Invasive Plant Identification Walk, April 9th

Photo: Courtesy of the Fairfax County Park Authority

When: Saturday, 04/09/2022 10:00-11:30AM

Where: Ellanor C. Lawrence Park

5040 Walney Road
Chantilly, VA, 20151
Map of Ellanor C. Lawrence Park

Cost: $8.00

Click here for more information.

Register Online.

Event Description:

Identify some Fairfax County’s common invasive plant species. Explore ways to lessen these plants around your home.

Family Woodcock Walk, March 19th

Photo: Courtesy of the Fairfax County Park Authority

When: Wednesday, 3/19/2022 6:45-8:15PM


3701 Lockheed Blvd.
Alexandria, VA,
Map of Huntley Meadows Park

Cost: $9.00

Click here for more information.

Register Online.

Event Description:

Come for an evening walk through the woods to one of the park’s large meadows. Listen for the call of the male woodcock and hopefully see his amazing courtship display and flight. Bring a flashlight. Approximately 1.5 mile walk on uneven terrain. Canceled if rain. Children must be accompanied by a registered adult. Meets at the South Kings Highway entrance to the park.

Avian Influenza in Virginia

Photo:  Male Canvasback, Barbara Saffir

Avian Influenza (AI) is an infectious viral disease of birds. Since the state’s Avian Influenza outbreak in 2002, Virginia’s poultry industry has been vigilant in prevention techniques and anticipated response. The Virginia Poultry Disease Task Force meets quarterly to review the plan for response in the event of a future outbreak.  Of course AI affects wild birds as well.

Older birds are more at risk and susceptible. This virus can survive in soil, water and manure for 35+ days and survive 3+ months of cold weather.

Please see a variety of links from Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services here:

The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources asks that reports be submitted to if the following circumstance is discovered: multiple (at least five) dead, wild, free-ranging waterfowl (ducks, geese, or swans), seabirds (terns, gulls, cormorants, etc.), shorebirds (dunlin, black-bellied plovers, sanderlings, ruddy turnstones, etc.), upland game birds (turkeys, grouse, or quail), or avian scavengers (crows, raptors, owls, etc.).

12th Annual Gardening Symposium with Loudoun County Master Gardeners: Plant – Nurture – Grow – Gardening in Rhythm with Nature, March 19th

Saturday, March 19, 2022
9am – 3pm
Live webinar
Register by March 18th
Cost: $45

Four expert speakers will provide inspiration, ideas, and information on garden basics that will appeal to all gardeners. The event is fully virtual, and there is a focus on native plants. See the website for the list of presenters. Presentations will be recorded and available for registered attendees to watch for six months following the Symposium.  Titles include Super Tough Wildflowers and Things Your Tree Wish You Knew.  

The Southern Celestial Sky of Fairfax County

A twilight view of the southern sky from Lake Audubon on January 26, 2022.

Article and photo by FMN Stephen Tzikas

You may realize that the southern hemisphere has the awesome Magellanic Clouds in its night sky.  Some of us may never get to the southern hemisphere, but there are certain visible stars from Fairfax County that you probably never thought possible.

My first encounter with the southern hemisphere sky was in 1983 when I commenced my Master’s degree in engineering at the University of New South Wales, just outside of Sydney, Australia.  On the first night of my arrival I was so excited to run outside the International House dormitory in order to see the Magellanic Clouds. There they were, in addition to the Southern Cross, the very bright Alpha Centauri star, and the “upside down” constellations and Moon.  Where it not for the incredibly long double air flights to reach Sydney, I probably would have been too excited to sleep that night.

If you have done any star gazing or have joined a local astronomy club you may be familiar with the Astronomical League and its incredible astronomy observing programs:

As an avid astronomical observer since I was a child, I have completed most of the Astronomical League’s observing programs.  Scroll down that link’s list of observing programs and you see the novice program called Constellation Hunter Observing Program – Southern Skies.  I did this program from Fairfax County in a very creative manner.  While I was in Australia as a student, I did all of my observing by naked eye and from the lawn of the University campus.  Fortunately my notes included all the amazing things close to the southern celestial pole.  But, from Fairfax County, I was able to reobserve most of the constellation stars in some greater detail.   Let me explain, because you can do the same. 

