Banshee_Monarch_20150702-27Monarch Watch is offering free milkweed plugs for large-scale restoration projects in September 2015 and through spring and fall 2016.

Places to think about for these plantings – Anywhere that you have large expanses of grass that is mowed – think BIG: Home Owner Association (HOA) Common areas that are mowed, Business landscaping where you have large areas of grass that is mowed, Church surroundings where the grass is mowed.

Turn mowed areas into diverse habitats that are rich for pollinators and other wildlife and help Bring Back the Monarchs!  We can do it!!  These free milkweed plants make it easy to jump in and get a project started! Plus – you’ll save money by eliminating mowing costs!

Information for applying for these free plugs can be found at:

You’ll want to include other native wildflowers in addition to the milkweed plants (goldenrods, asters, joe pye weed, and more).  Businesses can order these plants at wholesale at a couple of places in our region.  For those in Loudoun/northern VA area – we’re happy to advise on plant sources and species. Contact us if you have questions


Sixteen birders showed up for the monthly birdwalk on August 8th at Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve in Loudoun County, sponsored by The Friends of Banshee Reeks and Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy.  A total of 37 species of birds were seen, which is about average for the August walk.  Two Monarch butterflies were seen as well as numerous varieties of Skippers.  The bird list follows:

Canada Goose

Black Vulture

Turkey Vulture

Mourning Dove

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Chimney Swift

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Northern Flicker

Eastern Wood Pewee

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Kingbird

Blue Jay

American Crow

Fish Crow

Tree Swallow

Barn Swallow

Carolina Chickadee

Tufted Titmouse

Carolina Wren

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Eastern Bluebird

American Robin

Gray Catbird

Northern Mockingbird

Brown Thrasher

European Starling

Cedar Waxwing

Common Yellowthroat

Eastern Towhee

Field Sparrow

Northern Cardinal

Blue Grosbeak

Indigo Bunting

Baltimore Oriole

House Finch

American Goldfinch


FullSizeRenderThose of us fortunate enough to know Liam McGranaghan, know him as a conservationist, educator, falconer and astute naturalist, and friend. In addition to inspiring and motivating students to learn about their natural surroundings, Liam has given generously of his time and expertise to many organizations, especially Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy.

Liam’s programs, articles, photographs and memorable walks are appreciated by many and for good reason. His enthusiasm for the natural world is captivating and engaging. His ability to see what many miss (I’ve personally witnessed Liam reaching under a rock in a stream and pulling out a frog no one could possible know was there!), tell a good story and impart knowledge with humor encourage others to cherish and protect the natural world as he does.

Liam, a true educator and mentor, has inspired many of us to seek knowledge about the natural world and to find more time on trails – and to individually as well as collectively make a difference in protecting, creating and enhancing our natural places.

So, with great pride and tremendous respect, we are thrilled to announce Liam McGranaghan’s selection as a finalist for the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators. This award is presented by the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to teachers who employ innovative approaches to environmental education and use the environment as a context for learning.

Liam’s teaching methods take students from the classroom to trails and streams where they can develop a personal connection with the natural world. Be on the lookout for Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy walks and talks by Liam, as well as photographs and articles by Liam featured in the Habitat Herald and join us in ‘raven’ about Liam!

Read the full article from the Washington Post here.


The 18 people on the regular monthly walk at the Blue Ridge Center in the northwestern park of Loudoun County managed to tally 41 species on Saturday. The highlights of the walk on the Farmstead Loop were two very vocal Broad-winged Hawks who were also seen in the heavy forest along Piney Run. Also of interest were what appeared to be several family units including a fledgling crow begging for food and several orioles and very low warbler diversity. And like many high-summer walks some of the most int’g sightings were not birds; in today’s case it was a live & healthy Luna Moth, a Monarch Butterfly laying eggs, and several other butterflies.

Also, don’t forget that next Saturday is Loudoun Wildlife’s annual butterfly count and the Blue Ridge Center is one of several locations that will be visited that day in the county. Beginners and experienced butterfliers are welcome for all or part of the day.

