FMNs Honored at Hidden Oaks’ Volunteer Recognition Potluck

Photo: Hidden Oaks, Fairfax County Park Authority

Hidden Oaks Nature Center held their spring volunteer social on Friday May 17.  This year, three Fairfax Master Naturalists were recognized for their outstanding volunteer contributions.

Kim Munshower received our Champion Oak award. A volunteer for us for at least 8 years, Kim has served as a Volunteer on Duty, greeting the walk-in public, program participants, and phone callers.  She also serves as a volunteer naturalist, helping with our school, public, or camp programs, including MWEEs. She typically leads a hands-on trail walk encouraging both children and adults to engage directly with nature. She even created her own bioluminescent mushroom costume to wear during our Fearless Fest.  Sharing her skills as a certified kayak instructor, she helped us coordinate an experience for Culmore teens to kayak at Riverbend Park. And she has generously shared her new avocation as a yoga instructor by leading sessions here at Hidden Oaks for site staff and volunteers.

Photo: Hidden Oaks’ Volunteer Recognition Potluck, Champion Awardee Kim Munshower

Teena Seigo was awarded our Sapling Award.  This award goes to a volunteer who has showed significant growth in their volunteer activities.  Teena started out as a Volunteer on Duty (greeter), and is always willing to jump in and take a shift when needed to fill in. She has also started helping on the programming side, at birthday parties and camps. We have watched her knowledge base increase as she’s taken the FMN training class (Spring 2024 class!) and are excited for her to continue to help with our programs.

Photo: HONC Volunteer Coordinator Janet Siddle with Sapling Awardee Teena Seigo

Steve Wright received our Acorn Award, which goes to a new volunteer.  She’s been with us since April 2023, and has the distinction of being Hidden Oak’s first “Animal Maintenance” volunteer. As well as animal feeding, she does animal maintenance chores such as periodic tank cleaning, food prep, filter change outs and other not so glamorous, but essential tasks. Most Mondays, you’ll find her cleaning a tank, making animal salad to store in the refrigerator, cutting up frozen fish, cleaning out the refrigerator, cleaning animal bedding carpets or whatever else needs doing.  Beyond her animal care duties, she has taken the initiative to remove invasive species around the site. She helped us plan a habitat management workday for FMN and other volunteers, and lead a group of volunteers that day to remove many, many bags of invasives.

Photo: Acorn Awardee Steve Wright with HONC Animal Care Specialist Avery Gunther

Kim and Steve additionally received the FCPA Very Important Volunteer award, which recognizes volunteers who have provided exceptional services to FCPA or have taken on a task outside their normal scope. Awardees receive a certificate from FCPA Executive Director Jai Cole and one-year passes providing free access to an array of activities across FCPA.

Hidden Oaks very much appreciates all of our FMN volunteers!  To get involved, contact Visitor Services Manager Kristina Watts (FMN Fall 2017 Class) at [email protected] or Volunteer Coordinator Janet Siddle (ARMN) [email protected].

What a Warming World Means for Plants, Pests and Pollinators, webinar, June 18th

Photo: Courtesy of SERC

Tuesday, June 18, 2024
7 pm
Register here.

How will a hotter planet reshape the insect world? In the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) June evening webinar, join entomologist and author Michael Raupp for a look at the future of insects, both pests and pollinators. He will reveal how climate change is shifting weather patterns around the globe, and what that means for insects and mites in the mid-Atlantic. Learn how rising temperatures impact insect abundance, distributions, seasonal behaviors and the web of interactions among plants, herbivores and their natural enemies.

Michael Raupp

Professor Emeritus·University of Maryland

Mike is professor emeritus at the University of Maryland. He has received more than a dozen international, national and regional awards for writing, scholarship and scientific outreach. Mike has appeared on major television and radio networks in this country and several abroad, and been featured in National Geographic Ultimate Explorer, Science Channel and PBS. He has appeared with luminaries including Jay Leno, Hoda Kotb and Robin Roberts. His “Bug of the Week” website,, and Youtube channel ( reach tens of thousands of viewers weekly in more than 200 countries around the world. His most recent book, “26 Things That Bug Me,” introduces youngsters to the wonders of insects and natural history, while “Managing Insect and Mites on Woody Plants” is a standard for the arboricultural industry.

Virginia Tech Researchers Seek Landowner Help with Gray Fox Project

Photo: Gray fox in Back Back National Wildlife Refuge. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Gray fox populations across North America have been declining over the last two decades. There are no published studies on gray fox population status in Virginia, but researchers, biologists, naturalists, hunters, and trappers from the state have noted, anecdotally, a decline in sightings, vocalizations, and camera trap photos over the last decade.

