2018 Arlington BioBlitz is September 15th!

Arlington will be conducting its second Bioblitz, and this year it will take place at only one site: Glencarlyn Park. This is a wonderful opportunity for individuals to participate in a valuable citizen science inventory of plants, wildlife, and other living organisms in the community.

What is a BioBlitz?

It is a (usually) 24-hour survey to find and identify as many species as possible in a specific area. The information collected will help the County to update its Natural Resources Management Plan. Last year’s BioBlitz was a wonderful success. (See event summary at: 2017 armn.org blog.) This year the team decided to conduct surveys in only one park instead of several throughout the county.

Why would you want to participate in the BioBlitz?

Because it is a great way to find and learn about the wildlife, plants and other living things in Arlington. Participants will be teamed with experts to help find, identify, and catalog what they find, using a free application called iNaturalist. While you do not need any experience to partake in the event, individuals with expertise in plants, wildlife, or other living organisms are encouraged to participate.

Photo of a Carolina Chickadee bird on a tree trunk. THe bird has a black topped head followed by a white strip and a grey body. The tree trunk is light brown streaked with dark brown and has a flaky bark.

Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) at Glencarlyn Park. Photo courtesy of Steve Young.

Photo of the plant Virginia Sweetspire. The sweetspire has obovate shaped, alternate green leaves with long stalks of small white flowers.

Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica) at Tuckahoe Park. Photo courtesy of Christine Campe-Price.

When, Where, and Who

The inventories will begin as early at 7:30 am and run as late as 8:30 pm in a variety of focus teams: birds, botany, herps (amphibians and reptiles), fish, fungi, insects, trees, butterflies and dragonflies, streams, insects and nocturnals, and groups that will look at various taxa. Here are the relevant details:

Date: September 15, 2018

Time: Varied. Click on Sign-up Genius to pick your event and time

Meeting location: Glencarlyn Park Picnic Pavilion #1, 401 S Harrison St., Arlington, VA 22204

Who can participate: Anyone 13 years and older

Cost: FREE

For questions, please contact: Alonso Abugattas at 703-228-7742 or email NaturalResources@arlingtonva.us.

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Add Native Plants to Your Fall Garden and enjoy them again next Spring and Summer!

Text and photos by Kasha Helget

Fall is the BEST time to install native plants. The cooler air temperatures are less stressful to stems and foliage, and the still-warm soil gives roots a great head start to become established before winter. So, consider choosing a few—or several native plants to brighten your yard, patio, or deck!

Photo of a green plant with small white flowers surrounding a tree trunk

White wood aster (Eurybia divaricata), is a spreading perennial that bloom in early-mid fall, thrive in light to heavy shade, can handle dry conditions, and attract butterflies.

Why Choose Native Plants?

Natives are local species and are adapted to our climate and soil conditions. They also are often the only or most healthful source of nectar, pollen, seeds, and leaves for local butterflies, insects, birds, and other animals. These plants:

  • do not require fertilizers and few if any pesticides,
  • need less water than lawns, and help prevent erosion,
  • help reduce air pollution,
  • provide shelter and food for wildlife,
  • promote biodiversity and stewardship of our natural heritage, and
  • are beautiful and increase scenic values!

How to Choose the Right Natives for Your Yard or Pots?

It’s important to install the right plants for your conditions (wet, dry, shade, sun, slope, bog, soil type, etc.). How do you know what’s right for you? One of the best sources is the Plant Nova Natives website: http://www.plantnovanatives.org/, with easy-to-follow tips, lots of photos, and additional links to learn what will work for your situation.

Close up photo of a plant with yellowish green leaves and deep purple berries clustered around the stem.

American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) is a shrub that can grow 3-5 ft. tall and wide. It prefers sun to light shade and moist conditions, produces purple berries in mid-fall, and attracts birds and butterflies.

Where Can You Buy Natives?

Most commercial nurseries do not carry a lot of native plants. If you have a favorite place that has a weak selection, tell them that you’d love if they could stock more. But there are many nurseries that bring plants to us—at local native plant sales. Below is a list of fall native plant sales nearby, with many providing food and entertainment. Happy shopping and planting!

