Winter Tree Identification Workshop, January 28th

Image: Courtesy of The Clifton Institute

Saturday, January 28, 2023
1-3 pm

The Clifton Institute
6712 Blantyre Road
Warrenton, Virginia 20187

Cost: $10 ($5 for Friends of the Clifton Institute)

Registration is required!

Winter is a great time of year to learn how to identify trees and to practice looking at bark and twigs. In this program, instructors will take you on a short walk in the woods and talk about the tips and tricks to identify the most common trees in the forests. This program is meant for beginners. Advanced botanists are welcome but you may teach the class more than the instructors teach you! If you would like to start practicing now or if you would like to bring some resources with you, we recommend the book Winter Tree Finder by May Theilgaard Watts and Tom Watts, the Flora of Virginia app, and the Virginia Tech Tree ID app.

Research Talk: American Kestrel Nesting Habitat, January 27th

Image: Courtesy of The Clifton Institute

Friday, January 27, 2023
7-8 pm
Virtual event
Cost: Free

Registration is required!

Join Executive Director Bert Harris to hear the latest on American Kestrel research. The researchers have been studying these declining falcons for two years and they have learned so much about the habitats the Kestrels use for hunting. Cattle pastures are preferred over all other kinds of fields and the researchers are trying to find out why. They also now know that at least some of northern Virginia’s kestrels are migratory and that their territories are smaller here than in other parts of North America. This research is a collaborative project with Joe Kolowski from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and Alan Williams. The work is funded by the Raines Family Fund, Nick Lapham, the Virginia Society of Ornithology, the Washington Biologists Field Club, and Janine Moseley.

A link to the Zoom meeting will be sent a few days prior to the talk. Please make sure your email address is up to date!

Join this meeting to hear the latest and learn how you can help kestrels.

Winter Bird Walks – Hosted by The Clifton Institute, January and February

Image: Courtesy of the Clifton Institute

Join The Clifton Institute for a series of Winter bird walks starting this January and February. They will be held on the second Wednesday and fourth Saturday of the month. Please click on the links below for additional details and registration information.

1 – 3 pm
8: 30 – 10:30 am
8 – 10 am
8:30 – 10:30 am
Cost: Free
Registration is required!

The Clifton Institute
6712 Blantyre Road
Warrenton, Virginia 20187



Stream Cleanups, Invasive Removal and Habitat Restoration, and Stream Monitoring Activities for November and December

Photo: Stream monitoring, Pohick Creek.  by J. Quinn

Stream Cleanups

There are dozens of calls for community action and volunteering, particularly for stream cleanups across the county and region, but here is one you may be interested in.


Join these efforts to track biodiversity in the region by conducting surveys, monitoring nests, and more!

Invasive Removal and Habitat Restoration

Join these efforts to remove invasive species, repair trails, and otherwise beautify natural spaces!

  • Habitat Restoration- Friends of Accotink Creek – Klub Kudzu- reoccurring Mon/Thu/Fri in November and December, varying times and locations

  • Habitat Restoration Eakin Park – Friends of Accotink Creek– Saturdays December 3/10, Eakin Park in Annandale 

  • Invasive Plant Removal- Plant NOVA Natives– Tree Rescuers vine ID hands-on training opportunity- Wednesdays/Saturdays in November, varying times and locations

  • Invasive Plant Removal –Friends of Dyke Marsh– November 19 and December 3/17,10:00am- 12:00pm

Stream Monitoring

*NVSWCD Supervised Event*

VASOS Field Exam for Stream Monitoring Certification
When: Friday, November 11, from 3:00-5:00pm OR Saturday, November 12, from 1:00-3:00pm
Where: Wolftrap Creek Stream Valley Park, Vienna
This event is for volunteers taking the field exam only! If you are interested in becoming a certified stream monitor, click here for detailed steps and FAQs. Although it is not required, it is highly recommended to attend a workshop to get some field experience before taking this exam.

More Training and Stream Monitoring Opportunities

The Northern Virginia Water and Soil Conservation District (NVSWCD) is very excited to contribute their stream data to state and national datasets. If you’d like to see data from all the NVSWCD regional stream monitoring team’s active sites, you can find our organization on the Clean Water Hub. Keep in touch with NVSWCD on our Facebook and Instagram.


