Ruby Throated Hummingbird May 4 2008 3The first hint of cooler weather touched Northern Virginia in the overnight hours, suggesting shorter days and the start of fall not too far away.

It brings with it, too, not just the start of school again but awareness of the continuing migration of creatures. Those that came north are heading south again. There are reports of warblers coming through – Black and White, Northern Parula and more.

The Ruby-throated Hummingbirds that give so many of us joy during the late spring and summer months are getting ready for their journey south too. The fewer hours of sunlight trigger hormonal changes that tell the birds it’s time to move.

You may be noticing the usual territorial buzzing getting even more frenetic as the hummers fuel up with nectar from feeders and flowers all day long. The hummers will head for Central America, crossing the Gulf of Mexico.

It’s said the males leave first. Have you noticed that? You can report your sightings at Journey North, where you’ll also be able to watch their progress on a map next year when they come back, some of them looking for the feeders you put out.

 

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On an extremely hot morning eight birders came for the monthly birdwalk at Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve in Loudoun County. The walk, sponsored by Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and the Friends of Banshee Reeks, is held on the second Saturday of each month and is open to all.

Highlights of this walk included a young RED-SHOULDERED HAWK, so young that its call was mostly a squeak and a family group of RED-EYED VIREOS. The hawk perched at the parking lot to provide good views.

Cedar Waxwing

The elegant Cedar Waxwing.
Photo by Diane Nastase

A total of 40 species were recorded as follows:

Canada Goose
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Red-shouldered Hawk
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Wood-pewee
Acadian Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Kingbird
White-eyed Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
American Crow
Fish Crow
Barn Swallow
Carolina Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Common Yellowthroat
Eastern Towhee
Field Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Indigo Bunting
Orchard Oriole
House Finch
American Goldfinch

Dori Rhodes and Del Sargent

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Drivers, there is a way to help Monarchs and other butterflies and insects with your car. Well, okay, not exactly your car but with your license plate.

You can now purchase a lovely Pollinator Plate from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles for $25 and after the first 1,000 sold, $15 of the $25 fee is transferred to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and is used to support its Pollinator Habitat Program. If you don’t live in Virginia you can still buy a souvenir plate and contribute that way.

Sample Pollinator license plate

What is the Pollinator Habitat Program? One example of what VDOT is doing through the program is the planting last fall of more than 8,000 pollinator plants at the Dale City rest area off I-95  north to create a Monarch waystation.  Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy volunteers teamed up with VDOT, Dominion Power, the Native Plant Society and Valley Land for this project, which covered a 15,000-square foot meadow as well as two smaller plantings.

VDOT is working on other waystations elsewhere in the commonwealth of Virginia – and that’s what the revenue from these plates supports.

You can order the license plates and souvenir plates here and can even personalize them. The site also suggests you contact your tax advisor because part of the price might be tax deductible!

 

 

 

 

 

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It is August already so we are beginning to get ready for the fall Native Plant Sale on Saturday September 10, which will be here before you know it!

Once again we will have the gorgeous, pesticide-free plants from Nature By DesignHill House Farm & Nursery and Watermark Woods. You can visit the nurseries’ websites to see what they have in stock and, if you like, order in advance so you’ll know the plants will be there when you arrive.

Fun at the native plant sale

The plant sale is always fun!
Photo by S.A. Ferguson

In addition, we will again feature the very popular used books sale. If you have duplicate copies of nature books or ones you’d like to donate – preferably nature books with a local focus – please bring them by our office in the Carriage Museum at Morven Park (GPS location: 17171 Southern Planter Lane, Leesburg) on any Saturday this month between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. We will be closed Labor Day weekend.

The plant sale will again be at the main parking lot at Morven Park from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. You can read more about it here.

 

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Thirteen birders came for the monthly, 4th Saturday, birdwalk at Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship in Loudoun County. It was hot, above 80 at 8 am, and humid. We did the Farmstead Loop, which kept us in the shade most of the time.

