911 for Wildlife and How You Can Help!

Text and photos by Lisa Stern

Do you wonder what you should do when you find injured wildlife?  Read on to discover more about wildlife rehabilitation.

Ever wonder what you should do when you find an injured squirrel? Or a baby bird that has fallen from the nest? Or a turtle with a cracked shell? Or, how about a snake caught in garden webbing?

Virginia has two terrific resources that fill this vital need: the Wildlife Rescue League (WRL) and Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitators (WRs). They are on call practically 24/7 to help. It may look like an easy job; just scoop up that baby bird, or untangle the poor snake, but there are many species-specific laws and regulations governing the handling of wildlife, some training to become a volunteer with the League, and a lot of training and mentoring to become a Wildlife Rehabilitator (WR). Here is more information about each and how you can assist with wildlife rehab.

Wildlife Rescue League

The Wildlife Rescue League (WRL) is a nonprofit, all volunteer organization whose primary purposes are to operate a wildlife assistance hotline (providing the public with advice, resources, referrals to licensed rehabilitators), transport wildlife from shelters and vets to licensed rehabilitators, and educate the public on wildlife laws and how to exist with our wild neighbors, thereby preventing situations that lead to the need for wildlife rehabilitation.

The WRL volunteers field approximately 5,000 calls a year! That helpless baby bird found in the grass really may not need a human to scoop it up—it’s possibly learning to fly and the mom is nearby. Hotline volunteers help the caller determine that, in this case, intervention is not required. What about the snake?

Well, that’s a different story. If he’s cut in several places, lost scales, and is not well, he will need an intervention and transport to a licensed WR. In this case, the hotline volunteer will find a WR and arrange transport.

Photo of injured black rat snake by Lisa Stern

Black rat snake (Pantherophis obsoletus) with injuries from being caught in garden webbing.

 

Once an injured, orphaned, or abandoned animal is transported to a WR, it will be treated until it can be safely released.

Carolyn Wilder, Vice President of WRL, has a wealth of knowledge and experience on wildlife rescue. She got involved in the organization while transitioning out of a legal career with a trade association. She started as a transporter because of her love of animals and eventually became a hotline volunteer which she has been doing for 3 years. Because of her work in both areas, and creating relationships with WRs, Carolyn became involved on the board. She now spends her time coordinating and training transporters, offering group training for hotline volunteers, doing presentations for schools and groups, and working to make WRL function more efficiently.

Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitators

WRs are licensed by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF). Becoming a wildlife rehabilitator requires a big commitment of time and energy, need for appropriate space, and a true love of wildlife. First, anyone interested in the program must take 6 hours of approved continuing education before even filling out the application to become an apprentice. Apprentices must have a sponsoring licensed WR who cares for the species they wish to rehabilitate, spend two years working under the supervision and guidance of their sponsor, and are generally limited to caring for uninjured, orphaned wildlife. In addition, since most rehabbers work out of their homes, apprentices must have a home inspection completed by the VGDIF to ensure that there is an adequate, quiet designated area for the care of wildlife. They also complete 6 hours of continuing education annually, may be required to have a rabies vaccine, and must maintain a full record of wildlife received.

Most WRs “specialize”—choosing a species and age range that fits their lifestyle and space. For example, pinky squirrels (newborns) need more feedings per day than juveniles. Baby bunnies need to be fed only twice a day. And, how much room do you have? Enough for baby ducklings needing bins of water to swim in and heat lamps?

After two years of wildlife care experience, the apprentice can begin to care for wildlife without a sponsor’s supervision, complete 6 hours of continuing education annually, work with a licensed veterinarian, have inspections of the holding facility, and get any required immunizations based on the wildlife cared for. Additional permits are required for WRs who desire to work with most birds, eagles, and threatened or endangered species.

Rachael Tolman, the Park Naturalist at Long Branch Nature Center in Arlington, has been a rehabber for many years and has been through the certification process several times since each state and country has different regulations and covered species. While a rehabber in Australia, Rachael worked with baby kangaroos! Here in Virginia, her focus is on turtles and snakes.

Photo of Rachel Tolman (Long Branch Park Naturalist) holding turtle, by Lisa Stern

Rachael Tolman holding Woodland box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) with a cracked shell.

 

Photo of injured woodland box turtle by Lisa Stern

Close-up of Woodland box turtle.

However, you won’t see any of the injured critters on display at Long Branch, since they are tucked away in quiet spaces to get the rest they need for recovery and eventual release.

Though time consuming to become a licensed WR and to nurse injured animals back to health, rehabbers like Rachael find a deep satisfaction in eventually being able to return wildlife to their natural habitat.

Would You Like to Volunteer to Help Wildlife?

If so, contact the Wildlife Rescue League for more information on answering the hotline (training provided), transporting wildlife, or assisting with other activities.

