Hope for Humpbacks, webinar July 19th

Photo:  Pacific Whale Foundation

Tuesday, July 19, 2022
7 pm
Register here.

Biologist Stephanie Stack from the Pacific Whale Foundation will share tales from her 10 years of research on humpback whales. Humpback whales are a conservation success story, having largely recovered from the threat of commercial whaling, but they still need our help. Stephanie will discuss the most urgent threats to whales today, why whales are critical for a healthy ocean, and the actions needed to protect these ocean giants.

This is a Smithsonian Environmental Research Center monthly science talk from the Virtual Earth Optimism lecture series.

Fort Ward’s Maclura pomifera Tree

Feature photo: The arranged fruits of the Osage Orange tree into a happy face caught my attention and consequently initiated my interest to write this article.

Article and photos by FMN Stephen Tzikas

Osage Orange has a tough “stomp-proof” fruit that will not be crushed with foot pressure. It is grapefruit sized, about 4 inches in diameter, with an outer surface that looks like “brains.”

In December 2021, while on a trail review for the Birdability website (https://www.birdability.org/), I came across a most unusual tree. I had traveled throughout the US and the World, and walked many trails in Fairfax County, but never have I seen this type of tree. It’s commonly called an Osage Orange tree, but also goes by many other names, including its scientific name Maclura pomifera. As I approached it, I saw grapefruit sized yellow fruits on the ground beneath it, with a pile of them arrange in a happy face configuration, as if beckoning me toward them. I looked at those fruits in greater detail, and I thought to myself that the exotic fruit looked like brains, because of the convoluted nature of it.

The bark of the tree has scaly ridges with irregular furrows.

I asked a passer-by if he knew what kind of tree it was. He told me it was a “Monkey Tree,” so that became the basis of my internet search. Indeed, the fruits are also known as “Monkey balls” and “Monkey brains.” The Osage Orange tree is originally native to parts of Texas and Oklahoma. Today the tree has spread to much of the United States and Canada. Male and female trees have different flowers. Only the female tree bears fruit, but it is not edible. The early settlers of America had many uses for this tree and a lot of information on the tree and it uses can be found on the internet. The bark pattern on the tree has a characteristic deeply furrowed, scaly nature. Its twigs have thorns.

Fort Ward is a pleasant place to have a walk, with many ADA amenities. It also has a small museum on its grounds.

The location of the Osage Orange tree is just beyond the historic gate. Notice the Corp of Engineer’s insignia logo (castle) on top of the gate.




“How do Birds get their Colors?” webinar with Ivan Phillipsen, July 14th

Photo: Andrean Emerald Humminbirds, Ly Dang/Audubon Photography Awards

Thursday, July 14, 2022
7 pm
ASNV members $15, nonmembers $25
Register here.

One of the things most loved about birds is their wild array of plumage colors and patterns. Where does all that color come from? In this presentation, you’ll learn how pigments and microscopic structures in feathers create the kaleidoscope of beauty we find in the avian world. Topics covered include iridescence, molting and feather wear, the evolution of feather color, and the functions of feather colors.  Audubon Society of Northern Virginia presents.

Ivan Phillipsen is a professional naturalist guide with a background in scientific research. Amphibians and reptiles were his first obsession as a kid. He eventually earned a PhD in Zoology, working in the field of conservation genetics. Ivan’s love of nature has expanded to include plants, fungi, and all animals, including birds. Birds have become his greatest passion. He’s an avid birder, hosts The Science of Birds podcast, and co-owns a birding ecotour company.

Northrop Grumman Awards Community Service Grant to FMN

Image from Northrop Grumman website

FMN Lori Scheibe, a Northrop Grumman employee, applied for and received a $500 Community Service Grant to benefit our chapter. Lori says, “Most people who are familiar with Northrop Grumman, think of us as a technology company supporting space, aeronautics, cyber or defense. Over the last few years, one of the things that has inspired me about working at Northrop Grumman is our commitment to environmental sustainability including minimizing our operational footprint and utilizing technology for conservation. Our conservation projects include tracking the quality of coastal waters and forests; monitoring reef health metrics and environmental conditions to support oyster restoration in the Chesapeake Bay; developing sensor data technology for sea turtle conservation on the Florida coastline and my favorite, mapping ice formations in the Arctic for tracking polar bear migration patterns.”

“Northrop Grumman encourages volunteering in four areas: STEM education, support for military/veterans, health and human services and the environment. The FMN mission directly aligns to the environment as well as STEM education. I think volunteering at Science Fairs is a double win.”

Giving back to the community is interwoven into the culture at Northrop Grumman. They believe their employees’ support, dedication and passion help strengthen the partnerships they build in the communities where they work and live. Volunteerism is encouraged as a way to network, team build and develop leadership skills while making a difference. Northrop Grumman provides Community Service Grants in recognition of their employees’ volunteer efforts, whether at a Northrop Grumman volunteer event or when volunteering on their own.

Thank you, Lori! We will certainly use this donation to benefit the environment.

