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Welcome Fairfax Tree Stewards

Cover photo: Public Domain

In January 2023, the FMN board approved a chapter partnership with Fairfax Tree Stewards (FTS). FTS is an educational, non-profit, volunteer organization providing specialized training and certification focusing on trees. It is a program under the auspices of Trees Virginia, registered with the state as Virginia Urban Forest Council and is a private, non-profit organization whose mission is to enhance the quality of life through the Stewardship of our Commonwealth’s urban and community trees. Founded in September 1990 and incorporated in June 1991, the organization works to promote an awareness of our community forests and the value of trees. Approved chapters, such as FTS, use the newly updated Manual to form the basis of training classes, and FTS will supplement book learning with hands on field classes on tree selection, tree planting, tree pruning and tree ID by season.
The first FTS certification class, scheduled for February 2023, is full and includes a few FMNs. FTS is an approved CE organization and service codes for collaborative projects have been created in BI for use by FMN volunteers as projects develop.

Habitat creation and restoration – E405: Educational Projects Fairfax Tree Stewards – – FTS
Educational project code for Fairfax Tree Stewards (FTS).
Educational Projects could be advising a homeowner or association on proper tree selection and planting, education about maintenance, developing resource lists, or FTS tabling events at selected locations in Fairfax County.
When recording these hours in BI, ‘FTS’ should be entered as the Project Organization.

Habitat creation and restoration – S405: Stewardship Projects Fairfax Tree Stewards – – Department of Forestry (VDoF)
Stewardship project code for Fairfax Tree Stewards (FTS).
Stewardship Projects could be helping a homeowner or association with proper physical design, planting, tree pruning, or maintenance, at selected locations in Fairfax County.
When recording these hours in BI, ‘Department of Forestry (VDoF)’ should be entered as the Project Organization.

To participate in FTS projects, one must be a certified Fairfax Tree Steward along with being an FMN member.

Please see FTS website for more information.

FMN and FTS contact is Jeanne Kadet: [email protected]

Keep Our Wooded Areas Beautiful

Article and photo by Plant NOVA Natives/Plant NOVA Trees

If your community owns some wooded common land, or if you yourself own a wooded property, you may have noticed that the woods around here have been slowly changing, and not for the better. They may still look green, but the devil is in the details: much of that “green” is now made up of invasive non-native plants that damage the ecosystem and bring down the trees.

Natural wooded areas are a beautiful and invaluable resource for any landowner or community. Unlike most material assets, they appreciate over time. They capture stormwater and keep our basements from flooding. They provide soundproofing and a visual barrier between properties as well as a place for us to walk and enjoy nature. They block the wind and lower heating costs in the winter. And of course, they are the home to birds and other wondrous beings, who will need our help if their homes are not to completely disappear.

In the past, the woods managed themselves nicely. In present-day Northern Virginia, at least some care is needed to keep the woods from degrading, turning an asset into an increasingly expensive problem. It is wise to make a forest management plan that looks ahead for twenty or twenty-five years. You can do this on your own, or you can call in a consultant to help you evaluate the situation and map out solutions to any problems. Professional assistance is available, as are volunteers from various programs including Tree Stewards, Master Naturalists, and Audubon-at-Home ambassadors.

The two biggest threats to our woods are invasive non-native plants and browsing by deer. In many places, the deer have taken away everything except the mature trees and the invasive plants, not even leaving the seedlings that should be there to become the next generation of trees. Removing the invasives and protecting native plants from deer are the highest priority in most areas.

Some of our attempts to “improve” the woods may have the opposite effect. Woods do not need to be cleaned! The dead leaves and fallen trees are essential components of a healthy ecosystem. (Dumping extra leaves from your lawn damages that ecosystem, though.) Standing dead trees provide perches for birds of prey, nesting sites for songbirds, shelters for mammals, and food for thousands of species of insects. They are also becoming increasingly rare in our human-managed environment. Try to leave them standing, or if they pose a hazard, just cut off the top and leave as much as you can standing.

For information about how to manage your woods, and how to help your community develop a long-term plan, see the Plant NOVA Trees website.

Bald Eagles: A Conservation Success Story, a March 2 Talk

Photo (c) Barbara Saffir

Wednesday, March 2, 2022
7 pm
Online
Register here to receive Zoom link.

