Archive for April, 2009

Enter the forest alive with creatures.
Smell the bark, hug the trees.
Sit quietly relishing nature’s mysteries.

- author unknown


This past week, Joe Coleman was recognized as Volunteer of the Year by the Waterford Foundation for his efforts in leading Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy habitat restoration projects at the Phillips Farm as well as environmental activities that have been conducted there. This is a wonderful recognition for not only Joe but also all the volunteers who have come out to participate in these events.  Below is the write-up from the Waterford Foundation.

joe_phillips_farm_4_25_09The nominee for this award has spent untold number of hours in Waterford this past year volunteering his time to its preservation and protection. And more than that, he has enticed many others from around Loudoun County to do the same. He has used his efforts in Waterford to improve the quality of life for all of us in Loudoun County, not just those in the village. 

As an active member of the Phillips Farm Committee, he encouraged the organization he helped establish, the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, to join forces with the Foundation and today, the Foundation rejoices in this highly successful partnership. Their expertise has been essential to protection of the natural resources that are a vital part of the farm.

During the past year, more than 500 trees and shrubs have been planted on the Phillips Farm, to establish a riparian buffer along the Catoctin Creek, which will help improve water quality in the creek and in the entire watershed. We have this special volunteer to thank for this. Under his direction, the Conservancy underwrote the cost of these plantings and then he rallied their membership and supporters (including many villagers) to get them all planted. He also recruited volunteers to help remove invasive plants. At the same time, he was instrumental in having the Catoctin monitored several times a year for water quality.

For the past 2 years, this volunteer has made sure the Phillips Farm has played a role in the Audubon Society’s Annual Christmas Bird Count. And he and fellow volunteers are now using the Phillips Farm for the five-year Bird Atlas, a census of birds in the county.

Recently, this volunteer received the A. Willis Robertson award from the Virginia Chapter of The Wildlife Society, recognition of his significant contributions to conservation in the Commonwealth. We feel most fortunate to number Joe Coleman among our volunteers and want to recognize his efforts in helping us protect such vital resources in the Waterford National Landmark. Thank you Joe.


This morning, 21 people came out for our monthly bird walk at the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship.  Jon & BJ Little led the group which enjoyed seeing so many different types of birds – from waterfowl to raptors to warblers to thrushes. In all, 63 species and many exciting first of season (FOS) birds were seen!  These spring walks are so amazing in diversity - as we get the mix of birds passing through combined with year-round and summer residents. Laura Weidner sent over the full list:

Canada Goose 6, Wood Duck 1, Mallard 2, Wild Turkey 1, Great Blue Heron 6, Great Egret  6, Black Vulture 1, Turkey white_eyed_vireo_4_25_09Vulture 8, Osprey  2, Sharp-shinned Hawk 2, Red-shouldered Hawk 1, Broad-winged Hawk 2, Rock Pigeon  2, Mourning Dove  6, Barred Owl 1, Red bellied Woodpecker 12, Yellow bellied Sapsucker 1, Downy Woodpecker 6, Hairy Woodpecker 1, Pileated Woodpecker 6, Eastern Phoebe 1, Great Crested Flycather  4, White eyed Vireo  6, Yellow Throated Vireo  8, Blue headed Vireo 1, Warbling Vireo  2, Red eyed Vireo  1, Blue Jay  4, American Crow  6, Tree Swallow 6, Barn Swallow 2, Carolina Chickadee  10, Tufted Titmouse 10, White breasted Nuthatch 3, Carolina Wren 2, Blue gray Gnatcatcher  35, Eastern Bluebird 3, Hermit Thrush  1, Wood Thrush  8, American Robin 13, Northern Mockingbird  2, Blue winged Warbler  7, Yellow Warbler  2, Palm Warbler  1, Cerulean Warbler 1, Black and white Warbler  1, Ovenbird  8, Louisiana Waterthrush  3, Kentucky Warbler 2, Common Yellowthoat  3, Scarlet Tanager  5, Eastern Towhee  10, Chipping Sparrow  6, Field Sparrow 8, White throated Sparrow  3, Northern Cardinal 8, Eastern Meadowlark  3, Brown headed Cowbird  5, Orchard Oriole 2, Baltimore Oriole 2, Purple finch 4, Pine Siskin  1, American Goldfinch  12.

