Mason Neck State Park’s Pollinator Gardens Need TLC

Photo: Margaret Fisher

Mason Neck State Park
7301 High Point Road, Lorton VA

The Park has three pollinator gardens filled with native plants that attract and nourish pollinators. All three gardens need some help. The Park needs volunteers to help weed and mulch the gardens and to keep the more aggressive native and invasive plants  under control. Can you give the gardens some help on a continuing basis or just once on a workday?

Send them an email at [email protected] and they’ll connect you with Friends and Park Staff who are working to keep the gardens beautiful.

The Incredible Abilities of Dragonflies, September 6th

Photo: Dr. Jessica Ware

Tuesday, September 6
7 pm
ASNV member $15/nonmember $25
Register here.

Join Audubon Society of Northern Virginia after Labor Day for a lively talk on dragonflies by Dr. Jessica Ware. Dragonflies and damselflies (Odonata) are some of the oldest insects on the planet, and over millions of years they have evolved flying abilities that make them the most efficient predators on earth. Come learn more about these ancient animals that are all around us. Dr. Ware will lead us on a time traveling journey through the past 400 million years of their evolution, going back to the Late Carboniferous to Early Triassic. You will learn more about their life cycles, reproductive behaviors, colorful communication techniques, and the anatomy that makes them such successful predators.

Virginia Bluebird Society Conference, November 11th & 12th

Friday, November 11 & Saturday, November 12, 2022
6 pm Friday – 3 pm Saturday
Northern Virginia Community College in Woodbridge
2645 College Dr., Woodbridge
Registration on the VBS website in early September
Contact [email protected] for more information

Virginia Bluebird Society be celebrating the 25th anniversary of their founding. Whether you are an experienced bluebird landlord or just beginning, they have breakout sessions both fun and informative planned with you in mind. You need not be a VBS member to attend.

Presenters include VBS’ own Anne Little on Bluebirding 101 and VBS Vice President Doug Rogers providing tips and tricks for the bird photographer. Jessica Ruthenberg, Virginia Department of Wildlife Resource’s Watchable Wildlife Biologist will advise you on creating backyard habitat. Wildlife rehabilitator Maureen Eiger will be joining us and we have two North American Bluebird Society directors providing answers to all your questions.

And while you may not have heard of their Keynote Speaker Julie Zickefoose, you will be “wowed” by her. She is a prolific artist and writer. On her website you can see her artwork, listen to her past lectures, and read her blog. She will be selling copies of her books and prints at the conference. Welcome to Julie

NABA Butterfly Count, September 17th

Saturday, September 17, 2022
9 am – 4 pm; suggested $3 donation to participate
Volunteers are assigned a 15-mile diameter count area

Register for count here.

Live identification webinar Thursday, September 15 at 7 pm
Register for webinar here.

The Butterfly Count is an ongoing program of the North American Butterfly Association (NABA) to census the butterflies of North America (United States, Canada and partially Mexico) and to publish the results. Volunteer participants are assigned a count area with a 15-mile diameter. The volunteers conduct a one-day census of all butterflies sighted within that circle.

Volunteers can either sign up for a live butterfly identification webinar with Larry Meade on Thursday, Sept 15 or request a video from the last session for free by emailing [email protected].

Volunteers of all experience levels are welcome! Every team will be led by an expert. Participants are encouraged to stay with their team for the duration of the event. A tally rally will take place at 4:00 PM at Belle Haven Pizzeria at 1401 Belle Haven Road, Alexandria, Virginia 22307.

This count is organized by Larry Meade.

Larry Meade is president of the Northern Virginia Bird Club and a member of the ASNV Adult Education Committee. He is a frequent bird walk leader and has been involved in numerous Audubon Christmas Bird Counts and NABA Butterfly Counts. He is the compiler of the Alexandria Circle NABA Butterfly Count.

Do Your Part! Sign Up for a Watershed Cleanup Day

Photo: Fairfax County Park Authority

Grab a bag and go on a trash scavenger hunt as the Fairfax County Park Authority hosts Watershed Cleanup Days once again this fall.

