Archive for November, 2008

If you truly love nature,
you will find beauty everywhere.

- Vincent Van Gough

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Some couples like to play golf, see a movie or visit museums. Scott and Lee Meyer of Sterling would add stream monitoring to their favorite list of couple activities. For the Meyers, wading into a Loudoun County stream in hopes of finding aquatic insects—benthic macro invertebrates or animals without backbones—is a great date.

“We believe we’re making a difference together,” says Scott, a technical consultant manager in VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) implementations with Unified Communications. “It gives us common issues to discuss. You will always find yourself closer to someone who shares the same interests.”

Lee agrees. “We’re both pretty independent,” insists the telecommunications professional. “Stream monitoring is one of the activities that helps us to grow as a couple. It helps us to maintain a balance.”

The couple, who met while serving in the U.S. Army, have been married for 20 years. They share a love of nature and the outdoors. Lee has always had an interest in horticulture and hiking. And as the national vice-president of the Isaak Walton League of America and president of the League’s Virginia-wide chapter, Scott has taken his enjoyment of the outdoors into strong leadership positions. Although involved in high level conservation work, Scott says he receives a great deal of personal reward from doing in-the-trenches monitoring activities. 

“As a hunter and angler my involvement in conservation hits several areas,” says Scott, who admits to being an avid trash collector in nature. “If there is no habitat conservation, there will be no where for the animals to live. As a fisherman, I understand the need to take care of our watersheds. Stream monitors are the front line of defense in determining the health of our watershed. We have the ability to act as an alarm system.”

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy (LWC) monitors streams all over Loudoun County including Sterling and Ashburn and all points west. LWC provides expert training for stream monitors and experienced leaders guide the field expeditions. As LWC stream monitors, both Scott and Lee believe they learn something new every time they go out.

Team work is the name of the game on monitoring day. First, areas within the stream that will yield the best insect samples are carefully chosen. This includes ripples and pools. Macro invertebrates live on rocks, logs, sediment, debris and aquatic plants. A big net is dipped into these locations and the catch is brought up for examination.

A card table is set up on the stream bank where all of the “tools of the trade” are spread out. The contents of the net are emptied on to the table and the team begins its search for insects. Eye droppers, spoons, forceps and magnifying lenses help to select and examine insects such as stoneflies, mayflies, alderflies and caddisflies. Plastic tubs and ice cube trays hold the tiny specimens. The presence of these animals—so tiny that they often resemble specs of dirt—provides valuable information about the effects of sediment, organic pollutants and other toxic materials. A log is kept indicating what types of specimens are found and how many.

“The data collected by stream monitors provides clues as to the types of issues present in the area and possible remedies,” Scott says. “After a remedy is attempted, stream monitoring then becomes the report card that tells if the selected remedy is working or not. If it is working, you may want to continue the effort, and if it isn’t working, you can try another remedy or a different direction entirely.”

“Water is necessary for life to exist,” Lee adds. “Water quality affects our health, our environment and our future.”

Working side-by-side for the sake of the environment is the backbone of Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s stream monitoring program. For individuals, families, couples and community groups, there’s the added enjoyment of being outdoors, under the tree canopy, listening to bird songs and sharing the experience with others.

To get involved in stream monitoring, visit our website. We have stream teams lined up to monitor different streams across the county and offer training in the protocol.

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In this episode we are joined by Spring Ligi and Joe Coleman to talk about the Loudoun Bird Atlas Project that we just launched.  This is a significant endeavor, collecting data on more than 295 bird species over the course of the next four years to find out where the birds are breeding and over wintering. Having this data will provide excellent insights into bird habitats and priorities for conservation.

You can read more about our Bird Atlas Project here. As project materials are produced over the coming months, we’ll add them to the web page so you can take a look at the map of Loudoun with the count blocks, download data collection sheets and more.

The Birds of Loudoun checklist, which was completed as a first step in this project, can be downloaded here. It’s a great tool to take into the field to keep track of the diversity of species that you come across.

To listen to this episode, click the play button at the top of this post and it will play now or Right Click Here to Download (select “Save as Target”).

