Archive for July, 2013

Banshee_Monarch_20130721-6Join us Saturday August 10th at Oatlands for a free kids’ event celebrating the Monarch Butterfly.

Festivities start in the Carriage House at 10 a.m. with a community craft project: making butterflies, plants, and flowers to create a giant garden mural!

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s Nicole Hamilton will be there with information about the Monarch and what you can do to help preserve the species. Monarch eggs, caterpillars, or newly-eclosed butterflies may make an appearance.

At 10:45, kids strap on their wings for a fantastic parade from the Carriage House to the gardens.  Don’t forget to bring a camera!

In the garden, families can take pictures and try to spot butterflies and other cool bugs and critters!

Children are welcome to flutter by the Carriage House after the parade, where they can create another butterfly or flower to take home. This event is free and family friendly.

Please call (703) 777-3174 or email to sign up!

For instructions on easy, eco-friendly wings visit:

Don’t have time to make wings at home? We can help! A wing-building station will be available in the Carriage House.


I’m sure you’ve heard the term crowdsourcing – it’s where a company or organization gathers ideas or information by gaining contributions from a large group of people (especially from an online community) and sifts through that information for trends that bubble up.

Well this practice isn’t just for businesses – it’s being well used in the scientific community. Traditionally you would have small research groups doing a study on some topic. But in the age of the internet, we are all out there – we’re seeing birds, butterflies, amphibians, bats, all sorts of things – and by entering that data in sites like eBird or Journey North or other sites, scientists are able to turn all of us into their on the ground data gatherers.

The results have been profound and Cornell tapped into it!  They just released a report on bird migration based on sightings that literally thousands of people across the Country (yes – a lot here in Loudoun) entered into their database called eBird.

Here’s an excerpt from their press release:

Crowdsourced Data Reveal Feats of Bird Migration
for 102 Species

Sightings database yields insight into movement patterns, conservation needs

Ithaca, NY–For centuries people have marveled at the migratory abilities of birds, but new research is now putting numbers on those seasonal feats—for more than a hundred  species at a time—using data contributed by thousands of amateur bird watchers.

In all, more than 2.3 million sightings were summarized to reveal migratory routes of 102 species in North America, in a paper published August 1 in Ecology. The results provide a fascinating glimpse at an astonishing range of species: for instance, the tiny Calliope Hummingbird crosses the continent almost three times as fast as the Northern Shoveler, which outweighs it more than 300 times. They also highlight the immense scientific value to be gained from bird watchers’ sightings when they can be combined into a single large database.

But the new research is much more than a leaderboard of feathered sporting achievements. Its real value is its ability to move beyond one-off records to characterize the behavior of an entire population.

“Up to this point, migration theory has really only been examined at the individual level,” said Frank La Sorte, a research associate at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and lead author of the new study. “But in the end, you want to conserve populations—you want to maintain their migration corridors, flyways, or stopover habitats. And that’s why there’s so much potential here.”


Saturday, August 3

It’s time for Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s 17th Annual Butterfly Count.

Silvery Checkerspot April 5 2005 3Come and have fun while contributing to butterfly conservation. You will visit locations that include butterfly gardens, sanctuaries, roadside wildflower areas and parks. Teams will start at either 8:00 a.m. or 9:00 a.m.  Participate for a few hours or do a full day!

We typically count over 2,000 butterflies in this single day and spot as many as 50 species. Our count circle stretches from White’s Ferry in the east to the Appalachian Trail and the Blue Ridge Center in the west and south to Lincoln.

No experience necessary, all ages welcome – you will be teamed with experienced leaders.

There’s a $3 fee per adult that we pass through to the North American Butterfly Association. This fee is waived for Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy members as a member benefit. No fee for those under 18. Rain date is August 4th.

Registration Required: Sign Up Online or contact Nicole Hamilton at


From the Master Gardeners – Mr. Neese saves not only vegetable seeds but also native wildflowers:

Free Gardening Lecture – Saving and Organizing Seeds (and Composting)

Please join Loudoun County Master Gardeners at their monthly lecture series at the Rust Library in Leesburg on Thursday, August 8th, at 7pm.    Are you interested in being part of a community that is helping to preserve unusual and heritage vegetables and flowers by collecting seeds?  Seed saving is a cost-effective and rewarding pastime and Michael Neese will tell us how to go about it in his talk “Saving and Organizing Seeds (and Composting).”

