Millions of Trees at Risk in Northern Virginia? Introducing Tree Rescuers!

Photo courtesy of Plant NOVA Natives

Northern Virginia’s oldest and best-loved trees are in danger, and the threat is in plain sight – and yet there are few who can see it.

But help is on the way! Tree Rescuers – a new community education and outreach program – is shining a light on non-native invasive vines, which pose a mortal threat to millions of mature trees in Northern Virginia.

More than 130 people from neighborhoods across Northern Virginia have already volunteered with Tree Rescuers, a new campaign sponsored by Plant NOVA Trees and aimed at preserving our area’s mature trees.

“We were amazed at how many people were ready to do something like this for the trees but didn’t know how to get started,” said Margaret Fisher, one of the coordinators of Plant NOVA Trees. “This is a great time to start, since the leaves are down and the vines can be seen more easily.”

As many as three million trees in Northern Virginia may be at risk, said Fisher.

Many people are unaware that invasive vines like English Ivy can eventually make a tree hazardous (and expensive to remove). Tree Rescuers volunteers learn how to identify problematic vines, then walk their neighborhoods spotting trees that need help.

The Tree Rescuers don’t remove any vines themselves, but they warn landowners by dropping off a brochure explaining the problem and ways to fix it.

Data gathered by Tree Rescuers will also help improve knowledge of the actual number of trees at risk, since the collected data is being aggregated and mapped. A map of neighborhoods surveyed can be viewed here.

Tree Rescuers is part of Plant NOVA Trees, a five-year campaign by local governments and nonprofit organizations to increase tree cover in Northern Virginia. Native trees are a key part of the solution to many community problems, from extreme weather and air and water quality to the health of birds, wildlife, and the Chesapeake Bay.

For more details about Tree Rescuers, or to volunteer, click here.

Caterpillars Count! – Virtual Presentation, April 14th

Photo: Ed Haas

Thursday, April 14, 2022
7 – 8 pm
Ages 16-Adult
Free
Register here by April 12th; enter activity number 206201006 in the search.

Learn about Reston’s participation in the national citizen science project, Caterpillars Count! Volunteers are needed to collect weekly data on the abundance and phenology of caterpillars and other arthropods during the spring and summer. Held via Zoom. To learn more or get registration assistance, contact the Walker Nature Center at naturecenter@reston.org or 703-476-9689.

Fairfax County Watershed Cleanup, Various Dates

The Nature Conservancy is partnering with Fairfax County Park Authority to do a wonderful watershed cleanup around 15 different Fairfax County parks!

Registration for the annual Fairfax County Watershed Cleanup is now available at www.nature.org/fairfaxcleanup. They need nearly 500 volunteers to help clean up plastic bottles, cans and other debris. It’s a great way to give back to the community, and it’ll be a pretty fun day as well!

Event capacity is limited, and they request that you register individually or in family units. Before registering a large group of 10+ people, please double check that everyone in your group is committed and will attend. This prevents situations where one group takes half the available spaces and then cancels last-minute, and they have no one to fill in.

Site Location Date Time Total Volunteers Needed Approximate # volunteer spaces left at press time
Hidden Pond Nature Center Springfield 3/26/2022 9 a.m.-12 p.m. 45 FULL
Chandon Park Herndon 4/2/2022 9-11 a.m. 25 25
Huntley Meadows Alexandria 4/3/2022 9-11:30 a.m. 50 15
South Lakes Drive Park Reston 4/9/2022 9-11 a.m. 25 22
Pine Ridge Park Annandale 4/9/2022 8 a.m.-10 a.m. & 10 a.m.-12 p.m. 25 each 25
ECL Chantilly 4/16/2022 9-11 a.m. 20 FULL
Riverbend Park Great Falls 4/16/2022 10 a.m.-12 p.m. 15 4
Scott’s Run NP McLean 4/16/2022 10 a.m.-12 p.m. 25 19
Ossian Hall Park Annadale 4/16/2022 8 a.m. -10 a.m. & 10 a.m.-12 p.m. 25 each 25
Laurel Hill Lorton 4/23/2022 9 a.m. -10:30 a.m. 25 13
Springvale Park Springfield 4/27/2022 8 a.m.-11 a.m. 20 17
Providence RECenter Falls Church 4/30/2022 9:30-11:30 a.m. 30 26
Roundtree Park Falls Church 5/1/2022 9:30-11:30 a.m. 30 16
Lake Fairfax Reston 5/7/2022 9-11 a.m. 55 44
Lake Accotink Park Springfield 5/8/2022 9-11 a.m. 25 7

Spring Volunteer Opportunities with the FCPA

Photo:  Robert Collins on Unsplash

The Fairfax County Park Authority has dynamic public programs that need volunteers.  Here is a sample of spring opportunities at Hidden Oaks and for International Dark Sky Awareness Week.  A more complete list is here.  For other opportunities tailored to your interests, talk to the Volunteer Coordinator at your favorite Fairfax County park.

Hidden Oaks Nature Center
7701 Royce St., Annandale, VA
Contact: Suzanne Holland, Suzanne.holland@fairfaxcounty.gov 

Sat. April 23 Culmore Community Day from 10-2
at Woodrow Wilson Library, Knollwood Dr., Falls Church, VA

Two opportunities include assisting showing native wildlife to visitors. This will be inside the library and helping children release live native ladybugs outside the side door directly from our nature display room. The other is to assist with surveying attendees as to their thoughts and behaviors regarding county parks with a goal of increasing equitable park opportunities.

Sat. April 23 : Annandale Greenway Earth Day Cleanup from 11:30-12:30at 7200 Columbia Pike, Annandale, VA

Assist FMN Marilyn Schroeder in presenting as well as representing for Hidden Oaks at the kickoff presentation for a clean-up between Green Spring Gardens and Annandale Community Park.

