2024 NABA Butterfly Count, July 20th

Photo: by FMN Jerry Nissley, Tiger swallowtail VMN Logo

July 20, 2024
9:00 am
 – 3:00 pm

The Clifton Institute
6712 Blantyre Rd
Warrenton, VA 20187

FREE but Registration is REQUIRED.

Every year community scientists help count the butterflies in 15-mile-diameter circles all around the country and contribute their data to the North American Butterfly Association. This summer the Clifton Institute will host their 29th annual butterfly count and celebrate their 22nd year contributing data to NABA. Butterfly enthusiasts of all levels of experience are welcome! If you feel like you don’t know many butterflies, this is a great way to learn and it’s always helpful to have more eyes pointing out butterflies. Participants will be assigned to small teams, led by an experienced butterfly counter. Once you volunteer, you will receive more information about your team closer to the date. Each team will survey a variety of sites within the designated count circle.  Everyone will meet at the Clifton Institute at 3:00 PM to tally results over cold drinks (provided).

Earth Sangha June Work Days

Photo: Earth Sangha

Wild Plant Nursery, 6100 Cloud Drive, Springfield VA

Mason District Park, 6621 Columbia Pike, Annandale VA

Register to volunteer here.

Wild Plant Nursery Workdays: Every Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday from 9am-1pm at the Wild Plant Nursery. Earth Sangha still has plenty of repotting to do! Plus, the usual weeding and labeling. The Wild Plant Nursery will be closed on June 19th in honor of Juneteenth.

Mason District Workday: Friday, June 21st, from 9am to Noon. Help them continue their progress as they tackle yet more wineberry, bittersweet, and other invasive vines! They’ll meet by the tennis courts.

June “Big Day” at the Wild Plant Nursery: Join them for their monthly Big Day for community, service, and plants on June 23rd! We will be doing some summer cleaning, laying mulch on the paths, reorganize the nursery after a busy spring, all while having good food and conversation.

Virginia Tech Researchers Seek Landowner Help with Gray Fox Project

Photo: Gray fox in Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Gray fox populations across North America have been declining over the last two decades. There are no published studies on gray fox population status in Virginia, but researchers, biologists, naturalists, hunters, and trappers from the state have noted, anecdotally, a decline in sightings, vocalizations, and camera trap photos over the last decade.

The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources is funding the Virginia Gray Fox Project, which is being conducted by Dr. Marcella Kelly and Ph.D. student Victoria Monette of Virginia Tech. The primary goal of this project is to map the current distribution of gray fox across the state of Virginia and to assess the evidence for decline using past, historical camera trapping from around the state. To accomplish this, the researchers will conduct a state-wide camera trapping survey. They are looking to survey areas where foxes are and are not found, and cover a variety of habitat types (suburban, urban, forest, pasture, etc.).

To conduct such a large-scale survey, the researchers are hoping to enlist the help of volunteers that:

  • Have existing trail cameras on their own property, or
  • Are willing to set and monitor project cameras (if available) on their own property, or
  • Are willing to allow the researchers access to their land to set up additional cameras.

Volunteers will be expected to set the cameras according to specific protocols to standardize data collection and will need to check cameras periodically (every two weeks) to ensure sufficient battery life and proper camera function. The camera survey will cover the state over the course of three years. For the 2024 field season (spring, summer, and fall) the project is focusing on the Appalachian Mountain region.

If interested in participating in assisting the Virginia Gray Fox Project, please email Victoria Monette at [email protected] or leave a voicemail with Dr. Kelly at 540-231-1734.

River Farm – Bluebird Trail Update

River Farm meadows showing one of the new boxes – photo Jerry Nissley

Washington’s River Farm, the home of the American Horticulture Society (AHS) has renovated their Bluebird Trail, with assistance from FMN. The Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis), once as common as the robin, saw a drastic decline in population for reasons including loss of habitat, pesticide use, an influx of feral house cats, and the introduction of the House Sparrow and the European Starling.

FMN Susan Farmer (AHS/FMN liaison) called together a team of 8 FMN volunteers to help install and monitor the bluebird boxes at River Farm. Susan set up both on-line and field training for the monitors who are now monitoring the boxes and logging activity every week in teams of two.

Chicks and eggs – Photo FMN Donna Stauffer

This initial season of monitoring has seen success and tragedy. In early April one nest box was recorded to contain five blue eggs. In mid-April, two eggs had hatched with the other three eggs still viable. However, by the first check in May, the box was observed to be empty. Perhaps through vandalism but nothing could be confirmed. Measures to mitigate chances of a reoccurrence have been implemented and hopefully this will not happen again. In any event, the box once again contains bluebird eggs and FMN will continue with due diligence to monitor and report activity.

