National Public Lands Day, September 23rd

For 30 years, National Public Lands Day has mobilized volunteers of all ages to engage in a celebration of service and stewardship of America’s public lands. The event is the largest single-day national volunteer effort to preserve, restore, improve and enjoy America’s public lands.

Fairfax County Park Authority invites you to be a part of their celebration of National Public Lands Day by taking part in any of a wide selection of service activities to protect the natural, cultural and recreational resources of our treasured park system!

Check out their list of service opportunities by location that day.

Image: Courtesy of Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District

Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District: Soil Your Undies Campaign

Article and Images Courtesy of The Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District

 

Soil Your Undies Campaign

Soil Your Undies Challenge

The Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District is challenging residents all across Fairfax County to bury a pair of cotton underwear as part of a campaign to promote soil health awareness. How does it work? Just bury a pair of cotton underwear and dig it back up after at least 60 days. It’s the quick and dirty way to test the microbial activity in your soil. The more the underwear is deteriorated, the healthier your soil!

Although you can use the Soil Your Undies Challenge to check your soil health at any time, the most microbial activity occurs during the warm summer months, making this an easy and fun addition to your summer break plans!

Soil Your Undies Challenge Steps

Join the Challenge!

Step 1: Look for a place where you want to study the health of the soil. Make sure you are only studying sites on your property or with the permission of the landowner.

Step 2: Bury a pair of white cotton undies (or any white cotton clothing item) 3 inches under the soil’s surface. Be sure to take a “before” photo.

Step 3: Don’t forget to mark your study site with a flag or other easily-identifiable marker!

Step 4: Wait at least 60 days (this is the hard part…)

Step 5: Locate your marked study site and dig up your cotton undies. Be sure to take an “after” photo.

Step 6: How healthy is your soil? Healthier soils have a lot of microbial activity, and the healthy fungi and bacteria in the soil will break down your cotton undies. The more degraded your undies are, the more microbial activity you have in your soil, and the healthier your soil is.

Step 7: Share the results of your citizen science project! Email your photos and any notes you may have to [email protected], and share your results with us on Facebook @nvswcd and on Instagram @NorthernVirginiaSWCD. We’ll be sharing our results with you, too!

About Soil Health

Healthy soil contains billions of microbes that consume organic material (in this case, cotton underwear). In fact, one teaspoon of healthy soil contains more microbes than there are people on the planet. In addition to chowing down on organic matter like cotton, they also help soil resist erosion, cycle nutrients, and store water.

As world population and food production demands rise, keeping our soil healthy and productive is of paramount importance. By farming using soil health principles and systems that include no-till, cover cropping, and diverse rotations, more and more farmers are increasing their soil’s organic matter and improving microbial activity. As a result, farmers are sequestering more carbon, increasing water infiltration, improving wildlife and pollinator habitat—all while harvesting better profits and often better yields. In backyards, healthy soil can promote the growth of a healthy lawn and landscaping, as well as help water infiltrate and prevent erosion.

You can improve soil health by following these four steps:

  1. Avoid soil disturbance wherever and whenever possible.
  2. Maximize soil cover with living plants and residue.
  3. Maximize biodiversity by growing a variety of plants and managed integration of livestock.
  4. Maximize living roots in the soil throughout the year.

Plan Pollination

Cover photo Jerry Nissley

The pollinator garden redux at the Potomac River Occoquan National Wildlife Refuge is certainly not a complete success story yet but the story behind how it got started and kicked off is a complement to success.

FMN table at Eagle Festival (Photo Jerry Nissley)

Let’s rewind … FMN set up an outreach table the Mason Neck Eagle Festival a few months ago. Near day’s end Gabby Youngken, Visitor Services Specialist at Potomac River NWRC, stopped by to see if FMN could advise them on how to refurbish their on-site pollinator garden. As circumstances would have it Sarah Mayhew had recently established an FMN Chapter Project (CP179) at Mason Neck to do their gardens. With FMN Steph Johnson as technical advisor, Sarah and other FMN members, along with Friends of Mason Neck, developed a phased work and maintenance plan/schedule and were in the midst of working it.

