Power of Passion and Persistence

By Sue Dingwell

The power of passion and persistence brought to life a new wetland last Saturday at Campbell Elementary School, a Title One, alternative school bordering Long Branch Park in Arlington. Two and a half years in the planning and fund-raising stage, the garden was installed by an all-volunteer crew at an event they called “The Big Plant.” The sun seemed to shine with a special brilliance as proud students threw their energy into the myriad tasks needed to get plants correctly placed and tucked safely into the spots marked for them.

That little girl dug tenaciously for a long time to get hole big enough for long-sleeved oak tree.

One of this fall’s Master Naturalist training class members, Pat Findiklogu, a teacher at Campbell for many years, formed a small committee three years ago to set the project in motion. She was on hand Saturday to help with the work despite the fact that she had retired from teaching last spring. The story of the permitting and permissions process  was an epic indeed. There were many times when regulatory hurdles almost brought the project to a halt. I heard from a committee member, though, that every time they thought they were at a dead end, Pat would rally the troops: “They’re not going to stop us now!!” Continue reading

Flowers Come to Tuckahoe Park

By Mary McLean

Thanks to Eagle Scout Jacob Heidig, Tuckahoe Park now has beautiful blue, red, and yellow flowers to admire. These plants (listed below) provide the best natural source of food and nectar for beautiful butterflies, goldfinch, and hummingbirds.

Blue lobelia planted at Tuckahoe Park by Jacob Heidig for his Eagle Scout Service Project.

In June, guided by a plan he developed, Jacob led a team of high school Boy Scouts, two younger brothers, and the Eagle Scout’s dad. After pulling out weeds, they planted the flowers in the “No Mow” zone of Tuckahoe Park. You can recognize the area by the logs surrounding it.

Kevin Stallica, the Parks Manager for Tuckahoe, approved the plan and chose just the right kinds of plants to provide beautification to the park. Arlington Parks donated over 60 plants. Earth Sangha grew these native plants that originated a similar spot in northern Virginia.

The Master Naturalist volunteer for Tuckahoe, Mary McLean, coordinates community volunteers who want to help these beautiful flowers. Volunteer neighbors worked this September 13 from 9:00-1:00 to remove weeds choking the flowers. Now the flowers are easier to see and enjoy. Continue reading

“The City Dark” Movie and Stargazing

Come view “The City Dark” at:

Long Branch Nature Center
625 S. Carlin Springs
Arlington, VA  22204

On this Wednesday, 7/18, 7:30-9pm, with stargazing after the film, weather permitting.

“Is darkness becoming extinct? When filmmaker Ian Cheney moves from rural Maine to New York City and discovers streets awash in light and skies devoid of stars, he embarks on a journey to America’s brightest and darkest corners, asking astronomers, cancer researchers and ecologists what is lost in the glare of city lights. Blending a humorous, searching narrative with poetic footage of the night sky, The City Dark provides a fascinating introduction to the science of the dark and an exploration of our relationship to  the stars. Winner, Best Score/Music Award, 2011 SXSW Film Festival. Produced in association with American Documentary | POV. ”  For more information on the film and to  see a trailer, visit http://www.pbs.org/pov/citydark/.

Free, but donations to the International Dark-Sky Association will be accepted.  Bring your own favorite movie munchies and (non-alcoholic) drinks.

Second Graders Create Bird Habitat Outside Classroom Windows

By Christine Payack

Bird Watching

It was subtle at first.
“I think I saw a bird!”
I was sure I heard a child chirp,
as he fluttered to the classroom windows.

Do my eyes and ears deceive me?
A flock of children swoop swiftly by.
I blink as other fledglings fly
toward the window panes, too.

Papers swirl and scatter on my desk.
I pick up children’s work
proudly signed
in printed perching tracks.

As sunlight shadows lengthen,
children roost in a corner of the room.
They preen their feathers and cock their heads,
softly cooing a crepuscular call.

I turn off the lights,
quietly close the door
and join them.

The view outside Chris Payack’s second grade classroom windows.

Christine (Chris) Payack wrote the poem “Bird Watching” in Spring 2011. The catalyst for the poem is the view of the bird habitat Chris and her second grade students created outside their classroom windows.  Chris says, “We raised funds selling kid-made migratory and resident bird ornaments to purchase our feeders, viburnum bush, and bird bath. We also tackled strong school resistance to keep the lawn a static mono culture.”

Chris is a June 2011 ARMN graduate. She taught at Fairhill Elementary School in Fairfax but will be teaching at Jamestown Elementary School in Arlington beginning September 2012.

Demonstration Native Plant Garden for Shady Backyards

By Kathy Landis and Joanne Hutton

On Sunday May 6, 2012, Potomac Overlook Regional Park (PORP) held a dedication ceremony that marked the official opening of the new demonstration native plant garden for shady backyards.

