From Every Bee to Every Tree – Cathy Ledec

Recognizing Cathy Ledec for her support of County environmental initiatives. Photo courtesy of BOS newsletter.

In July 2022 the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors (BOS) distinguished FMN Cathy Ledec, former chair of the Fairfax County Tree Commission, with a proclamation for her years of service in progressing our County’s environmental initiatives. Notably, Cathy led the charge in developing the 2019 Tree Action Plan for Fairfax County which, through its robust inclusion of a diverse group of stakeholders, continues to serve as a model for how the county develops environmental initiatives.

Photo Rachel Habig-Meyers County Urban Forest Management Division

Cathy joined the Fairfax County Tree Commission in 2016 and an early draft of an update to the Tree Action Plan had been prepared.  Starting in 2016 she worked to improve the draft and positively influenced the final version submitted by committee, which was approved towards the end of 2019. The Tree Action Plan is a document of the Fairfax County Tree Commission. Tree action plan.

Cathy was also a key contributor to the Community-wide Climate Action Plan (CECAP) developed in large part by citizen volunteers and then approved in 2021 by Fairfax County. In a New York Times article Jim McKay (Chairman, BOS) emphasized that the county’s climate action plan is unusual in part because it was produced by several dozen community members instead of county officials. In most cases, programs like these come from the top down.
One goal of the plan, approved in September 2021, is to educate county residents about environmentally friendly choices they can make. “If the community’s not on board, you’re not going to accomplish anything other than to write a beautiful plan and have it sit on the shelf and collect dust,” said McKay.
A group of more than 50 residents heard from experts, examined data, debated and voted on recommendations. The document identified 12 broad strategies in five areas: buildings and energy efficiency, energy supply, transportation, waste, and natural resources. The strategies were broken into 37 recommended actions and scores of narrower “activities.”

Planting for the future. Photo George Ledec

Dan Storck (Mt. Vernon District Supervisor) extolled Cathy’s past performance and service to Fairfax County in an official letter by writing, “Cathy served on the Fairfax County Tree Commission since 2016, and as Chair since January 2019, until she recently stepped down. As Chair, Cathy led the creation of the 2019 Fairfax County Tree Action Plan, which was subsequently approved by the Board of Supervisors, and led to the institution of the Community of Practice in 2020. During Cathy’s tenure, she led discussions and compiled research for the Commission to comment on a variety of County Board priorities, including solar projects and trees, the Joint County/Schools Environmental Task Force (JET) recommendations, land use decisions affecting trees, actions affecting trees in the Community Energy and Climate Action Plan’s (CECAP), among others. As noted by the current Chair of the Tree Commission, Cindy Speas, “Cathy’s work made the Tree Commission more relevant in a changing environmental world through the adoption of the Tree Action Plan and the Community of Practice”.”

The letter continued by noting, “Cathy has served on the Friends of Huntley Meadows Park since 2010 and as its elected President since 2012, where her leadership has contributed significantly to the long-term preservation of natural resources at Huntley Meadows and throughout Fairfax County. She volunteers with the Resource Management Division (RMD) of the County Park Authority (FCPA) assigned to Huntley Meadows, educating the public on the importance of being good environmental stewards and contributing to data collection supporting scientific research. Cathy has led countless cleanups, invasive species removals, bird counts, nature walks and organized volunteers for many other park activities. In 2020, Cathy received the Sally Ormsby Environmental Stewardship Award for 17 years of volunteer service at Huntley Meadows Park and for the Fairfax County Park Authority.” She even donated a bench to Huntley Meadows Park.

Cathy and George Ledec Bench at Huntley Meadows- photo Jerry Nissley

Mr. Storck commended Cathy and her service by saying, “Cathy is truly a protector of our natural world, from every bee to every tree. Her knowledge of trees, natural landscaping, climate and environmental issues, living shorelines and so much more is unmatched, as is her passion and enthusiasm”.

