Taking Nature Black Conference, February 23rd- 27th

Online Tuesday, February 23 – Saturday, February 27, 2021
Register here.

Taking Nature Black is an event, an opportunity, a time to pause for the cause. It’s a regional and national environmental lovefest. And it’s a Black healing, welcoming, organizing, celebrating, networking space. The theme is Call and Response: Elevating our Stories, Naturally! This year the stories are elevated chautauqua-style, so be on the lookout for speakers, creators, innovators, scientists, educators, musicians, artists, and entertainers telling their stories about everything from climate change to environmental justice and environmental joy in creative ways. Brought to you by Audubon Naturalist Society.

Full conference schedule here.

City Nature Challenge, April 30th – May 3rd

Photo from City Nature Challenge

Invented by citizen science staff at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (Lila Higgins) and California Academy of Sciences (Alison Young). The City Nature Challenge is an international effort for people to find and document plants and wildlife in cities across the globe. It’s a bioblitz-style competition where cities are in a contest against each other to see who can make the most observations of nature, who can find the most species, and who can engage the most people.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the organizers made some modifications to City Nature Challenge 2020 to help keep everyone safe. Firstly, CNC 2020 pivoted to be a collaboration rather than a competition. Instead, they wanted to embrace the healing power of nature and encourage the celebratory aspect of the CNC. This allowed people to safely document biodiversity in whatever way they could, even from the safety of their own homes. They urged all participants to carefully follow public health guidelines provided by their local governments, as they are changed in real-time. Individual safety and public health were and will be their utmost priority. The decision as to whether CNC 2021 will be a competition or collaboration will be announced in 2021.

The observation period for the City Nature Challenge will take place April 30th through May 3rd. Then during May 4-9, observations can still be uploaded to iNaturalist and identified. The global results will be announced on Monday, May 10. Please join the project on iNaturalist which will automatically collect all of the relevant observations during those 4 days.

For the DC metropolitan area (including DC and parts of MD, VA, and WV), we’ll have monthly meetings to coordinate our activities and foster new collaborations. Any organizations or individuals who want to play a role in encouraging and supporting participation anywhere in the metro area are invited to join these calls. January 29 will specifically be a call for anyone new to the City Nature Challenge, so please invite others who may be interested to join.

This year, all calls will take place on Fridays from 11 am to noon.

Call dates for organizers:
Jan 22: meeting for returning organizers
Jan 29: first time organizers (if you haven’t participated in the City Nature Challenge before, this will orient you)
Feb 19: monthly meeting for all CNC organizers
Mar 19: monthly meeting for all CNC organizers
Apr 16: monthly meeting for all CNC organizers
May 21: post-CNC debrief call for all CNC organizers

National Council for Science & the Environment and Project Drawdown 2021 Virtual Conference, Jan 5-9

Science & Solutions for a Planet under Pressure

Co-hosted by the National Council for Science & the Environment (NCSE) and Project Drawdown

January 5-9, 2021

The NCSE Drawdown 2021 Conference is bringing together leaders, research partners, scientists, decision-makers and friends from across the globe to share their science and solutions to the world’s most pressing global challenges. This joint conference will:

  • focus on the physical and social realities of climate change and the way this impacts people, ecosystems, markets and the places people live; and 
  • how implementing climate solutions produces positive co-benefits to society, the economy, and the planet.

Read more about the themes, schedule, and speakers, and register (the last two days are free!)

For Fairfax Master Naturalists: This opportunity is posted to the Continuing Education Calendar.

Stop Mowing, Start Growing! Webinar, February 6th

Photo courtesy of Virginia Native Plant Society

3rd Annual Native Plant Symposium Webinar for Beginners
Saturday, February 6, 2021
9am – Noon
Registration fee $5
Register here.

Create a beautiful yard, save time and money, improve water quality, AND build habitat for pollinators and birds. The keynote speaker is Alonso Abugattas, The Capital Naturalist on social media and the Natural Resources Manager for Arlington County. He will speak on The Interconnectedness of Nature.

