Archive for February, 2011

One of the organizations that we partner with, Audubon Society of Northern Virginia, has a really nice program called Audubon at Home:

To help kick off another year of Audubon at Home, ASNV is holding an Audubon at Home Orientation Meeting on Sunday, March 6, from 1:00 – 3:30 PM at the National Wildlife Federation building in Reston (directions available online).

They’ll cover the basics of creating native habitat on your property, getting your habitat certified as a Wildlife Sanctuary, and — for those who want to have even more impact on habitat restoration in our region — how to become an Audubon at Home Ambassador.

Ambassadors play a key role in Audubon at Home by providing on-site guidance to homeowners and other in creating native habitat.

They will be including two new Audubon at Home on-line resources on the website at the end of this month. These will include Top 10 Native Plant Lists for trees, shrubs, wildflowers, deer-resistant wildflowers, and ground covers and a Frequently Asked Questions page.

The Top 10 lists offer native plant recommendations for a range of growing conditions, with a focus on plants that are adaptable to urban/suburban conditions and that provide benefits to wildlife. The Frequently Asked Questions page will address common questions about habitat gardening and related topics.

Contact Cliff Fairweather at 703-438-6025 if you have any questions about the program.


Join us for this great event! We’re rented an extra large space at Ida Lee Park in Leesburg as we think this will be a pretty popular program — hope you can join us!

“Bringing Nature Home” by Doug Tallamy ― Tuesday, March 22, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. (Ida Lee Park, downstairs meeting room).Gardening in our crowded world carries both moral and ecological responsibilities that we can no longer ignore. Because our gardens and managed landscapes are part of the world that sustains humans and the life around us, we must give thoughtful consideration to what we plant in our gardens and how these choices impact the environment. We can no longer view plants only as ornaments but must consider all of their roles and their intricate relationships with animals and insects. Tallamy will discuss the importance of native plants in our landscapes, emphasize the benefits of designing gardens with these roles in mind, and explore the consequences of failing to do so. Don’t miss this opportunity to hear this inspiring and enlightening message in person!

Doug is author of the best selling book, Bringing Nature Home.  [from an article I read recently, "People are calling Doug Tallamy's new book on native plants the next Silent Spring."]

Feel free to download the flierand share it with anyone interested. This free program is sponsored by Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy. Questions: contact Laura McGranaghan at

We’ll also have copies of our Gardening for Wildlife Plant List available for you to take.


Laura McGranaghan sent over this great note yesterday that I wanted to share.  What signs of spring do you have showing up?

From Laura:

Wow- could it be true???  Is spring right around the corner?? 

I’ve been seeing all the postings of Waxwings and thought I would share this photo. 

Wednesday at work we had about 3 dozen eating berries around our display! 

Today the turtles are basking in the sun down at the ponds!

And, when I went out to try and “shoot” them, I heard my first of season Phoebe :-) with the Red winged black birds calling in the background. 


Just a reminder that I’ll be doing a program this Saturday at the Lovettsville Library on Monarch Butterflies. Feel free to join us.

This program is free and open to anyone interested in learning about these great butterflies and their amazing migration and lifecycle.

Here are the details:

The Magic of Monarchs ― Saturday, February 26, 11:00 a.m. at the Lovettsville Library. In February 2009, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s Nicole Hamilton traveled to the mountains of Mexico to visit the Monarch butterfly’s overwintering sites. 

Through video, sound, and photos, she will share this experience, talking about the great Monarch migration, and the status of its population, lifecycle and habitat, both here and in Mexico. Information on creating a Monarch Way Station in your backyard along with free monarch waystation seed kits will be provided. 

This program is sponsored by the Lovettsville Library, located at 12 North Light Street in Lovettsville.


Sharon Kearns posted this a few days ago and I thought it’d be fun to share here as well :

24 turkeys walked up our driveway today to be counted for the GBBC.  This flock has been around all winter but I have never had them so close and was able to get a correct count.

Also had a juvenile Red-headed woodpecker, probably same seen on Christmas Bird count.  It is starting to show just a little color around the neck and is getting lighter on the chest. 

A neighbor reported hearing and seeing woodcock displaying this evening, we are going to look tomorrow. 

Also two Carolina chickadees were really tearing after each other today, with an audience of other chickadees cheering them on Sharon Kearns Leesburg, Va


The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful!
- e.e. cummings


Here in the middle of February, whether it be a warm winter day or snow on the ground, the Skunk Cabbage is emerging as one of our first signs of Spring.

