ASNV – Now Hiring Volunteer Coordinator, deadline January 9th

The Audubon Society of Northern Virginia (ASNV) is now accepting applications for a Volunteer Coordinator. This will be a part-time, temporary position for one year, with a possibility to renew for a second year. The Volunteer Coordinator will play a critical role assisting with planning, recruiting, and implementing various volunteer programs and projects for ASNV. This position is also an opportunity to learn more about birds and wildlife, connect with other people who share a passion for nature, and utilize a range of skills to make an impact in our community. Please view the full job listing here for additional information. Deadline January 9, 2023.

ASNV Outreach Volunteer Orientation and Training, February 18th

Photo: Danny Brown

Saturday, February 18, 2023
1 pm – 3 pm
National Wildlife Federation, 11100 Wildlife Center Drive, Reston, VA 20191
Limited to 30 participants
Apply here.

Do you enjoy speaking to people about your passion for birds and the environment? The Audubon Society of Northern Virginia (ASNV) is currently seeking new volunteers to help them with representing ASNV at community events, leading nature walks for a general public audience, and delivering presentations to audiences of children and/or adults.

Please join them for this volunteer orientation and training if you are interested in helping them and the birds this Spring. Speakers include ASNV board members Stacey Remick-Simkins, Libby Lyons, and Greg Butcher. They will provide information on ASNV’s history and plans for the future, and on what we can do to help birds in Northern Virginia.

After the brief presentations, participants will be split up into three groups to dig deeper into the different forms of volunteering at community events, nature walks, or presentations, with each group engaging in interactive training. The groups will rotate so each participant will have a chance to learn about each kind of volunteer activity.

Experienced volunteers will provide new volunteers support after the training session. Before striking out on their own, new volunteers will have the chance to shadow experienced volunteers, to make sure they are comfortable before they take the lead in an activity such as leading a nature walk.


Audubon Afternoon with Forensic Ornithologist Carla Dove, January 22, 2023

Photo: Carla Dove

Sunday, January 22, 2023
2:30 – 4:30 pm
National Wildlife Federation
11100 Wildlife Center Drive, Ste. 100, Reston
Register here.

Join Audubon Society of Northern Virginia for their semi-annual live Audubon Afternoon.

They’ll gather informally starting at 2:30 so you have the opportunity to reconnect with everyone. They welcome any food and drink you would like to share during the informal portion of the program. At 3 PM, they’ll have a presentation by Forensic Ornithologist Dr. Carla Dove, a scientist with the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Carla does specialized research in the microscopic identification of feathers. Her current research involves establishing techniques in this newly developing field within Ornithology, which applies forensic methodologies to determine species of birds from fragmentary evidence using microscopy, whole feather comparisons with museum specimens and DNA “barcoding.”

The Audubon Afternoon is free, and everyone is welcome to attend. Registration is requested, so they have an idea of how many people will attend but is not required.

All About the Wildlife Center of Virginia, Webinar with Ed Clark on January 19th

Photo: Ed Clark

Thursday, January 19, 2023
7 – 8 pm
Audubon Society of Northern Virginia members $15/Nonmembers $25
Register here.

The Wildlife Center of Virginia (WCV) is the leading teaching and research hospital for wildlife and conservation medicine. It trains veterinary students and professionals from every vet school in the U.S. and Canada and from nearly 40 other countries worldwide. The Center was named Conservation Organization of the Year for the entire U.S. in 2007. It produces the Emmy-nominated, weekly series “Untamed,” that appears on PBS affiliates nationwide. Ed Clark will introduce WCV and its important work and update you on new initiatives underway to celebrate its 40th anniversary.

Wetland Dynamics through the Seasons, March 1st

 Photo: Mason Neck Wetlands by Stephen Tzikas

Wednesday, March 1, 2023
7:00 pm
Online Zoom program

Join the Friends of Dyke Marsh (FODM) on March 1, 7 p.m., for an online Zoom program, when Dr. Colin Rees, a zoologist and biodiversity expert, will discuss nature’s dynamics throughout the seasons in a freshwater tidal marsh. He is the author of Nature’s Calendar, a book that explores the ecological connections and adaptations of wetland organisms. Register in advance at This will also be FODM’s annual meeting at which we will elect 2023 officers and members of the Board of Directors.

Trash Cleanup Along the Potomac River Shoreline and in Dyke Marsh, January 16th

Photo: A Dyke Marsh inlet by Ned Stone.

