The Braddock District Tree Forum, Trees Need More Than Hugs: How to Care for Your Trees! March 20th

Photo: Plant NOVA Trees

Wednesday, March 20, 2024, 7-9 pm
7:00-9:00 pm

No registration is required.
Kings Park Library Conference Room
9000 Burke Lake Rd, Burke, VA, 22015-1683

Questions: [email protected]

Come to this informative event to hear three experts in the field talking about tree care.  Information tables will be set up to visit before and after the talk. Win a chance to receive a free native tree seedling!  Free, no registration, all are welcome. Come to learn about why you should care, and how to care, for your trees.  For more information, click, or copy and paste, this link:  2024 Braddock District Tree Forum flyer final.pdf

NVSWCD Seedling Sale is Coming!

Photo:  Francesco Gallarotti on Unsplash

The Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District is excited to share another year of seedlings with you! This year they are featuring a Nectar Lovers package and a Songbird Friendly package. Descriptions and pictures of the seedlings in each one are available on our website.

They understand that their seedlings are very popular and sell out quickly. To address some of the ordering challenges from past years, they will have a staggered release of seedlings. Seedling packages will be made available on the sales website at 10am, 2pm, and 6pm on Thursday, March 14, 2024 and will remain available until sold out. If you miss the 10am seedlings, check back later in the day at 2pm or 6pm after the inventory has been replenished. The seedling sale pickup dates are Friday, April 19, from 9am-4pm and Saturday, April 20, from 9am-12pm at the Sleepy Hollow Bath and Racquet Club in Falls Church.

Don’t want to miss the sale? You can sign up for their seedling sale emails by clicking here and they’ll send you reminders.

NVSWCD Green Breakfast: Knockout Natives, March 9th

Saturday, March 9, 2023
9 am
Speaker: Sam Hoadley, the Manager of Horticultural Research at Mt. Cuba Center
Registration required. 

Join Sam Hoadley, the Manager of Horticultural Research at Mt. Cuba Center, as he highlights knockout native species and cultivars from their trials. Top performers and favorites of MonardaPhloxEchinacea, wild hydrangea, Carex represent some of the best native plants for the mid-Atlantic region and beyond. Sam will discuss their horticultural and ecological performance and will share important information on standouts that will make beautiful additions to your garden.

NVSWCD’s popular Green Breakfasts are now virtual! All Green Breakfast webinars begin at 9:00am and are hosted on Teams. No prior registration is required.

January Green Breakfast Recording available: Conserve Energy, Save Money, and Take Climate Action with OEEC

Speaker: Dr. Neely Law, Senior Planner, Fairfax County Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination
The January Green Breakfast was chock full of information, be sure to check it out if you weren’t able to join us! To watch the recording on our YouTube channel, click here.

Stream Monitoring Citizen Science & Training Opportunities, March

Photo: FMN Janet Quinn, Hidden Pond stream monitoring

*NVSWCD Workshop*
Wolftrap Creek Stream Monitoring Workshop
When: Saturday, March 2, 9:00am-12:00pm
Where: Wolftrap Creek Stream Valley Park/Foxstone Park, Vienna

Join NVSWCD for our first stream monitoring workshop of the spring season. This site features a small, shallow stream which usually has a good number of beetles. Learn more and register for this workshop and others here.

Accotink Creek Spring Stream Monitoring
When: Saturday, March 9, 9:30-11:30am
Where: Lake Accotink Park, Springfield

GET YOUR BRAIN WET! Join Friends of Lake Accotink Park and Friends of Accotink Creek for a rewarding and fun time for adults and children who enjoy helping our parks and environment by identifying and counting stream critters to document the health of the stream. It’s fun for the whole family to learn what’s in the water by seeing and counting stream critters. The critter count is ever-changing, but volunteers have made some exciting finds, including small crayfish. Learn more and be sure to register here

*NVSWCD Workshop*
Difficult Run Stream Monitoring Workshop
When: Sunday, March 24, 9:00am-12:00pm
Where: Difficult Run Stream Valley Park, Great Falls

This stream site in Great Falls is a short walk through the woods to a river with wide, sandy banks. These trails are very popular with hikers and volunteers often get high water quality scores at this site. Learn more and register for this workshop and others here.

*NVSWCD Workshop*
Big Rocky Run Stream Monitoring Workshop
When: Thursday, March 28, 1:00-4:00pm
Where: Ellanor C. Lawrence Park, Chantilly

This stream monitoring site on Big Rocky Run is located near the historic Cabell’s Mill in Ellanor C. Lawrence Park. This park features great trails with interpretive signage and the stream site is a stone’s throw from Walney Pond, where you may get to see the happy beaver family that lives there. Learn more and register for this workshop and others here.


More Training and Stream Monitoring Opportunities

The NoVa Soil & Water Conservation teams are  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.

Geology of the Piedmont Tour, March 9th

Image: Courtesy of Clifton Institute

Saturday, March 9, 2023
9:00AM – 12:00PM

The Clifton Institute
6712 Blantyre Rd
Warrenton, VA 20187

Cost: FREE

Registration is REQUIRED.

