Archive for August, 2012

The 15 birders on Saturday morning’s Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy walk at the Blue Ridge Center in northwestern Loudoun Co found a total of 47 species as well as a couple of warblers and flycatchers we couldn’t ID. 

We stayed together until about 10:45 am on the Farmstead Loop and the Arnold Rd Trail when we broke into two groups so one group, led by Del Sargent and Gerry Hawkins, could return to the cars via a different route.  They returned by Little Turtle and we continued on to Gordon Pond and then returned. 

The highlight of the walk were a flock of 24 Bobolinks, all females or juveniles, found by Joe Coleman, Mary Ann Good, and Donna Quinn, in the native meadow between the Visitor Center and the organic farm and great looks at a Yellow-throated Vireo. 

While warblers were tough to find (only two Ceruleans and one Parula and two we couldn’t agree on) and there was only one good mixed flock and one so-so mixed flock, (did have a recently fledged Acadian still with downy feathers and a recently fledged Peewee still showing hints of its gape). We also had good looks at a couple of the five Yellow-billed Cuckoos (one with a Katydid in its beak) and several Blue-gray Gnatcatchers. 

Because the birds were somewhat sparse we spent a lots of time looking at caterpillars including some really nice looking Spicebush Swallowtail instars and a fair number of butterflies.  Many of the caterpillars and butterflies and spiders were photographed by Nicole Hamilton, and Laura and Liam McGranaghan.

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
Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship – MFF01, Loudoun, US-VA
Aug 25, 2012 7:45 AM – 12:45 PM
Protocol: Traveling
3.0 mile(s)
47 species (+2 other taxa)

Great Blue Heron  1, Green Heron  3, Black Vulture  4, Turkey Vulture  6, Cooper’s Hawk  1, Bald Eagle  1, Red-shouldered Hawk  1, Red-tailed Hawk  1, Mourning Dove  X, Yellow-billed Cuckoo  5, Barred Owl  1, Chimney Swift  3, Ruby-throated Hummingbird  4, Red-bellied Woodpecker  1, Downy Woodpecker  3, Pileated Woodpecker  1, Eastern Wood-Pewee  X, Acadian Flycatcher  4, Empidonax sp.  1, Eastern Phoebe  2, White-eyed Vireo  2, Yellow-throated Vireo  1, Red-eyed Vireo  5, Blue Jay  X, American Crow  X, Common Raven  2, Northern Rough-winged Swallow  9, Tree Swallow  4, Carolina Chickadee  X, Tufted Titmouse  X, White-breasted Nuthatch  X, Carolina Wren  X, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  8, Eastern Bluebird  4, Gray Catbird  X, Northern Mockingbird  2, European Starling  15, Cedar Waxwing  4, Cerulean Warbler  2, Northern Parula  1, warbler sp.  2, Chipping Sparrow  1, Field Sparrow  1, Scarlet Tanager  1, Northern Cardinal  X, Indigo Bunting  6, Bobolink  24, American Goldfinch  X, House Sparrow  1


The Snickers Gap Hawkwatch season officially begins Saturday, September 1st and will continue until December 1st. Volunteer counters are needed for weekdays and weekend days. Both volunteers with experience and those willing to learn are welcome. If you are interested, contact Joan Boudreau or Bob Abrams at 703-734-1238 or or just come on up.

The Hawkwatch is about 50 minutes west of the Washington Beltway and 10 minutes west of Purcellville, VA where Route 7 crosses the Loudoun-Clarke County line, and where the Appalachian Trail (AT) crosses the road just west of Bluemont (formerly Snickersville). The watch is adjacent to the highway (take a left at the top of the ridge on Rte 601 and an immediate right into the parking lot), and is conducted from the parking lot serving both commuters and AT hikers.

