Posts

Friends of Mason Neck State Park Owl Moon Program, Zoom session October 17th

Saturday, October 17, 2020
7 pm
FREE
Register here

It’s nearly time for the Friends of Mason Neck State Park’s annual presentation of OWL MOON! This year, they will be bringing the event to you right in your own home using Zoom.

You will meet and learn about all the owls from raptor rehabilitator Secret Garden Birds and Bees, their favorite presenter. A special treat will be the introduction of Phantom – a beautiful barn owl. Find out what makes him unique as you also explore the life of a barred owl, great horned owl, and screech owl.

You will be able to ask questions about all the raptors in the program.
Get the whole family together. This event is appropriate for all ages and is open to the public. Registration is only $10 per person or family, which will help to offset the cost of the program. Don’t miss it!

After you register, they’ll provide you the instructions you’ll need to join the program.

Earth Day Fairfax Festival (formerly Springfest), April 25th–CANCELED!

Sully Historic Site
3650 Historic Sully Way, Chantilly VA
Saturday, 25 April 2020
10am – 4pm
Parking $10 per car

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, so come out to celebrate at the Sully Historic Site! There will be a fun day packed with entertainment, activities, food vendors, Touch-A-Truck, prizes, and more! Learn more about how we can all support our event theme of “Healthy People – Healthy Planet” and all that Fairfax County is doing to support environmental sustainability.

Volunteers needed!

Download the flyer.

Simple composting for the whole family, Mar. 7th

Belvedere Elementary School
6540 Columbia Pike, Falls Church VA
Rooms 136/138; Enter at Door #2
Saturday, 7 March 2020
10 – 11:30 am

Curious about composting? Learn how it can work for you and your family. There is something for the children too!

In this family-friendly workshop presented by the Fairfax Food Council, learn how your food waste and shredded office paper can save you money and enrich your property. Fairfax County Extension Agent Adria Bordas will demonstrate the basics of home composting, including how to build simple, inexpensive composters if you don’t want to buy one.

Environmental educators Ivy Mitchell and Stacey Evers will entertain children in the adjacent room, providing hands-on activities with worms, worm composting and gardening basics. Organic waste is the second largest contributor to landfills, so come find out how easy it is to be part of the solution!

Questions? Email Stacey Evers at stacey.evers@icloud.com.

Please register for this workshop by March 1st.

Save the date for the Big Sit!, Oct. 12th

Meadowood Special Recreation Management Area
10702 Harley Road, Lorton, VA, 22079
Saturday, 12 October 2019
8am – 1 pm

The Big Sit! is an annual, international birding day sponsored by Bird Watcher’s Digest and Swarovski Optics. This family fun event was founded by the New Haven (Connecticut) Bird Club to promote the sport of birding.

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. It’s called the Big Sit for a good reason—it’s like a tailgate party for birders. Join Audubon Society of Northern Virginia and Meadowood Bureau of Land Management staff for this event.  Bring a chair and your binoculars. Snacks will be provided. You also may go on a guided bird walk or participate in a kid-friendly activity. This event is FREE of charge and open to the public. Watch a video that provides background about the BigSit phenomenon.

Out with the sun, in with the moon

Jerry Nissley

That’s the unofficial mantra for the twilight kayak tour at Mason Neck State Park (MNSP).  A group departs in time to revel in the golden hour of the setting sun and returns after dark by the moon’s guiding light. The park schedules twilight tours two evenings a month, June through October, to coincide with the full moon, with an additional “evening” tour scheduled once a month that does not necessarily coincide with the full moon. The park offers Saturday morning tours as well. The approved service description for all kayak tours at MNSP is detailed in FMN service category E410.

Photo by Jerry Nissley

A typical tour group consists of between 10 to 12 people in kayaks or canoes, which are accompanied by a lead guide and a sweeper. All guides have been skill certified by a qualified Virginia State Park instructor. The objectives of any guided tour at MNSP are to introduce paddlers to the various plants and animals found at the park and to the conservational, historical and cultural significance of the Mason Neck Peninsula (MNP).

Photo by Jerry Nissley

Guides are trained up in each of the above objective topics prior to leading a tour. The guides may include culture from as early as 1608, when Captain John Smith sailed up the Potomac and encountered the Dogue and the Taux Native Peoples on and around the MNP. Farmers, fishers and hunters, these tribes were part of the Algonquian-speaking Federation and built permanent long house villages along the Potomac River in counties that include Fairfax, Prince George, and Prince William. Records show that Miompse (now Mason Neck) may have been Taux capital known as Tauxenent. 

Colonial history includes times that saw the peninsula’s namesake, George Mason and his extended family, take virtual control of the area. George Mason’s home, Gunston Hall (1759) and the remains of his eldest son’s home built on Mason’s Lexington Plantation (1783) are still located on MNP. It is well documented that at one time George Mason’s family operated nearly 25 fish catching/processing facilities on the Potomac from what is now Prince William County, north into waters that are now in Washington, D.C. 

