Review of How Birds Migrate, by Paul Kerlinger

Reviewed by FMN Kristine Lansing

In just a few weeks, nothing short of a miracle will be well underway.

Birds of all sizes and shapes — from the tiniest of hummingbirds to the largest of hawks — will embark upon an incredible geographic relocation, traveling thousands and, in some cases, tens of thousands of miles to reach their summer breeding grounds . . . where they will stay for only a few months to raise their young.

How do such fragile creatures survive a journey that would do most of us in — despite all of our modern conveniences — on the very first day? It’s not too late to learn more about the odyssey that is spring migration before it gets into full swing.

In this succinct book (only 216 pages) from 2008, ornithologist Paul Kerlinger demystifies migration by discussing: why birds migrate; factors that trigger migration; how birds prepare for the journey; their navigation across water and vast terrain; why some birds fly at night while others fly during the day; migratory rest stops; and in-flight communications. Dr. Kerlinger’s explanations, accompanied by short case studies and artist Pat Archer’s illustrations, make this book exceedingly accessible to non-birders and birders alike.

So if you’re new to birding (or simply curious), and if you read this book right now, you will never see spring and fall through the same eyes again. If you’re an experienced birder, though, don’t pass the book by; you’ll find yourself referring to it time after time.

Dr. Kerlinger is a former director of the New Jersey Audubon Society’s Cape May Bird Observatory.

Two-Part Evening Webinar: Things You “Otter” Know, February 16th

River otter, courtesy of SERC

Tuesday, February 16, 2021
6-8 pm
Speaker: Karen McDonald, SERC education specialist
Sign up online to watch live or on demand

Brought to you by the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC), you can learn about river otters in the Chesapeake Bay, in a two-part event for kids and adults! Once you sign up, you’ll be able to enter the webinar any time after it starts, so you’ll be able join either or both activities. They’ll also send you a link to a recording of the event 1-2 days after it airs.

6pm – Draw An Otter With A Biologist. All you need is a pencil, a blank sheet of paper and a good Internet connection. Ideal for ages 6+, and anyone who enjoys mixing science and art.  

7pm – Things You “Otter” Know. In this virtual science talk, Karen McDonald will explore what we know, what we don’t know and the research SERC is conducting to better understand river otters. Younger viewers can download this coloring sheet to do during the talk or afterwards. 

Accelerating Decarbonization of the U.S. Energy System

The National Academies of Science and Medicine just published their report, Accelerating Decarbonization of the U.S. Energy System, and have made available a public overview and interactive summaries to make the 200+ document easier to digest. See the links below.

Report Resources

Upcoming Events

Join the National Academy of Sciences study chair Stephen Pacala for a Climate Conversation at the National Academies on Feb 18, 2021 at 3pm ET.  Learn more and register to attend at https://climate-convo-decarb.eventbrite.com

Here’s a clear, 101-level overview of what the social cost of carbon means, courtesy of Resources for the Future.

Mow Less, Grow More webinar, March 7th

Photo by Eliza Diamond on Unsplash

Sunday, March 7, 2021
2 – 3:30 pm
Register here.

The Friends of Mason Neck State Park will host a special program, “Mow Less, Grow More.” Their speaker will be Tami Sheiffer, the coordinator of Fairfax County Park Authority’s “Watch the Green Grow” education and outreach initiative.

Learn how you can protect neighboring parks and natural habitat through your yard care by mowing less and growing more. Tami will discuss how to use native plants to expand wildlife corridors and stream buffers as well as help solve landscaping problems such as areas of erosion or poor drainage where grass will not grow.

The program is free, thanks to the generosity of the members and donors of the Friends of Mason Neck State Park. Registration is required, so they can send you the Zoom link for the program.

Introduction to Bird and Nature Photography with Brian Zwiebel, February 18th and 25th

Thursdays, February 18 & 25, 2021
7 – 8 pm
Cost $25
Register here.

This introductory program is great for beginners but will offer a few nuggets for the intermediate shooter as well. Learn what Brian does and what you should do too, every time you get your hands on a new digital camera. Discover what a histogram is, how to read it and use it to make better exposures. Learn to improve your images with better compositions and backgrounds as well as how to improve your action and behavior images. All of this and much more will be included in the program and each talking point supported by Brian’s award-winning photography. Presented by Audubon Society of Northern Virginia.

Loudoun Wildlife Winter Adaptations for Survival Webinar, February 16th

Photo by Lori Scheibe

Tuesday, February 16, 2021
7-8 pm
Registration required.

Join Jacob van Schilfgaarde, wildlife conservationist and Facility Supervisor at Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve, for a Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy presentation on wildlife in Loudoun. He will describe three strategies that wildlife use to survive, and discuss their typical habitats, feeding behaviors and how to identify tracks. 

New Web Tool Helps NoVa Wildlife Gardeners

Article by FMN Juan Gonzalez and Megan Agosti, originally published in Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s Habitat Herald, republished with permission

Starting a native plant garden always begins with the same set of questions — “What plants work for my space? Which plants are most beneficial and likely to attract wildlife?” For the past few years, Northern Virginia gardeners would start their journey by referencing resources like Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s Planting for Wildlife in Northern Virginia, a thorough book providing information on various native trees, shrubs, flowers, and more. This past year, two volunteers endeavored to make this information even more accessible by creating an interactive web tool for Northern Virginia’s residents. In collaboration with Loudoun Wildlife staff and volunteers, we are pleased to announce the Northern Virginia Wildlife Gardening Database located at www.novawildlifegarden.net.

