2024 NABA Butterfly Count, July 20th

Photo: by FMN Jerry Nissley, Tiger swallowtail VMN Logo

July 20, 2024
9:00 am
 – 3:00 pm

The Clifton Institute
6712 Blantyre Rd
Warrenton, VA 20187

FREE but Registration is REQUIRED.

Every year community scientists help count the butterflies in 15-mile-diameter circles all around the country and contribute their data to the North American Butterfly Association. This summer the Clifton Institute will host their 29th annual butterfly count and celebrate their 22nd year contributing data to NABA. Butterfly enthusiasts of all levels of experience are welcome! If you feel like you don’t know many butterflies, this is a great way to learn and it’s always helpful to have more eyes pointing out butterflies. Participants will be assigned to small teams, led by an experienced butterfly counter. Once you volunteer, you will receive more information about your team closer to the date. Each team will survey a variety of sites within the designated count circle.  Everyone will meet at the Clifton Institute at 3:00 PM to tally results over cold drinks (provided).

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].

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!

New Particulate Pollution Air Quality Index

Image:  Courtesy of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality

You may soon notice some changes to the Air Quality Index (AQI). The AQI is a standardized color-coded scale used to describe health concerns associated with common pollutants such as ground-level ozone and PM2.5 (particulate pollution smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter). The AQI can range from 0 to 500. An AQI from 0-50 is green, for good air quality, whereas an AQI above 300 is maroon, meaning that air quality is hazardous. When the AQI is above 100 (orange or worse), air quality is unhealthy: first for sensitive groups of people, then for everyone as the values increase.

On May 6, the AQI changed for PM2.5 such that the breakpoint between green (good) and yellow (moderate) air quality has become more stringent. The Moderate category now begins when fine particle pollution concentrations reach 9 micrograms per cubic meter of air (the level of the updated annual air quality standard). Previously, the Moderate category began at 12 micrograms per cubic meter. EPA implemented this change to increase public health protection, consistent with evolving scientific understanding of the impacts of PM2.5 pollution. As a result of this, you may see air quality reach the yellow (moderate) AQI more frequently than in the past.

Don’t forget to sign up for air quality forecasts and alerts!

FCPA Announces the Farmers Market Opening Days

Photo: FCPA Farmers Market

The birds are chirping, the flowers are blooming, and the sun is shining, which means the Farmers Markets are opening up for the 2024 season!

Farmers Market Opening Days

  • Mount Vernon Farmers Market: April 17 
  • Burke Farmers Market: April 20 
  • Reston Farmers Market: April 27
  • Oakmont Farmers Market: May 1
  • Wakefield Farmers Market: May 1 
  • Annandale Farmers Market: May 2
  • Herndon Farmers Market: May 2 
  • McLean Farmers Market: May 3 
  • Kingstowne Farmers Market: May 3
  • Lorton Farmers Market: May 5

Please click here for more information about the Farmers Market Schedules and locations.   

Earth Sangha’s Spring Open House and Native Plant Sale, May 5th

Image: Courtesy of Earth Sangha

Sunday, May 5th, 2024
9:00AM – 1:00PM

Earth Sangha Wild Plant Nursery
6100 Cloud Dr.
Springfield, VA 22150


About the Wild Plant Nursery

The Wild Plant Nursery is a unique resource for ecological restoration in the greater Washington, DC, area. Established in 2001 in Springfield, Virginia, under an agreement with the Fairfax County Park Authority, the nursery is the region’s most comprehensive source of local, wild native-plant material (“local ecotypes”). The use of local ecotypes is a standard best practice in ecological restoration because that helps to safeguard genetic diversity and local adaptation in the species planted. The nursery is currently working with about 340 species, some uncommon or rare in the wild in this region. For many of these species, their nursery is the DC area’s only source of production — local ecotype or otherwise. All plants are grown from seed (or spores) that they themselves collect, from over 50 local natural areas. (They collect only with permission.) The nursery serves their own planting programs, as well as those of area governments, schools, businesses, and other conservation nonprofits. They rely on volunteers to run the nursery! To join them, check the Volunteer page for our Field SchedulePlease note that their nursery and office addresses are different. The Wild Plant Nursery is located at 6100 Cloud Dr. in Grove Point Park (formerly known as Franconia Park), Springfield. Our office is located in Annandale but is not open for plant sales.

