NVCT Social Distancing Nature Photo Contest, entries accepted May 11th – June 15th

During these tough times, nature is bringing much-needed peace and tranquility to us all as spring blooms throughout Northern Virginia. Northern Virginia Conservation Trust wants to celebrate this beauty with you by holding the first-ever Spring Edition of their annual photo contest. The rules are the same as usual with one new twist that all photos will be judged together. We welcome submissions from anyone – especially young people – that wish to participate and submit their photos using our guidelines

Categories for Spring 2020:
From My Window
Photos of the nature visible from your window. This can be everything from views to your own flower boxes. Great for folks who may not have their own yards and live in apartments or condominiums.
My Backyard
Photos of the natural world available in our yards to those who have them. Kids and dogs playing are welcome!
Spring is Here
Photos that show the beauty of the world waking up from its winter slumber. New buds on trees, fox kits, baby deer – basically anything that says spring to you.
Social Distancing in Nature
Photos depicting how you and yours are social distancing while being renewed by nature during these difficult times.

Learn more here.

Observe Locally – Help Globally :  Participate in the next international Socially Distant BioBlitzes, June 14th, July 5th

Article and photos by Bill Hafker

It’s tough on those of us who thrive on getting with a group of friends to hike, bike, kayak or otherwise just get outside and observe nature, to feel locked out of doing that. However, it is still possible to find ways to stay safe and enjoy the outdoors.  Whether you just go into your backyard, or find a trail or park that’s open, you can still take part in doing the citizen science/monitoring work you love.  If you enjoyed participating in the City Nature Challenge during April, or if you missed it and wished that you could have been part of advancing a group goal in support of the environment while doing socially distanced nature observations, it’s not too late to do so! 

American Carrion Beetle

The first-ever International Socially Distant BioBlitz was held on April 5th.  It connected 346 participants who together made over 12,500 observations documenting more than 3,000 species.  It was such a success that the organizers at Antioch University New England did it again on May 3rd.  I participated on that day by spending hours documenting everything I could find on a trail near my home.  I had a great time being one of 417 participants from 52 countries, contributing 241 observations and 134 species to their new record numbers of over 22,000 observations and 6,137 species.  I’m planning to try to participate in the upcoming BioBlitzes by walking the same trail each time to see how the species present change, and hoping to find things that I didn’t see the times before.  What was especially cool this time was that I received a comment from someone in the iNat community who thinks I may have posted an invasive beetle not previously documented in the east.  My pictures weren’t good enough for him to be sure of the species, so I’m hoping to find it again on a subsequent date so that I can send him the specimen that he requested.

Trombidium

Based on their success, the organizers will be holding these Socially Distant BioBlitzes on a tri-weekly basis until stay-at-home orders are lifted across the globe.  Hopefully you can join the next ones, and encourage others to participate as well.  Info can be found at https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/socially-distant-bioblitz-5-24-2020.   Everyone is encouraged to also check out the Socially Distant BioBlitz series, an umbrella project that keeps track of cumulative totals and compares individual bioblitzes at    https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/socially-distant-bioblitz-series.

Per current VMN policy guidelines, participation in these bioblitzs can not be counted as service hours because they are not considered to be sufficiently focused on work with local partners or state sponsored agencies supporting beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within our own community.

Sustainable Garden Tour Coming in June

The 2020 Sustainable Garden Tour will be held VIRTUALLY this year throughout the month of June.

For this year’s Sustainable Garden Tour, Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District (NVSWCD) is partnering with the Fairfax Food Council Urban Agriculture Workgroup to highlight front-yard gardens and edible landscapes. You’ll also see garden tour favorites like rain gardens, native plant landscaping, rain barrels, backyard wildlife habitat, composting and more. Local residents open their gardens and share their experiences landscaping with natural resources in mind. Hidden treasures and verdant landscapes await you!

Virtual experiences from each of this year’s incredible garden tour sites will be added throughout the month of June. Check the website for more information and a tentative schedule, or follow NVSWCD on Facebook to see garden tour materials as they are released.

View Resources for Sustainable Gardeners.

For more information or to nominate a future site, please email NVSWCD or call 703-324-1423, TTY 711.

Just for fun: Two nature photography events

Article and photos by Barbara J. Saffir (c)

Critters (& more) Challenge

LIFE’S TOO EASY RIGHT NOW! Right? Of course not. But to take our minds off the pandemic, here’s a nature photography CHALLENGE! From May 1 to May 31, try to photograph as many of the following as you can while social distancing, abiding by all CDC & locale jurisdiction rules, and following ethical photography guidelines. Most of these critters, birds, plants, & landscapes can be found in your own neighborhood or nearby.