Join with family, friends, neighbors or colleagues to lend a hand to the Earth. We need your help to remove tires, bottles, cans and other debris from local waterways. Helping to clear the Earth’s vital arteries is a great community volunteer project for service groups and students. All ages are welcome.

Cleanup events kick off on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022, at Lake Fairfax Park from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and runs throughout October at a variety of Fairfax County locations. The sites include:

  • Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022 at Lake Fairfax Park from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022 at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park from 9 to 11 a.m.
  • Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022 at Oak Marr Rec Center from 9:30 to 11 a.m.
  • Sunday, Oct. 9, 2022 at Lake Accotink Park from 9 to 11 a.m.
  • Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022 at Scott’s Run Nature Preserve from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m.
  • Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022 at Providence Rec Center from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Additional sites may still be added. For a complete listing and to sign up as an individual volunteer, visit the Volunteer in Parks webpage. Groups, please call the site of your choice directly.

For general information, contact the Public Information Office at 703-324-8700 or via email at [email protected].

A Very Berry Universe

Feature photo: Wild strawberries along the Turquoise Trail in Reston, Virginia. Methyl and ethyl butanoate and methyl and ethyl hexanoate make up the bulk of the esters produced by fresh strawberries. In addition to these esters, other volatile compounds are present in specific cultivars that gave them characteristic flavors.

Article and photos by FMN Stephen Tzikas

The next time you consume some blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, or raspberries and think that their delicious taste is just “out of this world” you may be right.

There is one item in nature that I think future master naturalists, perhaps a few hundred years from now, will recognize anywhere in the universe if they could travel to habitable worlds other than Earth. That item is fruit. While there may be countless numbers of chemical compounds, there is a much more finite number of functional groups. Nature is primarily organic chemistry, though that is not to say inorganic and mineral chemistry are not important, though their classifications are different. Organic functional groups are specific groupings of atoms within molecules that have their own characteristic properties, regardless of the other atoms present in a molecule. Common examples are alcohols, amines, carboxylic acids, ketones, and ethers. In a typical organic chemistry course, there’s about a dozen or two functional groups that are important.

Esters are one of these groups and they are ubiquitous. Esters are derived from carboxylic acids. A carboxylic

MolView’s display of Ethyl Formate, a.k.a. raspberry

acid contains the -COOH group, and in an ester the hydrogen in this group is replaced by a hydrocarbon group of some kind. Esters with low molecular weight are commonly used as fragrances and are found in essential oils. Esters are one of the more useful functional groups, in part because of their low reactivity. In nature, esters are responsible for the aroma of many flowers and fruits.

Some common esters that are present in various fruits include:

  • Raspberry: isobutyl formate & ethyl formate
  • Pear: isobutyl acetate, propyl ethanoate & propyl acetate
  • Apple: pentyl acetate & ethyl pentanoate
  • Apricot: ethyl heptanoate
  • Pineapple: ethyl hexanoate & allyl hexanoate
  • Banana: ethyl butanoate
  • Peach: benzyl acetate

“Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink” was a saying coined by poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge in his famous The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Similarly, one can substitute “esters” for “water” in the famous phrase and one might now be speaking of the Universe. Because life in the universe is very likely to be organic based, it would not be surprising to find fruits on another world with the tastes and smells of Earth fruits, even though they may have a different appearance. Nature loves simplicity, and esters are just that. The simplest ester, methyl formate is relatively abundant in star-forming regions. Ethyl formate has been detected too in space. However, as organic molecules get larger they are more challenging to detect within the interstellar medium. Given that ethyl formate has the taste and smell of raspberries, one might conclude it’s a very berry universe. In fact, when it was first detected in our galaxy, the media posted stories humorously proclaiming the galaxy tastes of raspberries.

There is a lot of chemistry in nature, and many people make a hobby of it. A young child might explore with a chemistry kit, but the creative master naturalist enthusiast could get it involved in the extraction of dyes, oils, and fragrances found from plants in nature, to include the extraction of esters. Those who do this, extract wealth first-hand. I have heard it said in the chemical engineering industry that all wealth is either mined or grown, and everything else is an industry derived from this. If you enjoy exploring chemistry, many online resources exist as well as physical molecule building kits. MolView is an intuitive, open-source web-application for science and learning that can help you visualize molecules. It can be found here:

Chemistry is called the central science. Next time you are walking through nature, think about all the chemistry that is involved for anything that has a taste, smell, or color.

