Archive for June, 2013

Rita Welsh, a first grade teacher at Catoctin Elementary School, gathered volunteers, made plans and pulled together the community to create a fantastic new Monarch Waystation at Catoctin Elementary School in Leesburg!

Thank you all who participated in this – for the Monarchs and for all the children who will enjoy this outdoor classroom for years to come! We can only guess what discoveries of nature these kids will make!

Here it is, in her own words:

Words cannot express my gratitude for all the help provided to make this project a reality.  Building a Waystation was just an intriguing idea when Nicole Hamilton, President of the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, offered free milkweed to anyone interested in creating a Monarch habitat.  When Master Gardener Cindy Annino suggested that building a Monarch Waystation at Catoctin this spring was a possibility after all, the vision started to come into focus.

With the help and support from Mrs. Rueckert and Mr. Heironimus for approval and funding, the expertise and beautiful garden design by Cindy Annino, a generous donation from Odette Scovel (instructional supervisor for science at LCPS) towards the purchase of the topsoil, the milkweed plant donation from the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, newspaper donations from Rust Library and all the assistance and organization of Mike George, leader of Cub Scout pack 311, we successfully built and planted our Monarch Waystation on Saturday, June 15th.

Thank you also goes to Blake Landscaping, who has generously agreed to take care of the edging of our garden too! That should certainly help keep the soil and mulch intact should we experience torrential downpours in the future.

Members of the Cub Scout pack and other volunteers who came out to help on Saturday worked tirelessly on a VERY physically demanding project.  Moving topsoil and mulch with wheelbarrows and shovels was quite a workout!!!

The end result is a beautiful garden space that will be enjoyed by the staff and students (and community) for years to come. It will be a wonderful outdoor classroom space to extend student knowledge of the Monarchs and a loving tribute to our friend and Catoctin teacher, Sharon Funk, who succumbed to cancer last fall.  Thank you, thank you, thank you to every single person (big and small) who touched our garden to make it a reality.  I am deeply grateful.

The link below is for the photo album I created for the new garden space to show all the hard work that went into it’s completion.  Bring on the Monarchs!!!!


I’ve been walking through milkweed patches, flipping over leaves, looking for chew marks, searching for eggs. So far, nada…no Monarch caterpillars….

But, the milkweed is looking good in our area and we’re slowly getting reports of sightings of Monarchs (although not really in Loudoun yet). A few Monarch caterpillars (5) have been found in the Reston/Herndon area so I know they are around us, we just have to get out there and find them.

In the meantime, as I walked along a glorious patch of milkweed that lines a trail at the Phillips Farm in Waterford, a little poem came together that I thought I’d share with you:

Phillips_Farm_Milkweed_20130626-16An Ode to Milkweed

by Nicole Hamilton

Milkweed growing oh so strong,
welcoming Monarchs with your fragrant song!

Leaves so tasty, green and bright,
filling caterpillars with certain delight!

Life will grow on leaf and stem,
then flutter off to begin again.

Milkweed, milkweed growing strong,
thank you for bringing Monarchs along!


If you haven’t, I highly recommend it – in fact, everyone I know (adults, kids and everyone in between) who has gone to see it raves about it! It’s more than a movie, it’s a really cool 3D experience – like floating with the butterflies! The story and the facts you come away with are terrific and the visual experience is amazing.

It’s still playing at the IMAX theater at the Museum of Natural History in DC – showings are at 10:30, 1:10, 2:45 and 4:15 — make a day trip out of it!  Gather up some friends, grab the kids and trek on into town, visit the museum, take in the film and have a nice lunch!

flight-butterfliesFlight of the Butterflies 3D

Runtime: 44
MPAA Rating: G

The monarch butterfly is a true marvel of nature. Weighing less than a penny, it makes one of the longest migrations on Earth across a continent to a place it has never known.

Follow the monarchs’ perilous journey and experience millions of them in the remote mountain peaks of Mexico, with breathtaking cinematography from an award winning team including Oscar® winner Peter Parks.