Earth Sangha’s Wild Plant Nursery Species List




Spring Native Plant Sale at The Clifton Institute, May 18th

Image: Courtesy of The Clifton Institute

Saturday, May 18, 2024
11:00AM – 2:00PM

The Clifton Institute
6712 Blantyre Rd
Warrenton, VA 20187

Native plants provide better food for insects, which in turn provide food for birds. You can make a huge difference for wildlife by planting native species on your property. Since fall 2019 The Clifton institute has been collecting seeds of native grassland plants from around the area, which means in addition to being native they are of local ecotypes. At the plant sale they will sell seedlings grown from these seeds of a variety of perennial wildflowers, native grasses, and a few trees. Some of their favorites include butterflyweed, upland ironweed, scaly blazing star, narrow-leaf mountain-mint, and gray goldenrod. Partners from other organizations will also have plants and merchandise for sale. They will accept credit card, cash, or checks made out to the Clifton Institute. Hope to see you there!

Earth Day Fairfax, April 20th

Image:  Fairfax County Park Authority

Saturday, April 20, 2024
10am – 4pm
Sully Historic Site
3650 Historic Sully Way, Chantilly
Free admission, parking $10 per car

Discover the world around you with hands-on activities, games, entertainment and fun at Earth Day 2024. See the inaugural Wonder Wagon, Fairfax County Park Authority’s Mobile Nature Center! Enjoy outdoor discovery activities, interactive nature exhibites, furry farm friends, food trucks, earth-friendly vendors craft beer garden, obstacle course, live music and entertainment, FREE giveaways, Sully Historic House tours, meet WUSA9 Meteorologist Topper Shunt and the ECO9 Broadcast Truck. Learn more here.

Submit Your Best Bird Photos to the 2024 Audubon Photography Awards, deadline February 28th

Photo: Green-winged Teals, James Fatemi/Audubon Photography Awards

The 2024 Audubon Photography Awards is now accepting photographs until February 28. This prestigious contest attracts photographers from around the country to compete for 9 prizes. Winning photographs will be published in Audubon’s Magazine and on their website. We have wonderful natural resources here in Virginia and some very talented photographers! We hope you will submit your best photos for consideration. In the last two years we have had two high school students from Northern Virginia win Honorable Mention. This year’s Youth Prize is a free ticket to Hog Island’s Audubon Camp for Teens. Enter your photos here or see the full rules here. Check out some tips and tricks to photograph birds here. Need some inspiration? View the top 100 photos from last year’s contest here.

Come to the Mason Neck State Park for Guided First Day Hikes, January 1st


Monday, January 1, 2024

Mason Neck State Park
7301 High Point Rd, Lorton, VA 22079


Join Park Staff on a guided hike this January 1. First Day Hikes are the perfect way to start the year! Each trail is unique, and the leaders will offer information about the park and its plants and animals along the way. The Visitor Center will be open for more hands on activities, and to warm up if needed!

9:30 am: Kane’s Creek to Eagle Spur trail. Roughly a 3.8 mile hike. Packed dirt trail with stairs and roots. Not wheelchair or stroller friendly.

11:30 am: Tundra Swan Hike at the Woodmarsh Trail at Elizabeth Hartwell Refuge.  Approximately 2.5 miles loop. Not wheelchair friendly, Limited space available for this hike only. Recommended for ages 8 and up. Registration is required. Register at https://mnsp.eventbrite.com

12:00 pm:Dogue Trail hike and roll. Wheelchair accessible. Approximately 0.85 miles, packed gravel trail.

3:00 pm: Family-friendly hike on Bay View Trail. Approximately 1.25 miles, with stops and hands on opportunities for adventure and exploration. Packed dirt surface trail with boardwalks and exposed roots.

The Friends will provide hot coffee and cocoa from 9:00 to 11:30 AM.

Admission and parking are free on January 1.