Archive for August, 2011

Some interesting upcoming events at the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship, one of Loudoun’s Great Places:

Building and Using an Espalier Fence for Backyard Fruit
Instructor: Michael Judd
Saturday, September 17, 2011, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.
$40 Members, $50 Non-members

Wild Edible Plant Walk
Instructor: Tim MacWelch
Sunday, September 18, 2011, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.
$40 Members, $50 Non-members

Wild About Mushrooms
Instructor: Michael Judd
Saturday, September 24, 2011, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.
$10 Materials Fee + Registration Fee ($30 Members,$40 Non-members)

Traditional Basketry
Instructor: Tim MacWelch
Sunday, September 25, 2011, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.
$40 Members, $50 Non-members

Raising Chickens 101
Instructor: Shawna DeWitt
Sunday, October 9, 2011, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.
$10 Members, $20 Non-members


Until he extends his circle of compassion to all living things,
man will not himself find peace.
- Albert Schweitzer


Robert Bavis was just named our new Stream Monitoring Coordinator!  Many people volunteer to help the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy with its stream monitoring program and it will be great to have Robert onboard to lead it to new places!

Robert has been a resident in Virginia since 1978, is an avid outdoorsman with a keen interest in helping to preserve and improve environmental conditions in Loudoun County.  When Robert is not fishing, he works for IBM as a senior partner in the media and entertainment industry advising Fortune 500 companies on business and IT strategy.

He is a former partner in the firm of PriceWaterhouseCoopers and lives in Ashburn with his wife, Karen, and their three children, Chris, Danny, and Lauren.  Robert and Danny both recently completed the stream monitoring training and certification.

Welcome aboard Robert!!


Variegated Fritillaries are beautiful butterflies, and you may have them in your yard - especially if you have violets growing (in your lawn or in your garden)! Violets are the host plant of this butterfly, and in this video you can see them go through the stages – from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly.

The chrysalis is really interesting! I found a beautiful one in our garden – carefully secured in the flowers of a milkweed plant, with silk surrounding it for protection. It wiggled as I filmed it. Check it out:



This isn’t Loudoun-specific but I wanted to share it because many of you have probably noticed that migration is underway. (I know, where did summer go?)

Birds that breed here in Loudoun and winter in Central and South America will/are facing all sorts of challenges as they head south. This article really highlights that challenge. Check out the link in the article too. Pretty interesting.

Scientists Track Shorebird into Hurricane Irene

(Williamsburg, VA)—Scientists have tracked a migrating shorebird into Hurricane Irene.  The shorebird, a whimbrel migrating from Canada to South America left Southampton Island in upper Hudson Bay on Saturday, flew out over the open ocean and appears to have encountered the outer bands of Irene on Tuesday.  The bird named Chinquapin flew through the dangerous northeast quadrant of the storm during the day on Wednesday.  It is being tracked by a small satellite transmitter and is scheduled to transmit a new set of positions within the next day.  In 2010 this same bird flew around Tropical Storm Colin while a second bird flew into the storm and did not survive.

The long-term tracking study has documented several previous encounters between whimbrel and major storms.  Earlier in August one of the birds flew through Tropical Storm Gert in the North Atlantic.  This bird encountered high headwinds for 27 hours averaging only 9 miles per hour. Once through the storm, flight speed increased to more than 90 miles per hour as the bird was pushed by significant tail winds and made it back to Cape Cod, Massachusetts. In 2008, a bird was tracked into Hurricane Hanna and landed in the Bahamas only to be hit later by Hurricane Ike.

Updated tracking maps may be viewed online.

How migratory birds navigate around and survive major storm systems has been an open question to science.  Achieving an understanding of this process is important because the Caribbean Basin is a major flyway for many bird species moving from breeding grounds in North American to winter in South America and their migrations coincide with the period of highest hurricane formation.  Changes in storm frequency, intensity, or distribution may have implications for timing and routes of migratory movements.

This tracking project is a collaborative effort between The Center for Conservation Biology, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, The Nature Conservancy, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program, and Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences.