Photo of light purple flowers with small petals and bright yellow centers

New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) is a spreading perennial that can grow 3- 6 ft, and bloom in early-late fall. It prefers part shade and moist conditions and attracts bees and butterflies.

Fall 2018 Native Plant Sales

Potowmack Chapter Weekly Plant Sale
Weekly plant sale on the first Wednesday of each month through October at the propagation beds behind the main building at Green Springs Garden.
10:00 am–12:00 pm
4603 Green Spring Rd, Alexandria, VA 22312
https://vnps.org/potowmack/events/plant-sale-propagation-party/

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, Fall Native Plant Sale
September 8, 2018
9:00 am–3:00 pm
Morven Park
17263 Southern Planter Ln, Leesburg, VA
https://loudounwildlife.org/event/fall-native-plant-sale-2/

Friends of Runnymede Park
September 15, 2018
9:00 am–2:00 pm
Runnymede Park
195 Herndon Pkwy, Herndon, VA
http://www.frpweb.org/10.html

Glencarlyn Garden Autumnfest
September 16, 2018
10:00 am–3:00 pm
Glencarlyn Library Garden
300 S. Kensington St, Arlington, VA
https://mgnv.org/2018/08/22/autumnfest-at-glencarlyn-library-garden/

Long Branch Native Plant Sale
September 22, 2018
1:00–4:00 pm
Pre-order deadline: September 12, 2018 at 4:00 pm
Long Branch Nature Center
625 S. Carlin Springs Rd, Arlington, VA
https://parks.arlingtonva.us/native-plant-sale/

Town of Vienna Native Plant Sale
September 22, 2018
8:00 am–1:00 pm
Vienna Community Center
120 Cherry Street SE, Vienna, VA
https://www.viennava.gov/documentcenter/view/3663

Green Spring Garden and VA Native Plant Society Fall Garden Day
September 22, 2018
9:00 am–3:00 pm
Green Spring Garden Park
4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria VA
http://www.friendsofgreenspring.org/programs-a-events/fall-garden-day-2018

Earth Sangha Fall Wild Plant Nursery Sale
EXTENDED to September 30, 2018
9 am–Noon
Franconia Park
6100 Cloud Drive, Springfield, VA
http://www.earthsangha.org/wpn

Northern Alexandria Native Plant Sale
September 29, 2018
9:00 am–2:00 pm
Church of St. Clement
1701 N. Quaker Ln, Alexandria VA 22302
http://northernalexandrianativeplantsale.org/

City of Alexandria Fall Native Plant Sale
Online through October 31, 2018
Pickup on November 3, 2018, 9:00 am–3:00 pm
Buddie Ford Nature Center
5750 Sanger Ave., Alexandria, VA 22311
Order information HERE, and click “Shop” button located at the top of the page and select Fall 2018 Plant Sale.
https://www.alexandriava.gov/recreation/info/default.aspx?id=94340

 

Firefly Fest – Fun for all Ages!

Text and photos by Jo Allen

On June 24, 2018, the 10th annual Firefly Festival was held at Fort C.F. Smith Park. This very popular event was scheduled to run from 7:00–9:30 p.m. but was cut short by a cloudburst around 9:10. Still, it was really a great time, especially for the little ones!

This was my first year volunteering at the Firefly Festival at Fort C.F. Smith Park. I got the “bug” last summer at Bat Fest at Gulf Branch Nature Center, where I helped dozens of kids stamp scarves and bags with bat images. It was so much fun, especially seeing the creativity the youngsters expressed. I had always wanted to attend the Firefly Festival (organized by Rachael Tolman, Park Naturalist at Long Branch) but just had never signed up. This was the year.

I was assigned to the table next to Ken Rosenthal, a park naturalist at Gulf Branch Nature Center, whose “Deep Dive” presentations into everything from migratory birds to white tail deer to eels have held audiences rapt each time he gives them. Ken was loaning out bug nets and clear jars to kids for 10 minutes at a time so they could see what they could catch. Grandparents were the best at showing kids how to do this effectively (probably because they did the same activity in their youth). Remarkably, kids of all ages returned the gear in time, no arguments. And some came back with bugs of all kinds, which Ken quickly identified and, with luck, photographed. One team returned a jar with six fireflies. Many others brought earlier-evening insects. But there were so many fireflies that it was possible to catch one carefully by hand as it helicoptered up, blinking its mix of luciferin and luciferase bioluminescence in search of a mate.