The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources is funding the Virginia Gray Fox Project, which is being conducted by Dr. Marcella Kelly and Ph.D. student Victoria Monette of Virginia Tech. The primary goal of this project is to map the current distribution of gray fox across the state of Virginia and to assess the evidence for decline using past, historical camera trapping from around the state. To accomplish this, the researchers will conduct a state-wide camera trapping survey. They are looking to survey areas where foxes are and are not found, and cover a variety of habitat types (suburban, urban, forest, pasture, etc.).

To conduct such a large-scale survey, the researchers are hoping to enlist the help of volunteers that:

  • Have existing trail cameras on their own property, or
  • Are willing to set and monitor project cameras (if available) on their own property, or
  • Are willing to allow the researchers access to their land to set up additional cameras.

Volunteers will be expected to set the cameras according to specific protocols to standardize data collection and will need to check cameras periodically (every two weeks) to ensure sufficient battery life and proper camera function. The camera survey will cover the state over the course of three years. For the 2024 field season (spring, summer, and fall) the project is focusing on the Appalachian Mountain region.

If interested in participating in assisting the Virginia Gray Fox Project, please email Victoria Monette at [email protected] or leave a voicemail with Dr. Kelly at 540-231-1734.

Bull Run Mountain – Ethnobotany Hike

A wonderful day was enjoyed by all FMN in attendance on 18 May 2024 with our friends at Virginia Outdoor Foundation (FOV). FMN had 12 people attend the sui generis hike on Saturday at the Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve. Richard Volk commented, “I had not previously been to the Preserve and enjoyed every minute of it (or should I say the 3.5 hours in the mostly light rain). Amber Miller, with Virginia Outdoor Foundation (VOF), was an excellent tour guide, full of information about the history of the area and its First Nation, African American, and white settler inhabitants. We saw and discussed the medicinal and cultural uses of dozens of plants. VOF will be hosting additional guided tours … I look forward to going back for more! “.

FMN Kristin Bauersfeld saw some unique plants, learned new facts, and echoed Richard’s sentiments of the unique opportunity, “it was a great experience”.

FMN Maryam Dadkhah provided all the photos in this article and several more but I could only squeeze a few in due to space constraints.

Here is a sample of things the group discovered during the hike.

Diphasiastrum digitatum – photo M. Dadkhah

Diphasiastrum digitatum – has many species known under common names of groundcedar, running cedar, or crowsfoot, but the most common name, fan clubmoss, specifically refers to the pictured species. It is the most common species in North America. Club mosses belong to a Class of plants called Lycophytes, which are more closely related to ferns and other vascular plants. Like ferns, club mosses are seedless plants, which means they reproduce by releasing a large number of extremely tiny spores
Did You Know? – Club moss spores and teas from plant leaves have been used since early times in both Native American and European cultures. Medicinal uses included treating urinary tract problems, diarrhea, and other digestive tract problems; relieving headaches and skin ailments; and inducing labor in pregnancy. This species was also once one of the principal clubmoss species used for collection of lycopodium powder, used as a primitive flashpowder.

Chimaphila maculataPhoto M. Dadkhah

Chimaphila maculata – spotted or striped wintergreen, striped prince’s pine, spotted pipsissewa, ratsbane, or rheumatism root. It is a small, ever-green herb native to eastern North American and elsewhere.
Did You Know? – The Creek tribe called it ‘pipsisikweu’ – which means ‘breaks into small pieces’ – after the supposed ability to break down gallstones and kidney stones. Native Americans used its leaf tea to treat rheumatism and stomach problems; crushed leaves were applied as a poultice to sores and wounds.

Kalmia latifolia – photo M. Dadkhah

Kalmia latifolia – mountain laurel, calico-bush, or spoonwood, is a species of flowering plant in the heath family (Ericaceae), native to the eastern US. Its range is Maine to Florida, as far west as Missouri.
Did You Know? – Kalmia latifolia is known as spoonwood because Native Americans used it to make their spoons out of it.
The plant was first recorded in America in 1624, but it was named after the Finnish explorer and botanist Pehr Kalm (1716–1779), who sent samples to Linnaeus.

Medeola virginiana – photo M. Dadkhah

Medeola virginiana – known as Indian cucumber, cucumber root, or Indian cucumber-root, is an eastern North American plant species in the lily family. It is the only currently recognized plant species in the genus Medeola. It grows in forest understory in Piedmont regions such as the Appalachian mountains.
Did You Know? – The plant bears edible rhizomes that taste mildly like cucumbers.




