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

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 here:

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. 

Ecological Landscaping with Charles Smith, September 24th and October 1st

Curleyheads photo by Rusty Moran

Virtual, register here
Thursdays, 24 September and 1 October 2020
$25 fee

Are you ready to put the Audubon at Home principles to action? Then this workshop is for you! In this 2-session workshop, participants will learn to apply ecological principles to creating backyard habitats and restoring ecosystems. Focus will be on looking not only at the needs of animals, but working with nature and using local ecosystems as examples for selecting species, building soils and providing natural structure.Charles Smith is a native of Arlington, VA, and a naturalist and ecologist with 25 years of experience working primarily in natural resource management, including the Fairfax County Park Authority and five years with Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority. He is currently branch chief of Fairfax County Stormwater Planning Division, focusing on stream and natural area restoration.

Invasive Management/Habitat Restoration at Lake Accotink Park

Lake Accotink Park
7500 Accotink Park Rd., Springfield VA
Saturdays in September 2020
8 – 10 am

The Lake Accotink Park Invasive Management group, which has made tremendous gains against non-native invasive plants at a location at Lake Accotink Park, started having invasive management work days again. They would love to have you join them whether you’re experienced or just beginning. They are cutting back invasive Porcelain Berry, digging up the very pervasive Porcelain Berry roots, removing Japanese Stilt Grass, Oriental Bittersweet, Multiflora Rose: the usual suspects.
For a while they couldn’t have any invasive work days, but then they went to having ten volunteers at a site. Now they can have up to fifty volunteers, so they’ve been making a lot of progress working within current safety protocols.
To volunteer, contact Beverly Rivera (571) 314-2107.

Social Science Perspectives on Ethno-racial Diversity in Wildlife Viewing and Conservation webinar recording

A closed-captioned recording of the webinar is now available online, in case you missed it, want to watch again, or would like to share it with others. You can find the webinar here:

In this webinar, Jonathan Rutter (Virginia Tech) shares some insights from the social sciences on ethno-racial diversity in wildlife viewing and conservation. At the center of the webinar is a study on the relationship between race, ethnicity, and birdwatcher specialization based on a large, national survey of eBird users. Jonathan also shares an overview of the importance of ethno-racial diversity in wildlife conservation, management, and recreation; barriers to minority participation in outdoor recreation; and best practices for promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in wildlife viewing, based on literature review conducted for this project. A short panel discussion includes Dr. Ashley Dayer (Virginia Tech) and Dr. Jennie Duberstein (Sonoran Joint Venture), who are co-authors on the study.

This webinar emerged principally in response to requests from the conservation community for broader translation of findings from the birdwatcher survey and in an effort to distill and share social science that can guide conservation organizations as they work to address issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. It is in no way intended to replicate or replace the rich and important conversations about the lived experiences of people of color in birding, science, and conservation that have been occurring for some time, and increasingly over the summer of 2020. We acknowledge that the racial composition of speakers in this webinar is more reflective of our existing conservation community than the community we want to build, and we look forward to opportunities to highlight more diverse voices and perspectives in subsequent webinars and resources.

This webinar was co-hosted by the Human Dimensions Subcommittee of the North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI) and the Wildlife Viewing and Nature Tourism Working Group of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA).

A list of the references used in the presentation and some other recommended reading can be found as an attachment in the webinar link.

Clifton Institute Seeks Land Management Outreach Associate and Communications Assistant

Clifton Institute
6712 Blantyre Road
Warrenton VA 20187

Clifton Institute is looking for a full-time Land Management Outreach Associate to educate landowners on best practices for natural habitat management in northern Virginia, to liaise with partner organizations to improve management of native grasslands, and to restore and maintain the Clifton Institute property for the benefit of declining native species. They are also looking for a part-time Communications Assistant to communicate with the public about our education, restoration, and research programs. You can learn more at Please spread the word to anyone you think might be interested!

Calling all Filmmakers to the Virginia Environmental Film Contest, deadline December 31st

Richmond, VA – The 11TH annual Richmond Virginia Environmental Film Festival (RVAEFF) is announcing the 2021 Virginia Environmental Film Contest.

The contest is open to Virginia residents with films based on environmental topics pertaining to Virginia. Films of all formats and genres will be considered. A juried panel will select the winning films and prize money will be awarded to the film producers. Winning entries will be announced January 15th, 2021 on our web site, and through a press release.

$1,000 Grand Prize
$500 First Prize
$100 Best Cinematography
$100 Best Short Film
$100 Honorable Mentions (two)

All films are to be submitted August 15th through December 31st, 2020 to When at this site, click the Virginia Environmental Film Contest button and you will be taken to web’s page. Film Freeway, is a web site for filmmakers to submit their films to hundreds of film festivals. Once on this site, filmmakers will find full details regarding contest rules, deadlines and how to submit their film.

The Richmond Virginia Environmental Film Festival was founded in 2011 and has been a great addition to the Richmond culture. With over 1,500 people attending last year’s festival, we know what the power of these films can do to inspire positive changes in ourselves and our communities.

The film festival is scheduled for February 12th through the 28th, 2021. Award winning entries and other submitted films will be shown at various venues in Richmond and surrounding areas and/or streamed online. The specific venues and platforms for the 2021 festival will be announced later this year and will comply with all state and local Covid-19 guidelines.