My table illustrated how other nocturnal creatures—moths and bats—find their “perfect partner.” Or in the case of bats, their perfect prey: moths.

Headbands, sissors, pictures of bats, insect nets, and jars sit on folding tables in a field

Photo of the moth/bat craft stand.

Kids were told that male moths detect pheromones of females with their fluffy antenna (think feather boa) and that female moths have plain antenna (mere pipe cleaners or chenille sticks) by comparison.

Only girls wanted feathery antenna. And given a choice, most kids went for bat ears, which were more complicated to make, but really fun to wear!

ARMN volunteer wears "firefly antennae" made from bright yellow pipe cleaners

Jo Allen with “firefly antennae.”

I made nearly all of the antenna and ears headbands myself even though this was supposed to be a kid craft project. I realized I needed to do a lot of the assembly when I handed a pair of kid scissors to a little girl who was handling them awkwardly.

“I don’t think she’s ever used scissors,” her dad said. “She’s only three.”

“I use them in preschool,” she promptly corrected.

But she was struggling, so I cut the flap on her paper bat ears, glue-dotted them to the chenille stick I had cut in half and twisted onto a plastic headband and placed it on her head.

“Can you hear better now?” I asked.

Echoing every youngster, and one adult, after donning their bat ears, she replied, “Yes!”

Summer Chapter Meeting Kicks off ARMN’s 10 Year Celebration

ARMN members met on the evening of June 21st to celebrate the first day of summer and the official start to our 10-year anniversary festivities. While ARMN members are known for their industrious volunteer work, we also know how to have a good time!

ARMN’s Summer Chapter meeting was preceded by a tree identification walk led by member Jack Person in Dora Kelley Nature Park in Alexandria. Members appreciated Jack’s unique take on the relationship of trees to each other and to other plants in the ecosystem, and agreed that a walk in the park is a great way to begin a meeting.

Photo of ARMN members standing on a trail in the forest

Photo courtesy of Carol Mullen.

Members then strolled back to the home of Kasha Helget where they enjoyed an extensive potluck meal and socialized in a relaxed outdoor atmosphere.

Photo of ARMN members standing around tables at a potluck

Photo courtesy of Carol Mullen.

Photo of ARMN members sitting on chairs on a deck listening to a speech

Photo courtesy of Carol Mullen.

Folks also walked around Kasha’s yard that features a variety of native plant.

Photo 4

Photo 5Photo 6

After the conclusion of the business part of the meeting, Vice President Phil Klingelhofer conducted a quiz of ARMN history highlights and winners were rewarded with native plants from Kasha’s garden. The celebration lasted till well after dark, when the fireflies put on their own show.

Photo 7

The Importance of Citizen Scientists: Using iNaturalist to Create an Inventory of Natural Resources

By Louis Harrell

The recent City Nature Challenge, held 27-30 April 2018, exemplifies the important role that the general public plays by providing professional scientists with valuable data on biodiversity. Anyone can become a “citizen scientist” by going out and collecting data related to the natural world – made even easier today with the iNaturalist app. All you need to get started is a computer or a mobile smart phone and a desire to enjoy the great outdoors!

How does it work? The free iNaturalist app maps observations by different levels of geography, taxonomy, and type of observation. It can record and show all of the observations collected around the world, in the Washington DC area, or only those observations in a specific neighborhood. The 2018 City Nature Challenge provides an interesting and current source of data that can be used to demonstrate the power of the mapping capability of iNaturalist. Over 10,000 research-grade observations were collected providing insight into the distribution of natural resources in the D.C. metropolitan area. Research-grade observations are defined as identifications that have been confirmed by a second reviewer. Thanks to the capability of the app and the crowd-sourced second level review, citizen scientists can have fun collecting data and making material contributions toward understanding our environment.