Bald and Golden Eagles will be the focus of this presentation by Jeff Cooper, a Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) wildlife biologist. Cooper will explore eagle biology, recent research, the Bald Eagle’s recovery and the importance of the Chesapeake Bay region to Bald Eagles.

For over 30 years, Cooper has worked with many bird species, such as raptors, vultures, passerines and marsh birds. He has done extensive work in Virginia on Bald and Golden Eagles, including the delisting of the Bald Eagle from the federal threatened and endangered species list. He has investigated winter ranging behavior of Golden Eagles and worked to minimize wind energy risks, among many other projects.

The sponsors of this program are the Friends of Dyke Marsh, the Friends of Huntley Meadows Park, the Friends of Mason Neck Park, the Northern Virginia Bird Club and the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia.

Urban Bats: Studying and Protecting our Wildlife Neighbors, October 26th

Photo by Rick Reynolds on www.dwr.virginia.gov

Tuesday, October 26, 2021
7 pm
Zoom
Register here.

When you think of urban wildlife, critters like rats, pigeons, and raccoons may come to mind – but what about bats? Bats have a scary reputation, but play an important role in ecosystems and face serious conservation threats. Dr. Ela-Sita Carpenter will discuss her study of bats in Baltimore, as well as ways we can all support these special creatures in our neighborhoods. Presented by Audubon Naturalist Society.

VASWCD Photo Contest, deadline July 30th

Photo by Landon Martin on Unsplash

The Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District is committed to conservation of natural resources through stewardship and education programs and they want to see it through your eyes. The theme this year is “Conservation through the Local Lens.” Capture those vibrant moments and express what conservation looks like through your lens! The contest is open from February 1 – July 30, 2021. To learn more about the contest, please click here to download Rules & Judging. You can submit up to 10 photos. Click here to submit your photos.

All photographs must be taken within the Commonwealth of Virginia. Photographs taken outside the state of Virginia will be disqualified.

View the 2020 winners here.

National Council for Science & the Environment and Project Drawdown 2021 Virtual Conference, Jan 5-9

Science & Solutions for a Planet under Pressure

Co-hosted by the National Council for Science & the Environment (NCSE) and Project Drawdown

January 5-9, 2021

The NCSE Drawdown 2021 Conference is bringing together leaders, research partners, scientists, decision-makers and friends from across the globe to share their science and solutions to the world’s most pressing global challenges. This joint conference will:

  • focus on the physical and social realities of climate change and the way this impacts people, ecosystems, markets and the places people live; and 
  • how implementing climate solutions produces positive co-benefits to society, the economy, and the planet.

Read more about the themes, schedule, and speakers, and register (the last two days are free!)

For Fairfax Master Naturalists: This opportunity is posted to the Continuing Education Calendar.

Creative Counsel from Students in the Time of COVID-19

Naturalists are at home this summer, and so are many of our teens and grand-teens who may have lost their planned summer activities. The FMN chapter invites them to share their practical and scientific wisdom with our readers. Options include:

  • Writing up or posting a video about the results of science fair projects that touch on the natural world, as Curated Resources.
  • Documenting their experiences with iNaturalist or eBird or another app, either in writing or as a video
  • Reviewing a film or show of interest to naturalists. Yup, in writing or as a video.
  • Producing a short series of related posts or videos

Whatever they choose to do will add their perspectives and learnings to our public presence, and we’ll have the honor of offering engaged, enterprising students a platform to speak with the world. 

Please direct the students in your life to [email protected], and we’ll work together for the good of all parties. All contributors under the age of 18 must have the express written permission of their parents or guardians to post to our site.

See also: Are You Really Sure You Want to Water Your Plants From the Tap?, by Anna Gershenson, Fairfax High School

Upcoming Webinar: Social Marketing as a Behavior-Centered Design Tool

On June 10, Dulce Espelosin, Senior Trainer at Rare’s Center for Behavior and the Environment, will lead two webinars hosted by the International Social Marketing Association. Tune in as she shares the unique opportunities and challenges of supporting community-led, behavior change campaigns.

Working in remote places presents many challenges when it comes to nature conservation, beginning with communicating with its inhabitants. The most effective tool has been behavior change design embedded within a social marketing strategy. In this webinar, Ms. Espelosin will share the strategies she used with a community in Mozambique to make a sustainable change.

Fairfax County hosts a diverse community of people who will respond differently to the messages they hear. Tune in to discover how you might change your approach and increase the likelihood that you will succeed.

