Loudoun Wildlife Annual Meeting, Keynote Speaker, June 5th

Sunday, June 5, 2022
3-6 pm
Ida Lee Recreation Center
60 Ida Lee Dr. NW, Leesburg
Register here.

There will be a business meeting, awards presentation, quilt raffle, door prizes and a keynote speaker.

The Annual Meeting keynote speaker is Dr. Eric Kershner, Chief of the Division of Bird Conservation, Permits, and Regulations for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Headquarters Office in Falls Church, Virginia. Eric and his team work to implement tangible actions that conserve birds, including reducing impacts from anthropogenic sources.

This year’s topic will be “Bird collisions with Towers and Glass: What we are doing to reduce the risks and how you can join the fun!

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is taking big steps to reduce the annual estimated loss of 6.6 million birds colliding with towers and the 1 billion birds colliding with glass in the U.S. They need your help! Learn how they are surveying their facilities and implementing cost-effective methods to reduce collisions with both towers and glass. Through their multipronged approach, they are working to apply effective methods to reduce bird collisions while simultaneously reducing costs for tower owners and even for some building owners. They hope to make bird conservation a way of life for all of us.

That Blue Frog Craze! Again?

All photos by Jerry Nissley

We all remember the ‘blue frog’ craze from last summer, right?

Normal color Green Tree Frog

Well I certainly do. All the specimens I found were axanthic green tree frogs (Hyla cinerea). But this is a new year folks! Today I found a bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus) exhibiting these traits. I get excited about stuff like this and I always like to share my excitement with others. Here is a quick overview of what I know. There is a ton of published information out there if you want to dig deeper.

Type 1

Axanthism in its basic description is a genetic mutation that inhibits the animal’s ability to produce yellow pigments. There are three types of axanthism in amphibians: 1. complete to partial blue coloration due to a lack of yellow pigmentation, 2.

Type 2

complete or partial dark coloration, and 3. normal coloration with black eyes. These are not distinct categories, and there can be amphibians that have a combination of these.

Type one is most common in the frog family (Ranidea) which is also the family that happens to be most commonly affected by axanthism. In my research, I could not find a community consensus as to why axanthism occurs in amphibians; whether it is genetic or environmental. There are persuasive arguments on both sides.

Bullfrog with blue nose

Axanthism seems to be most prevalent in North America and is more common in Northern regions; but if last summer is a trend, it is sliding quickly into the southeastern states. Axanthism is most common in frogs, with salamanders and newts having almost no cases.
So be on the look out for this very cool frog morph – it’s a eureka moment to spot one!

Bluebird Monitor Coordinator Sought

Photo:  J. Quinn

The Virginia Bluebird Society is looking for one or two volunteers to join a small team that works together to fulfill the duties as the Fairfax County Coordinator. The job entails being the County Coordinator contact for some of the trails in the county, sending out reminder emails to trail leaders in the spring, collecting data from trail leaders in the fall, answering questions and providing advice about bluebird trails and monitoring, and helping to connect people who want to monitor with trail leaders. If you enjoy providing training/educational programs, that’s possible as well. Most of the work is computer based, but it can sometimes involve going out to a site. The time involved varies over the course of the year and occasionally/rarely exceeds one hour/week.

Please contact Carmen Bishop with any questions. – cjbish1@gmail.com

DIY Insectary Garden

Feature photo:  Last summer the monarda bloomed beautifully! At the top you can see the beginnings of the asclepias incarnata (the mauve colored flower cluster).

Article and photos by FMN Kate Luisa

This story begins at the very end of the summer of 2019. I have a fairly small back yard with a patio and around the patio is a garden area that I was using for growing tomatoes.  Well, frankly,

Spring 2020. This is the garden the following year after the initial plantings which went in at the very end of summer 2019. There is also a sedum (far left) that was already there. This plant is over 100 years old. Literally. It came from my great-grandmother’s garden.

that was just wishful thinking.  The plants got tall and beautiful but every tomato but about five got either eaten by something or split and turned to mush with the rains we had that summer.  It was very disheartening.  I knew I would have to scrap the tomato dream.  So I decided to cut my losses around the middle of August and took them out.  That left an “L” shaped area around two thirds of the patio with nothing.  The area is about 3 to 4 feet wide (from the patio) and the length is about 8 feet on one side and about 6 feet on the other.
I thought much about what I could put there.  I already have lots of coneflowers, culver’s root, agastache, zinnias and rudbeckia.  I just wanted something different….