Breakout Sessions Topics
Establishing and Maintaining Meadows
Natives for the Suburban Yard
Trees: Reestablishing the Cornerstone of Our Ecosystem
Waterfront Properties and Native Plants
Natives for Small Properties
Introduction to Soils
Site Assessment and Design

View the full schedule here.

Winter Wildlife Festival, January 28th-31st

Join the City of Virginia Beach for a month-long celebration of coastal wildlife and nature culminating January 28-31! They’re going the distance this year and presenting virtual and in-person components to ensure a safe, yet engaging experience for all.

See all the festival highlights here.
Virtual workshops are here.

FMN Annual Chapter Meeting includes Lanternfly Training, December 14th

Photo from nps.gov

Monday, December 14, 2020
7 – 8:30 pm
Request Zoom link by emailing vmnfairfax@gmail.com

Rachel Griesmer will talk about spotted lanternfly, an invasive planthopper new to Virginia. Rachel is an urban forester with Fairfax County Forest Pest Management Branch. She earned a Bachelor of Science in environmental biology and botany from Michigan State University and a Master of Science in forest ecology and management from Michigan Technological University. She holds certifications from the International Society of Arboriculture as a Certified Arborist as wells as a Qualified Tree Risk Assessor and has participated in suppression programs for invasive insects.

The meeting will also include the graduation of our Spring 2020 Basic Training class and an election for some key board positions.

Who’s Whooo Program at Huntley Meadows Park

It wasn’t the best weather for an outdoor event. Reports had predicted storms. Though the rain had passed through the area over night it was still blustery and overcast. Even with the sun trying desperately to peek through the clouds, occasionally succeeding, a chill remained in the air. The owls didn’t mind. The barred owl even panted a bit after flapping wildly on the handler’s arm, posturing for its admirers. A testament to how well dense feathers insulate an owl against the offerings of winter.


Huntley Meadows Park (HMP) hosted an owl program presented by ‘Secret Garden Birds and Bees (SGBB)’ on 5 Dec 2020. This organization of wildlife rehabilitators, falconers, beekeepers, and naturalists is dedicated to sharing their love of nature through informative and entertaining educational programs, events and activities. This day at HMP the team of Liz Dennison (VMN Banshee Reeks – Loudon) and Tim Dennison showcased 4 owls (Great Horned, Screech, Barn, and Barred) along with Big Red, a red-tailed hawk. As an organization they offer additional programs on general raptor habitat and identification, falconry, seasonal specific raptor behavior, as well as beekeeping and gardening. You may have had the pleasure of seeing them at events around the tri-sate area including Friend’s of Mason Neck’s Eagle Festival and Owl Moon Program. The birds have each been rehabilitated from injury (i.e. being hit by cars) but residual effects from their injuries (i.e. damaged eye sight, beak deformation) precludes safe release back into the wild. They are cared for on SGBB property in Loudon County along with bees and gardens.

SGBB Great Horned Owl – photo Jerry Nissley
SGBB Screech Owl – photo Jerry Nissley

The HMP program was offered through Fairfax County ParkTakes on-line registration system and was fully attended in compliance with current Virginia state limitations. The families in attendance were kept actively engaged and asked many questions about the bird’s behavior, characteristics, and habitat; and were treated to, how should I say, ‘spontaneous natural owl functions’ much to the joy of a couple of nine year old boys in the front row. Father said, “well son you got your wish”! The other function was the regurgitation of an owl pellet, which contained bone fragments from its last meal. Hey – people literally cheer for this bonus material folks!

SGBB Barn Owl – photo Jerry Nissley
SGBB Barred Owl – photo Jerry Nissley

To complement the spontaneous material the scripted information covered a description of each bird, how it nests, seasonal diets, how loss of habitat affects populations, the harmful impact to raptors that eat rodents that have ingested rodenticides, and preservation tactics such as owl box programs. Learning about how owls contribute to the environment and how they survive throughout the year builds a meaningful understanding of these magnificent birds of prey. The following Baba Dioum quote is on their website, “In the end we will only conserve what we love. We love only what we understand. We understand only what we are taught.” I say – we can never be taught too much! We just need to listen. This program was an excellent fun learning experience for all ages.