Why would citizen scientists want to collect observations of various living things and map them? Collections of observations or inventories are a widely recognized technique used to identify long-term trends in biodiversity, the incidence of invasive plants, and the locations of other ecologically important species. For example, the data collected through iNaturalist allows a citizen scientist to document exactly when that garlic mustard appeared in the corner of a yard and if observations are collected over time, one can then observe the progression of the plant’s life. Since all data is collected with a standard method via iNaturalist, research-grade observations can automatically be integrated into larger files.

Inventories can be improved through well-known survey methodologies. The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has published information that shows how sampling, careful data collection protocols, and appropriate collection technology can influence the quality of information and its utility for research, affect distribution of resources used to manage lands, and improve public understanding of natural resources. While the FWS document focuses on invasive species, its guidelines for research can be used for documenting any species in an area. For those interested in learning more, the FWS training can be found at: https://www.fws.gov/invasives/staffTrainingModule/assessing/inventory.html.

Citizen scientists of all ages can implement another inventory technique, the “Biocube,” which facilitates study of a very small space. The Smithsonian Institution developed Biocubes, which are hollow one foot cubic frames, that can be placed almost anywhere to show differences among living communities from different continents, different habitats, and wild versus domesticated land. The Smithsonian has published procedures to measure species diversity in a cubic foot. The method has been successfully used in marine and land environments and uses iNaturalist for reporting results. The strength of the approach comes from its use of a standard cubic foot sample size allowing comparison of results. The Smithsonian has published an introduction to Biocubes and a video that shows the history and significance of the technique at: http://ocean.si.edu/ocean-news/biocubes-life-one-cubic-foot.

How would a citizen scientist create a neighborhood data map?  The iNaturalist app is simple to use on a computer or a mobile phone. First, select the “Observations” option on the home page of the iNaturalist app, and then click “Explore.” This will display a map of the world. Next, click the filter button located in the upper right corner. Enter the desired options and the app will produce the specified neighborhood map. The example below shows how easy it is to display all research-grade observations from the City Nature Challenge:

Photo 1

These research-grade observations were collected in the Arlington and Alexandria areas during the Challenge:

Photo 2

In addition, iNaturalist has a “zoom in” feature that displays detail for individual sites.  Check out the results from Dora Kelley Park in Alexandria!

Photo 3

Download iNaturalist and get involved collecting observations individually or mark your calendar for the next big collaborative citizen science project: the Arlington Bioblitz to be held on Saturday 15 September 2018!

ARMN Helps DC Area Place 5th Worldwide in City Nature Challenge

By Rosemary Jann

During the weekend of 27-30 April 2018, 180 ARMN members and other area residents answered the call to participate in the third annual City Nature Challenge. The Nature Challenge seeks to encourage interest in urban nature by having groups compete to record and identify the nature around them. It began in 2016 as a friendly competition between Los Angeles and San Francisco to see which area could document the most species and involve the most participants. It went national in 2017 and international in 2018, this year including 68 urban areas worldwide, including greater Washington, DC.

 ARMN members took part in 27 different CNC events held in more than 15 parks in Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church, and Fairfax County during the weekend. As leaders

Photo of John and Josie Buchanan examining a salmander on a hike in Barcroft Park

Photo courtesy of Marion Jordan.

and assistants on various nature walks, ARMN members helped raise interest and educate other community members in nature observation, like John and Josie Buchanan, seen here examining a salamander they found on their ARMN-led hike in Barcroft Park.

 

Other events included a “birding by bike” tour on April 28 in which Lori Bowes and Phil

Photo of water snake swallowing a fish at Four Mile Run

Photo courtesy of Carol Mullen.

Klingelhofer led more than 10 people on a 22-mile route through Long Branch, Barcroft, Fort F. C. Smith, and other Arlington parks along the Potomac. Cyclist Carol Mullen snapped the accompanying photo of a water snake swallowing a fish at Four Mile Run.

 

ARMN Basic Training class members also contributed observations from their “herps

Photo 3

Copyright David Howell 2018.

and chirps” fieldtrip at Huntley Meadows on April 30th, including photos of a Hooded Merganser with ducklings.

