On April 26 Loudoun County’s Planning Commission voted, 6 to 2, to recommend a 160,000-square-foot, 35-foot-high building on the ridge of Short Hill Mountain in Western Loudoun. This was done with little public notice or input and it is going before the Board of Supervisors tonight, May 19, at 6:30 p.m.Many people are rallying against this outrageous proposal for a lot of different reasons. The Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy is opposed to it due to the impact it will have on what is probably Loudoun County’s richest area biologically because of the extensive and diverse wildlife habitats that exist there. Short Hill Mountain serves as the eastern border of the Between the Hills Valley while the Blue Ridge Mountains is its western border. The valley and the ridges that border it are heavily forested, offering unique and connected habitat that is becoming more and more rare in Loudoun County. It has farm fields and some of the cleanest streams in all of Loudoun County. Harpers Ferry National Park borders it on the north and northwest where the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers meet and all of those factors combine to make this valley rich with wildlife. Short Hill Mountain is not only a major migration route for birds of prey in the fall, large numbers of other birds such as the Cerulean Warbler also migrate along the ridge in both the spring and fall. A state threatened turtle, the Wood Turtle, lives in the valley while amphibians that have disappeared in other parts of the county, are still plentiful in the many healthy vernal pools which can be find in the valley. Many species of birds that live and nest in the valley have seen their numbers plummet elsewhere but are, for now, still holding out in this area. As shown by our annual butterfly count, more species of butterflies thrive here than anywhere else in the county.There will probably be backup emergency generators at this facility which will need to be tested on a regular basis. Noise pollution in the valley is likely to be more extensive than it would be in an open space and because this building is to be built on the ridge, it will echo up and down the valley and beyond.

This facility makes no sense in such a wonderful place. Furthermore, we are outraged that something with as negative impact as this facility will have is being slipped through the planning process without giving the public any real opportunity to study it especially since there is no need for it to be rushed. To protect this area we are asking the Board of Supervisors to deny this application outright.

Joe Coleman

Vice President

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy


Below is an Action Alert from the Loudoun County Preservation and Conservation Coalition on the issue, including a memo from LCPCC Chair Al Van Huyck to the Board of Supervisors. You can also read the memo and see the image referred to here.


The Loudoun County Planning Commission’s 6-2 vote on April 26 to approve the commission permit for a 160,000-square-foot, 35-foot-high building on the ridge of Short Hill Mountain in Western Loudoun, with little public notice or input, next goes before the Board of Supervisors at its May 19 meeting in Leesburg.The building, if constructed, will have a huge impact on the rural area’s viewshed (see image below; areas shaded in gold show where building will be visible from), with far-reaching implications for the area’s scenic and rural character.It is vital that members of the Board of Supervisors hear citizens’ concerns about this proposal. 

What you can do:

• Become informed about the proposal. There are many unanswered questions about what the facility actually will be—among them whether it in fact constitutes a permitted use under the zoning ordinance, and who will own and operate it upon completion. Noise, light, traffic, power and water needs for a facility operating 24 hours a day with 60 employees working three shifts—these impacts have not been assessed. Read more here.

• Email Supervisors and speak at the BOS meeting this Thursday, May 19 (speaking slots for the 6:30 p.m. period are available). Contact the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors at 703-777-0200 to sign up to speak. Click here for supervisor emails. Catoctin District Supervisor Geary Higgins has said he does “not support the current application as it currently stands.” Supervisors Higgins and Tony Buffington (Blue Ridge) need to hear more from their constituents about citizens’ concerns.• Attend the community meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, May 23, hosted by the project applicant, Parsons Environment & Infrastructure Group Inc. (a private contractor which builds facilities but does not own or operate them), to discuss expansion of the facility at the Lovettsville Game Association building at 16 South Berlin Turnpike, in Lovettsville.

• Notify friends, neighbors, your organization’s membership list, and rural business owners in Loudoun about this precedent-setting intrusion into rural Loudoun, with its irreplaceable scenic assets—that so many of its rural businesses rely upon for their prosperity.

