Festival at Leopold’s Preserve Coming This Fall, September 23

Saturday, September 23, 2023
11 am – 3 pm
16290 Thoroughfare Rd, Broad Run, VA 20137

See the schedule here.

Mark your calendars for the Fall Festival at Leopold’s Preserve on Saturday, September 23, from 11 am – 3 pm EST. Presented by the White House Farm Foundation and Northern Virginia Conservation Trust, this family-friendly celebration promises a delightful experience amidst the splendor of the fall season.

This exciting event will feature an array of activities and attractions for all ages. Enjoy the festivities with tables from nonprofit organizations, vendors offering unique goods, popular delights from food trucks, and local wine.

For nature enthusiasts, embark on guided nature hikes that will unveil the breathtaking beauty of Leopold’s Preserve, allowing you to explore its trails, meadows, and observation areas. Kids will have a blast with fun-filled activities like face painting, carnival-style games, and a raffle of nature-related products. Don’t miss out on this memorable event that brings together the community and champions for the environment.

It will be a great time, and they look forward to seeing you there!

Report Your Plantings: Every Tree Counts!

Photo: Courtesy of Plant NOVA Trees

From Plant NOVA Trees:

Every tree counts! And counting every tree also helps show whether Northern Virginia is meeting its environmental goals. The Virginia Department of Forestry is counting planted trees to see if Virginia is meeting its stormwater goals to protect the bay, and the Department of Environmental Quality is asking Northern Virginia to plant 600,000 trees by 2025.

Birch leaf_edited.png                  Birch leaf_edited.png

Since most available land in Northern Virginia is private property, this goal will not be met without planting thousands of new trees in our own neighborhoods. Help keep track of the progress and build momentum by reporting your tree planting. The tree planting reports are forwarded and added to the Virginia Department of Forestry’s My Trees Count map, which is updated a couple times a year.

As of 7/20/2023:  12,677 trees and shrubs reported!

Click to report your tree and shrub plantings


Fairfax Master Naturalist Chapter Project Update

Photo credits:  Overgrown Woodland Edge Garden picture by Paul Van Rjin, Friends of Mason Neck State Park

FMN Chapter Project Update by Sarah Mayhew

The pollinator gardens at Mason Neck State Park remain a work in progress.  Some of them are looking beautiful and others are still looking neglected.  That is because we are responsible for reclaiming 6 different pollinator garden beds.  Five of them are looking good.  The sixth one is the largest — the Woodland Edge Garden is 56 ft x 52 ft or almost 3000 sq. ft.  Our two July workdays focused on getting 1/3 of the Woodland Edge Garden cleared for “smothering” the Japanese Honeysuckle under black plastic.  Here are the before, during, and after pictures of that work:

Photo credits Overgrown Woodland Edge Garden by Paul Van Rjin, Friends of Mason Neck State Park


Photo credits Smothering Woodland Edge Garden by Paul Van Rjin, Friends of Mason Neck State Park


Photo by Sarah Mayhew, FMN Gerald Rob Warren with weed whacker Mason Neck Chapter Project


Photo by Sarah Mayhew, FMN Chapter Project mowed Woodland Edge Garden

As you can see, there was a lot growing and then we cut it all down to ground level.  The next workday our volunteers laid down the black plastic, creatively repurposing the chicken wire we removed from the fence to help weigh down the plastic!

Our August workdays will be on Tuesday, August 8, and Saturday, August 12, 2023.  We have moved the start time to 9:00 a.m. to avoid the heat.  Our goal for these two days is to remove a large multiflora rose bush and selectively weed some invasives from the remaining two thirds of the garden that is in much better shape.  We will be identifying many native plants as we go, so you will have a good opportunity to learn new plants, too.  You can sign up to help us here:  Mason Neck State Park Pollinator Garden


There is one more update to the Chapter Project schedule.  We discovered in July that our “second Saturday” schedule conflicts with the Green Breakfasts.  We are moving our workdays to a “third Saturday and third Tuesday” schedule beginning in September.  We don’t want to deprive any member of the Continuing Education opportunity the Green Breakfasts provide.  Keep learning!

Book Review by FMN Marilyn Schroeder: The Jewel Box:  How Moths Illuminate Nature’s Hidden Rules by Tim Blackburn

Moth watching?  Not as popular as bird watching, but in the same league as butterfly, dragonfly, bee, mammal and plant watching.

Tim Blackburn says the features that attract us to these species are:

– Visible – to attract attention

– Easy to find with little specialist training or equipment

– Enough diversity to hold people’s interest

– Identifiable, but with degrees of difficulty.  “Easy species to suck you in.  Harder ones to test your developing skills.  And puzzlers to present a real challenge.”

In The Jewel Box:  How Moths Illuminate Nature’s Hidden Rules, Tom Blackburn describes discovering his new hobby of moth watching.  A biology professor, Blackburn also draws readers into a deeper understanding of nature.  In each chapter, he features one or two of these insect jewels as an exemplar of a particular aspect of an ecological community.  Discussing elements such as intra- and inter-species competition, predator-prey relationships, and population cycles, Blackburn develops a complex concept of an ecological web.  He shows that understanding moths requires more than the context of other moths.  Moths also need to be studied in conjunction with their predators, parasites, viruses and available resources.   And each of those can only be understood in a wider context of interactions.  So everything is connected in an ecological web.

