Alexandria Neighbors Bring Trees to Their Community

Photo:  Plant NOVA Natives

Trees plant themselves and replace themselves – except in our lawns. Many Northern Virginia neighborhoods that are graced by magnificent mature trees are now slowly losing their canopy as those trees die from old age or disease (or are cut down while still healthy by humans.) Each lost tree means higher temperatures and air conditioning costs on that property, more stormwater runoff, and in the case of native trees, the loss of a home and food supply to thousands of our smallest neighbors including caterpillars and songbirds.

City of Alexandria residents Lynn Gas and Jane Seward were bemoaning the fact that their neighborhood of over 30 years was so much hotter than it used to be due to the loss of tree canopy. They decided to do something about it and started the Canopy Tree Restoration Campaign. After educating themselves about trees, they talked to their neighbors and got each to sign up to have a tree installed at a deep discount. They helped each homeowner select and mark the site. They then contracted with a landscape company to install all the trees on the same day. Each of the selected tree species was indigenous to the area and thus able to contribute to the local ecosystem. They planted 140 trees that first year.

The campaign has been a labor of love for Lynn and Jane, who have learned a lot in the process. Since the project began in 2017, they have planted around 280 trees. They often send out emails to remind people to water, since landscaper-sized trees must be watered regularly until they get established, a process that takes two or three years. They have used different nurseries and landscapers, trying to find the best trees at the best prices. It took a while to understand how nurseries work and to identify landscapers that know how to properly plant trees and are willing to give a good price. It is important when planting in many different yards to organize the planting so that landscapers can plant fast without losing time on logistics. They need to make money, so Lynn and Jane think of their coordination efforts as facilitating their work.

Lynn and Jane do not describe their initiative as selling trees. Rather, they ask people to participate in the neighborhood reforestation campaign, using phrases such as “A tree in your yard benefits all of us.” They also have received generous donations which allow them to donate trees to churches, playgrounds and schools as well as to neighbors lacking funds. When they donate a tree to someone, they thank them for participating in the campaign.

This Alexandria neighborhood campaign represents one model for how to organize a local tree drive. Other neighborhoods have come up with their own plans. Neighborhoods across Northern Virginia are starting to think about how they can participate in the five year Plant NOVA Trees campaign. Some may want to emulate the professional installation approach. Others might prefer to plant smaller specimens, which are less expensive (sometimes even free) and require less watering, though they need careful protection from lawn mowers and deer and will need some simple pruning to direct their growth after a couple years.

The first step will be for residents to take the initiative to create a project for their own neighborhood. It helps to plan well in advance of a spring or fall planting, because it may take time to source the trees as well as to create enthusiasm in the community and work out a plan for watering and maintenance. Tips on how to organize can be found on the Plant NOVA Trees website. Plant NOVA Trees is the collective effort of thousands of individuals across the region pitching in to get thousands of trees into the ground.

Winter Wildlife Festival, January 2022

The annual Winter Wildlife Festival in Virginia Beach is going to have both virtual and in-person events in January 2022. This event is put on by the City of Virginia Beach and several other partners, including the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources. Check out the full schedule and additional information online. Registrations are open now!

View virtual workshops and events, including the Festival Keynote: “The Bird Way” with Jennifer Ackerman.

View in person Trips and Excursions.




Friends of Mason Neck Wintering Waterfowl Program, December 5th

Photo:  Barbara J. Saffir

Gunston Hall’s Ann Mason Room
10709 Gunston Rd., Lorton
Saturday, December 5, 2021
2 pm buffet; 3 pm program
$15 per person for members; $20 nonmembers
Register here.

You’ll hear a presentation on Wintering Waterfowl of the Potomac River.  A wide diversity of geese, ducks and other waterbirds spend the winter in Northern Virginia. Mason Neck, including both the state park and the wildlife refuge, play an important part in sustaining them through the winter.  You’ll learn about the lives of the birds, citizen science studies and the conservation needs for birds and people along the river.