Birds were rather quiet and a total of 28 species were recorded as follows:

Indigo Bunting

Indigo Bunting.
Photo by Del Sargent

Green Heron.  Photo by Diane Nastase

Green Heron.
Photo by Diane Nastase

Green Heron
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
Easter Wood-pewee
Acadian Flycatcher
Great-crested Flycatcher
Red-eyed Vireo
American Crow
Fish Crow
Tree Swallow
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
Eastern Bluebird
Gray Catbird
Cedar Waxwing
Common Yellowthroat
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Indigo Bunting
American Goldfinch

Del Sargent
Purcellville

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With the very hot weather upon us, this is a good time for some evening outdoor activity. Celebrating National Moth Week might just be the ticket!

National Moth Week takes place the last week of July each year – or has done since its inception five years ago. The Friends of the East Brunswick Environmental Commission (FEBEC) in New Jersey, which coordinates the event globally, encourages everyone to go out and see what moths you can identify and contribute the data as a citizen scientist.

Polyphemous moth

Polyphemous moth. Photo by Nicole Hamilton

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy will mark the week with a program this Friday evening, 7-10 p.m. at the Winmill Carriage Museum at Morven Park. Entomologist David Adamski has been studying moths for many years, part of it as a researcher with the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. He’ll not only talk about this species but take participants outside to see what moths show up when he turns on his blacklight! You can find out more about it and sign up for the free program here.

It’s estimated there are more than 150,000 species of moths, which means there are lots and lots of moths large and small and with beautiful patterns for you and your family to discover.

The National Moth Week website  has a lot of information, including book and field guide recommendations, resources for children and more.

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Her name was Meredyth but everyone knew her as Merry, “just like in Christmas,” she told one person.

When she died last week from a rare blood disease, Merry Breed was park manager at Claude Moore Park in Sterling, part of the Loudoun County Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Services.

“Merry was always interested in nature. She loved going on hikes and walking on trails,” said Phil Daley, a past president of Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy. “She even talked me into going on a night hike without a flashlight!”

Daley said that while she was still a pre-school teacher at Sterling Community Center, Merry worked with him to set up natural history camps in the 1990s for the Piedmont Environmental Council. “She later went on to work as a naturalist at Claude Moore Park,” said Daley.

A longtime member of and volunteer with Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, Merry shared her knowledge and her love of and joy in nature with fellow supporters of the organization, as well as with park visitors and parishioners of her beloved St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Sterling.

Merry Breed, children planting waystation

Merry Breed and friends after planting a waystation.

Here, in appreciation, are some Loudoun Wildlife tributes to Merry Breed.

Nicole Hamilton, Executive Director

Merry was an amazing woman. Her love of nature and passion for sharing it was infectious.  I knew her best through our Monarch campaign.  She rallied the people at St. Matthew’s to convert lawn in front of their church into a Monarch waystation garden that became alive with pollinators and welcomed Monarchs.

She made Monarch lifecycle costumes and put on plays for her congregation and others to share the Monarch story.  She worked with her team at Claude Moore and with teachers at Sterling Elementary School to plant milkweed, raise Monarch caterpillars and inspire others to do the same. She and I often talked about Monarchs and how the magic of it all never gets old.

Merry was fearless, would speak for wildlife and habitats and the human connections.  She shared her knowledge so freely.

Last February we did our amphibian program kickoff with her at Claude Moore and we walked through the woods at night in order to hear and see frogs. Bats flew through the trees as we shuffled along the path; toads and frogs called from the pond.  She was in her element and I will always remember and cherish those moments together.

Merry was keeping the magic alive every day and we know she continues to smile with us with every wild encounter and every heart touched by nature.

Sarah Steadman, Youth and Family Programs Chair

Most people know that Merry’s nickname comes from her name Meredyth, but I always imagined it could be short for ‘merriment.’

In everything she did, in every class she led, in all the classroom walls, nature center features, and event tables she crafted, and always in her wide-eyes and in the enthusiasm of her voice — especially when engaging with children — Merry was joyful! She gifted so many with her mirthful light and teaching.

I first met Merry when our Monarch conservation paths crossed, but we really bonded over our shared passion for environmental education and youth.

Evermore, when I visit Claude Moore Visitor Center, especially the beautiful Monarch waystation she established there, I will tip my hat to this master educator, passionate conservationist, and loving grandmother.

Ann Garvey, Audubon At Home Coordinator

It was at the very first orientation for volunteers on the Plant NoVA Natives campaign that I meet Merry. That evening in 2014, Merry was tooling around with one leg on a scooter recovering from a recent leg surgery.