The 2022 Butterfly Count Results from the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy

Photo of Crossline Skipper on Teasel by Michael Myers

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy has coordinated the Annual Loudoun Butterfly count since 1997. The count takes place in early August, which is the peak time for butterflies in our area. They report their data to the North American Butterfly Association (NABA), which tracks butterfly populations.

This year on August 6, a typical warm, humid summer day, 60 volunteers set out to count as many butterflies as they could find in a single day. It was their 26th Annual Butterfly Count, and they tallied 3,756 butterflies of 45 species in an area of about 178 square miles in the northwestern corner of Loudoun County.

When the count day is over, team leaders tabulate their results, which are consolidated into a report submitted to the NABA. NABA collects reports from all over the country and makes them available to researchers.

Anne Ellis, Butterfly Count Coordinator, has written a very informative article, How Does One Count Butterflies?“, in which she describes this year’s count experience and answers the question, “Exactly how does one count butterflies?”

If you would like to know which species have been seen during previous years, you can view butterfly count data and reports A summary report of species count by year can be viewed here

Take a few moments to enjoy the 2022 Butterfly Count video too.

The 2023 count will be on Saturday, August 5. Please join the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and count the butterflies!

McLean Gears Up for Dark Sky Celebration, November 12th

Photo: Courtesy of Fairfax County Park Authority

Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022
6:30pm – 8:30pm

Lewinsville Historic House
1659 Chain Bridge Road
McLean, Virginia 22101

Register here.


Dark skies are the natural state of nature. Over time, humans have increased the amount of light shining into the sky all night long. This excessive light has robbed us of the glimpse of our stars and endangered the natural world around us. We can have dark skies again if we learn to control light pollution with responsible outdoor lighting practices.

The Fairfax County Park Authority is partnering with the McLean Citizens Association, Dark Sky Friends and the Analemma Society to host a celebration of the importance of dark skies.

Come to the historic house in Lewinsville Park on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, to learn about the importance of dark skies in your community. The free event will have hands-on activities and educational opportunities about how to protect the night sky. Learn about nighttime wildlife and constellations. Come experience the night with us and enjoy a small campfire and cocoa. The event runs from 6:30 until 8:30 p.m.

There is no cost to the “Dark Sky Celebration” program, and registration is not required but is encouraged. By signing up, we can notify you in case of inclement weather. The rain date is the following day on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022.

To learn more about the importance of dark skies, visit the Dark Skies webpage.

Meadowood Partnership

(Cover photo Jerry Nissley)

FMN recently established a partnership with Meadowood Special Recreation Management Area on Mason Neck Peninsula (SRMA). The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Eastern States Lower Potomac Field Station manages recreation and natural resources on two properties, one in Maryland and the other in Virginia. The Meadowood Special Recreation Management Area (SRMA) includes 800 acres on the Mason Neck Peninsula in Fairfax County, Virginia, is located just 25 miles south of Washington, D.C. Mason Neck State Park, Pohick Bay Regional Park, Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge, and Gunston Hall historic mansion are also located on the peninsula. The peninsula is formed by Gunston Bay to the north, Potomac River to the east, and Belmont Bay to the south.

Morning Meadow (courtesy BLM)

The SRMA landscape contains a variety of terrains and vegetation types. These include gently sloping open meadows, mature hardwood forests along steep slopes, floodplains, and riparian areas, as well as freshwater ponds and streams. Red and white oak, beech, sweet gum, Virginia pine, and persimmon, which are common sights in mid-Atlantic woodlands, appear throughout the forests at Meadowood. The ponds, streams and riparian areas in the SRMA host a wide variety of insects, fish and other wildlife.

Veterans group, Fishing Community Org (FCO), ‘Fishing On Public Lands’ Event (photo Jerry Nissley)

BLM and the State of Virginia survey the population in the fishing ponds periodically, and restock them when needed. Grass-eating carp are among the species stocked in the ponds; they cannot reproduce, and they eat invasive aquatic weeds, which would otherwise overwhelm small ponds. In addition to stocked species, the American eel appears in the area’s ponds and streams and serves as an attractant to the local Bald eagles. Migrating waterfowl such as various ducks species, Canada geese, egrets, and herons commonly occur at water features. Dragonflies and butterflies are abundant at and near the ponds and meadows. Whitetail deer, Fox squirrels, Red fox, and coyotes abound throughout Meadowood. Moreover, the North American beaver makes the occasional appearance in the floodplains of Thompson Creek, Giles Run and South Branch as well as at Enchanted Pond.