• Share this email and the LCPCC Facebook page link.


Below is a message from LCPCC Chair Al Van Huyck to the applicant and the Board of Supervisors. You also can download a PDF of the document here.


TO            : The Loudoun Board of Supervisors

FROM     : Al Van Huyck

DATE       : May 4, 2016



The Planning Commission approved the Commission Permit for A&T Short Hill Mountain at their meeting on April 26, 2016.  The Board of Supervisors now has 60 days to either to approve or deny the Commission Permit as an administrative decision without a public hearing.


The proposed facility is for a 160,000 square foot structure, 35 feet high and 433 feet long, with eight back-up generators, and eleven air coolers.


The following are unanswered questions or pending issues which should be clarified before the Board of Supervisors takes action.

  1. The Zoning Administrator has determined that the application is for an expansion of a “Utility Substation, Transmission” which is a permitted use.However, early Staff reviews and several outside experts suggest that this use is for a “Data Center” which is not a permitted use.The County’s Communications Commission should be asked to verify the Zoning Administrator’s decision.
  2. Is this facility to be a private commercial use or is there a compelling Federal Government need for this facility?The applicant should be required to state whether or not it will be a private commercial use or will it be restricted to Federal Government use.
  3. The applicant is Parsons Environment & Infrastructure Group Inc. (a private contractor which builds facilities but does not own or operate them) and is not a public utility.Can a contractor be issued a Commission Permit or only the utility owner of the site? The Parsons Company should justify why they are the applicant, and should be required to state their proposed end use for the Commission Permit.
  4. If AT&T is to be the end user, they should be required to state that they will operate the facility and not sell or lease it to others as a speculative venture.A statement from AT&T should be required as to their commitment to the facility’s use.
  5. Has AT&T abandoned use of the existing facility? There is some evidence that there is no current activity at the site.A statement from AT&T should be required as to the current use of the existing facility on the Short Hill Mountain.
  6. There is a great need for broadband in rural Loudoun.Will Loudoun residents obtain any benefits from this facility if built?
  7. If the Zoning Administrator’s decision stands will any current transmission substation anywhere in Loudoun County be allowed to receive a Commission Permit to be able to massively expand based on this precedent.There are a large number of substations throughout Loudoun County east and west.  If this interpretation is allowed to stand will it set a precedent in future cases?  The Zoning Administrator should be required to clarify this possible situation.
  8. A Commission Permit’s test is “whether the general location, character, and extent of the proposed use are in substantial accord with the Comprehensive Plan.”The Staff report states that it is based only on the fact it is an “expansion of an existing “Utility Substation, Transmission” which is a permitted use in the Zoning Ordinance.The Staff should be required to explain that the overall reading of the Comprehensive Plan would not justify this facility on the ridge line of the Short Hill Mountain.


The View Shed analysis included in the application is totally inadequate when compared to a privately generated GIS viewshed analysis.The Staff Report notes the structure will be visible from the valley roads. However, a private analysis indicates the structure will be visible over a wide area of northwest Loudoun from the Catoctin Mountains to the Short Hill Mountain in the east and for miles along the Appalachian Trail and down the valley to below Hillsboro on the west.As such the potential negative impact on many rural economy businesses and residents needs to be considered.The County GIS Department should be asked to conduct an official analysis of the view shed impact of the structure located on the ridge line of the Short Hill Mountains.




The application is vague on important issues which can affect the impact of the facility.  If a Commission Permit is approved then there is only approval of the Site Plan left for discussion, and only existing County regulations can be applied.  Any special mitigating commitments must be written into the Plat Plan prior to the approval of the Commission Permit.  The applicant should be required to make binding commitments regarding the following issues.