If you’re ready for a greater commitment to becoming an apprentice or licensed WR, there is additional information on WRL’s website on how to begin training for the program.

In either case, you’ll sure to be rewarded by helping our furry, scaled, and feathered friends return to their homes in the wild.

ARMN: Getting To Know Sarah Archer

From time-to-time, ARMN’s Membership Committee posts profiles of our members including how they came to be master naturalists, which parts of nature they most enjoy, and how they have an impact on the environment around them. Here is the latest biography of Arlington staff employee, Sarah Archer, who graduated in the Fall 2013 ARMN training class. Sarah currently manages Arlington’s Invasive Plant Program and is involved with starting the County’s native plant nursery. She is a valuable collaborator for ARMN on a wide variety of projects.

Tell us about the ARMN projects you spend time on.

I have been able to participate in many ARMN projects over the years, but my favorite has to be the restoration of the Barcroft Magnolia Bog. The success of this project was due to all of the great work done by ARMN members.  Marion Jordan, Jim Hurley, Marty Nielson, and others were instrumental in building momentum around the restoration work through community outreach to nearby homeowners and Claremont Elementary School. We received an award from the Virginia Association of Counties for this project because of the collaboration between county staff and groups like ARMN.

I am also really excited about Arlington’s new Native Plant Nursery . We usually have workdays at the nursery every Thursday from 3 – 5 pm.  I am also involved with the RiP/ARMN supported invasive plant removal events at Tuckahoe, Ft. Bennett, Madison Manor, Long Branch, Gulf Branch, and Haley/Oakridge/Gunston (“HOG”) parks. These events are led by our ARMN volunteer site leaders and are great opportunities for community volunteers to learn about invasive plant identification and removal techniques. I am always amazed at how much drive and passion the site leaders have to act as stewards for their neighborhood parks!

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Earth Day 2014, at an Arlington park. Sarah is second from the right.

What brought you to ARMN?/How did you learn about ARMN?

The first time I heard about the Master Naturalist program was from my mom when she took the training in Illinois. I was lucky to get the opportunity to take the ARMN course when they needed an Arlington staff member to open and close building during the training sessions.

What do you like most about ARMN?

I really appreciate the strong relationships that ARMN builds with their partner groups and how informed and motivated the volunteers are!  Arlington County wouldn’t be able to do many of our natural resource conservation and restoration projects without the support of community groups, particularly ARMN.  ARMN volunteers do so much for Arlington’s Parks and Natural Resources Division including not just invasive plant removal, but education and outreach, project planning, surveying, planting, nursery work, etc.  It’s a pretty long list of all of the different types of volunteer projects ARMN participates in. The ARMN membership is so diverse in expertise and interests that they can support almost any project that we have!

Tell us something about your childhood/adulthood experiences that shaped your perspective on nature.

I was a Girl Scout in elementary school and really enjoyed all of the outdoor activities like camping and hiking.  I actually pulled my first invasive plant, garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata), when I was in Girl Scouts! I didn’t really get interested in pursuing a nature-related career until I joined the Student Conservation Association (SCA) in 2007 after I graduated from Illinois State University (ISU), and did several internships with SCA related to environmental restoration.

What is your background?

During college, I worked with a native plant landscaping company and was a gardener for a few private residents during my summers off. In 2007, I received undergraduate degrees in dance and anthropology from ISU.  After college, I went to California to work for the Bureau of Land Management as an SCA intern and then worked on a trail crew on the Pacific Crest Trail. In 2008, I moved to Maryland with another SCA internship with the Nature Conservancy, and managed invasive plants in the Potomac Gorge.

I began working with the Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation in 2009 and received a master’s degree in Natural Resources from Virginia Tech in 2012.

What would other ARMN members find interesting about the non-ARMN parts of your life?

I enjoy many types of social dance, including square, salsa, blues, and kizomba. In college, I performed as a “koken” in a Kabuki production of Othello under the direction of Shozo Sato, an internationally renowned Japanese theater director.

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Sarah doing a fan dance (not Kabuki, but close).

I also love international travel and have a trip planned to Peru, Argentina, and Uruguay over the Christmas holidays!

Falls Church Farmers Market, ARMN, and the Environment Team: Good for the Body and the Environment!

A dedicated group of members from ARMN and the Falls Church Environment Team have braved all types of weather over the past several years with their informational display at the Falls Church Farmer’s Market. ARMN members Kent Taylor and Toni Genberg have led the weekly effort on Saturday mornings, and change their messages throughout the course of the year.

Photos courtesy of Kent Taylor unless otherwise noted.