Admission to the Festival is free and open to the public due to generous community sponsors. More information on the Festival can be found at

Questions? Contact: Jean Masters

Learn Something New with ANS Naturalist Hour

Mason Neck photo by Jerry Nissley

One of Capital Nature’s favorite providers of virtual nature programming in the region is the Audubon Naturalist Society (ANS). Through its Naturalist Hour series, ANS hosts two to three expert naturalists each week to explore fascinating topics such as urban foraging, birds, caterpillars, climate change, botanical folklore, fungi, crickets, nature journaling and the list goes on.

Learn from entomologist Mike Raupp, for example, that 1.5 million periodical cicadas will emerge per acre next Spring! Mycologist and environmental educator Serenella Linares has taught us about the proper way to photograph mushrooms for identification. Wildlife education and outreach specialist Kerry Wixted has elucidated how various animal species mate in her session: “Wild Sex: How Nature Does It.” Stay tuned for details about another ANS Naturalist Hour from our team on October 27th, “Community Science with Capital Nature.”

If you have any nature-related expertise that you’d like to share with the community, contact for possible consideration for Naturalist Hour. 

Invasive Water Chestnut Presentation, by Dr. Nancy Rybicki

Photo by N. Rybicki

Posted with permission of the U. S. Geological Survey (USGS)

At the virtual Fairfax Master Naturalists Quarterly Chapter Meeting in May, Dr. Nancy Rybicki introduced us to a recently discovered non-native, invasive water chestnut species that is overrunning lakes and ponds in Fairfax County. She is seeking help organizing mechanisms to locate and eradicate this culprit before it becomes widespread.

Her presentation may be found here.

Fairfax Master Naturalists receive one hour of continuing education credit for reading the presentation if they missed it in person.

As an added bonus, there is a recent article in Chesapeake Bay Magazine about this water chestnut problem. 

Virginia Bioblitz 2020, September 26th

When: Saturday, 26 September 2020. Virtual Kickoff event at 9:00am (check website for Zoom link)
Where: Anywhere in Virginia
What: Use iNaturalist to find as many species as you can for at least 30 minutes
You can find more information and register at the Virginia BioBlitz website.
Please spread the word to your family, friends, students and neighbors (see publicity flyer). Help record many species in our beautiful state.

The Virginia Academy of Science (VAS) is organizing a Statewide BioBlitz, Virginia BioBlitz 2020, to promote exploration, discovery, citizen science, and conservation. Join them to survey the biodiversity in every part of the Commonwealth. This is a virtual event facilitated through iNaturalist, so, you can join from home or anywhere else in Virginia! This event is open to anyone willing to spend some time outdoors, explore biodiversity and learn more about species living around you. All it requires is registering online, downloading the iNaturalist App into your smart phone, joining the Virginia Bioblitz iNaturalist project, and reporting species around you! You can also participate without a smart phone just using the iNaturalist website, so long as you have a way to take and upload digital photos.

If you have any questions, please contact the organizers at the Virginia Academy of Science. This event is not organized by the Virginia Master Naturalist program.

Fairfax Master Naturalists, obtain service hour credit in the catalog under: C001: Virginia Bioblitz Days.

Making Friends with the Hummingbirds

Article by Margaret Fisher, Plant NOVA Natives

Fall is a great time to work on the guest list for next year’s garden party. Hummingbirds make some of the best guests of all, or to put it more accurately, we can make ourselves better guests of them by providing what they need around their homes, otherwise known as our yards. Our local Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are migratory, departing Virginia in September for Central America and returning to the place they were born in mid-April. It will not surprise anyone to know that what they need when they arrive back is not sugar water but an intact ecosystem that provides food and shelter for them and their offspring.

It is well known and indeed true that hummingbirds are attracted to bright colors, especially red, so for viewing opportunities, do plant Eastern Red Columbine and Coral Honeysuckle for spring blooms, Scarlet Beebalm for early summer and Cardinal Flower for late summer. It is fun to watch the hummingbirds make the rounds from plant to plant, timing it exactly to when the nectar has had a chance to re-accumulate. All of these plants co-evolved with hummingbirds and have the tubular-shaped red flowers that fit the bill – literally. Hummingbirds have incredible memories and know the location of individual flowers not only around their own homes but along the thousands of miles of their migration routes. They also recognize humans as individuals, learning to trust you and hovering in front of you when they are wondering when you are going to refill their feeder, if you have been in the habit of providing one.

Although we think of hummingbirds as nectar eaters, the great majority of their diet is made up of insects and spiders. We can provide them with insects by planting native plants. Because most insects can only eat the plants with which they evolved, a yard full of European and Asian plants such as turf grass and Japanese azaleas is largely an empty yard, devoid of food sources not only for hummingbirds but for songbirds in general. The red-flowering plants that were named above are all native to our area, as are hundreds of other garden-worthy plants which are increasingly being planted in our yards as Virginians start to recognize the beauty of our own flora as well as its value for the non-human residents of our properties.

The ideal time to plant is in the fall, which gives the plants a chance to become well established before facing the heat and droughts of summer. To help you plan, the Plant NOVA Natives website has a plant finder function in which you can search specifically for plants that attract hummingbirds. There are also lists of local garden centers that specialize in native plants as well as lists of conventional garden centers where Plant NOVA Natives volunteers are labeling the natives with red stickers. Just for fun, check out our silly one minute video of local hummingbirds and other critters interacting with native plants. And when your neighbors stop by to gawk at the sight of hummingbirds in your yard, you can give them this pamphlet so they can learn about planting natives in their yards to attract hummingbirds, too.