Clifton Institute hikes: Birds and mosses, 27 and 28 October

Photo by Barbara J. Saffir (c)

Fourth Saturday Bird Walk

Saturday, October 27 at 8:00AM

Novice and experienced birders will enjoy these guided 1-2 mile hikes to look for the many species of birds that can be found on the field station. As fall migration proceeds, we’ll see different species of birds every week. Help us find that Bicknell’s Thrush that must be passing through!

Moss Identification and Biology

Sunday, October 28, 2:00PM – 4:00PM

The Clifton Institute is home to a diverse community of mosses and liverworts. Join moss expert Dr. Ralph Pope as we explore the field station and learn about these often overlooked plants. Ralph is the author of Mosses, Liverworts, and Hornworts: A Field Guide to Common Bryophytes of the Northeast and he is an experienced field trip leader. Bring your hand lens!

The Big Sit! October 13th

Meadowood Special Recreation Management Area, Lorton VA

Saturday, 13 October 2018

8 am – 4pm

Sponsored by the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia (ASNV)

The Big Sit! is like a Big Day or a bird-a-thon—participants tally bird species seen or heard within a given time period. The difference lies in the limited area from which you make your observations. It’s called the Big Sit for a good reason—it’s like a tailgate party for birders. Bring a chair and your binoculars. Snacks will be provided. You also may go with us on a guided bird walk or participate in a kid-friendly activity. This event is FREE of charge and open to the public.

Look for the ASNV group at the assigned count circle by the pollinator garden located at the Mustang Loop Trail parking lot (intersection of Gunston and Harley Roads). In addition to recording all birds seen and heard, they’ll note any butterfly species. A bird walk at 8:30 a.m. will start at the count circle.

Walker Nature Center Bird Walk, October 14th

Bright Pond, Bright Pond Lane, Reston VA

Sunday, 14 October 2018

9 am – 12 pm

Learn about local Reston birds during this early morning bird walk. For more information and to see other upcoming Walker Nature Center events, please visit the event calendar. Free event.

It’s time well-spent when Virginia Master Naturalists convene in conference

Mike Bishop 

The 2018 Virginia Master Naturalists State conference is over, but attendees left with a lot of useful information, new friends, and fond memories. This year’s conference was held in Fredericksburg, 7-9 September. Although I also attended the 2017 conference in Front Royal, this year I participated not only as a student, but as an instructor. 

Mike Bishop (left) discussing purple martins with Chris Ludwig

The organizing committee asked if I would be interested in teaching classes about the Purple Martin and the Northern Virginia Purple Martin Initiative that I founded several years ago. I immediately said I would, seizing a great opportunity to be able to spread the word about this conservation effort.

The conference started for me on Friday with a thrilling and educational 3-hour kayak trip down the historic Rappahannock River, with 25 other naturalists. Sights along the way were Bald Eagles, Osprey and Great Blue Herons, to name just a few. Our guides had extensive knowledge of an adjoining canal system that I didn’t even know existed. We pulled ashore at several places to explore them. This was just one of many field trips led by local experts on the area. I spent the rest of the conference teaching or attending classes by leaders in their fields of study. One class I particularly enjoyed covered current research and findings about bird migration patterns and habits.

The conference center was top notch; classrooms were excellent for teaching and the meals were delicious. The Rappahannock chapter did everything right to make this a most enjoyable and comfortable event. There were even three tables of superb, nature-related door prizes. Everybody walked away with something.

After attending the state conferences for the past years, I plan on going to as many future ones as possible. As important as the classes you learn from is networking with others from around the state—finding out what makes their chapters so fun and effective. 

In September 2019, the conference will be held in Harrisonburg. The close proximity again makes it convenient for the members of our chapter. Considering the area, the field trips should be visiting some spectacular natural areas of the Shenandoah Valley. 

Unfortunately, representation from our chapter has been low at the past two conferences. Let’s see if we can change that next year. Believe me, it’s time well spent and I hope to see you there! 

Owl Moon program, September 22nd, registration open now

Gunston Hall Visitor Center

10709 Gunston Road, Lorton VA 22079

Saturday, 22 September 2018

7 pm

Friends of Mason Neck State Park present their annual Owl Moon event.  Secret Garden Birds and Bees will present a program on Winter Owls.  You’ll learn about the short-eared owls, long-eared owls, saw-whet owls and snowy owls that make the Virginia, Maryland and DC area their homes for the winter.  The stars of the show will be several rescue owls that live here year-round, which you can photograph and view up close.