A screen shot of the very useful on-line Planetarium offered by at  You can use this site to plan what is in your southern sky on a particular night and time.

I live in Reston, and the coordinates of my town are 38.9586° N, 77.3570° W.  For all practical purposes they are the coordinates of Fairfax County.  Because we are just under 39 degrees from the equator, we can see a full 90 degrees south beyond our location.  Subtracting 39 from 90 degrees, means we can see as far as 51 degrees south of the equator.  For the casual stargazer, he or she is usually content with the stars of the ecliptic (the Sun’s apparent path across the sky) and points north to Polaris, the northern star.  But if you look south, you’ll see a parade of constellations marching past you each night and through the seasons along the southern most visible latitude arc of the Earth as seen from Fairfax County.  I live next to Lake Audubon, and there are places along the lake where there is a clear view of the southern sky directly opposite to the northern star.  The tree line and homes are only about 4 degrees above the horizon, and that is pretty good, especially on winter evenings or mornings where the tree line is also partially transparent due to the loss of foliage.

What exactly can be seen?  Most of us are familiar with the northern constellations and those of the ecliptic. Those are constellations with names such as the “Big Dipper,” Cassiopeia, Orion, Hercules, Virgo, Scorpius, Sagittarius, Cygnus and so on.  Some of you may even be familiar with some of the bright stars in our Fairfax County sky like Vega, Rigel, and Betelgeuse, some of which take on blue and red hues.  There are 88 constellations so I rather not name all the common stars and constellations seen from Fairfax County.  But under (i.e., south of) the ecliptic there are some constellations that can be seen in their near entirety if you find a clear spot, like one on Lake Audubon.  These include  Piscis Austrinus with its bright blue star Fomalhaut, as well as the constellations of Microscopium, Sculptor, Fornax, Caelum, Columba, Pyxis, Antlia, Telescopium, and Lupus.  Not only that, but there are even more southern sky constellations that reveal a good chunk of themselves, such as Centaurus, Vela, Phoenix, Grus, Corona Australis, and Norma.

The most challenging stars are those that form parts of constellations that are barely above our horizon.  On one night I was very excited to see the bright stars called alpha and delta Horologii. On another night I observed sigma Arae.  Under the constellation Columba, specifically just under the star eta Columbae, the constellation Pictor begins.  With a telescope it would be possible to see some of the more fainter stars in that constellation. Finally, really close to the horizon (so you’ll need to find an extraordinary viewing site), it would be possible to see alpha or zeta Indi.

As we get closer to the horizon, the thicker atmosphere extinguishes the brightness of stars.  Having a pair of binoculars will assist.  For those who love astronomy, this is a star gazing activity, naked eye or with binoculars, that is an enjoyable effort to find those hidden and exotic gems of the southern sky.

FMN Quarterly Chapter Meeting, Plant NOVA Trees, March 21st

Photo: J. Quinn

Monday, March 21, 2022
7 pm
Email [email protected] for the link

Fairfax Chapter of Virginia Master Naturalists will hold their Quarterly Chapter Meeting online on Monday, March 21st at 7 pm. There will be a short business meeting and Margaret Fisher will present on Plant NOVA Trees and the Role of Master Naturalists. Of course you do not have to be a master naturalist to appreciate this insightful presentation and ways you can help.

FMN is a founding partner of Plant NOVA Natives and continues to provide critical support. Learn about the regional native tree campaign and the many ways that each of us can contribute. As a preview, here is an example of the work of Plant NOVA Trees.

