We had our 15th annual meeting last Sunday and it was really a great event! Over 100 of our members came out for it as we enjoyed some great food catered by Mama Lucci’s, chatted about nature sightings, and learned about Loudoun Owls.
People started arriving at 5pm and quickly filled up the parking areas at Rust Santuary. Helen VanRyzin and her daughter manned the check-in table as they handed out copies of our 2008 Annual Report and sold raffle tickets for some really wonderful donated artwork, books and other items.
One of the things we do at our annual meeting is honor three students who participated in the recent Loudoun Science Fair. While we had three winners, each of whom are presented with monetary award checks, only one, Emily Atchison, was available to attend the event. Emily had her science fair project set up on one of the tables in the main room and did a great job explaining her hypothesis and her findings. The title of her project was: Save the Wildlife: Bacteriological Remediation of Synthetic Pyrethroids.
Throughout the first hour or so, as we mingled and talked, Kent Knowles from The Raptor Conservancy of Virginia, and his assistant, brought out their owls to talk about the different species, answer questions, and give people a chance to see these beautiful birds close up.
Karen Stick, who is not only one of our LWC Board members but also an amazing flutist, played wonderful compositions from the stairway landing, giving us all a wonderful ambiance for this annual celebration.
As we finished up our dinner and put those final raffle tickets into the bags, Joe Coleman called the meeting to order. We gathered outside in chairs set up on the lawn. Joe began the meeting with a brief talk on the state of the organization, which continues to grow and develop. He presented the Audubon Naturalist Society with a check for $500 in thanks for the use of Rust Sanctuary and the continued partnership that we enjoy.
From here, he went on to talk about the importance of our volunteers and to describe the LWC Outstanding Volunteer of the Year Award. This award is presented to one of our volunteers who has gone above and beyond in engaging in our programs and activities and really making a difference. Following a nice build-up, Joe announced this year’s recipient, Helen VanRyzin – and she was truly surprised.
Helen has dedicated numerous hours to Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy. In addition to being our Membership Committee Chair and conducting our annual membership appeals, Helen also organized our benefit concert last year, participates in our stream monitoring program, writes articles for the Habitat Herald, uses her technical skills to help improve our databases, organizes events like this Annual meeting, and consistently helps with manning the fair booth and mailing out our newsletter. We thank Helen for all of her hard work and the great contributions she makes to LWC and our community.
To wrap up the business part of the meeting, Mike Friedman, our treasurer, gave a quick overview of the financial health of Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and pointed people towards the annual report for more details. The event was then turned over to Kent Knowles who talked about The Raptor Conservancy of Virginia and the wildlife rehabilitation work that they do. One exciting point that he shared with us is that The Raptor Conservancy is looking to move from its current location in Falls Church, VA to a space where they can set up larger flight cages and have better facilities. While nothing is final yet, there is a proposal moving through that could make Banshee Reeks this new home for their work.
After providing an overview of the work of the Raptor Conservancy, Kent gave us a wonderful introduction to the Owls of Loudoun by bringing out, one by one, six different species of owls. All of the owls that he showed us are, of course, non-releasable due to injuries but instead serve as ambassadors for their kind in education settings such as this in order to teach people about owls.
Kent started out the program with the smallest of our owls, the Saw-whet. This owl is not a year-round resident in Loudoun but can sometimes be seen. He then moved on to showing us two screech owls – a gray-phase and a red-phase. It was nice to see the two different colors at once. Next, he showed us and talked about a long-eared owl and then a barred owl. The barred owl acts as a foster mom to baby owls that are brought in to the Raptor Conservancy for rehabilitation and release. As with others in his care, she was hit by a car and is not releaseable but continues to have a rich life at the Raptor Conservancy.
We then met a barn owl, followed by a Great Horned Owl named Zeus. Kent was very careful with Zeus, keeping a watchful eye on him as he talked, since Great Horned Owls are very powerful. Kent’s assistant walked most of the owls around (not Zeus) so we could see them up close.
We wrapped up the program at about 7pm after a number of great questions about owls and lots of opportunities for great photos of these beautiful birds. Then, it was time for the raffle. Many thanks to Anita Colvard, Glen Cox, Helen VanRyzin, Rhonda Chocha, Debbie Burtaine and Dale Ball who donated their artwork, the books and cds and other fun items. We had well over 15 raffle items as well as some last minute door prizes of beautiful wildlife calendars and native plants that were also given away.
A great time was had by all – many thanks to all who came out for the event! And thanks to Sidney Lissner for the owl photos shown here.