Birding by Ear

Song Sparrow photo by Pat Ulrich

On line: Thursday, May 13, Tuesday, May 18 & Thursday, May 20
7:00 – 8:30PM
Field Trip: Saturday, May 22 (Limit 20), Place TBD
Fee: $75/Online only; $100/Online + Field Trip
To register, click here.

Sponsored by Audubon Society of Northern Virginia

Have you ever wondered what that song or ‘chip’ note was that you heard on a forest hike? Can’t tell the difference between a spring peeper and a wood warbler? How does one learn to memorize the complex and endless variety of bird sings? This workshop is designed for you. If you are a relative beginner, and want to start building a repertoire of learned bird songs and calls, here is the place. This workshop on Birding by Ear will help you phoneticize a variety of bird calls using mnemonic devices, understand the basic function and purpose of avian vocalizations, organize a library of calls and songs having similar characteristics, and improve your field birding skills.

Beat the summer heat with a native plant shade garden

Photo by Plant NOVA Natives

They say shade gardens are the gardens of the future, since it will be too hot to spend much time in the sun. That’s pretty much the case already on most summer days. Although sunny butterfly gardens still provide hours of entertainment, a shady place to relax or play in your yard is a welcome addition. An added bonus is that gardening is a lot easier in the shade, because the weeds grow much more slowly.
 
There are plenty of native flowers available to provide color in a shade garden. You can see examples of them on the shade garden page of the Plant NOVA Natives website. Many of those species also make excellent ground covers. For example, Woodland Phlox and Golden Ragwort are evergreen and spread to make a mat, with blue and yellow flowers respectively in the spring. April and May are a particularly lively time in the shade, as spring ephemerals such as Virginia Bluebell and Spring Beauty pop up and bloom before the trees and shrubs leaf out, then disappear when the shade gets too heavy. They make perfect companion plants for the ferns and sedges that provide a cooling backdrop all summer long. Contrasting foliage textures create visual interest even without flowers.
 
Why choose native plants? A plant is native to our environment if it evolved within the local food web and has the intricate relationship with animals and other plants that this implies. Plants such as turf grass and many of the ornamentals that were brought here after the arrival of the Europeans are nearly useless (and sometimes actually harmful) from an ecosystem perspective. Choosing native plants allows us to fit into the ecosystem instead of displacing it.
 
Most native plants can be planted any time of year that the ground is not frozen or saturated. Spring is of course the most popular time for gardening (though fall is even better.) As consumer interest has grown, conventional garden centers have been providing an ever-increasing variety of native plants. In Northern Virginia, 22 garden centers have red stickers on their native plants, placed there by Plant NOVA Natives volunteers, so all you have to do is walk down the aisles and look for the stickers. In addition, several local garden centers sell only native plants, which gives you the best selection of all.
 
In some cases, the first step toward creating a shade garden will be to create the shade. A glaring hot lawn is uninviting and can be remedied by simply planting native trees.  Since most trees require full sun to grow, an empty lawn is the perfect location for a grove of trees that will beautify your property while reducing air conditioning costs. Underplanting the trees with shrubs will provide homes and food for the birds.

Beginning Birding – Hybrid Workshop, April 27th, 29th & May 1st

Photo by Luke Franke

April 27, 29; Tuesday & Thursday, 7:00 – 8:00PM
Field Trip: May 1, 7:30AM (Limit 20)
Where: Hybrid – online and in the field!
Fee: $25/Online only; $50/Online + Field Trip

To register, click here.

Are you new to the world of birding? Not sure if the bird in your binoculars is a warbler or a sparrow? Then this class is for you! This three part hybrid class will focus on the basics: Why go birding? What is birding? What about binoculars, field guides, and phone apps? How can you get started identifying the birds you see? Where can you go birding?

Join Greg Butcher, Larry Meade and Dixie Sommers for Audubon Society of Northern Virginia’s first hybrid workshop. They’ll meet online for two, one-hour Zoom sessions and follow up what you’ve learned in the field.

Friends of Mason Neck Virtual Eagle Festival, May 8th

Photo (c) by Barbara J. Saffir

Saturday, May 8, 2021
2 pm
Register here.

The Friends of Mason Neck State Park will host a virtual program featuring Buddy the Bald Eagle in lieu of the Park’s annual Eagle Festival. Buddy has appeared at several previous Eagle Festivals. This year, Lauren Edzenga, the Outreach Educator for the Wildlife Center of Virginia, will join us in a Zoom program during which she will show Buddy live and on-camera while she discusses the lives of Bald Eagles.

The Friends of Mason Neck State Park are presenting this program without charge, thanks to the generosity of our donors and members.

Ask the Experts – Pruning Native Shrubs and Trees, May 5th

Wednesday, May 5, 2021
6:30 – 8 pm
Register here.
Expert: Maraea Harris

Pruning shrubs and small trees can be confounding for homeowners but it doesn’t have to be. Maraea will talk about identifying trees and shrubs in your landscape and how best to prune them for health and aesthetics. The techniques she discusses will be applicable throughout your landscape but will focus on native shrubs and trees that are commonly grown in our area. Maraea will give a short presentation then open it up to your questions for the bulk of the hour

Submit your questions on the registration page, and please send photos of the area in question to plantnovanatives@gmail.com.

