Archive for September, 2012

“Thooonnggg!” Oh how I hate when I hear that sound at our house – I know a bird has hit a window and the prognosis will not be good. I’ve noticed that our “regulars” have come to know what the windows are but to the migrants either in fall or spring or some of the juveniles, they may look at the window and see blue sky.

Tufted TitmouseDavid Sibley wrote a great article in Bird Watchers Digest in 2008 on things we can do to help stop birds from hitting our windows.

In it, he writes, “research has shown that at least half of the birds that fly away from window collisions die soon afterward from brain injuries. (Despite what most people think, birds involved in window collisions rarely break their necks.)”

So what can you do?  Here’s a quick list from the article but you can read the whole thing in David’s words here.

1) Position bird feeders to be either 2 feet or closer to the windows or move them to be 30 feet away

2) Break up the reflection on the window (soap works as does not washing your windows)

3) Install window panes – this creates smaller openings that many birds won’t fly through although many still will

4) Install exterior screens or netting that break up the reflection

David has other interesting things that he’s tried (including using a highlighter) and shares them in this article. It’s definitely worth a read.


Audubon Field Guides has developed a nice suite of apps that can be handy when you’re out in the field. I’ve enjoyed their actual book guides as catch-all field guides that cover a lot of species and these apps serve that same purpose.

Topics include Mammals, Wildflowers, Birds, Butterflies, Mushrooms and more. While I still love thumbing through hard copy field guides, having a few apps can be helpful when you don’t want to carry a bunch of books into the field or aren’t sure what you might encounter.

Maybe you head out for a nature hike planning to investigate woodland flowers and then come across some really cool fungi, but that’s not in your book, well here you have it on your phone. It’s a nice backup.


On the walk at the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship in NW Loudoun County last Saturday morning, 13 birders enjoyed the first glorious full day of fall and seeing numerous migrants.  It was nice to have several Maryland and West Virginia birders join us as well. 

The best bird was an Olive-sided Flycatcher, nicely teed up in the dead branches of a tall tree and showing the dark vest, big head, and erect posture. 

Perhaps the first Orange-crowned Warbler to be spotted on our walks on this property was seen by several, as were a Kentucky (common breeder here), Nashville, and 5 other warbler species.  Two Rose-breasted Grosbeaks (shown here)  perched for good views, one with the beginnings of his rose breast. 

Blue Jays poured almost constantly overhead – there must have been over 100 streaming through on their migration. Several large flocks of Cedar Waxwings joined the ranks flying through trees in search of berries.
Following is the list of 43 species:
Mallard,Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Am. Kestrel, Mourning Dove, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, No. Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER, E. Wood-Pewee, E. Phoebe, Blue Jay, Am. Crow, Com. Raven, Tree Swallow, Car. Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Car. Wren, E. Bluebird, Gray Catbird, Brown Thrasher, Eur. Starling, Cedar Waxwing, ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER, Nashville Warbler, No. Parula, Magnolia Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, Com. Yellowthroat, E. Towhee, Field Sparrow, No. Cardinal, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Am. Goldfinch.


Whether you’re 8, 38, or 88, this activity is fun for all ages. It’s a fact – playing with seeds and dirt makes us smile. I dare you to try it!

So, what is a seed bomb?  Well, I came across this idea in an article that talked about Guerrilla Gardening. You can google that term or “seed bomb” and find a whole host of links on the subject.

Now, just to be clear, I’m not advocating gardening on land that is not yours.  You should only throw seed bombs on your own property or places where you have permission, but the idea of Guerilla Gardening was a funny one to me so I thought we could at least steal the idea of seed bombs from it.

A seed bomb is simply a dirt ball with seeds mixed into it that you throw out into an area where you want to get some nice native plants growing.  The dirt that the seeds are mixed in provides a nice matrix for the seeds to get started in so the only step left is for mother nature to rain on it and shine some sun to get things started.

When preparing for this endeavor, you’ll want to make sure you select native seeds and that you get permission before seed bombing an area. You can check our Gardening for Wildlife Plant List for native wildflowers and you can order seeds online from places like Prairie Nursery.  You can also ask friends if they have native plants growing if you can have some seeds from their garden.

With my love of butterflies and Monarchs in particular, I highly recommend Swamp Milkweed, Butterflyweed, Joe Pye Weed, New  York Ironweed, goldenrod, asters, Beebalm, Bergamot, oh and I could go on but those are a few ideas.

