On Saturday, April 12th,  Del Sargent & Joanne Bradbury led the regular monthly bird walk (sponsored every 2nd Saturday of the month) at Loudoun County’s Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve.

One highlight of the walk was not a bird but a probable Mink (there was some debate over whether it was a possible River Otter). It was well seen by the group as it scampered along the shore of the Goose Creek for about 50 yards. Some people thought it might be a young River Otter, but the time of year has not yet arrived for that.

While looking at a kettle of vultures, the group found two Broad-winged Hawks soaring high in the sky. Also, earlier in the walk, an Eastern Kingbird was fly-catching at the pond near the Visitor Center.

While there were numerous Eastern Towhees (at least 8) and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers (at least 8), there was only one warbler–a singing Louisiana Waterthrush. Other highlights included a male and female American Kestrel, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. There were also at least 15 Spring Azure butterflies, a very fresh Zebra Swallowtail, and an Anglewing–probably an Eastern Comma.

See below for complete eBird list of the birds seen at Banshee Reeks on this walk.

The regular monthly, free bird walk (again, every 2nd Saturday of the month) at the Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve is sponsored by the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and the Friends of Banshee Reeks; information on both and their upcoming events can be found on their websites.

Next month, there are two REGULAR birding events scheduled on May 10th at 8am; one at Banshee Reeks, the other at Algonkian Regional Park.

In addition, May is a GREAT time to come out to a birding event with our “Celebrate Birds, Go Birding! International Migratory Bird Day” events, Saturday, May 3 – Sunday, May 11.

“During the spring, thousands of migratory birds move through North America to their nesting territories. Some will stay and nest in our area, while others will spend only a few days here replenishing their energy before continuing a journey that may be thousands of miles long. To celebrate and highlight this natural phenomenon and the importance of natural habitats, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy has scheduled several IMBD walks between May 3 and 11.
All walks begin at 8 am and require registration except for Birding Banshee.
Registration required: Sign Up OnlineQuestions:Contact Jill Miller at jmiller@loudounwildlife.org.

- Birding Elizabeth Mills Riverfront Park, Tuesday, May 6. Led by Bill Brown & Joe Coleman
- Birding Camp Highroad, Friday, May 9. Led by Linda Millington & Christine Perdue
- Birding Algonkian Regional Park, Saturday, May 10. Led by Bill Brown & Larry Meade
- Birding Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve, Saturday, May 10. Led by Del Sargent, Dori Rhodes, & Joanne Bradbury.
- Birding Waterford’s Phillips Farm, Sunday, May 11. Led by Bruce Johnson.

We encourage you to share your Loudoun County birding adventures with us on the  Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy Facebook page, especially if you have photos from our bird walk events.

Submitted by Joe Coleman for Del Sargent & Joanne Bradbury
Edited by Sarah Steadman

Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve – MFF08, Loudoun, US-VA

Apr 12, 2014 8:00 AM – 11:00 AM
Protocol: Traveling
1.75 mile(s)
48 species

  • Cooper’s Hawk 1
  • Canada Goose 10
  • Wood Duck 2
  • Mallard 2
  • Black Vulture 15
  • Turkey Vulture 6
  • Red-shouldered Hawk 5
  • Broad-winged Hawk 2
  • Red-tailed Hawk 2
  • Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) 1
  • Mourning Dove 12
  • Belted Kingfisher 1
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker 4
  • Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 1
  • Downy Woodpecker 12
  • Northern Flicker 8
  • Pileated Woodpecker 1
  • American Kestrel 2
  • Eastern Phoebe 2
  • Eastern Kingbird 1
  • Blue Jay X
  • American Crow X
  • Fish Crow X
  • Tree Swallow 12
  • Carolina Chickadee 7
  • Tufted Titmouse 9
  • White-breasted Nuthatch 1
  • Carolina Wren 1
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 10
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet 8
  • Eastern Bluebird 10
  • American Robin 12
  • Brown Thrasher 6
  • Northern Mockingbird 4
  • European Starling 6
  • Louisiana Waterthrush 1
  • Eastern Towhee 8
  • Chipping Sparrow 5
  • Field Sparrow 16
  • Song Sparrow 7
  • White-throated Sparrow 15
  • Dark-eyed Junco 11
  • Northern Cardinal 8
  • Red-winged Blackbird 10
  • Common Grackle 2
  • Brown-headed Cowbird 2
  • House Finch 1
  • American Goldfinch 12View this checklist online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S17857444
    This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (http://ebird.org/VA)