Cathy also serves our community via her multi-functional involvement in many citizen action groups such as, Friends of Huntley Meadows Park, Inc. (FOHMP), Board Member Emeritus; Fairfax County Park Authority, Resource Management Division, Huntley Meadows Park, 2003 to present; Invasive Management Area Program: Site Leader, Mount Eagle Park, 2016 to June 30, 2022; Certified Master Naturalist, Virginia Master Naturalists (Fairfax Chapter) (2017- present); Pavilions at Huntington Metro Community Association, President (2019-present); Audubon Society of Northern Virginia, Reston, VA Member, Board of Directors, November 2019 – August, 2021; Audubon-At-Home Ambassador, Audubon Society of Northern Virginia( 2018-2020); Mount Vernon Council of Citizens Associations (2007 to 2018); and Fairfax Federation of Citizens Associations.

George and Cathy checking a bird box. Photo by Doug Mason.

However, needs change and a good life marches forward opening doors to new adventures. Cathy mentioned to me in an email interview, “My husband and I will be relocating to Barnstable, Massachusetts and will remain connected and involved to a much lesser degree with Fairfax County.  I retain my affiliation with the Friends of Huntley Meadows Park where both my husband and I are now Board Members Emeritus.  I expect to return to Fairfax County regularly for visits and hope to be able to continue some of our activities in the area.  We regularly lead bird and nature walks in our Alexandria, Virginia neighborhood and hope to continue to do this. I also intend to maintain my certification status with Fairfax Master Naturalists and can complete activities here when we are in town.”

Tilling the soil. Photo George Ledec.

She said, “I hope that my work inspires others to get involved. I have enjoyed living here in Fairfax County for almost 30 years and am sad to leave.  On the other hand we are very excited about our new adventure in Massachusetts.  We purchased a 4.25 acre waterfront property in the village of Cummaquid and will be working to restore this land to a more natural state.  This includes some reforestation and invasive plant removal along with the planting of many native species of trees, shrubs, forbs and grasses.  On the property we are lucky to have about 1 acre of salt marsh and a fresh water (Kettle pond) on the property.  Already we have a day roost of both Black-crowned and Yellow-crowned Night Herons and nesting Willow  Flycatcher and nesting Yellow Warbler.  We are nearby the Mass Audubon Society’s Long Pasture Nature Preserve and there is so much to see!  Our new home is about 15 minutes away from my 92 year old parents where I am so fortunate to be able to move there to help them out.”

Given all of the above, Cathy remains a humble, altruistic individual who doesn’t mind, in fact, loves to get her hands into the dirt. She said she does not do what she does for the accolades, they seem to come with the territory. She is very appreciative though when the County gives thanks for influencing their decisions towards positive, sustainable environmental impact. So for ‘every bee and every tree” in Fairfax County, FMN joins in thanking Cathy for all she has done and hopefully will continue doing in our shared communities.

Hidden Oaks Nature Center – Redux

All photos by Jerry Nissley

The day I visited the newly renovated Hidden Oaks Nature Center (HONC) the primary parking lot was full so I drove around to the secondary lot, which only added about 75 yards to my walk to the Nature Center. Had the primary lot not been full I would have missed the delightful new Storybook Trail. The trail provides stations along the way that tell a story about two friends – a chipmunk and a squirrel, with pictures and paragraphs. The flip side of the station signs provide fun facts about the critters.

New pond area

In a way, this concept incapsulates what the park is all about. HONC creatively makes everything a learning experience without overtly stating, ‘Now children, this is an educational experience, blah, blah, blah”. All the children I saw were having fun and deeply engaged with whatever activity they were involved with. While I was there, according to their identical multi-colored t-shirts, two summer camp groups were visiting. One in the outside learning center and another experiencing the indoor facilities. Outside a younger group was being read a story fully supported with visual aids; I saw a fox and a squirrel in a frenzied action sequence controlled by the puppeteer all approved by chortles and guffaws of children.
Inside a preteen group was immersed in viewing several terrariums and aquariums housing different Virginia native reptiles, amphibians, insects, and fish.