The Pipevine Swallowtail is another butterfly that we have here in Loudoun.  Pipevine Swallowtails have two host plants which the caterpillars feed on. One is the Pipevine, sometimes also called Dutchman’s Pipe. The other is Virginia Snakeroot.

I planted some Pipevine in our yard a few years ago, and while it took some time to get established, it now serves as a pipevine buffet, with a good number of butterflies raised from it each year.

Earlier this summer, I was inspecting the vine and saw the orange eggs, all clustered together.  A few hours later, the eggs started to hatch and I caught it on video!  I raised the caterpillars indoors and then released the adult butterflies.  It was a lot of fun.  Here’s a video that shows the different stages:



Joe led our bird walk this morning at the Blue Ridge Center.  Here is his report:

Nine of us showed up for the regular monthly bird walk at the Blue Ridge Center (BRCES) this morning.  While it wasn’t raining and only drizzled occasionally during the walk, the walk began in a heavy dripping fog, and even when that cleared the tropical humidity reminded all of us that something was brewing far to the southeast. 

It was really quiet and not overly birdy except for one or two mixed flocks until it got brighter about 11 pm and we began to see not only a lot of butterflies but lots of young birds foraging around Mountain View Farm which is on the north side of BRCES.

While we met at the Education Center on the north side we carpooled to Sawmill Rd on the south side and walked back to the Education Center on the north side; after the walk four of us drove down Arnold Rd where we found several more species including a Baltimore Oriole.  

The highlights of the walk included great looks at a Blue Grosbeak, several juvenile birds including Eastern Bluebirds, Chipping and Field Sparrows, and Indigo Buntings.  About 7:40 am Joe got to watch two juvenile Blue Grosbeaks in the same area where the adult was seen later in the day.  We didn’t find a single warbler – what a contrast from earlier walks this year.

The full list from today include:

Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Chimney Swift, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Willow Flycatcher, Alder/Willow Flycatcher (Traill’s), Eastern Phoebe, Great Crested Flycatcher, White-eyed Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, American Crow, Common Raven, Barn Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Bluebird, Wood Thrush, American Robin, Gray Catbird, European Starling, Cedar Waxwing, Chipping Sparrow, Field Sparrow,
Northern Cardinal, Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Brown-headed Cowbird, Baltimore Oriole, House Finch, American Goldfinch, House Sparrow


Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy is active in a number of coalitions across the area.  Coalitions are a great way to bring together diverse groups of people and organizations with differing perspectives to address local issues.

One coalition that we support is the Choose Clean Water Coalition, and given that hurricane Irene is coming our way and we’re about to see a lot of water, I thought I’d highlight that here today.

The Choose Clean Water coalition brings together people and nearly 200 organizations from Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia, working together to help everyone in the region choose clean water.

You can follow the work of this coalition through Facebook, Twitter, and through Podcasts, as well as through the website which summarizes key issues.

Clean water is truly one of the very few things we cannot live without, yet here in the US we certainly take it for granted. 

Here in Loudoun, we live in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, and some serious work needs to be done to restore the habitat and thereby the water that runs through our communities.

If you’re interested in learning more about water quality and getting your feet wet locally, check out our Stream Monitoring Program.  It’s a lot of fun!


You may remember that last Novemver we did a habitat restoration project at Freedom Park in Leesburg by creating a rain garden filled with all sorts of wonderful native plants. 

Well, we went back this year with a great team on volunteers to do a bit of weeding and upkeep. Here’s the report from Joe and you can check out photos from the event in our Facebook Gallery:

When we got there all of us were impressed with how well the Freedom Park Rain Garden has done since we helped put it in last year.  Not only was almost everything we planted thriving, there were also a lot of invasive alien plants that didn’t belong. This left our team of 13 volunteers with a lot of work to do. 

While it was warmer than we had expected because of the intensity of the sun and harder work than several of us had anticipated, we finished the task by 6:30 pm.  We removed 31 large bags of invasive plants and spread 40 bags of mulch around the remaining shrubs and perennials. We did this to help stop the invasive plants from coming back and to retain moisture and prevent soil erosion around the remaining plants plants.

It was also incredible to see all those native pollinators as well as honeybees nectaring on all those plants we had planted.


Sometimes you can tell a large story with a tiny subject.
- Eliot Porter