‘Before’ picture (Photo Jerry Nissley)

Fast forward … Because everything was documented the Mason Neck plan was easily extensible to NRWC. Surely since NWRC is directly across Belmont Bay from MNSP it stands to reason they would have the same weeds. Right? FMN sent MNSP plans to NWRC for review; followed up with a site visit to NRWC; met the staff; toured the property; and then tailored the plan for them. We then had to gather a volunteer base to execute the plan. FMN contacted Merrimac Chapter, since they operate in Prince William county. FMN has a frequent volunteer in the NWRC visitor center – he was in. Master Gardeners was interested in helping. NWRC has a few volunteer groups they tap and of course several hard working interns from the American

‘After’ picture. Invasives destined for proper disposal. Phase one done. (Photo Jerry Nissley)

Conservation Experience, EPIC Program. With the team set, Gabby picked 8 Aug to kickoff the project. Many hands make short work! Phase one done!

The team was able to save several native plants for reuse, turn the soil to remove roots, and then cover with black plastic (to smother roots) until the scheduled fall planting.

So the ‘success’ to date is really credit to how the group came together as a result of outreach to cooperate and collaborate on a project that benefits our park systems. Stay tuned for more on this effort when it completes.

Bonus factoid: The Potomac River National Wildlife Refuge Complex is a complex of three National Wildlife Refuges in Virginia located along the Potomac River.
The three refuges are:
* Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge
* Featherstone National Wildlife Refuge
* Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge
The first two are administered jointly for planning, while the third is currently treated separately.
The pollinator garden is at the Occoquan Bay site.

Parks for Pollinators Bioblitz, September 9th

Image Courtesy of the Clifton Institute

Saturday, September 9, 2023
10:00 AM
 – 1:00 PM

Cost: Free!

Riverside Preserve
8150 Leeds Manor Rd
Marshall, VA 20115

Registration is required!

Come along while the Clifton Institute partners with the Fauquier County Department of Parks and Recreation to participate in the Parks for Pollinators Bioblitz! 

Participants will explore Riverside Preserve with the goal of documenting as many different kinds of butterflies and bees as possible! This event is part of the Fauquier County Bee City USA initiative to learn about and conserve pollinators in the county. All levels of naturalists are welcome!

Please note that this program meets at Riverside Preserve, NOT at the Clifton Institute. The address is 8150 Leeds Manor Rd, Marshall, VA 20115. Participants will meet by the environmental education shed / port-a-potty. You can park on the lawn near the building, or you can drive all the way to the lot at the bottom of the hill and walk back up.

Age: Adults and children accompanied by an adult.

Weather policy: Rain or shine except in case of extreme weather (e.g. thunderstorm or significant snow fall). Please check your email for updates on the morning of the event.

COVID-19 Information: This program will be entirely outdoors (an outside porta potty will be available). Please do not attend if you are experiencing or have experienced in the last two weeks any symptoms associated with COVID-19 (fever, cough, shortness of breath, etc.).

Registration is REQUIRED.

Cancellation policy: If you register and can no longer attend this event, please let organizers 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.

Report Your Plantings: Every Tree Counts!

Photo: Courtesy of Plant NOVA Trees

From Plant NOVA Trees:

Every tree counts! And counting every tree also helps show whether Northern Virginia is meeting its environmental goals. The Virginia Department of Forestry is counting planted trees to see if Virginia is meeting its stormwater goals to protect the bay, and the Department of Environmental Quality is asking Northern Virginia to plant 600,000 trees by 2025.

Birch leaf_edited.png                  Birch leaf_edited.png

Since most available land in Northern Virginia is private property, this goal will not be met without planting thousands of new trees in our own neighborhoods. Help keep track of the progress and build momentum by reporting your tree planting. The tree planting reports are forwarded and added to the Virginia Department of Forestry’s My Trees Count map, which is updated a couple times a year.

As of 7/20/2023:  12,677 trees and shrubs reported!