Today, heirloom seeds are readily available but that was not the case when Mr. Neese was starting a vegetable garden and wanted to buy local heirloom seeds suitable for his microclimate.  Instead what he found was a generous community of “seed savers” who not only freely gave him seeds but also shared their collective gardening wisdom.  That experience led him to organize a seed exchange at his church that has now become an annual event and to share his gardening knowledge in the community too.   Mr. Neese, has founded many community gardens in the Winchester area, is active in numerous community organizations and serves as Winchester’s Recycling Coordinator.   In his words, “If you don’t see the change you want in life, start it.”

For more information about the Loudoun County Master Gardener program, please visit or call the Loudoun Extension Office at 703-777-0373.


Saturday, July 20th, 2013

Banshee_Monarch_20130714-18-2Open 9am-6pm
Girl Scouts- $8/scout & chaperons. Leaders FREE!- Please make group reservations by calling 540-554-2073

General Public $8/Child $10/Adult at the gate.

Children 2 and under and guests with a Military ID are no charge.
CSA & Fan Members FREE (If purchased after 12pm on July 19 please bring your paypal receipt as we have already printed out our CSA members list)

“Bring back the Monarch and Keep the Magic Alive” Nicole Hamilton

The most recognizable of all butterflies are in need of our HELP! The Monarch butterflies population has diminished drastically due to the lack of milkweed and other plants no longer available for their habitat. Join us July 20th to:

  • Plant milkweed to harvest their eggs and raise them in a safe environment to take home.
  • Get 2 FREE Passes to come back in September for those who have butterflies to release
  • Learn about the life cycle of the Monarch
  • Hear the adventure of the Monarch Butterfly as it travels 5,000 miles from Canada to  Mexico ever year. Check out this fun song about their trip!
  • Stroll through the Butterfly Waystation
  • Create & Color Butterfly crafts
  • Shop for butterfly-friendly habitat to take home to plant
  • Support Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy
  • Girl Scouts have the opportunities to earn a Bronze, Silver or Gold Award
Check out more information about how we can help the Monarch’s with Loudoun Wildlife.


In spite of the warm damp humidity and heavy cloud cover we had a wonderful walk at Banshee Reeks last Saturday morning, with 17 people coming out for the walk. There was a lot of bird activity and many families of birds with even more juvenile birds begging for food. It took us almost 30 minutes to get out of the parking lot and we traveled only about a 1/4 mile in the first hour.

While we missed some of the species that are usually seen on our July walks such as Great Blue Herons, Black Vultures, Blue Grosbeak, and Red-winged Blackbirds, the many Purple Martins and all the family units made up for most of the misses. However, the saddest miss for me was American Kestrel which seems to be pretty scarce in Loudoun County this summer.

The family units, with often successful begging young, included at least 15 Purple Martins, a couple of families of Eastern Kingbirds, and some very young Acadian Flycatchers. It was great watching the young birds being fed by their parents and noting how they differ from their parents.

While there weren’t a lot of different butterflies, most likely because of the heavy cloud, cover Del did find a second or third stage instar of a Monarch Butterfly.

It was also nice to have several beginning birders along as well as some experienced birders who were visiting Banshee Reeks for the first time. We hope they enjoyed the walk as much as Del Sargent & I did.

The regular monthly free bird walk (every 2nd Sat) at the Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve is sponsored by the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy ( and the Friends of Banshee Reeks (; information on both and their upcoming events can be found on their websites.