Webinar 1: 12:00pm-1:00pm Register

Webinar 2: 8:00pm-9:00pm Register

For FMN members: This learning opportunity is on the CE calendar.

Interview with Dr. David Wilcove, Author of No Way Home: The Decline of the World’s Great Animal Migrations

Alison Zak, the very talented education associate supporting The Clifton Institute in Warrenton, interviews Dr. David Wilcove, professor at Princeton University and author of No Way Home: The Decline of the World’s Great Animal Migrations.

Is there hope? Dr. Wilcove says, yes, and urges us to persevere. This is a stimulating, positive, worthwhile use of 24 minutes.

Access the video here.

Penguins and Seals and Whales, Oh My!

Shawn Dilles

A short time ago, in a world that seems far, far, away, my wife and I decided to visit the end of the Earth. We spent January on a large, now infamous cruise ship traveling from Santiago, Chile to Buenos Aires, Argentina by way of Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego, the Antarctic Peninsula, and the Falkland Islands. The natural beauty of the near-pristine landscape was monumental, made even more special by the volcanoes, glaciers, icebergs, and the most clear dark skies I have ever seen. The most wonderful part of the trip was getting (somewhat) up close and personal with the delightful wildlife of the region.

Magellanic penguins in Chile. Photo: Shawn Dilles

Penguins are, simply stated, a joy to watch. Maybe their shape makes them easy to anthropomorphize, and once you start thinking that they are small versions of people, their behavior is often hilarious. These highly evolved birds come in a variety of sizes and colors, with many of the species living side by side. They are amazing swimmers and seem to fly through the water, occasionally leaping through the air for a quick breath. The Straits of Magellan and the Darwin Channel in Tierra del Fuego, at the tip of South America, house large colonies of Magellanic and Gentoo penguins. In the Antarctic Peninsula there are even more colonies of Gentoo, Adélie, and Chinstrap penguins. Emperor’s – the largest penguin species – also live in Antarctica, but none were sighted on this trip. In the Falkland Islands we saw Rockhopper, Magellanic, Gentoo, and a King Penguin.

Although penguins are relatively easy – even for me – to identify, I cannot say the same for other birds. The variety of novel species was obvious, and for the average birder visiting the region would undoubtedly be a very memorable experience. We saw hawks, shags, and geese (along with many other species) in Patagonia and the Falkland Islands, and two types of Albatross and countless petrels and other types of seabirds in the Drake Passage en route to Antarctica.  

South American Sea Lions are common on uninhabited small islands in the Beagle Channel – named after the H.M.S. Beagle, the hydrographic ship that carried Charles Darwin to explored the region in 1833. Both Chile and Argentina have set aside large areas of the tip of South America as national parks and reserves. 

What seals do on an ice raft. Photo: Shawn Dilles

Weddell and Crabeater seals live all along the shore and waters of the Antarctic Peninsula and on the icebergs and ice rafts there. The seals feed on krill, crabs and fish. One way to tell what the seals are eating is to look at the color of their ice rafts. If krill is a large part of the diet then the digested remains of the meal will tint the ice a pink or red color. 

Humpback whale. Photo: Shawn Dilles

Sighting a whale for the first time is a thing of wonder. We logged hundreds of sightings of humpback whales, a handful of killer whales and also dolphins in eight days of cruising around the Antarctic Peninsula. The humpback whales travelled in family units of two to six. A common sight was a mother and calf lazily travelling along the surface and occasionally diving to feed. A common way of feeding for humpbacks is for a small group to spiral through the water releasing bubbles that isolate then concentrate their prey. This so-called bubble feeding creates a net of bubbles that allows the whales to eat more efficiently. It is fascinating to think that one whale may have developed this strategy and passed it along so that humpbacks (and some other marine mammals) now do this around the world.

Two months after our cruise, the ship became internationally notorious for a corona virus outbreak. Eventually, the ship was allowed to dock, and the passengers disembarked. While I may not be ready to take another cruise now, there are many destinations, such as the south Pacific and Arctic, where ships provide the most practical – or only – access. I definitely will not rule out one in the future. 

Not ready to hop on a cruise ship any time soon? You can still see Antarctic penguins up close while contributing to citizen science as part of the Zooniverse Penguin Watch project at: https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/penguintom79/penguin-watch

Zooniverse has dozens of other nature-related citizen science projects, and I encourage you to check some out.   

Seals in Tierra del Fuego. Photo: Shawn Dilles