This weekend, as part of the great Fall Farm Tour here in Loudoun, Watermark Woods Native Nursery is offering Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy members a special 20% discount!

Here are the details:

20% Discount for Loudoun Wildlife Members: Watermark Woods Native Nursery is offering Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy members a 20% discount off ALL plants on October 18-19, 10:00 – 4:00 each day.

This is the perfect time to plant your perennials and other native plants!They will focus on root growth through the winter and come up strong in the spring!

To receive the 20% discount you must show your Loudoun Wildlife Member Card and bring this coupon. If you are not yet a member or need to renew, you can join/renew online !

Watermark Woods is located at 16764 Hamilton Station Rd, Hamilton, VA


Join Loudoun PALs and the Loudoun Chapter of for viewing two episodes of the powerful documentary, Standing on Sacred Ground.

With ancient wisdom and modern courage, threatened indigenous cultures around the world protect their sacred lands for future generations.

Indigenous people world-wide defend human rights and restore the environment in their sacred places. Their resistance provides the path to our common future.

Friday, October 17, 7-9 pm
Photoworks, 2A Loudoun St., S.W., Leesburg, VA 20175

For more information on 350 Loudoun, please email


The Potowmack Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society invites you to their October lecture:

Pesticides and Pollinators
A Presentation by Nathalie Steinhauer
Thursday, October 9, 7:30 – 9:00 pm, Green Spring Gardens, 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA, 703 642-5173
VNPS programs are free and open to the public.
No reservations are necessary for lectures.

Nathalie will talk about the effects of pesticides on pollinators, with a focus on neonicotinoids. She will cover effects of pesticide residues, pesticides found in foraged pollen, in bee hives, toxicity and sub-lethal effects on bees and other insects, and most ominously, the knowledge gaps in the industry.

Nathalie Steinhauer is a current PhD student of the vanEngelsdorp Lab at University of Maryland, department of Entomology. She graduated with a Master in Biological Sciences from Universite Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium and with a Master Research in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation from Imperial College London, UK. Her PhD project’s objectives are to apply epidemiological approaches to honeybee health and identify best management practices associated with reduced colony mortality.


Loudoun Canoe Trip

Saturday, October 11, 10:00am – 2:00pm
Algonkian Park Boat Launch
Potomac Heritage Trail, Sterling, VA
Cost: $30

Details and registration are here:

Join PEC and River and Trail Outfitters as they push off for a fun and informative trip on the beautiful Potomac River. Explore the flora and fauna and discover more about this major drinking water source for eastern Loudoun.

Whether you’ve canoed before or not, this is a great way to learn or just get more experience on the water — River and Trail Outfitters will be providing safety and paddling instructions. In addition, PEC staff will be giving an interpretive program about the watershed along the way.


Here’s an excellent article (with photos) that has the how to’s:

Great Spangled Fritillary on Bergamot

Great Spangled Fritillary on Bergamot


Head out to your garden now and collect some seeds from your favorite plants — and see what comes up :) !




Tawny_Emperor_Joe_pye-weed_20140730Native Plant Sale ― Sunday, September 14, 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., Morven Park.

Native plants are beautiful and grow better because they are adapted for our weather conditions and soils; they also provide greater benefit to our native wildlife because plants and animals evolved together.

Hill House Farm and Nursery, Watermark Woods and Nature-By-Design will be selling plants at this sale sponsored by the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy.

To see plants each nursery carries or to place orders ahead of time (all nursery stock is not present), visit their websites:

Hill House Farm and Nursery:

Watermark Woods:


More details about the food, fun and plants are here:

You’ll find the plant sale happening at Morven Park in the big parking lot on Southern Planter Lane. The address is 17263 Southern Planter Lane, Leesburg.

See you there!


With so many people involved in Loudoun County’s Monarch efforts, it’s a delight to shine a spotlight on some of them, so we thought it would be purposeful to share a few exciting and diverse efforts coming out of Loudoun county.

