For our February installment of Volunteer Connection, we’ll be featuring Ed Clark, whose work with Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy will have you ready to welcome warmer weather, even as the cold of winter continues to nip at our noses. Ed, a self-dubbed good-natured naturalist, is best known to Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy as the beloved leader of many of last year’s “We’re Going Wild” family nature walk programs. As a trained biologist employed by the US Department of Agriculture, Ed studies insects at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. You could call Ed a life-long student as he earned his Masters of Science in Biology at George Mason University in 2001, and continues to teach himself about the natural wonders of the world through research to this day. His most recent homemade curriculum of study? Spiders.

Ed’s obvious excitement for the outdoors manifests itself in a host of ways: as an avid birder, passionate botanist, and as we’ve discovered…a natural teacher with a talent for engaging children. His vast wildlife knowledge and easy manner, coupled with his inner child-like curiosity, makes him a real treasure for our growing Youth and Family Programs efforts. Each month of the year, we invite kids of all ages and their families to join us as we trek through some of Loudoun’s great places, parks, and nature centers with Mr. Clark as our “Ed-u-taining” guide. Whether it’s birds, bugs, or botany, Ed joyfully imparts an appreciation for wildlife, habitat, and stewardship…the responsibility of learning about and being connected to our natural world. Teaching the basics, Ed has these budding naturalists observing with all the senses, noting important finds and modeling the value of field journaling, and even follows up later with pictures and reports of the day’s observations to foster deeper learning at home. He’s planting seeds in these youngsters, sowing inquiry and wonder into their lives.


Wild walk MAy group


We are grateful for volunteers like Ed who seek to share their experience with students of every age. If you think you’d be interested in leading or co-leading, fill out our volunteer form here. We look forward to seeing you out in the field!


Co-authors: Sarah Steadman & Hannah Duffy



The Leesburg Garden Club is offering to sponsor a child at Nature Camp this summer.  Details and contact info to apply is below:

Loudoun County Students

                                                                                                                                                                              Want to:

…spend two weeks in a national forest?

…sleep in a cabin?

…learn about our natural resources?

…know more about the environment?

Are you interested in nature?

Apply for a free two-week session at Nature Camp, located in the   George Washington National Forest near Vesuvius, Virginia

Sponsored by members of Leesburg Garden Club

Sessions: Grades 9-12 (June 19-July2); Gr. 8-9 (July 3-16); Gr. 6-8  (July 17-30);  Gr. 5-6 (July 31-Aug 13)

Applicant must:

  1. Be a Loudoun County student currently in grade 5-12.
  2. Write a paragraph or two about why he/she wants to attend Nature Camp, including:

                …Why is the natural world interesting to you?

                 …What have you done to explore the natural world?

                  …How do you think the Nature Camp experience will help you?

  1. Include a written recommendation from your science teacher.
  2. Email or send your application and recommendation to be received by me by

Saturday, January 30, 2016.
Contact Ellie Daley


FOR more INFORMATION:              


Happy New Year, all! I absolutely love the first few weeks of January. It’s a time to be optimistic, motivated, and inspired to do great things in the coming months, and it’s easy to be inspired when you’re surrounded by incredible volunteers, as we are at Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy. This month in Volunteer Connection, I have the privilege of featuring just such a volunteer, Ms. Dori Rhodes.

Dori is and has always been an avid birder with a heart for all things, flora or fauna. Many families have their own pastimes and traditions, and Doris’ was the love of nature. One particularly influential person was Dori’s grandmother, a keen gardener, who planted her garden just for the birds. With that, Dori went on to earn her degree in Zoology from Drew University with the hope of one day being able to share her passion.  One of her first jobs was working at Turtle Back Zoo in New Jersey where she did programs for groups and schools.

About 10 years ago, she moved up to Leesburg from North Carolina, ready to get involved in her new community. She came upon Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, as well as the Virginia Master Naturalists. Only a few years later she served as president for our county’s Virginia Master Naturalist Banshee Reeks Chapter! Dori’s incredible efforts have brought experience and education to our community in so many ways through her various projects with Loudoun Wildlife. She has served as a bluebird monitor, a native plant community liaison, a birder during our Christmas Bird Count, a walk leader at Banshee Reeks on many occasions, and she is currently loving her work as an active ambassador through our Audubon@Home Program.