North American Butterfly Association(NABA) Butterfly Count, July 23rd

Image: Courtesy of The Clifton Institute

Saturday, July 23, 2022
9:00am – 3:00pm
Where: The Clifton Institute
6712 Blantyre Road, Warrenton, VA
Cost: Free
For more information and Registration click here.

Every year community scientists help count the butterflies in 15-mile-diameter circles all around the country and contribute their data to the North American Butterfly Association. This summer The Clifton Institute will host their 27th annual butterfly count and celebrate their 20th year contributing their data to NABA. Butterfly enthusiasts of all levels of experience are welcome! If you feel like you don’t know many butterflies, this is a great way to learn and it’s always helpful to have more eyes pointing out butterflies.

Butterfly Identification Workshop, July 9th

Image: Courtesy of The Clifton Institute

Saturday, July 9  10:00 am – 12:00 pm

The Clifton Institute
6712 Blantyre Road
Warrenton, Virginia 20187


Instructor: Dr. Bert Harris

More information and registration.

Come and learn about butterfly biology and identification. Dr. Bert Harris will give a short presentation followed by a guided walk around the field station to look for butterflies (and perhaps some dragonflies as well :). All skill levels welcome!

Hosted by The Clifton Institute.

Summer Wildflower Identification, July 18th – August 15th

Mondays, 6 – 8pm
July 18 – August 15
Zoom lectures + 3 field trips
$260 members/$310 nonmembers
Instructor: Clare Walker, Ph.D
More information and register here.

Gain an appreciation of the varied summer wildflowers of our region from dazzling orchids to roadside ‘weeds’ and from distinctive milkweeds to the complicated asters. Explore methods of field identification, from traditional field guides to the advantages/disadvantages of different apps, giving you the tools to go outside and hunt for flowers (recording flower observations in an optional iNaturalist class project). Registration closes on July 13.

Hosted by Audubon Naturalist Society.

Rare Plant Reintroduction and Restoration, recorded webinar

Watch the presentation now on Vimeo.

On May 12th, Matt Bright of Earth Sangha made a presentation on Rare Plant Reintroduction and Restoration for the Potowmack Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society.

Matt reviews how the Earth Sangha and Fairfax County Park Authority have collaborated on reestablishment of several state-rare native plant species, some of the challenges that work has entailed, and why home gardeners may be better served — and better serve our local environment — by focusing on more common plants instead

Life in the Flower Bed, webinar July 20th

Photo:  Sue Dingwell

Wednesday, July 20, 2022
7 – 9pm
LWC event link.

The flower patch is abuzz with pollinators but also predators looking for a meal. Learn about the good guys vs. the bad guys with “wolves in sheep’s clothing,” camouflaged “crabs,” and zombie bees. You will never look at your flowers the same way after visiting this “Serengeti” in miniature. This talk is co-sponsored by Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and the Loudoun County Public Library.

The library doesn’t require pre-registration. Just click on the library website link (coming soon) through the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy event link included above to join when it’s time.

Stream Monitoring: Citizen Science & Training Opportunities

Photo by J. Quinn


Below is a list of the various Stream Monitoring workshops and other monitoring opportunities in the area throughout June and July.


Accotink Creek Stream Monitoring

When: Saturday, June 11, 9:30 – 11:30am

Where: Accotink Creek, Springfield

Join Friends of Accotink Creek to monitor the health of the stream. For more information and to register, click here.


Little Hunting Creek Stream Monitoring Workshop

When: Sunday, June 12, 10:00am-12:30pm

Where: Paul Spring Stream Valley Park, Alexandria

This workshop was originally scheduled for April but was rained out… twice! Take this opportunity to join us as we visit the Paul Spring Branch of Little Hunting Creek for the first time in many years! Space is limited, please register for the workshop here.


Sugarland Run Stream Monitoring Workshop

When: Tuesday, June 21, 4:00-6:30pm

Where: Sugarland Run Stream Valley Park, Herndon

This site is close to one of the largest great blue heron rookeries in the area at Kincora along Route 28, and seeing these beautiful birds along Sugarland Run isn’t uncommon. What a nice bonus to complement Sugarland Run’s big crayfish and other mighty macros! Space is limited, please register for the workshop here.


Pohick Creek Stream Monitoring Workshop

When: Sunday, July 17, 10:00am-12:30pm

Where: Hidden Pond Nature Center, Springfield

This is the workshop site of a recently-retired stream monitor and is currently up for adoption. Come join us at this beautiful county park! Space is limited, please register for the workshop here.


Holmes Run Stream Monitoring Workshop

When: Saturday, July 23, 9:00-11:30am

Where: Holmes Run Stream Valley Park, Falls Church

This workshop site is ae easily-accessible location just downstream of Lake Barcroft. Come explore this beautiful spot in the Cameron Run watershed! Space is limited, please register for the workshop here.

More Training and Stream Monitoring Opportunities


The Northern Virginia Water and Soil Conservation District(NVSWCD) is very excited to contribute their stream data to state and national datasets. If anyone would like to see data from all the NVSWCD regional stream monitoring team’s active sites, the NVSWCD organization can be found on the Clean Water Hub. Keep in touch with NVSWCD on our Facebook and Instagram.