ACTION ALERT: Help Prevent the Possible Spread of Avian Disease 

Reprinted with permission of Audubon Society of Northern Virginia; photo by Leslie Frattaroli, NPS

Clean and take down your feeders and bird baths until further notice!

As hard as it is for bird watchers to take their feeders down, there is now a critical reason to do so. Recent unexplained bird deaths in our region prompted organizations such as the U.S. Geological Survey and the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources to recommend that citizens remove their feeders and bird baths until the cause of the mortality is determined.

If you do find a sick or dead bird, please report it to the VA Department of Wildlife Resources here.

For more specific information about avian deaths and how to possibly prevent them, read below.

From U.S. Geological Survey
Release Date: JUNE 9, 2021

In late May, wildlife managers in Washington D.C., Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia began receiving reports of sick and dying birds with eye swelling and crusty discharge, as well as neurological signs. No definitive cause of death is identified at this time.

This bird (pictured above) was found in the Washington, D.C. metro region with swollen eyes and crusty discharge, a sign observed on most birds affected by a May/June 2021 mortality event in the area.

The District of Columbia Department of Energy and Environment, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources and National Park Service are continuing to work with diagnostic laboratories to investigate the cause of mortality. Those laboratories include the USGS National Wildlife Health Center, the University of Georgia Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study and the University of Pennsylvania Wildlife Futures Program.

Birds congregating at feeders and baths can transmit disease to one another. Therefore, the state and District agencies recommend that the public in the outbreak area:

Cease feeding birds until this wildlife mortality event has concluded;
Clean feeders and bird baths with a 10% bleach solution;
Avoid handling birds, but wear disposable gloves if handling is necessary; and
Keep pets away from sick or dead birds as a standard precaution.
If you encounter sick or dead birds, please contact your state or District wildlife conservation agency. If you must remove dead birds, place them in a sealable plastic bag to dispose with household trash. Additional information will be shared as diagnostic results are received.

Read previous information from VA Department of Wildlife Resources here.

Visitor Desk and Vernal Pools opportunities at Huntley Meadows Park!

Photos courtesy of Halley Johnson

Huntley Meadows Park with its beautiful wetlands and boardwalk is a great place to volunteer!

Opportunities include the visitor information desk and vernal pools surveys.  Huntley Meadows relies on volunteers and these activities are critical needs.

  1. Volunteer-On-Duty (VOD) at the visitor information desk

    Welcome visitors to Huntley Meadows!  Assist them in enjoying the park and understanding it’s resources.  Communicate and interact with people of all ages.  Seeking a commitment of two 4-hour shifts per month for one year.

Detailed project description attached here.

Contact Halley Johnson, Volunteer Coordinator, alexandra.johnson@fairfaxcounty.gov.
FMNS, record hours as E111: FCPA Nature Center Visitor Information Desk

  1. Vernal Pool Surveyor

    “Adopt” a vernal pool and monitor flora and fauna, every 2-3 weeks year-round.  Surveys are conducted on weekdays during park operating hours, usually between 9am-3pm.  One year training program provided, shadowing experienced vernal pool surveyor. 

Detailed project description attached here.

Contact Halley Johnson, Volunteer Coordinator, alexandra.johnson@fairfaxcounty.gov.
FMNs, record hours as C106: FCPA Citizen Science Programs

FMN CE Hike: Bluebird Box Monitoring — Awesome!

BB nest feature photo by Barbara J. Saffir

Have you ever wondered what’s inside those white boxes on poles standing in open fields? They are Bluebird boxes paid for and erected by Bluebird Societies to provide habitat for Bluebirds, native cavity nesters. Trained personnel regularly monitor the boxes to record data for scientific research. A Fairfax Master Naturalist group recently explored the inside of 12 of them with Larry Meade, Northern Virginia Bird Club President and volunteer with the Virginia Bluebird Society. I was reminded of the carol The 12 Days of Christmas as Larry carefully opened each “gift” for a peek inside.

Organized by FMN Barbara Saffir, we met at Clark’s Crossing in Vienna on the Washington & Old Dominion Trail. Larry tapped the side of each box first to warn the parent bird of our approach. Their departure from the box was our first clue to which species was inside. The boxes are intended for use by Eastern Bluebirds but the conservation groups don’t mind if they are used by Tree Swallows (TS), Chickadees and other native cavity nesters. Nesting by other species, such as the non-native House Sparrow, is prevented by removing nesting material before it is completed. The opening is too small to allow entry by European Starlings.

Larry then unscrewed the side of the box, lowered it and we’d look inside. What follows is the day’s official report, enhanced by Larry’s astute birding observations and comedic interludes:

TS nest by Julie Ables

Nest 1 – TS nest – 5 eggs
Tidbit: Tree Swallows use feathers to “feather their nests.”