The garden is adjacent to the Master Gardeners’ demonstration vegetable garden, across the driveway from the Native American garden. Next time you are at the park for a hike or to work on a volunteer project, please stop by to visit the garden.

Demonstration garden at Potomac Overlook Regional Park. Golden Ragwort blooming in mid-April.  Photo by K. Landis.

The Garden

The garden space inherited by the design team comprised both native plants such as American holly, dogwoods, spicebush, snowberry and sweetshrub and exotic plants such as thorny pyracantha, heavenly bamboo, boxwood, azaleas, and varieties of weeds. A lot of thought went into which plants to preserve and the decisions help make the point that it is possible to incorporate native plants into all gardens.

Azaleas, for example, were retained because they define the space well and are likely to be found in many of our shady backyards. A few other herbaceous exotics such as hellebores, lungworts, toadlilies also remain in the garden because they seem to be deer resistant and add interest to the design. Continue reading

Native Plants Demonstration Garden Dedication

By Joanne Hutton

Variety of ground covers, ferns at the Demonstration Garden, Potomac Overlook Park.
Photo by K. Landis.

We look forward to seeing as many of you who can come to the dedication of our new demonstration garden showing off native plants suitable for backyards on Sunday, May 6th, at the annual May Day Fair at Potomac Overlook Regional Park.  The dedication will take place tentatively at 2:30 p.m. with Mary Hynes, Chair of the Arlington County Board, in attendance and doing honors.  We hope to have a tree planting as part of the ceremony and celebration of our new ARMN focus project.

To prepare the area for this high-profile event, please come out on Friday morning, May 4th, 9:30 – noon or as long as you can, for a work party and training about the plants we’ve included in the design.  We have invasives to remove, mulching, and raking to do.  When we’re done, I will show off the box of informational materials on invasive and native plants developed for Meet Me on a Sunday, and we’ll talk about how to interpret the garden or host a short tour even if you don’t consider yourself an “expert.”  This will be especially appropriate for any of you folks in training as Audubon at Home Ambassadors. Continue reading

Everyday is Earth Day for ARMN Volunteers

By Monique Wong

“Everyday is Earth Day for ARMN volunteers,” Robin Davis, ARMN Outreach Committee Chair, remarked at the April ARMN Board Meeting.

How right she is! Since ARMN’s mission is to provide environmental education, research, citizen science, outreach, and stewardship of Virginia natural resources and public lands, everyday is indeed Earth Day for all ARMN members.

Wherever you are volunteering your time on Earth Day 2012, enjoy your day, rain or shine!  E-mail armneditor@gmail.com to share photos, including the name of the photographer and a caption of your Earth Day 2012 volunteer service.

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Alexandria Neighborhood Presentation on Choking Hazard Campaign

By Christine Matthews

My neighborhood in Alexandria (Beverley Hills), which borders Monticello Park, is known for its beautiful mature trees. Unfortunately, storms, age, and construction have claimed many of them and English ivy threatens to overtake many that remain. So, I was happy to be able to put my training from the Choking Hazard campaign to good use at the April meeting of our citizens’ association (http://northridgecitizens.org). Using the Powerpoint template on the TreeStewards.org website as a guide, I created a presentation incorporating photos and details from our neighborhood. Given the casual nature of the meeting and the evening’s prior presentations, I opted not to set up my computer and projector and just talked about the Choking Hazard campaign using the handout as a guide.

The 30 or so people in the room were highly receptive and most were aware of the damage ivy can do to trees. Continue reading

Meet Me On A Sunday At Potomac Overlook Park

By John Bernard

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Arlington Regional Master Naturalists (ARMN) partners with regional parks for great volunteer outreach opportunities.  One such weekly outreach is Meet Me on a Sunday at the Potomac Overlook Park in North Arlington run by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority.  Among numerous activities on this beautiful Easter Sunday, I joined fellow Master Naturalist Nancy Bagwell at the park from 1:30 – 3:30 to talk to visitors about a couple of subjects dear to our hearts.

First, Nancy shared her knowledge of hawks, owls, and other raptors and birds with guests using some great exhibits.  She generated a lot of interest from park visitors.  Second, not as jazzy, but just as important, I spoke to passing visitors regarding invasive plant species.  Continue reading

Gulf Branch Welcomes Mr., errr…Ms. Owl

By Catherine Howell

Can you spot Ms. Barred Owl?
Photo by David Howell.

The guest of honor didn’t have much to say, but that didn’t bother any of the Friends of Gulf Branch Nature Center who came out on the evening of March 10 to celebrate ”Mr.” Owl and the handsome house the barred owl occupies on the center’s upper terrace.  The ecologically friendly wood-and-mesh Owl House, built with private donations, hugs a gentle slope and is just the right size for a growing juvenile Strix varia.

Dozens of GBNC enthusiasts visited with the newcomer, who came to the nature center following the unexpected demise of Gulf Branch’s previous resident barred owl last year.

Mr. Owl, it turned out, was honored under somewhat false pretenses.  Continue reading