  1. What will be the power requirement needed to service the facilities?The applicant orally stated they will upgrade the power source, but not increase the height of the poles carrying power to the site or seek a new line right of way.However, will there be any changes required in obtaining this power off-site?The power requirements should be put in writing on the Plat.
  2. The applicant states they will observe the County’s noise regulations. The noise generated at the top of the Short Hill Mountain, even if within County limits, will carry far and wide in the clear, quiet air of rural Loudoun.The applicant should be required to provide a noise suppression plan particularly because of the difficulty of enforcing the County’s noise regulations.
  3. The applicant states they will attempt to minimize security lighting, but there is no specific information on how this will be done.Lights high on the mountain will be seen over a wide area.The applicant should be required to specify exactly what the lighting requirements will be and how they intend to mitigate the light trespass.
  4. The applicant states they will use existing wells to supply the water needed for the facility.In Loudoun, if a neighbor’s well runs dry because of a well on another property, there is no recourse.The applicant should be required to produce a hydro study which states the expected water requirements of the facility, the flow of the existing wells, the ground water recharge levels expected, and commit to a water supply management plan.
  5. The applicant states there will be no impact on the eco-system on the mountain.However, the scale of the structure and the level of activity suggest that there will be a substantial impact on the environment of the Mountain and the birds and animals which make it their habitat.The applicant should be required to undertake an analysis of the impact of the facility on the eco-system on the mountain.



The Board of Supervisors should either reject the pending Commission Permit and return the application to the Planning Commission for further analysis or send the application to TLUC and clarify the answers to the questions identified here.


Do a good deed today: Drive along the Dulles Greenway!Driveforcharity

Today, Thursday, May 19, is the Dulles Greenway’s 11th annual Drive for Charity, which means all the tolls collected today will go to six Loudoun County charities and the Dulles Greenway Scholarship program. Last year, the Greenway donated almost $300,000 to local charities.

Your trip today will help these six non-profits:

  • Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy
  • March of Dimes (National Capital Area)
  • Every Citizen Has Opportunities (ECHO)
  • Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter (LAWS)
  • Fresh Air / Full Care
  • Loudoun Free Clinic

The scholarship program helps seniors from the county’s public high schools.

Take the Greenway today and make a difference!




Mark your calendars for May 26 to attend a webinar about the Monarch Conservation Science Partnership and strategies to help preserve Monarch butterflies.

Biologists, habitat conservation experts and landscape scientists have been meeting for more than two years to develop science-based strategies to save Monarchs. The success of conservation efforts will need to involve government and non-government bodies as well as the help of citizens throughout North America.Monarch_20150823-98

Speakers at the seminar will present a summary of the Partnership’s work, including priorities for habitat protection and restoration, targets for monarch population to minimize risks of extinction, and identification of the most important risks to the Monarch population.

Dr. Karen Oberhauser of the University of Minnesota Monarch Lab, Ryan Drum from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Wayne Thogmartin of the U.S. Geological Service will speak at the webinar, which is a collaboration between the Monarch Joint Venture and the National Conservation Training Center.

You will need to register for the 2 p.m. webinar.

Another effort to help Monarchs comes from the Monarch Joint Venture partner Naturedigger, which has developed an app, Monarch SOS.

Currently Monarch SOS helps users identify Monarchs and similar varieties of butterflies as well as different milkweeds and insects found in Milkweed habitat.  Eventually, Monarch SOS will allow users to record data and send it to participating programs such as Journey North and Monarch Watch.


Are you an organized self-starter, able to work both independently and as part of a team? If the answer’s yes, and you would like to work for a nonprofit with a vision of people and wildlife living in harmony, we might have the job for you!

Loudoun Wildlife is looking for an office management specialist to help our operations run smoothly. For more information, please see the position description.


While the walk at northwestern Loudoun County’s Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship this past Saturday began with cool temperatures (48) and drizzle, it quickly turned into a great morning of birding with 87 species.

Several species were found by Gerry Hawkins and the others who arrived early around the pond near the Education Center and then we all traveled to the southern part of the center, entering at Arnold Road and then taking the Sweet Run Loop, Butterfly Alley, and Old Bridge Trails, finally wrapping up around noon.