It’s winter and that means that rock season is upon us! This year, it would be nice to branch out and check out a whole new geologic province. The last two years the class took a close look at rocks of the Piedmont Plateau and learned that several times in the geologic past, huge mountain ranges rose up where the Piedmont is today. Where did those mountains go? The sand and silt washed down from those soaring peaks must have gone somewhere and this class is going to find it! Join this tour for a journey off the western edge of the Blue Ridge Anticlinorium and into one of the world’s great thrust/fold belts, the Valley and Ridge Province of the Appalachian Mountains. you will be looking at layers and layers of ancient sediments laid out in a vast river delta. Like the pages of a book, these layers have a fascinating story to tell about life in the Paleozoic.

The tour will be heading out to Front Royal to begin the geology tour this year and making its way up into Fort Valley, stopping along the way. A few of the stops will involve a short hike but nothing too strenuous.

Participants can EITHER meet at Clifton at 9 a.m. and carpool to Front Royal, OR meet the tour in Front Royal around 10 a.m.

Sangha Stewards Applications Open Now!

Image courtesy of Earth Sangha

Sangha Stewards Application here.

Earth Sangha is excited to announce that they’re opening applications for their Sangha Steward program! The Sangha Stewards is a way for volunteers looking for more independent and technical work to join them at their nursery, field sites, and office to help them manage more complex tasks and receive extra training.

Sangha Stewards will be invited to work more closely with their staff and to join their monthly staff training sessions (they’ll have snacks!). Days and times are more flexible and they’re looking to work with their Stewards to develop their skills and what sort of work they’re most interested in.

They have four categories for Sangha Stewards:

Nursery and Propagation: While they already do a lot of potting up, they frequently have species that need a little bit more detailed care: perhaps it’s a tray with mixed species, maybe they have delicate seedlings that need to be teased apart, or they need someone with a keen eye and a steady hand to remove weeds among rare or sensitive native plants. Or maybe you just want to relax and help them hand water through the summer. This is work that can be done independently or as part of our regular volunteer days.

Building and Infrastructure: They always have a backlog of maintenance and construction tasks at the nursery, whether it’s adjusting irrigation lines or helping them build more oak and hickory rodent exclosures. If you’re handy with tools, they could use the help here!

Invasives and Field Sites: The invasives never sleep, so they could use an extra set of eyes and hands out at some of their field sites. This could mean checking sites periodically for Early Detection Rapid Response species or even doing a little bit of independent pulling or helping them lead volunteers at their field days. They’ll make sure to familiarize you with their sites and train you on the species and areas they’re looking to target. Keeping invasive vines off their Habitat Refuges will be one of their top priorities.

Office: For those of you who would rather be inside, they do need periodic help at their office. It may not be as frequent as the other categories, but printing labels and helping them organize their Acorn newsletter mailings would be a big help!

If you’re interested in joining, they’ve put together a Google Form you can fill out (see link above) and Michaelanne will be in touch soon. (If you have any questions, please see the volunteer page of our website or email Michaelanne at [email protected].) As they’re beginning this program, they’re going to limit the number of spots; as they grow, if folks are interested, they can open up this opportunity to more people.

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.

The Magic of Winter Trees: Making a Deeper Connection

Photo: Plant NOVA Natives/Plant NOVA Trees

Article by Cindy Speas, Fairfax County Tree Commission

Winter is a lovely time to get to know your trees better. Many folks spend some of the colder days of January and February planning their spring gardens, winter sowing, or putting in nursery orders for spring delivery of native plants. Dreams of warmer days are lovely, but if you have trees in your yard or a nearby park, winter might also be the time to learn how to appreciate and protect their incredible beauty.

When our trees are bare of leaves, you can visualize more clearly their beautiful shapes, identify some species characteristics and assess their health status. There are several local organizations that provide winter educational hikes or webinars to examine and learn about our forests, including Nature ForwardVirginia Native Plant Society – Potowmack Chapter, Capital Nature, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, Audubon Society of Northern Virginia, Prince William Conservation Alliance, and others.

If you haven’t taken a long walk or hike in the winter before, it’s time to bundle up and head out on the trail. Even if you aren’t an experienced birder, it’s often easier at this time of year to observe hawks, owls, or other raptors at work. Smaller birds can be spotted searching tree bark or leaf litter for insects and berries, and mammals often make a long-distance appearance as they look for food. Native evergreens or the lovely marcescent (persistent) leaves on oaks and beeches provide beautiful color among the gray tree trunks. While you may not want to linger for contemplation, if you walk gently, there is a type of forest bathing you can experience surrounded by the still, silent trees in the chilly air. One of the loveliest things you can see in a winter forest is found by looking up to the sky:  it is in this season that you can see how the tree canopy develops—trees grow side-by-side leaving a path around each canopy’s branches so that sunlight may reach down to the forest floor. This is called canopy shyness. While more common in rain forests, these fascinating patterns of sky and crown branching can sometimes be seen in groupings of the same tree species, and are spectacular to observe.

