Shoreline Cleanup, Mason Neck State Park, September 25th

Photo: Jerry Nissley

Mason Neck State Park
7301 High Point Rd., Lorton, VA 22079
(Meet at the Visitor’s Center)
Saturday, September 25, 2021
9 am

Can you help keep Mason Neck State Park looking good? The Potomac and Occoquan Rivers bring trash of all kinds to the shores of the Park. The Friends of Mason Neck State Park will lead a cleanup of the shoreline on National Public Lands Day (Saturday, September 25). They’ll have gloves, trash bags and a few “grabbers” to help you pick up the smaller stuff. Please bring waterproof shoes or boots. The tide will be high that morning, and you are almost certain to get wet.

For those who are experienced paddlers, they’ll have canoes, paddles and life vests available so you can collect trash that is not acessible from the shore. Thanks to the generosity of Prince William Marina, we’ll have snacks available to keep your energy levels high while you clean up the park.

Review of A Most Remarkable Creature, by Jonathan Meiburg

Review by FMN David Gorsline

Musician, traveler, and nature writer Jonathan Meiburg begins his book with a mystery: who — or what — killed bird G7? Eventually, he answers that question. Along the way, into his story of caracaras living and extinct, he packs 16 pages of excellent color photographs, a magpie’s collection of 50 pages of end notes, and a challenging trip up Guyana’s Rewa River.

We naturalists of the mid-Atlantic rarely encounter caracaras on our home turf. Only one species of these birds of prey, Crested Caracara (Caracara plancus), has a range that extends into Texas and Florida (older authorities recognize this population as C. cheriway). But the group is extensively represented in South America by five genera, occupying a variety of habitats. Meiburg describes the general body plan as “ten separate attempts to build a crow on a falcon chassis, with results falling somewhere between elegant, menacing, and whimsical” (p. 9); caracaras share with (not closely related) corvids intelligence and curiosity. In short, an engaging subject for Meiburg’s equally engaging book.

The book’s coverage of these ten species is a bit uneven, with emphasis on the wild birds found where Meiburg was able to travel. Readers might regret the material devoted to captive birds in aviaries in the United Kingdom, but with a bird so adaptable to living with humans, perhaps these are pages well spent.

The book’s strengths are that trip up the piranha-laden Rewa to see “bush auntie-man” (Red-throated Caracara, Ibycter americanus), involving a waterfall portage, columns of army ants, and crab-sized Theraphosa spiders; a visit to minor islands of the Falklands archipelago to find “Johnny rook” G7’s killer; and Meiburg’s introduction of 19th-century Anglo-Argentine naturalist William Henry Hudson. Hudson was closely observant, and more than a bit romantic.

Depending on your taste, your reaction to Meiburg’s anthropomorphizing may vary; it’s mostly endearing, and maybe unavoidable when a Black Caracara (Daptrius ater) peers at you with affable opportunism.

A Most Remarkable Creature: The Hidden Life and Epic Journey of the World’s Smartest Birds of Prey, by Jonathan Meiburg, Knopf, New York, 2021, 336 pages

Wintering Waterbirds, October 20th

Photo: Fred Siskind

Wednesday, October 20, 2021
7 pm
Zoom
Register here.

Join Friends of Dyke Marsh for Greg Butcher’s presentation on wintering waterbirds. Mr. Butcher will introduce the diversity of waterbirds that spend the winter in Northern Virginia and explain the difference between waterbirds and waterfowl. He will also review citizen science studies and conservation needs for birds and people along the Potomac River.

Mr. Butcher is Vice President of Audubon Society of Northern Virginia and Migratory Species Coordinator, the U.S. Forest Service’s International Programs.

How to Set Up a Mosquito Larva Trap

Photos and article by FMN Jill Spohn

During a talk by Douglas W. Tallamy, an entomologist at the University of Delaware, he suggested controlling mosquitos at the larval stage instead of the adult stage. Spraying adult stage mosquitos requires spraying at such high concentration that it kills all insects, not just mosquitos which results in a loss of beneficial insects as well as nuisance insects.

