Six FMN Volunteers Help Riverbend Park Thrive

Photos and article courtesy of Valeria Espinoza, Volunteer Coordinator

Marilyn Kupetz

Marilyn Kupetz and wood turtle Harriet

Marilyn has volunteered at Riverbend for almost two years now. She serves as an Animal Caretaker and Roving Naturalist. Marilyn plays a key role as part of our Animal Care team. From enrichment to health monitoring, Marilyn helps us make sure the animals are happy and healthy. She is a volunteer who has gone above and beyond her role. She has also volunteered at cleanups and other park events. This year, she committed to assisting with park monitoring as a Roving Naturalist when we could only offer outdoor volunteer opportunities. Now she continues to fulfill both roles every week. Her support this year has made a remarkable difference to our park!

Toni Oliveira (center in feature photo)
Toni is someone who has gone above and beyond to carry our mission to protect and preserve our parks. Toni has volunteered with us for over a year now and has participated in several projects both at Riverbend and Scott’s Run. She has helped with park monitoring, trail maintenance projects, and watershed cleanup events. This year she adopted a spot at Riverbend where she restored a section of the park by removing invasives and seeding native grasses/plants. She has also helped staff with park monitoring at Scott’s Run and has become a key player in our restoration efforts by serving as a Lead Volunteer at our weekend cleanups. Toni’s commitment, positivity, and determination have made a huge difference at both parks!

Tom Blackburn

Tom Blackburn
Tom has volunteered at Riverbend for over 5 years! He has supported our interpretive programs, festivals, and park cleanups. This year Tom supported our trail monitoring efforts as a Roving Naturalist and once programs opened up again this fall, he assisted and lead several outdoor, socially-distanced programs. Tom has led several programs such as our Native Americans of Virginia fieldtrip, nature/ecology fieldtrips, and our Halloween Mystery at the Cabin program (a new program this year). Tom made this event very special for trick or treaters by portraying the character of a bootlegger’s ghost! During the shutdown, Tom served as a guest speaker at the Wildlife Explorers camp. He provided insight and knowledge on birds to our campers who truly enjoyed their experience.

Nancy Yinger

Nancy Yinger

Nancy has participated in the wildflower survey for over a year now. Last year, she also partook in the Caterpillars Count! Arthropod Survey. This year, she has continued surveying the park’s wildflowers while supporting our trail monitoring efforts. She has also “adopted” a pollinator garden by the Visitor Center. With her assistance, we plan to re-design this garden to better support Riverbend’s pollinators and educate visitors about native plants & flowers that support them. We are very lucky to have Nancy as part of our volunteer community.

Kris Lansing

Kris continued to monitor trails and survey the birds of Riverbend despite the cancelation of the birding walks during the pandemic. Thanks to her commitment we were able to stay up to date with trail conditions and continued to receive a snapshot of bird sightings this year. 

Robin Duska

Due to her regular volunteerism at Riverbend, Robin has been instrumental in bird surveying efforts.

Introduction to Statistics Virtual Program, December 3rd

Thursday, December 3, 2020
6:30 – 8:30 pm; $10 per person, $8 for Friends of Clifton
Register here.
Presented by Clifton Institute

This talk is intended for community/citizen scientists who help collect data but may not have the knowledge they need to analyze it, for nature journalers who record numbers in their journals but aren’t sure what to do with them, and anyone else who is curious about how scientists use data to understand the world. Managing Director Eleanor Harris, Ph.D., will give a brief introduction to the statistical methods biologists and other scientists use to analyze data. Eleanor will use interesting examples relevant to the ecology of northern Virginia throughout the talk. No mathematics beyond high-school level will be required. By the end of the talk you’ll understand what a p-value is and what it means when they say the phrase “statistically significant” on the news. And she hopes you’ll be inspired to try analyzing some data of your own.

You can also watch a sneak peek of the program.

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!

Virginia Herpetological Society Fall Symposium, November 21st

Saturday, November 21, 2020
9 am – 5:30 pm
On FaceBook Live
Public welcome!

Join the Virginia Herpetological Society on Facebook Live for presentations by speakers from Virginia as well as internationally-renowed herpetologists. Topics include “Snakes of Costa Rica,” “History of Antivenom in the United States,” and “Virginia Herpetology: 2020 in review.”

Full schedule and speakers’ bios here.

Recovering Native Plant Diversity in the Piedmont, webinar, November 15th

Photo courtesy of VNPS

Sunday, November 15, 2020
1 pm
Register here.

Join the Virginia Native Plant Society (Potowmack Chapter) for their annual meeting. The speaker at the event will be Dr. Andrea Weeks of George Mason University. She will be discussing her research project, Recovering Native Plant Diversity in the Piedmont, that aims to initiate a long-term floristic study of Gilbert’s Corner in Loudoun County to support ongoing habitat restoration at the site – and to educate the public about the importance of conserving local biodiversity. Dr. Weeks is the recipient of the inaugural Mary Pockman Memorial Research Grant from VNPS.

Dr. Andrea Weeks

Dr. Weeks’ research focuses on the systematics, historical biogeography, and evolution of flowering plants, particularly those within the frankincense and myrrh family, Burseraceae. Dr. Weeks is also director of the Ted R. Bradley Herbarium at George Mason University and is engaged in making this valuable resource of information about the Virginia flora available to the public via the internet.

More on Dr. Weeks’ research here.

