ARMN: Getting to Know Caroline Haynes

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. The latest biography is for ARMN’s founding member, Caroline Haynes, who established and graduated from our first training class in 2008. Alison Sheahan conducted the interview.

Photo of ARMN past president Caroline Haynes

Caroline Haynes

Tell us about the ARMN projects you spend time with.

I currently serve on the ARMN Board as a past-president, now with a purely advisory role. There is tremendous talent and enthusiasm on the ARMN Board. They are a terrific group of people—so smart and committed and fun to be with. I actually look forward to these meetings!  I enjoy the people that are drawn to ARMN, as they are so talented, and come from so many diverse backgrounds.

I’ve always enjoyed being able to sample a variety of volunteer activities: Earth Sangha (note: Caroline arrived at the interview lunch fresh from sorting seeds with Earth Sangha), Plant NOVA Natives, Audubon at Home, outreach and education events like the Arlington County Fair, presentations to community and school groups, biotic surveys like those with the National Park Service along the George Washington Parkway, invasive pulls, and restoration plantings. I also still review the applications for each new class of Master Naturalist trainees. I ran the first six ARMN training classes, so I appreciate the huge volunteer effort involved with the basic training classes and am still glad to contribute.

What brought you to ARMN in the first place?

Well, there was no ARMN until I talked to Alonso Abugattas, then the naturalist my kids and I knew at Arlington’s Long Branch Nature Center (LBNC)! Frustrated that Arlington County residents would not be allowed into a neighboring Master Naturalist program, we explored starting a chapter in Arlington. I chaired the coordinating committee back in 2007, and had lots of support from Alonso (now, the Arlington County Natural Resources Manager), Rachael Tolman, a naturalist at LBNC, other naturalists in Arlington, as well as Rod Simmons, Alexandria’s Natural Resource Manager and Plant Ecologist. It took us a year to get ARMN up and running, especially demonstrating that there would be enough demand for another program in such close proximity to the Fairfax Master Naturalist chapter. Alonso agreed to be one of our first instructors and I was actually part of the first training class in the fall of 2008, along with 24 others including current ARMN president Marion Jordan. I became president of the chapter then, and served in that role until December 2013.

My “local” journey toward finding and founding ARMN probably had most to do with our purchase of some property in West Virginia. The more time I spend in the woods, the more my curiosity is sparked by what I observe. I began taking classes in the Natural History Field Studies program at the Audubon Naturalist Society in Maryland. That is where I first heard about the Master Naturalist program forming in Virginia.

Tell us something about your childhood/adulthood experiences that shape your perspectives on nature and your work for ARMN.

Well, I grew up in Colorado! So hiking, camping, and being outside in beautiful places were always part of the deal. After earning a degree in International Finance/International Relations, I came to Washington to work in the Senate and then later as Deputy Assistant Secretary with the Treasury Department. I feel like it is my experience on the Hill that led me to see how important it is for people to “have a seat at the table” to get anything done.

I also met my husband on the Hill and we settled in Arlington, soon joined by our two daughters.

Is there anything else you’d like to share? It seems like you are always trying to get groups of people to put the naturalist perspective “on the table.”

Yes, I strongly encourage others to get engaged in their local advisory groups. ARMN doesn’t generally count this service for hours, unless it has a direct natural resources connection, but it is important to add that natural resources perspective. I currently serve as the Chair of the Arlington County Park and Recreation Commission, as a member of the Arlington Urban Forestry Commission, and as chair the Natural Resources Joint Advisory Group, which is charged with monitoring the implementation of the county’s Natural Resources Management Plan. I also serve on the Chesapeake Bay Ordinance Review Committee. We review plans by homeowners and developers when building in the resource protection area to ensure that mitigation measures comply with the Chesapeake Bay Ordinances. In addition, I am co-chair of the Plan for Our Places and Spaces advisory group, where we are working on an update of the public spaces element of the county’s Comprehensive Plan. I am also serving as co-vice chair of the Four Mile Run Valley Working Group.