The Snickers Gap Hawkwatch is manned solely by volunteers and is one of several official watch sites on the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is affiliated with the Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA), which compiles the migration data of over 200 such sites located in the United States, Canada, and Mexico (through its affiliated website

Typically, about 12,000 raptors are counted here each season. Up until last year the highest seasonal count was over 23,000 (1998), last year’s count totaled 40,759! The birds are generally observed traveling in a southwesterly direction either directly over the ridge line or just off to either side, at varying heights and distances depending on weather conditions.

Many can be seen with the naked eye, but binoculars and a spotting scope are required for identification and, when possible, age and sex determinations. If you come up you may want to bring a folding chair, some munchies, and some patience. You’ll be most likely to find participants on weekends; we generally count between about 9:30 and 4.

The Appalachian Trail can be good for warblers during peak migration and a casual 15-minute walk up to the Bear’s Den for a view to the west. Hope you can join us to witness one of nature’s most inspirational phenomena!


Journey South’s fall migration season has just kicked off! Please report your observations as the monarchs migrate to Mexico.

1) WHEN to Report?
When you see a monarch, Journey South wants to know about it! Report at least once a week, as long as monarchs are present.

2) WHERE to Report

3) WHAT to Report 
The fall maps are described at the link below. Please report:

* Adult Monarchs
* Monarch Eggs and Larvae
* Fall Roosts
* Peak Migration Events
* Other Monarch Observations

About Fall Maps:

Thank you!

Tell a Friend!
Please forward, like or tweet this posting. Journey North is a free citizen science project and all are welcome to participate.


Our walk at the Dulles Greenway Wetlands Mitigation yesterday yielded some nice encounters.  Below is a listing of the different species and a few notes from the field. 

Wood Duck, Mallard, Northern Shoveler – 5 juveniles or females – at the early end of the date range in the Gold Book, Great Blue Heron – 1, Great Egret – 8 perched together, later 2 perched across Goose Creek, Green Heron – 6 or 8, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Red-shouldered Hawk – 1 seen, 2 or 3 heard, Red-tailed Hawk – juvenile, Killdeer – 1, Solitary Sandpiper – 4, Least Sandpiper – 2, Mourning Dove, Yellow-billed Cuckoo – heard, Ruby-throated Hummingbird – 1, Belted Kingfisher – 1, Red-bellied Woodpecker – heard, Downy Woodpecker – 1, No. Flicker – heard, Willow Flycatcher – 1 silent one perched atop a willow where they’ve perennially nested, Red-eyed Vireo – good looks at 1, American Crow, Tree swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Carolina Wren, Gray Catbird, Cedar Waxwing – heard by a few, American Redstart – extended looks at a young male, Common Yellowthroat
Chipping Sparrow – parents feeding young in a nest next to the parking area, Field Sparrow, No. Cardinal, Indigo Bunting, Am. Goldfinch
Spicebush Swallowtail, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Cabbage White, Orange Sulfur, Eastern Tailed Blue, Pearl Crescent, Common Buckeye, Red-spotted Purple, Viceroy, Monarch - approximately 4
Noteworthy “bugs” and spiders:
large Praying Mantis munching on a skipper!
a couple large Golden Orb Spiders on beautiful webs
Reptiles and Amphibians:
a large water snake swimming across the marsh pool water, 2 or 3 times seen
a Painted Turtle swimming across the clear shallow water of the Goose Creek
a tiny Green frog (thumbnail size) 
a White-tailed Deer in the marsh
Sneezeweed, Wild Mistflower (Ageratum), New York Ironweed, Swamp Milkweed, Moth Mullein, goldenrod, Wingstem, Birdsfoot Trefoil


Teta Kain is coming to Loudoun this Sunday! She may not climb tall buildings (or the Rust Mansion where we’re holding the program) but she will entertain us with a terrific program on spiders!   

Her program is filled with facts, folklore, photos and great stories of spider lives and times. 

We’re sure she’ll make a spider-lover out of you by the end of the talk!

Come out and join us for this entertaining and informative event and bring a friend - this is a fun way to get over that spider phobia! 