Photo by Jerry Nissley

Equally as important as the culture and history of MNP is understanding why the state park was established and how the natural resources found in and around are preserved. MNSP (est. 1965) and the conjoined Elizabeth Hartwell National Wildlife Refuge (est. 1969) were established for the conservation of the American Bald Eagle and supporting habitat. In 2017, 40 nesting pairs were counted on MNP alone. There is also an active great blue heron rookery with approximately 125 nests near the northern interior of the park. Numerous ospreys may be seen diving for fish each evening and great egrets frequently contrast the falling night with their bright white feathers. 

A typical 2.5-hour tour consists of outfitting the paddlers with gear, “kayak 101” instruction, and the round trip tour through Belmont Bay and the adjoining Kane’s Creek. As mentioned, the tour is timed to catch the setting sun and still have enough light so the group can see what the guides are talking about early in the tour. Paddling out we talk history and culture and point out birds such as osprey (Pandion haliaetus), bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), great egrets (Ardea alba), great blue herons (Ardea herodias), belted king fishers (Megaceryle alcyon), and red winged black birds (Agelaius phoeniceus) to name a few. Critters, too, like beaver, turtles, raccoons, deer, and snakes, are common. 

Photo by Jerry Nissley

About mid-tour, we stop to point out several of the aquatic plants that adorn the shore as the calm vail of dusk settles over the marsh. Spatterdock (Nuphar advena), pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata), wild rice (Zizania aquatic), arrow arum (Peltandra virginica), swamp rose-mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos), and cattail (Typha latifolia) are abundant. 

Fun facts: Pickerel weed is such an efficient biological filter of polluted water in natural wetlands that it is used in constructed wetlands. Spatterdock has long been used in traditional medicine. Studies show that its root juice may be applied directly for skin for irritations, and the root and seeds may be eaten together for stomach conditions. Native wild rice and cattail were valuable food sources for native peoples. Wild rice found on the Potomac tidal tributaries was boiled and eaten or ground into a powder. The entire cattail plant was used—rhizomes are edible, the long, linear leaves were used for weaving mats and baskets, and the sausage-shaped spike (actually a dense aggregate of female flowers and seeds) was used to kindle fires and to stuff bedding. 

Once we enter the far reaches of Kane’s Creek, the quiet solitude of darkness is interrupted only by the chorus of frogs, the flight of dragonflies, and the distant hoot of an owl. We stopped one evening to listen to the grand frog chorus and I literally had to paddle closer to a kayaker to hear the question being asked.

Returning by moonlight is priceless. The herons and egrets have roosted for the night so I try to stay quiet and enjoy the rustling swish of shoreline trees, an occasional deer or raccoon drinking at water’s edge, the splash and churn of spawning snakehead or carp. One time a bass flopped into and out of a kayak as the fish leapt for and missed a flying insect. No worries though—just another cool story for someone to tell at the office on Monday.

The lead guide and sweeper now turn on small safety lights as the group glides back through the evening. The return leg is always the least eventful for me but the most positive. The cool darkness seems to wrap her arms around me and imbue a sense of tranquility within. It encourages inner reflection, a release from the agitation of the six o’clock news and the complexity that daily life may bring on. 

As we continue across glass like water of Kane’s Creek, we are bid adieu by the joyful noise of frogs, cicadas, and katydids in three-part harmony no less. Once back, we rack and stack the boats and call it night—and we are all better off somehow for the experience. Each guest is unique so during their night on the water, each guest makes unique connections with Mason Neck and its inhabitants that they will not soon forget.

Background on MNP 

Some of the informational material guides use to prepare is supplied by the park but most of the written material I learned from was prepared by fellow VMN and guide, Tom Blackburn. His material encouraged me to do my own follow-on research and learn additional details. Tom has volunteered at MNSP for many years and compiled a wealth of park and habitat information that he readily shares with the 10 or so guides each year. A big thank you goes out to Tom for his continued mentoring.

Photo by Jerry Nissley

Two thirds of Mason Neck peninsula, roughly 5000 acres, is protected area managed by four jurisdictions: Virginia State Parks (MNSP), Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (Pohick Park), U.S. Department of Interior-Bureau of Land Management (Meadowood Special Recreation Management Area), and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Elizabeth Hartwell National Wildlife Refuge) managed as part of the Potomac River National Wildlife Resources Complex.

The Fairfax County peninsula is shaped by Belmont Bay to the south, Potomac River to the east, with Gunston Bay and Pohick Bay bordering the north.

MNSP is a stellar example of the natural and recreational areas maintained by our great state of Virginia. Volunteer opportunities abound at the park and FMN members have indeed been involved in several areas—shore line clean-ups, invasive species removal, Eagle Festival, and of course guides to name a few. MNP consists of unique habitats (woodland and wetland) and was the site of a spring 2019 FMN program field trip. It appears to be a fall 2019 site as well. 

