An Interview with Stumpy, Arlington County Spokes-turtle


Stumpy, Long Branch Nature Center’s three-legged eastern box turtle, is one of only a few wildlife rescues at Arlington County nature centers that have been given individual names. Most animals on exhibit answer to generic monikers, such as Ms. Owl or Mr. Ratsnake. This is to remind people that the resident animals are not pets, but belong in nature, whether or not they will ever be able to return to their natural habitats. Stumpy, however, is a special case, as he would be the first to tell you.

Stumpy, Long Branch Nature Center's celebrity box turtle

Stumpy (Photo courtesy of Amanda DuPrey)


In advance of the annual Turtle Trot fundraiser on Saturday, May 17, at Lower Bluemont Park, a volunteer with the Arlington County Master Naturalists (ARMN) visited Stumpy at his residence at Long Branch to get his take on life and the importance of the Turtle Trot. As the interviewer was not fluent in box turtle (well, at least not in the eastern dialect), Amanda DuPrey, a Long Branch staff naturalist, assisted with the translation.

ARMN: You’re an eastern box turtle, Stumpy. I notice that you’re not in a pond habitat like some other turtles at Long Branch. Can you tell us something about box turtles and their lifestyle?

Stumpy: Everyone thinks that turtles belong in the water, but I much prefer the terrestrial life. In my opinion, the grub is much better. Worms, mushrooms, insects––oh, my! I’m drooling at the thought of a worm. There is really so much to say about turtles. We are great! Turtles are one of nature’s longest-lived creatures. I take pride in my long life span and leisurely lifestyle. I’m hoping to break that record of 138 years old. I say, 140 years old or bust! Part of the reason we live so long is because we don’t have a lot of enemies. Our shells keep us well protected and we can close ourselves up just like a box when we are scared or in danger.

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Seeds of Hope: American Chestnut Replanting

by Catherine Howell

As the late afternoon light began to fade and frigid air penetrated gloved hands, the last of the Arlington replanted American Chestnut trees (Castanea dentata) was patted into place on a slope in Glencarlyn Park on a gray day in mid-December, 2013. There, with some serious luck, it could grow into a sturdy tree with viable fruit and possibly help reverse the bad fortune of the iconic American Chestnut––once one of the most common tree species in the northeastern United States, but now largely decimated due to a virulent fungus.

Vincent and Jerry backfill the last hole of the day on a slope in Glencarlyn Park while County Natural Resources Manager Alonso Abugattas tamps down the soil.

Arlington County Forester Vincent Verweij and ARMN volunteer Jerry Cowden backfill the last hole of the day on a slope in Glencarlyn Park, while County Natural Resources Manager Alonso Abugattas tamps down the soil.

Chestnut Blight Fungus (Cryphonectria parasitica) was introduced into North America through Japanese or Chinese Chestnuts; those species co-evolved with the fungus and are not affected by it. American Chestnuts, however, soon succumbed to the novel pathogen. More than three billion native chestnuts perished, removing a species that was a valuable source of timber and a prolific native producer of fall mast for wildlife.

American Chestnuts survive locally in a very limited fashion. Most grow as shoots from stumps of decimated trees and rarely reach 20 feet in height. December’s replanting project involved the distribution of a hundred saplings grown at the Earth Sangha nursery from viable seeds collected mainly in the northern Blue Ridge. Unlike the hybrid trees that are bred from American and Chinese Chestnuts (with an effort to back breed the American species’ characteristics while maintaining blight resistance), these saplings represent true American Chestnuts. Continue reading

ARMN celebrates successes in 2012

By John Bernard and Jim Hurley

The Arlington Regional Master Naturalists (ARMN) had our monthly Board meeting and end-of-year Chapter meeting on Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at the Fairlington Community Center. The Chapter meeting also included an art show and party. Over 60 people attended, including at least 54 ARMN members.

ARMN members brought and displayed their artwork which included photograph porfolios and other creations. After the business meeting, there was time for socializing with lots of goodies

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Caroline Haynes, ARMN President, recognized numerous newly certified and recertified ARMN members for completing the minimum 40 hours of service and 8 hours of advanced training in 2012.

Erik Oberg, National Park Service (NPS) Ranger and Biologist, presented the George and Helen Hartzog Award plaque for Outstanding Volunteer Group to the ARMN Board. The Hartzog Award was awarded to ARMN on October 17, 2012 by the Eastern Capital Region of NPS.

The Hartzog Award recognizes volunteers for their hard work, skills, involvement, and contributions to innovative projects. ARMN members and other volunteers have given 2,600 hours of service to the George Washington Memorial Parkway since the partnership began in 2009. Opportunities to volunteer with the Park Service are described on its website. The NPS and ARMN relationship is a great example of the meaningful results that can be achieved by effective partnerships between government agencies and non-profit groups. Continue reading

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

ARMN July 2012 Chapter Meeting and Service at Long Branch Nature Center

By John Bernard

Members of Arlington Regional Master Naturalists (ARMN) met for their chapter meeting and cookout on July 29 at Long Branch Nature Center (LBNC). Among other business, they recognized 13 newly certified Master Naturalists and the 68 members who have recertified through 2012.

Newly-certified Master Naturalist Leah Pellegrino receives her certificate from ARMN President Caroline Haynes and Kirsten Buhls, Virginia Cooperative Extension Educator and ARMN Chapter Advisor.

There was also an opportunity for ARMN volunteers to earn additional volunteer hours at LBNC with a work project prior to the Chapter meeting. Volunteers worked on a “natural meeting area” arranging tree stumps as seats.

ARMN volunteers arrange tree stumps to create a natural meeting area.

A view of the tree stumps circle that provides a natural setting for meetings.

This is just an example of the many volunteer opportunities that ARMN volunteers have for service hours to meet the annual 40 hours minimum certification requirements.

ARMN volunteers start off with basic training that includes basic background and skills in natural history, role of naturalist, Virginia biogeography and flora and fauna, native ecological concepts for aquatic, forest, and urban ecology, and citizen science.   Classes are typically offered in the fall and spring.  To get involved or find out more information, go to the  To find out more about basic training, go to the link for basic training.

Photos by John Bernard.


“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

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