Be captivated by the true and compelling story of an intrepid scientist’s 40-year search to find their secret hideaway. Unravel the mysteries and experience the Flight of the Butterflies.

Learn More! Visit the Live Butterfly Pavilion at the National Museum of Natural History and walk among nature’s flying canvases in a tropical oasis filled with hundreds of exotic live butterflies.


As you drive into Oatlands, look to your right and you will see a rolling meadow that curves down to a swale where trees were planted in tribute to America’s civil war fallen. This is the Living Legacy Garden, part of a larger tree planting that will stretch over the 180 mile Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Scenic Byway.

Incorporated into that garden is the new Oatlands Monarch Waystation – and what a terrific spot for it! Not only does it get the right sun and soil and water that these plants will need to thrive but it also is a wonderful chance for people to engage in the garden and see the linkage between natural history with human history.

This waystation is made up of 125 plants – 96 milkweed plants (common milkweed and swamp milkweed) donated by Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and nectar plants: Blue-stemmed Goldenrod, New England Aster, Joe-Pye Weed (hollow-stemmed), Spotted Joe-Pye Weed, Narrow-leaved Mountain Mint, New York Ironweed, Boneset, Cardinal Flower, Great Blue Lobelia, Wild Senna.

The nectar plants were purchased through a yoga fundraiser by Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, Oatlands and the wonderful yoga experts, Yvonne Parrotte and Cathy Norman.  Thanks to all who donated during the Migrating Hope for Monarchs event!

The monarch waystation planting was held on June 23rd as part of the Oatlands Greenhouse Birthday party.  After singing and enjoying cakes, families brought their kids over to the Legacy Garden where the ground had been prepared for planting.  One by one the holes were dug, the plants were placed into the ground, and they were watered.

Oatlands is also looking at how to change their mowing practices to enable greater wildlife diversity on the property. This will not only benefit grassland birds like Meadowlarks, Bobolinks and Grasshopper Sparrows but also a wide range of grassland butterflies in the skipper family as well as Monarchs that will use the Common milkweed growing wild in the fields!

If you’d like to explore these areas, join us on a butterfly walk in July and August.  More details are on our calendar.


Conrad Varblow at Potomac Falls High School sent us the wonderful news that their Monarch Waystation is in AND they plan to expand it next year!  Here’s the great story of this waystation in Conrad’s words:

 Thanks to all who participated, especially the Ecology Club and Dr. Peters! Thank you to our nursery and Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy sponsors and the PTSO for the funding!

We’ve finished the first round of plantings for our Monarch Waystation and will be getting it certified with appropriate signage.

We hope to double the size next year.

So far, our plans to water over the summer are working out great!

Once all of the Virginia Native plants are established they will need less supervision.

We are looking forward to our Mexico-bound Monarch visitors in the classroom this Fall.


Lori Berry led her troop, Cadette troop 458, in creating a wonderful Monarch Waystation right at the entry way to Morven  Park’s Carriage Museum.  This is a wonderful location because not only does it get good sun that the Monarchs and other pollinators and wildlife will enjoy but it also will be seen and enjoyed by visitors as they take the guided tour of Morven and learn about it’s rich history and by guests who come to Morven Park for weddings and other events that take place in the museum.

A big thank you to all the young women of Cadette Troop 458: Mia Berry, Tyra Krehbiel, Olivia Lang and Victoria Cristwell and to everyone at Morven Park for making this happen!

The plants planted in the garden include:
Common Milkweed, Swamp Milkweed, Bee Balm, Joe-Pye Weed, Black-eyed Susan, Goldenrod, New England Aster, Coneflowers, Zinnia, Marigold, and Lantana.

Milkweed plants were donated by Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and the nectar plants were purchased through a fundraiser led by the girls and funds donated by Morven Park.

The girls named the garden the ”Sra. Kirkendall’s Oyamel Oasis”.  This name honors a Spanish teacher at Harper Park Middle School who died this past year unexpectedly.  3 out of 4 of the girls had her as a teacher.  She was from Mexico and was very excited about Hispanic culture.  Since the butterflies travel to Mexico and are integral to the culture of that community, we thought the monarchs and her had a lot in common.