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  Information on the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and its many free activities can be found at

Joe Coleman

Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship – MFF01, Loudoun, Virginia, US Jul 25, 2015 8:00 AM – 11:00 AM

Protocol: Traveling

1.5 mile(s)

44 species


Green Heron  2

Black Vulture  2

Turkey Vulture  2

Red-shouldered Hawk  1

Broad-winged Hawk  2

Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  21

Yellow-billed Cuckoo  4

Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1

Red-bellied Woodpecker  2

Downy Woodpecker  4

Pileated Woodpecker  1

Eastern Wood-Pewee  4

Acadian Flycatcher  7

Eastern Phoebe  1

Great Crested Flycatcher  1

White-eyed Vireo  1

Red-eyed Vireo  5

American Crow  8

Common Raven  1

Tree Swallow  4

Barn Swallow  2

Carolina Chickadee  10

Tufted Titmouse  10

White-breasted Nuthatch  1

House Wren  4

Carolina Wren  4

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  10

Eastern Bluebird  8

Gray Catbird  2

Brown Thrasher  2

Northern Mockingbird  1

European Starling  1

Cedar Waxwing  6

Common Yellowthroat  6

Eastern Towhee  1

Chipping Sparrow  3

Field Sparrow  4

Scarlet Tanager  4

Northern Cardinal  1

Blue Grosbeak  1

Indigo Bunting  5

Orchard Oriole  3

Baltimore Oriole  2

American Goldfinch  10



Loudoun-flooding-aerialThe Loudoun County Planning Commission is reviewing a proposal to weaken protections for floodplains, the buffers before our streams which protect our water from pollution and help protect us from flooding.


Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy has written the following letter to the Planning Commission.   Please join us in speaking up for floodplain protections!  You can email the Planning Commission, or speak at their public hearing scheduled for Tuesday July 21, 6 pm at the Loudoun County Government Center.  (Email contact information in the letter below, and at  Public meeting information at


Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy also plans to join the Loudoun County Preservation and Conservation Coalition in speaking up for floodplain protections to the Board of Supervisors – especially in preparation for the Supervisors’ scheduled October 14, 2015 public hearing on this issue.


Additional details about the proposal can be found on the Loudoun Preservation and Conservation Coalition website, and also in county documentation prepared for the July 21 Planning Commission meeting.


Photo: Virginia State Police image: Loudoun flooding in 2012.




Please Reject Proposals to Weaken Floodplain Rules


Dear Planning Commission Members:

I write to you on behalf of the 1,000-member Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, to ask that you say ‘NO’ to proposed zoning rule changes whose purposes include:

  • Allowing more uses in floodplains, such as new storm water management facilities, parking areas, outdoor storage, and swimming pools.
  • Relocating natural stream channels.
  • Allowing specific changes through the Minor Special Exception process, which would reduce opportunities for citizen input.

County professional staff have identified numerous ways in which the proposed zoning rule changes could introduce contaminants into our water supply, and increase flash flood threats to life and property.

Throughout our 20-year history, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy has stressed the important role of floodplains in mitigating downstream flooding, protecting surface water quality, and providing critical wildlife habitat.  We have emphasized that the cumulative effect of floodplain construction increases the volume and velocity of flood flows, and the rate of stream bank erosion.

We ask that you promote Loudoun County citizens’ health and safety, and our environmental quality, by rejecting proposed floodplain rule changes that are apparently designed to benefit a small number of individuals at the expense of the larger community.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration.


Alysoun Mahoney

Conservation Advocacy Chair

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy



15-DSC_0130The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors is in process of reviewing proposals that would threaten steep slopes and floodplains.  Protections for these critical natural resources have been in place for many years under the Revised General Plan that was adopted by the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors with extensive citizen involvement.


The first proposal, which would open up fragile steep slope land for new uses, will be put to a vote of the Board of Supervisors Transportation and Land Use Committee in their Friday, July 17, 9 am meeting.


Additional details about the proposal can be found in documentation prepared for this meeting at, and also on the website of the Loudoun County Preservation and Conservation Coalition of which Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy is a member.


Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy has written the following letter to the Board of Supervisors, and we urge our members and friends to share their views with their elected County representatives as well.


Contact information for the Supervisors can be found here:, and public meeting information can be found at






Dear Board of Supervisors Transportation and Land Use Committee Members – Supervisor Volpe (Committee Chair), Supervisor Clarke, Supervisor Delgaudio, Supervisor Higgins, and Supervisor York:


I write to you on behalf of the 1,000-member Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, to ask that you reject proposed zoning changes in ZOAM 2014-0004 whose purpose is to allow more uses in steep slope areas.


First, the proposed changes would violate the Revised General Plan that was adopted by the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors with extensive citizen involvement, which states in Chapter 5 that the County will “prohibit land disturbance on slopes with a grade of more than 25 percent,” and that “special performance standards are to be used to protect slopes with grades from 15 to 25 percent.”