Citizen action is important, now more than ever. Paying attention to plans before they gather the full weight of policy is critical if we are to develop a more environmentally-sensitive direction.

A Bright Outlook for Citizen Science in Arlington

by Louis Harrell

“The joy of looking and comprehending is nature’s most beautiful gift.” – Albert Einstein

Citizen Science is defined as “the collection and analysis of data relating to the natural world by members of the general public, typically as part of a collaborative project with professional scientists.” Why is it important? It offers many benefits both to residents of a community and local natural resource programs. While there are many citizen science opportunities in the region at large, this piece focuses on how citizens may participate in research projects in Arlington County, improve their knowledge of the local environment, and identify species resident in the County. The County gets to use the expertise of citizens to accomplish needed projects that might otherwise be delayed due to resource constraints.

What can we look forward to in the near future?  A bright outlook for citizen science!

Arlington’s First Bioblitz

 Arlington Bioblitz logo

On May 20, ARMN will be supporting the first Arlington’s Bioblitz as a key focus project for 2017. This 24-hour survey is the first of a series of annual surveys designed to document the plants and animals present in a number of parks in the county. Data collected will be used as part of the Arlington Natural Resource Management plan. Experts will provide support and advice to volunteers who will document local species.

The mammal survey component of the bioblitz will look for proof of locally rare species. Game cameras will be used to monitor species and volunteers will be needed to review photos. An entomologist will support volunteers who will collect, preserve, and send bee samples to other entomologists for additional study. Other insects will also be surveyed. Ornithologists and expert birders will conduct bird walks. Any unusual nesting activity may be included in the Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas.

Surveys of bats, fish, salamanders, and other amphibians and reptiles are also planned.  Among the locations where you can sign up to participate in the bioblitz are: Barcroft Park, Gulf Branch Park and Nature Center, Long Branch Nature Center at Glencarlyn Park, and Potomac Overlook Regional Park.  The full list of projects and more information is provided here.  Alonso Abugattas has also published an article about the BioBlitz on his Capital Naturalist blog: http://capitalnaturalist.blogspot.com/2017/04/arlington-bioblitz.html.

There are many other projects that are longer-term and often part of a national scope. All offer participants the opportunity to deepen their knowledge of the environment and do significant field work. Below are some projects that focus on deer, birds, insects, and plants.

Deer Browse Surveys

Deer browse surveys are underway within Glencarlyn Park and Barcroft Park. Additional studies are being planned that will use existing trees and fences to create temporary deer exclosures. The exclosures will allow collection of data using different methodologies than currently used.

Game camera surveys can also be conducted over a long period to capture photos of locally rare species and monitor trends in more common mammals.

Ornithology Projects Including the Annual Christmas Bird Count

Photo of Yellow-rumped warbler (Setophaga coronate)

Yellow-rumped warbler (Setophaga coronate)

There are many wonderful citizen science bird programs, too. These include the very popular Christmas Bird Count, sponsored by the National Audubon Society in which volunteer birdwatchers contribute to the annual census of birds during the winter. Another opportunity is the eBird Project, co-sponsored by the Cornell Ornithology Lab and Audubon. It is an online database of bird observations in which anyone can enter bird lists to monitor bird species in their area or map overall abundance of a species in an area over time. There is also the Breeding Bird Atlas of Virginia program.  The second Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas (VABBA2) is a follow-up survey to the first Atlas that was published over 25 years ago and surveys all bird species breeding in the state. Data collected will help map the distribution and status of Virginia’s breeding bird community in order to provide better information for natural resource and conservation decisions.

Insect Citizen Science Projects

Photo of Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus)

Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus)

The North American Butterfly Association conducts a butterfly count in July.  The Pollinator Partnership sponsors National Pollinator Week in June to collect data on pollinators including bees and monarch butterflies and generally to celebrate pollinators and spread the word about what can be done to protect them. National Moth Week takes place in the last week in July and celebrates the beauty, life cycles, and habitats of moths. People of all ages and abilities are encouraged to learn about, observe, and document moths in their backyards, parks, and neighborhoods. There are between 60 and 70 moth species in Arlington already recorded but even more species could be identified!