Owl Moon is open to members of the Friends of Mason Neck State Park and their families, and registration is required.  Members can register at Register for Owl Moon.  There will be a short annual meeting and refreshments will be served.  If you aren’t a member, you can join for as little as $20 for a full year, and bring up to 4 other family members to Owl Moon as well as other Friends events.  You can become a member at Join the Friends of Mason Neck State Park and then register for the event.

Will mice be served as refreshments?

Learn how native plants support wildlife, September 12th

Join the Friends of Dyke Marsh to hear Dr. Desiree Narango speak about her research on how residential landscapes influence biodiversity.

Common yellow throat

The talk will focus on her research comparing how well native and nonnative trees provide food for insect-eating Carolina chickadees.  She will share results from her work that can help you choose trees and shrubs that will support habitat for birds and other backyard wildlife.  She is a postdoctoral researcher at University of Massachusetts Amherst.

The program is sponsored by the Friends of Dyke Marsh and co-sponsored by Plant NOVA Natives, the Northern Virginia Bird Club, and the Potowmack Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society.

Huntley Meadows Park Visitor Center, 3701 Lockheed Boulevard, Alexandria VA

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

7:30 pm



Hike along Buttermilk Creek Trail in Reston, 8 July

The Reston Association and The Bird Feeder of Reston is leading a hike along Buttermilk Creek Trail to watch for birds, and maybe feeding hatchlings.

Buttermilk Creek
11032 Ring Road Reston, VA, 20190
Sunday,  8 July 8 2018
7:30-10:30 AM

Approved for continuing education credit for certified master naturalists.

Identify shorebirds with Audubon instructor Marc Ribaudo, 16 August

Join instructor Marc Ribaudo for an evening class and accompanying field trip that will cover identifying shorebirds.  The class is recommended for anyone who would like to tackle shorebird identification on their own.

The group will spend an evening in the classroom covering identification tips for shorebirds that can typically be seen in our region. Emphasis will be on shorebirds that pose the biggest identification challenges, such as peeps.

On the Saturday following the class, the group will visit Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware to put into practice what they’ve learned in class. Bombay Hook is one of the top shorebird spots in the northeast and provides ample opportunities to view many species of shorebird in close proximity to each other. The group may also visit Port Mahon or Taylor’sDitch, depending on tide and what is being seen at the time.

Fairfax High School, Fairfax, Virginia; Bombay Hook NWR, Smyrna, DE
Thursday, 16 August 2018; Saturday, 18 August 2018
$50/member; $60/non-member

Learn more and sign up


Explore the Discovery Trail through Fairfax County Parks this summer

The Fairfax County Park Authority’s Discovery Trail Map features 12 sites across the park system that give children and adults the chance to discover each park’s special features. There’s a game built into the activities, so prizes are a possible outcome (e.g., bicycles, mini-golf, a carousel, train, tour boat, pedal boat, camping, wagon ride, RECenters and a boat rental).

This year’s free summer activities highlight the rich diversity of wildlife you’ll see in Fairfax County parks.

  • Now in its fifth year, the map encourages children and adults to explore and learn interesting facts about the wildlife that lives in the parks. Discover which bird’s wings beat up to 53 times per second, which park serves as the perfect habitat for the great blue heron and which creature could be called a party animal!
  • Discovery Trail Maps ware available now at staffed FCPA locations, Fairfax County Public Libraries, and Board of Supervisors offices (while supply lasts).  Maps also will be available online at Download Discovery Trail Map during the promotional period, May 26 – Sept. 3, 2018.
  • Each featured site has a sticker with a unique image that reinforces the educational messages on the map.
  • Pick up a sticker for each park at the sticker location listed in the table above, and place it in the corresponding box (participant must be present to receive a sticker).
  • Participants who visit at least eight of the featured sites will receive tickets to more park fun valued at $93 and be entered in a drawing for one of four bicycles donated by Spokes, Etc. through the Fairfax County Park Foundation.
  • Qualifying maps can be redeemed at Burke Lake Park, Frying Pan Farm Park and Green Spring Gardens.

Learn more

Get involved in Audubon’s Climate Watch citizen science work

Audubon’s Birds and Climate Change Report predicts that over half of North American bird species will lose more than 50 percent of their current climatic range by 2080.

To test these predictions, Audubon has been running a new community science project, Climate Watch, since January. Climate Watch aims to document species’ responses to climate change by having volunteer community scientists in the field look for birds where Audubon’s climate models project they should be in the 2020’s, giving us an understanding on how birds respond to a changing climate.

There’s still time to get involved. If you would like to find out more about being a volunteer or how to coordinate in 

your area, please contact the Audubon Climate Watch Team at