The Falls Church Farmers Market has been a go-to location for everything from Artisan cheeses to Zinnias since 1984. In addition to the edible goodies, plants, and specialty items, there are a number of information booths worth a visit, too. From October through April, ARMN manages its own booth and from May through September, it shares a booth with the Falls Church Environment Team. This booth includes representatives from the Fairfax Master Naturalists, Fairfax Master Gardeners, Falls Church Habitat Restoration, and Green Spring Master Gardeners, and also provides local green information from the Falls Church Environment Web.

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Falls Church Environment Team Booth and visitors.

There are so many topics we covered with visitors to our booths over the years—more than I could possibly recall. But, off the top of my head, we’ve been asked about:
acquiring native plants,
invasive control,
mosquito control,
trees,
mulch,
pruning,
composting,
bees,
monarch butterflies,
cat predation,
rain barrels,
wildlife habitat certification,
and volunteering.

And yes, we have answers, literature, and other resources to address all of these!

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Some of the many topics addressed at the Falls Church Environment Team Booth.

We’ve been asked to identify plants, parasites, insects, etc. (Can do!)

We’ve given away seeds, and trees.

We’ve helped with Eagle Scout projects, and solar campaigns.

We’ve also helped the City of Falls Church gain recognition as a Certified Community Wildlife Habitat community by the National Wildlife Federation.

ARMN has an ongoing Choking Hazards campaign that educates people about the strangling dangers of English Ivy on trees. Falls Church Environment Team member, Toni Genberg, simplified the Choking Hazard message with a simple question for market goers:  “Did you know? English Ivy will choke & kill any tree it climbs.”  The message surprised lots of visitors and started a conversation.

The Saturday before this past Halloween, Toni collected some English ivy and printed Halloween-ish signs, which were a good draw to visitors to the market. There were lots of questions on mulch and pruning. It was a good day!

I really have to give a lot of credit to Toni who is still fighting for the plants and animals around us, even on chilly days in the middle of winter. Two women were so inspired by our information that they said they were going to enroll in the next ARMN Basic Training. Someone else said they would stop using pesticides. And another person asked where they could pull invasives. These are baby steps, but baby steps can add up!

The Falls Church Farmers Market operates year around. The hours from January through March are 9 am–noon, and hours from April through December are 8 am–noon. Come to the Market and visit the ARMN booth in the colder months and the Environment Team in the summer. You’ll be sure to be inspired, too!

ARMN: Getting To Know You

From time-to-time, ARMN’s Membership Committee posts profiles of our members including how they came to be master naturalists, which parts of nature they most enjoy, and how they work to impact the environment around them. Here is the latest biography of ARMN volunteer Honora Dent who graduated in the Spring 2014 ARMN training class. ARMN would also like to highlight her involvement with the Virginia Cooperative Extension Service’s 4-H Youth Development Program and the upcoming 4-H Outdoor Explorer volunteer training on February 15th.

Tell us about the ARMN projects on which you spend the most time.

For the past two years I have been an active member of the Arlington County stream monitoring team. I enjoy monitoring the health of county streams by counting and identifying the various macroinvertebrates present in the water. I would have never predicted at this stage of my life I would be wading in streams, scrubbing rocks, and collecting samples of aquatic organisms, or be able to distinguish between a Damsel fly and a Mayfly larva, but I really enjoy it, and appreciate that the County uses the information to monitor long-term trends of our streams.

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Releasing macroinvertebrates into nets, Arlington Outdoor Lab, Broad Run, VA.

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Collecting stream samples, Arlington Outdoor Lab, Broad Run, VA.

Volunteering at Earth Sangha has become an important part of my week. I especially enjoy working at the native plant nursery doing whatever task is assigned, such as planting, weeding, and filling pots. I also enjoy going out in the field to collect native plant seeds and later “cleaning” the seeds for future planting. These tasks offer me a reflective, meditative environment as well as an opportunity to engage in meaningful conversation with other volunteers.

I enjoy the physical activity involved with invasive plant removal. This past year I joined the National Park Service Weed Warrior program to remove invasives along the George Washington Parkway and on Theodore Roosevelt Island. My most memorable experience was working with 30 students from the International Academy at Alexandria’s T.C. Williams High School. Verbal communication within the group was difficult due to language differences, but the smiles on the students’ faces as they enthusiastically removed English ivy and honeysuckle vine from the trees indicated the pleasure and fulfillment they felt working together to make these areas better places.

My most recent ARMN adventure is participating in 4-H Outdoor Explorers at Randolph Elementary School in Arlington. This after school program takes place at a few elementary schools in Arlington and offers students an opportunity to learn more about the environment with a focus on fun and exploration. Partnering with Arlington County’s Extended Day Program, 4-H Outdoor Explorers volunteers promote youth environmental literacy, encourage outdoor play, and serve as positive adult role models. I have had very little experience working with youth, and while working with the students has been challenging, it is also very rewarding.