If you’ve come to one of my programs on Monarchs you already know about the correlation between the unbridled spread of GMO corn and soybean crops and the decline of the Monarch butterfly.

In a nutshell – genetically modified corn and soybean seeds are engineered so that the plants can survive being sprayed with herbicides – most commonly known by the name Round-up. The herbicide kills everything — every plant – except the corn and soybean, leaving a wasteland, a monoculture that stretches pavement edge to pavement edge for hundreds of miles, millions of acres – through the area of the country where milkweed and nectar plants coexisted with farming and survived on roadsides. This is the area of the country where the majority of Monarchs historically bred and migrated.  Prior to 1996, this was not how farming was done. Yes - this devastation is that recent.

In February of this year, Monsanto acknowledged, in a subtle way, their role in the decline of the Monarch.  You can read it on their company blog here: http://monsantoblog.com/2014/02/24/the-monarch-butterfly/ And in it they made a statement: “…And we’re eager to join efforts to help rebuild monarch habitat along the migration path by joining with conservationists, agronomists, weed scientists, crop associations and farmers to look at ways to increase milkweed populations on the agricultural landscape.” 

So the question: Are they sincere? or Is this a marketing ploy to address the building backlash against GMO food crops worldwide? Well, I asked.

I posted the following to their company blog and directed it to their COO, Brett Begemann. Here’s what I said:

To Brett Begemann,

Your company posted a statement pertaining to the Monarch butterfly [http://monsantoblog.com/2014/02/24/the-monarch-butterfly/] and in it not only acknowledged the role that your company has had in the demise of the Monarch and its breeding and migratory habitat but also an interest in reversing the trend:

“we’re eager to join efforts to help rebuild monarch habitat along the migration path by joining with conservationists, agronomists, weed scientists, crop associations and farmers to look at ways to increase milkweed populations on the agricultural landscape.”

Frankly, we are skeptical that this is anything more than a publicity stunt or red herring to deflect the building backlash against GMOs.

So, SHOW US that you are sincere. You have my contact information as part of this posting. I lead an organization that is working on efforts to Bring Back the Monarch. I am one of the people that you supposedly want to work with.

Please reach out to me – it’s time to WALK the TALK.

Quite Sincerely,
Nicole Hamilton

That same day, I received a response from their Director of Online Strategy and Communications.  She simply said, “Ms. Hamilton – I forwarded your comment to the Monsanto team working on this. We appreciate and thank you for your interest. The team is meeting with experts on the Monarch butterfly and agricultural practices, and then will be working for broader engagement.”

I have not heard anything further, and I continue to question the sincerity as it still feels like spin doctors at work. But we’ll see – right?  At the end of the day, they are a chemical company and to really help reverse the trend as they say they want to, they would have to unravel a large part of who they are, but who knows – strange things can happen. Regardless, I continue to put my chips on the people and organizations that are sincerely working on solutions, and I do my best to avoid GMO food and buy organic, to plant native plants and never use pesticides.

I share this because we need to remember that each one of us has a voice – we have a voice in the things we say and in the choices we make, and it all makes a difference but we have to engage. I encourage you to rise up, speak out, learn more, make choices when you buy things that represent your values and the future that you want to see, and share your story and experiences with others.  And – feel free to post a note to Mr. Begemann along with mine – and let us know if you receive a response: http://monsantoblog.com/2014/02/27/well-deserved-recognition-much-more-to-do/  Maybe if they receive enough comments straight from us, they will hear us and do something real.