Notophthalmus viridescens – photo M. Dadkhah

The Eastern Newt (Notophthalmus viridescens) – is a common newt of eastern North America. It frequents small lakes, ponds, and streams or nearby wet forests, changing colors and body functions during stages of maturity.
Did You Know? – The eastern newt produces tetrodotoxin which makes the species unpalatable to most predatory fish and birds. It can be mildly toxic to humans when handled extensively. Hopefully no one became ill during the making of this photograph. The newt has a lifespan of 12 to 15 years in the wild, and it may grow to 5 in (13 cm) in length.

Gorgeous Terrapene carolina carolina – photo M. Dadkhah

The Woodland box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) – is a subspecies within a group of hinge-shelled turtles normally called box-turtles. T. c. carolina is native to a wide range of eastern North America. While in the pond turtle family, Emydidae, and not a tortoise, the box turtle is largely terrestrial.
Did You Know? – Box turtle’s lifespan is 30-50 years and is the only turtle that can completely close up in its own shell – hence the name. Males tend to have red eyes and females tend to have brown eyes. The turtle’s carapace was used in Native culture as a bowl or scoop.

Cover photo: Epigaea repens – trailing arbutus, or ground laurel, is a low, spreading plant in the family Ericaceae. It is found from Newfoundland to Florida and west to Kentucky. The plant is a slow-growing, sprawling shrub that prefers moist, shady habitats and acidic (humus-rich) soil. It is often part of the heath complex in an oak-heath forest.
Did You Know? – The Algonquin use an infusion of leaves for kidney disorders. The Cherokee use a decoction of the plant to induce vomiting, treat abdominal pain, and they give an infusion of the plant to children for diarrhea. The Iroquois use a compound for labor pains in parturition, use a compound decoction for rheumatism and indigestion.

Kristin added a few more examples of plants discovered during the hike. “We saw so many things, obviously there isn’t room to list them all: wild comfrey (bronchodilator, anti-inflammatory), spicebush (tea, spice), mustard garlic (introduced to help with soil erosion), jewelweed (use on poison oak/ivy rashes), nettles, elderberry, American jumpseed… the list goes on!  Amber also made a point about how non-native plants like multiflora rose that we love to hate has been around long enough that people have found uses for it, such as using the rose hips or flower as an astringent.”

There you have it. If you want to learn more be sure to sign up for the next trip (TBD).

The hikers – Photo M. Dadkhah

Thank you to Richard and Kristin for contributing to this article and to Maryam for providing the wonderful photos.
A big thank you to Amber Miller, a research Fellow for Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) Bull Run Mountain Natural Area Preserve for making the best of a rainy day by leading an entertaining and informative hike. Last but not least, the VOF sweeper Janet, added her own knowledge and kept the group together.

A Reminder: Please Do Not Kidnap Juvenile Birds!

Photo: Tree Swallow fledglings, Barbara Krizman/Audubon Photography Awards

Article by Audubon Society of Northern Virginia

We all want to help wildlife, but please do not make the mistake of kidnapping a fledgling you see on the ground.

When many young birds first fledge and leave the nest, they may still have a little down with short tail and wing feathers. Fledglings, however, are often NOT in need of human’s help when found on the ground. Did you know that many songbird species learn how to fly from the ground? They have left the nest and are able to sit upright, perch, and can hop or even flutter in short bursts. The baby appears to be alone on the ground, but the parent birds remain nearby in the trees and come down regularly to feed the baby, anywhere from several times an hour to every 1 or 2 hours. The baby will often hide itself in the grass or by low bushes for protection. This situation is completely normal for many songbirds and there is likely no need to interfere.

Read Audubon Society of Northern Virginia’s answers to more  FAQs here!

River Farm – Bluebird Trail Update

River Farm meadows showing one of the new boxes – photo Jerry Nissley

Washington’s River Farm, the home of the American Horticulture Society (AHS) has renovated their Bluebird Trail, with assistance from FMN. The Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis), once as common as the robin, saw a drastic decline in population for reasons including loss of habitat, pesticide use, an influx of feral house cats, and the introduction of the House Sparrow and the European Starling.

FMN Susan Farmer (AHS/FMN liaison) called together a team of 8 FMN volunteers to help install and monitor the bluebird boxes at River Farm. Susan set up both on-line and field training for the monitors who are now monitoring the boxes and logging activity every week in teams of two.