For those that love to undertake vigorous outdoor work in the winter, now is the time to protect our trees by starting to pull, dig, or hack and squirt the invasives in your yard or to volunteer for similar ongoing activities in your community. With the exception of a few native evergreens, almost all the large swaths of green you see in your neighborhood and along the roads are invasive, non-native plants—from Wintergreen to Vinca, to English Ivy, from Privet to non-native Holly species, to Bamboo. You can find organizations with volunteer opportunities on the Plant NOVA Trees website. Invasive plants displace the tree seedlings that are essential for our future forests, and some of them directly kill the larger trees.

So, if you want to learn about trees, to more closely observe nature, to find quiet time for spiritual reflection, or to vigorously get rid of tree enemies, winter is a magical time to spend outside in the stillness and beauty of the forest.


River Farm Blue Bird Boxes and a Ha-Ha.

January 13, 2024 – FMN was able to kick-off the stewardship activity to replace and monitor the Blue Bird Boxes at River Farm.

FMN Susan Farmer with Bob Farmer

Susan Farmer is the FMN coordinator for service and citizen science activities at River Farm. When the American Horticultural Society (AHS) notified her that the donated boxes were in, she organized FMN volunteers to help Jack, the River Farm groundskeeper, with installation. Eight boxes were replaced and ten sad boxes were removed and salvaged for parts.

The long-term plan is to officially monitor and maintain the boxes. To officially monitor and report hours to the Virginia Blue Bird Society requires training, so Susan is arranging that for early March. Susan is also creating a presentation for an FMN CE program. Along with general history of bluebird trails and how they have helped bring back the bluebird, she will discuss specifics on the River Farm opportunity.

Parts in the cart for 8 boxes – photo Jerry Nissley

As an aside to this … notice the Ha-Ha Wall (or saut de loup) behind the chain in the river view photo. You don’t see it? That is precisely the intended illusion. These walls are a feature developed by the French in the 1600s. Chateaus and estates would incorporate Ha-Has in landscape design to prevent access to a garden by, for example, grazing livestock, without obstructing pastoral views. I’ve seen these now at Gunston Hall, Mount Vernon, and here. River Farm was once owned by George Washington.

Crude illustration of a Ha-Ha -graphic by WikiMedia Commons

For the garden design enthusiasts among us … the name Ha-Ha was first used in print in Dezallier d’Argenville’s 1709 book, The Theory and Practice of Gardening. He explains that the name derives from the exclamation of surprise viewers would make on recognizing the optical illusion.

Mount Vernon incorporates Ha-Has on its grounds as part of the landscaping for the mansion built by George Washington’s father, Augustine Washington. President Thomas Jefferson built a Ha-Ha at the southern end of the South Lawn of the White House, which was an eight-foot wall with a sunken ditch meant to keep the livestock from grazing in his garden. Yes, livestock used to graze the White House lawns.

A Ha-Ha view – photo Jerry Nissley

A 21st-century use of a Ha-Ha is at the Washington Monument to minimize the visual impact of security measures. After 9/11 and another unrelated terror threat at the monument, authorities put up jersey walls to prevent motor vehicles from approaching the monument. The temporary barriers were later replaced with a new Ha-Ha, a low 30 inch granite stone wall that incorporated lighting and doubled as a seating bench. It received the 2005 Park/Landscape Award of Merit.

FMNs Kristin, Susan, Donna, Sarah, Jerry, Monica, and Paul – photo Jerry Nissley

But I digress … we had a great winter’s day start to this wonderful stewardship opportunity at River Farm. Thank you to the 7 FMN that helped Jack on installation-day. We look forward to working with other volunteers and staff to learn more about River Farm and grow this partnership in 2024.

FMN CE – Woodcock Night Hike at Huntley Meadows

What: FMN CE Evening Woodcock Walk for Virginia Master Naturalists
When: on Friday, March 8th from 5:30-7pm
Where: Huntley Meadows Park – South Kings Hwy entrance
Meet at in the parking lot.
How long: Approximately 2 hours.
Group limit: 15 individuals

Take an evening stroll with a park naturalist through the forest to one of the park’s largest meadows. Listen for the call of the male woodcock and hopefully see his amazing courtship dance and flight. Bring a flashlight. Approximately 1.5 mile walk on uneven terrain. Canceled if rain. Meet at the South Kings Highway entrance to the park.

To register:
1. Login to BI and click on your ‘Opportunities’ tab.
2. Select ‘Opportunity Calendar’ from the pull-down list.
3. Find event in the displayed calendar and click on it to display event details.
4. To sign up, Click on the ‘Sign Up’ box in the lower right. This automatically signs you up and puts the event on your calendar.
5. To claim 2 CE hours: use All Continuing Education -> FMN All other Chapter Training

Cover photo courtesy of FCPA