Seeing a beautiful moth on the cover, I picked up the book expecting pictures of moths with descriptions of their behavior and identifying field marks.  Page by page, I was drawn in to learning so much more about the natural world.  The Jewel Box is a great book for Master Naturalists, developing appreciation for these lovely lepidoptera and expanding on what we learned in class about Entomology and Ecology.

Audubon Afternoon on September 24: The Story of Kirtland’s Warbler with Nathan Cooper

Photo: Nathan Cooper

Sunday, September 24, 2023
2:30 – 4:30 PM

National Wildlife Federation Building 
11100 Wildlife Center Drive
Reston, VA 20190


Mark your calendar now for the next Audubon Afternoon on September 24. After catching up with your ASNV friends, you will enjoy a presentation by the Smithsonian’s Nathan Cooper. He will discuss his research on North America’s rarest songbird, the Kirtland’s Warbler. Over the past few decades, Kirtland’s Warblers have undergone a remarkable recovery, from just 167 males in the world in 1987 to more than 2,200 males today. In addition to having a compelling conservation story, its small population size and restricted breeding and winter ranges provide an opportunity to learn more about the fascinating and interconnected annual cycles of songbirds. Cooper will take the attendees on a journey through the annual cycle of the Kirtland’s Warbler and share what we have learned from this rare species. FREE! No registration required, but you may wish to register to get an email reminder of the event.

Join your friends on Sunday afternoon for this quarterly live Audubon Afternoon at the National Wildlife Federation Building, 11100 Wildlife Center Drive in Reston.

There will be an informal gathering starting at 2:30 so you have an opportunity to reconnect with everyone. Please feel free to bring any food and drink you would like to share with everyone during the informal portion of the program. At 3:00 PM, we’ll have a presentation by the Smithsonian’s Nathan Cooper.

Nathan Cooper is a behavioral ecologist and conservation biologist. He studies how migratory birds interact with each other and their environments throughout the annual cycle. He is primarily focused on the ecology and conservation of the Kirtland’s Warbler, and is currently involved in several science- and conservation-based projects with this recently delisted species. Cooper earned a B.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife from Michigan State University, an M.S. in Biology from Portland State University, and a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Tulane University. He first joined the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center as a Ph.D. student in 2008, and was awarded both Predoctoral and Postdoctoral Fellowships there, before being promoted to Research Ecologist in 2020.

Registration is not required, please bring friends, family, neighbors, etc!



Radio Meteor Observing

Illustration 1: With Permission from www.LiveMeteors.com.  A meteor trail is capable of reflecting radio waves from transmitters located on the ground so that they can be detected by amateur radio antennas.   

Article by FMN Stephen Tzikas

We have all seen “shooting stars” or meteors.  They are rocky fragments that collide with the Earth and burn up in the atmospheres, causing that “shooting star” effect.  People can explore meteor observing a little more scientifically through the American Meteor Society website: https://www.amsmeteors.org/

There is another aspect to meteor observing than can be done under any conditions, such as daylight hours and inclement weather, and that is with radio meteors.  Counts of radio meteors provide valuable data. Radio detection of meteors is more effective than optical observations.  Hence, it may be possible to discover many new minor meteor shower swarms, their cometary fragment trails, and their original associated comets.  A meteor in the Earth’s upper atmosphere produces a sharp pinging sound of about a second’s duration in the continuous live display found at www.livemeteors.com.  This website offers a way for anyone to gather intensity and duration data for radio meteor echoes on a continuous 24/7 basis, allowing the recording of meteor showers throughout the year.  A receiver tuned to a received radio beacon, an antenna, and a recorder or a computer, are needed if you decide to reproduce the set-up.  In Figure 1, I provide an example of a  Spectrum Waterfall Display taken from www.livemeteors.com on April 16, 2015 for the Lyrid meteor shower at precisely 4:40 AM local time or 08:40:24 UTC and 55.24 MHz.

Figure 1: Author’s screenshot from https://www.livemeteors.com

The Canadian Meteor Orbit Radar (CMOR) has an interesting website: https://aquarid.physics.uwo.ca/research/radar/cmor_intro.html .  While reviewing the website, take a look at the projects and activities that are being investigated.  The interesting research to determine meteor radiants and original source comets, including those for meteors not seen optically, is still in its early stages and needs support.  The American Meteor Society, whose link I provided earlier, also has a radio observing program.

The field of radio astronomy observation is large and relatively new.  Even for amateurs, there are many opportunities to develop the field.  Such opportunities usually require dedicated self-starters who can apply the science and engineering of radio astronomy into meaningful observations and datasets.  However, radio meteors is one of the simpler observational programs that master naturalists can enjoy.     

