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!

VNPS Potowmack Chapter End of Season Plant Sales Reduced Prices

Photo by Laura Beaty

The best time of year to plant is Fall. The soil is warm and the cooler air temperatures help new plantings overcome transplant shock, roots have time to grow before the cold sets in — and even longer before plants will start to grow again in the spring — when early spring bloomers will sustain early pollinators if planted now.

Due to the pandemic, the Potowmack chapter of Virginia Native Plant Society has not been able to hold their in-person plant sales this year. They count on selling plants that don’t over-winter well in pots. In order to make room and to find homes for our plants, they have decided to have an end of season sale so their loyal customers can enjoy our bounty.
 
All of their potted plants may be purchased, but they have reduced the price of 24 species to $3 each or 2 for $5. In addition, they are offering 11 other species at the rate of 1 free plant for each plant you purchase. They have sale prices for Milkweed, White Wood Aster, Great Blue Lobelia, Wild Bergamot, Orange Coneflower and New England Aster, to name a few.
 
The sales prices will be in effect for the remainder of the season. They are open for sales every Wednesday morning in October from 10 am until 1 pm until we close down the beds for the winter.
 
They have also marked down almost all their grasses, sedges and rushes, and many of their small trees are FREE, so here’s a good opportunity to give them a try! Come see what they have!
 
Please bring a box to carry your purchases home.

They will happily accept empty pot donations in the 1- to 2-gallon size. 
Cash or check only, please. Their sales take place behind the Horticulture Center at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria, VA.
 
They observe Fairfax County COVID-19 Guidelines.

Virginia Water Monitoring Council Virtual Conference

21-22 September 2020
Via GoToWebinar

This year’s Virginia Water Monitoring Council Conference will be held using a virtual format through GoToWebinar. Topics include coastal resilience, plastic pollution, Winter Salt Watch, and more. The program runs from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. each day, September 21st and 22nd. Registration is $30/person.

For more agenda, information, registration and contacts, see the conference webpage.

Annual Butterfly Count at Clifton Institute

Saturday, July 25, 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Join Clifton Institute, as they host their 25th annual butterfly count and celebrate their 18th year of collaboration with the North American Butterfly Association. 

Novice and experienced butterfly enthusiasts are needed! Citizen scientists will be assigned to small teams, led by an experienced butterfly counter. Teams will survey a variety of sites within our count circle.

Fee: $3 per person (Children 8 and older may participate for free, when accompanied by a parent.)

Register here

DEQ Environmental Justice Webinar, June 17

Wednesday, June 17, 6-8 p.m

The DEQ webinar will share perspectives on Environmental Justice and will be held in both English and Spanish. This will be followed with a survey to gather additional community perspectives.

DEQ is currently doing an environmental justice study and will be holding a webinar (in both English and Spanish) to share feedback and perspectives from statewide interviews that Skeo Solutions has conducted thus far. Informed by best practices of other state and federal regulatory agencies, the Skeo team has conducted more than 70 interviews with a wide cross-section of stakeholders across Virginia, including representatives from EJ communities and organizations, environmental organizations, regulated agriculture and industry, local government, state environmental boards and DEQ staff. The interviews focused on understanding different experiences with EJ and DEQ’s programs, as well as perspectives on potential challenges and opportunities to advance EJ within DEQ programs.

Following the webinars, a public survey will be available to gather additional community perspectives.

Please share this information with anyone who would be interested in joining the webinar, or in these materials afterwards. See DEQ’s news release below for more details. You will need to register for the webinar to receive a link. 

The webinar will also be recorded and posted to the DEQ website below, along with the survey link and the slide presentation for anyone wishing to provide additional feedback on how DEQ can effectively support and advance environmental justice through their programs. www.DEQ.Virginia.gov/ConnectWithDEQ/EnvironmentalJustice.aspx

Virginia Department of Environmental Quality

Questions? Greg Bilyeu, Director of Communications

1111 East Main Street, Richmond, Virginia 23219

(804) 698-4107

 gregory.bilyeu@deq.virginia.gov 

Nature in a Time of Crisis: A Conversation with Melanie Choukas-Bradley

Jun 12, 2020, 1:00 PM

Join Capital Nature and Park Rx America for a timely discussion with naturalist and author Melanie Choukas-Bradley. Inspired by her new book: Resilience: Connecting with Nature in a Time of Crisis, the program will explore how a relationship with nature can nurture and support our wellbeing during COVID-19 and other crisis times.

Melanie will share highlights from her interviews with aspiring and seasoned naturalists across the country. She will offer practical advice for: “how to establish a wild home; how to develop nature connection as a mindfulness practice such as integrating meditation, yoga and tai chi; how to become a backyard naturalist and weave nature appreciation and study into your home schooling and how to develop new ways of seeing and being in the world.” We will also hear from DC-area residents who have found new ways to engage with nature for their own wellbeing and the wellbeing of their families.

This event is co-hosted with Park Rx America. We invite you to listen in and join us for the conversation!

Register here