Training for new Audubon at Home Ambassadors, December 6th

Photo courtesy of audubonva.org

Sunday, December 6, 2020
2 pm
Register here.
Note: This training is for those interested in volunteering as Ambassadors, not a program for those wanting to learn how to landscape with native plants in their own yards.

Tami Sheiffer, Audubon at Home Coordinator for Fairfax County, will be holding virtual training for new volunteers interested in becoming Audubon at Home Ambassadors in Fairfax County.

Ambassadors are knowledgeable volunteers who expand quality wildlife habitat in Northern Virginia by sharing their knowledge of native plants and ecosystems with homeowners. As an Ambassador, you will conduct site visits, provide personalized advice to homeowners, and certify yards as wildlife sanctuaries. (The personalized recommendations are provided to the homeowner via email after the site visit so you will not be on the spot to provide all recommendations during the site visit.)

We have successfully resumed site visits since July with COVID-19 safety precautions in place. Site visits take place entirely outdoors, one on one or in small groups. Clients and Ambassadors must wear masks and fill out an online form prior to the site visit stating that no one in their families has symptoms. Followup communication with the recommendations is done through email.

Being an Ambassador is rewarding because you’re guiding people to make changes in their yards that noticeably improve wildlife habitat, as evidenced by the presence of sanctuary species. And, volunteering as an Ambassador is convenient because you schedule the site visit for a day and time that fits in your schedule. Clients are assigned based on proximity so you will usually not have to drive more than 15 minutes to a client’s house, and you can accept or decline clients based on your availability.

My Tree Counts–Help the VDOF

Photo by J. Quinn Article by Jim McGlone, Urban Forest Conservationist, Virginia Department of Forestry

In 2010, the courts determined that the EPA and its partners in the Chesapeake Bay watershed had not made sufficient progress in improving Bay water quality with voluntary measures and ordered the EPA to begin regulatory measures to clean up the Bay. The process the EPA settled on was the Watershed Improvement Plan (WIP) and directed the states in the Bay watershed to develop plans to improve water quality in the Bay and its tributaries.

In 2020, Virginia adopted WIP phase 3 or WIP III. This plan has many elements and practices, but one of the practices that is relevant to home owners is tree planting. The Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) has been tasked with counting tree plantings to meet the WIP III goals. This year (October 1 – September 30) the goal for Northern Virginia is 28,500 trees and shrubs.

Needless to say, the VDOF needs your help to count all these plantings, so we made a web app for that. It is called My Tree Counts https://arcg.is/WryDG. On this app you can report your tree and shrub plantings made since October 1, 2020. You can also read about other tree planting projects in Virginia and learn why trees are so good at protecting water quality. We want to count every tree planted this year and for at least the next 4 years, so please report your tree and shrub plantings and ask your friends and neighbors to do so as well, because MY TREE COUNTS!

Report your Fox Squirrel sightings!

Photo and article by Marissa Guill, graduate student, Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, Virginia Tech

The fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) is the largest species of tree squirrel native to the United States. In Virginia, fox squirrel populations are still present in the Delmarva Peninsula and west of the Piedmont into the Appalachians. However east of the Appalachians, particularly in the lower Piedmont and Coastal Plain, fox squirrels are rare and patchily distributed, especially the southeastern subspecies Sciurus niger niger, or the southeastern fox squirrel. Regionally, formerly suitable habitat has been subjected to fragmentation and degradation of mixed pine-hardwood forests and bottomland hardwoods by conversion to agriculture and plantation forestry, as well as decades of fire suppression. At this moment, the southeastern fox squirrel holds an unknown distributional status in Virginia which could ultimately impact future management efforts.

Our goal is to better understand the distribution of fox squirrels in Virginia to reveal important habitat requirements and ecological specialization. We are currently seeking out volunteers and citizen scientists to help us collect sightings of fox squirrels across Virginia.

Read the rest of the article here.

Knowledgeable Volunteers Sought for FLAP Pollinator Garden

Photo by Mary Keeser

Lake Accotink Park
7500 Accotink Park Road, Springfield VA
Pollinator garden up the hill from the marina parking lot

Enthusiastic, energetic President of Friends of Lake Accotink Park has transformed the former pollinator garden into a professionally designed, all-native landscape. This garden will become a learning center with a path, interpretive sign, and a “talking box” with buttons to press for plant information. Tri-fold pamphlets will be available for visitors to take to learn to plant a pollinator garden at their homes. Fourteen species await your TLC!

They need: 1) Advice on how to care for the garden, knowing seeds will be dropped.
2) Knowledgeable volunteers to help clean the bed of unwanted plants.

Be part of the forward progress of this inspirational project! To volunteer or learn more, contact Mary Keeser at president@flapaccotink.org.

Master naturalists, obtain service credit under code S105: Accotink Creek Cleanup and Service Projects.

Northern Virginia Conservation Trust Nearby Nature Bioblitz, October 14th – November 14th

Click here to learn more and get started!

Northern Virginia Conservation Trust Nearby Nature Bioblitz, October 14th-November 14th

Northern Virginia Conservation Trust invites you to participate in their first ever BioBlitz! Become a Citizen Scientist by exploring nature and helping gather valuable data in your very own neighborhood.

