Wine to Water Filter Build: Create A Meaningful Experience for Your Family and Community

Conservation, community service, hands-on environmental engineering, and social justice intersect in the work of Wine to Water, a North Carolina-based 501 (c) (3) nonprofit whose mission is to support life and dignity through the power of clean water.

The organization enables many ways to participate, one of which is Filter Build, a guided experience to build small, portable water filters that the organization distributes to communities in the U.S., Colombia, The Dominican Republic, Nepal, Tanzania, and elsewhere. Here is a copy of their 2018-2019 Annual Report, which presents the results of their work in both quantitative and human terms.

Do Fairfax County residents need these filters themselves? Nope.

Can Fairfax County residents and Master Naturalists host virtual events to actually build them for communities that do? You bet.

Might we, our children and grandchildren, and our neighbors learn about some of the engineering that goes into making water potable? Yup, that, too.

Learn one, do one, teach one?

Start here–with a video by founder Doc Hendley.

2020 Christmas Bird Counts and Alternatives

Photo of Eastern Towhee by Bob Howdesell, CBC

Central Loudoun Christmas Bird Count
When: Monday, December 28, 2020
Join Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy as they participate in the National Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count. The count circle has a 15-mile diameter and covers 177 square miles of Loudoun’s countryside: north to Waterford, south to Aldie, east to Ashburn, and west to Purcellville. LWC will not be holding an in-person Tally Rally this year but may do something virtual. If you are interested in participating for just a couple of hours or the entire day, sign up here.

Reston Association’s Winter Bird Count
When: Saturday, January 2, 2021 7 am – 12 pm
Half-day annual bird count throughout Reston natural areas. Meet local bird experts, obtain tips on identification, and help with collecting vital information about our feathered friends. Register using code 106201205 or call (703) 476-9689, ext. 5, by December 30th.

Audubon Society of Northern Virginia plans to hold the 39th Manassas-Bull Run Christmas Bird Count on Sunday, December 20. This year’s count will be different, in light of the pandemic.

Instead of recruiting new participants, they will be limiting the count to last year’s participants who want to do the count under conditions that conform with pandemic restrictions, including wearing masks, maintaining social distance and carpooling with household members only. Instead of their count day lunch gathering, they will have an online “tally rally” in the evening of count day. If you participated in last year’s count, you should have received a message about participating this year.

If you were looking forward to volunteering for the first time for this CBC, they hope you’ll understand and volunteer next year. BUT there are still ways you can join the spirit of the count! Consider these possibilities or invent your own:

Join the Free Zoom CBC Celebration and Summary:

Learn about highlights of this year’s CBC and celebrate with the CBC community. Register here.

Do Your Own Count:

Walk through your neighborhood or visit a park or refuge to gather observations and report your personal findings via eBird. (see below) Be sure to practice social distancing and wear a mask if within six feet of others!

Learn More About Useful Identification and Database Applications:

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a suite of useful tools and sites related to birding.

Explore many aspects of birding (species, hotspots, regions, etc.) at ebird.org.

You can also take a free course on their eBird smartphone application that allows you to document the species you see or hear. https://academy.allaboutbirds.org/product/ebird-essentials/

Take a free course on using another great smartphone app, Merlin Bird ID and other tools at https://merlin.allaboutbirds.org

Play learning games about birds at https://academy.allaboutbirds.org/learning-games/

Project FeederWatch:

Count birds that visit your feeders from the safety of your home or yard. Submit data from your sightings to contribute to winter and early bird counts. The 2020–21 FeederWatch season began on November 14 and ends on April 9. You can still sign up, and the last day to start a two-day count is April 8. Details are at https://feederwatch.org.

CBC Feeder Watchers:

If you reside in the Manassas-Bull Run CBC circle, you can count your feeder birds on December 20 and send a report that can be included in the official count. Contact the CBC compiler Phil Silas, epsdcva@aol.com for details.

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.