Plant Citizen Science Opportunities

Photo of Bee balm (Monarda didyma)

Bee balm (Monarda didyma)

 

Botanists and plant lovers of all levels will also have opportunities. Arlington County is developing some exciting projects:  The Arlington Herbarium needs to be digitized in order to improve the usefulness of the collection for analysis and voucher specimens need to be collected for the State Atlas.

Whatever your interest in nature, there is probably a local or national citizen science project in which you can participate.  Go outside, look, learn, and share!

Getting to Know Ann Ulmschneider

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 ARMN member, Ann Ulmschneider, who graduated in the Spring 2010 training class. Alison Sheahan conducted the interview.

Photo of ARMN member Ann Ulmschneider

Ann Ulmschneider.

What brought you to ARMN in the first place?

I always had a really strong interest in nature and science. A friend at church, Mary Pike, told me about ARMN and it sounded like a really good thing to do. I immediately became interested in the service projects with children because of my background.

Which is…?

I have a master’s degree in Child Development. When I first earned my degree I became the director of a child care facility in Fairfax and eventually taught parent education classes for Fairfax County Public Schools. This led to my 30-year career with FCPS Family and School Partnerships, an organization that helps schools engage parents, especially families of English Language Learners and other underserved families. I continued to teach children in various volunteer capacities and enjoyed raising our three daughters but once they were no longer young, I missed children and began to look for other opportunities to be with them.

At ARMN, which child-centered activities do you enjoy?

I lead birthday parties at both Long Branch and Gulf Branch Nature Centers. I usually do them with a partner, Mary Ellen Snyder. We work well together as a team and enjoy each other’s company.

I also work at Green Spring Gardens in Annandale, leading groups of school children during the week on planned field trips that align with Virginia’s Standards of Learning (SOL). I do the station on frogs and toads for “Metamorphosis and More,” focused on life cycles. For “Fantastic Flora and Fauna” I lead a walk in the woods looking for examples.

Photo of ARMN memeber Ann Ulmschneider

Ann teaching first graders about trees at Green Spring Gardens.

I like that both of these activities involve regular hours and have kept me in contact with groups who need leaders on a regular basis. It’s not hard to make my 40 service hours (needed for annual master naturalist certification)! Also, it helps me to keep learning. Any time I have to lead a group like this, I need to learn ahead of the kids. Understanding the information on a basic level (for instance through the books at the children’s section of a library) has been really helpful to me and less intimidating than learning lots of detail. It’s also pushed me to step out of my comfort zone, so that I recently offered a family program on squirrels for Arlington County’s “SNAG” program. I tried other activities with ARMN over the years like Stream Monitoring and the Bug Lab but I have discovered that I’m not that kind of scientist or naturalist. I’m more of a teacher and I like connecting with the families and children at the nature centers.

What was it about your childhood or other early background that you think fed these interests?

When I was a girl, my best friend and I loved to go roaming in an extensive wooded lot in our neighborhood in Cincinnati, Ohio. In middle grades, I remember going almost every day. We just walked around and went to our “hiding place” (which was probably covered with invasive vines!). I don’t remember particular observations of animals or plants, I just remember loving to be there, surrounded by the trees. To this day, the smell of the woods is imprinted on me, very positively. Then when my husband and I first met we did lots of hiking together and in 1980-82, we began taking classes at the National Arboretum on trees, wildflowers, and ferns. In 2000, I joined the Northern Virginia Bird Club and began to gain knowledge of local birds. I am still a member there along with many other ARMN members.

In summary, what do you like most about ARMN?

It allows me to combine my love of nature and working with kids and families of many cultures, and it lets me keep learning. To me, it’s satisfying just to know information about what we are seeing all around us. In Arlington, we’ve been able to preserve our little swaths of green, and we have this unique mix of people from all over the world who can enjoy it. That’s a great combination and I feel lucky to be a part of it.

