Archive for January, 2014

Chris White sent over this nice story about the experience he and his wife Carol have been having with participating in Cornell’s Project Feeder Watch.  We wanted to share it here with you along with some photos that Chris took:

We joined Cornell’s Feeder watch program, but were late starting, they were swamped with applications and renewals I think, and we were late getting the instructions. Out first week was December 6th. And we’ve kept up with the weekly reporting schedule since then. For the first week we had 33 different birds from 16 species, totaled the way they want you to with the most seen at one time from each species added together over the two days. By the time we filed this week’s report, we’d counted 173 birds from 18 species. Last week we had a count of 122, and the week before that 77. The last two have retraced to about 155 birds, with the composition shifting away from finches towards cardinals, we had about 40 of them stopping by last week. Over the succession of weeks we’ve reported 28 species visiting, but they don’t all come every week. Our resident goldfinch crew was 28 strong yesterday afternoon — week of the 9th, but its declined since. Our woodpeckers are now understood to be couples, of which 1 red bellied couple, 2 couples made up of downeys, but three flickers visit from time to time. The Carolina wrens which begin each day with their song have appeared as a twosome, there’s probably more out there who have been among the unique visitors we’ve counted every week. Recently an elegant Hermit Thrush has begun to visit the plantings Jason put in. 

There have been 9 house finches and 12 purple finches. 2 Red-Shouldered Hawks stopped by this week on separate days. Yesterday’s (8th Jan) visitor was politely shown off the property by a mixed flock of red-winged blackbirds and brown-headed cowbirds, which numbered in excess of hundred. The flock came back today at lunch time, and 23 of the red-wings and 12 of the cow-birds stopped by the feeders. We’re also accumulating a sizeable flock of house sparrows. I counted 26 this afternoon. We’ve subsequently been visited by mixed flocks of red-winged blackbirds, cowbirds, grackles and robins.

Our feeder operation has grown: we’re up to four tubes,  three suet slabs, and a feeder with a flat rim. By now there are also ground level feeding stations well attended under all the feeders. There are two goldfinch socks and a peanut suet mix which the woodpeckers and others really go for.

Our lot is a bit smaller than half an acre. It is lined with 6 cedars on the east and about 15 conifers on the west, with plenty of scrubby tangles we’ve let build up. There are also deciduous trees, both fruit trees and volunteer drop ins, in the body of the lot. We hadn’t realized how much activity could be supported by such a selection of trees. The next lot is wooded and swampy, and there are more trees behind us, along with open fields.


Phillips_Farm_Monarch_20131014-24Brace yourselves – read the article below –  then get ready for spring gardening — Milkweed, Nectar plants — no number is too small, no number is too high – let’s plant all we can!

Chip Taylor of Monarch Watch answers your questions of “WHY?” here:

Mark your calendar for our native plant sale, April 5th, Morven Park in Leesburg.

There will also be numerous talks this spring on the Monarchs - watch our calendar for details - come out and join is, bring your friends and co-workers, share the knowledge, share the love!

Phillips_Farm_Monarch_20131014-133Tomorrow, Wednesday, 10am Mexico City time, the Mexican Govt will hold a press conference to release the Monarch population numbers for the 2013/2014 season.

We are braced for sobering news but are resolved to continue to do our part in Keeping the Magic Alive and with that, I am looking for volunteers to help with our Monarch campaign this year. I’ve set up a meeting for the evening of Feb 10th. If you would like to be a part of this team please email me (Nicole) and I will provide the details:

This shot is of one of the last Monarchs that we raised & released last October. With all hopes, it is one of those that made it to Mexico and in about 4 weeks it will begin the migration home, sending its babies back to us.


We just received an email from an organization called Friends of The Earth.  They are asking for people to participate in a Valentines Day project as a way of persuading Lowes and Home Depot to stop selling bee killing pesticides and pesticide drenched plants.

The idea is to deliver valentines, asking these stores to “show bees some love” and stop selling bee-killing pesticides and garden plants pre-poisoned with these harmful chemicals. Planting season is right around the corner. We can’t let another year pass with Home Depot and Lowe’s selling “poisoned plants” with no warning to consumers.

Will you join in and help send this message?

Pledge to take one simple action to save bees and deliver a valentine to Home Depot and Lowe’s asking them to stop selling bee-killing pesticides.

Bee 3 9_24_2003Neonicotinoid pesticides (also called “neonics”) are killing bees; that’s why Europe is banning them. Yet these bee-killing pesticides are found in more than half of the “bee-friendly” home garden plants sold at stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s — with no warning to consumers. 

How can this be? Well nurseries that supply plants to large garden centers use two approaches to keeping plants looking “pest free”.  They apply pesticides topically which kill insects when they come in contact and they use systemic pesticides which are infused into the soils that their plants grow in. With the systemic application, pesticides are absorbed through the roots of the plant and come out through the foliage, flowers and nectar – killing bees, butterflies and other insects that are attracted to them.