If not, it’s time!!  Here’s snapshot of the sightings that people have posted on Journey North – visit their site to see the details and to submit your own sightings. They’re just south of us and could arrive any day!

Ruby-throated Hummingbird Migration Map, Spring 2014 - Internet Explorer_2014-04-09_06-30-40

Need a refresher on the sugar water mixture?  It’s very easy:

- 1 cup water (boiled or hot enough to dissolve the sugar)
- 1/4 cup white granulated sugar (just use plain white granulated sugar, don’t get fancy – other sugars and honey are not a good choice since they can cause bacteria to grow and the “nectar” that you buy with red dye isn’t necessarily good for them – and the red dye is not necessary)



Leesburg’s Town Branch Riparian Buffer, Monday, April 21, 1 to 5 pm

In 2009 and 2010, the Leesburg Environmental Advisory Committee/Watershed Committee, the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, and the Piedmont Environmental Council planted over 500 trees, shrubs, and native wildflowers along Town Branch next to the Bowling Alley on Catoctin Circle. 

While many of the plants have become established, some died due to flooding and damage from mammals, some have lost their shelters, and some are being overwhelmed by invasive plants.

On Monday, April 21, from 1 to 5 pm, help us replace the shelters, remove the invasive plants, and mulch around the trees and shrubs we planted so they can thrive. 

If you are interested in helping please contact Joe Coleman at jcoleman@loudounwildlife.org or 540-554-2542.


By now you’ve probably heard the news of the Monarch butterfly population. We expected the number to be low based on what we saw last summer and fall, but seeing the number in print (1.65 acres, 33 million butterflies) provided a visceral blow. As a comparison, in 1996, before the ramp-up of “Round-up Ready” GMO corn and soybean crops, the population was 51 acres and a billion butterflies.

Monarch_Male_20120804-7So we are at a crossroads – a decision point for our generation: restoration or loss – our choice. And it’s not just the Monarch. They happen to be a recognizable species but as goes the Monarch so too do hundreds of species of other insects, birds, amphibians and more.

If you pick up a copy of the August 1976 issue of National Geographic or view it online you will see the Monarch population in all its glory. Today, the Monarch butterflies themselves make commentary on where we have come in the last 38 years and what we now stand witness to.

We did not weave the web of life, but as a human species we are actively unraveling it through our consumer footprint. Big Agribusiness focused on short-term profits has transformed the mid-western part of our country from prairies and farms that allowed co-existence of different species to monoculture crops that span pavement edge to pavement edge – and we let them do it. We bought their stories. We bought their products. We let them drive our values. But we don’t have to continue.

We can tell these companies what we want and we can show them with our purchasing power. We can favor nurseries that sell pesticide-free native plants. We can plant our gardens and show and lead others in our community in doing the same. We can write letters and crow about not only the future that we want, but the today that we need! What we do (or don’t do) matters – every day.

In 2013, hundreds of you stepped up here in Loudoun – over 3000 milkweed plants went into the ground, over 2800 people came to our speaker programs, and over 100 of you raised and released 2,502 Monarch Butterflies in Loudoun – and we haven’t stopped talking about it or making plans for moving forward. If the love of Monarchs can move a county, then we and others like us can move a Country. We can do it – but we have to be active in making it happen. We cannot stand simply as witnesses.

So this crossroads: Which way will we turn?  Thirty-eight years from now, I envision someone like us – perhaps your own children grown up – looking back at these two checkpoints in time, 1976 and 2014 and saying, “Wow! That generation, my parents, my teachers, my friends, I turned the tide and brought back not only the Monarch but so much more!”

The road less traveled has some hurdles to cross and even some thorns to pass through, but as Robert Frost said, “that has made all the difference.”

                                                                                See you in the garden, binoculars to the sky!


Join us in our effort to Bring Back the Milkweed, Bring Back the Monarch, and Keep the Magic Alive!