ARMN Member Yu-hsin Hsu Receives Bill Thomas Award

by Caroline Haynes

The Bill Thomas Outstanding Park Service Award was established as a tribute to lifelong parks volunteer Bill Thomas and to honor and encourage residents who show passionate dedication and support for Arlington County’s programs, natural resources, and public open spaces.

Photo of ARMN memeber Yu-hsin Hsu receiving award

Yu-hsin Hsu, Bill Thomas Outstanding Park Service Volunteer Award recipient for work done in 2016, with Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette, and Park and Recreation Commission Chair Caroline Haynes.

ARMN is proud to announce that member Yu-hsin Hsu has been honored for her work this past year as an ardent supporter of Arlington’s natural resources. Yu-hsin serves in a wide range of volunteer capacities including animal care and other volunteer support with Long Branch Nature Center, responsibility in rescuing and rehabilitating the Arlington Central Library pollinator garden, participation in various invasive removal events, work at the County’s native plant nursery with the Department of Parks and Recreation Natural Resources Management, assistance in the propagation beds with the Virginia Native Plant Society, and work with children in environmental education. Yu-hsin’s incredible dedication and enthusiasm to preserving Arlington’s natural spaces makes her a perfect fit for this award. ARMN celebrates her accomplishments and thanks Yu-hsin for her service.

For a more detailed summary of Yu-hsin’s efforts, see Arlington Public Library blog post.

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!

Photo 1 (1)

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.

Photo 2

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!

2017 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service Opportunities

mlk-photo

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!

Bird Mobs at Long Branch Nature Center

by Steve Young

ARMN member and Long Branch environmental steward Steve Young shares a mindful encounter with nature.

During a warm July morning, I found myself walking along the Long Branch Nature Center access road. Just east of Willow Pond, I began to hear a commotion among small birds. First to get my attention were the scolding alarm calls of Wood Thrushes—”Whip! Whip!” Then I began to notice other birds calling and in some cases flying around near the stream: Eastern Towhees, Common Grackles, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Tufted Titmice, Carolina Wrens, Blue Jays, and undoubtedly some others I either missed or have forgotten.

To me the uproar was almost a sure sign of the presence of some predator. Birds alert each other to a predator and often “mob” it. Interestingly, even though there are crows around and they tend to be very aggressive mobbers, I heard or saw none.

I slowly walked closer to the stream, toward the epicenter of the activity, expecting to see perhaps a ground-based predator like a domestic cat or a fox, maybe with a victim in its grasp, since that would amplify the upset of the birds. But I saw nothing. Barred Owl? I looked up in the trees, but saw no owl. Finally, about 15 feet above the stream, I spotted a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk perched motionless in a tree. This was the cause of the racket. As I got close, it flew to a new perch about 3 feet away from its previous one. As soon as it moved, two grackles dived at its head. There was no more direct mobbing, but the sonic uproar continued. I took several pictures and walked on.

Red-shouldered Hawk at Long Branch (upper right in tree)

Red-shouldered Hawk at Long Branch (upper right in tree)

Had I not focused on the message from the birds and realized they could tell me something, I would never have known the silent, motionless hawk was there. The more attention we pay to nature with our various senses, the more stories nature shares.

Many Ways and Many Days to Celebrate Earth Day 2016

The 46th annual commemoration of Earth Day is Friday, April 22. Here are a number of activities, events, and volunteer opportunities on and near Earth Day to honor Mother Earth for all she does for us every day.

Pick one or more ways to join the celebration!

EVENTS

Arlington provides opportunities to “Be Earth-Friendly Every Day” with a month-long calendar of fun and beneficial environmental activities and suggestions for sustainable projects and programs, educational and volunteer opportunities, places to enjoy nature, and a bluebell walk on the 22nd. See: http://environment.arlingtonva.us/earthday/ and http://www.carfreediet.com/pages/news-events/event-details/?eventID=2729 for details.