How? They’ll be using iNaturalist to conduct NVCT’s first ever BioBlitz. With a fun, easy to use app and website, iNaturalist enables people to capture and share information that helps us all learn about nature.

Why? A BioBlitz helps people connect with the nature around them and every observation, from the rarest butterfly to the most common backyard weed, can contribute to our understanding of the world around us. All you have to do is observe and have fun.

What? A BioBlitz is an organized communal effort to record as many species as possible within a designated location and time period.

Where? Literally anywhere outdoors in Northern Virginia.

When? October 14 — November 14, 2020

Join Project FeederWatch: Learn how with Greg Butcher and Dixie Sommers, October 29th

Photo: Feederwatch Kit

Thursday, October 29,2020
7 — 8:30 pm
FREE
Register here

Project FeederWatch is the easiest citizen science you will ever do! From the comfort of your home, you simply count the winter birds that visit your feeders and report your data to Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

This FREE Audubon Society of Northern Virginia workshop will cover a bit of the history of Project FeederWatch, its purpose, tips for identifying birds, and the protocols to be followed while counting.

Instructors: Greg is the Migratory Species Coordinator for U.S. Forest Service International Programs. He is a Ph.D. ornithologist who has worked for the National Audubon Society, American Birding Association, Partners in Flight, Birders World (currently BirdWatching) magazine, and Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Greg is a recognized public speaker and interpreter for bird conservation and ecology worldwide. He welcomes the opportunity to contribute to Audubon’s environmental mission at the local level.

Dixie Sommers has been an Audubon member since 1986 and became a serious birder after moving back to the Washington area from Ohio in 2006, adding to her long interest in nature photography and travel. She is an avid e-bird user and enjoys using photography to help learn the birds, and sharing her photos on www.ddpix.smugmug.com.

In addition to favorite places in Virginia, her recent birding travels include Colombia, Tanzania, Texas, California, and Mexico. She is also a board member for the Virginia Society of Ornithology and the Friends of Dyke Marsh. Dixie lives in Alexandria, Virginia and retired from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics after a long career of counting jobs and workers. Now she counts birds!

Let’s Hit the Trails

Scott Schroth

Hitting the trails is the first of many volunteer activities Scott Schroth got involved with when becoming a Virginia Master Naturalist. Scott, a recently certified Virginia Master Naturalist (2019 – Fairfax) hit the trails feet first with shovel and saw in hand. I emphasize ‘feet first’ because one of his primary engagements is with the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC), an organization that maintains 240 miles of the Appalachian Trail (AT) and hundreds of miles of other trails throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia and DC. Scott is active in trail maintenance and trail patrol at locations such as Massanutten, Sky Meadows State Park, and Shenandoah National Park. Trail Maintenance is restoration for the purpose of hiker safety that includes trail blazing/marking, clipping, and the construction of rolling grade dips. During Trail Patrol, Scott is there to help hikers and backpackers enjoy the AT experience in a responsible manner by providing trail information and general assistance as needed. The patrol also provides a valuable ‘eyes on the ground’ service by reporting trail conditions to Trail Restoration crews.

In addition, Scott is very active at Fairfax County’s Riverbend Park and Scott’s Run Nature Preserve. Both parks are managed by Riverbend staff and there are copious volunteer opportunities at each. Scott credits the friendly and highly qualified Riverbend park staff with making it easy to get involved with the diverse set of opportunities at each park. Scott particularly enjoys citizen science opportunities such as wildflower surveys, native grass seed collection, and the Adopt-a-Spot program. His recent recognition as Riverbend’s volunteer of the month (August 2020) attests to his high energy focus at Scott’s Run. He participated in several invasive removal and habitat restoration projects and led watershed cleanup activities over the summer.

It is wonderful to hear the enthusiasm in Scott’s voice as he talks about the many service activities he is involved with and the resources available via the VMN organization. It’s even more wonderful to sense the enjoyment he receives by volunteering and to see the results of his work in areas of need within our local and national parks. Thank you, Scott, for the immediate impact you have had and thank you to all the VMN volunteers that care about and contribute to sustaining our natural resources.

To get involved as a volunteer at River Bend and/or Scott’s Run please contact volunteer coordinator Valeria Espinoza at valeria.espinoza@fairfaxcounty.gov  

To get involved as a PATC volunteer, visit www.patc.net and contact a representative listed for your location and area of interest.

Volunteers as Chesapeake Stewards (VoiCes) virtual course, October 6-November 17th

Tuesday Evenings*
October 6–November 17, 2020
7–8:30 pm
Zoom links will be sent ahead of each class
*except Tuesday, November 3

Register here.

Join Chesapeake Bay Foundation and advocates from across Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania for their first ever virtual Volunteers as Chesapeake Stewards (VoiCes) course.

In the weekly class, you’ll hear from speakers about topics ranging from the challenges facing Bay restoration to steps you can take in your own community to improve the health of your local waterways.