Spotted Lanternfly Watch Underway in Fairfax County

Photo: Spotted Lanternfly, Stephen Ausmus, USDA

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va – While there are still no sightings of the spotted lanternfly in Fairfax County, it is getting closer, and experts are on the lookout for it. This summer the invasive pest was found in nearby Loudoun County. To reduce the spread of this destructive insect the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service has expanded the spotted lanternfly quarantine to include an additional 18 counties and cities.

Fairfax County Forest Pest Management also is asking County residents to help slow the spread of this invasive pest by being vigilant about not moving spotted lanternfly life stages when traveling through known infested areas. The spotted lanternfly is known as a ‘hitchiker’ since it is often found near railroads and inside shipments of items such as produce.

The insect feasts on more than 70 plant species, though its preferred host is the tree-of-heaven. In the Commonwealth the peach, apple, grape, and wine industries are most threatened.

Adults begin laying eggs in September and through the first few hard frosts. The egg masses are covered in a light gray colored wax that looks like mud when it dries.

Spotted lanternfly identification information with links to the quarantine area can be found on the Fairfax County web site Spotted Lanternfly. Please keep an eye out for spotted lanternfly in Fairfax County and report sightings to [email protected] or to 703-324-5304. The popular mobile app, iNaturalist, is an effective and efficient method for reporting a SLF sighting.

Bats: Superheroes of the Night, October 26

Photo: Rick Reynolds on

Wednesday, October 26, 2022
Click here to register.

Learn from Deborah Klein, Board Member, Bat Conservation and Rescue of Virginia, how bats fly with their hands, find tiny insects in complete darkness, are responsible for humans having many of the foods and drinks we love, and much more!! Click here to register for this online only meeting via Zoom. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. This meeting is cosponsored by the Friends of Dyke Marsh and the Friends of Huntley Meadows Park.

Virtual Green Breakfast – Fairfax County Joint Environmental Task Force, September 10

Photo: Vardan Papikyan on Unsplash

Saturday, September 10, 2022
9:00 am
This event is FREE, please click here for registration information.
This a Virtual Event

Green Breakfast – Fairfax County Joint Environmental Task Force

Dan Storck, Mount Vernon District Supervisor

Elaine Tholen, School Board Member – Dranesville

Karl Frisch, School Board Member – Providence

The Joint Environmental Task Force (JET) works to join the political and administrative capabilities of the County and the school system to proactively address climate change and environmental sustainability. Join Supervisor Dan Storck and School Board members Karl Frisch and Elaine Tholen to hear the latest on these efforts. JET includes community partners from higher education, industry, community and student advocacy groups working with County and school system leaders to recommend aggressive goals in areas of County and school operations. Goal areas include: energy, waste management, workforce development and transportation. This presentation will focus on the development and implementation of the Joint Environmental Task Force between the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and the School Board. Future plans, lessons learned, and the current status as of September 2022 will be highlighted.

Registration is required for this event 

If you have questions, please email [email protected]

Invader Detective—Using iNaturalist to Save the World: Citizen Science with Dr. Sara Tangren

Photo courtesy of Lynde Dodd, USACE

Thursday, September 8, 2022
7:00 pm – 8:30 pm

If we could detect invading species before they became widespread, we could prevent a lot of ecological damage and save billions of tax dollars. That’s where community science can play a role. Dr. Tangren will show participants how data from citizen science apps, like iNaturalist, are used to detect invading species, map their distributions, and organize management responses.

Participants will discuss a variety of early-phase invaders and how you can help by reporting them. The presentation will include an update on the status of the two-horned trapa or water chestnut (Trapa bispinosa).

Dr. Sara Tangren is Coordinator at the National Capital Region Prism. She earned her Ph.D. in Natural Resources and Conservation from the University of Maryland.

Register here.