Join Other Environmental Educators at the 2020 VAEE Conference

The 2020 VAEE Conference has a lot to offer Virginia Master Naturalists!

On Wednesday, Feb. 26 there will be many outdoor workshops and classes such as “Wandering the Winter Woods” or “A Wetland Wander at Sweet Briar.” There are full day workshops such as “Communicating Climate Change” and “Lynchburg’s Urban Water Cycle Tour.’’ Plain old fun can be had in the “Make-n-Take” session in which you can make a Mason bee house, a Bluebird box, a Rain Barrel, or Nature Crafts such as corn husk dolls, vine baskets, cordage or memory keepers.  The Interactive Activity Showcase will give you many new tools for your education toolbox.

On Thursday, Feb. 27 nineteen different concurrent sessions will be offered, the Awards Luncheon, and most importantly the keynote speaker, Dr. J. Drew Lanham, an author, poet, wildlife biologist and Clemson University’s Alumni Distinguished Professor of Wildlife Ecology. In 2019 he was awarded the National Audubon Society’s Dan W. Lufkin Prize for Environmental Leadership, recognizing “individuals who have dedicated their entire lives to the environment”.

His research focuses on songbird ecology, as well as the African-American role in natural-resources conservation. A South Carolina native, Lanham is active on a number of conservation boards, including the South Carolina Wildlife Federation, Audubon South Carolina, the Aldo Leopold Foundation, BirdNote, and the American Birding Association, and he is a member of the advisory board for the North American Association of Environmental Education.

On Friday, Feb. 28 there will be 14 more concurrent sessions and a closing session with the keynote speaker, our own Nancy Striniste, author of the new book Nature Play at Home: Creating Outdoor Spaces that Connect Children to the Natural World (Timber Press, 2019). Nancy is founder and principal designer at EarlySpace, is a landscape designer, an educator, and an author.

Registration will open on November 15! You will have many options from full conference registration to only attending one day. Full conference includes all meals for the 2.5 days. https://vaee.wildapricot.org/VAEE2020

If you have further questions contact Page or Bruce.

Flying squirrels, FMN annual meeting, December 6th

Photo (c) by Barbara J. Saffir

St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church in the parish hall
1830 Kirby Rd, McLean, VA 22101
Friday, 6 December 2019
7 – 9 pm

Join the Fairfax Master Naturalists for the graduation of their Fall 2019 training class, election of chapter officers and a presentation by Barbara Saffir on SECRET NIGHT GLIDERS: Our Uncommonly Seen (Yet Super Common) Southern Flying Squirrels.

An introduction to America’s smallest — and arguably cutest — squirrel. They’re nearly as common as our seemingly ubiquitous eastern gray squirrels though you’ve probably never glimpsed one. If you live in Fairfax, these “fairy diddles” probably visit your backyard — or at least your neighborhood.

Master naturalists earn one hour of continuing education credit.

Event is free; everyone is welcome to attend.

Have you ever seen a dragon fly? Learn more Dec. 8th

Jammes House
Mason Neck State Park
Sunday, 8 December 2019
2 pm

Join the Friends of Mason Neck State Park for their annual holiday event and listen to a fascinating program presented by naturalist and author Bob Blakney. Bob is author of the field guide “Northern Virginia Dragonflies and Damselflies.” He has participated in regular surveys of the Mason Neck area for the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia for more than 12 years. Bob will present photographs he has taken of dragonflies and damselflies in the region and talk about these fascinating creatures that inhabit our local ponds and streams.

Did you know that:
Dragonflies have been around for about 300 million years.
Fossil dragonflies have been found with two-foot wingspans.
Dragonflies can fly straight up and down, backwards and hover like a helicopter.
Dragonflies are among the most efficient predators on Earth.

The Holiday Party is open to members of the Friends of Mason Neck State Park. Each member may register one guest. The program fee is $15 per person, which includes admission to the park.
You can register at Holiday Event Registration.
Not a member? Has your membership expired? You can join or renew your membership for as little as $20 per year for up to two people at Join the Friends of Mason Neck State Park.
Be sure to register soon. Space is limited and this event always sells out!