- Come to one of our Monarch Programs

- Visit our booth at the Leesburg Flower & Garden Festival or Earth Day – pick up handouts, talk with us about creating a Monarch Waystation, pick up a Monarch rearing cage, a “Bring Back the Monarchs” t-shirt and more

- Plant a Monarch waystation (that’s just a fancy word for a garden or landscaping that has native milkweed and nectar plants). It can be as small as a container garden or as large as field or park or anything in between. It can be at home, at your church, at a park. It can replace the non-native landscaping or lawn anywhere. If you are a teacher in Loudoun, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy will donate milkweed plants and help you set up a waystation at your school. Contact us to get started.

- Certify your waystation with Monarch Watch to make it official and send your photos and waystation description to Monarch Joint Venture for the interactive google map!

Don’t know where to buy milkweed? It will start being available in mid-May at the latest. Watch for a posting here on a big milkweed sale that we’ll hold towards the end of May and check with Abernethy & Spencer, WildWood Landscape/Petals & Hedges and Southern States (Purcellville and Middleburg). They will have it available for sale too – and members of Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy receive a discount at these nurseries! More information on plants is here


You are invited!  Sunday, April 13th, 7-9 pm (show starts at 7:30; live web-chat with celebrities at 8:30)

WHERE: Historic Unitarian Universalist Church of Loudoun, 20460 Gleedsville Rd., Leesburg, VA 20175

WHAT: YEARS OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY combines the blockbuster storytelling styles of top Hollywood movie makers with the reporting expertise of Hollywood’s brightest stars and today’s most respected journalists. 350.org promoted non-fiction television documentary focuses on the American and international impact of, and solutions to, climate change (http://yearsoflivingdangerously.com/).

Executive producer James Cameron has produced an outstanding documentary with a star studded cast.  Celebrities become investigators traveling the world to view the impacts of climate change, interview experts and ordinary people.

As one reviewer wrote, the cast of this series looks like the line up for an “Oceans 14″ or “Expendables 3″. Here are just a few of those you’ll see in the film: Harrison Ford, Matt Damon. Arnold Shwarzenegger, Ian Somerhalder, America Ferrera, and more.

CONTACT: Natalie Pien (natcpien@verizon.net)

If you can’t make the get together on the 13th, watch episode 1 online here or on Showtime:

Find out more about this series here: http://www.sho.com/sho/years-of-living-dangerously/about


Get Your Hands Dirty and Your Feet Wet on April 27 with Water Monitoring along the Chapman DeMary Trail!

Join us on our Trail to Water Quality as The Nature Generation conducts stream monitoring led by local experts and clean up at the Chapman DeMary Trail on Sunday, April 27 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.  Teams will catch and count creek creatures and conduct additional tests to help determine the health of the South Fork Catoctin Creek. Groups will pick trash along the trail to help keep it from getting into the creek, which is part of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

Dress appropriately for the weather, wear boots, and bring work gloves. Meet us at the Chapman DeMary Trail behind the building at 205 East Hirst Road in Purcellville, Virginia. This is a great activity for students, scouts, teachers, and families!

These stream monitoring and clean up efforts are a continuation of The Nature Generation’s Trail to Water Quality project, which was funded through a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Chapman DeMary Trail is located in what is considered to be the last stand of old forest growth in the Town of Purcellville, and is part of a sustainable education partnership among The Nature Generation, LoudounValleyHigh School, the Piedmont Environmental Council, and the Town of Purcellville. This event is sponsored by The Nature Generation, with support from the Chapman DeMary Trail partners along with Loudoun Watershed Watch, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, PPC, and Keep Loudoun Beautiful. The Nature Generation is an environmental non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring environmental stewards. For more information, visit www.NatGen.org.


Monarch Butterfly Migration Map Spring 2014 - Internet Explorer_2014-04-07_08-15-08Are you ready?  The Monarch Butterflies have left Mexico and are headed our way!!! You can read the report from Journey North here.  And watch the migration unfold as people like you and me submit their sightings!