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy joined in the extraordinary citizen science and conservation effort for the Monarch butterfly in 2013 by launching the “Bringing Back the Monarch, Keeping the Magic Alive” program consisting of several important goals.  A local information campaign is key to this effort, including public talks, workshops, and hands-on opportunities to learn about raising and releasing Monarchs and restoring and protecting the dwindling habitat along their migratory path between Mexico and Canada.

The campaign has been enthusiastically embraced county-wide and has inspired eagerness among all age groups, resulting in a deeply committed effort across so many levels of involvement.  Dozens of Loudoun’s public and private schools have taught their students by planting and registering Monarch Waystations, and countless residents now know of and understand the importance of Milkweed, the Monarch’s only host plant.

In my own close-knit community, South Riding, it is not so rare to see a neighbor of mine now carefully turning over milkweed leaves in the yard. Such selfless volunteers are looking for Monarch eggs or caterpillars.  They have joined in the effort because the Monarch is a creature we can save just by KNOWING more and adjusting our compass to align with their needs as they journey North and South, crisscrossing Loudoun County in that tell-tale glide as they seek out a nectar source or a tender milkweed plant just right for egg-laying. We are making a difference in that magical journey here in Loudoun County, one garden plot or Monarch talk at a time.

"Tres Amigos" 4th generation caterpillars in Loudoun, so to be adults Monarchs headed to Mexico. Photo Credit: Sarah Steadman

“Tres Amigos” 4th generation caterpillars in Loudoun, soon to be adult Monarchs headed to Mexico.
Photo Credit: Sarah Steadman

From all corners of Loudoun, we are hearing reports of Monarch caterpillar and butterfly sightings (please report your sightings to Journey North), we receive inquiries about how to rear the caterpillars, and we answer requests for native plant and milkweed plant needs with plant sales to foster the development of habitats across our area.  Waystations bursting with these native beauties and with the Monarch’s milkweed are now popping up on apartment balconies, in school courtyards, in park meadows, and in front yard planter beds.  These Waystations are diligently registered with Monarch Watch, too.  And why is that, really…why REGISTER your garden?  Well, among the many incentivizing reasons, my favorite is that a SIGN goes up to communicate the good news of the important work that space is now up to. That sign is powerful because people walking past stop to read it, then they ask questions or visit the website whimsically scripted at the bottom ( Really, a sign like that on a garden means something special is going on, and people want to know more.  That’s the golden ticket! It’s the Salesman’s “grab” convincing you that there is something new to learn today. Remember those neighbors of mine I mentioned…those curious souls staring carefully into the milkweed?  They saw our sign, and then they asked what it was all about.  Sometimes, it’s just that easy. In other ways, the efforts are more gregarious and elbow-greased.

Ed Felker's Waystation proves successful in its first season. Photo Credit: Ed Felker

Ed Felker’s Waystation proves successful in its first season.
Photo Credit: Ed Felker

To start with, our dedicated president, Nicole Hamilton, along with another very active Loudoun Monarch advocate, Caroline Kuhfahl, has been writing letters and hosting meetings with local wineries (like 868 Vineyard and Sunset Hills) to foster event planning initiatives that call attention to the wonderful butterfly habitat opportunities available on the grounds of these vineyards. There are several events in the works, and some already successfully held, so keep your eyes on the events calendar to catch the next “WINGS & WINE” event (to be posted).

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy works with public libraries, parks, and community centers all over Loudoun County to host Monarch talks aimed at informing our local communities of the plight of the Monarch and to invite citizens to be awed by the Monarch’s unique story.  In addition, a series of “Raising and Releasing Monarchs” workshops have been very popular and have equipped a growing crowd of citizen scientist volunteers with the knowledge, the tools, and the support to collect eggs and caterpillars from the wild that are then reared in captivity to be released as adult butterflies.  This is a fascinating and joyful journey for all involved.  One such Loudouner, Ed Felker, wrote about his first-time experience raising and releasing Monarchs this summer in a stunningly poetic photo-essay.  If you have not read it yet, here is the link; trust me, you’ll feel as though you are watching it all unfold before your own eyes.