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The American Bird Conservancy, the Piedmont Environmental Council, and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries have made available an excellent, detailed, 28-page guide entitled Managing Land in the Piedmont of Virginia for the Benefit of Birds and Other Wildlife. 

This second edition now covers the entire piedmont of Virginia and provides specific habitat recommendations for implementation in agricultural, grassland, scrubland, forest, savanna and wetland habitats, as well as in developed urban and suburban areas such as backyards.

The guide is available for free download at

http://www.acjv.org/documents/VAPiedguide8_08.pdf
 
We’ve looked the guide over and are very impressed with its readability and its up-to-date information on managing various kinds of habitat including grasslands, wetlands, and even suburban (they call them developed) communities.  Definitely worth the download!

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From Saturday, Nov 22….Only four of us showed up for the BRCES walk this rather cold morning (it was 24 when we started and 32 when we finished).  The four of us first walked about a mile on the edge of the woods at the end of Sawmill and then did a mile loop in the fields and woods around the Visitor Center.  The highlights included a single SNOW GOOSE flying as the last bird in a v of about 25 Canada Geese, a few HERMIT THRUSHES, seven sparrow species including a lingering CHIPPING SPARROW and at least six FOX SPARROWS and 2 SWAMP SPARROWS; several PURPLE FINCHES(9), and nine EASTERN MEADOWLARKS in the Boy Scout meadow at the end of Sawmill.  We also briefly heard a CATBIRD but because we never saw it and there was a Northern Mockingbird in the immediate area we decided to not list it. We also greatly enjoyed the playful antics of at least 2 COMMON RAVENS in multiple locations and a very cooperative hatch-year COOPER’S HAWK who perched within 50′ of us twice.

While the trails at BRCES are normally open to the public 7 days a week from dawn to dusk there are controlled deer hunts there this time of year so check the BRCES website for dates and times of when parts of BRCES are closed.

Information on the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship can be found at http://www.blueridgecenter.org.   It’s a beautiful place to visit.

Joe Coleman, near Bluemont, Loudoun Co
Location:     Blue Ridge Center
Observation date:     11/22/08
Number of species:     39

Snow Goose(1), Canada Goose(50), Turkey Vulture(3), Cooper’s Hawk(1), Red-tailed Hawk(1), Mourning Dove(1), Red-bellied Woodpecker(6), Yellow-bellied Sapsucker(3), Downy Woodpecker(3), Northern Flicker(3), Pileated Woodpecker(3), Blue Jay(6), American Crow(12), Common Raven(2), Carolina Chickadee(4), Tufted Titmouse(2), White-breasted Nuthatch(5), Carolina Wren(6), Golden-crowned Kinglet(2), Ruby-crowned Kinglet(2), Eastern Bluebird(10), Hermit Thrush(3), American Robin(2), Northern Mockingbird(4), European Starling(15), Cedar Waxwing(20), Yellow-rumped Warbler(2), Chipping Sparrow(1), Field Sparrow(5), Fox Sparrow(6), Song Sparrow(40), Swamp Sparrow(2), White-throated Sparrow(20), Dark-eyed Junco(40), Northern Cardinal(8), Eastern Meadowlark(9), Purple Finch(9), House Finch(2), American Goldfinch(10)

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All things share the same breath -
the beast, the tree, the man…
the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports.

- Chief Seattle

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Read about it here in their announcement flier. The funds from this grant have been instrumental in enabling us to expand our programs, engage in more habitat restoration events and reach more people across our county.

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In spite of a forecast of impending heavy rains over 70 volunteers met at the Waterford Foundation’s Phillips Farm on November 15 and planted 300 trees and shrubs and destroyed a significant amount of invasive alien vegetation.  The plantings were part of an ongoing effort to restore the riparian buffer along the South Fork Catoctin Creek.  Riparian buffers are the single most effective way to protect water quality as they trap pollutants, regulate stream flow and reduce sediment and erosion, and provide excellent wildlife habitat.  The volunteers who were removing invasive alien vegetation concentrated on Multiflora Rose, Japanese Barberry, and several varieties of invasive vines.

