Archive for September, 2011

The Fascinating World of Bats Wednesday, October 12, at the Carver Center in Purcellville, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. 

Leslie Sturges of the Save Lucy Campaign will describe the fascinating and enchanting world of bats, our only flying mammal, and how important they are. 

She will also introduce the seven species of bats, some of which are common and some of which are rare, that call Loudoun County home. 

This free adult program is sponsored by Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy. 

The Carver Center is located at 200 Willie Palmer Way, Purcellville. 

Questions: contact Joe Coleman at


In the presence of nature,
a wild delight runs through the man,
in spite of real sorrows.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson


Some birds declare that you should “Drink your teeeee” while others go on about Potato Chips and Beer.

Still others advocate for Cheer Cheer!

Birding by ear can be tough but we came across this great sheet of bird mnemonics that you can use to help with that.

It’s fun to be walking through the woods, hear a call and know who else is there with you without having to necessarily see that friend.

Give it a shot — and feel free to make up your own rhymes too.  Whatever works!

You can also see the mnemonics above and others via these websites too:


Yes, I’m talking about “our” Monarchs. The butterfly in this photo is on its migration to Mexico right now.

She will fly through parched prairies and fields all the way to Oyamel pine forests and hibernate through the winter. The future of the population rides on the wings of individuals like this one.

I ask you – What will become of this amazing species? The latest report from Monarch Watch is sobering. I hope you will click over and read it but I will also include an excerpt: 

The migration is just beginning to navigate a 1000 miles of hell – a nearly flowerless/nectarless and waterless expanse of central KS, OK, TX, and NE MX….

It is too late for rains to change the situation in TX and northern MX. Monarchs will make it to the overwintering sites but their numbers will be significantly reduced by these conditions. My expectation is that that the overwintering numbers will be the lowest ever (previous low 1.92 hectares) and that the arriving butterflies will be in relatively poor shape with low fat reserves. If the average condition (mass) of the overwintering monarchs is lower than average, mortality during the winter could also be high. Other scenarios could include low returning numbers next spring with a reduced reproductive capacity due to low fat reserves. Keep your fingers crossed that there are no winter storms in MX that could make matters worse.

The fields at the Phillips Farm in Waterford are brimming with nectar-rich goldenrod right now. Nectar sources like these help our migrants build up fat reserves but will it be enough?

Will she and others of her kind find more rich fields along her travels before hitting the devastated lands of Texas and beyond?

In the last Habitat Herald, I wrote about “the slow ride of population decline.” In the case of Monarchs, it doesn’t feel so slow. But we have a choice – we can play a part in recovering a viable ecosystem. It won’t help the Monarchs or other species this year but the sooner we all start, the sooner improvement will come.

Every native plant you plant makes a difference.

Every journey starts with a single step, a single wing beat.

Will you convert an area of your yard into a flower garden filled with milkweed, goldenrod, asters, Joe Pye Weed, New York Ironweed and others? I have 50 seed kits left and would love to see 50 new people contact me to request a seed kit. Plant the seeds now — and hopefully they will blossom and bloom next spring.

Support Monarch Watch and register your garden as a certified monarch waystation, stay in touch, be part of the change.

Visit the Native Plant Sale in Broadlands this Saturday and start planting.


Here’s a new publication that Dori Rhodes of the Virginia Master Naturalists sent over to me. You can download it or order a hard copy – both ways are free. Anyone know what mushroom this is in the photo posted here?

Field guide to common macrofungi in eastern forests and their ecosystem functions
By: Ostry, Michael E.; Anderson, Neil A.; O’Brien, Joesph G.; 2011.

Abstract: Macrofungi are distinguished from other fungi by their spore-bearing fruit bodies (mushrooms, conks, brackets). These fungi are critical in forests, causing disease, and wood and litter decay, recycling nutrients, and forming symbiotic relationships with trees. This guide is intended to assist in identifying macrofungi and provide a description of the ecological functions of some of the most frequently encountered macrofungi in aspen-birch, northern hardwood, lowland conifer, and upland conifer forests in the Midwest and Northeast.


Second Annual Broadlands Virginia Native Plants Showcase & Sale

Now is YOUR chance – Great variety of both native plants and trees for you to learn about and purchase.

Experts will be on-hand to answer your questions about the different varieties and advise on the best plants for your yard.

Gardening with native plants so much cooler than using plants from Asia and elsewhere! It rebuilds a healthy ecosystem and brings back the birds and other wildlife.

Every native plant you plan makes a difference!

Take the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s challenge and plant native – read more here!

- Hill House Native Plant Farm and Nursery
- Beech Tree Farm

Bring the family to enjoy this great display of Virginia native plants

Fall is the best time to plant!

Add a value to your home by native plants and sustainable landscaping (learn more…)

Mark Your Calendars
Saturday, October 1st
10:00am – 3:00pm

Where: Broadlands Nature Center
21907 Claiborne Parkway
Broadlands, VA 20148


See below for a great set of nature programs happening this fall at the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship.  This is indeed one of Loudoun’s Great Places and the events lined up below provide a wonderful introduction into the different aspects that make it such a special spot.

We are happy to announce an excellent series of nature programs for fall 2011 entitled Exploring Nature’s Wonders. This series will provide seven courses taught by expert instructors with something for every member of the family. And best of all the programs will be provided FREE of charge thanks to support from The North Face’s Explore Fund and our awesome partners the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and Hiking Along!