Chicks and eggs – Photo FMN Donna Stauffer

This initial season of monitoring has seen success and tragedy. In early April one nest box was recorded to contain five blue eggs. In mid-April, two eggs had hatched with the other three eggs still viable. However, by the first check in May, the box was observed to be empty. Perhaps through vandalism but nothing could be confirmed. Measures to mitigate chances of a reoccurrence have been implemented and hopefully this will not happen again. In any event, the box once again contains bluebird eggs and FMN will continue with due diligence to monitor and report activity.

Empty box – Photo Jerry Nissley

During a recent day of monitoring, Glenda Booth from the Connection newspaper, joined in to journal what has been done at AHS and what is involved with monitoring nest boxes. Coincidentally, Glenda’s visit was on the day the open box was discovered. Her article may be read HERE. Hardcopy newspapers, with photos, may be found at Sherwood Hall library and other Mt Vernon area Fairfax County buildings.

If you are interested in any aspect of this project please contact FMN Susan Farmer [email protected]

Leave Fawns Alone!

Article and photos by Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources

It’s that time of year again when white-tailed deer fawns are showing up in yards and hayfields, and concerned citizens want to know how to help. In almost all cases, the best way to help is to simply give the fawn space and leave it alone.

Concerned people sometimes pick up animals that they think are orphaned. Most such “orphans” that good-intentioned citizens “rescue” every spring should have been left alone. Most wild animals will not abandon their young, but they do leave them alone for long periods of time.

Fawns, born from May through July, are purposely left alone by their mothers. Female deer, called does, stay away from the fawns to avoid leading predators to their location. The white-spotted coat camouflages a fawn as it lies motionless in vegetation. Young fawns generally will not try to run away when they are approached.

Photo: VA Department of Wildlife Resources

Does will return several times each day to move and/or feed their young. You probably will not see the doe at all since she only stays to feed the fawn for just a few minutes before leaving it alone again. If less than 24 hours have passed since a fawn has been “rescued,” the fawn should be taken back and released at the exact same location where it was found. After returning the fawn, immediately leave the area and do not wait for the doe to return. The doe will not come back for the fawn if a human is nearby.

Help Keep Wildlife Wild

If a wild animal has been injured or truly orphaned, do not take matters into your own hands. You may locate a licensed wildlife rehabilitator by calling the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) toll-free wildlife conflict helpline at 1-855-571-9003, 8:00AM-4:30PM, Monday through Friday or visit the Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator section of the DWR website.

Raising a wild animal in captivity is illegal unless you have a DWR wildlife rehabilitation permit. Each animal’s nutritional, housing, and handling requirements are very specific and must be met if they have any chance of survival. With even the best professional care possible, the survival rate of rehabilitated fawns and many other animals is very low. The best advice for someone who wants to help wildlife is to keep it wild. Once people interfere, we reduce the opportunity for animals to receive natural care and we increase the risk of harming our wildlife heritage.

A Unique Stewardship Opportunity and You Can Bring Your Mt Bike for a Great Ride Afterwards, June 1st

Photo: Meadowood Special Recreation Management Area, public domain
Saturday, June  1, 2024
9am – 12pm
Meadowood Special Recreation Management Area,
10110 Gunston Rd Lorton, VA 22079
Free to the public!
Contact BLM:  [email protected] or 703-339-8009

Please join the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and MORE (Mid-Atlantic Off Road Enthusiasts), Inc. for their annual National Trails Day (June 1) at Meadowood Special Recreation Management Area. Please park at Meadowood Gateway Parking Lot (next to Gunston Elementary School) for trail work and stewardship efforts to improve the mountain bike trail systems on public land. This year volunteers will be working on the following mountain bike trails: South Branch Loop and Yardsale Trail. This event is free and open to all ages. Please dress appropriately for the weather, and bring water and snacks. They will be handing out hand tools and gloves. Bring your bike to test the trails afterwards! Please spread this volunteer event to your friends, family, and co-workers! Hope to see you all there!

Humans and Trees Share a Common Enemy: Stress!

Article by Elaine Kolish; feature photo: Plant NOVA Natives

We all know that chronic stress affects our health and well-being, causing us to go into “fight or flight” mode. That, in turn, can lead to a variety of health effects ranging from depression to high blood pressure, which itself can increase our risk for stroke or heart attack. Ongoing stress also affects the health of trees. But unlike us, they have limited options for reducing their stress. They can use internally produced chemicals and scents to deter predators and warn other trees of threats, as well as help stressed neighbors by sharing water and nutrients through an underground fungal network. But they can’t pick up and move to avoid stressful conditions. We need to step in and alleviate tree stressors to the extent we can, particularly those caused by human activity. The good news is that caring for trees and spending time in nature can reduce our own stress. A win-win.
Although there are some stressors – such as early spring frosts, extreme heat, and heavy snow and ice – where we are mostly powerless to help, there are many others where we can make a difference. And it is important to do so, because trees can die from exposure to long-term stress, such multi-year droughts.or become more susceptible to insect pests or to diseases that kill them. Let’s look at some human-caused stressors – ones that we can control – and at environmental tree stressors such as drought, where we might be able to help.