Nest 2 – BB nest – 3 eggs
Tidbits: Bluebirds use pine needles to make their nests. Larry was logging eBird sightings and “birding by ear.” He wryly noted “butterflying by ear” doesn’t work.

Nest 3 – TS nest – 4 babies ready to go
Tidbit: We viewed quickly so parents could return and resume feeding these voracious eaters.

Nest 4 – BB nest – 3 babies
Tidbit: Larry used a mirror so we could see the babies tucked deep in the nest. This is the second brood in this box for the Bluebird pair.

Nest 5 – TS – 4 babies

Nest 6 – TS nest – 5 eggs
Tidbit: Parent was agitated and circling us. We moved on quickly.

Nest 7 – TS nest -4 big babies
Tidbit: Box monitors remove a nest after the babies have fledged so parents can build a new one. Turkey Vultures are known as TVs. What is a pair called? A TV set.

Nest 8 – TS nest – 5 babies

Carolina Chickadees by Marilyn Parks

Nest 9 – Chic nest – 3 Babies
Tidbit:  Carolina Chickadees! Parents use moss to make the nest. Chickadees are native species and left alone.

Nest 10 – empty
Tidbit: In nearby trees we see a juvenile Orchard Oriole! Larry notes that seeing a new bird is like seeing a movie star.  So true!

Nest 11 – TS nest – 3 babies
Tidbit: We discover a nearby mulberry tree and taste some of the berries. No wonder birds love them!

Mulberry photo by Barbara J. Saffir

Nest 13 – BB nest – 5 eggs
Tidbit: The nest is about 3 times as high as the other BB nests we’ve seen.

If you are interested in volunteering to monitor bluebird boxes, contact the Virginia Bluebird Society. Monitoring season runs from the end of April to early August each year. The excitement and joy of opening the boxes will enhance your contributions to citizen science!

2021 Tree Steward Symposium, June 24-25

Virtual
Thursday, June 24 and Friday, June 25, 2021
9am – noon both days
Register here.

Don’t miss the chance to collaborate with other tree stewards, hear speakers on the latest tree topics and learn about some of the latest resources available to expand your involvement in community outreach.

See the agenda here.

FMN Chapter Meeting: Native Bees, June 21

Augochloropsis metallica, a species of sweat bee; photo: USGS

Monday, June 21, 2021
7 – 9pm
Zoom

This chapter meeting will include the graduation ceremony for the Spring 2021 Basic Training Class.

Deana Crumbling will provide a presentation about native bees. Deana worked as a chemist with the U.S. EPA for 21 years and retired in 2019 to start a one-person business offering analysis of lead and arsenic in soil. She volunteered with the U.S. Geological Survey to learn how to identify native bees and watches bees in her suburban yard which has been converted to native habitat.

Please email Janet Quinn at vmnfairfax@gmail.com to receive the link.

3rd Annual Mount Vernon District Environmental Expo, June 26th

Photo courtesy of Environment Expo

Fort Hunt Park
8999 Fort Hunt Road, Alexandria VA
Saturday, June 26, 2021
8am – Noon
Reserve your FREE ticket today!

This FREE Family Friendly Event will include: Exhibitors, Workshops, Live Music, Live Reptile and Owl Programs, Electric Vehicles, Nature Walks, Junior Ranger Program, Touch-a-Truck Recycling, History Tours, Purple Glass Monster (bring your glass recycling for drop off!), Food Trucks and more!

This year’s event will be held in partnership with the National Park Service. The event will educate and inform local residents on environmental challenges that they face on a daily basis, including ones that are unique to the Mount Vernon area. Attendees will leave the Expo with simple actions they can take to make an impact on climate change and our environment.

This event will adhere to COVID-19 restrictions and protocols in place on June 26. In order to meet any outdoor event size limits, pre-registration is recommended. If COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, walk-ups without registration will be permitted. Please visit the Expo registration site to reserve your FREE ticket today!

EnviroPod: Fairfax County’s Nifty Podcast on All Things Environmental

Adapted from the Public Works and Environmental Services website

The Department of Public Works and Environmental Services helps residents learn how to support the county’s environmental efforts. In 2019, DPWES launched monthly EnviroPod episodes, which air from Apple Podcasts.

Scott Coco of Communications Productions, Fairfax County has now interviewed county leaders on 27 topics of interest to naturalists and gardeners. Here’s a selection of particular relevance to the Fairfax chapter:

Episode 22 – Food-Scraps-to-Compost Program with Christine McCoy

Fairfax County’s EnviroPod

Christine McCoy, Education and Outreach Specialist, Solid Waste Management Program, talks about the new food-scraps-to-compost program. Residents are welcome to bring their food scraps to two locations in the county: the I-66 Transfer Station on West Ox Road; or the I-95 Landfill Complex in Lorton. More information is available on the county website.

Episode 19 – Stream and Watershed Health with Shannon Curtis

Fairfax County’s EnviroPod

Shannon Curtis, Chief, Watershed Assessment Branch, Public Works and Environmental Services, talking about human activity on the land and how that affects stream and watershed health.

To send topic ideas to the county, email SWPDMail@FairfaxCounty.gov.

Cicadas! Cicadas Everywhere!

Article and photo by FMN Ana Leilani Ka’ahanui, also of Capital Nature

What’s that late spring, early summer buzz, that loud chorus in the trees, all over the DC metro area? The 17-year periodical cicadas have made their entrance, to the fascination and delight of nature lovers in our region. While some may fear the emergence of a billion insects, many are reveling in this natural wonder, as evidenced by the explosion of cicada photos on social media. There’s even a phone app for reporting sightings. Cicada Safari will record and track your discoveries on a live map, and help scientists collect valuable data.

Want to learn what the fuss is all about? Visit Cicada Mania for everything you need to know about the 3 periodical species of Brood X: Magicicada septendecim, Magicicada cassini and Magicicada septendecula. And great radio programming by WAMU’s environmental reporter Jacob Fenston. While most cicadas have red eyes, did you know that some have white, gray, blue, or multi-colored eyes? Learn more fun facts like this by playing Brood X Bingo.

As the ground is now well above 64 degrees, Brood X is emerging to climb trees and plants to molt, then head to the treetops for some raucous partying to mate. Females lay their eggs in trees and the nymphs will later drop onto the ground, where they will burrow down and live till the next emergence party in 17 years. Their life cycle is a short 5-6 weeks and has been documented in this Return of the Cicadas video.

Dr. Michael Rapp is an entomologist at the University of MD and an excellent local authority on cicadas. Check out his media appearances at The Bug Guy. The New York Times covered all things cicada in great detail in this article. USDA entomologist Dr. Sammy Ramsey explains the science behind their loud calls. If you’re feeling adventurous, here’s a Washington Post article about recipes for cooking them.

Cicadas can be artists too. During the recent global City Nature Challenge, Teresa Leonardo discovered that cicadas had burrowed tunnels under some tarps in her yard in West Falls Church, VA in their effort to emerge. See their intricate patterns on iNaturalist.

According to the National Wildlife Federation: “Cicadas are mostly beneficial. They prune mature trees, aerate the soil, and once they die, their bodies serve as an important source of nitrogen for growing trees. When cicadas come out, they’re eaten by just about anything with an insectivorous diet.” As nature’s grand buffet, these curious creatures are providing entertainment and education for all ages.

City Nature Challenge: the results are in!

Article by FMN Ana Leilani Ka’ahanui & Stella Tarnay, both of Capital Nature

Nature nerds celebrate! The results are in for the global City Nature Challenge and our region rose to the occasion again. Out of 419 cities in 44 countries, the DC Metro Area ranked:

• 2nd for observers: 2,002
• 2nd for observations: 43,295
• 8th for species: 2,977

How did Fairfax County do? 11,916 iNaturalist observations of 1,610 species were made by 488 observers. There were 588 people that lent their expertise to make identifications. These results were an improvement over 2020 where 7,750 observations were made of 1,249 species by 391 observers. There were 10 more identifiers last year at 598. See the top ten species identified in Fairfax this year.

Capital Nature along with dozens of area partner organizations hosted over 30 virtual and in-person trainings and events, culminating in a virtual ID Party and a Celebration. Participants shared their favorite discoveries including unexpected flower sightings, five distinct sightings of hog-nosed snakes, a persnickety groundhog and alien-like eggs of a Spiny Assassin Bug. We’re pleased to say that the native mayapple topped the list as the no. 1 species observation, leaving the invasive garlic mustard far behind. For details on all the species that were discovered, visit the project on iNaturalist.

NVCT Kayak Cleanup, June 13th

Hunting Creek watershed adjacent to I-495
Sunday, June 13, 2021
Two sessions: 10am – Noon OR 11am – 1pm
Each participant must register.

Help Northern Virginia Conservation Trust clean up the Hunting Creek watershed adjacent to Interstate 495! The trash and debris that pile in from the Potomac River and Cameron Run harms the environment and hinders outdoor activity around the area. They hope you’ll jump in a kayak or canoe and join them for their annual cleanup. Kayak rentals are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.