Archive for January, 2011

I saw on twitter that the National Wildlife Federation is offering a free webinar on Designing Your School Yard Habitat. It’d be great to have more outdoor classrooms in schools across Loudoun for Environmental Science classes to use.

Details are below:

Are you ready to create a Schoolyard Habitat, but not sure how to start? Please join the National Wildlife Federation’s Schoolyard Habitats® Program for a free webinar on designing your Schoolyard Habitat project. We will cover the special design and project planning considerations for installing a habitat on school grounds and utilizing a habitat for teaching.

Date: Thursday, February 3, 2011
Time: 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM

More information and sign up is on their website:


January 29th through February 13th, get outside and go searching for Rusty Blackbirds! This national Blitz is organized by the Smithsonian Institution and is designed to find out as much as possible about one of our most rapidly declining North American birds.

Please head outside, search for Rusties, and report your results (whether you find them or not) in Virginia eBird and by contacting our Bird Atlas Coordinator, Spring Ligi (

For more information, including detailed instructions regarding Blitz protocol, please visit here.


2011 Year of the Turtle
Turtle conservation groups in partnership with PARC (Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation) are designating 2011 as the Year of the Turtle and Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy has joined this partnership. (I know, according to the Chinese calendar, it’s the year of the rabbit. Rabbits are important too but our local rabbit species are doing ok — turtles need our attention)

Why Turtles, and Why Now?
Turtles are disappearing from the planet faster than birds, mammals, and even amphibians. Today, over 40% of turtle species are identified as threatened with extinction; the primary threats are human-caused. However, it’s not too late for our turtle heritage to be salvaged. The United States has more endemic turtle species than anywhere on Earth; a turtle biodiversity hotspot. Our careful stewardship can preserve the rare species and keep ‘common species common.’

Throughout the year, we will be raising awareness of the issues surrounding turtles through our Habitat Herald articles, blog posts, photo contests, programs and related events.

Through this broader partnership being formed, the hope is that citizens, natural resource managers, scientists, and the pet and food and related industries will work together to address issues and to help ensure long-term survival of turtle species and populations.

Here in Loudoun, we can report turtles that we see by participating in the USA Turtle Mapping Project.

Supporting Partners (to date) include (and will not be limited to): Turtle Conservancy, Turtle Survival Alliance, IUCN Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Survival Group, US Fish & Wildlife Service International Affairs, Chelonian Research Foundation, Turtle Conservation Fund, AZA Chelonian Taxonomic Advisory Group, SUNY ESF, Virginia Herpetological Society, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy… and the list keeps growing!

Bookmark, and check it often for more information on how YOU can get involved!  I will also continue to post information here on the blog as it is made available.

Sign up for PARC’s monthly newsletters by sending an email to  The newsletter contains:
· A downloadable turtle photo calendar for each month, including a photo contest – your photo could be in the calendar
· Information about turtle conservation efforts and groups
· Interviews with turtle experts, and answers to selected questions that you send in
· Information on how you can help spread the word about turtles
· Educational materials — how you can teach about turtles
· Featured turtle artwork, poetry, and cultural information
… and much, MUCH, more!


This past Sunday, January 23rd, 10 people joined leaders Liam and Laura McGranaghan on a Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy outing in search of Birds of Prey in central Loudoun County. In spite of the cold and windy conditions, the trip was enjoyed by all involved. 

Not including the numerous vultures of both species, we saw a total of 41 raptors represented by 6 species.  Highlights include a Barred owl near the Dulles Greenway Wetland Mitigation area, a lengthy and close viewing of a female Kestrel hovering for mice over a wetland along Evergreen Mills Road, and very good viewings of two Northern Harriers hunting the grassy fields along Spinks Ferry Road and Limestone School Road near Lucketts. 

The group took a short hiatus from our raptor search to enjoy watching a group of Horned Larks feeding in a horse paddock along Limestone School road. 

Two additional harriers were also seen late in the day along Montressor Road, but unfortunately renewed construction work in the area seems to be having an impact of the raptor numbers we have seen in the past. 

Surprisingly absent from our trip were any sightings of Bald eagles and the only accipiter seen was a single Cooper’s hawk flashing through a neighborhood just after we left our meeting spot at Ida Lee Park. 

Here is the full list of species we counted:
Northern Harrier  6
Cooper’s Hawk  1
Red-shouldered Hawk  7
Red-tailed Hawk  20
American Kestrel  6
Barred owl  1


This is a really quick two-minute action where YOU can make a difference for Loudoun’s Clean Environment!  And on this snowy day, this is a great excuse for taking a break from shoveling….

Loudoun County has proposed a stream preservation ordinance that will require a buffer of trees and other vegetation to be left alone along stream banks. This buffer is critical to the health of our waterways here locally and all the way to the Chesapeake Bay.