Inside critter room with day camp group

Hidden Oaks Nature Center is nestled inside the 52-acre Annandale District Park. You’ll find live animal displays, exhibits, a pond, creeks, ADA compliant woodland trails, gardens, play areas, a rain garden and a resource library. In 2019 artisan Andrew Mallon was commissioned to carve a wildlife tree sculpture utilizing the 10’ high tree stump left after a poplar tree was struck by lightning right outside of the Nature Center. The fabulous carvings creatively depict 11 animals native to the park.

Closeup of new pond

The $2.1 million expansion to the Nature Center provides new rooms to host community events, freshly designed creature displays, bilingual reading corner, and ADA compliant restrooms. Improvements to the park grounds include a short interpretive nature trail, updated outside creative play area, ‘The Nature Playce’, and a newly designed pond. The formal grand opening was held last weekend, 16 July 2022, with much fanfare, speeches, Bolivian dancers, ribbon cutting, and fun activities for all.

New pond resident

Sure, HONC may be geared towards the children’s learning experience but I didn’t want the storybook to end.

For more park info and a Flickr review of the grand opening check out the following link. Once on the park site, scroll down for the Flickr show.

Hidden Oaks Nature Center

FMN CE Hike: Herp Hunt on June 26th

Article and photos by FMN Barbara Saffir except as noted

Orange turtles, slinky snakes, and shy salamanders were the highlight and delight of FMN’s first-ever continuing education “Herp Hunt” hike on June 26, 2022.

Identifying Fowler’s toad

Pickerel frog, photo Bob Macke

Thirteen enthusiastic FMNers (including some board members) attended the three-hour hike at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park, including FMN event coordinator, Barbara Saffir, who co-led the hike with two experts (and an assistant expert) from the Virginia Herpetological Society.

Caroline Seitz led one group, taking the “high road” through the hilly park, so to speak.  She’s VHS’s education chair.  VHS’s Mark Khosravi, a science teacher who was recently quoted in the Washington Post discussing venomous copperheads, and his assistant led his hikers on the lower trail.  Both groups “herped” upland wooded areas and lower stretches along the Bull Run stream.

Among their discoveries were: SNAKES (a small ring-necked snake, a queen snake that repeatedly posed in the stream, adult and immature

Ring-necked snake

northern watersnakes, and an eastern worm snake); TURTLES (several male and female woodland box turtles, a red-bellied slider turtle, a painted turtle, and broken turtle eggs); FROGS/TOADS (pickerel frog, adult and baby green frogs, baby wood frog, and Fowler’s toads); and SALAMANDERS/SKINKS (a red-spotted newt, a northern two-lined salamander, a long-tailed salamander, and five-lined skinks).

Woodland box turtle

FMNers even learned how to differentiate male from female box turtles and American toads from Fowler’s toads.  A five-lined skink hopped aboard board member Amy Stulman, who handled the opportunity with a smile. Debbie McDonald spied the first herp of the day on Seitz’s hike, a precious woodland box turtle. We learned to report box turtle sightings to VHS online.

https://www.virginiaherpetologicalsociety.com/reptiles/turtles/eastern-box-turtle/eastern_box_turtle.php

https://www.virginiaherpetologicalsociety.com/reptiles/turtles/eastern-box-turtle/boxturtle-reporting/boxturtle-reportingform.htm

 

Co-leader Caroline Seitz shows us a juvenile Northern Watersnake

Queen snake practically performed for us for a while

Northrop Grumman Awards Community Service Grant to FMN

Image from Northrop Grumman website

FMN Lori Scheibe, a Northrop Grumman employee, applied for and received a $500 Community Service Grant to benefit our chapter. Lori says, “Most people who are familiar with Northrop Grumman, think of us as a technology company supporting space, aeronautics, cyber or defense. Over the last few years, one of the things that has inspired me about working at Northrop Grumman is our commitment to environmental sustainability including minimizing our operational footprint and utilizing technology for conservation. Our conservation projects include tracking the quality of coastal waters and forests; monitoring reef health metrics and environmental conditions to support oyster restoration in the Chesapeake Bay; developing sensor data technology for sea turtle conservation on the Florida coastline and my favorite, mapping ice formations in the Arctic for tracking polar bear migration patterns.”