Highlights were 19 warbler species (including Cerulean, Blue-winged, Tennessee, Prothonotary, Hooded) , four vireo species, a White-crowned Sparrow, nice looks at both Swainson’s ThrushVeery and Veery – see Hawkins’ photograph – and glances of a couple more catharus species that disappeared too quickly to identify, and great looks at Scarlet Tanagers. When we returned to our cars at Arnold Road we found in the meadows there not only more Eastern Meadowlarks, the Red-headed Woodpecker, a Grasshopper Sparrow, and another Blue-winged Warbler, but a kestrel and an Osprey as well. We also found some nice wildflowers, including a showy orchis.  It was a great day of birding!

We also had some interesting misses including Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Kentucky Warbler and Louisiana Waterthrush.

This was one of Loudoun Wildlife’s Celebrating Birds walks, which began on May 1, included a program on warbler ID on May 3 and a Birdathon to raise funds for Loudoun Wildlife. Information on the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship can be found at www.blueridgecenter.org/.   Information on the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s many free programs and field trips can be found at www.loudounwildlife.org.

 Joe Coleman



Ten people showed up on Saturday for the regular (every 4th Saturday except December) bird walk at the Blue Ridge Center. While we began the walk with umbrellas, the rain quickly dropped off to a light drizzle, and then quit altogether. The walk was led by Joe Coleman and Del Sargent, ably assisted by Laura McGranaghan, Nicole Hamilton, and Elliott & Nancy Kirschbaum as well several other good birders.

Our first few minutes were spent birding around the main parking lot and the close-by pond but we then drove over to Arnold Road where we spent the next two and a half hours in the woods except for a short walk along the power cut. Our most exciting sightings were two very vocal males and one female Cerulean Warbler in an area where they have nested for several years. While driving down Arnold Road we first heard, and then saw, perched on the fence right next to the road, a Grasshopper Sparrow; two Eastern Meadowlarks were also singing in the fields along Arnold Road. Though all of us saw them, as is often the case with Cerulean Warblers, the looks weren’t great because they were high in the canopy. Our other highlights included a vocal White-eyed Vireo at the pond, a vocal Yellow-throated Vireo, a Wood Thrush, and several Ovenbirds along the Sweet Run Loop as well as two singing Scarlet Tanagers. We also found and watched for several minutes a Rose-breasted Grosbeak in a location where one has been observed several years in the spring.


For a complete list of the birds see the eBird list below.

Information on the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship can be found at http://www.blueridgecenter.org.  Information on the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and its many free activities can be found at www.loudounwildlife.org.

Joe Coleman


Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship, Loudoun, Virginia, US Apr 23, 2016 8:00 AM – 11:15 AM

Protocol: Traveling

1.5 mile(s) walking, three miles driving

Comments:     FOS & other Highlights: White-eyed Vireo, Yellow-throated Vireo, Wood Thrush, Ovenbird, Cerulean Warbler, Grasshopper Sparrow, Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and Eastern Meadowlark.

49 species (+1 other taxa)

Canada Goose  2

Black Vulture  4

Turkey Vulture  2

Cooper’s Hawk  1

Red-shouldered Hawk  1

Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  1

Mourning Dove  1

Red-bellied Woodpecker  5

Downy Woodpecker  5

Hairy Woodpecker  1

Northern Flicker  1

Pileated Woodpecker  2

Eastern Phoebe  2

White-eyed Vireo  1

Yellow-throated Vireo  1

Blue Jay  15

American Crow  15

Tree Swallow  6

Barn Swallow  5

Carolina Chickadee  12

Tufted Titmouse  8

White-breasted Nuthatch  4

Carolina Wren  4

wren sp.  1     brief glimpse of a small brown wren; not seen well enough to determine whether House or Winter

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  12

Eastern Bluebird  6

Wood Thrush  1

Brown Thrasher  6

Northern Mockingbird  5

European Starling  10

Ovenbird  4

Louisiana Waterthrush  1

Common Yellowthroat  3

Cerulean Warbler  3

Northern Parula  1

Grasshopper Sparrow  2

Chipping Sparrow  8

Field Sparrow  3

White-throated Sparrow  8

Song Sparrow  6

Eastern Towhee  2

Scarlet Tanager  2

Northern Cardinal  12

Rose-breasted Grosbeak  1

Red-winged Blackbird  2

Eastern Meadowlark  2

Common Grackle  2

Brown-headed Cowbird  20     One of the the most common birds on the walk

American Goldfinch  25

House Sparrow  1

View this checklist online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S29191477



This is peak Spring bird migration season and millions of birds are coming to or passing through our area on their way north!