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Photo courtesy of National 4-H Council.

How did you learn about ARMN?

I first heard about ARMN from friend and fellow ARMN member, Pat Findikoglu. We were at the Columbia Pike Farmers Market catching up on our lives and she mentioned ARMN. The more Pat talked about the ARMN training course and the variety of volunteer and educational opportunities, the more I knew that I wanted to sign up. I had always enjoyed spending time in nature but had little formal training and ARMN seemed like a good fit. I submitted my application, graduated from the Spring 2014 class, and have no regrets. Without a doubt joining ARMN was one of the best investments I have made in my life.

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Honora at an Earth Sangha plant sale (Photo courtesy of Toni Genberg.)

What do you like most about ARMN?

Without a doubt the best thing about ARMN is its volunteers. I have never met a more welcoming, knowledgeable, and fun-loving group. ARMN offers me a vast variety of ways to occupy my time with meaningful work, a community of likeminded people to learn from and share experiences, and educational classes to enhance my knowledge of the natural world. Thanks to ARMN I have learned so much and have become a better steward of the environment.

Tell us something about your childhood/adulthood experiences that shaped your perspective on nature?

Spending time outside enjoying and observing nature has been part of my entire life. I had the good fortune to grow up within walking distance of the Severn River in Maryland and spent much of my free time exploring the river and nearby woods. I learned about birds, crabs, fish, turtles, snakes, and many other creatures from an elderly neighbor who had lived on the river her whole life. I also learned about local plants and critters from a science teacher who lived across the street. One of my earliest memories is watching a turtle laying her eggs in our sandbox.

My family spent every summer at Higgins Lake in Northern Michigan. Time at Higgins Lake was especially exciting as we had no electricity or indoor plumbing. The family cabin sat along a large freshwater inland lake surrounded by an oak and white birch forest. We spent our days fishing, boating, swimming, and walking in the woods. My favorite after dinner activity was riding my bike along the dirt “2-track” roads looking for deer and other wildlife.

What is your background?

Before retiring I worked for 46 years at a local hospital as a Registered Nurse and IT Analyst. During my nursing career I participated in direct patient care, nursing management, and administration. My information technology positions focused on building and managing the clinical documentation database as well as training clinical staff and physicians.

What would other ARMN members find interesting about the non-ARMN parts of your life?

I am a very competitive person who loves to participate in of all types of sports including tennis, cycling, softball, and basketball. Since retiring I have learned to play pickleball, which I play 2–3 times per week with other Arlington seniors at the Walter Reed Senior Center.

New Life for Nauck Woods

by Sue Dingwell and Lori Bowes

A treasured historic woodland area in South Arlington has been restored to its native glory with the help of some dedicated volunteers. Here is the story of the Nauck Woods and the folks who helped revive it.

(Photos by Sue Dingwell unless otherwise noted.)

Nothing can stop an ARMN invasives crew! Despite cool temps and a sketchy forecast, dedicated ARMN members showed up on Saturday, January 13 to help with invasive plant and trash removal at the intriguing little corner in Arlington known as Nauck Woods. This little parcel, now totally clear of ivy on the tree trunks, is full of native plants, both apparent and also about-to-be apparent as they are carefully released from the choking bondage of invasives.

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ARMN President Marion Jordan (left) and Continuing Education Chair Lori Bowes (right) demonstrate deft invasive removal skills.

 

A little background: Nauck Woods is the largest naturalized parcel in the Nauck community, the oldest African American neighborhood in Arlington. The community was settled in 1844 as former residents of Freedman’s Village began moving into the area after the Civil War. In 2013, Nauck Woods was considered as a site for the new headquarters of Phoenix Bikes, a youth bicycle repair and entrepreneurial development nonprofit. After neighborhood opposition, that plan was scrapped and ARMN and TreeStewards began to support efforts to preserve the trees and nature in Nauck Woods.

On Martin Luther King Day (January 16, 2017), a second wave of ARMN volunteers joined the effort and collected more trash and started to remove ivy from trees along Four Mile Run. Together we can! Arlington County Board member John Vihstadt came and worked the entire two hours. Thank you, John!

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Tired but happy invasives crew and some fruits of their labors. (Photo courtesy of Caroline Haynes.)

Even in winter, the site was full of both beauty and promise. Deep green leaves of mature American holly trees (Ilex americana) were resplendent with silver droplets; a few as-yet uneaten berries decorated greenbrier vines (Smilax rotundifolia); a little stream coursed through the Woods, greatly enhancing wildlife value; and bird song gave evidence that this little haven is already providing refuge.

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American holly (left) and greenbrier berries (right) provide color, food, and shelter for wildlife.

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Freshwater stream through Nauck Woods.