This is a free program, open to one and all:

Spiders of Virginia: Their Lives and Times ― Sunday, August 19, 2:00 p.m. Teta Kain, who has been presenting nature shows around the state for many years, explores the world of the spider with a close-up investigation of this greatly maligned, often feared creature that lives in such close proximity to humans. Details of spiders’ lives are caught by Teta’s camera as she details their eating, mating, and predatory habits. Her talk is interlaced with folk lore, scientific facts, myths and mysteries of the spider along with a few funny stories of her frequent encounters with this very misunderstood animal. After the program we’ll join Teta on a walk to explore the world of spiders. Location: Rust Nature Sanctuary, 802 Childrens Center Rd, Leesburg. Questions: contact Joe Coleman at 540-554-2542 or


Twelve birders came for the monthly (second Saturday of every month) birding walk at Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve in Loudoun County.  The monthly walk is sponsored by Loudoun Wildlife Conservance and The Friends of Banshee Reeks.  A total of 44 species were recorded.  Most of the walk was along Arrowhead Trail with great looks at YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO, WHITE-EYED VIREO and also GREAT-CREASTED FLYCATCHER.  Fortyfour species is about average for the August walks.  The complete list follows:
Great Blue Heron, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Red-shouldered Hawk, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Chimney Swift, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Eastern Wood-pewee, Great-creasted Flycatcher, White-eyed Vireo (these had been scarce at Banshee until this year), Red-eyed Vireo, Blue Jay, American Crow, Fish Crow, Barn Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Bluebird, American Robin, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher (short tail, probably hatch year), European Starling, American Redstart, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-breasted Chat, Scarlet Tanager, Eastern Towhee, Field Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Blue Grossbeak, Indigo Bunting, Orchard Oriole, American Goldfinch
Del Sargent


This weekend is the Lucketts Fair (August 18 and 19) but we need your help in staffing the booth in order it make it happen.

Can you spare a couple of hours with us?

Attending local fairs is one of the most important things we do to meet new people and share information about the wildlife and habitats of Loudoun. It may even be how you first found us!

But as we head into the next few fairs we are really short-handed and need your help! 

You don’t have to have any experience – we staff the booth in pairs and someone experienced will be part of each duo. We just don’t have enough people to cover all the time slots with you.

For this weekend, we need help for the following time slots and with the set-up/takedown of the booth:

Friday evening (8/17)- help transport fair materials from our storage site in Leesburg to the fair grounds in Lucketts, VA

Sunday (8/19) 10am-5pm- spend a shift (usually 2 hours) at the booth talking to visitors about wildlife and Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and handing out materials

Sunday (8/19) 5-7pm- help transport fair materials from to the fair grounds in Lucketts, VA to our storage site in Leesburg

Please contact Lydia Johnson at if you can help at either the Lucketts Fair (Aug 18/19) or Bluemont Fair (Sept 15). 

Please contact Ann Garvey at if you can help at our Native Plant Sale (Sept 15)

If you aren’t available this weekend but would like to help us out, we also need volunteers for both the Bluemont Fair for all our time slots and at our Fall Native Plant Sale, both taking place September 15.

Please volunteer if you can spare a few hours. We can’t do ll that we do without you.


This year’s Butterfly Count, held August 4, 2012 was a good one indeed!

Seventy people came out for the count and were broken into 8 different teams that spanned out across our count circle in search of butterflies. Thank you to everyone who came out for this event and made it such a success!  We had a tremendous time because of all the great spotting, identifying and photographing of these wonderful insects!

While it was a hot day, neither the butterflies nor our counters were deterred.  Counting seemed low at times but in fact, we spotted a total of 51 species and counted 3477 individual butterflies, which is right on par both in diversity and in numbers with a good count year and in fact, an improvement over last year when we only had 43 species.