Dori 2

Like so many of our volunteers, Dori’s motivation comes from having the platform to share her passion through teaching. With such a plethora of programs offered by Loudoun Wildlife, she is always being challenged to learn something new or to share her experience with new friends along the way.


So if you’ve resolved to give back more in 2016, we have many projects that are looking for enthusiastic hands! Not sure where to start? We’ll be having a Volunteer Orientation & Opportunity Showcase on Sunday, January 31 at 1pm at the Carriage Museum in Morven Park. Click here to sign up or here to sign up for a volunteer opportunity now!



by Joe Coleman

Cardinal_20150426-3 NAHSince 1899 thousands of people have participated in the longest running citizen science project, the Christmas Bird Count, in the world.

This year, in over 2,000 different counts, people will count every wild bird they can find during these counts.

Join Loudoun Wildlife on Tuesday, December 29 as we participate in this year’s National Audubon Society’s Annual Christmas Bird Count. The results are used to better understand bird populations and dynamics.

Our count circle has a 15-mile diameter and covers 177 square miles of Loudoun’s countryside: north to Waterford, south to Aldie, east to Ashburn, and west to Purcellville.

People will explore the county’s natural and not-so-natural areas in search of birds.

Counters share their wonder of the wild beauty of feathered creatures with like-minded people and sometimes find truly rare birds. It is always a lot of fun!

Yellow-bellied_Sapsucker_20151018-3 nahThe count includes a number of Loudoun’s very special locations such as the Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve, the Dulles Greenway Wetlands Mitigation Project, Beaverdam Reservoir, Morven Park, Ball’s Bluff, a number of private estates, about five miles of the C&O Canal in the vicinity of White’s Ferry, and much of still-rural western Loudoun County.

Everyone is welcome; amateurs are teamed with experienced birders, and every eye and ear helps!

After the counting is done we hope to meet for a Tally Rally where we will find out what others found and share stories about the day’s highlights.This year we’re planning a potluck for the Tally Rally.

If you are interested in participating in the count for just a couple of hours or for the entire day, Sign Up Online by December 22 or contact Joe Coleman at or 540-554-2542.

If you’d like to help with the logistics of the potluck please contact Joe.


This month in Volunteer Connection, we are featuring Sharon Plummer, the Managing Editor of our beloved Habitat Herald newsletter. While Sharon has served in this position since April of this year, she’s actually been volunteering with us since 2011. Initially, she came to be interested in our work when she noticed that our mission aligned very much with her own – she wanted to promote the conservation of wildlife and their habitat for their own sake as well as for future generations through education. Having been a teacher of environmental education a few years back, Sharon has always tried to live her mission to its fullest, and recognized that we can all give a little to meet this goal, be it through time, money, or energy.

While her hands may be more on the keyboard these days, Sharon still loves to get out in the field to get her hands dirty. “I [love] coming home tired and filthy dirty every night, knowing that I [have] done as much as one can do in a day.” Before she found us here in Virginia, Sharon volunteered with the California Conservation Corp and worked several projects such as planting trees and removing invasive plants. As active as our own Habitat Restoration team has been, it’s easy to say she can still have her cake and eat it too.

So what keeps bringing her back time and again to serve Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy? Like so many of our volunteers, Sharon’s motivation comes from knowing that the work she does is needed and meaningful. She specifically wanted to contribute to the Habitat Herald because in her own words “I love that it highlights the passion for the natural world in our own backyards. I think it reminds people to tune in to their own surroundings and helps inspire them to take better care of our habitats.” It’s easy to become overwhelmed sometimes with all the threats facing the environment, but as Sharon and the Habitat Herald so eloquently remind us: real change begins at home.

If you share our mission and wish to serve with us, click here for our volunteer page. Don’t have time to spare, but still want to help? Consider becoming a member or making a donation here.


Sharon and her daughter Sierra at 2012 Xstream


When you shop at AmazonSmile, Amazon donates 0.5% of the purchase price to Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy. Bookmark the link and support us every time you shop.


Nine birders were greeted by strong cold wind at the monthly walk at Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve in Loudoun County this past Saturday. The walk is sponsored by Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and the Friends of Banshee Reeks and is open to all on the second Saturday of each month. We were able to get out of the wind along Arrowhead Ridge Trail and we found lots of both KINGLETS and several singing TOWHEES. A flock of about 15 WAXWINGS seemed to follow us along.