You can help celebrate the season and International Migratory Bird Day, which is May 14, by taking part in Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s Birdathon. It’s easy! Form a team with friends and/or family to see how many species you see in a 24-hour period between May 1 and May 15.  Supporters can sponsor you with a set amount or per species and can do that on our website here.  You can read more about the event here. There will be prizes for participants in the Birdathon, which is a major fundraiser for Loudoun Wildlife.

As part of the celebration, Loudoun Wildlife will present a special program May 3 on warblers that breed in or migrate through Maryland and Virginia. There will also be a number of special walksGrasshopper-Sparrow the county. We invite you to join us!

You might even see a Grasshopper Sparrow like the one in the photograph, taken by Diane Nastase.

Morven Park Nature Walk — Sunday, May 1, 8:00 a.m. This walk will be led by Nicole Hamilton & Dori Rhodes.  Not only is Morven Park the place that Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy calls home, its 1,000 acres include the Ridge Loop trail, a lowland trail aptly named the Wood Thrush trail, and lots of fields and meadows. In spring wonderful neo-tropical birds are heard and seen: Scarlet Tanagers, warblers, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, kinglets, woodpeckers, owls, hawks, Wild Turkeys, chickadees, nuthatches and other woodland and grassland species. Meet at the Coach House parking lot. Registration required: Sign Up Online. Questions: Contact jcoleman@loudounwildlife.org.

Identifying and Learning About the Warblers of the Mid-Atlantic Region —Tuesday, May 3, 7:00 p.m. Winmill Carriage Museum, Morven Park. Michael Bowen, Linda Friedland, and Jim Nelson, all past presidents of the Montgomery County Chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society, will cover nearly every warbler species that breeds in or migrates through Maryland and Virginia. Identification pointers and songs of birds in spring are emphasized. This Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy presentation uses high-resolution photos taken by some of North America’s finest nature photographers and song tracks from the Stokes Bird Song series. Registration required: Sign Up Online. Questions: Contact info@loudounwildlife.org.

Birding at Bles Park — Friday, May 6, 8:00 a.m. This walk will be led by Bill Brown and Jay Hadlock.  Located in Ashburn along the Potomac River, Bles Park includes 94-acres of passive park land with walking, birding and hiking trails. Trails run along fields, wetlands and a stream, which offer a nice diversity of species. Bles is a great place to see a variety of migratory song birds as well as the summer warblers that nest here. Meet in the parking lot. Directions can be found here. Registration required: Sign Up Online. Questions: Contact jcoleman@loudounwildlife.org.

The Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship — Saturday, May 7, 8:00 a.mBlue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship (BRCES). This walk will be led by Joe Coleman and Gerry Hawkins. The center’s 895 acres has vernal pools, meadows, ponds, streams and a rich oak-hickory forest. Located in northwestern Loudoun County, the center not only borders the Appalachian Trail, it is only a couple of miles from the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, and serves as a wonderful sanctuary for Loudoun’s wildlife. The group will meet in the parking lot between Mountain View Farm & the Education Center. Registration required: Sign Up Online. Questions: Contact jcoleman@loudounwildlife.org.

Beagle Club/Institute Farm  Wednesday, May 11, 8 a.m. This walk will be led by Emily Southgate and Linda Millington. We have special permission to visit the Institute Farm, the home of the National Beagle Club of North America, and on the National Register of Historic Places.  The farm’s brushy, scrubby intermediate habitat, bordered by mature forests, is home to many thicket-loving bird species. This group will also visit a nearby large farm, which includes a large pond and extensive fields. 22265 Oatlands Road, Aldie, VA. Parking in the field. Maximum: 15 people. Registration required: Sign Up Online. Questions: Contact jcoleman@loudounwildlife.org.