“Northrop Grumman encourages volunteering in four areas: STEM education, support for military/veterans, health and human services and the environment. The FMN mission directly aligns to the environment as well as STEM education. I think volunteering at Science Fairs is a double win.”

Giving back to the community is interwoven into the culture at Northrop Grumman. They believe their employees’ support, dedication and passion help strengthen the partnerships they build in the communities where they work and live. Volunteerism is encouraged as a way to network, team build and develop leadership skills while making a difference. Northrop Grumman provides Community Service Grants in recognition of their employees’ volunteer efforts, whether at a Northrop Grumman volunteer event or when volunteering on their own.

Thank you, Lori! We will certainly use this donation to benefit the environment.

Fairfax Master Naturalist in Remer, MN, Home of Big Foot Sightings

Feature photo: Boozie Tim on point and neither I nor the evaluators are near. He is dragging a line because when out for banding work, once he points, I will tie him to a tree while the actual banding occurs.

Article and photos by FMN Melissa Stagnaro

My German Shorthair Pointer, Boozie Tim, and I weren’t looking for Sasquatch but were preparing for locating American Woodcock (Scolopax minor) hens and their chicks for banding.

American Woodcock prefer young forests with a moist floor which are likely to have an abundance of prey like earthworms lurking in the soil. Here is one of the places the group “hunted”.

I am an FMN graduate of 2021 and have been practicing banding at the Occoquan National Wildlife Refuge. While there have been a few woodcock banded at Occoquan, the mist nets most often capture passerines. Passerines are also called perching birds or songbirds. Passerines are distinguished from other orders of birds by the arrangement of their toes (three pointing forward and one back). The knowledgeable and caring volunteers at Occoquan helped me learn how to safely handle and band birds. I wanted to take what I had learned at Occoquan to a new level to find and band woodcocks.

Boozie Tim does other conservation work and I wanted to see if he could do pointing dog specific conservation work. He has been working birds since he was about four months old. Pointing-type dogs, as opposed to flushing-type or retriever-type dogs, should locate live, ground nesting birds and stand still oriented in the direction of the bird. Trainers often start pointing dogs out on pigeons since there are no game laws for pigeons, pigeons put off a strong odor making it easy for a beginner dog to find, and pigeons are, generally, strong flyers so if the dog is a bit naughty during training, pigeons safely fly off.

I studied up on woodcock habitat, behavior, and intricacies of banding, then headed out to Remer, Minnesota to a woodcock banding camp at the Pineridge Grouse Camp with my German Shorthair.

I had to pass a written test, demonstrate banding proficiency, and handle

In this photo you can see the splash in the larger circle and, in the smaller circle, a hole in the ground made by a woodcock pulling an earthworm out of the ground.

Boozie Tim through a bird course. He had to prove that he could find birds, hold point, and be steady. The dogs were all tested using pigeons, not woodcock, for safety and because during the spring only certified dogs are allowed to be “hunting” for woodcock. The bird course consisted of three stations. The first was a straightforward set up with a pigeon mimicking a male woodcock being found then flying directly away. The dog is expected to point the bird on the ground and be still as it flies away. The second was a test to see if the dog would stop when it saw a bird fly off; that is, only on the visual of the bird flying, not when the dog had smelled the bird. For this test a pigeon was in a launcher and, with careful placement and good timing, the pigeon was popped out of the device and flew off before the dog could have smelled it. Upon seeing it, Boozie Tim, with no command or help from me, was expected to, and happily did, freeze. On the woodcock spring “hunting” grounds, male woodcock and ruffed grouse, another ground nesting bird, might just fly off and a pointing dog must not chase them but instead must remain still, then focus on the handler to be instructed on what to do next. On the third station a pigeon was set up to act like a woodcock hen trying to lure a predator away from her nest or chicks. The hen woodcock does a distress call and mimics being wounded to move the attention off her nest or chicks. In the test the pigeon was tethered to a weight such that the bird flew, landed near the dog, flapped its wings, flew a bit more but again landed near the dog and kept doing this until the evaluators were sure the dog was not tempted to break point and go to the pigeon. No pigeons were harmed; all the dogs passed the tests.