This videoconference will be recorded and posted to YouTube.

Maraea Harris is the owner of Metro GardenWorks, whose services include gardening, pruning, tree assessment and identification, and invasive plant management.

Earth Day for HOAs: Native Plants for the Home Garden, webinar April 21st

Photo by Jennifer Smirnoff

Wednesday, April 21, 2021
7 pm
Registration required.

Jennifer Smirnoff will show you the transformation she has made in her yard over time and tell you how making small changes can have a BIG IMPACT. Her talk focuses on how to get started on making your property a more welcoming place for wildlife, no matter how large or small. Hosted by Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy.

Questions: Contact info@loudounwildlife.org.

Climate Solutions 101, by Project Drawdown

Project Drawdown brings you science and insights from global leaders in climate policy, research, investment, and beyond. Rather than rehashing well-known climate challenges, Project Drawdown sets out climate action opportunities based on its own rigorous scientific review and assessment. Climate Solutions 101, presented as a six-part video series, combines Project Drawdown’s trusted resources with the expertise of inspiring thought leaders from around the world.

Climate solutions become attainable with increased access to free, science-based educational resources, elevated public discourse, and tangible examples of real-world action.

Deepen your climate solutions commitment by taking the course–each lesson is about 15 minutes.

DC Area City Nature Challenge 2021 Training and Participation Information

Monday, April 12, 2021
12 noon
Virtual Live Intro to the DC Area City Nature Challenge

Wednesday, April 14, 2021
7 pm
Virtual Live Intro to the DC Area City Nature Challenge

These videos and other recorded resources are available here.

Between April 30th and May 9th, people in the Washington DC metro area and around the world will be participating in a global citizen science event, the City Nature Challenge, to document urban biodiversity. We’ll be looking for signs of life in local parks, waterways, backyards, front stoops, and our neighborhoods. If you have an interest in learning more about local plants and animals, have access to a camera (and the internet), you can contribute to this exciting project. We’ll be using the iNaturalist app platform to document observations.

There will be two introductory sessions on the City Nature Challenge and how to get involved. They’ll cover Challenge basics, use of the iNaturalist app as a citizen science activity, and places to explore in the DMV. The City Nature Challenge offers a great way to connect to the great outdoors and put the Washington DC area’s amazing nature on the map. You can participate individually or with family and safely distanced friends.

These programs are organized by Capital Nature with The Nature Conservancy Maryland/DC Chapter and many other partners who are participating in the 2021 DC Area City Nature Challenge.

citynaturechallengedc.org

Global Big Day, May 8, 2021

Black-crowned Night-heron; photo (c) John C. Mittermeier

Be a part of birding’s biggest team! Global Big Day is an annual celebration of the birds around you. No matter where you are, join us virtually on 8 May and share the birds you find with eBird.

Participating is easy—you can even be part of Global Big Day from home. If you can spare 5 or 10 minutes, report your bird observations to eBird online or with our free eBird Mobile app. If you have more time, submit checklists of birds throughout the day. You never know what you might spot. Your observations help us better understand global bird populations through products like these animated abundance maps brought to you by eBird Science.

Last year, Global Big Day brought more birders together virtually than ever before. More than 50,000 people from 175 countries submitted a staggering 120,000 checklists with eBird, setting a new world record for a single day of birding. Will you help us surpass last year’s records? However you choose to participate, please continue to put safety first and follow your local guidelines.

Learn more.

FMN Outreach Chair reports on Taking Nature Black Conference

Mike Walker, Co-chair for FMN Outreach, attended portions of this 5 day Zoom conference, representing FMN. This was the third annual “Taking Nature Black” conference and the first to be virtual. The conference organizers, largely led by staff from the Audubon Naturalist Society for the DC region, identified a large panel of speakers, almost a “Who’s Who” of Black professionals working on environmental or natural history programs in various federal and state agencies, like the National Park Service or Fish and Wildlife, academia and non-profits. For many it seemed like a welcome reunion and an opportunity to get refocused and rejuvenated after the pandemic issues of the past year.

The conference featured a number of interesting panel discussions, such as Novel Ways of Protecting Our Waterways, Birding While Black, Agriculture Innovations and Food Insecurity and Democracy in the Parks. Notable keynote presentations featured Dr. Drew Lanham, Professor of Wildlife Ecology, Clemson University, and Dr. Thomas Easley, Dean of Community and Inclusion at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. The conference website “Taking Nature Black Conference” is well worth taking a look at.

It was encouraging to see the diversity of interests represented by speakers on these panels, particularly regarding deep seated concerns to protect agricultural and undeveloped rural lands, issues that are also important to Master Naturalists. There was also a heavy emphasis on training for children and youth to appreciate and respect open spaces, particularly in urban settings. It was reassuring to learn that we have many allies in our effort to protect and preserve our natural environment.