Good birding, Joe Coleman

Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve – MFF08, Loudoun, US-VA Jul 13, 2013 8:00 AM – 10:45 AM Protocol: Traveling 1.0 mile(s) 53 species

Turkey Vulture, Red-shouldered Hawk  1, Red-tailed Hawk  1, Mourning Dove, Yellow-billed Cuckoo  3, Chimney Swift  1, Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1, Belted Kingfisher  1, Red-bellied Woodpecker  2, Downy Woodpecker  2, Northern Flicker  1, Pileated Woodpecker  2, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Acadian Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe  4, Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird  7, White-eyed Vireo  1, Red-eyed Vireo, Blue Jay, American Crow, Fish Crow, Purple Martin  15, Tree Swallow  6, Barn Swallow  3, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch  4, Carolina Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1, Eastern Bluebird, Wood Thrush, American Robin, Gray Catbird  3, Northern Mockingbird  3, Brown Thrasher  1, European Starling  8, Cedar Waxwing  4, Common Yellowthroat  5, Prairie Warbler  1, Yellow-breasted Chat  4, Eastern Towhee  12, Chipping Sparrow  2, Field Sparrow  12, Song Sparrow  2, Scarlet Tanager  6, Northern Cardinal, Indigo Bunting  15, Common Grackle  3, Brown-headed Cowbird  1, Orchard Oriole  4, House Finch  1, American Goldfinch.


This just in from Journey North:

Monarchs are scarce this summer across their breeding range because of two key factors:

1. Record Low Last Winter
There were only 60 million monarchs wintering in Mexico last winter, 80% below the 350 million monarch average.  The area of forest covered with monarchs  was only 3 acres, compared to the 17-acre average. Why so few? Drought and excessive heat during summer 2012 resulted in low reproduction last year.

2. Cold Spring, Slow Migration
This spring’s unusually cold temperatures across the middle section of the country delayed the migration northward.  The season’s first monarch generation was slow to develop in the southern U.S. and late to migrate northward.

What’s Happening Now?
Low numbers, cold temperatures, and slow spring migration meant few monarchs across the north in June. Monarchs must have a productive breeding season this summer for the population to recover.

Summer Breeding
During the breeding season, monarchs can produce a new generation in about 30 days, resulting in  four generations. The monarchs that migrate to Mexico this fall will be the great-great-grandchildren of those who left Mexico last spring.

A Missing Generation?
By arriving late this spring across their breeding range, monarchs may not have time to complete four generations. This could result in a small fall migration and low numbers in Mexico again next winter. However, monarchs have a high reproductive potential and they breed across a large region. Breeding success in one area can counteract the effects of poor conditions in another.


Here are some upcoming events hosted by 350 Loudoun:


“Chasing Ice” Film


WHEN: Monday, July 22, 7-9 pm.

WHERE: Rust Library, Meeting Room, 380 Old Waterford Rd., S.W., Leesburg, VA


“Walk for Our Grandchildren” Rally 

WHEN: Tuesday, July 23, 4:30 – 5:30 pm.

WHERE: Loudoun County Government Center, 1 Harrison St., S.E., Leesburg, VA

Pot Luck: Following the walk there will be a pot luck at Smart’s Mill Middle School, 850 North King St.,
from 6-7 pm.  Everyone is invited to share a meal with our guests of Honor – the walkers on “Walk for Our Grandchildren.”


“Carbon Nation” Film


WHEN: Monday, August 26, 7-9 pm.

WHERE: Rust Library, Meeting Room, 380 Old Waterford Rd., S.W., Leesburg, VA


Monarch_Eggs_FoS_Stumptown_Loyalty_20130712Yesterday I went up the street to the little milkweed patch near my house. I had been checking my garden milkweed and some other spots and had been coming up empty but not to be deterred, I went over to this little patch up the street. As I walked in to it, I noticed some fresh milkweed plants just pushing up from the other roadside weeds and the leaves were fresh and tender.

There were no signs of caterpillars – no frass, no chew marks, but I flipped a leaf….and there it was – small as a pin head yet huge in the life that it portends. From there I flipped more leaves and found a total of 3 eggs!

I entered these into Journey North site as my first egg sighting – so far those are the only ones entered for Loudoun but I know more are out there – so keep (or start) checking your milkweed. If you find any eggs or caterpillars let me know.  I can talk you through how to raise them if you want or I can connect you with someone who is looking for a chance to do so.

If you do find eggs and caterpillars, please do enter your first of season sightings into the Journey North site. It’s important citizen science data.


In this video (5 minutes), learn about where Monarch pupa can be found, what happens inside the pupa and how the Monarch emerges from it’s pupa – pumping its wings with fluid and hanging to dry. It also teaches how to tell the difference between males and females and how Monarchs put on fat.