Our ‘Get Kids Exploring’ courses will provide great educational opportunities for kids and will get them out of doors and into nature where they can experience the wonders of nature first hand. We will also have several courses geared towards young adults and adults such as a course on the historical ecology of the Blue Ridge and a seminar that will provide guidance on how you too can share your enthusiasm for nature with others.

See below for the program schedule and visit our Workshops and Classes webpage for more info on this program, as well as our other fall program Foundations of Sustainable Living. Registration for courses is required and may be accomplished online through our Event Calendar or by calling 540-668-7640.

Get Kids Exploring – Environmental Archaeology
Instructor: Jeffrey Alvey
Wednesday, October 12, 2011, 1 – 4 pm

Birding the Blue Ridge Center
Instructor: LWC volunteer
Saturday, October 22, 2011, 8 am until

Get Kids Exploring – Deciduous Forests
Instructor: Jennifer Chambers
Sunday, October 23, 2011, 1 – 4 pm

Reading the Land – Historical Ecology of the Blue Ridge
Instructor: Emily Southgate
Saturday, November 5, 2011, 10 am – 1 pm

Get Kids Exploring – A Changing Season
Instructor: Phil Daley
Saturday, November 13, 2011, 1 – 4 pm

Sharing Your Enthusiasm for Nature
Instructor: Phil Daley
Saturday, December 10, 2011, 10 am – 1 pm


Eight birders spent a few hours birding the north side of the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship yesterday morning on the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s regular monthly bird walk. 

The highlights of the walk were two SUMMER TANAGERS, five different warbler species, and a few flycatchers, the latter resulting in some int’g discussions since they did not identify themselves by vocalizing. For a complete list of the birds seen see the results below.
Because of the cloudy, damp conditions there wasn’t a lot of butterfly activity except for a few Monarchs until we were wrapping up.

The trails at BRCES are normally open to the public 7 days a week from dawn to dusk. Information on the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship can be found at   Information on the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and its many free activities can be found at

Joe Coleman, near Bluemont, Loudoun Co

42 species (+1 other taxa)

Canada GooseBlack Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Bald Eagle, Red-shouldered Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Mourning Dove, Barred Owl, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Acadian Flycatcher, Alder/Willow Flycatcher (Traill’s), Blue Jay, American Crow, Common Raven, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, House Wren, Eastern Bluebird, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Nashville Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart, Palm Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Eastern Towhee, Field Sparrow, Summer Tanager, Northern Cardinal, Indigo Bunting, Common Grackle, Baltimore Oriole, American Goldfinch, House Sparrow.


The Audubon Society of Northern Virginia had this great article in their latest newsletter. Cliff Fairweather, the author of the article, shares some wonderful tips. Also check out their Audubon at Home Program – they can give you advice on establishing a healthy habitat in your yard.

Fall – the Best Time for Planting

Cliff Fairweather, ASNV Naturalist

Spring planting gets all the attention with big plant sales and crowded garden centers, but fall is really the best time to plant. I consulted with a number of native plant gardeners in the Audubon at Home program about fall planting and I am now passing their wisdom on to you.

Fall is the best time to plant for a number of reasons. First, the plants are going dormant at this time of year and so they are less susceptible to transplant shock. In the spring, plants are expending a lot of energy on new growth, leaving them with fewer reserves to cope with the stress of transplanting.

Another good reason to plant in the fall is the weather. Summer temperatures are moderating so plants are suffering less water stress and so they don’t need as much water. Moreover, we generally have more rain, including soaking tropical storms that save us from turning on the tap. Still, you’ll have to give them some water, so water long (and patiently!) enough to encourage deep root growth.

Virginia Native Plant Society Potowmack Chapter President Alan Ford offers this advice on watering: “Water once a day for a week, once a week for a month, once a month for a year. This is most appropriate for trees but any plant will benefit. Reset your schedule any time you get an inch of rain or more.”

Cooler fall weather is easier on your plants and it’s easier on you than gardening in the summer heat. In our area, you can plant at least into November with natives – but resist the urge to tidy up the garden too much. Left-over seed heads feed birds and other animals, while plant stalks and leaves harbor insect eggs, larvae and pupae that will be next year’s pollinators and bird food. Also, take advantage of the autumn leaf-drop to create free mulch and compost.

Finally, fall planting gives your plants three seasons to get established and grow deep roots before they have to endure summer drought. I think conservation horticulturist Nancy Christmus sums up the logic of fall planting very nicely, “Just allow nature to work its magic; the plant will go dormant and appear in spring ready to rock and roll.”

Thank you to Alan Ford, Robin Rentsch, Kevin Munroe, Pam McMillie, and Nancy Christmus for their garden wisdom!


If you’ve never been to the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship (or even if you have and already know how fantastic it is!) be sure to head over for the free picnic tomorrow.

Here’s a quick recap from the organizers:

We want to invite all the friends of the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship (BRCES) to join us for a free picnic celebration on Sunday, Sept 25 from 3 – 5 pm during which time the BRCES will be presented with the Annual Friend of the Mountain Award by the Friends of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Those attending the picnic will also have the opportunity to take guided tours of our natural and historical resources.