Here’s what you’ll need for your seed bombs:

- 1 part Native seeds (this is super important – you don’t want to be spreading non-natives)
- 1 part Earthworm castings (which you can get online or at a nursery) or you can use compost (or a combination of the two)
- 5 parts Clay soil (which we have a lot of here in Loudoun so you probably have this in your garden already – you can also buy “non-toxic airdry clay” by crayola but local clay dug is much better)

The Los Angeles Times has an article showing how to make seed bombs step by step:,0,4073581.photogallery

And here’s a British fellow who made a video on how to do it: 

Basically, you just mix the ingredients together, form small balls and let them dry.  Then, go out this fall and throw them outside.  The balls should stay intact rather than bursting apart and will work their magic through the winter and into next spring, bringing new flowers to your area.

This would be a great activity for kids starting or maintaining a wildflower garden at school too.


Stream Monitoring and Training

Sunday, September 23, 10:00 a.m.
Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve in Leesburg

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy is hosting a stream monitoring and training event at Banshee Reeks this Sunday at 10am.  We are meeting at the Visitor Center and then splitting into two groups. 

We will be monitoring Water Cress Run and Goose Creek.  Several experienced monitors will be on hand to give instruction and answer questions. 

Questions? Contact: Scott Sandberg –


We’ve lined up a great program for this Tuesday on Coyotes! 

Lynsey White Dasher from the Humane Society of the US will discuss the natural history of Coyotes, what it means to have them living in our communities and how to live well with them. 

More information can be found on our webpage.

This program is free and open to all interested.

Location: Rust Library in Leesburg

Time: 7pm


At the Native Plant sale yesterday, a number of people asked where I got the Monarch Condo and unfortunately Monarch Watch is currently out of stock but Mona Miller emailed me and shared that you can get them at BioQuip. Other nice houses for rearing butterflies are the houses sold by eNasco.

If you want to raise Monarchs next year, definitely make sure you have your milkweed in the ground now so it’s nice and robust next June when the Monarchs return.

And for our Monarchs right now – you’re no doubt seeing them flying in a pretty deliberate manner. In fact, you could probably drive all the way to Mexico yourself just by following their course!

They have a long way to go and as one of the landscape designers said yesterday — “Forget planting Mums! Plant Asters and Goldenrods!”   They’re what the Monarchs need so desperately right now for their 2000 mile journey south to Mexico – plus they’re native (“low maintenance”) and perennial (“saves you $$”)! not to mention being gorgeous!!

If you have all the right elements in your garden and yard, consider putting up a Monarch Waystation sign or getting your yard recognized as a Certified Wildlife Habitat. It helps spread the word about what healthy habitats looks like. (We have both up at our house…:) )


This year’s nature camp took place in June.  Phil Daley wrote up a great summary from the event and we wanted to share it here with you along with a few of the photos taken by our intern, Jared Garlad:

The 2012 Natural History Day Camp (Nature Camp) was once again held at Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve. The camp was split into two one week, sessions ( June 11-15 and June 18-22) which was earlier than previous years.

The twelve ‘Week One’ campers enjoyed discussions and explorations of various woods and fields as well as the importance of native plants and the relationships they have with the insects and other animals which rely on them for survival. During our pond exploration day, every camper caught at least two fish (Bluegills, a Large-mouth Bass, or catfish) using homemade cane poles. They also enjoyed finding and identifying numerous other critters that live in and around Banshee’s main pond. Despite a very heavy downpour on our second day, all campers and leaders enjoyed(?) a rainy day walk and the numerous toads, frogs and mushrooms that emerged to enjoy the wet weather.

 The thirteen campers who attended ’Week Two’ started off the first day in very wet and chilly conditions, but soon had a great time checking out invasive species, learning about trees and forests, and finding many salamanders in Banshee’s seepages. They also and had a good learning experience during our water monitoring exercise in the Goose Creek.

During both weeks, campers enjoyed finding and identifying many insects, looking after our Five-Lined (blue tailed)Skink and Ring-Necked Worm Snake, learning to adjust and use binoculars, playing nature related games, and decorating T-shirts and the camps’ flags.

 Each camp week ended with ‘Family Day’ when the campers and interns entertained with songs, prepared and shared home-made ice cream, participated in the always thrilling ‘Pill Bug Derby’ and tried valiantly to solve the mysterious ‘Rope Game”.


The twelve birders on last Saturday’s morning monthly bird walk at the Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve, sponsored by the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and the Friends of Banshee Reeks, found 38 species including ten Great Egrets swirling around in the sky in the vicinity of the nearby Dulles Greenway Wetlands Mitigation Project (DGWMP), an adult female Orchard Oriole, and good looks at a variety of different Magnolia Warblers and Redstarts showing the differences between males, females.
The group also saw a Fox Squirrel at Banshee – it climbed up a really big snag along the Goose Creek and stretched out in the sun on a branch. It gave all of us great looks and got lots of hooes and aahs in return.