All City Nature Challenge participants documented their observations on iNaturalist, a free app and website that allows individuals to easily upload, share, and identify species.

The results were impressive: we helped the DC Metro area come in 5th place world-wide for overall number of observations (22,866), 4th overall in number of observers (886), and 8th overall in number of species (1,850). 537 people helped make 38,968 species identifications for our area. This year Boston had thrown down a specific challenge to DC: we bested them in observations and species and came in one place behind them in total number of observers. Our area’s most frequently observed species were the Common Blue Violet for plants, the American Robin for birds, and the White-tailed Deer for mammals.

The City Nature Challenge celebrates and supports two vital functions of citizen science: it brings members of the community together to enhance their appreciation of nature, and it provides scientists with valuable data on biodiversity that can help guide the understanding and preservation of our natural resources. Thanks to all members of ARMN and the greater community who participated. Save the date for our next big citizen science project: the Arlington Bioblitz to be held on Saturday, September 15, 2018!

If September seems too far off to collect more environmental data, then look for our next blog piece on how iNaturalist can be used to map a whole variety of observations that can help us better understand our environment.

Join the City Nature Challenge: April 27 to 30!

Join the City Nature Challenge Now!

Select from many local events on April 27–30 and sign up. For the list of local events and sign-up information, click: HERE

Banner image for City Nature Challenge 2018

By Louis Harrell, Caroline Haynes, and Phil Klingelhofer

What is the City Nature Challenge?

Mark your calendars for April 27-30 to participate in the City Nature Challenge. What started out as a friendly competition between Los Angeles and San Francisco in 2016 to document urban nature using iNaturalist, expanded to 15 cities in 2017, and is going global in 2018 with over 65 cities participating on five continents. ARMN is helping to organize participation in the City Nature Challenge DC, encompassing the entire DC metro area, including 14 counties in Virginia, 5 counties in Maryland, and Jefferson County in West Virginia.

ARMN members and others participated in the challenge last year and the DC area came in 7th behind Raleigh, N.C.  This year, Boston has challenged DC, and we’re hoping to improve our record.

Who can participate and where?

You, your friends, their friends, and families are all invited to become citizen scientists and participate in an observation event; all ages and levels of expertise are welcome!

Folks may participate anywhere in the metropolitan area.  Each group will have experienced leaders to show you what to do. The more eyes on the ground and up in the sky the better! Join the fun, and contribute to the collection of data, to see which metropolitan area (hopefully, OURS!) can engage the most participants, make the most observations and identify the most species.

How to learn more and sign up.

There are a lot of ways to get more information and join the challenge:

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History will be hosting an event on Monday, April 30 at 6:30 pm with taxonomic experts to help ID the findings. For details and registration, click: http://go.si.edu/site/Calendar?id=102202&view=Detail&s_src=nmnh_er&s_subsrc=midmo_1803_text.

Images of the logos of sponsors of the City Nature Challege 2018

It’s Time to Plant Natives!

Text and photos by Kasha Helget

With longer daylight hours, warming soils, and the return of birds and butterflies, we want to spend more time outdoors. It’s a perfect time to install beautiful native plants that also benefit the critters that depend on them. So, please consider a few—or several native plants to brighten your yard, patio or deck!

Why Choose Native Plants?

Because they’re “from here,” natives are adapted to our climate and soil conditions. They are often the only or most healthful source of nectar, pollen, seeds, and leaves for local butterflies, insects, birds, and other animals. Other benefits of native plants are that they:

  • do not require fertilizers and few if any pesticides,
  • need less water than lawns, and help prevent erosion,
  • help reduce air pollution,
  • provide shelter and food for wildlife,
  • promote biodiversity and stewardship of our natural heritage, and
  • are beautiful and increase scenic values!
Photo of Black Eyed Susans

Black-eyed susans (Rudbeckia fulgida) and Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum, “Prairie Sky”)

How to Choose the Right Natives for Your Yard or Pots?

It’s important to install the right plants for your conditions (wet, dry, shade, sun, slope, bog, soil type, etc.). How do you know what’s right for you? One of the best sources is the Plant Nova Natives website: http://www.plantnovanatives.org/, with easy-to-follow tips, lots of photos, and additional links to learn what will work for your situation.