The Audubon Society of Northern Virginia highlights several bird-related events around the holiday. There is the First Annual ASNV Earth Day Big Sit, April 22–23, with the goal of identifying as many bird species as possible within a set area. The event will take place at Whitehall Farms in Clifton as part of its Spring Festival. ASNV is also seeking adult and teen volunteers each day. Volunteers get free admission to the festival. To sign up, click: http://www.signupgenius.com/go/30e0548a4ae28aafd0-bigsit.

A second ASNV event is Birdathon 2016 from April 22–May 15. Birdathon is an annual spring-migration birding competition in which teams secure donations and then pick a 24-hour period between April 22 and May 15 to identify as many bird species as possible. There are prizes for most money raised and most species identified. Click: http://audubonva.org/birdathon for more information.

The Virginia Cooperative Extension 4-H Urban Bird Celebration is Saturday, April 23. All ages, youth, and families are invited to Lubber Run Park in Arlington to learn more about birds. There will be hands-on activities, light refreshments, and more! For details, see: https://arlingtonmasternaturalists.files.wordpress.com/2016/04/4-h-urban-bird-flyer.pdf.

The 2016 Eagle Festival will be April 23 at Mason Neck State Park. The event will feature live wildlife shows, guided hikes, food and drinks available from the Lions Club, live music, pony rides, and other activities. See: http://masonneckstateparkfriends.org/event-2189714 for more information.

This year’s Alexandria Earth Day celebration will be Saturday, April 30, with the theme, “Choose to Reuse—Your Choices Matter.” There will be educational exhibits, demonstrations, and hands-on activities for all ages. It will also feature the “Upcycling Showcase,” in which students will demonstrate their creative interpretation of Earth Day through literature, fashion, visual arts, and performing arts. For more information, see: https://www.alexandriava.gov/EarthDay.

Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment are sponsoringGo Gaga for Green 2016” on April 30.
This family-friendly, community-wide event benefits environmental programs run by George Mason University (Arlington campus) and Arlington and showcases Operation Rain Barrel and the Arlington Green Patriot Awards, recognizing community leaders in sustainability. See: http://www.arlingtonenvironment.org/go-gaga-for-green/ for additional details.

Fairfax County’s official Earth Day and Arbor Day event is April 30 at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton. Among the activities are family-friendly events, educational workshops, vendors, and kids’ activities, including a film festival on restoration projects. There will also be food trucks and a plant sale. More information is at: http://www.springfestfairfax.org/.

PLANT SALES

City of Alexandria Spring 2016 Native Tree and Shrub Sale—accepting orders online through May 7 at: https://rec.alexandriava.gov/webtrac/wbwsc/rt14prd.wsc/wbsearch.html?wbsi=86e19402-4a2d-d9b8-e511-20fb821a33c7&xxmod=PS, or in person at the Jerome “Buddie” Ford Nature Center, 5750 Sanger Ave, Alexandria. All plants are $20. They may be picked up the Ford Nature Center Saturday, May 21 from 10 am to 2 pm. For more information, see RPCA Spring 2016 Native Tree Shrub Sale Flyer or contact Majd Jarrar at: 703-746-5525 or Majd.Jarrar@alexandriaVA.gov.

Falls Church City Native Plant Sale run by Girl Scout Troop 1251. Plant list and form available April 18, and plants are available May 1. E-mail melanite@verizon.net for the form and more information.

Saturday, April 23, 9 am–3 pm, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, Morven Park, 17195 Southern Planter Lane, Leesburg, www.loudounwildlife.org.

Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District’s Native Tree and Shrub Seedling Sale—accepting online orders now. The seedlings will be available for pick up on Friday, April 29, 9 am–4 pm, or Saturday, April 30, 9 am–12 pm at the Fred M. Packard Center, 4022 Hummer Road, Annandale. For more information, call 703-324-1460; TTY 711. To view and learn more about the seedlings and place an order, visit the NVSWCD website at: www.fairfaxcounty.gov/nvswcd/seedlingsale.htm.