A stunning capture of this last life cycle stage. Photo Credit: Ed Felker

A stunning capture of this last life-cycle stage.
Photo Credit: Ed Felker

Loudoun citizens are showing their commitment to habitat restoration, too.  Aside from the countless private Waystations, Monarch Waystations are now registered at public spaces including Ashburn Farms, Brambleton, Loudoun Soccer Park (where Chip Taylor of Monarch Watch himself planted milkweed), and at over 30 Loudoun County Public Schools. This is an extraordinary response! In an effort to learn just how many Monarch releases are occurring in Loudoun County, Loudoun Wildlife has created an online form where citizens can report their release data.  The total count and information will be displayed on Loudoun Wildlife’s website–that portion is still in development to be deployed in the coming days. Click HERE to enter YOUR releases!

The greatest hope of all of these sorts of activities is to spread a little wonder with the education we are sharing.  Wonder leads to that special kind of curiosity that motivates one to seek information. More than a year ago, that marvelous wonder sparked something in a now 9-year old Loudoun student, Carter Steadman.  Carter has been chasing down every bit of current Monarch information available, and he’s been chasing Monarchs through milkweed patches, collecting over 200 eggs and caterpillars this season alone.  It’s a daily exercise in observation and careful caterpillar headcounts as he rears his Monarchs to adults that flit off with whimsy while he watches with that stunning wonder in his smile. He is determined to save this creature, and he takes every opportunity to tell anyone willing to listen, earning him the nickname, “The Monarch Kid.”


Child-like wonder is all over Carter Steadman's face as he admires the Monarch caterpillar. Photo Credit: Sarah Steadman

Child-like wonder is all over Carter Steadman’s face as he admires the Monarch caterpillar.
Photo Credit: Sarah Steadman

Brotherly love. Photo Credit:Sarah Steadman

Brotherly love.
Photo Credit:Sarah Steadman

This summer, Carter’s level of passion, along with his natural at-ease disposition, have been at play for Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and the Monarch.  He has presented with Nicole Hamilton to children and families at local libraries and community centers, and he has created and planted four registered Monarch Waystations, including a very large and already successful garden at his school, Hutchison Farm Elementary School in South Riding. Planting events at his school were held at the end of May to put the plants in place for summer, and Carter tended to the school’s garden twice a week all summer making sure it was weeded, watered, and ready for Monarchs should they arrive.  Well, in his own words, “THEY CAME, I FOUND A MONARCH!”  The first Monarch caterpillar was found in mid July, and since then Carter has found eggs, caterpillars, and butterflies in the garden.  He proudly reared the first caterpillar at home and released it back into the school’s garden as a healthy adult male named “Husky” in honor of the school’s mascot. Carter’s enthusiasm for sharing the magic of the Monarch with the students led the school to rename the hallway leading to the garden “Monarch Hallway,” which Carter thought was pretty cool because it means “…everyone will say ‘MONARCH’ every day, and that means people will be wondering about Monarchs.”  We think he’s on to something there.

The Monarch Waystation Carter planted at his school, Hutchison Farm Elementary School, is active with Monarchs just 2 months after planting. The students who helped plant this garden are learning hands-on that they are "never too young to make a difference." Photo Credit: Sarah Steadman

The Monarch Waystation Carter planted at his school, Hutchison Farm Elementary School, is active with Monarchs just 2 months after planting. The students who helped plant this garden are learning hands-on that they are “never too young to make a difference.”
Photo Credit: Sarah Steadman

Perhaps the most special part of Carter’s efforts is that he truly has a tireless passion for the recovery of the Monarch migration…he believes recovery will happen. This is not a “maybe” or “if” scenario for him, perhaps because he is only 9 and at this young age possibilities are limitless, or perhaps because part of the answer to the problem is so simple:  tell people.  Share what you know.  When people know better, they often do better.  And so, Carter tells people…and some people with rather large audiences have started listening. Louder voices, like local and national newspapers and TV news, are helping Carter share the magic of the Monarch.  This summer, Carter was filmed for “The Meadow Project”, an independent educational “documentary focused on showing how and why native plants are critical to the survival and vitality of local ecosystems.” Nicole & Carter were also interviewed for a news spot related to the recent pollinator task force appointed by the White House. The piece aired in California where a portion of the annual migration takes place. Such opportunities to share Loudoun’s efforts far and wide have an important role toward inspiring others to become involved, and ultimately impact the Monarch’s chance to bounce back. See the news video HERE.