The volunteers were comprised of several Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy members, residents of Waterford and neighboring areas, a contingent from Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc., several Boy Scouts and Cub scouts, and a lot of people who just wanted to make a difference.  They split into several groups to plant everything from pin oaks and sycamores to winterberry and elderberry and to tear out some very aggressive alien vegetation.

And volunteers who recently adopted a new stream monitoring site did a hands-on evaluation of the stream’s health near the Mill.  Notable improvements have been documented in Limestone Branch at Temple Hall Farm north of Leesburg some 2-3 years following a series of riparian tree planting projects to protect and stabilize the streambank and floodplain there.  They are hopeful they will see similar improvements at the Phillips Farm over time.  A lot of the volunteers, after wrapping up their planting, spent some time observing the monitoring and learning about its importance.

Special thanks needs to go to the Waterford Foundation who is dedicated to being the best steward possible of the Phillips Farm; Jeff Wolinski, consulting ecologist, whose extensive knowledge, planning, and coordination made both the project on March 1 and November 15 successes: and the many people who helped on the 15th as well as those helped with all the prep work the days and weeks before the project itself . The listing of volunteers who came out to support this effort will be published in the next issue of the Habitat Herald. Thanks to all!

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In the woods, too, a man casts off his years,
as the snake his slough,
and at what period soever of life is always a child.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

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On November 8, we had our monthly bird walk at Bashee Reeks.  Mary Ann Good led the walk and the group had some great sightings – especially that of a Golden Eagle! (very cool!)  Here is Mary Ann’s field trip report from that day as well as a photo of a kinglet:

About 15 birders enjoyed a picture-perfect morning with unexpected sunshine on brilliant, rain-washed fall foliage Saturday morning at Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve, after which 6 or 7 visited the nearby Dulles Greenway Wetlands Mitigation Project.  Certainly a most unexpected highlight was a juvenile GOLDEN EAGLE soaring over the nearby landfill among a kettle of 100–150 vultures (mostly Black), a Raven, and a few hawks; its distinctive markings were well-seen by all (a couple people got distant photos).  We enjoyed the sight of 3 Purple Finches and a flock of Cedar Waxwings swarming around us feasting on autumn olive and Virginia creeper berries, and a glimpse of a Fox Sparrow.  Bruce Hill, the co-leader, took a group into the Wetlands afterward where they added 5 species of waterfowl to the Wood Ducks we saw at Banshee, as well as a pair of adult Bald Eagles.

The numbers below are for Banshee followed by the Dulles Wetlands, where applicable.

Canada Goose (6), Wood Duck (10), Am. Black Duck (0/6), Mallard (0/75+), No. Pintail (0/2), Green-winged Teal (0/55), Pied-billed Grebe (0/2), Great Blue Heron (0/2), Black Vulture (75+), Turkey Vulture (25), Bald Eagle (0/2), GOLDEN EAGLE (1 imm.), Sharp-shinned Hawk (3), Red-shouldered Hawk (2), Red-tailed Hawk (2/2), Am. Kestrel (1), Rock Pigeon (2), Mourning Dove (20), Barred Owl (1), Red-bellied Woodpecker (10), Downy Woodpecker (1/2), Hairy Woodpecker (1), No. Flicker (15), Pileated Woodpecker (3), Blue Jay (30), Am. Crow (15), Fish Crow (3), C. Raven (1), Car. Chickadee (8), Tufted Titmouse (6), Wh-Breasted Nuthatch (4), Carolina Wren (2), Golden-crowned Kinglet (4), Ruby-crowned Kinglet (4), E. Bluebird (25/6), Am. Robin (20), No. Mockingbird (10), Eur. Starling (10), Cedar Waxwing (25), Yellow-rumped Warbler (4/2), E. Towhee (5), Field Sparrow (6/10), Fox Sparrow (1), Song Sparrow (25), Swamp Sparrow (6), wh-Throated Sparrow (25), Dark-Eyed Junco (5), No. Cardinal (15), Red-winged Blackbird (1/150), Purple Finch (3), Am. Goldfinch (15)

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