The presenter is Greg Butcher, the Migratory Species Coordinator for the U.S. Forest Service International Programs. He is a PhD. ornithologist who has worked for the National Audubon Society, American Birding Association, Partners in Flight, Birders World Magazine and Cornell Lab of Ornithology. He is also Vice President of Audubon Society of Northern Virginia. Greg is a recognized public speaker and interpreter for bird conservation and ecology worldwide.

They are taking special precautions this year because of the pandemic. The Ann Mason Room can hold 125 guests, but they’re limiting attendance to just 75 people so there is ample room for everyone to spread out. They’re also asking everyone to wear a mask except when actively eating or drinking. They’ll have hand sanitizer at numerous places around the room, and you’ll be able to choose from a variety of pre-plated, delicious offerings from the buffet.

If you aren’t a member or your membership has lapsed, you can join the Friends here.

Virtual Workshop for the Manassas-Bull Run Christmas Bird Count

Photo: Photo: Black-capped Chickadee, Megan Lavoie/Audubon Photography Awards

When: Thursday, December 16, 2021
7:00 – 8:30PM
Fee: FREE!

For Information and Registration click here.

This event is FREE, but registration is required.

Join Phil Silas, the Manassas-Bull Run Christmas Bird Count compiler, and members from the Conservation Committee to learn about this long-running citizen science bird survey. They will review protocol to ensure that participants understand the ASNV pandemic restrictions. After the presentation, they will test participants identification skills with a Kahoot!

Author Event: Ivory-billed Woodpecker as Trickster with Dr. Chris Haney, Webinar December 9th

Book cover, courtesy of Dr. Chris Haney

Where: Virtual!
When: Thursday, December 9, 2021
Registration Fees: Member ticket: $10, Non-member ticket: $15

Pre-order your copy of Dr. Haney’s new book, Woody’s Last Laugh here.

For Registration information click here.

Join Audubon Society of Northern Virginia in welcoming their good friend, Dr. Chris Haney. They will explore a simmering paradox that has baffled birders, scientists, conservationists, and the media for more than 100 years: repeated claims for the supposed “extinction” of the American Ivory-billed Woodpecker. Interacting with listeners, he will illustrate cognitive blunders, psychological biases, and logical fallacies that have long duped both sides of the woodpecker controversy. Few bird species have ever provoked such social rancor among us. Why are rumors of the woodpecker’s persistence so prevalent, unlike other near or recently extinct animals? Why are we so bad-mannered with each other about a bird? How is it that we cannot agree even on whether a mere bird is alive or dead? Ivory-billed Woodpecker as Trickster uncovers how uncertainty about our natural world can so mess with our heads. Regardless of what (or who) you choose to believe, new ways of thinking about this striking avian icon will be opened to everyone, not just birders…


Virtual Fireside Chat with Dr. Tom Wood: Celebrate Swans, December 2nd

Photo: Tundra Swans, Wink Gaines/GBBC

Where: Free Online event
When: Thursday, December 2, 2021
7:00 PM – 8:00 PM

For Registration and additional information click here.

Join Audubon Society of Northern Virginia for a celebration of the return of the swans! This chat will be swan-themed and inspire participants to visit the wintering tundra swans as they majestically return with fanfare from the great north. Think all things swan, swan songs, photo haikus and poetry, prose and art. Dr. Wood will have swan stories to tell. Bring your best stories, artistic creations, and discoveries to share! This is a great chance to keep up with your photo haikus.

Lake Braddock HS Science Fair Needs Judges, January 29th

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

Lake Braddock High School
9200 Burke Lake Rd., Burke VA
Saturday, January 29, 2022 (snow date Saturday, February 5, 2022)
8am – Noon

Their in-person science fair is back this year! They anticipate 40 – 50 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.

If you are able to judge this year, please fill out this form.

Arlington National Cemetery Treasures its Trees

U.S. Army photo by Rachel Larue/released

Article by Plant NOVA Trees

Arlington National Cemetery is a place to honor, remember, and explore. The beauty of the grounds and the comfort of its visitors is enhanced by close to 10,000 trees, some dating back to before the Civil War. The diverse collection of this Certified Level III Arboretum include many species native to Northern Virginia including the state co-champion Pin Oak, near the Memorial Amphitheater. (A champion tree is the largest representative of its particular species within a geographic area.)