Beneficial insects such as bees and butterflies and their larva are being eliminated at an alarming rate. Insects are at the base of the food web; without them, birds and other creatures that rely on insects are challenged to find enough food for themselves and their young. When they eat sprayed insects, the insecticide can build up and affect their health.

There is an effective alternative to harmful mosquito spraying – mosquito larva traps

A mosquito larva trap works because adult mosquitos are drawn to a fermenting solution and lay their eggs. The mosquito dunk that is added has a biological bacterial control that ONLY affects mosquitos. Dr. Tallamy noted in an email that this affects only aquatic Dipteran.

I have tried this method at home in Northern Virginia and in Maine and have seen an impressive lack of mosquitos and pleasant times outdoors. I am a believer!

Dr. Tallamy has graciously given me permission to include this section from his book, Nature’s Best Hope, page 210:

Oppose mindless mosquito spraying by your township or HOA. Contrary to what the fogger operator may have told you, the pyrethroid-based insecticides used by mosquito foggers indiscriminately kill all insects, not just the mosquitos. Ironically, targeting adult mosquitos is the worst and by far the most expensive approach to mosquito control, because mosquitos are best controlled in the larval stage. Put a five-gallon bucket of water in a sunny place in your yard and add a handful of hay or straw. After a few days, the resulting brew is irresistible to gravid (egg-filled) female mosquitos. After the mosquitos have laid their eggs, add a commercially available mosquito dunk tablet that contains Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a natural larvicide, to your bucket. The eggs will hatch and the larvae will die. This way, you control mosquitos, and only mosquitos, without the use of harmful insecticides.

Learn more about Dr. Tallamy’s work in this video presentation.


It is also essential that you eliminate or reduce the standing water on your property. 

The CDC provides advice on how to control insects at home here and information on the mosquito lifecycle here.

Steps for making a Mosquito Larva Trap

What you need:

  • Bucket
  • Straw or Hay
  • Water – funky water from a rain barrel would also work, says Tallamy
  • Mosquito Dunk or another brand containing Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)
  • Chicken Wire or similar screening – optional.
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1. Setting Up the Trap

  • Use an empty bucket
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2. Add hay or straw to the bucket. I used 3 or 4 handfuls here – 3 or 4 cups.

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3. Add water to the bucket. I fill the bucket up halfway. My ratio of hay to water is about 1 to 4.

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4. Allow the water and organic matter to ferment for a few days. I usually let it sit for 3 days but if it’s hot, you probably need less time.

5. After 3 days, the mixture has fermented. Add the mosquito dunk.

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Place Mosquito Dunk in the bucket on top of the fermenting solution. Dr. Tallamy may know when a mosquito has laid eggs, but I don’t. I place the Mosquito Dunk in right before I set the trap.

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6. Cover with chicken wire or similar screening that allows adult mosquitos into the solution, but keeps other critters out. Be careful of the sharp points on the chicken wire.

7. Set in place. Dr. Tallamy recommends a sunny spot but I have placed it in dappled shade with good results. The Mosquito Dunk lasts for about a month and I replace the solution after about 3 or 4 weeks.

I try to put the traps close to places where we have had mosquito issues and keep them out of the way of our dogs. They should be out of the reach of children as well.

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Fundamentals of Avian Biology, the Study of Birds: Fall Session with Dr. Chris Haney, Oct. 4 – Nov. 15, 2021

Dr. Chris Haney photo courtesy of ASNV

Mondays and Wednesdays, October 4 – November 15, 2021
7-8 pm
Field trips: October 16 (Rain Date: 23); November 6 (Rain Date: 13)
Where: VIRTUAL
Cost: $150 member/$175 non-member online only; $250 member/$275 non-member online and field trips
More information and register here.

Are you new to birding and want to learn more or just want to dig deeper into the subject? Then this Audubon Society of Northern Virginia class is for you.