Please join the Meetup BEFORE MAY 18 and then upload your photos (1 per category) to our Meetup album by May 31. Each find counts ONE point. The “extra credit” categories count FIVE points each. The photographer with the most points who uploads her/his photos by 5/31 at 11:59 p.m. wins. FIRST-PLACE WINNER GETS BRAGGING RIGHTS — AND FIVE (5) FREE PHOTO OUTINGS after our lockdown is lifted and before 5/31/21. SECOND-PLACE WINNER GETS TWO FREE OUTINGS. (Safaris usually cost $5 within 100 miles of the Beltway and $10 outside.)

More information here

“Indoor” Critter Hunt

Look inside your computer, tap your cloud storage, and stroll down memory lane on your external drives for photos of critters & birds that you took ANYTIME for this virtual hunting expedition. RSVP for this critter hunt, upload one photograph per category into this Meetup album, and receive one point. The wildlife photographer with the most points by 5/31/20 at 11:59 pm wins bragging rights and two free photo safaris before 5/31/21. A tie(s) will be decided by the equivalent of a coin toss.

More information here

City Nature Challenge: Fairfax Master Naturalists educate and organize

By Ana Ka’ahanui, FMN and Director Experiential Programs at Capital Nature

Join us for the #citynaturechallenge, a friendly global effort to safely explore biodiversity April 24-27, 2020! Even with our movement limited to minimize the spread of COVID-19, there is plenty of nature to observe at our windows, gardens, and in our neighborhoods. Join the DC metro area’s fellow citizen scientists to discover and share the amazing life near you!

Join these projects to have your observations counted. City Nature Challenge (April 24-27)
City Nature Month (April 1-30)

Visit www.iNaturalist.org and join the project City Nature Challenge 2020: Washington DC Metro Area: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/city-nature-challenge-2020-washington-dc-metro-area

Photo and article by Barbara J. Saffir

To encourage people to participate in iNaturalist’s global “City Nature Challenge” bioblitz in April, I’m hosting two virtual Meetups: One through my own Nature  Photography DC/MD/VA Meetup and one through the  Sierra Club’s Meetup.  My fellow Virginia Master Naturalists and the public are invited to join these two free Meetups: https://www.meetup.com/Nature-Photography-DC-MD-VA/events/267877831/ https://www.meetup.com/sierrapotomac/events/270131226/

Earth Day 50th Anniversary Nature Journaling Challenge April 22 to 30, 2020

Article and drawings by Elaine Sevy

As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, I invite you to embrace this Nature Journaling Challenge and connect with nature on a more profound level.

Nature Journaling forces you to slow down and pay attention to what is around you. It will help you encounter beauty and wonder you would have otherwise missed.

Visit a nearby trail or explore your own backyard.

Allow yourself to relax and have fun, and worry less about drawing pretty pictures and more about creating a memory. Write notes about what you’re seeing, and let it pique your curiosity.

Do you have a favorite wild bird? Do you wonder if that bird is a resident or migrant? Look at it more closely and be amazed. Learn more about it at allaboutbirds.org (Cornell Lab of Ornithology) and audubon.org. Write in your journal about what you see and learn, and develop a deep personal relationship with your bird.

Drawing by Elaine Sevy

Find a new pretty wild plant or look closely at one of your favorites and count the petals. Do the petals have stripes similar to a landing pad leading pollinators to the nectar? What kind of bee did I just see on that flower?

Make sure to note the place, date, time, weather, sounds, temperature, and how the experience makes you feel.

Consider downloading the iNaturalist App on your cell phone to help you identify the plants and animals you find. Visit inaturalist.org to learn about and participate in the City Nature Challenge 2020: Washington DC Metro Area, April 24-27. There’s a link under announcements on the Capital Naturalist Facebook page.

Include your family and children, and make it a game to find as many insects, birds, frogs, flowers, mushrooms, etc., as possible. Quickly draw little images of each critter on the same Earth Day journal page.

Want inspiration and ideas about how to create a journal page? There’s support groups that can help. Join The NOVA Nature Journal Club at
https://www.facebook.com/groups/544583139673338/. Once there, you can find a link to John Muir Laws’ The Nature Journal Club, which has an international following, free workshops and tools of all kinds. Copy ideas from other people, which will give you a new lens to look through. Let someone else’s journal page ignite your own creativity.

A good basic Nature Journaling kit includes: 6×8” or 5×7”sketchbook (at least 100 lb. weight paper to handle light watercolor washes), a mechanical pencil or 2B drawing pencil, pencil sharpener, kneaded eraser, a waterproof ink pen such as a Pigma Micron 05, set of watercolor pencils (Derwent is a good brand), a Pentel Aquash Water Brush and a paper towel. Also bring your cell phone for photo references, and binoculars. A shoulder bag makes your tools easily accessible.