See the full photo album here


Here’s one of the latest Monarch Waystations that was just created here in Loudoun!  What a wonderful design!

On Saturday, June 22nd, Paxton staff and volunteers from our community created a butterfly-shaped Monarch Waystation. * The time series of photos show the steps taken to create our garden.

With generous donations of native plants (milkweed and nectar plants for Monarchs and other pollinators) from Earth Sangha and Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy; advice and plants from Ann Garvey of the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s program on habitat restoration; and the hard work and determination of 15 creative and enthusiastic volunteers, we were able to create a beautiful garden. We want to thank you all for the support!

This garden will not only help host the Monarchs through this leg of their journey, it will also serve to bring a natural sensory experience to our students, both at Open Door Learning Center, our pre-school and kindergarten program; as well as students from The Aurora School, our school for children and young adults with autism and other related disabilities.

View the full photo album which shows start to finish the steps involved with creating this wonderful waystation!


_MG_5944b-Reese_BurgoneTwo well-seen Blue-winged Warblers were the highlight for the twelve people who showed up for the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s regular, every 4th Sat,. monthly bird walk at the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship on June 22nd.

While not as birdy as last month, 55 species were found, first around the Visitor Center, then on the Sweet Run Loop & along Butterfly Alley, and then along Arnold Rd. There were only three warbler species, including a couple of Yellow-breasted Chats, one of which was seen by those who arrived early perched on a wire next to the parking area at the Visitor Center (VC).

Among the species seen were a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, a couple of Blue Grosbeaks, one seen by a few of the group near the parking lot at the end of Sawmill Rd, a lot of Field Sparrows and Indigo Buntings (the most plentiful species), and several Grasshopper Sparrows, heard only. In contrast to last month the only oriole was a first year male.

Last weekend’s walk was led by Joe Coleman & Del Sargent who were assisted by several good birders in the group.

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

The complete list follows:

Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship – MFF01, Loudoun, US-VA Jun 22, 2013 7:45 AM – 11:15 AM Protocol: Traveling 1.5 mile(s) 55 species

Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Red-shouldered Hawk  2, Red-tailed Hawk  1, Mourning Dove, Yellow-billed Cuckoo  1, Ruby-throated Hummingbird  2, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker  4, Hairy Woodpecker  1, Pileated Woodpecker  1, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Acadian Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe  1, Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird  4, White-eyed Vireo  3, Red-eyed Vireo, Blue Jay, American Crow, Fish Crow, Tree Swallow, Barn Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch  1, Carolina Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Bluebird, Wood Thrush, American Robin  1, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher  1, European Starling, Cedar Waxwing  2, Blue-winged Warbler  2, Common Yellowthroat  3, Yellow-breasted Chat  2, Eastern Towhee, Chipping Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Scarlet Tanager, Northern Cardinal, Blue Grosbeak  2, Indigo Bunting, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird  4, Orchard Oriole  1, House Finch  1, House Sparrow  1.

View this checklist online at

Photo of Blue-winged Warbler by Reese Burgoyne


Here’s a wonderful video from Cornell that talks about milkweed – the biological arms race between the plant and the animals that love it:


BeeGirlMany of you know Samantha Gallagher – you’ve seen her at the fairs, you’ve talked with her at our Native Plant Sale, you’ve run into her at our programs (no, not dressed up as bee girl) – and you also know that she is the amazing force behind the Virginia Pollinator License Plate!

She designed it and has been working hard to get the number of applications needed to make it so that this gorgeous license plate will be available for all of us to put on our cars and spread the word about pollinators.

Well, she only needs 86 more applications and then the State will make it so!

So, if you value our pollinators and want to help spread the word about them, fill out an application — it’s quick and easy!  All the information you need is here on Samantha’s website:

Pollinators are essential to our food supply and our eco-systems, and they’re in a state of decline. Sign up for one of the new “Protect Pollinators” license plates to help raise awareness- The pollinators need your support!