To find woodcock one must understand their habitat preferences (and the timing of their migration). For the male display flight to attract a mate, he choses an open field for his singing ground. Although the first night it was too stormy for the ritual, every other night at banding camp all the attendees got to watch the male strut his stuff for the potential ‘ladies’.

On one of the “hunts” the team and I found a hen on eggs. It was concluded that she was not on chicks based on how she was holding her wings (which would be out to cover chicks but in when on eggs), how she had her neck tucked in, her bulging eyes, and the lack of “splash” nearby (hens will eliminate near chicks but not near eggs). Can you spot her?

It is fairly easy for an experienced dog to point woodcock, although the early spring growth could create a scent challenge with the release of chlorophyll and late spring growth could create a pinpoint location problem for the handler if the dog is pointing a thick bit of cover but the handler is not able to visually locate the chicks. Hens on nests are a special scent challenge for dogs and (other) predators; to protect themselves and the eggs, the hen puts off minimal odor. Team effort is required to have the best chance of success!

Once handlers are in a good spot – young forest with moist soil and a singing ground nearby – they keep their eyes peeled for “splash” (elimination material). Of course many birds eliminate in the woods but based on the size, shape, and location one can often locate woodcock splash.

The Minnesota banders have been pulled into some interesting research projects to do along side their banding efforts. One researcher is supplying banders with containers to gather fresh fecal matter from, separately, hens and chicks, to better understand eating habits. Early work shows a more varied diet than earlier believed.

It is unclear how long banding efforts will continue given the affordability of

Hint- Hens like to be near saplings to reduce the likelihood of being stepped on.

GPS trackers for the birds to wear. Unlike banding, which at most, would provide two data points – once when banded and twice if recovered (nationwide, only about 2 percent of banded woodcock are recovered), GPS trackers can provide data points along the whole migration route. Several of the woodcock banders are also certified to attach GPS trackers so the “hunt” over pointing dogs will continue but instead of an anklet, birds may be left with a back pack.

Boozie Tim and I are looking forward to returning to Minnesota in spring of 2023 to find some chicks and contribute to increasing the public’s awareness for woodcock and the need for woodcock habitat.

FMN CE Event Recap: Stargazing with the Analemma Society

Feature photo: Jerry Nissley; Observatory grounds, located on FCPA land in Great Falls.

Article by FMNs Laura Anderko and Jerry Nissley

On May 20, 2022, FMN VP Laura Anderko arranged for the Continuing Education event “Stargazing with the Analemma Society” with a visit to the Observatory at Turner Farm in Great Falls. Alan Figgatt from the Analemma Society spoke about the cosmos.  FMN members in attendance learned how to read an Evening Sky Map for May, were treated to a private tour of the facility, an inside presentation on the current configuration of night sky constellations, and an opportunity to view the stars via high powered telescopes setup outside.

 

The Observatory by Jerry Nissley. The left section of the roof is designed to slide open allowing the four telescopes contained there in unfettered sight lines to the sky. The telescope for the tall building has not been installed yet.
Observation room, by Jerry Nissley. Roof slides open for stargazing. These are two of four telescopes in the room all bolted to the floor for stability.

Classroom section of the facility, leading into the observation room,
by Jerry Nissley.
Outdoor portable telescopes, by Jerry Nissley.
Alan Figgat, by Laura Anderko.
FMN members getting an explanation of the monthly orientation of planets relative to the sun, by Jerry Nissley.
Night telescopes, by Laura Anderko.

DIY Insectary Garden

Feature photo:  Last summer the monarda bloomed beautifully! At the top you can see the beginnings of the asclepias incarnata (the mauve colored flower cluster).