Riparian buffers are the single most effective means of protecting water quality.  Streams guarded by a healthy forested riparian buffer are cleaner, cooler and are more stable than those without buffers.  To read more about riparian buffers, check out our Habitat Herald article. Our position is that a 100′ buffer must be required. This is the minimum needed to be effective.

The two step action is easy:

First, send an email to your county Supervisor asking them to protect our streams.

Second, click over to Chairman Scott York’s blog where he has posted a poll and cast your opinion.

I know the poll is super quick and easy to do, so please do click on it but sending a quick email has so much more impact so I really hope you’ll do both.

We have a right to a clean and healthy environment and while this ordinance will not solve all our environmental issues here in Loudoun, it is a good start.

Please share this posting with others so our voice for a clean and healthy environment is heard. We have a responsibility to future generations to do so.

Read our full action alert here and our position letter to the Board of Supervisors here.


An animal’s eyes have the power to speak great languages.
- Martin Buber


It’s ok, I know….We all do!

At times they can be amusing to watch but that can also get old when they crawl back and forth across your TV screen, fall into your morning coffee, or hibernate in the sleeve of that coat you wanted to wear… (yea, I’m just sayin’ — we’ve all been there…..)

There’s not much you can do to get rid of them because their stinky spray actually attracts more of them. This makes no sense to me, by the way….if spraying the stink is a defensive move then why would others of their kind be attracted to the source of where there was danger?  Anyway, so goes the way of the stink bug.

Naturally, I found that White-crowned Sparrows and other birds (chickens apparently) will eat them, although this isn’t too practical inside our houses.  Another predator is spiders, and a few around our house have made up some nice little stink bug caches.

But so much for my experiences, I wanted to share with you a program coming up on Stink Bugs being offered by the Potomac Valley Audubon Society. You can get all your questions answered.  Here are the details:


The Potomac Valley Audubon Society and the National Conservation Training Center are co-sponsoring a presentation about the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug the evening of Wednesday, February 9.

The program will be held at NCTC at 7:00 p.m. in the large Byrd Auditorium in the Entrance Building.

Admission is free and anyone is welcome to attend.

The presenter will be Dr. Tracy Leskey, entomologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Appalachian Fruit Research Station in Kearneysville.

Dr. Leskey and her colleagues at the Research Station are in the forefront of research into the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, and she co-chairs a special USDA working group that is trying to find ways to respond to the problems the insect poses.

Native to China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug was apparently introduced into the U.S. in eastern Pennsylvania in the late 1990s. Since then, it has become firmly established throughout the Middle Atlantic region and is rapidly spreading to other parts of the country.

First thought to be simply a nuisance, the insect has quickly proven to be an increasingly serious agricultural pest that is capable of causing widespread damage to fruit and vegetable crops. Fruit growers in the Eastern Panhandle have been particularly hard hit over the past couple of years.


On the 1st of each month, I send out our monthly email announcement.

It’s filled with the listing of all the programs and field trips that we have scheduled for that month as well as a few other tidbits as appropriate.

Plus, I use all sorts of neat wildlife and nature photos taken right here in Loudoun by local photographers to share some of the great sightings we have.

If you are not yet receiving it but would like to be added to our distribution list, just fill out our Contact Us form (it helps me to keep the spammers out if you fill out the form). 

Once I receive your form, I’ll send you an invitation and all you need to do is click on the link inside the invitation to be added.

Please feel free to let others know about this too – our programs and field trips are free and open to all who are interested. The more the merrier!


Spring Ligi is holding Bird Atlas training on February 6.  Details are below.  If you’d like to participate in the Bird Atlas but can’t make the date, let Spring know and she may schedule another class if there’s enough interest:

Bird Atlas Training ― Sunday, February 6, 1:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. The training will provide an opportunity to meet other atlasers and become familiar with atlasing and data entry.  A printed copy of the bird atlas handbook, block maps, field cards, and other information will be provided.  You can learn more about the Loudoun County Bird Atlas Project here. This training will be held at the Rust Library in Leesburg.  Please contact Spring Ligi ( or 301-694-5628) if you plan to attend


Many of you know Oya Simpson from her work on Earthday at Loudoun which has turned into an incredible event in just a couple of years.  We’ve enjoyed partnering on programs with her as she works to bring more environmental education opportunities to the residents of Broadlands. She’s really doing some great things in Loudoun and it’s wonderful to see that hard work and dedication recognized.

Leesburg Today recently published a nice article on her efforts and the recognition as a “Make a Difference Mom” that she’s been nominated for.  Here’s a short excerpt:

“[Oya] was recently named one of four finalists in the Make A Difference Mom contest being sponsored by Ziploc Brands and TerraCycle. The contest was designed to celebrate “moms around the country who are taking steps to make a difference for the environment and their communities”-a qualification that seems to fit Simpson perfectly.”

Congratulations Oya for being a finalist!!

You can visit the Terracycle Facebook page to read about the finalists and cast your vote.  Voting ends January 26