This web tool provides users with Planting for Wildlife’s full catalogue in a digital format for easy filtering to answer even the most specific questions. Users can use a search function or filter results with seven different plant characteristics, including popular questions like preferred light, soil moisture, bloom month, and wildlife benefits. Favorite plants can be saved in the Saved Plant List which can generate a report summarizing your selections. You can plan for year-round interest, find deer-resistant plants, and start your dream butterfly garden with the Northern Virginia Wildlife Gardening Database.

Filtered table example

To explore Northern Virginia Wildlife Gardening Database’s full catalogue of native plants, go to www.novawildlifegarden.net and select the Plant Library tab. Select the plant type you are interested in from the drop-down menu to begin your search. Here you can filter your selection by specifying preferred light source, moisture level, bloom months/color, plant height/spread, and wildlife benefits. Further refine your selection by utilizing the search bar to make further queries (for example, “fragrant,” “deer resistant,” “hummingbird”).
Once filtered, the table provides additional context for each plant. Users can see the plant’s description and learn more about the wildlife benefits of each. Get detailed information by clicking on scientific names to view the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center entry for each plant. Explore the Glossary tab to define common terms used throughout the database.

Saved plant table example

Users can save their favorite plants using the Saved Plant List feature. To save a plant, click its respective row and then the green Save Selected button on the bottom left. This feature allows for multiple selections, so pick as many as you would like. See your list by navigating to the Saved Plants tab. When ready, generate your report by clicking the blue Generate Report button in the Saved Plants tab. This report summarizes your plant selection and generates tables for the various filters found in the web tool. Use these tables to review your selection or ensure year-round interest in your garden.

Loudoun Wildlife hopes you find this new web tool useful. It has been developed and is maintained by volunteers Juan Gonzalez and Megan Agosti. For any comments or questions please contact them at novawildlifegarden@gmail.com.

On February 23 and February 25, Fairfax County Wants to Hear from You on Energy and Transportation

Did you know, 68 percent of Fairfax County residents believe that individual citizens should do more to address climate change? Climate change is a global problem, but it also stands to impact us locally and we have a responsibility to address it head on. In response, Fairfax County has created a Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan, or CECAP. 

The facts can be hard to swallow: climate change is expected to alter the geographic reach, seasonal distribution, and abundance of disease vectors, like mosquitoes and ticks. Infectious diseases that were once considered tropical or subtropical may become commonplace in our region. On top of that, the economic sector most at risk due to climate change is agriculture. For each degree Celsius our global thermostat increases, there will be a 5 to 15 percent decrease in overall crop production. As supply decreases, and demand remains the same or increases, the price of food could very well rise. 

The good news is no action is too small to make a difference. From changing a light bulb, to choosing to drive an electric vehicle, to weatherizing a home or business, we can all participate in climate action in multiple ways according to our means and abilities. There is no guarantee that our individual actions will directly alter our experience of climate change here in Fairfax County in the short term, but inaction is not an option if we want to see positive change here and elsewhere in our region in the long term. The CECAP is our path forward – a roadmap for our community, showing us the many ways we can start to address climate change locally. 

Please learn more about climate action in Fairfax County. Later this month, online surveys will be available, and the county will host two public meetings to gather community input on climate change mitigation strategies and actions.

February 23, 2021: Virtual public meeting on energy issues. Join via WebEx.

February 25, 2021: Virtual public meeting on transportation, development, and waste issues. Join via WebEx.

Engage with Fairfax County’s Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan

The Fairfax County Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination is currently working with county residents and stakeholders to develop the first-ever Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan, or CECAP. Here is some information about this initiative and why it matters.

It’s a fact: 97 percent of climate scientists agree that human-driven climate change is taking place now. Climate change occurs when greenhouse gases build up in our atmosphere and trap heat that might otherwise escape, causing shifts in global temperatures and weather patterns over time. In the United States, and in Fairfax County specifically, the two greatest sources of greenhouse gas emissions are the burning of fossil fuels to provide electricity for buildings, and the burning of fossil fuels by vehicles on our roads.

Fairfax County is not immune to the effects of climate change, we already experience stronger storms related to climatic shifts. A single severe storm in 2019 cost Fairfax County taxpayers $14 million. That is money that could have been spent on other county services, programs, and projects. Extreme weather events pose a risk to life and property as well. Many residents stand to lose personal property and real estate as the result of flooding and other weather impacts.

While there are limits to what the Fairfax County government can do to address climate change locally, individual residents can make a major difference. More than 95 percent of local greenhouse gas emissions come from sources other than local government operations – like energy use at home, business operations, and cars and trucks on our roads. The CECAP will define actions we can each take to be a part of the solution.

You can learn more about climate action in Fairfax County. Later this month, online surveys will be available, and the county will host public meetings to gather community input on climate change mitigation strategies and actions. FMN will share more information about opportunities for you to participate in the coming weeks.

RVA Environmental Film Festival – February 12-26, 2021

Friday, February 12, 2021, 6:15 pm to Friday, February 26, 2021, 8:15 pm
All films are free but require advance registration for each one.
Includes winning films produced by filmmakers from the Old Dominion. That showtime is February 14, 2021, 4:05 to 5:20 pm. Register here.

The Richmond Environmental Film Festival (RVA EFF) showcases films that raise awareness of environmental issues relevant to the Richmond region, our nation, and our planet. There are national, international and Virginia produced films about Africa, the Mexican border wall, and the rising water challenging the military in Tidewater, Virginia, among others.