Article and photos by FMN Kate Luisa

This story begins at the very end of the summer of 2019. I have a fairly small back yard with a patio and around the patio is a garden area that I was using for growing tomatoes.  Well, frankly,

Spring 2020. This is the garden the following year after the initial plantings which went in at the very end of summer 2019. There is also a sedum (far left) that was already there. This plant is over 100 years old. Literally. It came from my great-grandmother’s garden.

that was just wishful thinking.  The plants got tall and beautiful but every tomato but about five got either eaten by something or split and turned to mush with the rains we had that summer.  It was very disheartening.  I knew I would have to scrap the tomato dream.  So I decided to cut my losses around the middle of August and took them out.  That left an “L” shaped area around two thirds of the patio with nothing.  The area is about 3 to 4 feet wide (from the patio) and the length is about 8 feet on one side and about 6 feet on the other.
I thought much about what I could put there.  I already have lots of coneflowers, culver’s root, agastache, zinnias and rudbeckia.  I just wanted something different….

Then I remembered reading about an insectary garden and found that idea very intriguing.  This would be the perfect area for it!  It is in full sun and just about the right size.  The next big

decision was what to put in it. That spring, along my back fence, I had already put in a long row of mountain mint, a combination of pycnanthemum muticum, p. virginianum and p. tenuifolium that smells heavenly and attracts an incredible variety of insects.  So I didn’t need more of that.  Rather than do copious amounts of research I went directly to the best source of all: the FMN group.  I knew there had to already be native plants that others could recommend for such an enterprise.  And I wasn’t disappointed.

Monarch caterpillar on milkweed.

I received a wonderful variety of suggestions and studied information on each one.  I decided that since the area was not very large, it would be best to stick with just a few selections and to plant them en masse.  I looked at the seasonal blooming times and tried to get plants that would bloom most of the Summer and into Fall.  My overall idea was to have some brightly colored plants that would bloom throughout the season for pollinators and other wildlife. My colors are mauve, yellow and scarlet. I chose Asclepias incarnata, Asclepias  purpurascens, zizia aurea and monarda didyma.  Unfortunately, it was already very late in the season so I could only put in a few plantings before the cooler weather started coming in. I put in the milkweed and a few monarda, figuring I would put the rest in the following spring.

This is now the second full summer of my garden. The asclepias incarnata went gangbusters last year! The purpurescens has not done well but is coming up this year

Various ladybug species on the milkweed (and aphids in lower right).

and looks a bit more robust. Somehow, lobelia got into the garden (I had some lobelia cardinalis in another place and I think the birds must have distributed the seeds) so these also made a wonderful surprise appearance. They are coming up again this year and I planted more seeds for them as well.

Last year I noted many different kinds of bees and other flying insects, ladybugs (as well as aphids which I left for the ladybugs), lacewing eggs and monarch caterpillars on the milkweed. Hummingbirds loved the cardinal flowers and the bee balm as well. I harvested the milkweed pods in the Fall and gave to people to create their own insectary gardens.

Lacewing eggs on underside of milkweed leaf (upper right).

The garden is now coming alive again as the spring unfolds. The milkweed is almost a foot tall and the bee balm is spreading. The golden alexanders are in bloom, and I watch tiny bees climb all over the bright yellow flowers. I am so glad I have planted this garden!

 

FMN CE Hike: Hold a Wild Bird, Stunning!

Article by FMNs Barbara Saffir and Janet Quinn; all photos by Barbara Saffir

Lions, and tigers, and bears?  Heck, no — but holding wild birds, snakes galore, and close  encounters with yellow birds that glow like the sun were some highlights during a recent

Banders at work

Fairfax Master Naturalists’ continuing education hike.  Hike leaders Barbara Saffir and Janet Quinn led eight FMNs on the “Hold A Wild Bird” hike and visited a bird banding at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Woodbridge on April 24.  Since Covid rules for the banding forced the 10 hardy hikers to break into two smaller groups, Barbara’s group watched two Gray Catbirds, two Northern Waterthrushes, a Hermit Thrush, a House Wren,