 

ARMN Master Naturalists are now planning spring activities that encompass work in the Arlington native plant nursery, planting in parks and gardens, citizen science projects, and more. Stay tuned! We are making an extra effort this year to engage help from the public.

For details about the intriguing greenbrier plant, see Sue Dingwell’s post about it on the Virginia Native Plant Society blog.

ARMN: Getting To Know You

by Toni Genberg as interviewed by Christine Campe-Price

From time-to-time, ARMN will post profiles of its members including how they came to be master naturalists, which parts of nature they most enjoy, and how they work to impact the environment around them. Here is the latest interview with ARMN volunteer, Toni Genberg, who graduated in the Spring 2014 ARMN training class.

Tell us about the naturalist projects on which you spend the most time.

An enjoyable short-term project I volunteered for was the Smithsonian’s eMammal survey. I would deploy a wildlife “trap” camera for a month at a time at three pre-assigned parks and in three backyards of my choosing. I would then retrieve the camera, download the data, and count and log the critters that were photographed. There were lots of deer, of course! But once I also “captured” a coyote in Holmes Run Stream Valley Park, which was exciting.

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An eMammal photo with deer and fox in Marie Butler Leven Preserve in McLean, November 2014.

An on-going project I’ve been a part of since before I became an ARMN member is outreach at the Falls Church Farmers’ Market. The “Enviro-Booth,” as it’s nicknamed, is set up on Saturdays from October through April as long as the weather is amenable. ARMN member Kent Taylor, the booth’s founder and I, along with other master naturalists, a master gardener, and a tree steward set up a display board, put out lots of informative handouts, and interact with many inquisitive market goers. We’ve had some good conversations with the public about ARMN’s English ivy “Choking Hazard” promotion, Audubon at Home’s Backyard Habitat program, and the Plant NoVA Natives Campaign, among other environmental topics such as tree care, solar power, storm water management, composting, and more recently, the problems associated with rodenticides.

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ARMN member, Kent Taylor, mans the Enviro-Booth with Halloween-themed display. October 29, 2016. (Photo courtesy of Toni Genberg)

The organization I share most of my time with and thoroughly enjoy volunteering for is Earth Sangha. At first it was because I was interested in native plants and the fact that much of life depends on them (I think all of it?) but now I’m fully vested in this non-profit because of the blood, sweat, and tears that founder, Lisa Bright, and the rest of the Earth Sangha family sheds in their mission to restore our natural areas. I’m one of currently four Nursery Volunteer Supervisors. This means I help wrangle volunteers of all ages at Earth Sangha’s Wild Plant Nursery but mostly I do what all the other invaluable volunteers do: weed, water, repot, collect and clean seed, remove invasive plants, and plant wild areas with Earth Sangha’s lovingly raised native species.

 What brought you to ARMN?

A long-time proponent of critters, I wanted to do the right thing on my own property when it came to gardening. So when a master gardener neighbor invited me to a lecture by entomologist Dr. Doug Tallamy, I naturally went. There were not only master gardeners in attendance but also people with the intriguing title of Virginia Master Naturalist. Master Naturalist? What’s that? It certainly sounded like something I wanted to be a part of. I chatted that evening with some very like-minded people who were earthy and kind and my mind was made up. I knew I wanted to pursue my master naturalist certification. I later met an ARMN member who confidently stated that Arlington was the best chapter to enroll in. Earth Sangha’s close relationship with ARMN sealed my fate. I graduated with the fabulous Class of Spring 2014. Oh, about the Doug Tallamy talk: his argument for native plants was undeniably life-changing.

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Toni’s Audubon at Home certified wildlife garden. (Photo courtesy of Toni Genberg)

What do you like most about ARMN?

No doubt ARMN is an amazing organization because of the people. There are all these members with the common goal of helping Mother Earth by generously donating their free time—what better group of people to associate with? The naturalists I’ve met also have an incredible amount of knowledge and enthusiastically want to share it all. When I think about ARMN and the friendships I’ve made, it’s clear that I’ve found my environmental family.

What would others find interesting about the non-ARMN parts of your life?

For about four years I was one of the video editors of the environmental news magazine, “Earth Focus.” It was my first headlong plunge into the issues facing the planet. Some of the topics covered were fracking, nuclear power, neonicotinoids, the changing climate, everyday chemicals, trash, wolves, elephants . . . you name it; if it was hurting people or the environment, we had a story for it. Although most of what we covered was quite depressing, it ultimately opened my eyes and helped shape me into a better steward of the earth.

Tell us something about your childhood/adulthood experiences that shaped your perspective on nature.