Skunk Cabbage is an interesting plant in that it can generate heat and maintain temperatures that are as much as 86 degrees higher than surrounding air temperatures. When the ground is covered in snow, the plant uses cellular respiration to melt it and thereby emerge.

To see the flower of the skunk cabbage, you need to peer inside the emerging vegetation. Inside, you’ll see the stubby pinkish ball covered in little yellow flowers, all warm and ready for stoneflies, bees and other flies to come by and pollinate it.

The stink of the plant discourages animals, like deer from eating it. Here’s another fun fact from Wikipedia:

Eastern Skunk Cabbage has contractile roots which contract after growing into the earth. This pulls the stem of the plant deeper into the mud, so that the plant in effect grows downward, not upward. Each year, the plant grows deeper into the earth, so that older plants are practically impossible to dig up. They reproduce by hard, pea-sized seeds which fall in the mud and are carried away by animals or by floods.

Skunk cabbage is a wetland plant. When you find it, also look for signs of frogs and salamanders that may use the wet habitat for early spring breeding.


Joe Coleman sent over the field trip report from our Sunday trip to the Dulles Wetlands and some of the roads around Leesburg.

As Joe mentions, I tried to get some photos of the Loggerhead Shrike. It was a nice sunny day and the wind was calm after all. But this bird is smart and was very careful to stay just out of range. I’ll include my best shot here but it’s a little blurry.

With permission six of us visited the Dulles Greenway Wetlands Mitigation Project this morning on a Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy field trip.  The highlights were the numerous ducks and two Bald Eagles. 

While one of the Bald Eagles perched in a large dead tree in the center of the Wetlands and seemed to be deep in meditation for almost two hours, the other was busy flying in & out of the nest, bringing sticks in to it at least twice. 

There was also a nice variety among the couple hundred ducks and while it was hard to determine how many there were because the eagles kept them nervous there were at least 10 Northern Pintails, 40 American Wigeon, several Green-winged Teal, lots of Mallards, a dozen American Black Ducks, one or two Gadwall, and a handful of Wood Ducks.
After we left the Wetlands we went south on Rte 15 and found a hunting Loggerhead Shrike along the highway which we watched for some time.  Right after we left, Nicole Hamilton showed up with her camera and her big lens so we’re hoping for some nice photos of the shrike. 

It was not only busy hunting it appeared to reluctantly share its fence post with a couple of Mockingbirds – the looks they were giving each other as they sat a foot or two apart were fascinating and made us wonder what was going through the brains. 

There was also a juvenile Northern Harrier hunting the fields on Tailrace Rd as well as a couple of Kestrels and several Red-shouldered & Red-tailed Hawks along Rte 15 as well as four Hooded Mergansers and 20 American Black Ducks on a farm pond off of Rte 15.

Here is the full list of birds seen:
Dulles Greenway Wetlands Mitigation Project
Canada Goose, Wood Duck, Gadwall, American Wigeon, American Black Duck,
Mallard, Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal (American), Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Bald Eagle, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk (Eastern), American Coot, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted), Blue Jay, American Crow, Fish Crow, Common Raven, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Eastern Bluebird, American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle), Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored), Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle
Along other back roads of Loudoun:
Canada Goose, American Black Duck, Mallard, Hooded Merganser, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Northern Harrier, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted), Loggerhead Shrike, Blue Jay, American Crow, Fish Crow, Common Raven, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle), Song Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored), Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, American Goldfinch


Did you know…..our eastern Gray Squirrels breed twice a year…once in the winter (December – February) and once in the spring (May – June). 

As we hit the middle of February, the winter brood is being born and in about 7-10 weeks when they are weaned and start to leave the nest, we’ll start to see the little squirrel pups.

The squirrel nest is known as a drey and is located high up in a tree. It’s made of sticks, leaves and soft mosses. Often, squirrels will make a couple of dreys in case something happens.  We witnessed this first hand a few years ago when a tree came down in our neighbor’s yard. Wasting no time at all, we watched the mother squirrel take the babies out of the fallen nest and straight up another tree into another drey.

In the wild, our Gray Squirrels live up to about 12 years of age.


Habitat Herald Newsletter: Great Blue Heron via @loudounwildlife