Counters started with their teams at 9:00 a.m. and some wrapped up a little past noon while others pushed on until almost 5:00 p.m. Count leaders then started tallying the data and sending it in to be compiled. As we looked at the data we saw some interesting things jump out:

- Monarch butterflies were fortunately on par with last year.  We were curious as to how they would fare this year. Last fall, the migrating population had to travel through more than 1,000 miles of dry land through the Midwest and Texas, and nectar plants were scarce. The population of Monarchs that reached the mountains of Mexico was the smallest ever recorded and they were skinny – unable to put on the fat they typically would from nectaring along their migration.

As this small population headed back north this Spring, they pushed into the East and into Canada faster than normal due to higher winds, but we only started seeing them in Loudoun with any regularity in the last few weeks.  

During the count, we tallied 57 individual Monarchs (compared to 52 last year). This is  not great but not as bad as in 2002, following the storm that killed 95% of the population, when we only counted 9.

Now it is up to this generation and to find milkweed, lay eggs and for the young in coming weeks to find the nectar needed to make it back to Mexico. Let’s hope the drought through Texas and the Midwest breaks.

- Cloudless Sulphurs were on the rise with five out of eight teams reporting sighting. This is a species that we may see every few years and only by 1 or 2 teams so it was exciting for it to be more widespread this year.

- Eastern Tailed Blues (403 compared to a previous high of 242 ), Tawny-edged Skippers (194 compared to a previous high of 66) and Variegated Fritillaries (216 compared to a previous high of 110) were standouts with the highest numbers ever seen on the count. You can view the summary data from all 16 years of our count on our website here.

- Lower numbers were seen for the Common Buckeye. This is a butterfly that in the last two years seemed to have a population explosion and we saw them everywhere.  This year things had wound back down.

In addition to the tally sheets, counters shared their photos from the day through online photo sharing sites and wow, this is a case where the power of the web and the whole community came together to make an id that surprised us!

Sheryl Pollock, had sent over her photo site from shots she had taken at the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship and asked for help identifying a particular skipper.

As we shared her album around through listservs like the Washington Area Butterfly Club and emails to address the skipper, a couple of people looked across her shots, beyond, and said, “Hey, that photo of a fritillary that you got is an Aphrodite!”

We had an old record for an Aphorodite Fritillary but having not seen one in Loudoun for the entire time that we’ve conducted the count, we thought that perhaps the species was no longer in our area. But there it was and with a photo to document it!

This just goes to show that the more we look, the more we find. By doing the count each year we get an invaluable glimpse into the health of our environment and the diversity of species that are all around us. As we do each year, we’re sending our data in to the North American Butterfly Association, so that our local data can be aggregated regionally and nationally and used by scientists, researchers and students across the Country. Thanks again to all our volunteers and the property owners who allowed us to explore the wild side of Loudoun!

Enjoy a great spread of photos from people on the count:
Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy facebook Album:
Gary Myers:
Sheryl Pollock:
Norm Gresley:
Matt Muir:

 If you need help identifying butterflies in your garden or other places around Loudoun, check out our Field Guide to the Butterflies of Loudoun County.


Coral Fungi, Banshee Reeks Nature PreserveJohn Dahlberg, a Loudoun County farmer and mushroom enthusiast, will speak on September 6, at 7pm in the Rust Library, 380 Old Waterford Road, N.W., Leesburg in the large meeting room.  

In this lecture “Understanding Mushrooms” John will present the basics of the fungi lifecycle, identification techniques, tips and tricks for finding the best local mushrooms, and a primer for growing your own edible mushrooms.

 John has been collecting and studying fungi for over 20 years. As a young lab technician studying viruses he became interested in developing a deeper understanding of the complex and puzzling organism of fungi. His passion for mushrooms also stems from a combined interest in nature and gourmet foods and you can find an interesting recipe for puffball mushrooms on his blog at

John raises shitake mushrooms, heritage pigs, poultry, and goats on his Hidden Hollow Farm in Lovettsville. He also brews his own beer and makes artisanal sausages.

This program is sponsored by Loudoun County Master Gardeners