Rita Peralta, VMN and senior interpreter at Riverbend Park, was able to share her time with us and presented the wetlands portion in the Elizabeth Hartwell NWR section of the peninsula. The dendrology portion of the field trip was given in the MNSP section and was led by Jim McGlone, Chapter Advisor for the Fairfax Chapter of VMN and an Urban Forest Conservationist with the Virginia Department of Forestry.

Volunteer at Riverbend’s Native American Festival, Sept 7

Join Riverbend at this year’s Virginia Native American Festival held at Riverbend Park in Great Falls, VA, on Saturday, September 7, 10-4. Admission is $8 online, $10 at the gate. Volunteers receive free admission to the festival.

To volunteer, register here, by September 1.

You can sign-up for a shift directly. Valerie Espinosa will contact you about station assignments soon, but feel free to let her know if you have any questions or are volunteering with a group. Riverbend is  providing a shuttle from Colvin Run Mill again this year.

About the Native American Festival 

Celebrate the culture & history of the first people of Virginia. The festival includes eight American Indian tribes from Virginia, including the Rappahannock dancers and drummers. Enjoy hands-on activities and live demonstrations that include American Indian storytelling, shooting bow and arrows, throwing spears and making stone tools. Help build a dugout canoe, and visit a marketplace of American Indian crafts, pottery and jewelry. $8 online, $10 at the gate.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact Valeria at valeria.espinoza@fairfaxcounty.gov or call 703-759-9018.

Runnymede NatureFest 2019 volunteers needed, Sept. 29th

Photo by Ryan Dunn. Used with permission of Connection Newspapers.

Runnymede Park
195 Herndon Pkwy, Herndon VA
Sunday, 29 September 2019
1-5 pm

Friends of Runnymede Park is hosting this free, family-friendly event.  There will be live animals, games, exhibits and hands-on activities at stations throughout the park. Participants include:

– Leslie Sturges, “Save Lucy the Bat” will bring live bats.
– Blue Ridge Wildlife Center with live mammals.
– Lois Auer with live raptors.
– Reptiles from Riverbend Park.

Plus Bees, Butterflies, Crafts, Games and Much More!

For more information, visit our website, frpweb.org, or email friendsofrp@yahoo.com.

Volunteers needed! Please contact Carol Hadlock.

Hidden Oaks 50th Anniversary Celebration, Oct. 19th

Hidden Oaks Nature Center
7701 Royce St., Annandale VA
Saturday, 19 October 2019
11 am – 4 pm

Visit for a day of fun, music and special activities in honor of Hidden Oaks Nature Center’s 50th anniversary! Opened in 1969 as the first nature center in Fairfax County, Hidden Oaks now serves over 30,000 visitors a year. Enjoy a Reptiles Alive presentation, music from the School of Rock honoring Woodstock’s 50th year and other children’s music groups, go on a Hidden Treasures of Hidden Oaks hunt, see demonstrations of Monarch butterfly tagging and release and enjoy the new playground and chainsaw tree art. Fun for all ages!  Parking in Annandale Community Park except for special permit parking.  Free.

Have some natural knowledge and can assist with a learning station?  To volunteer, contact Suzanne Holland, Suzanne.Holland@fairfaxcounty.gov. Master naturalists, record your hours as E110: FCPA Nature Programs.

Interfaith learning and engagement: Exploring why nature matters to us

Join this 6-session youth outdoor education program for a special interfaith Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience. Together, the group will explore why nature is important and discuss what we can do to connect with and protect the earth. 

Session 1: June 23 

Whitehall Farm | 1:30 PM – 4:30 PM | Clifton, VA | Introduction to the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, Part I 

Session 2: June 30 

Hard Bargain Farm | 1:30 PM – 5:30 PM | Accokeek, MD | Introduction to the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, Part II 

Session 3: July 7 

Whitehall Farm | 1:30 PM – 3:30 PM | Clifton, VA | Art in Nature 

Session 4: July 14 

Whitehall Farm | 1:30 PM – 3:30 PM | Clifton, VA | Environmental Stewardship and Sustainable Farming 

Sessions 5: July 21 

Theodore Roosevelt Island | 1:30 PM – 4:30 PM | Washington, DC | Invasive Plant Removal 

Session 6: July 28 

Hemlock Overlook Regional Park | 1:30 PM – 4:30 PM | Clifton, VA | Educational Hike 

Space is limited. For more information or to register contact@greenmuslims.org | www.greenmuslims.org 

Sharable flyer

Fairfax County farmers markets now open

Local farmers and artisans are excited to provide you with the freshest produce, meats, cheese, baked breads, honey, ice cream, sweets, and cut flowers the region has to offer. All of Fairfax County’s 10 farmers markets are open for the season.

The farmers markets offers the best quality produce around, with everything harvested hours before sale to ensure optimum taste and nutrition.

The markets are producer-only, meaning the farmers and producers must grow or make everything they sell at market. This gives customers the opportunity to meet farmers, and learn more about where their food comes from. There is no better way to support local farmers, businesses, and community than shopping locally.

Bring your family and friends, and join your neighbors at the farmers markets! Don’t forget to bring your reusable bag!

Here’s a printable schedule