A Simple Tree

Photo (c) by Barbara J. Saffir

Essay by Barbara J. Saffir

My life is about to change soon.  Not in a big way.  No cancer, divorce, or job loss.  (I count my blessings!) But it will still change in a meaningful way.  My apartment manager is going to cut down the cherry tree in front of my home.  No big deal?  That’s bad news for the cheery, cherry-red cardinals who perch there when they feed their fluffy-feathered babies.  It’s a big loss for the happy hummingbirds who hunker down there in a storm.  It’s where our Olympic gymnasts of birds — white-breasted nuthatches — perform head-first acrobatics racing down the tree trunk.  That’s where red-bellied, hairy, and downy woodpeckers hold their “coffee klatches.”  Where teensy, tufted titmouses with fawn-like eyes seemingly pose by the tree’s sweet-smelling white flowers each spring.  Where eastern gray squirrels stretch out in the 90-degree days of July and huddle together during February’s frigid days.  And each fall, its sunshine yellow leaves linger briefly, reminding me that all good (and bad) things eventually end.

If this were only one lone tree, then it would mainly affect me. It’s part of my daily life. I delight in watching and photographing the critters’ antics in the tree from the picture window in my home office.  But at least 50 species of birds and other cute creatures’ lives partially depend on it.

It’s not the only tree to bite the dust recently.  Miles upon miles of trees are now being annihilated for the I-66 toll-lane widening.  “In the last two decades, over thirty-five percent of Northern Virginia’s urban forest has been bulldozed and chainsawed,” says the nonprofit Fairfax ReLeaf.

Why do we even need trees?  “Without them, life on earth would be very different,” says the Virginia Department of Forestry. Most importantly we need their oxygen. Trees clean the air.  They provide temperature-lowering shade. They provide privacy. We thrive on the beauty of the wildly diverse types and sizes and shapes and colors of trees in all four seasons.  They increase the value of human houses and they provide safe homes to cute creatures like northern flickers with crayon-yellow feathers, rusty-colored screech owls, and pint-sized flying squirrels, who nest and rest in their trunks and on their branches.  Their flowers help provide pollen to Virginia’s and Maryland’s 400 species of native bees.  Trees help cut flooding and clean our drinking water.

But trees are not a focus of my large apartment complex. As a long-term renter, I twice appealed to the corporate office and even offered to donate native plants to replace the mid-sized tree with no luck. I’ll admit that the tree needs replacement but the questionable pruning methods over the years probably hastened its unhealthy state. If it were on my own property, I might cut it down halfway to leave it for woodpeckers and nuthatches to live in and snack on the ants and other life-sustaining bugs that dwell in its innards. But alas, life is very short and one has to pick one’s battles.

I will miss “my” cherry tree.  But I won’t hold a funeral.  I’ll try not to grieve too long. But it would sure make me and the critters feel better if someone would replace it with a new native tree!
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Readers, are you also grieving for a favorite dead tree or plants at your apartment, in your neighborhood, or at a public park? Please feel free to share this little story to help educate your friends and neighbors about the crucial need for trees. Please also share your frustrations and successes in the comments section below along with your ideas for how to keep this from happening elsewhere.

Stream monitoring volunteer opportunities

Reston Association Stream Monitoring Workshop
Reston VA
Saturday, 16 November 2019
11am – 2pm

What better way to enjoy the changing seasons than to get your feet wet in one of Reston’s streams? RA welcomes new volunteers to assist with stream monitoring at several locations. Get involved with a small team to collect data and identify insects with the goal of assessing the health of Reston’s streams. Not only do you get to learn about streams, it also provides an opportunity to make new friends! Learn more and register.

Accotink Creek Stream Monitoring Session
Lake Accotink Park, Springfield VA
Saturday, 14 December 2019
9:30am-11:30am

Join 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. See upcoming Accotink Stream Monitoring events here.

FMN member receives 2019 Wildlife Hero Award

Congratulations to Harrison A. Glasgow, long-time board member of Friends of Huntley Meadows Park; founder of the Fairfax County Park Authority Federation of Friends Groups; Fairfax County Park Foundation Board Officer; U.S. Army Veteran; and Fairfax Master Naturalist.