And so it begins! Or, I should really say – And so it continues — this relay of life!  As you have probably read through the numerous articles and reports in the news, the Monarch butterfly population is dangerously low. If you’re new to the news, just check out these articles:
- Monarch butterflies keep disappearing. Here’s why [Washington Post]
- Migration of Monarch Butterflies Shrinks Again Under Inhospitable Conditions [New York Times]
- Monarch butterflies decline; migration may disappear [Associated Press]

While numbers once measured a billion butterflies strong, right now they measure just 33 million – a mere shadow. In fact, you could fit ALL the Monarchs that are starting this great journey north into a regular size Walmart and still have room to shop.

But as a friend said, “where there’s life, there’s hope” – and right now the Monarchs are doing what they innately know to do – they are leaving their overwintering site in Mexico and flying back to us – looking for milkweed to lay their eggs on and native nectar plants to gain food from.

In Texas, we’ve seen reports on the Monarch Watch listserve that young milkweed plants are coming up – that’s great news! We hope that continues since whether or not we see Monarchs this spring depends in large part on what happens south of us!

Here in Virginia WE need to get ready and make sure our gardens are ready. 

What do we do to get ready for them? We set the table as any good host or hostess would and we wait for our guests to arrive! 

In mid-May, we will be getting in milkweed plugs from Monarch Watch and we’ll have those available for you to buy at $3 per plug. Watch our website and Facebook page for information on how and when to purchase those. The more milkweed and native nectar plants you have, the better the chance of attracting Monarchs.

So now is the time – look at your garden, your landscaping and see where you can put in a Monarch Waystation. It can be as small as a container garden on a deck or as large as a field that is managed to let the milkweed and nectar plants flourish. It can be at home in your yard, or at your church, school or workplace. It can be tidy and neat or wild and free. YOU can do this! WE can do this!

When you see your first wild milkweed shoots coming up from the ground – you can report it on Journey North

And – when you see your first Monarch – please tell us! and post it to Journey North so we can watch the migration unfold!

Let’s Bring Back the Monarch, Let’s Bring Back the Milkweed! Let’s Keep the Magic Alive!


Keeping the Magic Alive Monarch awareness events have begun with a seasonal series of informative and hopeful “The Magic of Monarchs” presentations led by Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy president, Nicole Hamilton.

Last year, after the shocking loss of Monarch population numbers announcement, Loudoun Wildlife launched its Bringing Back the Monarch campaign.  Efforts to save the Monarch include many long-term projects like public and private habitat restoration (planting Monarch Waystations), native plant sales, milkweed monitoring, raising & releasing Monarchs, and an important education component.

Hamilton’s presentations educate both the informed and the newcomer regarding today’s latest on the plight of the Monarch.  She weaves critical information into cultural connections and the human experience.  Her slideshow, data, photography, and genuine ethusiasm engage her audiences, and she sends them away with what she hopes is a new purpose and an understanding of the significance just one person can have on the future of this important species.

Loudoun Wildlife is proud of the county’s fellow conservationists and residents; last year’s campaign resulted in the release of 2,502 Monarchs here in Loudoun County! Fourteen of those successful releases were accomplished by an inspiring–and YOUNG–local citizen-scientist, Carter Steadman.

Today, Carter, age 9, joined Nicole Hamilton at the first ”The Magic of Monarchs” event of the season.  He began by reminding the audience that, “…you’re never too young to make a difference.”

We agree.

Carter garden 4

Nicole Hamilton kicks off the season's Monarch education events, and is joined by a young Loudoun County Monarch conservationist, Carter Steadman

Nicole Hamilton, at Lovettsville Library, kicks off the season’s Monarch education events today (April 5th), and she is joined by a young Loudoun County Monarch conservationist, Carter Steadman.

Carter is a 3rd grader in Loudoun County at Hutchison Farm Elementary School, and he is worried that the Monarch might be gone before he even graduates high school.