Great time was had by all!
Peace & Good Birding To All.
Laura Weidner
Loudoun County


Bill Brown, Joanne Bradbury, and Debbie Harrison enjoyed the mid-week bird walk at Algonkian Park today – and did our bit to improve international relations in the process.  Just as we were starting our walk, a group of four visitors from Sweden drove into the parking lot.  Seeing that they carried binoculars, we invited them to join us and they eagerly accepted.  This gave us the opportunity to impress them with some of our local birds, including the Northern Cardinal and the White-Breasted Nuthatch.  Perhaps the highlight of today’s walk was being able to track down an Eastern Phoebe at the request of the matriarch of the group, who beamed and advised us that it was a life-bird for her.  They left us after an hour, with smiles and thank-you’s all around, and one member of the group, who actually lives in Sterling, asked for LWC’s web address so that he can participate in future activities.

double_crested_cormorant_3_09Other highlights of today’s outing included two Barred Owls enthusiastically vocalizing with each other for several seconds and our first of season Eastern Kingbird.  Double-crested Cormorants and Yellow-rumped Warblers were plentiful, a few Palm Warblers showed themselves, and a couple of Osprey flew over.  We had great views of several Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and a lone Brown Thrasher.   We found about eight Blue-winged Teals remaining in an ephemeral pool between the river and the soccer field.  Bill saw his first of season Orchard Oriole before the rest of the group arrived and a Spotted Sandpiper after they had left. 

Altogether we saw 45 species, including:  Canada Goose, Wood Duck, Mallard, Blue-winged Teal, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Red-shouldered Hawk, Spotted Sandpiper, Mourning Dove, Barred Owl, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Kingbird, Blue Jay, American Crow, Fish Crow, Tree Swallow, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Barn Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Bluebird¸ American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, European Starling, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Palm Warbler, Chipping Sparrow, Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, Orchard Oriole, House Finch, American Goldfinch.


How cunningly nature hides
every wrinkle of her inconceivable antiquity
under roses and violets and morning dew!

- Ralph Waldo Emerson


winged-migrationThis Wednesday, April 22, in celebration of Earth Day, Winged Migration will be shown at the Franklin Park Performing and Visual Arts Center.

Details and directions can be found on their site.  The event is free and starts at 7pm.

Winged Migration is an amazing film that employed revolutionary filming techniques using helicopters, balloons and gliders to truly get that bird’s eye view. It tells the story of migration and demonstrates the interconnectedness of our world through our avian friends, and nicely conveys our responsibility as stewards of their habitat.

With the bird migration fully underway now, new species arriving daily and some winter birds leaving us, this is a perfect time to enjoy the visual journey that this film provides. It’s perfect for the whole family. A wonderful soundtrack accompanies it.

From the opening song:
Across the oceans,
Across the seas.
Over forests of the blackened trees.
Through valleys so still we dare not breathe. To be by your side.


Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy is pleased to introduce and welcome this year’s summer intern – Eleni Katsos!  Eleni is a life-long resident of Loudoun County and is currently a student at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, WV.  Eleni is a rising senior and  is pursuing a major in environmental science with a minor in resource management. 

eleniSome of Eleni’s projects include constructing a green house for Shepherd University through her sustainable agriculture class and participating in a land use project where she compiled a soil survey for Hendrick’s farm, one of Shepherd University’s undeveloped properties to determine suitability uses.  Eleni also installed two bee hives for educational purposes as part of the Gold Award project at Rust Nature Sanctuary. 

Eleni will be working in the field to support LWC’s habitat restoration projects at Waterford’s Phillips Farm, coordinating the removal of invasives at other sites around the county, assisting our bluebird nestbox monitoring program through data entry, working with our nature camp leaders during camp, and assisting our committee chairs with other smaller tasks that need to be accomplished.


hummingbird_feeder_ready_for_visitors1Our Ruby-throated Hummingbirds should be showing up any day now! April 15th is usually our trigger for putting up the feeders (and softening the blow of tax time). Looking at the real-time migration maps available through Journey North, people have already reported sightings as far north a Massachusetts.