FMN Dee Pistochini releasing banded bird

and a Swamp Sparrow being banded.  Janet’s group had a different experience.  The banders netted three birds during their visit and all three had previously been banded.  One was the Northern Waterthrush Barbara’s group had seen banded as well as a Song Sparrow and White-throated Sparrow.  The White-throated Sparrow was a “significant event” because it had been banded in 2017. Any bird captured which is older than five years is such an event.  The banders, all volunteers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,  measured, sexed, weighed, and banded the birds.  The group members then took turns learning how to safely hold the birds to release them.  (Photos and a slo-mo video of one release are attached.)  FMN 2022 trainee Deirdre “Dee” Pistochini, said it best: ” It was such a thrill to hold a wild creature so close that you can feel their heartbeat.  A once in a lifetime experience.”

Both groups also visited a great horned owls’ nest near Painted Turtle Pond. The big, fluffy, ivory-colored “babies” were napping when one group visited but the two owlets were standing tall and checking out their human admirers when the second group came to call.

Snake visit

After that, the naturalists took a two-mile spin around the refuge.  First they encountered four frisky northern black racers, then another racer poking its head out, and four northern watersnakes in two separate hideaways. Ospreys were parading around everywhere — and two were even caught in a Valentine’s Day act.  The group also eyeballed at least three eagles, a horned grebe in breeding colors, hundreds of blue jays flying over in small flocks toward their summer homes, and more.  But the bird of the day outside the banding was a prothonotary warbler, a tiny sunflower-yellow bird with a big personality — and seemingly a fondness for humans.  Four of the darlings came close to say hello.  Barbara could have sworn they also asked the hikers if they would return in a few weeks so they could show off their babies.

 

 

Want to see more?  Download these videos of the day taken by FMN Dee Pistochino:

Controlled chaos:  Banders work quickly.

Actual banding.

Blowing and tail measuring.

And even more!  The handout created for the hikers.

Prothonotary Warbler

Great Horned Owlets

 

 

 

 

 

 

FMN Earns 2022 Environmental Sustainability Award

Cover photo, Jerry Nissley

On Wednesday, April 20th, Volunteer Fairfax, together with the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, celebrated the 149 nominees, 11 category winners, and 10 Community Champions during its 30th Anniversary Awards Program. The 2022 program consisted of a virtual awards program where the winners were announced to the public and an in-person reception at the Stacy C. Sherwood Center in Fairfax City where the winners received their awards.

Photo Janet Quinn

Fairfax County Volunteer Service Awards highlight the achievements of volunteers in several distinct award categories. The 2022 Environmental Sustainability Award was presented to the Fairfax Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists (FMN). This award honors volunteers who work to protect and beautify our environment and natural surroundings, advocate for the preservation of our planet and strive to instill these values for our community.

During the virtual portion of the program, previously recorded video dialogues were shown detailing mission, goals, and achievements that supported each service category award. FMN President Marilyn Parks and FMN Member Chair, Mike Garth, were the video presenters for our organization and they more than carried the day by offering both quantifiable metrics for FMN 2022 achievements and gracious praise and recognition for all the FMN volunteers that are at the heart of this award. FMN Communications Co-chair Janet Quinn and FMN Jerry Nissley accompanied Marilyn to the reception where Marilyn accepted the award on behalf of FMN.

In January 2022, the FMN annual report was shared with members in a newsletter.  Marilyn realized the crux of what our chapter had accomplished really didn’t shine through.  Our service deserved further recognition, so she wrote up and submitted a nomination to Volunteer Fairfax for consideration.

From left to right: Jerry Nissley, Marilyn Parks, Janet Quinn, and Chairman Jeffrey C. McKay – Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. Photo by Edward Marion

In the nomination Marilyn highlighted some important 2021 FMN accomplishments. Most notable were – 197 FMN members volunteered 15,500 hours; a 25% increase in 2021 over 2020!  This increase was a surprise given 2020 over 2019 hours had resulted in a 15% reduction of hours (first year of COVID outbreaks). FMN delivered 25% more hours to our partners and sponsors in the midst of a 2nd year of COVID. Let that sink in. We were out there working and spending time on 106 projects, making a difference and helping to preserve and protect the natural environment within Fairfax county. We recruited, trained and graduated 40 students – without the benefit of meeting at the county Government Center (all via zoom).  