Then I remembered reading about an insectary garden and found that idea very intriguing.  This would be the perfect area for it!  It is in full sun and just about the right size.  The next big

decision was what to put in it. That spring, along my back fence, I had already put in a long row of mountain mint, a combination of pycnanthemum muticum, p. virginianum and p. tenuifolium that smells heavenly and attracts an incredible variety of insects.  So I didn’t need more of that.  Rather than do copious amounts of research I went directly to the best source of all: the FMN group.  I knew there had to already be native plants that others could recommend for such an enterprise.  And I wasn’t disappointed.

Monarch caterpillar on milkweed.

I received a wonderful variety of suggestions and studied information on each one.  I decided that since the area was not very large, it would be best to stick with just a few selections and to plant them en masse.  I looked at the seasonal blooming times and tried to get plants that would bloom most of the Summer and into Fall.  My overall idea was to have some brightly colored plants that would bloom throughout the season for pollinators and other wildlife. My colors are mauve, yellow and scarlet. I chose Asclepias incarnata, Asclepias  purpurascens, zizia aurea and monarda didyma.  Unfortunately, it was already very late in the season so I could only put in a few plantings before the cooler weather started coming in. I put in the milkweed and a few monarda, figuring I would put the rest in the following spring.

This is now the second full summer of my garden. The asclepias incarnata went gangbusters last year! The purpurescens has not done well but is coming up this year

Various ladybug species on the milkweed (and aphids in lower right).

and looks a bit more robust. Somehow, lobelia got into the garden (I had some lobelia cardinalis in another place and I think the birds must have distributed the seeds) so these also made a wonderful surprise appearance. They are coming up again this year and I planted more seeds for them as well.

Last year I noted many different kinds of bees and other flying insects, ladybugs (as well as aphids which I left for the ladybugs), lacewing eggs and monarch caterpillars on the milkweed. Hummingbirds loved the cardinal flowers and the bee balm as well. I harvested the milkweed pods in the Fall and gave to people to create their own insectary gardens.

Lacewing eggs on underside of milkweed leaf (upper right).

The garden is now coming alive again as the spring unfolds. The milkweed is almost a foot tall and the bee balm is spreading. The golden alexanders are in bloom, and I watch tiny bees climb all over the bright yellow flowers. I am so glad I have planted this garden!

 

Clean the Bay Day, June 4th

Saturday, June 4, 2022
9 am – Noon
See a full list of sites to find one near you.
(Mason Neck State Park and Huntley Meadows are options)
Register here.

Clean the Bay Day has been a staple for Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay community since its inception more than three decades ago. On June 4, thousands of Virginians will simultaneously work together to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay by removing litter and debris from its rivers and streams at hundreds of sites all across the Commonwealth.

Can’t make it to the June 4 event? No worries! The week of May 30 to June 3 is Clean the Bay Your Way DIY Week, where you can conduct your own cleanup in your neighborhood, place of work, or anywhere else you have permission, and where you can take care of the disposal safely and properly yourself.

Audubon Afternoon: “A Year in the Life of an Owl,” June 5th

Photo:  Eastern Screech Owl, Randy Streufert

Sunday, June 5th
3 pm
National Wildlife Federation Building cafeteria
11100 Wildlife Center Dr., Reston

Join Audubon Society of Northern Virginia for their first in-person Audubon Afternoon in more than two years! Four live owls will be the stars of the show. They’ll gather informally starting at 2:30 pm. At 3 pm they’ll have a brief Annual Meeting where they will elect officers and directors. Their main program will begin at 3:15 pm, when Secret Garden Birds and Bees will present “A Year in the Life of an Owl,” featuring four live owls for you to see and photograph: a Barn Owl, a Screech Owl, a Great Horned Owl, and a Barred Owl. This is an event the whole family will enjoy!

They welcome any food and drink you would like to share with everyone during the informal portion of the program.

FMN CE Hike: Hold a Wild Bird, Stunning!

