Archive for February, 2009

Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been,
I have great faith in a seed.
Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.

- Henry David Thoreau


dwmp-eastern-bluebird-dec-6-2008-3Time to make sure those bluebird nest boxes are clean, repaired, and ready for spring.  Male bluebirds start looking for nesting sites  right about now and its great to have a pair start off the season with you. First eggs can be as early as the last week of March.

If you have a nest box up, be sure to use predator guards. The birds don’t mind a bit but they do deter snakes and raccoons from getting in there and and eating the eggs, the young, or the roosting female.  We’re having a workshop on making predator guards in March. Plans for nest box predator guards can be found here.

As the bluebird nest box monitoring season kicks off, we’re always looking for more volunteers to help monitor our public nest box trails and we also love to get data from you on your home trails. Learn more about the Bluebird Nestbox Monitoring in Loudoun on our website and also come on out for our February Bluebird program orientation. We provide information on bluebirds, the nest box trail setup as well as training on how to do the monitoring and data collection.


Nothing exists for itself alone,
but only in relation to other forms of life.

- Charles Darwin


The Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy sponsored a visit to the Dulles Greenway Wetlands Mitigation Project on the morning of Saturday Feb 14 , once at 7 am and once about 10:45 am.  In between we co-sponsored a walk with the Friends of Banshee Reeks to the Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve.  22 people were on the various walks.
While we didn’t see any Rusty Blackbirds at the Wetlands, even in the wet woods next to the Goose Creek, we did find hundreds of Red-winged Blackbirds, lots and a wide variety of waterfowl, a Northern Harrier, and a wide variety of other birds, including American Tree Sparrows and Swamp Sparrows both times, and a Purple Finch.  The two Bald Eagles were also perching next to but not in the nest there.  The ducks included upwards of a thousand Canada Geese, large numbers of American Wigeon, Mallards, Green-winged Teal, at least 20 Northern Pintails, and smaller numbers of Wood Duck, Gadwall, American Black Duck, Northern Shoveler, Ring-necked Ducks, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Hooded Mergansers, and Ruddy Ducks.  A Barred Owl, seen in the woods before dawn, was also nice.
The highlights of the Banshee Reeks walk were 12 Turkeys on the Goose Creek flood plain, a Fox Sparrow near the pond closest to the Visitor Center, and a male & female American Kestrel.  The male Kestrel was observed checking out one of the nesting boxes near the Visitor Center.
The complete lists follow:
Location: Dulles Greenway Wetlands Mitigation Project
Observation date: 2/14/09
Number of species: 45

Canada Goose, Wood Duck, Gadwall, American Wigeon, American Black Duck, Mallard, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser, Ruddy Duck, Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Ring-billed Gull, Mourning Dove, Barred Owl, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Fish Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Winter Wren, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Mockingbird, Yellow-rumped Warbler, American Tree Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Purple Finch, House Finch, American Goldfinch,

Location: Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve
Observation date: 2/14/09
Number of species: 38

Canada Goose, Mallard, Wild Turkey, Great Blue Heron, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Ring-billed Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Fish Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Eastern Towhee, Field Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Finch, American Goldfinch


In the end, we will conserve only what we love;
we will love only what we understand;
and we will understand only what we have been taught.

- Baba Dioum


We all love our box turtles, don’t we? Well, we have a chance to help make them our state reptile but your email to eastern-box-turtle-4-6_15_20032our state delegates is needed to make this happen. Here are the emails for Joe May and David Poisson DelDPoisson@house.virginia.govYou can find other delegates here. Just a quick note asking them to pass this legislation making the Eastern Box Turtle our state reptile will make a difference and will only take a minute to do (maybe less if you type fast) .

Here’s a great note I received from our local reptile expert, Dennis Desmond, on this subject. He talks about why this status would help our Eastern Box Turtles and what you can do:

For the past several years many people  have tried to make the Eastern Box Turtle the state reptile.  Recently, Deborah Brehony has been able to make headway in crafting a bill that would make this a reality.  Deborah related to me today that this measure has passed the VA Senate and is now headed for the House.  I hope you will take a moment to send a note to Virginia’s representatives encouraging them to support this bill.

The Eastern Box turtle has been in Virginia for millions of years, and, although not uniquely tied to Virginia, it is nevertheless a staple of the Virginia environment.  Hundreds of adults and children alike have mentioned to u during displays and presentations how they would see box turtles grazing amongst the strawberries in their yards, or how they would stop to move a box turtle from the road as its negotiated the ever increasing and deadly traffic.  Unfortunately, several people have also told us that they are seeing fewer and fewer box turtles in their neighborhoods.  Because of the rapid pace of development that has been occurring in Virginia for the past two decades, the eastern box turtle is in rapid decline throughout the state and has probably been extirpated from parts of Northern Virginia.