This course is designed and presented at an introductory, university level in 6 parts, with each week’s worth of classroom instruction equaling 2 hours. Fundamentals of Avian Biology, Part 1 will feature the major underpinnings to ornithology within a context of U.S. national history. Topics covered in this class encompass: the origins and then separation of amateur from professional interest in birds; form and function in the avian body; avian flight mechanics, movement, and dispersal; bird distribution and biogeography; evolutionary relationships and naming systems for birds; and standardized field methods used to study birds. Whenever appropriate, contrasting perspectives are offered, including controversial views that arose from reliance on different theories or applications. Instructional presentations will include PowerPoint slides, auditory or video supplements, and some in-class participatory exercises.

Want Ad: Fairfax County Park Authority: Hidden Oaks Nature Center Scout Program Coordinator

Hidden Oaks Nature Center (Annandale, VA. www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/hiddenoaks) , a facility of Fairfax County Park Authority, is hiring a scout program coordinator naturalist. This position is responsible for coordinating a team of three to prepare, present and coordinate the site’s boy and girl scout programming plus prepare and present other family programs. The position requires someone who is flexible with weekend hours. Must be willing to be a Boy Scout Merit Badge counselor through Boy Scouts of America. Some summer day camp development and presentation required. Average 25 hours/week with a maximum of 30 hours/week. Average 5-8 hours/day. Pay scale $15.33-$16.50/hour. Limited benefits available. View the full job announcement here.

Questions? Contact Suzanne Holland or FCPAJOBS@Fairfaxcounty.gov. More information at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/jobs-internships.

To apply: Send your resume to FCPAJOBS@Fairfaxcounty.gov.

Virginia & Waterways Cleanup – the Friends of Accotink Creek are starting their Fall Cleanups, various dates

GET YOUR BRAIN WET! Join Friends of Accotink Creek to get trash out of our waterways while participating in the International Coastal Cleanup in Fairfax County.

Saturday, September 18, 2021 Cleanup Locations:

9:00 AM – 11:00 AM     Accotink Creek at Fullerton Road bridge , Directions

12:00 PM – 2:00 PM     Accotink Creek at Franconia-Springfield Parkway bridge , Directions
(Including cleanup of Hooes Road dumpsite)

3:00 PM – 5:00     Accotink Creek at Telegraph Road bridge , Directions

Saturday, September 25, 2021 Cleanup Locations:

9:00 AM – 11:00 AM     Accotink Creek at Fairfax Blvd bridge , Directions

12:00 PM – 2:00 PM     Accotink Creek at Chain Bridge Road , Directions

3:00 PM – 5:00 PM     Accotink Creek at Old Lee Hwy bridge , Directions

Saturday, October 2, 2021 Cleanup Locations:

9:00 AM – 11:00 AM     Accotink Creek at King Arthur Road bridge , Directions

12:00 PM – 2:00 PM     Accotink Creek at Little River Tpk bridge , Directions

3:00 PM – 5:00 PM     Accotink Creek at Braddock Road bridge , Directions

Saturday, October 9, 2021 Cleanup Locations:

9:00 AM – 11:00 AM     Accotink Creek at Pickett Road bridge , Directions

12:00 PM – 2:00 PM     Accotink Creek at Barkley Dr bridge , Directions

3:00 PM – 5:00 PM     Accotink Creek at Woodburn Road bridge , Directions

Thursday, November 11, 2021 Cleanup Location:

10:00 AM – 12:00 noon     Americana Drive Veterans Day cleanup

Other opportunities to be part of the solution in the Accotink Creek watershed:

  • Saturday, October 16, 2021 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM: Fort Belvoir Accotink Bay
    Contact Fort Belvoir Public Works EMAIL

Taking Nature Black, Re-entry Roundtable, September 14th

Tuesday, September 14, 2021
2-3:30 pm
Register here.

Join Audubon Naturalist Society for this FREE 90-minute roundtable hosted by ANS’s Taking Nature Black Conference, with sponsorship from the U.S. Forest Service’s Office of Urban and Community Forestry.