Empty box – Photo Jerry Nissley

During a recent day of monitoring, Glenda Booth from the Connection newspaper, joined in to journal what has been done at AHS and what is involved with monitoring nest boxes. Coincidentally, Glenda’s visit was on the day the open box was discovered. Her article may be read HERE. Hardcopy newspapers, with photos, may be found at Sherwood Hall library and other Mt Vernon area Fairfax County buildings.

If you are interested in any aspect of this project please contact FMN Susan Farmer [email protected]

Earth Sangha Needs Volunteers in May

Mason District Park                                                                                                                             Earth Sangha Wild Plant Nursery
6621 Columbia Pike, Annandale VA 22003                                                                                   6100 Cloud Drive, Springfield VA 22150

Register to volunteer here.

Native Planting at Mason District Park: 

Saturday, May 18th from 9am to 1pm
Join Earth Sangha for another “Big Day” of native plants, community, good snacks, and volunteering! They’ll take a look at their progress since their last Big Day and continue their work removing invasives and planting natives! Their focus at Mason District Park is restoring the canopy and understory woodies, but they’ll also bring some herbaceous plants. They’ll provide all tools and gloves. Please bring your own water and wear sturdy shoes.

Invasives Removal at Mason District Park:

Friday, May 24th, from 9am to Noon. The invasives don’t stop so neither do they!

Wild Plant Nursery Workdays:

Every Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday from 9am to 1pm. They have lots of repotting to do before Summer hits! Join in and get your hands dirty. It’s a great way to learn about your local native plants and meet new friends.

Stream Monitoring Citizen Science & Training Opportunities, June

Photo: FMN Janet Quinn, Hidden Pond stream monitoring

NoVa Soil & Water Conservation District: Stream Monitoring Citizen Science & Training Opportunities

Horsepen Run Stream Monitoring Workshop

When: Sunday, June 9, 9:00am-12:00pm

Where: Horsepen Run Stream Valley Park, Herndon

This site has undergone a lot of change over the last few years! While it had become more challenging to monitor this site in the past, recent changes to the streambed have brought more riffles to monitor and we’re excited to see how this changes the macroinvertebrates we may find! This is an accessible stream site, which can be reached by wheelchair and/or other assistive tools over a paved path (there is a moderate slope). Learn more and register for this workshop and others here.

 

Wolftrap Creek Stream Monitoring Workshop

When: Thursday, June 13, 9:00am-12:00pm

Where: Wolftrap Creek Stream Valley Park, Vienna

This site features a small, shallow stream which usually has a good number of beetles along a popular paved trail. This is an accessible stream site, which can be reached by wheelchair and/or other assistive tools over a paved path (there is a moderate slope). Learn more and register for this workshop and others here.

 

Pohick Creek Stream Monitoring Workshop

When: Saturday, June 15, 9:00am-12:00pm

Where: Pohick Creek Stream Valley Park, Springfield

Our stream monitoring site on Pohick Creek is located on the cross county trail, popular with runners, dog walkers, and families. This is the largest and deepest stream that we monitor in our public workshops. This is an accessible stream site, which can be reached by wheelchair and/or other assistive tools over a paved path (there may be some uneven spots). Learn more and register for this workshop and others here.

 

Other Training and Stream Monitoring Opportunities

The NoVa Soil & Water Conservation teams are  very excited to contribute their stream data to state and national datasets. If you’d like to see data from all the NVSWCD regional stream monitoring team’s active sites, you can find our organization on the Clean Water Hub.

Clean the Bay Day, June 1st

Saturday, June 1, 2024
9 am-12 pm
Various locations.
More information here.

This short, three-hour annual event has a massive cumulative impact. Since it began in 1989, this Virginia tradition has engaged more than 170,066 volunteers who have removed approximately 7.30 million pounds of debris from more than 8,595 miles of shoreline.

Each year, on the first Saturday of June, thousands of Virginians simultaneously descend on the rivers, streams, beaches, and inland parks of the Chesapeake Bay watershed to remove harmful litter and debris. Clean the Bay Day has been a staple for Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay community since its inception more than three decades ago. A true Virginian tradition, it is an annual opportunity for individuals, families, military installations, businesses, clubs, civic and church groups to give back to their local waterways.