After the walk, five of us headed over to the DGWMP where the highlight was a female Northern Harrier (photo here by Norm Gresley), a dozen Great Egrets, some of which were prob. the same birds seen earlier from Banshee, a dozen Blue-winged Teal, three Least Sandpipers, a Lesser Yellowlegs, and a Palm Warbler.

As for butterflies, some of the highlights included two Viceroys at the Wetlands and several Monarchs at Banshee.

We often visit the privately owned Dulles Greenway Wetlands Mitigation Project prior to or after the Banshee Reeks walk; if you are int’d in joining us pls let us know and we’ll be happy to include you if we are planning a visit.

See below for the complete list of birds seen.

Good birding,
Joe Coleman, near Bluemont, Loudoun Co
Banshee Reeks
38 species (+2 other taxa)
Great Egret  10     clearly seen from Banshee Reeks in the vicinity of the Dulles Greenway Wetlands Mitigation Project, Black Vulture  40, Turkey Vulture  12, Red-shouldered Hawk  2, Red-tailed Hawk  1, Rock Pigeon  6, Mourning Dove  10, Belted Kingfisher  1, Red-bellied Woodpecker  6, Downy Woodpecker  3, Northern Flicker  4, Eastern Wood-Pewee  6, Alder/Willow Flycatcher (Traill’s Flycatcher)  1, Empidonax sp.  2, Eastern Phoebe  2, Red-eyed Vireo  2, Blue Jay  X, American Crow  X, Fish Crow  1, Carolina Chickadee  X, Tufted Titmouse  2, White-breasted Nuthatch  4m Carolina Wren  2, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  3, Eastern Bluebird  12, American Robin  1, Gray Catbird  3, Northern Mockingbird  10, European Starling  50, Cedar Waxwing  6, Common Yellowthroat  1, American Redstart  6, Magnolia Warbler  3, Eastern Towhee  1, Field Sparrow  1, Scarlet Tanager  1, Northern Cardinal  X, Orchard Oriole  1     adult female seen in mixed flock, House Finch  2, American Goldfinch  2

Highlights from the Dulles Greenway Wetlands:
Mallard  16, Blue-winged Teal  12, Great Egret  12     well seen & photographed by the five of us, Black Vulture  20, Turkey Vulture  40, Northern Harrier  1, Red-shouldered Hawk  2, Killdeer  X, Lesser Yellowlegs  1, Least Sandpiper  3     small peep with brownish breast and back, small bill slightly curved down; too far away to tell the leg color., Palm Warbler  1


I went back and forth on the subject of this blog posting because what we have planned for this Saturday is SO MUCH MORE than just a plant sale!

Ok so the run down — First and foremost – YES – Native plants galore by local vendors, Nature By Design and Hill House Farm & Nursery. You know as well as I do how tough it can be to find native plants to buy in nurseries and these vendors are pulling out all the stops – bringing a great variety and expert advice on how and where to plant them, what wildlife they attract, and what you need to do to get them established.  

You’ll be like a kid in a candy store! and our wild friends (like this Scarlet Tanager in its Fall colors) will thank you!

Second – some great hands on displays — Oh I can’t wait!!!

Susan Abraham of Lush Life Landscape Design Associates will have a pollinator garden set up with plants from the two vendors so you can see what a gorgeous spread you too can create. She will give two short talks, one in the morning and one in the afternoon and will be available to answer your questions.

Thaissa Klimacvz will have demonstrations of creating floral arrangements using cut native flowers and a handout on which natives work well for this purpose.

Denise Shreeve of Our Native Bees will discuss the importance of native bees, and have bee houses available for sale.

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy will have a table focusing on butterflies and gardening for wildlife, and I will be there, talking all about Monarch butterflies and what plants you need to set up a Monarch Waystation. 

Handouts on the Monarch lifecycle, how to raise Monarchs from your garden, Monarch color pages and stickers will be available for you (or your kids ;)  ) to take as well.

I’ve been raising and releasing Monarch butterflies all summer and am planning to bring my Monarch rearing condo so you can meet a few of our long distance travelers. If timing works out, we may even be able to release a few Monarchs together and send them on their way to Mexico!

You can also check out the new Field Guide to Butterflies of Loudoun, pick up a copy of the Gardening for Wildlife Plant List, and more.

There will also be a used book sale of environmental books and videos.

And food? Oh yes, what would such an event be without food!!  The Something Stuffed food truck will be here with us for the day – yum!

While it’s fun to plant in the Spring, the Fall is the best time to garden – plants focus their energy on building roots and sucking up nutrients so that come Spring they’re ready to blossom and flower!

Come on out this Saturday – and GO NATIVE with Us!!

Rust Nature Sanctuary
802 Children’s Center Rd.
Leesburg, Virginia 20175

Time: 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.