By selecting the Eastern Box Turtle as the state reptile, it will share a special place with other Virginia wildlife including its birds, mammals, and insects and will earn recognition as an important part of the Virginia landscape.  While it will not receive special protection, its selection will certainly bring greater attention to the potential loss of this very beautiful and certainly unique member of the reptile family that has made its home in Virginia


Well our Coldest Month Walk, was held on the warmest day so far this year. We had eight people come from around Loudoun as well as points as far away as Bethesda, to enjoy a warm, and wonderful nature walk through the backside of Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship (BRCES).

Not much was happening, but we did discover some case making Caddis flies in Sweet Run. We saw a very few birds turkey_vulture_2_7_09but those that did show themselves included Carolina Chickadees, White Breasted Nuthatches, Pileated Woodpeckers, Black and Turkey Vultures, and Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks. We also heard a Barred Owl.

Although most trees and plants were in their ‘winter mode’ we noted that the Witch hazel was past blooming and the Spicebush blossom buds were swelling, just waiting for a few more warm spells to burst open. Despite being a little too early in the season there was no signs of Vernal pool activity even though several of the pools had ‘open water’; Salamanders just waiting for a good warm rain before they start their journeys to them.

We met Mary Weeks and her husband along the trail. They had come back along “Woodthrush trail” looking for Skunk Cabbage and reported that a few were up several inches. Unfortunately our group had taken another trail, and found none in the spring seepages we visited but did see some signs of wildlife with Deer and Raccoon tracks in the muddy paths.

(This great field trip report was sent over by Phil Daley who led the walk for us)


Andy Rabin led a Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy bird walk at Algonkian Regional Park in eastern Loudoun Co, VA on algonquin-scoter-1Saturday morning.  The highlight of the walk, two SURF SCOTERS,  were in the Potomac River (Montgomery Co, MD waters) off of Algonkian’s boat ramp & a little ways downstream.  After studying them for some time in our various scopes and debating what they were we decided on SURF SCOTER.  We got a few photos but they turned out a bit blurry as the birds were far off and we had to hand hold the camera on the scope - I’ll include one here that Ray Smith sent over.

The waterfowl also included four COMMON GOLDENEYES, one male and three females, a flock of nine CANVASBACKS which flew up the river, and several other ducks.  We were also pleased to see a BALD EAGLE, perched above a couple of geese hunters and to find a WINTER WREN.

Andy’s complete list follows:

Canada Goose, Mallard, Canvasback, Ring-necked Duck, SURF SCOTER, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, Great Blue heron,Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Bald Eagle, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Ring-billed Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Fish Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Winter Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Eastern Towhee, Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Northern Cardinal


The Great Backyard Bird Count is coming up on February 13-16, 2009.  Bird and nature fans throughout North America are invited to join tens of thousands of everyday bird watchers for the 12th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC).  A joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, this free event is an opportunity for families, students, and people of all ages to discover the wonders of nature in backyards, schoolyards, and local parks, and, at the same time, make an important contribution to conservation.

american-goldfinch-dec-14-2008-3I remember my first backyard bird count, 10years ago. I was just discovering birds and hadn’t even found out about Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy yet (which seems unfathomable now!).  I had just two bird books…The Stokes Beginners Guide to Birds and the Peterson Field Guide to Eastern Birds and I had a pair of binoculars that my husband had bought for my birthday a few weeks earlier. I picked my day within the count window (it was a nice Saturday) and got all my feeders filled up.

That morning, I started out by sitting inside at a window where I could watch the feeders and I tallied all the birds I could see. Then I went out for a nice stroll through the trees in the back yard to see what birds were hunkered in to the trees or foraging in the leaves. By the end of my circuit, I had a tally of about 15 species of birds and various other little wildlife observations. I was excited by all the different birds and so pleased with having identified some “new birds”. It made me feel so alive and engaged…my sense of discovery was ignited and I was hooked.

This is a great event for the beginner and the already hooked birder. Its exciting to see all the different animals right there that share your yard and surroundings as home. I definitely encourage anyone with interest to jump in to this great backyard count. It’s at your own pace, on a day of your choosing within the count window and you can do it on your own, or with family or friends.

Participants count birds and report their sightings online at  For more information visit

After you do your count, please post a comment here and let us know what birds you saw during your great count!


Adopt the pace of nature: Her secret is patience.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson