Come See the Tundra Swans! January 6th, 9-11 AM

Join the Friends of Mason Neck State Park for a walk to the see the Tundra Swans! Each year, the Mason Neck area is host to one of Northern Virginia’s largest concentrations of Tundra Swans.  Depending on the day, you may see between 200 and 400 swans and hear their haunting calls.  You may also see other waterfowl, including Northern Pintails, American coots, Black Ducks and Mallards — and who knows what else?  Bring your binoculars if you have them.  If not, there will be binoculars and telescopes for people to share. The tide will be high when the group gets there, which will maximize the likelihood that the birds will be close.

Gather at the Woodmarsh parking lot, which is on the left of High Point Road about a quarter mile BEFORE the Mason Neck State Park Contact Station, at 9:00 AM.  It is about a 1-mile walk on level ground to the bird blind at the marsh.

There is no charge for the hike, and there is no need to pay the State Park entrance fee since the walk will be outside the park.

Read-a-thon of A Sand County Almanac is January 14

Come celebrate Aldo Leopold’s 132nd birthday (January 11th) and hear sections of this still-popular book on Sunday, January 14, 5-7 p.m., at the Shirlington Busboys and Poets, 4251 South Campbell Avenue, Arlington VA 22206. Let Northern Virginia Conservation Trust know if you want to be one of the readers by emailing Daniel Saltzberg at dsaltzberg@nvct.org. Look for more details on the NVCT website as they become available.

Thomas Edison Science Fair needs judges

Edison High School in Fairfax County (5801 Franconia Rd. Alexandria, VA 22310) is looking for judges for their science fair.

Schedule for Saturday, January 20, 2018

Judges Training: 8:15am – 9:00am (please follow signs posted at the main entrance)

Fair Judging: 9:00am – 1:00pm

Snow Date – January 27 (you are not required to be available for this date)

Judges typically view 10-12 projects, and have a few minutes to  speak directly to the students who have conducted the experiment. There will be a short training session just prior to the science fair during which Edison staff will go over the specific rules and procedures. There will be light refreshments available for judges prior to the start of the fair. Members of the National Honor Society will be providing childcare for children under 12. Please contact Laura Prince (ldprince@fcps.edu) if you would like to take advantage of childcare.

If you would like to volunteer to be a science fair judge at Edison, click here to sign up.

 

Thank you,

Debbie Meinholdt

Environmental Quality Advisory Council public hearing, January 10, 2018

The Environmental Quality Advisory Council will hold its annual public hearing on the environment on Wednesday, January 10, 2018.

The public hearing will be held at 7:30 PM in Conference Rooms 9 and 10 of the Fairfax County Government Center, 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, VA.  All interested parties are encouraged to sign up to speak.  To sign up to speak, call the Department of Planning and Zoning at 703-324-1380 or send an e-mail message (EQAC@fairfaxcounty.gov) and/or submit written testimony.  Or, if you’d prefer, just contact Noel Kaplan, Senior Environmental Planner, Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning, and he’ll sign you up and answer any questions you may have.  He is available by email (Noel.Kaplan@fairfaxcounty.gov) and phone at 703-324-1369.

Please note that EQAC is again providing the opportunity for interested parties to present video testimony. You can upload your video testimony (5 minutes or less is preferred) to YouTube, Ustream or Vimeo and then let EQAC know how to access your video.  Your video will be presented at the public hearing.*  The deadline for posting your video on-line and informing EQAC (by e-mail to eqac@fairfaxcounty.gov) of the URL through which EQAC can access the video is 5:00 PM on Wednesday, January 3.  No more than one video may be submitted per person.

*All videos will be screened by county staff prior to the public hearing. Each video must address one or more environmental topics. Any video with profanity or other objectionable material will not be presented at the public hearing. You will be notified if county staff determines that your video is unsuitable for presentation. You do not need to attend the public hearing for your video to be presented.

Review of Wonderful Life, by Stephen Jay Gould

Reviewed by Marilyn Kupetz

There’s an element of determinism in our master naturalist studies: if we are good stewards of the land and water, if we respect our fellow creatures and organisms, we all stand a better chance of surviving. It’s true, of course, but in Wonderful Life (1989, 323 pp) Stephen Jay Gould guides us through the murkier parts of the algorithm: sometimes it’s not entirely up to us, even in an Anthropocene era. Sometimes, natural contingencies determine what survives and what doesn’t.

The wonderful life of the title refers to the 500-million-year-old fossilized creatures of the Burgess Shale marine ecosystem in British Columbia. Unearthed in the early 19th century, the remains of some truly unusual creatures (look at opabinia, for example, or hallucigenia) still fascinate scientists, paleobiologists, naturalists, and other folks curious about evolution. Why didn’t these creatures make it? According to Gould, it may have less to do with fitness than with fate: the area appears to have been buried by mudslides during the advent of the Rocky Mountains. No, Gould is not anti-Darwin; he’s added a corollary, which is as fascinating as it is contested.

Why is the book worth your time? He’s a superb storyteller, able to discuss the facts of life with lucid grace. You will neither suffer nor fall asleep, and the line drawings are worthy of emulation as we head into the field ourselves. Gould is one of a small group of scientists who’ve chosen to make complex material accessible to the public, with a generous lack of ego. I also recommend his The Lying Stones of Marrakech and Crossing Over: Where Art and Science Meet, equally wonderful collections. As you choose your own life’s work as a naturalist and begin to share your stories, staring at one of the forks in life’s path is not a bad place to start.

Want to review a resource? We’d love to hear from you. Instructions for submission await your click and commitment.

Plant NOVA Natives requests all hands on deck!  

Plant NOVA Natives is a joint marketing campaign of more than 40 private, public, and non-profit organizations, including Master Naturalists, and hundreds of individuals. Their mission is to educate the community and to promote the benefits to water quality and natural habitat of planting Northern Virginia natives. Committed volunteers help make this possible by using multimedia outreach and events, and by working with local growers and sellers of native plants. All are welcome to participate in this collective action movement.

Volunteers can participate in myriad ways, from posting signs on community bulletin boards, to giving presentations or participating on the Steering Committee. See their website for details, or contact plantnovanatives@gmail.com.–Margaret Fisher

Swanfall Celebration at Mason Neck, 3 December

The Friends of Mason Neck State Park will hold their annual Swanfall celebration this Sunday, December 3, from 2 to 4.

There will be a light buffet, followed by a talk by Paul Bacich on the intriguing Winter Waterfowl of Mason Neck.  Paul is the co-author of the just-published The Crossley ID Guide: Waterfowl and has been a volunteer in Huntley Meadows Park’s Wood Duck and Hooded Merganser nest box program for nearly 25 years.

Registration is required; the cost is $10 per person.  More information and a registration page are at http://www.masonneckstateparkfriends.org/event-2692645.

Sign Up the 36th Annual Manassas-Bull Run Christmas Bird Count!

Sign Up the 36th Annual Manassas-Bull Run Christmas Bird Count!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

7:00 AM  11:30 AM

The Manassas-Bull Run Christmas Bird Count will be on Sunday, December 17th.  The count circle is around Centreville and includes Manassas Battlefield, parts of Bull Run Regional Park, undeveloped areas south of Dulles Airport, and many stream valley parks and undeveloped locations from Clifton to west Fairfax City.   A hot lunch will be served to participants.  Birders of all skill levels are needed.

If you participated last year your sector leader will be in touch soon.  If you don’t hear from your sector leader, or if you would like to be in a different sector, contact Bob Shipman.  This year, we will be offering an opportunity for feeder watchers.  If you or someone you know lives within the count circle and cannot go out on the count, he or she can sit inside and count the birds that come to a feeder or yard on count day as an alternate way to participate.

Sign up here.

Stream Monitoring Events: Serve and Learn

Saturday, December 9

Stream Monitoring: Lake Accotink

9:30 – 11:30 a.m.

Assess ecological conditions in Lake Accotink, based on the presence and abundance of bottom-dwelling invertebrates.

Where to Meet: Parking lot behind Lake Accotink Park Administrative building. Call or email for directions.

See Friends of Accotink Creek for additional stream monitoring information:

http://www.accotink.org/StreamMonitoring.htm

RSVP/Questions

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The FMN Strategic Communications and Marketing committee members welcome your news and event notices, learning and service opportunities, stories, resource reviews, (and other ideas–we are open to creative thinking). We curate our content, so, yes, you’ll work with an editor, but the exchange will simply polish your pearl.

Send your content or requests to Marilyn Kupetz: vmnfairfax@gmail.com, with the header: FMN website content