The course will include 1–2 hours of pre-recorded materials to watch at your leisure each week before coming together as a class over Zoom for a brief overview and Q&A with speakers. Some classes will be watershed-wide, while others will be region specific.

VDOF Seeks Acorns/Nuts from Virginia Landowners, deadline October 16th

Photo by Dcrjsr – Own work, CC BY 3.0

The Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) is again seeking 12 species of acorns and nuts that can be planted at its Augusta Forestry Center [Crimora, Virginia] to grow into tree seedlings that will become the forests of tomorrow.

Each year, VDOF asks the public from across the state to collect and donate nuts of select species to be planted at the state nursery. These seeds will produce next year’s hardwood seedling crop, which will be sold to Virginia’s forestland owners. Seedlings grown from Virginia-grown seed generally produces trees that will best thrive in our state’s climates.

In 2019, Virginians did a tremendous job collecting acorns for the nursery. “The public supplied us with tons of acorns and walnuts last year. I am always amazed at the output by Virginians every year,” says Assistant Forestry Center Manager Josh McLaughlin.

Certain nuts can be difficult to find regionally, and availability can change year to year. At times, one species of tree in a region may produce minimal acorns, while others are abundant with “acorns hanging like bunches of grapes,” says McLaughlin. This is why VDOF puts out a call-to-action for landowners across the state. The more trees that can be identified for collection, the more nuts can be potentially planted in the nursery.

Protocols and guidelines for acorn collection remain mostly the same as last year, with some minor adjustments to the collection deadline and species list. Virginia landowners interested in sharing their acorns or nuts are asked to follow these guidelines.

During September and early October, it is easy to pick up nuts in many yards and parking lots. Try to avoid trees in more heavily forested areas because there may be different species of trees nearby, making it difficult to sort the nuts by species for proper planting.

The species the tree nursery needs this year are: black oak, black walnut, Chinese chestnut, chestnut oak, live oak, northern red oak, pin oak, southern red oak, swamp chestnut oak, swamp white oak, white oak and willow oak.

Place the nuts in a breathable sack or bag (no plastic, please). Minimize debris in the bag (e.g. leaves, sticks, gravel). On the bag, please label the species and date of collection.

Once the nuts are collected, place in a cool area (like a fridge or basement) until you are ready to drop them off at a VDOF office. In Fairfax County, bring the acorns to the bins on the first floor of the parking garage behind the Virginia Department of Forestry office at 12055 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, VA. Nuts must be delivered by October 16, 2020.

Collectors can find more detailed information about collection procedures, nut identification and frequently asked questions on VDOF’s website: https://dof.virginia.gov/tree/acorn-collect.htm

If you have questions, or if there is a tree that needs to be identified before you collect the nuts, please call the Augusta Forestry Center: 540-363-7000.

Master naturalists receive service hour credit for collecting, packaging, and travel to deliver the acorns at code S035.

Service Opportunities at Riverbend Park and Scott’s Run Nature Preserve

Photo by Valeria Espinoza

Riverbend Park invites the naturalist community to volunteer at the park and at the nature preserve as staff continue to adapt during the pandemic, while keeping our community safe. Summer volunteers have played an important role in keeping the parks clean, restoring native habitats, and supporting the staff during a time of increased visitor turnout.

Additional volunteers this fall would be a blessing. Here are opportunities to work with the exceptionally nice Riverbend staff.

Option 1. International Coastal Fall Cleanup Day: November 7, 2020

Join Clean Virgina Waterways and the Ocean Conservancy on an International Coastal Cleanup Event to keep our waters clean! Collect trash from streams and trails. Compile and report results on trash collected to contribute to a global snapshot of littered items. Help keep millions of pounds of trash out of our oceans! 

Register below for two different shifts and locations:

Riverbend Park 10:00AM-12:00PM 

Scott’s Run Nature Preserve 9:00-11:30 AM 

Option 2. Natural Resource Projects @ Scott’s Run: Thursday mornings. 

Sign up here.  

Volunteers training and working at Riverbend. Photo: Ana Ka’Ahanui

Option 3. Animal Care Volunteer Program (ACVP): Weekday and weekend openings

Whether you are looking for hands-on experience working with animals or simply love spending time with them, join us for ACVP this Fall! We are recruiting volunteers to help care for our display animals. Duties include feeding, watering, cleaning tanks/enclosures, exersicing and monitoring the animals. Learn about the natural history of native turtles and snakes while helping to care for these rescued/rehomed animals. This is an indoor/outdoor volunteer opportunity. Masks are required. Shifts are set to allow only 1-2 people in a building at a time. A weekly or bi-weekly volunteer commitment is preferred.

Apply here. 

Option 4. Natural Resource Projects @ Riverbend: Every Thursday at 1pm.

Riverbend Park needs your help for an invasive removal project. Help restore and preserve Riverbend’s natural resources. Enjoy a day outdoors and do some good! Sign up here. 

Option 5. Nature Education Volunteer Program

Join the programing team this Fall! Volunteers will assist with outdoor programs such as Field Trips for All, scout programs, and weekend nature programs. A minimum commitment of 2 programs/month is required. Apply here.