering Dogwood, Virginia’s state tree, provide a background for scarlet berries that are an important food source for migrating birds. This brings up two related subjects. The first is that it is important to choose native trees, as it is only plants that evolved within our local ecosystem that support that ecosystem. The second is that fall color is not just about foliage. The berries of many native plants, especially shrubs, ripen in fall and make a bright display that attracts birds to your yard. Many of those shrubs, such as blueberries, chokeberries, sumacs and native viburnums, also have brilliant fall foliage in their own right. Fall is also the time for the many species of the aptly named goldenrod and for the purples, blues, pinks, whites and even yellows of asters. Goldenrods and asters are the host plants for more species of caterpillars than any other perennials. But it is trees that support the most wildlife of all. If you only have the time and energy to plant one plant, let it be a native tree.

One of the fun things about our drawn-out autumn is watching the colors evolve over time. Certain patterns emerge. Sycamores start to fade well before summer’s end, with Dogwoods starting to turn rust red soon afterwards and Sassafras either red or gold. The brighter reds and yellows of canopy trees follow, with oaks being late to turn. Once those are shed, what is left is the light brown leaves of oaks and beeches that hold onto their leaves well into winter. The trees do not march in lock step, though, and there is plenty of variation from year to year, tree to tree, and even from branch to branch on the same tree. The Plant NOVA Trees website includes photos as well as a practical guide to choosing and planting native trees.

You might be thinking that when choosing a native tree, it might as well be one with bright red foliage. But consider that it is not a sea of red that makes autumn so beautiful but the quilt of contrasting red, gold, green and brown provided by the diversity of our woodland species. There are over fifty native species of trees to choose between in Northern Virginia, each of which plays its own important role in the beauty and the ecosystem of our region. Not only would it look odd to see only red trees, planting too many of one species puts the community at risk if disease strikes. Biodiversity is the key to resilience in a changing world.

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy seeks Eagle Cam Volunteers

Photo by Barbara J. Saffir

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy (LWC) is excited about partnering with Dulles Greenway, the American Eagle Foundation, and HDOnTap to bring livestream action to your home from a Bald Eagle nest in the Dulles Greenway Wetlands. Read more about it in a recent article.

LWC will play an important role in helping to educate the public on the habits and behaviors of Bald Eagles through remotely operating the two high-quality livestream cameras and by moderating the website chat function. The camera is now available to view through a link on the Dulles Greenway website.

LWC is currently seeking volunteers to assist with this project. Stay tuned for more information on what will be involved with being a Remote Camera Operator or Chat Moderator. Training will take place in November.

Please contact Loudoun Wildlife Volunteer Coordinator Kim Strader at [email protected] if you are interested in volunteering for either of these unique opportunities to work with the Dulles Greenway Wetlands Eagle Cam.