Sun. May 15 from 12:30-4:15 (multiple sessions) DinoFest

Need 3 volunteers . Low key program with need to assist preschool age kids with activity at separate stations outside in Nature Playce. Mostly sedentary.

International Dark Sky Awareness Week
Multiple locations
Contact Tammy Schwab, Tammy.schwab@fairfaxcounty.gov

Fairfax County Parks will be celebrating International Dark Sky Awareness Week April 22-30th. FCPA will be having events needing volunteers on April 22 and 23 and also the 29th.

(FMNs record hours as E110:  FCPA Nature Programs.  In the Description, include the name of the park and the name of the program.  In Direct Contacts, write the number of people you spoke to or who attended the program.)

Symphony of Frogs – Families, April 2nd

Photo courtesy of Fairfax County Park Authority

Saturday, April 2, 2022
Huntley Meadows Park
3701 Lockheed Blvd., Alexandria, VA

Registration: Register Online

Cost $9.00

Come discover Huntley’s amphibian orchestra. Join a naturalist for a discussion and a guided walk to listen for serenading frogs and toads. Learn the calls of a bull frog, southern leopard frog, green frog, tree frog, American toad and more.

Mason Neck Eagle Fest, May 7th

Photo courtesy of Eagle Fest

Saturday, May 7, 2022
10am – 6pm
Mason Neck State Park
7301 High Point Rd, Lorton, VA

The Eagle Festival will be live and in-person this year! Please mark your calendar for a wonderful day at Mason Neck State Park. There will be live animal presentations all day long, as well as live music, demonstrations, and interactive exhibits from more than 20 environmental organizations.

Plastics! Plastics! Everywhere.

Article and photos by FMN Mike Walker

Like last year, I saved every scrap of “plastic” that came in to my home in January and February. Fortunately I have a wonderful screen porch to store this stuff outside during the cold weather. As you can see above, in two months, I collected a shocking total of about 60 cubic feel of “plastic” stuff, ranging from bubble wrap, packaging waste (even from organic products) prescription bottles, shrink wrap, etc. I even had a plastic hose from my washing machine, plastic “throw-away” sunglasses from the doctor for eye dilation and plastic clips from ink for my printer. A real potpourri of plastic trash.  My wife and I do not go out of our way to buy plastic products, of course, I submit that we are typical consumers. Collecting two months worth of material is a vivid reminder of what is coming into our lives and how difficult it is to avoid an avalanche of plastic material.

After two months of collecting,  I sorted the plastic into what can actually be recycled….see my picture below….a small fraction of waste…15 bottles and some caps. While manufacturers offer “helpful” codes on the bottom of many plastic products, most plastic is simply not recyclable and in Fairfax County becomes waste to be incinerated.

Being aware of our use patterns for “stuff”…whether it be plastic, water consumption, gasoline or other resources is the first step in becoming aware of our impact on the earth and the search for serious reductions in consumption. Taking the time to simply collect the plastic that comes into your home for a period of time can become a real eye opener to the sheer volume and variety of plastics – including non-recyclable plastics – that are encountered everyday. It can really make you mindful to look for ways to reduce your consumption, too.

NVBC Field Trips

Photo:  Barbara Saffir

The Northern Virginia Bird Club offers three guided bird walks a week at a variety of locations.  The trips are free and open to all.  There is no need to register for the local trips.

Here is the schedule for March – June 2022.

Spring Native Plant Sales

Photo courtesy of Virginia Native Plant Society

Native plants provide better food for insects, which in turn provide food for birds. You can make a huge difference for wildlife by planting native species on your property.

Virginia Native Plant Society maintains a list of native plant sales in the area.

Not on the list, but worth considering is Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s Native Plant Sale, which takes place on April 16, 2022 in Morven Park in Leesburg.  More information is here: www.loudounwildlife.org/event/spring-native-plant-sale

Spring in Washington, by Louis J. Halle

Photo:  Barbara Saffir

Reviewed by FMN Kristina Lansing

After a cold, grey winter, spring once again is on our doorstep. If you’re chafing to get outside but are finding conditions still a bit less than hospitable, try curling up instead with “Spring in Washington.”

“In the year the atomic age was born, a young man on a bicycle appointed himself monitor of spring in the nation’s capital. Starting before sun-up each morning, he pedaled miles and saw much before his workday began at the offices of the State Department. That the year was 1945 is of no importance, for the events he chronicled could have taken place in 1845 or 2045. The rites of spring are eternal.”*

Consider traveling back in time to experience what Washington was like back in 1945. Join author Louis J. Halle on his daily forays to the the Tidal Basin, Rock Creek Park, Dyke Marsh, Theodore Roosevelt Island, and the C&O Canal. Rock Creek was less visited back then and Dyke Marsh, lacking a boardwalk, was essentially off limits to all but the hardy and adventurous. A passionate observer of nature, Halle documents in detail the migration of birds, the awakening of foliage, and the changeability of the wind and the local weather. Written in the style of Aldo Leopold, but speaking very much with his own voice, Mr. Halle reflects not only on nature but on foreign affairs and the human condition. It’s a timely read for many reasons.

This book, which numbers just over 200 pages, is no longer in print but copies can readily be found in the Fairfax County Library system or for purchase via Amazon and Alibris. If at all possible, do try to snag a copy that features the illustrations of American artist Francis L. Jaques, as his drawings truly are delightful.

Louis J. Halle was born in New York City and educated at Harvard University. In 1979 he received the Audubon Naturalist Society’s Paul Dartsch Award for outstanding contributions to the field of natural history.

*“Spring in Washington;” Louis J. Halle; Johns Hopkins University Press; 1988; Forward by Roger Tory Peterson.