A total of 30 species were seen which is below the average for the November walk but probably reflective of the winds.  The list follows:

Turkey Vulture

Red-tailed Hawk

Mourning Dove

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Downy Woodpecker

Northern Flicker

Pileated Woodpecker

Blue Jay

American Crow

Fish Crow

Common Raven

Carolina Chickadee

Tufted Titmouse

White-breasted Nuthatch

Carolina Wren

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Eastern Bluebird

American Robin

Northern Mockingbird

Cedar Waxwing

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Eastern Towhee

Song Sparrow

White-throated Sparrow

Dark-eyed Junco

Northern Cardinal

Red-winged Blackbird

American Goldfinch


Mary Ann Good and Del Sargent



Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy volunteers are a very active bunch. You’ll find us in the field monitoring, at annual events and fairs getting the word out on local conservation issues, along creeks and stream edges restoring or putting in riparian buffers, or even at schools empowering students to lead the way in protecting wildlife. So who are these volunteers? Who are these dedicated citizens that want to make their world a better place, and why do they do it? Volunteer Connection will be a monthly piece profiling a different Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy volunteer each month so we can get to know the names and faces of our neighbors who have committed themselves to environmental stewardship.

This month, we are featuring Rick Hardin. An outdoorsman at heart, Rick had a keen interest in conservation as he and his wife, Danné Hardin, have always enjoyed the natural world and all of the exciting beauty it offers. From hiking and cycling in various parks to learning about how individual species of wildlife interact with their natural environments, Rick has always had the environment in the back of his mind. It was likely this interest that informed his decision to choose geography and geo-environmental studies in his formal education. He later went on to work with the Water Resource Division of the US Geological Survey in Pennsylvania, which focused on several surface water projects, including stream monitoring efforts, turning his attention to surface water issues in particular. Currently, Rick works with the US Department of Agriculture as a Geographer, where he provides information on the farming industry, and studies the how the farming industry varies throughout the country as well as the challenges that exist between farmers and the environment.

His past volunteer work has included The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and The Nature Conservancy, but what brought him to us here at Loudoun Wildlife was seeing our local legacy. Researching the cache of information handy on our website and valuing our pro-active attitude reflective in our regular projects (including stream monitoring!), Rick and Danné thought Loudoun Wildlife would be a good fit. Rick has already completed some useful statistical work with our Bird Atlas Project!

After business hours, and between wooded adventures, you may find Rick and Danné, self-proclaimed sports junkies, in the stands at a baseball, hockey or football game cheering for our local teams. Still, wherever you see them, make sure to stop and introduce yourself because they are now part of our incredible Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy family!

Rick and Danné Hardin at Blackwater Falls State Park in West Virginia

Rick and Danné Hardin at Blackwater Falls State Park in West Virginia


If you are looking for ways to get involved like Rick and Danné, check out our volunteer page here.


This will make you smile!


Date: October 08, 2015
Contact: Jim Meisner Jr., DCR Public Relations Specialist, (804) 786-8442,

Online tool helps identify best Virginia native plants for pollinators

Who loves Common Milkweed? Pollinators!

Who loves Common Milkweed? Pollinators!

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA —Virginians who want to plant beneficial plants for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds have a new resource at their fingertips.

The online Virginia Native Plant Finder now lets users search for native plant species that benefit pollinators. The finder is managed by the Virginia Natural Heritage Program.

“Fall is a great time to plant, and we encourage people to remember native pollinators when they’re planning fall gardens,” said Kevin Heffernan, stewardship biologist with the program. “Pollinators provide an important service to many plant species by assisting in their reproduction. Without pollinator species, many plant species would disappear.”

Native plants are those that grow where they evolved. They have traits that enable them to adapt to local conditions.

The Virginia Native Plant Finder lets users create their own custom native plant lists by selecting from a few dropdown menus. Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds are among the choices, and there’s a special category for monarch butterflies.

Users also can search plants by common or scientific name to learn which plants benefit a particular pollinator.

The Virginia Native Plant Finder is an easy way for people to find which native plants were suited for certain light and moisture conditions, as well as regions of the state. It links users to photos of each plant species and to nurseries where they can purchase native plants.

The tool is free and anyone can use it. Searches can be completed on desktops, tablets or smartphones.

Scientists with the Virginia Natural Heritage Program are responsible for identifying and conserving Virginia’s plants, animals and natural communities. The program is housed at the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and reaches its 30th year in 2016.

For more information about Virginia native plants, go to


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