 

Stream Monitoring Citizen Science & Training Opportunities, May

Photo: FMN Janet Quinn, Hidden Pond stream monitoring

*NVSWCD Workshop*
Sugarland Run Stream Monitoring Workshop

When: Thursday, May 2, 3:00-6:00pm
Where: Sugarland Run Stream Valley Park, Herndon/Sterling

This site is located near one of the largest great blue heron rookeries (breeding/nesting areas) in the eastern US. Volunteers often find plenty of newly hatched young crayfish in the spring. This is also the most accessible stream site, which can be easily reached by wheelchair and/or other assistive tools over a paved path. Learn more and register for this workshop and others here.

*NVSWCD Workshop*
Little Difficult Run Stream Monitoring Workshop

When: Saturday, May 11, 1:00-4:00pm
Where: Fred Crabtree Park/Fox Mill Park, Herndon

This small stream is located in a peaceful wooded park a short hike away from the parking area. Little Difficult Run often scores very highly on the macroinvertebrate index because its watershed lies almost completely within the protected parkland. Reaching this site requires hiking through the woods and over uneven terrain. Learn more and register for this workshop and others here.

*NVSWCD Workshop*
Quander Creek/Dyke Marsh Stream Monitoring Workshop

When: Thursday, May 16, 9:00am-1:00pm
Where: Mount Vernon District Park, Alexandria

Volunteers monitor a small tributary of Dyke Marsh twice this spring in partnership with the Friends of Dyke Marsh. This is the District’s only muddy bottom stream, all others use the rocky bottom protocol. You will see a lot of cool crane fly larva and dragonfly larva here! Reaching this site requires walking through the woods and over uneven terrain. Space at this workshop is limited. If you’re interested in joining us, please email Ashley.

*NVSWCD Workshop*
Horsepen Run Stream Monitoring Workshop

When: Thursday, May 23, 3:00-6:00pm
Where: Horsepen Run Stream Valley Park, Herndon

This site has undergone a lot of change over the last few years! While it had become more challenging to monitor this site in the past, recent changes to the streambed have brought more riffles to monitor and we’re excited to see how this changes the macroinvertebrates we may find! This is an accessible stream site, which can be reached by wheelchair and/or other assistive tools over a paved path (there is a moderate slope). Learn more and register for this workshop and others here.

 

More Training and Stream Monitoring Opportunities

The NoVa Soil & Water Conservation teams are  very excited to contribute their stream data to state and national datasets. If you’d like to see data from all the NVSWCD regional stream monitoring team’s active sites, you can find our organization on the Clean Water Hub.

Science Saturday: Box Turtles, May 11th

Image: Courtesy of The Clifton Institute, Box Turtles

Saturday, May 11, 2024
1:00 – 4:00PM

The Clifton Institute
6712 Blantyre Rd
Warrenton, VA 20187

Cost: FREE

Registration is REQUIRED.

In 2022, The Clifton Institute started a research project to study what habitats Box Turtles use at different times of year. This will help inform researchers and other landowners about the best time of year to mow fields and do other land management practices that might disrupt or even kill Box Turtles. On this second installment of Science Saturdays, participants will help get the 2024 season started by looking for turtles that were radio-tagged last year as well as potentially finding new turtles to tag. This is a special opportunity to tag along with the staff researchers and see how field science is done.

Cancellation policy: If you register and can no longer attend this event, please let the Clifton Institute know as soon as possible so that they can open your spot to someone else.

By registering for this event, you are affirming that you have read and agree to the Clifton Institute liability release policy.

Volunteers Needed: Habitat Restoration Project at Occoquan Bay NWR, April 20th

Photo: Courtesy of ASNV, Garlic Mustard

Saturday, April 20, 2024
1:00 PM – 3:00 PM

Occoquan Bay NWR
14050 Dawson Beach Road
Woodbridge, VA, 22191

This program is part of the Stretch Our Parks initiative, in partnership with the staff of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

On Saturday, April 20, help remove invasive garlic mustard from a meadow in the refuge. Volunteers will partner with Refuge staff, Audubon volunteers and neighbors to make more space in the meadow for native grasses that birds love!

Garlic mustard’s roots release chemicals that alter the important underground network of fungi that connect nutrients between native plants, inhibiting the growth of important native species. Luckily it can be easily removed – but there is a lot of it! Learn more about Garlic mustard here.

No experience necessary! The staff will show you how to identify and remove Garlic mustard. Trash bags will be provided. The area may be muddy so please bring rain boots or waterproof shoes, and gardening gloves if you have them.

Meet at the Central Parking Lot, not at the Visitor Information Center lot. Registration recommended but not required, please feel free to bring a friend!