Another Great Volunteer Activity: Native Pollinator Garden at the Potomac River National Wildlife Refuge Center

Photo: COURTESY OF Potomac National Wildlife Refuge Center, Overgrown Pollinator Gardens

Tuesday, August 8, 2023
Visitor Services Specialist at Potomac River NWR
14050 Dawson Beach Rd.C
Woodbridge, VA 22191



Another opportunity to excel has risen up before us – literally! The existing native pollinator garden at the Potomac River National Wildlife Refuge Center has become overgrown and needs rejuvenating.

The initial workday has been scheduled for August 8 at 9AM

To signup, please click on this link: https://forms.office.com/g/fcHpHmQtAp.

Plan of attack is to pull/dig up all vegetation, enhance the soil by working in compost, then cover until an appropriate planting time in the fall (Sept/Oct), and finally remove debris to their dumpster.

The garden is relatively small (two 8×10 raised bed rectangles conjoined into an ‘L’ shape), so this initial effort should not take more than an easy 2 hours, tops.

Merrimac Farm chapter has been contacted, so this may be a chance to meet some neighboring VMNs, as well as, potential volunteers from Master Gardeners, Mom’s Kitchen, and NWRC Staff. 

Tools will be provided but you may bring your own favorites and your own work gloves.

So please come on down, meet some new people, check out a new place along the Potomac River, and dig some weeds!

FMN volunteers may claim service hours using, S543: Stewardship and Outreach – – FMN

By the way, this project developed as a direct result of NWRC engaging the FMN booth at the Eagle Festival and seeing the work done by volunteers at Mason Neck State Park. So kudos to all the volunteers who made a difference with the gardens at MNSP.

Coordinator and location for this event is:

Gabriela (Gabby) Youngken
Visitor Services Specialist at Potomac River NWRC
14050 Dawson Beach Rd.
Woodbridge, VA 22191
Mobile: (571)866-1262
Office: (703)490-4979 Ext. 52585

Thank you!

Join The NABA Butterfly Count, September 10th


Photo By David Illig, Variegated Fritillary (NABA Butterfly Count)

Click here for registration information.

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 are encouraged to attend the butterfly identification webinar on Sept 5 (FREE for ASNV Members; $10 for non-members).

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. Deadline to register is Thursday, September 7 at 9:00 PM so you can be assigned to a team on Friday. Teams will each meet at their designated count locations.

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.

ASNV Presents Fall Butterfly Identification with Larry Meade, September 5th

Photo By David Illig, Variegated Fritillary

Click here for registration information.

The sight of butterflies fluttering around on a warm day is one of the most iconic signs of summer, but they can still be found well into the fall months. These beautiful insects usually live for only a few weeks as adults, but they make quite an impression while they are in their full glory. There is a large variety of butterfly species in our area. Larry Meade will walk participants through the common species and help us differentiate some of the trickier look-a-like species.

Participants are encouraged to register for the North American Butterfly Association (NABA) Count to be held on September 10, 2023.

A good way to prepare this program is to review Butterflies of the Mid-Atlantic, a Field Guide, by Robert Blakney and Judy Gallagher. Judy Gallagher is a member of the ASNV Board, and the field guide is available for purchase on the ASNV website.

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 North America Butterfly Association (NABA) Butterfly Counts. He is the compiler of the Alexandria Circle NABA Butterfly Count.

This program is FREE for members of Audubon Society of Northern Virginia and members of the Northern Virginia Bird Club.


Understanding the Climate Crisis with Bill Young, Five Sessions: September 19th, 21st, 26th, 28th and October 3rd

Photo: Bill Young 

September 19, 21, 26, 28 and October 3, 2023
7:00 – 8:30 PM
Cost: (ASNV Members: $65 , Non-members: $75)

Click here for Registration details.

The climate crisis is the biggest issue facing humans and the natural environment in the 21st century.

This five-part course will help people be better informed about the scope of the crisis and the science behind this issue. Each class will last about an hour and a half, with opportunity for discussion. Our speaker, Bill Young, has a great thirst for knowledge and the ability to communicate complex issues in an understandable narrative.

Topics to be covered include:

  • Overview of climate concepts and issues

  • Greenhouse gases

  • Effects on birds and biodiversity

  • Fossil fuels

  • Transportation and agriculture

This class will be followed on Thursday, October 5, by a free Climate Crisis Action & Advocacy Workshop with Bill Young and Board Member Tom Wood. This program is open to all. Please post to social media and invite your friends & family to participate. The workshop will provide participants with suggestions for actions that we can all take to push back on the effects of climate change. We hope that participants in this lecture series will attend that workshop.

Bill Young is a writer who lives in Arlington. He is the co-creator (with Ashley Bradford) of the MPNature.com website, and he has taught numerous classes for ASNV.

Your ticket will cover all five sessions, 7.5 hours of program time. This program will be held on September 19, 21, 26, 28, and Oct 3, 7:00 – 8:30 PM. You will get a zoom link on September 19 that will be the same link for all five sessions. Sessions will be recorded and the videos will be shared with all registered participants.