Arlington National Cemetery is dotted with native trees such as Redbuds with their lavender flowers in spring, Black Gum with its bright red fall foliage, and American Hollies that shelter the birds. Oaks are the most common species, which reflects their predominance in the Eastern forest.

Forester Greg Huse gives tours of the arboretum to visitors four times a year and points out the ecosystem services provided by mature trees. That Pin Oak, for example, not only supports the caterpillars that are the food for baby songbirds – a feature intrinsic to native plants but nearly absent in non-native ones – but also absorbs 1,400 pounds of atmospheric carbon and intercepts 23,000 gallons of storm water every year.

After President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, a landscape architect firm designed the Kennedy memorial site, home of the Eternal Flame. The designers worked around a 200 year-old Post Oak, 60 inches in diameter, which later became known as the Arlington Oak. In 2012, this massive tree was blown down by Hurricane Irene and could not be rescued. By good fortune, though, its acorns had been collected by American Forests as part of their historically significant trees project. Three of those saplings were donated back to Arlington Cemetery and planted in the same plaza, where they are now ten to twelve feet tall and thriving.

Trees are not the only native plants at the cemetery. Horticulturalist Kelly Wilson has been steadily adding a diversity of herbaceous and woody plants throughout the last decade, especially in the newer bio-retention areas (rain gardens). In these public areas, she designs with a small number of species to keep a neat-and-clean look, while in a staff parking area, she allows for more exuberance. Favorite natives utilized are the purple-flowering Ironweed which attracts many pollinators. Monarch caterpillars have taken advantage of the Butterflyweed. River Birch with its beautiful peeling bark does very well in rain gardens.

The 639 acres of Arlington National Cemetery, which is the resting place for 400,000 American servicemembers and family, are cared for by five permanent staff members who supervise the work of 90-100 contractors. The trees that grace this National Treasure are an essential feature, just as they are in any neighborhood where residents value the beauty and services they provide.

To learn what you can do to plant and protect trees on your own property, visit Many of the trees will still have their fall colors in November when Arlington National Cemetery hosts the Centennial Commemoration of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. On November 9-10, a flower ceremony takes place where the American public will be able to place a flower at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. On November 11, an Armed Forces full honors procession takes place as it did a hundred years ago on November 11, 1921. Find out more about the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Centennial Commemoration at

Visitor Desk Opportunity at Huntley Meadows Park

Photo courtesy of Halley Johnson

Huntley Meadows Park with its beautiful wetlands and boardwalk is a great place to volunteer!

The staff is seeking volunteers to serve as Volunteer-on-Duty (VOD) at the visitor information desk. There are opportunities on weekday afternoons and weekends.

The VOD is the face of the park, the first and last chance to make an impression on visitors. Assist them in enjoying the park and understanding its resources.  Communicate and interact with people of all ages.  Seeking a commitment of two four-hour shifts per month for one year.

Detailed project description attached here.

Contact Halley Johnson, Volunteer Coordinator, [email protected].

FMNs, record hours as E111: FCPA Nature Center Visitor Information Desk

Field Trip to the Lorton Landfill, November 20th

Photo: ASNV

Saturday, November 20, 2021
8 am
Fairfax County Recycling and Disposal Center
9850 Furnace Rd., Lorton VA
This walk is FREE, but registration is required.

Why go birdwatching at a landfill? To see multiple kestrels, harriers, Bald Eagles, meadowlarks, sparrows (maybe some rare ones, if we’re lucky). The I95 landfill is mostly closed, so we can safely drive around and experience open grassland birds and also visit small ponds and forest edges. 134 species have been recorded here, including 58 on a single day in late October. It’s one of those places where you’re never quite sure what you’ll see.

Join Audubon Society of Northern Virginia at 8 AM on Saturday November 20 at the Administration Building by following Google Map directions to Fairfax County Recycling and Disposal Center, 9850 Furnace Road, Lorton VA. As you drive in past the weigh station (stay to the left so you don’t get weighed), the administration building is the first building on the right. Contact Greg Butcher or see the registration link for more information.