Help collect trash along the Potomac River shoreline and in Dyke Marsh on Martin Luther King Day of Service, January 16, at 10 a.m. to 12 noon.

Register at

On January 16, go to one of two check-in stations:  one near the Belle Haven Park south parking lot and one at the Haul Road trail bulletin board. The National Park Service and the Friends of Dyke Marsh (FODM) will provide some gloves, tools, trash bags and hand sanitizer.

Wear a pair of sturdy shoes, long pants and sleeves, gloves and sun protection. Bring water.  FODM kindly ask that you not bring pets.

Help Control Invasive Plants with the Friends of Dyke Marsh – January, February and March

Photo: Earth Sangha

Join the Friends of Dyke Marsh (FODM) at 10 a.m. on these dates and help tackle invasive plants: January 7 and 16, February 4 and 18 and March 4 and 18.

Meet at the Haul Road Trail entrance bulletin board. Bring water, gloves, hand clippers and a lopper, if you have one. FODM will supply instructions, examples of targeted plants and trash bags. They will have a few hand clippers and loppers to share. Wear long sleeves and pants and sturdy shoes.

Sign up by sending an email to [email protected] and put “Invasive Plants” in the subject box. Indicate your preferred date(s). They kindly ask that you not bring pets.

Team Table Time

It was a great way to spend a day – collaborating behind the Nature Forward Table at the Hybla Valley Community Center.
Hybla Valley is designated as an Opportunity Neighborhood in Fairfax County. United Community, a non-profit organization, hosted the holiday season outreach event handing out 100s of toys, a nutritional lunch, and a tremendous amount of information on community area services (police, health, assistance) to 700+ visitors.

The Nature Forward tables focused on the Little Hunting Creek watershed area that runs through Huntley Meadows Park and the Hybla Valley area out to the Potomac River. The tables included a Macro-invertebrates game and display to emphasize the importance of clean water in the neighborhood. A native leaf rubbing station for the kids, resource information for the adults and, boxes of free kid nature and seasonal story books. We counted 306 visitors to our table; I think the ‘bugs’ drew in a lot kids and their families.

Jo working the floor. Photo Jerry Nissley

The coordinator for Nature Forward was the gracious Renee Grebe and it was great to work with ARMN volunteers Eileen Miller and Eric Weyer. The team was rounded out by FMN reps Jo Doumbia and Jerry Nissley.

The team set up Nature Forward’s macro-invertebrates spin-wheel game, along with resin macro cubes (encasing real macros!), talked up their Water Keepers of Little Hunting Creek programming, and handed out flyers as the visitors streamed by.

Santa, of course. Photo Jerry Nissley

Renee was very appreciative to have FOUR master naturalists at the table that could talk specifically about macro-invertebrates and how they are an indicator species of water quality. Macro-invertebrates are literally one of Eric’s specialties and he could tell a good story. Eileen and Jo had both helped with Nature Forward in the past and were very familiar with their objectives and messaging. They are all wonderful communicators and Jo provided additional benefit by being able to translate materials for the predominantly Spanish speaking guests.
Toys, Santa, buena comida, joy, and bug science! A lot of smiles left the building that day.

Observations in Nest Engineering

Article and photos by FMN Stephen Tzikas

Feature photo:  Eastern Bluebird nest, Box 3. May 1, 2021, Langley Fork Park.

Animals can have fairly skilled abilities, like that of a beaver building a dam, wasps constructing a hive, an octopus maintaining a garden to hide and reinforce its den entrance, or a bird building a nest. Birds can build nests in a variety of areas, urban or rural.

In 2021, I volunteered to become a bluebird monitor at the Langley Fork Park, in McLean, VA. It is one of the great variety of master naturalist programs available to volunteers. I was partial to it primarily because I had a pet parakeet as a child and knew how extremely intelligent and friendly these birds are. In 2022, I became the trail leader.

The Virginia Bluebird Society’s monitoring program offers a great opportunity to see new born birds very close. It’s not just the birds I find interesting, but also their nests. My favorite Bluebird monitoring document is found at this link from the North American Bluebird Society:

It is a useful document that discusses the identification of birds, eggs, and nests.

House Wren nest, Box 9, July 16, 2021, Langley Fork Park.