I haven’t seen them here at our feeder and haven’t seen any postings elsewhere yet for reports of their return to Loudoun but I’m keeping an eye out. 

In past years, I’ve seen them at our feeder on about April 21st, so we’ll see if they come on cue again this year. Please post a comment here and let us know when you have them back in your yard. It’ll be fun to see when and where they’re showing up.

And a quick refresher on the sugar solution: 1/4 cup white sugar to every 1 cup water.


Sixteen people joined us for our walk yesterday morning with John DeMary at Balls Bluff in Leesburg. John started out by making sure we all had the Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide and doing a practice run of “keying” a wildflower plant while we assembled in the parking area.  It was a nice refresher on how to use the book which is an excellent guide once you learn how to use it…..I’ll admit, I personally resisted for awhile, preferring picture guides, but I’m now one of the converts. :)

As we started out into the woods, the morning chill (about 55 degrees) kept many of the wildflowers in their closed white_troutlily_balls_bluff_4_18_09night time slumber but within about 30 minutes, as soon as the sun started to hit them, the forest floor was carpeted with the tiny white flowers of Spring Beauties and others.

We saw 26 different wildflowers in bloom and many others getting ready to bloom soon.  The ones in bloom yesterday were: Jack-in-the-Pulpit, White troutlily, Yellow troutlily, Toad shade, Wild ginger, Pussytoes, Blue cohosh, Virginia bluebells, Garlic mustard, Smooth rockcress, Cutleaf toothwort, Star chickweed, Redbud, Squirrel-corn, Dutchman’s breeches, Wild geranium, Squaw-root, Spring beauty, Shooting star, Rue anemone, Bluets, Virginia saxifrage, Speedwell, Blue violet, Smooth yellow violet, and Small flower crowfoot.

The bluebells carpeted the floodplain area while Spring beauties carpeted the upland forest area. Troutlilies covered areas of the banks and the bluets were sprinkled in along the trail.  We did our part throughout the walk to pull the invasive garlic mustard but boy is there a lot of it there – choking out bluebells and others.

In addition to the wildflowers, we had great views of a Barred Owl that watched us as we learned the difference between stinging nettle and garlic mustard, Ruby-crowned kinglets that flitted through a scrubby area along the trail, painted turtles that basked in the sun along the river, gray tree frogs calling, a couple of huge centipedes, and mourning cloak butterflies. 

Oh, and did I mention the snakes (heh heh) – yea, it was *really cool* – a few of us went up to an area where black snakes live and saw three wonderful ones coiled around a branch, warming up, and perhaps selecting mates.  It was wonderful. We also saw a few garter snakes slipping through the leaf litter, no doubt in search of tasty earthworms or beetles for lunch.


white_throated_sparrow_4_18_09We are just two weeks into the Loudoun County Bird Atlas project and we’ve already collected some great data!  Thirteen enthusiastic atlasers have spent 84 hours in the field documenting 1,168 sightings. They have recorded 87 species in 13 atlas blocks, with 11 of the recorded species having a confirmed nesting status.  This is a great start! 

Use the link below to view a summary of the species encountered and the best nesting evidence collected so far: Some of the highlights include confirmed nesting in the Red-shouldered Hawk, Eastern Phoebe, and Eastern Bluebird as well as observations of the Pine Siskin, Rusty BlackBird, Horned Lark, Wild Turkey, and 3 owl species.

Atlasing offers a fun new twist to birdwatching.  Instead of checking a bird off a list and moving on, atlasing requires that you take a few minutes to observe the behavior of each bird you encounter to determine if they are nesting and, if so, what their nesting status is. We will use the data collected during this 5-year atlas to create a baseline of information that can be used to indicate important bird areas throughout Loudoun County, allowing LWC and other groups to design conservation strategies to protect these areas.

If you are interested in helping with this exciting project, please contact the Atlas Coordinator, Spring Ligi, at We still need volunteers to help with this project – roles range from region and block coordinators to helpers. If you’re interested in volunteering but want to check it out first, sign up as a helper and report birds seen in your backyard or neighborhood. Spring can help you get started.