Photo of Christmas fern

Christmas fern (Polistichum acrostichoides)

Where Can You Buy Natives?

Most commercial nurseries do not carry a lot of native plants. If you have a favorite place that has a weak selection, tell them that you’d love if they could stock more. But no matter; this is also the best time of year to visit a growing number of native plant sales in the area (many of which provide food, entertainment, and fun for kids, too). Here is information on several in Northern Virginia and one in District of Columbia. Happy shopping and planting!

Photo of Blue false indigo

Blue false indigo (Baptisia australis)

Spring 2018 Native Plant Sales

Friends of Riverbend Park, Native Plant Sale
Pre-order through 03/16/2018. Order Online for pick up May 4
Sale 05/05/2018
8am to 11am
The Grange: 9818 Georgetown Pike, Great Falls, VA
Features plants native to the Potomac River Gorge.
Visit the Sale Site

 Friends of the National Arboretum, Lahr Symposium and Native Plant Sale
03/24/2018
9am to 4pm
U.S. National Arboretum: 3501 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC Sale located in R Street parking lot at Arboretum.
Visit the Sale Site

Potowmack Chapter Weekly Plant Sale
From April 4th through October is a low-key WEEKLY plant sale on the first Wednesday of each month at the propagation beds behind the main building at Green Springs Garden.
10am to 12pm
4603 Green Spring Rd Alexandria, VA 22312 Park Website: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/greenspring/
Visit the Sale Site

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, Native Plant Sale
Rescheduled to
05/19/2018
9am to 3pm
Morven Park: 17263 Southern Planter Ln, Leesburg, VA
Spring and fall sales.
Visit the Sale Site

NOVA Soil & Water Conservation District, Native Seedling Sale
Order online till 04/11/18
Pick up plants on Friday, April 20, 9am-4pm, or Saturday, April 21, 9am-noon at Packard Center, 4022 Hummer Rd, Annandale, VA.
Visit the Sale Site

American Horticulture Society, Spring Garden Market
4/13-14/2018
10am to 4pm
River Farm: 7931 E. Boulevard Dr., Alexandria, VA
2 day sale, first 2 hours for members only. Includes some native plant vendors.
Visit the Sale Site

Long Branch Nature Center
Pre-order through 04/24/2017.
Order Online for pick up May 4 or 5
Sale 05/05/2018
1-4pm
Long Branch Nature Center 625 S. Carlin Springs Road Arlington, VA 22204
Visit the Sale Site

Northern Alexandria Native Plant Sale
04/28/2018
9am to 2pm
The Church of St. Clement: 1701 N. Quaker Ln, Alexandria, VA Spring and fall sales.
Visit the Sale Site

Rappahannock Plant Sale at Waterpenny Farm
04/28/2018
9am to 3pm
53 Waterpenny Lane Sperryville, VA 22740
Visit the Sale Site

Falls Church Native Plant Sale (Girl Scout Troop 1251)
Order online till 5/9
Pick up plants on 5/13 at Cherry Hill Park, 312 Park Ave, Falls Church, VA 22046 (behind the community center near the basketball court) between 11am and 1pm.
Visit the Sale Site

Reston Association, Spring Festival
05/05/2018
1pm to 5pm
Walker Nature Center: 11450 Glade Drive, Reston, VA
Includes a native plant sale.
Visit the Sale Site

Earth Sangha Plant Sale
05/06/2018
10am to 2pm
6100 Cloud Drive, Springfield, VA
Visit the Sale Site

Prince William Wildflower Society
05/12/2018
9am to 12pm
Bethel Evangelical Lutheran Church picnic area: 8712 Plantation Lane, Manassas, VA VNPS Chapter native plant sale

Green Springs Garden Day Plant Sale, Potowmack Chapter Native Plants, and other native vendors
05/19/2018
9am to 3pm
Green Spring Gardens: 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA
Multi-vendor sale; some selling natives including the VNPS Potowmack Chapter
Visit the Sale Site

ARMN Winter Book Share: Good food for the body, mind, and spirit!

by Carol Mullen, with photos by Rodney Olsen

A few times a year, folks who enjoy nature literature meet at a local restaurant for a Book Share event. Participants enjoy good food as they provide a brief overview of a book or other material that they found inspiring and useful. The most recent get-together was at Café Sazon, a Latin bakery and café in South Arlington and an enthusiastic group contributed to the discussion of several reads.