Last year, while learning the enchanting science of life cycles in second grade, his teacher taught the class about the loss of the Monarch.  Carter has said that this teacher “changed his life.”  Why?  Because armed with the knowledge of a problem, Carter believes a SOLUTION is achievable.  Saving the Monarch has become Carter’s passion, and he has found an ally in Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy.

After spending last summer learning about raising caterpillars to adulthood and rearing multiple species of butterfly and moth (from found caterpillars), Carter decided he could help even more if he planted a Waystation of his own.  For his birthday last September, asking his friends to skip the typical material gift and offer donations toward garden costs instead, Carter was able to build and register an official Monarch Waystation in his yard! He named his garden Lepidoptera Lane because he hopes it will be a long-term habitat for butterflies, and a nectaring-point for migrating Monarchs.

Since then, Carter has realized how important it is to teach people about the Monarch–and that education is perhaps the most powerful solution.

“If I plant a garden, that’s something…but if others know how to do it, too–then all of a sudden there’s SO many more gardens and so much MORE habitat for the Monarch.”

So, Carter wants to get kids and their families involved, and he’s working hard to get the word out about the Monarch. Recently, and with the support of a teacher and the leadership at his school, Carter is planning  to install a Monarch Waystation & Learning Garden so that his classmates–and the school’s future students–can learn about life cycles, habitats, and conservation…hands-on.  WOW! He has already begun fundraising for the project which is slated to break ground in May, pending official approval.

But Carter’s not just interested in the grounds of his neighborhood…he wants to plant seeds in people, too–seeds of knowledge!  He has been building a website geared at educating his fellow young citizen advocates, and he’s panning to meet you, along with Nicole Hamilton, at more of Loudoun Wildlife’s Monarch events.  Like Carter said today:

“ The greatest thing you can do is tell someone, share about the Monarch with other people–that is how to fix the problem.”

Share his site, butterflybuddy.com, with the young people in your lives, and come on out to one of the upcoming Loudoun Wildlife ”The Magic of Monarchs” events (schedule below).

Also, follow Loudoun Wildlife online, on Facebook, and here on the blog for the latest on our Bringing Back the Monarch campaign.

Carter Steadman is "Keeping the Magic Alive" and he wants you to join him!

Carter Steadman is “Keeping the Magic Alive” and he wants you to join him!

Carter Steadman, at Lovettsville Library for April 5th's Monarch education event.

Carter Steadman, at Lovettsville Library for April 5th’s Monarch education event.

The Magic of Monarchs events are free to the public, ages 6+ (no registration required).
Questions: Contact Nicole Hamilton at nhamilton@loudounwildlife.org.

  • Saturday, April 19, 2:00 – 3:00 p.m., Middleburg Library
  • Wednesday, April 23, 7:00 – 8:00 p.m., Gum Spring Library
  • Wednesday, June 11, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m., Willowsford
  • Sunday, June 22, 4:00 – 5:00 p.m., Waterford


Photo Credit: Sarah Steadman


Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy gratefully welcomes Angie Rickard to our Board as our Habitat Restoration Chair!


Angie grew up in Oregon and moved to Leesburg from Brisbane, Australia in September. She has a master’s degree in environmental management from the University of Queensland. Most recently, Angie was employed in vegetation management where she oversaw the completion of over 100 habitat restoration projects with a primary focus on the eradication of invasive plant species and the introduction of native and endemic species.

Angie has a keen interest in camping and hiking and is very much looking forward to our spring season so she can enjoy the amazing wildlife and scenery this area has to offer. We know that Loudoun will enchant and inspire her creative efforts toward our habitat needs.

Angie’s unique experience and education add great strength and purpose to Loudoun Wildlife and to our many habitat restoration efforts. Look for more from Angie in the coming months, and check out our Habitat Restoration projects online.

Yours in conservation,
Sarah Steadman

Photo Credit: Angie Rickard




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