Margaret Fisher is a Fairfax Master Naturalist and one of the coordinators of Plant NOVA Natives/Plant NOVA Trees. She is also an Audubon-at-Home Ambassador, Fairfax Invasives Management volunteer site leader, and volunteer stream monitor.

Below the Surface: How Plants & Geology Interact, webinars March 8th & 15th

Tuesdays, March 8 and 15, 2022
6:30 pm, meet and greet both evenings
Sessions start at 7pm and 8pm both evenings
Please register only once for both sessions

Join Virginia Native Plant Society for either or both evenings on geology and plants. March 8th’s sessions topics are Land Management Lessons from Piedmont Prairies and Virginia’s Geology. On March 15th the topics are Geology and Soil Parent Materials as Determinants of Natural Communities in Virginia and the Carolinas and Beyond Substrates.

Evening Woodcock Walk

Photo: Courtesy of the Fairfax County Park Authority

Evening Woodcock Walk

When: Wednesday, 3/02/2022  5:30-7:00PM


3701 Lockheed Blvd.
Alexandria, VA,
Map of Huntley Meadows Park

Cost: $9.00

Click here for more information.

Register Online.

Event Description:

Take an evening stroll through the forest to one of the park’s largest meadows. Listen for the call of the male woodcock and hopefully see his amazing courtship dance and flight. Bring a flashlight. Approximately 1.5 mile walk on uneven terrain. Canceled if rain. Meets at the South Kings Highway entrance to the park.

Great Backyard Bird Count

Photo: Carolina Chickadee by Brad Imhoff/Macaulay Library

When: Wednesday, February 16, 2022  2:00-3:00pm ET

Where: Livestream webinar

Click here for more information and registration.

Event Description:

Join us for a free webinar to help you make birdwatching easier and more fun—right in time for the 25th Great Backyard Bird Count. Join our experts as we brush up on bird ID, unlock the mystery of bird songs, and practice counting birds no matter how large the flock or busy the feeder. Plus, we’ll discuss how to create group counts using new eBird Trip Reports. This webinar is designed for birders of all ages and experience—you’ll leave confident and ready to be part of the GBBC!

Easy Plant Combinations for Your Yard

Photo courtesy of Plant NOVA Trees

Are you ready to brighten up your yard but not to spend hours researching plant choices? You may be a candidate for a native plant “package” that includes plants that thrive in similar landscape conditions. Grouping them together will quickly beautify your property while benefitting the local ecosystem.

Trees, shrubs and groundcovers are the backbone of any landscape and are in fact all that most people want to bother with. You can find combinations for nine common situations on the Plant NOVA Trees website. If, for example, the ground in your yard gets soggy at times, you might choose a Wet Areas package and include a Sweetgum tree for shade, American Hornbeam in the understory, and a couple Smooth Hydrangea shrubs. If you underplant them with Golden Ragwort, you will have an evergreen groundcover that has the added bonus of bright yellow flowers for two months in the spring. If you don’t have room for a canopy tree, choose the Small Space Combo instead and pair the Common Witch Hazel shrub with its November blooms with the shorter spring-flowering Virginia Sweetspire.

When practical, there is a great deal to be said for planting each member of a grouping at more or less the same time, minimizing root disturbance by installing the specimens when small. Whether planting all at once or in stages, though, the healthiest landscape is one that is densely planted with native species, healing the soil and providing food and shelter from the ground to the canopy for our local birds, fireflies, butterflies and other residents. Professional gardeners of course need to be adept at exactly matching plants to the microclimates within a landscape, but the rest of us can do quite well just using the obvious sun, soil and water conditions as our guide.

Those with a flower garden in their yard can speed up its evolution into a native paradise by choosing combinations that will result in blooms over the course of the season. In a sunny areas, if you are guided by the spring, summer and fall packages on the Plant NOVA Natives website, the result will be a stunning combination of well-behaved plants that will attract butterflies throughout the growing season. Suggestions for shady or wet areas are included, as are ornamental grasses. You can also find locations of garden centers that stock native plants.