The ARMN Winter Book Share and Dinner at Cafe Sazon on Feb. 6, 2018, was a fun and informative evening. Ten ARMN members shared their favorite recently read books, magazines, authors and websites, with the primary aim of enhancing our knowledge of Virginia’s natural resources. It was a delightful hour of “A01 Continuing Education” with lively discussions on a number of topics and an opportunity to learn from each other. Cafe Sazon was an enjoyable location on a cold February night, and both the food and staff were great.

Photo of 2018 ARMN Winter book share

Book Share group enjoying the camaraderie.

Here is a list of the literature recommended by the participants at the Winter Book Share evening:

The Wonder of Birds: What They Tell Us About Ourselves, the World, and a Better Future, by Jim Robbins, 2017

The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl, by Timothy Egan, 2006

Scientific American: The Science Behind the Debates, Special Collector’s Edition, Volume 26, Issue 5s, Winter 2017-2018

The Living Forest, by Joan Maloof, 2017

Among the Ancients: Adventures in the Eastern Old-Growth Forests, by Joan Maloof, 2011

Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea, and Human Life, by George Monbiot, 2017

The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed, John Vaillant, 2006

The Control of Nature, John McPhee, 1990

The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature’s Great Connectors, by David George Haskell, 2017

The Forest Unseen, by David George Haskell, 2013

1491, by Charles Mann, 2006

Teaching the Trees: Lessons from the Forest, by Joan Maloof, 2007

The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin’s Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World – and Us, by Richard O. Prum, 2017

The Evolution Underground: Burrows, Bunkers, and the Marvelous Subterranean World Beneath our Feet, by Anthony J. Martin, 2017

The Modern Scholar: The Biology of Birds, by Professor John Kricher, 2012

The Tarantula in My Purse: and 172 Other Wild Pets, by Jean Craighead George, 1997

A Beginner’s Guide to Recognizing Trees of the Northeast, by Mark Mikolas, 2017

American Forest Magazine

The “Plant One Million Trees” Project, http://www.plantonemillion.org/.

Photo of 2018 ARMN Winter book share

Participants engaged in good discussions of the materials presented.

Does a book share event sound good to you? Then look for future gatherings that will be highlighted on the www.armn.org homepage under “Upcoming Events.” Anyone with an interest in nature may attend and you do not need a book to share—or even be an ARMN member—if you just want to hear more about the current reads. If you do have literature to share, reviews and summaries are fitting, but consider sharing a fact, insight, or observation from the material that is applicable to ARMN’s span of work. 

Here are a few other considerations:

  • This is not a book discussion group where we all read and discuss the same material.
  • Magazines or journals (or specific articles) are fine too, as are apps, websites, or any resource that enhances your knowledge of Virginia’s natural resources.
  • This is not a book swap. Feel free to bring books or magazines to give away or share if you wish, but that is optional.
  • Please consider what you can share about the book in less than 5 minutes. If there is adequate time, you can expound beyond that.
  • The book sharing portion counts as CE for ARMN members.
  • No sign-up required this time.

We hope to see you at a future Book Share event!

Flying Squirrels: Adorable Little Gliders in our Trees

by Kasha Helget

On a recent evening, adults and families gathered for a flying squirrel program at Long Branch Nature Center in Arlington. Naturalist Rachael Tolman shared some interesting facts about these little charmers and then led us outside to witness them in action.