Click to report your tree and shrub plantings

 

Fairfax Master Naturalist Chapter Project Update

Photo credits:  Overgrown Woodland Edge Garden picture by Paul Van Rjin, Friends of Mason Neck State Park

FMN Chapter Project Update by Sarah Mayhew

The pollinator gardens at Mason Neck State Park remain a work in progress.  Some of them are looking beautiful and others are still looking neglected.  That is because we are responsible for reclaiming 6 different pollinator garden beds.  Five of them are looking good.  The sixth one is the largest — the Woodland Edge Garden is 56 ft x 52 ft or almost 3000 sq. ft.  Our two July workdays focused on getting 1/3 of the Woodland Edge Garden cleared for “smothering” the Japanese Honeysuckle under black plastic.  Here are the before, during, and after pictures of that work:

Photo credits Overgrown Woodland Edge Garden by Paul Van Rjin, Friends of Mason Neck State Park

 

Photo credits Smothering Woodland Edge Garden by Paul Van Rjin, Friends of Mason Neck State Park

 

Photo by Sarah Mayhew, FMN Gerald Rob Warren with weed whacker Mason Neck Chapter Project

 

Photo by Sarah Mayhew, FMN Chapter Project mowed Woodland Edge Garden

As you can see, there was a lot growing and then we cut it all down to ground level.  The next workday our volunteers laid down the black plastic, creatively repurposing the chicken wire we removed from the fence to help weigh down the plastic!

Our August workdays will be on Tuesday, August 8, and Saturday, August 12, 2023.  We have moved the start time to 9:00 a.m. to avoid the heat.  Our goal for these two days is to remove a large multiflora rose bush and selectively weed some invasives from the remaining two thirds of the garden that is in much better shape.  We will be identifying many native plants as we go, so you will have a good opportunity to learn new plants, too.  You can sign up to help us here:  Mason Neck State Park Pollinator Garden

 

There is one more update to the Chapter Project schedule.  We discovered in July that our “second Saturday” schedule conflicts with the Green Breakfasts.  We are moving our workdays to a “third Saturday and third Tuesday” schedule beginning in September.  We don’t want to deprive any member of the Continuing Education opportunity the Green Breakfasts provide.  Keep learning!

Another Great Volunteer Activity: Native Pollinator Garden at the Potomac River National Wildlife Refuge Center

Photo: COURTESY OF Potomac National Wildlife Refuge Center, Overgrown Pollinator Gardens

Tuesday, August 8, 2023
9:00AM
Visitor Services Specialist at Potomac River NWR
14050 Dawson Beach Rd.C
Woodbridge, VA 22191

 

 

Another opportunity to excel has risen up before us – literally! The existing native pollinator garden at the Potomac River National Wildlife Refuge Center has become overgrown and needs rejuvenating.

The initial workday has been scheduled for August 8 at 9AM

To signup, please click on this link: https://forms.office.com/g/fcHpHmQtAp.

Plan of attack is to pull/dig up all vegetation, enhance the soil by working in compost, then cover until an appropriate planting time in the fall (Sept/Oct), and finally remove debris to their dumpster.

The garden is relatively small (two 8×10 raised bed rectangles conjoined into an ‘L’ shape), so this initial effort should not take more than an easy 2 hours, tops.

Merrimac Farm chapter has been contacted, so this may be a chance to meet some neighboring VMNs, as well as, potential volunteers from Master Gardeners, Mom’s Kitchen, and NWRC Staff. 

Tools will be provided but you may bring your own favorites and your own work gloves.

So please come on down, meet some new people, check out a new place along the Potomac River, and dig some weeds!

FMN volunteers may claim service hours using, S543: Stewardship and Outreach – – FMN

By the way, this project developed as a direct result of NWRC engaging the FMN booth at the Eagle Festival and seeing the work done by volunteers at Mason Neck State Park. So kudos to all the volunteers who made a difference with the gardens at MNSP.

Coordinator and location for this event is:

Gabriela (Gabby) Youngken
Visitor Services Specialist at Potomac River NWRC
14050 Dawson Beach Rd.
Woodbridge, VA 22191
Mobile: (571)866-1262
Office: (703)490-4979 Ext. 52585

Thank you!

Join The NABA Butterfly Count, September 10th

 

Photo By David Illig, Variegated Fritillary (NABA Butterfly Count)

Click here for registration information.

The Butterfly Count is an ongoing program of the North American Butterfly Association (NABA) to census the butterflies of North America (United States, Canada and partially Mexico) and to publish the results. Volunteer participants are assigned a count area with a 15-mile diameter. The volunteers conduct a one-day census of all butterflies sighted within that circle.