Saturday, April 30, 2016, 9 am–2 pm, Northern Alexandria Native Plant Sale, Church of St. Clement parking lot, 1701 N. Quaker Lane, Alexandria, VA, www.NorthernAlexandriaNativePlantSale.org.

Saturday, April 30, 1–4 pm (rain date: May 1, 1–4 pm), Long Branch Native Plant Sale, Long Branch Nature Center, 625 S. Carlin Springs Road, Arlington. Pre-order information and other details are at: http://www.arlingtonmill.org/announcements/pre-ordernowforthespringnativeplantsale.

Saturday, April 30, 8–11 am, Friends of Riverbend Park annual Spring Native Plant Sale, at the Great Falls Grange Pavilion, 9818 Georgetown Pike in Great Falls. See: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/press/html/psa062-16.htm for details.

Sunday, May 1, 2016, 10 am–2 pm, Earth Sangha Wild Plant Nursery Plant Sale and Open House, Franconia Park, Cloud Drive, Springfield. See http://www.earthsangha.org/wpn/wpn.html for plants and directions.

VOLUNTEER ACTIVITIES

Arlington: Invasive Plant Removal Events

Saturday, April 16:

10 am–12 pm, Tuckahoe Park, Contact: Mary McLean, 703-966-2047, marydmclean@verizon.net;

2–4 pm, Madison Manor Park, Contact: Jo Allen, 703-474-2671, jo.allen@comcast.net.

Sunday, April 17:

2–5 pm, Long Branch Nature Center, Contact: Steve Young, 703-966-2966, frazmo@gmail.com.

Saturday, April 23: 

10 am–12 pm, Benjamin Banneker Park, Contact: Eric Sword, 571-338-8508, ericsword@gmail.com.

Saturday, April 23:

10 am–12 pm, Dora Kelley Park (meet at Buddie Ford Nature Center), Contact: Lauren Harper, lauren.harper@alexandriava.gov.

Sunday, April 24: 

10 am–12 pm, Ft. Bennett Park, Contact: Mary McCutcheon, 703-217-8850, mmccutch@gmu.edu.

Alexandria: Park Trash Clean-up Event

Saturday, April 16 (rain date: April 17):

9 am–12 pm, Dora Kelley Park (park entrances by tennis courts on Chambliss St, Morgan St, or Holmes Run Pkwy), Contact: Dave Dexter, davedexter91@gmail.com. Wear weather/work-appropriate clothing and shoes; gloves, trash pickers, and trash bags provided.

It’s Spring! What a Great Time to Plant Natives!

Spring is such a wonderful time of year! With longer periods of daylight, warmer temperatures, and the return of birds and butterflies, we’re naturally drawn to the outdoors. If you’re also drawn to gardening––either in your yard or in pots on the deck or patio––consider installing native plants when you get ready to plant.

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Asclepias tuberosa ~ Butterflyweed

Why natives?

Native plants are adapted to the local climate and soil conditions where they naturally occur. They also are critical sources of nectar, pollen, and seeds that provide food for native butterflies, insects, birds, and other animals. In addition, native plants are advantageous, because they:

  • do not require fertilizers and need 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!

Which native plants are right for your yard or pots?

As with any plant, it’s important to install the right one for your conditions (wet, dry, shade, sun, slope, soil type, etc.). There are great sources of information to learn the right plant for your situation. One of the best is the Plant Nova Natives website: http://www.plantnovanatives.org/, which provides picture-filled, easy-to-follow information that will help you choose the perfect species for your situation. The website includes a colorful guide to local native species, information on where visit native gardens, and links to organizations that sell native plants and will come to your property and offer customized landscaping recommendations.

Pysostegia virginiana ~ Obedient Plant

Pysostegia virginiana ~ Obedient Plant

Where can you buy native plants?