There was a palpable sense of excitement when a group of children and “big kids” arrived at Long Branch on a recent Saturday evening for the local southern flying squirrels program. Naturalist Rachel Tolman stirred even more interest when she said that this was her favorite program, and it quickly became apparent why: they’re adorable! She began by sharing some interesting facts:

  • There are two types of flying squirrels in this country—our local southern flying squirrels (Glaucomys volans), which are 8-10 inches long (including their tales) and weigh on average a couple of ounces, and their sister northern flying squirrels (Glaucomys sabrinus), which live further . . . north, are a total of 10-12 inches and weigh an average of 3 ½ ounces. All flying squirrels are nocturnal which is why we rarely see them. However, Rachael stated that they are as common as our larger diurnal (daytime) gray squirrels!
  • Flying squirrels do not actually “fly” but rather glide using skin flaps that connect their arms and bodies, called a patagium. They can glide 100 yards, although they usually only “fly” from tree to tree. As gliders, they always glide downward, and generally, for every two feet high they are, they can get about one foot of gliding distance. Once they land on a tree, they usually rapidly scurry to the opposite side to avoid becoming lunch for a pursuing predator, such as an owl.
  • A way to determine if flying squirrels are in the area is if nut shells left behind have a single circular cut to remove the nutmeats. However, their diet is varied—insects in the warmer months, and other small animals, eggs, fruits, seeds, and nuts at other times of the year. They are readily attracted to bird feeders and other feeding stations during winter.
  • Flying squirrels prefer tree cavities for nesting, and are more solitary in the summer. But in the winter, they often nest together for warmth.

After showing us flying squirrel puppets, Rachael brought out the real thing: a live southern flying squirrel that was too cute for words. It has very large eyes to better see in the dark, and was surprisingly docile.

We all got to pet it as it sat patiently on Rachael’s hand.

Photo of Naturalist Rachel Tolman presenting the southern flying squirrels program at Long Branch

Rachael Tolman holding southern flying squirrel. (Photo courtesy of Meg Jonas)

 

Photo of Naturalist Rachel Tolman presenting the southern flying squirrels program at Long Branch

Petting the very patient flying squirrel (Photo courtesy of Meg Jonas)

At that point, Rachael took us outside to visit the center’s own flying squirrel feeding station and winter nest box in front of the nature center. She recommends that, if people feed flying squirrels (which can be very comfortable with people close by), they should set out food about a 1/2 hour after dusk on a spot at least 10 feet above the ground. The early nighttime is when they become most active. If they’re fed regularly, they will be steady visitors. Rachael then slathered some peanut butter right on the bark of an oak tree, and placed some nuts on the roof of a nest box nearby. It took about 30 seconds for the first flying squirrels to pop onto the tree and begin licking the peanut butter and working on the nuts. Others followed shortly thereafter. It wasn’t long before we saw one in full flight between trees, which was really magical! They also scurried in and out of a hole in the nest box, likely to eat in private.

There is a high mortality rate among young squirrels, which are born in late winter and then again in the summer. Some of it is because of predators (owls, snakes, foxes, raccoons, and outdoor cats), but flying squirrels may also eat another’s young. Young squirrels also need to get the hang of gliding and can often crash in the learning phase. Those that make it to adulthood can live 3-6 years in the wild, or over double that time in captivity.

Rachael provided a handout on to build a flying squirrel nest box, and there are many online sites with instructions, too. She recommends a circular opening between 1 ¼ and 1 ½ inches in diameter and surrounded by metal to keep gray squirrels from chewing the hole larger. In addition, she suggested adding a second (escape) hole in case a snake or other predator gets into the box.

A highly recommended blog is Alonso Abugattas’s Capital Naturalist. His piece about southern flying squirrels is a delightful and informative read.

Kids and adults are welcome to sign up for flying squirrel programs, which are repeated a few times each winter. There is one more at Long Branch on Feb. 18. More information is in The Snag, the Guide to Arlington County’s Nature and History Programs.

Finally, I was SO captivated by Rachael’s presentation and Long Branch’s feeding station and nest box, that I wanted one of my own. My handy husband, Michael, put one together in a couple of days with a rooftop feeding station, a pair of entrance/exit holes, and an easy open side door for cleanups after the winter roosting is completed. We just set it up and are waiting for our first furry visitors.

Photo of southern flying squirrel nest box in ARMN Member Kasha Helget's yard

Nest box in our backyard (Photo by Kasha Helget)