Volunteers are encouraged to attend the butterfly identification webinar on Sept 5 (FREE for ASNV Members; $10 for non-members).

Volunteers of all experience levels are welcome! Every team will be led by an expert. Participants are encouraged to stay with their team for the duration of the event. A tally rally will take place at 4:00 PM at Belle Haven Pizzeria at 1401 Belle Haven Road, Alexandria, Virginia 22307.

This count is organized by Larry Meade. Deadline to register is Thursday, September 7 at 9:00 PM so you can be assigned to a team on Friday. Teams will each meet at their designated count locations.

Larry Meade is president of the Northern Virginia Bird Club and a member of the ASNV Adult Education Committee. He is a frequent bird walk leader and has been involved in numerous Audubon Christmas Bird Counts and NABA Butterfly Counts. He is the compiler of the Alexandria Circle NABA Butterfly Count.

NASA Moon Trees Quest: A Citizen Science Project Collaboration with the USDA Forest Service

Image Courtesy of the Globe Program NASA Moon Trees Quest

Did you know that in 1971 the Apollo 14 spacecraft carried seeds of several trees into space? Well those seeds of species such as sycamore, loblolly pine, coast redwood, sweetgum, and Douglas-firs were planted all over the United States. The NASA Moon Trees Quest is a citizen science project collaboration with the USDA Forest Service to collect data on the accessible remaining trees as well as examples of the species around the country. Using their free GLOBE Observer app, you can join the quest and help gather data about the trees near you. Click here to learn how to participate, accurately measure trees and submit your tree observations.

FMN’s to log volunteer hours for this activity there is an existing CS code of : C700: GLOBE Observer — NASA

Great News to Share About the FMN Chapter Project at Mason Neck State Park – Volunteers Are Still Needed

FMN Chapter Project update and photo from Sarah Mayhew, President, Fairfax Chapter Virginia Master Naturalists:

After three very busy workdays, the Mason Neck State Park Pollinator Gardens are looking great. Fairfax Master Naturalists, working with volunteers from the Friends of Mason Neck State Park, have weeded four flower beds around the Visitors Center building. They installed 50 plants into rock hard ground. Finally, the beds were aerated with garden forks and top dressed with a 5-inch-thick layer of compost.  June 17th marked the last scheduled workday. The volunteers cleaned out two of the rain barrels and sat up soaker hoses in two of the beds in front of the Visitors Center. A third rain barrel was examined to figure out why it wasn’t holding water.  Now, it is time to switch to a “maintenance” schedule. The project will need volunteer support on the second Saturday and the second Tuesday of each month.

The project also has a focus on the Meadow or Circle Garden, which is a fenced area in the middle of the road when you drive up to the Visitors’ Center. This garden has well-established sun-loving flowers, shrubs and trees. A volunteer from the Friends has been spreading arborist wood chips in this area for several weeks. There is a need to spread some compost around the established plants to give them a boost as well as a need to help the Friends finish spreading the wood chips.

Helpful tools for this work include shovels, pitch forks, and rakes to spread the compost and wood chips. If you have a wheelbarrow or cart, please bring it to carry the compost and wood chips short distances to the Meadow Garden. Seeing a finished flower bed at the end of two hours brings great satisfaction. PLEASE, come join us, and become a part of this wonderful FMN Chapter Project!  Sign up is easy; just click this link:  https://www.signupgenius.com/go/20f0c4ba9a72fa6fc1-mason#/

In addition to the regular workdays, volunteers from both organizations have watered every other day to keep the seedlings alive (there are slots on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and a weekend day). This is an easy job, as the hose is right in front of the Visitors’ Center and reaches to all the beds. The Friends have done most of the watering so far. FMN volunteers are needed to help support watering the beds during weeks in July and August. It would be best to have someone claim a slot for a month, this would give the volunteer time to become familiar with the gardens. However, feel free to volunteers as your schedule will allow.  Please contact Sarah Mayhew at [email protected] to volunteer for watering. When you volunteer you get free entrance into the park and can spend the rest of the day kayaking, hiking and birding. Or you can just sit, listen to the birds sing, read a good book, and admire the view across Belmont Bay. The park even provides rocking chairs!