This discussion will help elevate holistic strategies that connect the green movement with second chance/re-entry programs, services, and advocacy with a focus on social supports, social and economic justice, recidivism, and prevention.

Expanding career opportunities for the re-entry community is a way to extend healing to this community and to our land.

Raptors are Heading South-Get Ready for Fall Migration!

Wednesday, September 15, 2021
4-5 pm
Webinar
Register here.

Peak raptor migration is almost here! Are you ready to observe hawks, eagles, falcons, and more, heading South?

In this webinar, you’ll learn when and where to find migrating raptors this fall. You’ll also get an up-close look at a live raptor on camera and learn more about these birds’ distinctive features and amazing abilities. And, since some raptor populations are in decline, you’ll learn what American Bird Conservancy is doing to conserve them and what you can do to help.

Fewer Inputs to your Landscape, More Butterflies and Birds

Photo: Plant NOVA Natives

As more and more people buy native plants to beautify their yards, control stormwater and attract birds and butterflies, they are discovering additional opportunities to harmonize their property with the local ecosystem while maintaining a beautiful landscape. They are dropping some of their standard yard chores in favor of a slightly more relaxed approach.

Maintenance of native trees and shrubs is little different from maintenance of non-native ones, but chemical fertilizers are not generally recommended, and of course pesticides would be counterproductive, as they destroy the very ecosystem that the native plants were installed to enhance. The value of the native trees and shrubs is greatly increased if their fallen leaves are left in place. Within that leaf layer is where fireflies, butterflies, and many other interesting and beneficial insects complete their life cycles. Leaving the leaves where they lie has the added benefit of eliminating the chore and the incessant racket of gas-powered leaf blowers that disturb humans and songbirds alike.

Flower gardens with native plants also can be treated much the same as any other, as long as the gardener recognizes that most of these plants are perennial and not annual. The advantage of perennials is that they only need to be planted once. The disadvantage is that weeding will be needed, along with the ability to distinguish emerging weeds from emerging desirable plants, a task made easier for beginners by limiting the number of different species planted to three or four or by sticking to native groundcovers. These gardens cannot be handled the way maintenance crews typically deal with the plantings in public spaces. That method requires no knowledge of plant identification and consists of removing all the plant material each season, installing new annual plants, mulching heavily, then spraying any bare mulch with herbicides to kill everything else. (This practice explains the expanses of empty (and chemical-laced) mulch beds that we see in so many business areas.)

Of course, leaf mulch can be used in flower beds without applying herbicides and is a valuable addition to new plantings, cooling the soil and adding organic matter. In time, though, as the plants fill in, mulch becomes unnecessary and just an aesthetic choice. The plants themselves will shade the soil, and their dead foliage and stems if left over the winter add habitat for frogs and nesting areas for native bees. The days of “cleaning out” flower gardens in the fall so that only empty beds remain are rapidly fading away, as gardeners are learning that this is an unnecessary and somewhat harmful practice.

The watering requirements of native plants are generally light, if appropriate plants are chosen for the site. Unlike turf grass, which evolved in Europe and is poorly suited to Virginia summers, and annuals which start out the summer with very few roots, well-established native plants are adapted to our climate. Watering is needed right after planting, and for the first year or two in the case of trees larger than seedlings, depending on the size. Native plants in medium or large pots will need continued watering primarily when the temperature exceeds 90 degrees. Beyond that, supplemental watering may actually be bad for some plants.

Details on low-input yard maintenance can be found on the Plant NOVA Natives website. For those who don’t want to do the gardening themselves (which is most people, after all), there are landscaping companies that specialize in maintaining naturalized landscapes and who have workers who can identify the native plants and protect them. The website has a list of Northern Virginia companies that have self-identified as having the requisite expertise. Manuel Rivas, the owner of one of these companies, volunteered to be interviewed to explain the process in English and in Spanish. Three versions of that video are available on YouTube, in English alternating with Spanish and in the two languages separately.
English and Spanish version
Spanish only
English only