Now that you know you want to natives, you may find that most regular nurseries do not carry them. No matter! The best selection and prices are often at spring native plant sales all around the area. Here are several in the upcoming weeks and months, so go forth and plant!

City of Alexandria Spring 2016 Native Tree and Shrub Sale—accepting orders online through May 7 at: https://rec.alexandriava.gov/webtrac/wbwsc/rt14prd.wsc/wbsearch.html?wbsi=86e19402-4a2d-d9b8-e511-20fb821a33c7&xxmod=PS, or in person at the Jerome “Buddie” Ford Nature Center, 5750 Sanger Ave, Alexandria, VA. All plants are $20. They may be picked up the Ford Nature Center Saturday, May 21 from 10 am – 2 pm. For more information, see RPCA Spring 2016 Native Tree Shrub Sale Flyer  or contact Majd Jarrar at: 703-746-5525 or Majd.Jarrar@alexandriaVA.gov.

Saturday, April 2, 9:30 am – 2 pm, Friends of the National Arboretum Native Plant Sale, US National Arboretum, 3501 New York Ave., NE, Washington, DC (open to Lahr Symposium registrants at 8:30 am), http://www.fona.org/lahr-symposium/.

Wednesday, April 6, 10 am – 1 pm (and first Wednesday of each month through October), VNPS First-Wednesday Plant Sales, at VNPS-Potowmack propagation beds behind the Horticulture Center at Green Spring Gardens are open for sales. 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA 22312, http://vnps.org/potowmack/.

Falls Church City Native Plant Sale run by Girl Scout Troop 1251. Plant listings and form available April 18. Plants are available May 1. E-mail melanite@verizon.net for the form or more information.

Saturday, April 23, 9 am – 3 pm, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, Morven Park, 17195 Southern Planter Lane, Leesburg, VA 20176, www.loudounwildlife.org.

Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District’s Native Tree and Shrub Seedling Sale—accepting online orders now. The seedlings will be available for pick up on Friday, April 29, 9 am – 4 pm, or Saturday, April 30, 9 am – 12 pm at the Fred M. Packard Center, 4022 Hummer Road, Annandale, VA. For more information, call 703-324-1460; TTY 711. To view images of the seedlings, learn about these plants, and to place an order, visit the NVSWCD Web site at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/nvswcd/seedlingsale.htm.

Saturday, April 30, 2016, 9 am – 2 pm, Northern Alexandria Native Plant Sale, Church of St. Clement Parking Lot, 1701 N. Quaker Lane, Alexandria, VA, www.NorthernAlexandriaNativePlantSale.org.

Saturday, April 30, 1 – 4 pm (rain date: May 1, 1 – 4 pm), Long Branch Native Plant Sale, Long Branch Nature Center, 625 S. Carlin Springs Road, Arlington, VA 22204. Pre-order information and other details are at: http://www.arlingtonmill.org/announcements/pre-ordernowforthespringnativeplantsale.

Saturday, April 30, 8 – 11 am, Friends of Riverbend Park annual spring native plant sale, at the Great Falls Grange Pavilion, 9818 Georgetown Pike in Great Falls, Va. See: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/press/html/psa062-16.htm for details.

Sunday, May 1, 2016, 10 am – 2 pm, Earth Sangha Wild Plant Nursery Plant Sale and Open House, Franconia Park, Cloud Drive, Springfield, VA. See http://www.earthsangha.org/wpn/wpn.html for plants and directions.

Saturday, May 7, 9 am – 12 pm, Prince William Wildflower Society Native Plant Sale, Bethel Evangelical Lutheran Church, 8712 Plantation Lane, Manassas, VA 20110 (Contact: Nvehrs1@yahoo.com).

Saturday, May 14, 9 am – 3 pm, Green Spring Garden Day. Sale includes native plant sales from VNPS-Potowmack propagation beds behind the Horticulture Center. There are both native and nonnative plant vendors on the lawn, 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA 22312, http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/greenspring/downloads/quarterlyprogramguide.pdf.