Camp Highroad  Friday, May 13, 8:00 a.m.  This walk will be led by Christine Perdue and Linda Millington. Southwestern Loudoun includes many large farms that include both extensive fields and rich woodlands through which Goose Creek and its many tributaries flow. In the spring it is home to a number of nesting birds as well as many migrants. Camp Highroad is located at 1164 Steptoe Hill Rd, Middleburg. Meet at the main office. Space is limited to 15 people. Registration required: Sign Up Online. Questions: Contact jcoleman@loudounwildlife.org.

Birding Banshee — Saturday, May 14, 8:00 a.m. This walk will be led by Jane Yocom and Dori Rhodes. Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve was established as a nature preserve in 1999. Its 725 acres include a variety of nature trails that are great for birding. In addition to a mile of Goose Creek frontage, Banshee has a great diversity of habitats ranging from wetlands and ponds to mixed hardwood forests of oak and hickory to wonderful meadows laden with milkweed, goldenrod and thistle. Questions: Contact jcoleman@loudounwildlife.org.

The Birdiest Time of the Year: Meet Your Birds!  Saturday, May 14, 9:00 – 11:00 a.m., Algonkian Regional Park. Join Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and local birders Bill & Della Brown for this special International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD) event just for kids and their parents.  We’ll make it easy for you! We’ll point out the birds as you enjoy a morning stroll along the Potomac River. See and hear the birds that travel through our area during this special time of spring migration. Space is limited to 15 children, ages 5+, with accompanying adult(s); please register early. No strollers or pets. Scout groups are welcome. 47000 Fairway Dr, Sterling. Meet at the boat ramp parking lot.  Registration required: Sign Up Online. Questions: Contact info@loudounwildlife.org.


The last of the winter stalks are gone and your garden beds look lovely with tender green shoots coming up. But wait, something needs to go in the far corner, doesn’t it? There’s a gap by the pond too that some kind of shrub would fill perfectly. But what? Not to worry – our Spring Native Plant Sale is this Saturday, April 23, at Morven Park!Native_Plant_Sale_20120915-8

You will be able to browse and buy lots of Spring blooming flowers, shrubs, trees, vines and ferns and get some good advice too. There will also be Bluebird houses, Monarch rearing cages and other material, as well as books and even garden art.

The sale will be in the main parking lot at Morven Park, 17263 Southern Planter Lane, Leesburg. It runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Bring your friends and neighbors and grab a bite to eat too - the Good Grubbin’ food truck will be there from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., selling freshly made fajitas!


Yes, it’s true! People in Virginia are starting to see the beautiful Ruby-throated hummingbirds at their feeders.

You can track them as they make their way north on the map here and report your own sightings.  So clean your feeders and get ready to put out the nectar – one part sugar to four parts water.






leesburg_Loggerhead_Shrike_2008A five-year statewide effort is under way to document the bird species that breed in Virginia. The project is the 2nd Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas (VBBA2), the first such  survey since the first VBBA was completed 25 years ago, and you can help.

The data collected will help document species distribution. This is important so it is known how factors such as climate change and development are affecting bird communities and that in turn will affect natural resource and conservation decisions.

The project involves the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the Virginia Society of Ornithology, bird clubs, Master Naturalist chapters and, as a citizen science project, will need lots of volunteers to help collect data over the next five years. The project divides the area into 12 regions. Each region is broken into blocks, each of which is surveyed.

If you volunteered to help count for the 2009-2014 Loudoun County Bird Atlas, here’s your chance to get out again as the breeding season gets going. If you did not take part then but enjoy watching birds, here’s a chance to contribute to this very important effort. You can team up with friends to count, including the species that show up at your feeder.

If you’d like to find out what kind of information is gathered, check out the Loudoun County Bird Atlas summary and species lists at loudounwildlife.org/Bird_Atlas.htm.

For more information about the Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas and how to get involved, visit the website here. You can also follow the progress on Facebook – just search for the  2nd Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas page.



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