She said, ‘Hi I’m Merry, just like in Christmas, and I’d like to help on this campaign.’

And help she did working the Loudoun Wildlife Native Plant Sale at Morven Park, handing out Plant NoVA Native guides. Whenever there was an event at Claude Moore Park, there was a display of information on Plant NoVA Natives that Merry had arranged.

She lived what she preached about the importance of native plants for our animals by helping to establish monarch waystations at Claude Moore, her church and her home.

Like many people, I will miss Merry as will the plants and animals she cared so much for.

Katherine Daniels, President

I worked a long shift with Merry at one of our plant sales a couple of years ago. She and I were exhausted as the event finally ended. We were two of the few left to clean up.

I was limping with sore knees and feet. She told me about her rheumatoid arthritis and immunologic treatment. She had such a great attitude regarding how much the latter helped her. She stayed and helped until we were done. It inspired me to push, too.

She was a very kind person who really loved nature!

 

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Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy is grateful to receive again a donation from the Dulles Greenway’s Drive For Charity. The May 19 event set a record high for donations this year with an amazing $331,594.65 collected.  The Greenway says the day of the event was its highest traffic day since 2005.

The Greenway has collected and distributed more than #2.7 million to charities and in scholarships in the 11 years since the program began. Part of the money goes to give a scholarship to at least one student from every high school in Loudoun County.

In addition to Loudoun Wildlife, those receiving donations from the Drive for Charity were:

  • March of Dimes
  • Every Citizen Has Opportunity (ECHO)
  • Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter (LAWS)
  • Fresh Air/Full Care
  • Dulles Greenway Scholarship Program
  • Loudoun Free Clinic

The Dulles Greenway is a privately owned 14-mile toll road that connects Washington Dulles International Airport with Leesburg.

DriveforCharity

L-R, VP Joe Coleman, Board member Jill Miller, the Greenway’s Public & Customer Relations Manager Terry Hoffman, Loudoun Wildlife Executive Director Nicole Hamilton, President Katherine Daniels and Secretary Bill Brown.

 

 

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Five birders came on a warm, clear and humid morning for the monthly birdwalk at Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve in Loudoun.  The walk sponsored by The Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and The Friends of Banshee Reeks is held on the second Saturday of the month and is open to all.

We had some great looks at Red-eyed Vireos, Acadian Flycatchers and Yellow-billed Cuckoos and observed a fair amount of breeding behavior including a recently-fledged Green Heron, agitated Indigo Buntings as well as a recently-fledged one, and a Red-eyed Vireo carrying food. After the walk three of the participants saw a family of five Great-crested Flycatchers with three fledglings patiently waiting for their parents to feed them.

Acadian Flycatcher

Acadian Flycatcher.
Photo by Diane Nastase

A total of 44 species were recorded as follows:
Green Heron
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Mourning Dove
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Barred Owl
Ruby Throated Hummingbird
Red-headed Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Wood Pewee
Acadian Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Great-crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
White-eyed Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
American Crow
Fish Crow
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
Blue-grey Gnatcatcher
Eastern Bluebird
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Common Yellowthroat
Yellow-breasted Chat
Eastern Towhee
Field Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Indigo Bunting
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch
American Goldfinch

Jane Yocom and Del Sargent

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bald-eagles-KD

The Center for Conservation Biology says that according to 2016 survey results for the Virginia bald eagle population, there are 1,007 occupied breeding territories. Yes, more than 1,000 pairs!

What’s really wonderful is that this total number represents a comeback for this magnificent bird from a low of 20 pairs in 1970. The Center says a federal ban on DDT and like compounds in 1972 led to a recovery beginning in the late 1970s.

The Center, at the College of William and Mary and Virginia Commonwealth University, compiled more than 160 hours of aerial surveys, ground efforts in residential areas of lower Tidewater and observations from inland volunteers that documented the numbers. The densest areas of the breeding population are in the counties around the Chesapeake Bay,  including 75 pairs in Westmoreland County, 73 pairs in King George County and 71 pairs in Essex County..

The 2016 survey is the 60th year of the annual eagle survey initiated by Jackson Abbott and volunteers of the Virginia Society of Ornithology.

You can read more details about the survey here http://bit.ly/29jlG5B and see a map of where the birds are at an interactive portal.

 

 

 

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