Second, the proposed changes threaten Loudoun County’s environment. As stated in the Revised General Plan, “steep slopes protected as part of a river and stream corridor or mountainside often serve as forested and vegetative areas that filter stormwater run-off and support various plant and wildlife habitats….Development on steep slopes often requires high volumes of clearing and ‘cut and fill.’ Such earth moving is subject to erosion and sedimentation that causes adverse effects on surface water quality and aquatic habitat.”


Third, we are concerned that the proposed changes would benefit a small number of individuals – for example, those seeking to build hillside residences – at the risk of general public health and safety. As stated in the Revised General Plan, “if improperly used and disturbance occurs, these areas could experience erosion, building and/or road failure, downstream flooding, and other hazards.”


Fourth, we have reason to believe that although the goal of the proposed changes is to be more ‘business friendly’, in fact the reverse will occur:  new development on steep slopes would have adverse impact on Loudoun County’s rural economy and tourism.


Finally, the proposal includes allowing changes to development standards through the Minor Special Exception process, which would reduce opportunities for citizen input.


Please work to keep Loudoun County beautiful, and to keep all our citizens safe and prosperous, by rejecting zoning changes that would allow more uses in steep slope areas.


Thank you very much for your time and consideration.




Alysoun Mahoney

Conservation Advocacy Chair

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy



bluebirds Efforts are underway in the U.S. Congress to prevent the enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).


The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) advises that “the Senate may soon consider a rider in the Fiscal Year 2016 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) appropriations bill to bar the Department of Justice from enforcing the MBTA, which protects over 1,000 species of migratory birds.”


Furthermore, in the House, Rep. Jeff Duncan is trying to add to the Interior Appropriation Bill an amendment that would prevent the enforcement of laws protecting Bald and Golden Eagles, as well as the laws protecting migratory birds.


SEO_Liam_McGranaghan2a-150x150Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy is joining ABC and conservation organizations across the nation in cosigning a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, asking that they maintain all existing protections for migratory birds.


Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy also invites individual members to send the same request to Virginia’s U.S. Senators.  You can easily do this by going to and personalizing and sending a letter prepared by ABC.  Alternatively, you can deliver your message directly by calling or writing the offices of Senator Mark Warner and Senator Tim Kaine.  Contact information can be found at


As always, thank you for your efforts to protect Loudoun’s wildlife.


Photo credits: Bluebirds, by Nicole Hamilton.  Short-eared Owl, by Liam McGranaghan.  These are just two of more than 1,000 species currently protected under the MBTA.





Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy Habitat Restoration Chair Moni Burke, a Cascades resident, submitted a Lyme prevention article by invitation this month for her community association newsletter.  We are pleased to share the full text here, and we welcome our members and friends to share it with their communities.  (Photo by Jared Garland.)



Lyme Prevention: Highest-Efficacy, Lowest-Cost, and Lowest-Toxicity Methods

Many of the methods for Lyme disease prevention which studies indicate to be most effective are low- or no cost, and carry low or no risk. The highest-efficacy, lowest-cost, lowest-toxicity Lyme prevention methods are tick checks and protective clothing. These personal measures and other effective landscape management methods for the homeowner are outlined below.


1. Personal Protective Measures

A. Tick checks and prompt removal

The definitive Tick Management Handbook states that “checking for ticks and prompt removal of attached ticks is probably the most important and effective method of preventing infection!” – and indeed, most scientific studies have supported this assertion.


B. Protective Clothing

The Tick Management Handbook recommends wearing long pants tucked into socks to make ticks easier to detect and keep them on the outside of the clothes. A 2008 Center for Disease Control (CDC) Connecticut study of nearly 2,000 individuals found protective clothing – defined as long pants and long-sleeved shirts to be 40% effective in preventing Lyme disease. Wearing this type of protective clothing is a risk-free prevention method.


2. Landscape Management

A. Tick-safe zones

According to a study referenced in the Tick Management Handbook, the nymphal blacklegged tick whose bite is the primary cause of Lyme disease in humans, is found mainly in densely wooded areas (67%) and in transitional edge ecotone habitat between woodlands and open areas (22%), which provide the relatively high humidity necessary for their survival. Fewer ticks are found in ornamental vegetation (9%) and lawn (2%).


The Tick Management Handbook, CDC and other sources recommend that families create tick-safe zones in lawns and play areas around their homes – isolating these zones from tick habitat with a wood chip or gravel barrier of approximately 3 feet, and then increasing exposure to sun and air in those zones. The Tick Management Handbook notes that acceptable alternatives to lawn include butterfly gardens, vegetable gardens, formal herb gardens, colonial style gardens, wildflower meadows and hardscapes.