·         Use the right plant in the right spot. Right off the bat, you will stress a tree if you plant it in the wrong spot. For example, a shade loving, understory tree such as Flowering Dogwood is going to be highly stressed if planted in full sun in dry soil. Consult for help in choosing the right trees for your site.

·         Use proper planting and staking techniques, These include not planting the tree too deeply and not burying the trunk flare. Think about whether you need stakes and guy wires, because preventing a tree from swaying in the wind will weaken it. If you do use them, always remove them in a timely fashion and not later than a year after planting. When left on too long, stakes can girdle and kill a tree. For information on how to plant a tree properly, consult Fairfax CountyTree Basics.

·         Use proper mulching techniques. Mulch should be applied in a donut shape, not a volcano, and should not touch the tree. When piled high against the tree, mulch can cause decay and ultimately death. The mulch should not be more than two or three inches deep to allow the rain to penetrate. If for some reason you want to add more every year, you should remove the old mulch first.

·         Avoid competition for water. Trees and turf are not friends. Since both have shallow roots, they compete for water and nutrients, and turf wins the battle in the tree’s early life. Also, if there is grass under trees, we run the risk when mowing of damaging the bark, nicking shallow tree roots, or compacting the soil. Any of those will stress our trees. Mulch and/or dead leaves under trees is best, and the larger the ring, the better. A large turf-free ring also provides the opportunity for underplanting with native shrubs and ground-layer plants, creating a mini productive habitat for insects and wildlife.

·         Everyday activities that can hurt trees. Chaining bikes or other items to trees can damage their bark, as does allowing car doors or bumpers to hit them. Repeatedly wounding their bark makes trees vulnerable to decay and disease. Parking under trees also causes soil compaction that can suffocate tree roots.

·         Use proper pruning methods. Don’t top trees! That is a sure way to weaken a tree, make it structurally less sound, and in the most extreme situations eventually kill it. It is useful [1] to take out broken, diseased and dead branches. For example, a clean cut to remove a broken branch helps a tree recover from a wound better, and pruning out a dead branch keeps it from falling unexpectedly and damaging something or someone.  If you don’t know how to prune trees properly, hire a certified arborist to do so or consult one of the many how-to-prune books you can find at the library. A good reference book can show you how to prune trees so they are free from structural weakness and are as healthy and vigorous as possible.

·         Water during droughts. We may not think to water our native trees and shrubs, because a key characteristic of native plants is that once they are established, they no longer need to be watered. But, when there is a drought, even natives may need to be watered, and that is especially true if they have limited soil space from which to draw water, such as in a small tree box next to a street. Without sufficient water, trees will lose their fine absorbing roots and leaves and move to a dormant state. Years of drought and/or other stressors eventually can cause the tree to die.

·         Protect young trees from deer browse. Unfortunately, an overabundance of deer can stress and threaten the survival of our woodies. Consult Plant NOVA Natives for strategies to deal with that.

Although human actions as well as environmental factors can stress trees, we can avoid causing harm and can take actions that keep trees healthy and vigorous. Trees provide us so many benefits, including a profound sense of well-being, that it is well worth it for all of us to do all we can to reduce tree stresses and promote tree health.

Earth Sangha Needs Volunteers in May

Mason District Park                                                                                                                             Earth Sangha Wild Plant Nursery
6621 Columbia Pike, Annandale VA 22003                                                                                   6100 Cloud Drive, Springfield VA 22150

Register to volunteer here.

Native Planting at Mason District Park: 

Saturday, May 18th from 9am to 1pm
Join Earth Sangha for another “Big Day” of native plants, community, good snacks, and volunteering! They’ll take a look at their progress since their last Big Day and continue their work removing invasives and planting natives! Their focus at Mason District Park is restoring the canopy and understory woodies, but they’ll also bring some herbaceous plants. They’ll provide all tools and gloves. Please bring your own water and wear sturdy shoes.

Invasives Removal at Mason District Park:

Friday, May 24th, from 9am to Noon. The invasives don’t stop so neither do they!

Wild Plant Nursery Workdays:

Every Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday from 9am to 1pm. They have lots of repotting to do before Summer hits! Join in and get your hands dirty. It’s a great way to learn about your local native plants and meet new friends.