Article by FMNs Barbara Saffir and Janet Quinn; all photos by Barbara Saffir

Lions, and tigers, and bears?  Heck, no — but holding wild birds, snakes galore, and close  encounters with yellow birds that glow like the sun were some highlights during a recent

Banders at work

Fairfax Master Naturalists’ continuing education hike.  Hike leaders Barbara Saffir and Janet Quinn led eight FMNs on the “Hold A Wild Bird” hike and visited a bird banding at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Woodbridge on April 24.  Since Covid rules for the banding forced the 10 hardy hikers to break into two smaller groups, Barbara’s group watched two Gray Catbirds, two Northern Waterthrushes, a Hermit Thrush, a House Wren,

FMN Dee Pistochini releasing banded bird

and a Swamp Sparrow being banded.  Janet’s group had a different experience.  The banders netted three birds during their visit and all three had previously been banded.  One was the Northern Waterthrush Barbara’s group had seen banded as well as a Song Sparrow and White-throated Sparrow.  The White-throated Sparrow was a “significant event” because it had been banded in 2017. Any bird captured which is older than five years is such an event.  The banders, all volunteers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,  measured, sexed, weighed, and banded the birds.  The group members then took turns learning how to safely hold the birds to release them.  (Photos and a slo-mo video of one release are attached.)  FMN 2022 trainee Deirdre “Dee” Pistochini, said it best: ” It was such a thrill to hold a wild creature so close that you can feel their heartbeat.  A once in a lifetime experience.”

Both groups also visited a great horned owls’ nest near Painted Turtle Pond. The big, fluffy, ivory-colored “babies” were napping when one group visited but the two owlets were standing tall and checking out their human admirers when the second group came to call.

Snake visit

After that, the naturalists took a two-mile spin around the refuge.  First they encountered four frisky northern black racers, then another racer poking its head out, and four northern watersnakes in two separate hideaways. Ospreys were parading around everywhere — and two were even caught in a Valentine’s Day act.  The group also eyeballed at least three eagles, a horned grebe in breeding colors, hundreds of blue jays flying over in small flocks toward their summer homes, and more.  But the bird of the day outside the banding was a prothonotary warbler, a tiny sunflower-yellow bird with a big personality — and seemingly a fondness for humans.  Four of the darlings came close to say hello.  Barbara could have sworn they also asked the hikers if they would return in a few weeks so they could show off their babies.

 

 

Want to see more?  Download these videos of the day taken by FMN Dee Pistochino:

Controlled chaos:  Banders work quickly.

Actual banding.

Blowing and tail measuring.

And even more!  The handout created for the hikers.

Prothonotary Warbler

Great Horned Owlets

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snakes Alive Program, June 2nd

Photo: Barbara J. Saffir (c)

Thursday, June 2, 2022
7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Where: Cascades Library
21030 Whitfield Place
Potomac Falls, VA 20165
Cost: Free

Snakes play an important role in maintaining the balance and diversity of native species. They keep rodent and insect populations in check and in turn are preyed upon by larger species. While they spend the cold months in hibernation, much of their summer is spent under cover or basking in the sun. Join naturalist Jenny Erickson to learn and explore the fascinating aspects about the various species native to our area. This talk is co-sponsored by Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and the Loudoun County Public Library.

Please click here for additional information.

Common Plant Family Identification Workshop, June 16th

Image: The Clifton Institute

Thursday, June 16, 2022
6:00 pm – 7:30 pm
Where: The Clifton Institute
6712 Blantyre Road, Warrenton, VA
Cost: Free
Registration is required!

If you’re learning to identify plants, learning the common families can really help narrow down your options when you’re faced with an unfamiliar specimen. If you already know a few plants, learning their families can provide a useful framework to help organize all the species rattling around in your brain. Whatever level you’re at, learning to identify the plant families around you is a really fun way to get to know the natural world. In this program, Managing Director Eleanor Harris will give a brief talk on the ways to identify the most common plant families in Virginia. Then she will lead a short walk in the fields to practice your plant family identification skills.

Click here for registration and additional information.

Bird Walks at The Clifton Institute, Various Dates

Image: The Clifton Institute

Second Wednesdays and Fourth Saturdays
7:00 am – 9:00 am
Where: The Clifton Institute
6712 Blantyre Road, Warrenton, VA
Cost: Free
Registration is required!

Novice and experienced birders will enjoy this guided 1-2 mile hike to look for the many species of birds that can be found on the field station. Attendees will explore successional fields, meadows, lake edges, and forest. Don’t forget to bring binoculars!

Please click preferred date below for more information and registration.

Wednesday, May 11, 7 – 9 am

Saturday, May 28, 7 – 9 am

Wednesday, June 8, 7 – 9 am

Saturday, June 25, 7 – 9 am

Wednesday, July 13, 7 – 9 am