These measures have been shown to reduce tick numbers on the subject property. However, a recent study showed them not to be significantly protective against Lyme disease – and the Tick Management Handbook concludes that “landscape management alone may not reduce disease incidence, as the undetected bite of only one infected tick is required for transmission of Borrelia burgdorferi.” Borrelia burgdorferi is the bacteria causing Lyme disease.


There is no real risk associated with this type of landscape management. The cost will vary depending on lot size and existing landscaping.


B. Replacing exotic invasives with native plants

Multiple studies have shown that controlling invasive plants, especially Japanese barberry, helps to reduce both total tick numbers and infected tick numbers. Two Maine Medical Center Research Institute studies, and the Tick Management Handbook, indicate that blacklegged ticks are significantly more abundant in areas dominated by exotic invasive plants, particularly Japanese barberry, than areas dominated by native shrubs. A 2010 Connecticut study indicates that control of Japanese barberry – either through cutting off the above-ground portion or using a flame treatment – “reduced the number of ticks infected with Borrelia burgdorferi by nearly 60% by reverting microclimatic conditions to those more typical of native northeastern forests.”


Invasive removal alone may in some cases be sufficient for native plants to return to the area without further effort or expense by the homeowner – though in some cases, there may be cost and labor associated with acquiring and planting new native shrubs.


Invasive plant removal carries no risk except for that associated with use of standard garden tools, and it carries many environmental benefits.


C. Promotion of vertebrate biodiversity

Recent research on Lyme disease mitigation points to a whole new paradigm, suggesting that we should focus not on culling or excluding one or two specific tick-carrying mammal species (such as deer or mice), but rather on fostering life for many diverse species of fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.


At the homeowner or property manager level, one way to promote vertebrate diversity is by replacing exotic invasive plants with native plants, as discussed in section 2B above, and by restoring habitat diversity, health, and complexity. As entomologist Douglas W. Tallamy writes, “because animals directly or indirectly depend on plants for their food, the diversity of animals in a particular habitat is very closely linked to the diversity of the plants in that habitat.”


Some research shows that at the community planning level, a key way to promote vertebrate diversity and thereby reduce Lyme disease risk is to discourage land-use practices that fragment our forests. This is because forest fragmentation tends to favor a small number of mammal species that are relatively likely to infect ticks with Lyme disease bacterium, while reducing populations of other species that are unlikely to be infected with Lyme disease bacterium.


Note on chemical spraying for ticks

The pesticides primarily used for tick spraying are bifenthrin and permethrin, both of which are a pyrethroid that is currently classified by the EPA as a Group C carcinogen (possible human carcinogen – cancer causing) and highly toxic to bees, fish, and aquatic invertebrates.


For further information on Lyme disease mitigation, please visit: PDF_Files/Rebalance_Loudoun_Lyme_Mitigation_Approach.pdf


Moni Burke

Chair, Habitat Restoration

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy


The Monarch Joint Venture, in partnership with the US Fish and Wildlife Service,  created a wonderful series of webinars on monarch conservation.

You can view the entire series here:

Here are the webinar titles:

Contributions of Monarch Citizen Science & Program Overviews

Enhancing Existing Landscapes for Monarch/Native Pollinators

Habitat Restoration Fundamentals

Monarch Biology and Conservation Basics

Monarch Research and Advanced Topics


This just in from the Loudoun County Master Gardeners – sounds like a great program:

Free Garden Lecture – Good-Bye Grass, Hello Suburban Meadow
Tired of the expense and battle of maintaining a suburban lawn, but don’t want to give up on green?  Please join us at 7pm on Thursday, July 9th as landscape designer Tom Mannion describes the transformation of cookie-cutter grass lawns as small as ¼ acre into healthy landscapes complete with native meadows, pollinator gardens and waves of wildflowers.

Tom will give us the details of suburban redesigns and options you can use in your own yard such as meadow gardens and wet meadows, wildlife welcoming native plants, shady-slope meadows and clover lawns. The MD/DC/VA Landscape Contractors Association has awarded Tom twelve grand and three distinction awards and he has won awards from the Perennial Plant Association. The free lecture will be held at the Virginia Cooperative Extension Office, 30 Catoctin Circle, Leesburg.


For more information about the lecture or the Loudoun County VCE Master Gardener program visit the website: or call the Loudoun Extension Office at 703-777-0373.

Virginia Cooperative Extension programs and employment are open to all, regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or marital or family status. An equal opportunity/affirmative action employer.  Extension is a joint program of Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and state and local governments.


Next Page »