Try your best to do some nature journaling on Earth Day, but there’s no pressure. Enjoy working on your journal through the end of April for this challenge.

Please submit photos of your journal pages to me (Elaine Sevy), so I can share them with others on Springfield Art Guild’s (SAG’s) Facebook Page and The NOVA Nature Journal Club Facebook Group.

On April 22, Tune into Earth Day Online

Photo by The New York Public Library on Unsplash

The world’s largest civic event is going digital for the first time in its history. The organizers ask that leaders take science seriously, listen to their people and push for action at every level of society to stop the rising tide of climate change. People can make a better world for everyone; tell everyone you know about April 22 and come back here to be a part of it.

From the organizers:

“On Earth Day, April 22, 2020, we have two crises: One is the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. The other is a slowly building disaster for our climate.

We can, will and must solve both challenges. The world was not prepared for the novel coronavirus. But we still have time to prepare — in every part of the world — for the climate crisis.

The coronavirus pandemic does not shut us down. Instead, it reminds us of what’s at stake in our fight for the planet. If we don’t demand change to transform our planet and meet our climate crisis, our current state will become the new normal — a world where pandemics and extreme weather events span the globe, leaving already marginalized and vulnerable communities even more at risk.” 

Find Digital Events

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Conservation Poster Contest for K-12 Students–Entries due May 15

Calling all student artists! The Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District is seeking students to design posters to submit to the 2020 Youth Poster Contest. The theme for this year is Where would we BEE without Pollinators? 

ABOUT THE POSTER CONTEST

The Youth Poster Contest is a national competition sponsored by the National Association of Conservation Districts, and offered locally at the district level. District winners advance to the state level. Only Local Soil & Water Conservation Districts can forward their local winning poster entries to the VASWCD office for consideration at the state level. Virginia state winners will advance to the National Contest. National winners are recognized each year at the NACD Annual Meeting. The contest is open to the public, private or home school students, girl scout/boy scout troops, etc. 

Any Girl Scout  or Boy Scout who creates a poster and submits it to their local SWCD for judging can earn the VASWCD Poster Contest Patch.  When submitting a poster to earn the Poster Contest Patch, be sure to check the box on the entry form.  Please note that poster patches are distributed in December each year.

ABOUT POLLINATORS

Resources for Where would we BEE without Pollinators? are offered by the National Association of Conservation Districts and include booklets, activity sheets, storybooks, K-12 lessons and activities, coloring pages, and additional teaching materials. You can access these materials here.

Pollinators form the foundations of a healthy and sustainable future for food and the environment, but in recent years, they have shown concerning signs of decline. It’s important that we work to help them prosper by enhancing native pollinator habitats and protecting against pollinator declines. The Pollinator Partnership is one of many great resources when learning about pollinators. 

HOW TO ENTER

Entries from Fairfax County must be submitted to the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District by Friday, May 15, 2020.

The local NVSWCD competition follows the NACD national guidelines

Posters should be submitted digitally as a .jpeg, .png, or similar file format. Posters and images may be of any size. When photographing or scanning your poster for submission, be sure that the entire poster is clear and visible, the image is appropriately cropped, and the photo accurately reflects the original poster. 

Submit entries to Ashley Palmer, Conservation Education Specialist. An entry form should accompany your entry; download the entry form here

Local winners receive recognition and a prize from NVSWCD. 

Virtual Warbler Song Bootcamp, April 24

Friday, April 24, 6:30 PM – 7:30 PM

This Clifton Institute program is online. Please register if you would like to watch live so we can communicate and share links via email.

Participants will listen to the songs of each of the migratory warblers that pass through our region in spring, while looking at spectrograms to help visual learners identify differences in similar songs. We will also briefly discuss habitats where breeding warblers can be found in our area and cover a handful of other migrants such as vireos and thrushes. This workshop will be of interest to birdwatchers of all skill levels. It will definitely be more fun than listening to a warbler song CD in your car! Photo by Cameron Darnell.

Virtual Book Club on April 10: No Way Home, by David Wilcove

Friday, April 10, 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM

No Way Home: The Decline of the World’s Great Animal Migrations, by David Wilcove, exposes readers to the wonders and perils of animal movement across the landscape.

Clifton Institute offers multiple online options for participation, including a Facebook discussion group and a live online meeting at the original time. If you are interested in participating live, please register so they have your email address.

Alison Zak will be interviewing author David Wilcove and then sharing the recording with the group, so please email any questions for the author to azak@cliftoninstitute.org.

Dr. Wilcove is a professor of ecology, evolutionary biology, and public affairs at Princeton University. The primary question driving his research is “How do we find room for biodiversity in an increasingly hot, hungry, and crowded world?” He is the also the author of The Condor’s Shadow: The Loss and Recovery of Wildlife in America (1999).