Rendering Accessibility to Hidden Oaks

Hidden Oaks Nature Center (HONC), which is set within Annandale Community Park, has never had assigned maintenance nor natural resource management staff. With the reduction of Area 2 maintenance personnel, Hidden Oaks receives only limited support with trash and snow removal, plus emergency tree-fall cleanup. HONC is nestled within 52 acres of the community park and includes 2 miles of wooded trails. Yet no trail or garden maintenance is provided by the county. Fortunately, Hidden Oaks has Bob Dinse.

In nominating Bob for a 2020 Elly Doyle Park Service Award, park Managers Michael McDonald and Suzanne Holland praised Bob’s work at Hidden Oaks and enumerated many of his volunteer accomplishments. They wrote, “Bob demonstrates the responsible use and protection of natural resources through his conservation efforts. In addition to routine upkeep of existing trails, Bob alleviates erosion and stream bank deterioration, instructs and leads hundreds of seventh graders annually in hands-on trail stewardship activities, creates and enhances gardens, recruits and leads FMN volunteers for onsite projects, donates hundreds of dollars of native ferns and birdseed and, in doing so, effectively serves as a FCPA ambassador.”

Bob Dinse At Hidden Oaks Nature Center

Bob has been serving at HONC for approximately 11 years. He previously received an Elly Doyle Park Service award in 2014; and a Presidential Silver Service Award presented by AmeriCorps in large part for his over 350 hours of service and for preparation of Hidden Oak’s 50th anniversary in 2019.

After speaking with Bob it is readily apparent that his real reward is in caring for Hidden Oaks. His primary FMN service hours are at Hidden Oaks but he does contribute at other parks as well. At Hidden Oaks he not only maintains the trails, native plant gardens, and maintains stream crossings he is also the first friendly face most morning visitors see.

I recently met with Bob at HONC and he graciously took time from his day to give me an overview of his park maintenance responsibilities. His weekly plan for taking care of the park starts out at 6:00 in the morning to walk and clear, as required, over 2 miles of trails of fallen trees and hazardous debris to ensure trail user safety. He then executes his maintenance plan that is mercurial at best based on changing priorities. He always breaks around mid-day to meet with park staff and present his boots-on-the-ground report. I find it impressive that Bob is able to apply a variety of learned and innovative skills at the park. He has planted native plant gardens, created signage for trails, was instrumental in building fair-weather crossings on stream trails to repair flood damage, and enhanced the recently added ADA (American Disabilities Act) accessible path with ferns gardens and by repurposing deadfall logs as boundaries for the gardens and trail.

In addition to maintenance activities, Bob takes time to interact in community outreach. At various times, he leads interpretive programs for school groups, helps with Eagle Scout programs, and even collaborates with neighbor parks. For example, he recently cut, painted, and installed sixteen sign posts to expand an Eagle Scout interpretive trail project identifying animal tracks. Over time, he has built several wood duck nesting boxes in or near Holmes Run Stream as it flows into Roundtree Park.

Bob certainly leads and serves by example and should be congratulated for his 2020 Elly Doyle Award. Given his spirit of volunteerism it is not unexpected that for holidays he and his wife regularly lead Sierra Club volunteer mission trips overseas. In establishing the Sierra Club, John Muir wrote that he wanted to, “Explore, enjoy, and render assessable the mountains of the Pacific Coast …”. Please join FMN in thanking Bob for continuing Muir’s mission of conservation as he “renders accessible” the trails and grounds of Hidden Oaks.

Links:

Hidden Oaks nature Center is actively looking for immediate and long-term help with nature programs. If you are able to help please contact Kim Young, kim.young@fairfaxcounty.gov

Friends of Mason Neck Swanfall: All About Foxes, December 6th

Photo from Friends of Mason Neck State Park

Sunday, December 6, 2020
2 pm
Webinar
$5 per family
Register here.

Swanfall, the Friends of Mason Neck State Park‘s annual holiday celebration that traditionally is held at the Jammes House in the Park, will be held online. Erin Thady, a Wildlife Biologist with Fairfax County, will entertain and inform with a presentation about the secretive lives of foxes.

Northern Virginia is home to a diverse assemblage of mammals that cohabit our suburban communities. Foxes are among the mammals that have adapted to an increasingly urbanized landscape and have learned how to successfully coexist alongside humans. Although foxes can be elusive, they are often commonly observed throughout our communities.

Erin will discuss the natural histories of red foxes and gray foxes and their unique adaptations for survival in a dynamic landscape. She will also discuss fox characteristics and identification tips, diet and habitat preferences, population dynamics, and ways that humans successfully coexist with foxes.

Virtual Green Breakfast: Purple Martin Initiative, webinar November 14th

Photo from Purple Martin Initiative

Saturday, November 14, 2020
9-10:30 am

Grab the breakfast of your choice and pull up your comfy chair to your computer to hear from Michael Bishop, who founded the Initiative in the mid-2010s to build awareness of these feather friends. Since then, he has worked to promote the beauty and benefits of these important birds and helped many “landlords” throughout the region to establish nesting locations. The Fairfax County Park Authority is recognizing his efforts at Twin Lakes Golf Course in Clifton, along with those of the Bluebird and Honeybees Societies with an Elly Doyle award on November 20. More Meeting Details.

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.

Naturally Latinos Conference, December 2nd-4th

Wednesday, December 2 – Friday, December 4, 2020

Experience thought-provoking presentations by diverse regional and national environmental experts.

Join the Audubon Naturalist Society and their partners and become inspired to use the many strategies and tactics you will learn to transform your local community. You will have the opportunity to virtually and interactively network with leading nature professionals.

To see the 2020 Naturally Latinos Conference Agenda & Schedule, click here.

Register for the Conference Now!