Contact information for Secret Garden Birds and Bees along with additional resources:

  1. www.SecretGardenBirdsAndBees.com email – liz@dennison.bz
  2. https://RaptorsAreTheSolution.org
  3. https://OwlPages.com
  4. https://www.PeregrineFund.org
  5. https://abcbirds.org

2020 Christmas Bird Counts and Alternatives

Photo of Eastern Towhee by Bob Howdesell, CBC

Central Loudoun Christmas Bird Count
When: Monday, December 28, 2020
Join Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy as they participate in the National Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count. The count circle has a 15-mile diameter and covers 177 square miles of Loudoun’s countryside: north to Waterford, south to Aldie, east to Ashburn, and west to Purcellville. LWC will not be holding an in-person Tally Rally this year but may do something virtual. If you are interested in participating for just a couple of hours or the entire day, sign up here.

Reston Association’s Winter Bird Count
When: Saturday, January 2, 2021 7 am – 12 pm
Half-day annual bird count throughout Reston natural areas. Meet local bird experts, obtain tips on identification, and help with collecting vital information about our feathered friends. Register using code 106201205 or call (703) 476-9689, ext. 5, by December 30th.

Audubon Society of Northern Virginia plans to hold the 39th Manassas-Bull Run Christmas Bird Count on Sunday, December 20. This year’s count will be different, in light of the pandemic.

Instead of recruiting new participants, they will be limiting the count to last year’s participants who want to do the count under conditions that conform with pandemic restrictions, including wearing masks, maintaining social distance and carpooling with household members only. Instead of their count day lunch gathering, they will have an online “tally rally” in the evening of count day. If you participated in last year’s count, you should have received a message about participating this year.

If you were looking forward to volunteering for the first time for this CBC, they hope you’ll understand and volunteer next year. BUT there are still ways you can join the spirit of the count! Consider these possibilities or invent your own:

Join the Free Zoom CBC Celebration and Summary:

Learn about highlights of this year’s CBC and celebrate with the CBC community. Register here.

Do Your Own Count:

Walk through your neighborhood or visit a park or refuge to gather observations and report your personal findings via eBird. (see below) Be sure to practice social distancing and wear a mask if within six feet of others!

Learn More About Useful Identification and Database Applications:

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a suite of useful tools and sites related to birding.

Explore many aspects of birding (species, hotspots, regions, etc.) at ebird.org.

You can also take a free course on their eBird smartphone application that allows you to document the species you see or hear. https://academy.allaboutbirds.org/product/ebird-essentials/

Take a free course on using another great smartphone app, Merlin Bird ID and other tools at https://merlin.allaboutbirds.org

Play learning games about birds at https://academy.allaboutbirds.org/learning-games/

Project FeederWatch:

Count birds that visit your feeders from the safety of your home or yard. Submit data from your sightings to contribute to winter and early bird counts. The 2020–21 FeederWatch season began on November 14 and ends on April 9. You can still sign up, and the last day to start a two-day count is April 8. Details are at https://feederwatch.org.

CBC Feeder Watchers:

If you reside in the Manassas-Bull Run CBC circle, you can count your feeder birds on December 20 and send a report that can be included in the official count. Contact the CBC compiler Phil Silas, epsdcva@aol.com for details.

Virginia Herpetological Society Fall Symposium, November 21st

Saturday, November 21, 2020
9 am – 5:30 pm
On FaceBook Live
Public welcome!

Join the Virginia Herpetological Society on Facebook Live for presentations by speakers from Virginia as well as internationally-renowed herpetologists. Topics include “Snakes of Costa Rica,” “History of Antivenom in the United States,” and “Virginia Herpetology: 2020 in review.”

Full schedule and speakers’ bios here.

Naturally Latinos Conference, December 2nd-4th

Wednesday, December 2 – Friday, December 4, 2020

Experience thought-provoking presentations by diverse regional and national environmental experts.

Join the Audubon Naturalist Society and their partners and become inspired to use the many strategies and tactics you will learn to transform your local community. You will have the opportunity to virtually and interactively network with leading nature professionals.

To see the 2020 Naturally Latinos Conference Agenda & Schedule, click here.

Register for the Conference Now!