It’s all fascinating and perhaps the most interesting to me, as an engineer, is how nests are made. Each species has a unique nest. One might ask why and how? I haven’t found too much literature on why each type of bird builds a nest the way they do. So I will speculate a bit.   At Langley Fork Park the Tree Swallows and Eastern Bluebirds are the most successful birds inhabiting the boxes, with the Tree Swallows having a slight edge. In 2021, we had one successful House Wren nesting event. While maintaining the bird boxes this Fall, I noticed a mouse built a nest in a birdbox surrounded by overground shrubs, which allowed it to reach the entrance.

Eastern Bluebirds build neat, cup shaped, woven nests of fine grass or pine needles. Tree Swallows

Tree Swallow nest, Box 5, May 21, 2022, Langley Fork Park.

build nests of coarser grass lined with feathers. Their cup is flatter than those of Eastern Bluebirds. House Wrens build haphazard nests of twigs, occasionally lined with feathers. House Wrens pile twigs creating a cavity in which they choose to nest, acting as a barrier between nest and entrance. House Wrens can be fierce competitors for nest sites, but generally speaking, the House Wren, as a species not as competitive as the Eastern Bluebird or Tree Swallow, has a security structure embedded as part of its nest.

Birds can also build unlined eggless “dummy nests” in nearby boxes to reduce competition. Dummy nests are also built by males, perhaps to offer the females some choices on her preferred location and once chosen, can be finalized.

From the Factsheet link I provided, the mouse has a messy nest. Mice usually make their nest from a variety of materials, such as grass, leaves, hair, feathers, shredded bark, moss, cotton, or shredded cloth. My son had a gerbil as a pet. I can say gerbils are not as intelligent as birds. Given this observation of their fellow rodent, and that mice are quite timid and scared, their nests are conducive to hiding. A mouse did not make a quiver when I opened a bluebird box weeks after the end of a season and found a mouse nest. Its nest was built to hide at all costs. Upon emptying the nest the mouse quickly ran away.

House Wren nest, Box 9, side view from 2021 season.

Eastern Bluebirds and Tree Swallows, who are competitive and successful, perhaps have the luxury to build a more comfortable nest given their abilities to defend their turf. The Eastern Bluebird, perhaps being particularly skilled, can find those extra soft grass blades and soft twigs, being quite comfortable for a refined nest for their hatchlings. The Tree Swallow, who includes some coarser twigs, can make up in their selection of cushy feathers to keep their young nestlings comfortable.

If birds were people, we might amusingly attribute the following characters to their work:

  • Eastern Bluebirds – build with “engineering precision”
  • Tree Swallows – build with warmth and comfort
  • House Wrens – build with safety and security


Please Join One or All of The Wonderful Late Afternoon Winter Walks Scheduled at Huntley Meadows Park, December and January

Photo: FMN J. Quinn, Huntley Meadows Park

Wetland at Dusk Walk

Saturday  , December 17, 2022
4:15  – 5:45 PM
Cost: $10.00

Activity details and registration information.

Join park naturalists for a relaxing stroll through the park’s forest and wetland paths. Look and listen for wildlife settling down or waking up during the transition of day to night.


Winter Solstice Evening Walk

Tuesday, December 20, 2022
4:15 – 5:45 PM
Cost: $9.00

Activity details and registration information.

Celebrate the first day of winter and shortest day of the year with a Park Naturalist for an outing into the forest and wetland at sunset on this December evening. We will look and listen for signs of nocturnal wildlife.


Wildlife Walk at Huntley Meadows

Friday, January 6, 2023
3:30 – 5:00 PM
Cost: $9.00

Activity details and registration information.

Enjoy a naturalist guided walk through the forested trails and wetland boardwalk. Look and listen for seasonally active wildlife like birds, frogs, turtles, dragonflies, muskrats and more. Touch biofacts like turtle shells and snakeskin. Each season brings different wildlife into view, what will you discover?


Twilight Boardwalk Stroll

Saturday, January 7, 2023
4:30  – 6:00 PM
Cost: $10.00

Activity details and registration information.

Join a park naturalist for a guided walk along the forested paths to the wetland and experience the park as it transitions from day into night. Watch and listen for beavers, owls and other nocturnal residents.

Hot Cocoa Wetland Night Hike

Sunday, January 8, 2023
4:30  – 6:00 PM
Cost: $10.00

Activity details and registration information.

Sip hot cocoa and join a naturalist for a special winter wonder wetland tour after dark.  Look for signs and listen for sounds of beavers, owls, deer and other nocturnal winter animals. We encourage program participants to bring their own mug to help us reduce waste.



3701 Lockheed Blvd.
Alexandria, VA,

Map of Huntley Meadows Park