"On your way Little Lady...enjoy your journey," says Carter, releasing a healthy female. Photo Credit: Sarah Steadman

“On your way Little Lady…enjoy your journey,” says Carter, releasing a healthy female.
Photo Credit: Sarah Steadman

Follow Carter on Facebook, join in any of Loudoun Wildlife’s free events, and participate from the comfort of your home by simply sharing this post with your own networks in a sort of information migration effort.

carter mon on head






Our partner, Morven Park, has lined up an interesting program by Mickey Edwards for this coming Tuesday’s  “Distinguished Voices in Civics” event at 7 p.m., Tues., Sept. 9.

The topic:  Mending American Politics.

Edwards will focus on the theme of his latest book, The Parties Versus the People, in which he discusses the roots and ill effects of the incivility and hard-line partisan divisions in America’s politics, and offers possible solutions.

Sign up now!


The evening includes the presentation of Morven Park’s Governor Westmoreland Davis Civic Leadership Award, this year to be presented to Carol Kost, founder and chairman emeritus of Loudoun Youth.

“Distinguished Voices in Civics” is free to the public. Seating is limited so reserve your space now at


Snickers Gap Hawk Watch is in need of volunteers, and we’re pretty sure you would LOVE such an extraordinary experience to view so many hawks!

Every fall, thousands of hawks migrate south, many of them following the Blue Ridge Mountains on their journey.  There are several official hawk watches in Virginia which monitor their numbers from year to year. The closest location to those of us here in Loudoun County, manned solely by volunteers, is the Snickers Gap Hawk Watch, on the borders of Loudoun and Clarke Counties.  It is affiliated with the Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA), which compiles the migration data of over 200 such sites located in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Typically, about 12,000 raptors are counted at Snickers Gap each season.  The highest seasonal count was just shy of 41,000 in 2011.  The birds are generally observed traveling in a southwesterly direction, either directly over the ridge-line or just off to either side, at varying heights and distances depending on weather conditions. Some can be seen with the naked eye, but binoculars (and when possible, a tripod and telescope) can be required for identification.

Peregrine in flight.  Photo by Liam McGranaghan

Peregrine in flight.
Photo by Liam McGranaghan

The Snickers Gap Hawk Watch season officially begins September 1st and will continue until November 30th. At this time, volunteer site counters are needed since many days are still not covered. Both volunteers with experience and those willing to learn are most welcome and encouraged to take part in this fascinating citizen count effort.  The Hawk Watch is a magnificent place to observe hawks, especially if you would like to learn to identify them. Volunteers are sure to find regular participants on the weekends, especially between 10am and 2pm, who take great pleasure in sharing their experience and knowledge.

Osprey in flight. Photo by Liam McGranaghan

Osprey in flight.
Photo by Liam McGranaghan

If you are interested, contact Joan Boudreau or Bob Abrams at 703-734-1238 or or just come on up (if no one is watching when you arrive, start counting!).

The Hawk Watch is about 10 minutes west of Purcellville where Route 7 crosses the Loudoun-Clarke County line and the Appalachian Trail (AT) near Bluemont.  The watch is adjacent to the highway (take a left at the top of the ridge on Rte 601 and an immediate right into the parking lot) and is conducted from the parking lot serving both commuters and AT hikers. Directions and a map can be found here at the site online.

Report by Joe Coleman
Edited by Sarah Steadman




868 VineyardHeading into our butterfly count this year, many people were asking, “Where are all the butterflies?” Across our area, other butterfly counts had already taken place and numbers were very low. Why? Well, remember that polar vortex and those extreme cold temperatures that we had last winter? And remember that cooler wet spring that we had?  Those environmental factors really took a toll on our butterflies and other insects.

Most of our butterflies overwinter as chrysalides or caterpillars. Some overwinter in the egg stage and a few, like the Question Mark and Comma, overwinter as adults. The harsh temperatures may have just been a bit too much for many of them and the cooler spring delayed some of our plants. The earlier butterfly counts revealed the impact of these conditions.