This is attestation to the fidelity of all FMN volunteers that carried on their substantial enthusiasm for service in support of our partner organizations, our communities, our local, regional and state parks, and our growing network of service allies.

Marilyn concludes by saying, “I hope members are pleased with their chapter, happy with their choice of volunteering to serve nature, and thrilled to be recognized and named the Volunteer Fairfax –  Environmental Sustainability Award winner for 2022”.

The Honorable Gerry Connolly (Congressman 11th District Virginia)

Photo Janet Quinn

was the keynote speaker and engaged the audience with anecdotes of volunteerism and serving in local government. He said, “Volunteers are a testament to the strong ethos of public service and volunteerism that exists in Fairfax County and is one of many reasons why this community is such a wonderful place to live.”

In commemoration, Congressman Connolly had this commendation along with additional comments and a list of all award winners entered into the Congressional Record of the 117th Congress recognizing the 2022 service award winners. FMN in the Congressional Record!

Now is the time to take your right arm, reach across your left shoulder and give yourself a pat on the back. Not that you would normally do this because as FMN members you unselfishly volunteer your time as a service to your communities, not expecting this level of gratitude or recognition. But Marilyn emphasized that this award would certainly not have been possible without the generous, benevolent efforts of each and every volunteer in this wonderful organization.

Community Time in Culmore

All photos – Jerry Nissley

Saturday, 23 April, was filled with Earth Day related activities all over Fairfax County. Four FMN, Susan Magnin, Kim Munshower, Benjamin Umansky, and Jerry Nissley assisted Hidden Oaks Park in their display area for Culmore Community Day at Woodrow Wilson library and grounds in Annandale.

Kim and Benjamin talking with visitors

It was another wonderful display of natural science and information by Hidden Oaks Nature Center but more importantly it brought a little bit of nature to a community that may not otherwise be exposed to it. The local elementary school, Bailey’s Elementary, brought their five classes of 2nd graders to Huntley Meadows Park last week and I was able to lead a class on an interpretive walk through the wetlands. I witnessed then the excitement on their faces and their enthusiasm to be outside, to learn by experiencing,

Jerry with the non-frog eating snake

to see a snapping turtle, to hear a frog, to watch a snake eat a frog (yes that happened). I even recognized a few of the same children come through the Hidden Oaks display today, so maybe they want more. Could have been the free hotdogs though.

Culmore is from the Irish: Cúil Mhór/an Chúil Mhór, meaning “the great corner”. Culmore nowadays is a ‘great community’ close to Lake Barcroft in Annandale and Culmore Community Day was quite the to-do. Live music, live science, free hotdogs, ice cream, face painting, and just about all Fairfax County services were represented from police and fire (lights flashing) to health agencies and social services. The event, sponsored by the Fairfax County Park Authority, is aimed at connecting

Ladybug display

the community with county and local resources that people might not know about, as well as providing fun activities for families. There were about 30 booths set up by county agencies, local nonprofits, and businesses with information about home ownership opportunities, healthcare, after-school programs, nutrition, and much more, while kids got a chance to explore a fire truck and ambulance.

Hidden Oaks Nature Center provided indoor and outdoor nature displays with all the touchy-feely things any child would like, and a few

Community Services

creepy-crawly things they did not (eeewww). A box turtle, a fox, a cornsnake (not eating a frog), an American toad, wood frog tadpoles (a Hidden Oaks specialty), and bugs, bugs, bugs galore. Caterpillars, mantids, bess bugs, millipedes, meal worms, and many more. The outside display had information on the benefits of ladybugs along with a live native species that the visitors were able to release into the environment. The Hidden Oaks Nature Center is BUGGED!