I was born and raised in Hawaii where the balmy outdoors was always beckoning. And like most of the other local country kids, I spent a good portion of my free time outside—playing in the ocean, investigating tide pools, climbing trees, riding my bike, or exploring some wild area. Hawaii has an inordinate number of crawly things so these creatures were also a part of my everyday life. I liked to play with spiders and salamanders and was always eager to find a rock to overturn. With no regrets I regularly chased my dismayed sister with large garden spiders—always returning the arachnids unharmed, of course. My mother has always cared deeply for all animals and I definitely inherited that love from her.

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Toni as a young child with dove in Hawaii.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Leaving as small a footprint as possible is a way of life for my husband, Marc, and me. Granted, we’re far from perfect but we’re always looking to do more for the health of the environment. Refusing plastic, for instance, instead of taking it and thinking it’ll be recycled, because odds are it won’t, is a perfect example. It’s easy enough to carry reusable items like a water bottle, utensils, bags, and the like. I also believe in making sound purchases while striving to be even less of a consumer. Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson is a wonderful book with many green philosophies. Not wasting tangible things is the main focus but it’s also about saving time and living simply. Are Marc and I ready to live in a thatched lean-to with zero electricity? That would be a “heck no.” But we definitely can strive for a less impactful lifestyle.

2017 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service Opportunities

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The Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday is a nationally recognized day of service. ARMN welcomes members of the public to join master naturalists for various earth-friendly projects in the area to honor the spirit of Dr. King. Here is a list of habitat restoration and invasive removal activities both for the weekend prior to MLK Day as well as the official holiday, Monday January 16, 2017. We hope to see you at one or more of these events that will make a significant difference to the health of our local environment.

If there is any question about the weather, where to meet, what to bring, or any other concerns, please contact the leader ahead of time.

Day

Date Location Time Contact
Friday Jan 13 Marie Butler Leven Preserve, Fairfax County

 

1–3pm Matt Bright

RSVP/confirm

Saturday Jan 14 Nauck Woods, Arlington 10am–Noon Nora Palmatier RSVP/confirm
Saturday Jan 14 Fraser Preserve, Fairfax County Noon–3pm Margaret Chatham

RSVP/confirm

Saturday Jan 14 Madison Manor Park, Arlington 1–4pm Jo Allen
Saturday Jan 14 Gulf Branch Park, Arlington 2–4:30pm Jennifer Soles
Sunday Jan 15 Long Branch Park, Arlington 2–4pm Steve Young
Monday Jan 16 Culpepper Gardens, Arlington 10am–3pm Linda Y. Kelleher RSVP/confirm

 

Monday Jan 16 Nauck Woods, Arlington 10am–Noon Nora Palmatier RSVP/confirm

 

Monday Jan 16 Dora Kelley Nature Park, Alexandria (N. Morgan St. entrance near N. Beauregard St.) 10:15am–12:15pm And/OR

1–3pm

Mary Farrah

RSVP/confirm

Thank you!

When Absence of Evidence is Evidence of Presence

by Steve Young (text and photos)

ARMN member Steve Young shares a winter bird-watching tip.

There are many times that birds will help us find predators, especially birds of prey like hawks and owls. Smaller birds will start making a fuss with vocalizations and sometimes will mob the predator and surround it, and even dive at it or chase it when it flies. Many of us have experienced this phenomenon in our yards or on nature walks, and may or may not have been aware of what was going on.

But there are other times when the very absence of activity is a sign that a predator may be nearby. Songbirds have reason to fear the bird-eating accipiters that we usually call hawks. One of the most common accipiters we see in our area is the Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii). While this bird is a year-around resident of our area, at this time of year we get an influx of Cooper’s Hawks that migrate from further north for the winter. They are easier to spot when the trees are leafless. They also seem to specialize in staking out bird feeders where they can try to pick off some fast food on the wing.

If you know a spot where there are usually a lot of birds, whether your back yard or a favorite place further out in nature, be alert for times when the birds seem to have disappeared and it’s unusually quiet. Perhaps you will hear an occasional high-pitched, momentary alarm call. This may be a sign that a Cooper’s Hawk is in the area and its potential prey birds are hiding. This hawk likes to perch and wait for an opportunity, and you may have to look carefully for them because they can be hard to spot.

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Forest view . . . can you see the hawk?

 

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The same photo with a zoom lens.

 

Several days ago in mid-December I noticed the almost complete lack of any bird movement around my house. The day before, the birds had been very busy, active to both my eyes and ears. But on this day, for hours I had seen and heard nothing. I assumed there was an accipiter in the area, most likely a Cooper’s Hawk. I stepped out on my front porch and heard the mewing sound of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius). I looked and looked, but could not find it. But then, about 100 feet away, I finally saw it—a Cooper’s Hawk perched in the neighbor’s maple tree, blending in, like a ghost. The bird stayed there for many minutes, motionless except for the movement of its head scanning for prey, and an occasional bit of preening. I cautiously came closer to it and was able to get several photos.