But what about our Central Loudoun Count? Eighteen years ago, Bob Lyon tracked butterfly populations in Loudoun and determined that the first week of August is the peak for us in terms of butterfly diversity and numbers, and so we hold our count on the first Saturday in August each year. This year that decision was particularly pleasing because while the year started out slow, when it came time for our butterfly count, we had a good showing that, while lower than some years, was still decent.

Ida_Lee_Pecks_Skipper_20140802-2So what happened on August 2nd, 2014? For starters, we had really nice weather. Temperature were high 70s to low 80s and it was sunny. We had 8 teams manned by 76 people covering our count circle and by the time the day was done, we had spotted, identified and tallied 3,063 butterflies across 55 different species!

How does this compare to the past 5-6 years? Well, with the exception of last year during which we experienced a downpour, our count has averaged about 3500 butterflies. So we are a little below that. In terms of species diversity, however, our average is about 50 and this is only the second time that we have ever reached 55 species!

What were the standouts this year? There was a Giant Swallowtail at the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship that got everyone’s attention! We spotted a total of 63 Monarchs, giving us an indicator that Monarchs may see a modest recovery this year.   

Silver-spotted Skippers and Eastern-tailed Blues were out in force and our teams found 424 and 487 respectively! We also had the highest number of Zebra Swallowtails (58) ever spotted on our count but other swallowtail numbers were down.

We also saw very few hairstreaks although we did have 5 Juniper Hairstreaks at one location. Fritillaries were also lower.

You can look at the data and compare our results across the years by downloading our summary sheet here:

BRCESWe want to give a big thank you to all our team leads for scouting their sectors, coordinating their people, gathering the data, and teaching new people about butterflies: Larry Meade, Sheryl Pollock, Dirck Harris, Jon Little, Phil Daley, Tom Ramsay, Bob Blakney and Nicole Hamilton. 

We also want to thank all the people who joined us for the count – spotting and identifying and having a great time: Bob Ryan, Jo-Anne Burlew, Caroline Kuhfahl, Bob and Tamie DeWitt & Tom Gray, Bill Cour, Norma Wilson, Jane Yocom, John Magee, Gary Myers, Laurie Proulx, David Pollock, Mildred Porter, Barb Good, Kim Norgaard, Albert Ho, Irene Ho and Angela Ho, Donna Quinn, Carol & Chris White, Thomas Dombrowski, Heather Olson, Amy Ritter, Donna Travostino, Fred Gillis, Carol DiGiorgio, Monica Neff, Gail Gillis, Nancy Goetzinger, Tess McAllister, Pidge Troha, Jennifer Lieberman, Tony Murdock, Sarah, Jeff, Carter & Sam Steadman, Michael Seymour and family, Mary Price, Laura and Liam McGranaghan, Marcia Weidner, Janet Locklear, Paula & Chuck Myers, Ashley & Michael Brody +2 children, Jill Miller, Teresa Barth, Candi and Casey Crichton, Teresa Davenport, Donna MacNeil.

And a big thank you to all the people that not only keep terrific butterfly habitat but also allow us to visit year after year (VanHuyck, Kurtz, Wilson, MacDowell, Taylor, Gregory, Lohman, Hamilton, Cochran, Dawson) and all the managers of the public properties, parks and businesses we visited too!

What a great day it was!

Keep Calm and Butterfly On!

[photos: Team action shots by David Pollock, Peck's Skippers by Nicole Hamilton]


Thirteen birders came for our monthly (second Saturday) birdwalk at Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve in Loudoun County.  It was a nice (for August) day and the birding was about average for the walks at Banshee in August. Excellent views were seen of three different YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO and several BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHERS.

A total of 36 species were seen as follows:

Turkey Vulture, Red-shouldered Hawk, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Ruby Throated Hummingbird, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Eastern Wood-pewee, Eastern Phoebe, Great-crested Flycatcher, White-eyed Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Blue Jay, American Crow, Barn Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Bluebird, American Robin, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, European Starling, Prairie Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Eastern Towhee, Field Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, House Finch, American Goldfinch.

Del Sargent and Mary Ann Good


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