Harry was awarded the 2019 Wildlife Hero Award by the Prince William Conservation Alliance in October.

This award honors Harry’s lifelong work and leadership protecting wild spaces in Northern Virginia through tours, talks and service on local boards and commissions.

Fairfax County parks have benefitted significantly thanks to this veteran’s dedication and passion for the natural world. He serves as an example to many through his work as a valued volunteer.

Restoration of an Extinct Ecosystem: Lessons Learned with Dr. Douglas Gill

The Clifton Institute
6712 Blantyre Road
Warrenton, VA, 20187
Friday, December 6
6:30 PM – 8:00 PM

For 20 years, the Native Grassland Restoration project on the eastern shore of Maryland has studied the processes of restoring native Mid-Atlantic warm-season grasslands. Come hear Dr. Gill share an overview of his involvement with the project and practical advice from years of experience with grassland restoration. The talk will be valuable to anyone with similar goals on their own land, no matter how small-scale!

Douglas E. Gill, Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Biology at University of Maryland, College Park where he has worked since 1971. In 2010, Dr. Gill was named Conservationist of the Year by the Maryland Ornithological Society. $10 per person.

 

Christmas Bird Count at Clifton Institute, Dec 15

The Clifton Institute
6712 Blantyre Road
Warrenton, VA, 20187
Sunday, December 15, meet at 8:00 AM

Join The Clifton Institute for their annual Christmas Bird Count! Spend the day surveying the birds in a 15-mile-diameter count circle. This is a great way to meet other birders in the area and to see what birds have migrated here for the winter. The count circle includes a nice variety of habitats and we see a diversity of waterfowl and grassland birds. There’s always a chance for Short-eared Owl and American Tree Sparrow! 

Please contact Alison at azak@cliftoninstitute.org if you are interested in participating. She will assign you to a team and each team will decide when and where to meet for the day. We’ll wrap up the count with a compilation potluck dinner at 5:30 at our headquarters. We hope to see you there!

All skill levels welcome. Dress in layers for chilly, wet weather. Rain or shine! 

Photo by Cameron Darnell.

Mindful Naturalists: Trees Are Our Teachers

The Clifton Institute, 6712 Blantyre Road
Warrenton, VA, 20187
Saturday, Nov 16, 2019
3:00pm – 4:30pm

Mindful Naturalists is a free program series created to inspire mindful observation and nature appreciation. Each month we will explore a different topic and experiment with different practices for mindfully experiencing the natural world while enjoying a peaceful afternoon at our beautiful field station.

“Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth.” –Herman Hesse

In November we will let trees be our teachers. How often do we allow ourselves to get to know an individual tree? What might we learn from trees if we explored them in a more mindful way? This month we will experiment with knowing trees in ways that connect us to individuals, ecosystems, and all of nature. We will begin with a short meditation, explore the forests around the farmhouse, spend some solitary time with a tree, and finally reflect on what we learn as a group.

Please dress for the weather. All materials provided. No mindfulness experience required. All are welcome!

Free, but please register

 

Designing for big storms, big flooding: How can redevelopment help the Richmond Highway corridor?

Thursday, November 21, 2019
7:00-8.30 PM
Sherwood Hall Library
2501 Sherwood Hall Ln.
Alexandria, VA 22306

Host Contact Info: Renee Grebe | renee.grebe@anshome.org

Join us to discuss how we can redesign our landscapes to improve stormwater controls and restore streams in the Richmond Highway Corridor. Are we prepared for bigger downpours? How can redevelopment be tied to better stormwater control and creating wider stream buffers? How can you get involved to drive change?

Panelists:

  • JoAnne Fiebe, Program Manager, Community Revitalization | Fairfax County Department of Planning + Development currently working on the Embark Richmond Highway Urban Design Guidelines
  • Catie Torgerson, Planner IV, Stormwater Planning Division | Fairfax County Department of Public Works & Environmental Services
  • Betsy Martin, President of Friends of Little Hunting Creek