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Close-up of Cooper’s Hawk.

 

After watching the hawk for about 15 minutes, I had to turn my attention elsewhere, and it eventually left. I don’t know whether it caught the Sapsucker or something else. However, I did notice that the other birds returned to my back yard.

This is a great time of the year to watch birds on the bare trees and listen for calls, especially anything unusual. It may be a warning of a Cooper’s Hawk really close by.

Powhatan Springs Skatepark: An ARMN Community Work-in-Progress

by Bill Browning

Bill Browning, an ARMN Board member and dedicated volunteer, recounts how he and fellow ARMN member, Matt Parker, spearheaded an effort to revive the neglected wooded area of Powhatan Springs Skatepark with the help of the community.

Following our graduation from the Fall 2013 ARMN Basic Training course, Matt Parker and I were looking for a volunteer project that we could make our own. Jim Hurley, ARMN’s then Vice President and Service Committee Chair, was only too happy to give us some ideas. In December 2013, Jim took us on a tour of a three+ acre site that was in need of some TLC behind Powhatan Springs Skatepark on Wilson Boulevard. The park was a good candidate because it was small enough for us to make a significant contribution even if we were the only two people working on it. Further, the park had a number of stately trees covered in ivy and we were sure we could remove it without a lot of supervision.

Known as Reeves Run, the park was once part of the historic Reevesland farm, which was the last operating dairy farm in Arlington. When the farm ceased operation in 1955 and was mostly subdivided and sold, Reeves Run began a long period of neglect. Indeed, the day Jim, Matt, and I walked through it, we could barely bushwhack our way through the site because of dense coverage of Multiflora Rose (Rosa multiflora) and a depressing accumulation of trash.

Jim saw the potential value of the site as a natural habitat. He noted that an Arlington County botany study listed almost 90 species in that area including a couple important large trees. This is impressive for such a tiny plot. Plus, Jim noted that the park contained the County champion Red Mulberry (Morus rubra). We also discovered that someone, many years ago, installed a wire fence around the Red Mulberry and the tree grew into the fence, becoming deeply embedded into it.

Jim was sure that we could make a significant positive impact, even if we just cut the invasive English Ivy (Hedera helix) and Creeping Euonymous (Euonymus fortunei) that was strangling many of the large trees.

Early in 2014, Matt and I made several forays into the park. We would pick a small section each time and focus on the trees covered with invasive vines. That said, it was hard to ignore the nasty exotics on the ground. Several times I had to cut myself out of a Multiflora Rose thicket and Matt cursed the Bush Honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) every time he passed it. But we focused primarily on the trees, section by section.

We soon determined that we could do more for the park with additional volunteers. So, on Earth Day 2014, we held our first community event in the park. Josh Handler of the Boulevard Manor Civic Association marshaled neighborhood resources, and Matt, Jim, and l reached out to the community at nearby Ashlawn Elementary School, as well as skatepark users and ARMN members. That first group of volunteers filled almost a dozen large trash bags with plant debris and trash. Josh also used his civic association’s website to implore neighbors to cease dumping trash and yard waste in the park.

Earth Day 2014 volunteer and their loot.

Earth Day 2014 volunteer and their loot.

We have held four other community-wide efforts since then and always have had a core group of naturalists and neighbors to target vines and other invasives. Once a volunteer attacked the Multiflora Rose exclusively; given the scratches I have experienced from their thorns, she became my hero. During another session the entire group tried to focus on Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolate). Finding and pulling the Garlic Mustard during its second year of growth was easy, but when we turned to the first year leaflets we became overwhelmed and gave up. I’ve since learned from Sarah Archer, a Natural Resources Specialist in Arlington County, that ignoring the first year leaflets of Garlic Mustard might be a good strategy because only half of them make it to the second year when they are much easier to remove. In October 2015, we began adding native plants donated by Earth Sangha. Mary Frase, a Fairfax Master Naturalist and Master Gardener, led our effort to plant seedlings of Eastern Black Walnut (Juglans nigra), Golden Ragwort (Packera aurea), Swamp Rose (Rosa palustris), Tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera), Grape Vine (Vitis sp.), Boxelder (Acer negundo), Sumac (Rhus sp.), and American Bladdernut (Staphylea trifolia). Unfortunately, it appears they did not survive.

As a result of the efforts of ARMN and the Boulevard Manor Civic Association, Arlington County began to supply some professional resources to beef up the impact. This began and continues with consultations from Sarah Archer, as well as her support in body or spirit. Then the County sent Invasive Plant Control, Inc. (IPC), a contractor it uses to treat invasive plants when such remedies are more efficient than hand-pulling. For five days in June 2015, IPC treated nearly 30 invasive plant species, ranging from Norway maple (Acer platanoides) to Oriental Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) to Jet Bead (Rhodotypos scandens). And in June 2016, Lyndell Core, a County park manager, met with us to explore how to address piles of bricks, cement, wood, and fencing that may be covering an old well.