Mountain bike trail ramp (courtesy BLM)

Miles of well marked multi-use trails (courtesy BLM)

Equestrian competition (photo Jerry Nissley)

The Meadowood Area encompasses 13.4 miles of hiking trails, 7 miles of horseback riding trails, 6.6 miles of mountain biking trails, and a large equestrian center. Meadowood hosts a universally accessible trail to two fishing ponds, 800 acres of forest and meadows, environmental education programs, horse boarding stable, geocaching, picnic areas, and bird watching sites. Portions of both the Washington-Rochambeau National Historic Trail and the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail wind their way through the managed hiking area.

The environmental education programs are developed for homeschoolers, public and private schools, local 4-H groups, and community agencies. Programs consist of bird identification, fishing, habitat hikes, tree identification, Urban Leave No Trace, tracking, invasive weed removal, clean-up days, and many other outdoor environmental educational activities.

FMN/BLM tree planting team. National Public Lands Day. (Courtesy Ryan Sierra Jackson)

In conjunction with National Public Land Day, FMN helped the Meadowood team in our inaugural service project with them by planting trees and shrubs, trimming the pollinator garden, and general landscape maintenance  around the Mustang Trailhead pavilion. Thank you to FMN volunteers Monica Hoffman, Amy Eisenmenger and her husband, and Steve Tryon and his wife for pitching in. Future service opportunities will present themselves so be sure watch for FMN announcements. Please contact Meadowood directly to inquire about open volunteer opportunities or becoming a regular volunteer. Ryan Sierra Jackson at is the volunteer coordinator.

FMN welcome’s Meadowood as a chapter partner and created both a Service Code and a CE code for future opportunities.

Service hours may be entered under – S175: Meadowood SRMA Service Projects – – Bureau of Land Management

CE hours may be entered using the category All Continuing Education and then Bureau of Land Managment as the approved CE organization. Please enter project description and/or CE title when recording hours.


Photo: Female Jumping Spider, Thomas Shahan

Tuesday, October 25, 2022
7:00 PM – 8:00 PM

This is a Virtual program

Member Ticket: $15
Non-member Ticket: $25

Click here for more information and registration details. 


The Audubon Society of Northern Virginia would like to help you celebrate the spooky this October.  Learn all about the spectacular, secret lives of spiders. These eight-legged critters may be a little creepy to some, but they also are fascinating animals with unique hunting strategies. A favorite snack of many birds, arachnids are a crucial part of the ecosystem. Dr. Stellwagen will discuss some of the scary and not-so-scary species that live in our region. You might be surprised by how clever, creative and, yes, even “cute,” spiders can be.

Winter Sparrow Identification Workshop, October 14th

Image/photo: Courtesy of The Clifton Institute

Friday, October 14, 2022
6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

This is a Zoom event.

Cost: $10 ($8 for Friends of Clifton Institute)

Click here for ticket purchase and additional information.

Every season brings its own challenges for birdwatching. In winter similar-looking sparrows can be hard to tell apart and birding by ear becomes more difficult as birds start singing less and calling more.

This program is intended for both beginner and advanced birders. This program will take place over Zoom.  They will send a link closer to the date.

Native Seed Collection and Propagation Workshop, October 8th

Image/photo: Courtesy of The Clifton Institute

Saturday, October 8, 2022
2:00 pm – 4:00 pm

The Clifton Institute
6712 Blantyre Road, Warrenton, VA
38.775154, -77.798197

Registration is FREE.

Click here to register.

Collecting and propagating native seeds is a great way to help spread native plant populations, add 100% native species to your gardens, and learn about the native plants in your backyard.  Executive Director Bert Harris and Earth Sangha Nursery’s Matt Bright will lead participants in learning when seeds are ready to collect, how to collect and store seeds, and how to propagate them.