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Jet Bead. Photo courtesy of IPC, Inc.

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Multiflora Rose. Photo courtesy of IPC, Inc.

During our latest walk-through of the site, Sarah Archer said she’s exploring ways the County may help in the near future. Possibilities include spot chemical treatment of Japanese Stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum) by County staff, and if there’s money, IPC’s treatment of English Ivy and euonymous on the forest floor.

At this point, I can proudly report that the park is coming back to life! In April 2016, we found Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) and this October, we discovered a literal sea of American Pokeweed (Phytolacca Americana).

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Skunk cabbage. Photo courtesy of Bill Browning.

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American Pokeweed. Photo courtesy of Bill Browning.

But there’s still a ton of work to do. Under the Pokeweed are likely masses of Garlic Mustard waiting to emerge next spring. There is also concern about deer from nearby Upton Hill that graze the property.

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Garlic mustard. Photo courtesy of Bill Browning.

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Evidence of deer rubbing. Photo courtesy of Bill Browning.

All in all, we are very proud of the glory to which Powhatan Skatepark is returning. On a recent walk along Wilson Boulevard, Josh Handler commented that he was struck by “how much better the ‘skyline’ of the park looks from a few years ago—devoid of the overgrown invasives on the trees.” We hope you can check it out this view yourself—or even better—pitch in on a future restoration event there.

For anyone interested in pursuing restoration of a park or other public area, please let ARMN know! Members of the community cannot remove plants (even invasive ones) from public land without permission. ARMN can assist in contacting the right offices and with assembling volunteers to do the work. Send your requests for assistance to “Contact Us” in the navigation bar above.

Teaching the Next Generation About the Environment

by Lisa Stern

ARMN member Lisa Stern describes the dedicated work of another ARMN volunteer, Jennifer Frum, to engage Gunston Middle School sixth graders by providing hands-on experience in pulling invasive plants.

(Photos by Lisa Stern, unless otherwise indicated)

The best lessons in life are the ones in which we have the opportunity to participate. And, if we are lucky, these experiences are guided by teachers and mentors who want to encourage the learning process by letting us get our hands into the project.

Several times a year for the past six years, Gunston Middle School sixth-grade science teacher Luz Chamorro has been heading a special project with lead ARMN volunteer and mentor, Jennifer Frum. The project started as trash cleanup around the school. However, as the cleanup progressed, Chamorro noticed invasive plants taking over spaces around the school. What started as trash cleanup became a lesson in helping the environment by pulling invasive plants.

Gunston sixth-grade science teacher Liz Chamorro

Gunston sixth-grade science teacher Luz Chamorro

Jennifer Frum wrestles with English Ivy.

ARMN volunteer Jennifer Frum wrestles with English Ivy.

 

Over the years, the project has been supported by a number of other ARMN volunteers— including Mary Van Dyke, Judy Hadley, and Bill Browning—and Arlington County. Six Americorps volunteers also assisted one year. But steadfastly, Jennifer Frum has been the lead ARMN volunteer for the project, organizing the effort year after year and ensuring that Chamorro and the classes had extra help and guidance on identifying and pulling the invasive plants. Imagine six classes of 25 excited sixth graders out in the field!

Gunston sixth graders tackle invasives.

Gunston sixth graders tackle invasives. (Photo courtesy of Luz Chamorro)

On a recent Thursday in October, Frum explained to one of the classes that in order to restore habitat for wildlife, invasive plants needed to be pulled so that native plants could survive. Standing in front of the classroom with strands of English Ivy as an example of an invasive, she explained that nonnative invasive plants don’t supply good nutrition to birds, bees, and other wildlife and that native animals need native plants for proper nutrition to survive. “If you ate ice cream every day for a week and it was your only source of food, it wouldn’t be good for you, would it?” Jennifer noted—and the class agreed. After a quick in-class lesson, the eager students headed out the door. Throughout the remainder of the day, six different classes (along with Chamorro, Frum, and parent volunteers) took turns pulling invasive plants and competing to make the largest pile.

Which class made the biggest pile of invasives?

Which class made the biggest pile of invasives?

Frum and Chamorro plan to repeat the project several times this year. The students are always excited to work outside and get a sense of helping the environment. They loved their experience so much that Jennifer Frum was touched to receive a heartfelt, handmade thank you note signed by Luz Chamorro’s students!

Thanks, Ms. Frum!

Thanks, Ms. Frum! (Photo courtesy of Luz Chamorro)