More than half a million people have signed petitions asking Home Depot and Lowe’s to stop selling “poisoned plants” and bee-killing pesticides, and Friends of the Earth will be delivering these petitions on Valentine’s Day. 

Last year through our Monarch campaign we approached Home Depot about selling pesticide-free native plants and were told no. We spoke to their supplier, Bell Nurseries in PA and were told no. So we worked with local nurseries who would sell pesticide-free native plants.  Abernethy & Spencer in Purcellville has been a fantastic partner and we encourage you to buy your plants from then again this year.  If you are a member of Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, show your member card and you can even get 10% off your plant purchases. Can’t beat that! If you are not yet a member, you can join us here.

Can you help ramp up the pressure on Home Depot and Lowes? Delivering a valentine is easy. Sign up now and Friends of the Earth will send you a printable valentine and step-by-step guide to help send the message.

Let’s take a stand!


Several bills have been introduced in this year’s General Assembly to allow Sunday hunting in Virginia under certain circumstances.

House Bill 1250 proposes to authorize the Counties of Fairfax, Fauquier, Loudoun, and Prince William to allow Sunday hunting of wild animals on private lands.

House Bill 1237 and its companion Senate Bill 154 propose to allow a landowner or a person with written permission to hunt or kill any wild bird or wild animal if they hunt on the landowner’s property.  HB 1237 with more than 20 sponsors could reach the House floor as early as tomorrow, Thursday.

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy is opposed to allowing Sunday hunting, and is submitting letters to our representatives asking that they vote against these bills.  If you share our concerns, please contact your representatives in the Virginia State Legislature today.

Hiking along the Potomac

Hiking along the Potomac

Why do we oppose these bills?

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy is a big tent organization, and our membership includes many hunters.  We consider the current ban on Sunday hunting to be a fair arrangement for all who enjoy the Virginia outdoors during hunting season, which now stretches over six months.

Lifting the ban on Sunday hunting would directly conflict with our mission.  Sundays provide one day per week when outdoor enthusiasts can pursue their activity without concern for hunting hazards, especially if children accompany them.

Sunday hunting would interfere with winter citizen-science-based bird surveys – including the annual Christmas Bird Count, North America’s oldest and most extensive citizen-science project. Many Christmas Bird Count surveys in Virginia currently take place on Sundays, including on and around private properties, specifically because hunting does not take place on that day.  This ensures the safety of the participants and allows the most thorough counts possible.

Ask your Senator and Delegate to oppose the Sunday hunting bills HB1250 and SB154/HB1237. If you do not remember who your representative is, go to and click on “Who’s my Legislator?”


Three intrepid (or whatever word you think more appropriate) birders showed up for the regular monthly bird walk at Banshee Reeks on January 11th and in spite of the weather, a cold, in the 30′s rain and heavy fog, spent almost three hours birding.

After walking to the beaver pond where we found a dozen American Wigeon, we spent some time on the Old Field Trail, the Watercress Trail, the Greenway, the Twin Springs Trail, and then returned to the Visitor Center by way of the Greenway and the Tree Loop.

The highlight of the walk were very large mixed flocks comprised mostly of sparrows with a few other species mixed in. One flock of way over a hundred individuals crossed the path in front of us when we were on the Twin Spring Trail. We also found six of the seven woodpecker species found here in the winter. And while we saw several hundred individual sparrows, we found only five different species of sparrows.

The mixed flocks were mostly comprised of Dark-eyed Juncos, Song Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, along with about 15 Field Sparrows and one or two Towhees. One of the small flocks also included four Golden-crowned Kinglets. And while there weren’t a lot of raptors, the ones we saw appeared to be as bedraggled by the wet as we were. And, of course, our greatest difficulty, was keeping the moisture off our binocular lenses and keeping them from fogging up which is very likely the reason we didn’t find any unusual sparrows in those very large mixed flocks.
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, near Bluemont, Loudoun Co

Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve – MFF08, Loudoun, US-VA
Jan 11, 2014 8:00 AM – 10:45 AM
Protocol: Traveling
2.5 mile(s)

31 species (+2 other taxa)

Canada Goose, American Wigeon  12, Mallard  3, Bald Eagle  1, Red-shouldered Hawk  1, Red-tailed Hawk  2, hawk sp.  2, Ring-billed Gull  35, Red-bellied Woodpecker  4, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  4, Downy Woodpecker  5, Hairy Woodpecker  1, Northern Flicker  5, Pileated Woodpecker  1, Blue Jay  2, American Crow, Fish Crow, Carolina Chickadee  2, Tufted Titmouse  5, Carolina Wren  2, Golden-crowned Kinglet  4, American Robin  25, Northern Mockingbird  3, European Starling  5, Yellow-rumped Warbler  2, Eastern Towhee  1, Field Sparrow  15, Song Sparrow  75, White-throated Sparrow  75, Dark-eyed Junco  75, Northern Cardinal  15, blackbird sp.  25, American Goldfinch.


Have you already joined or renewed your membership support for 2014?

If so — THANK YOU – we have some great news to report!

2 New Exclusive Discounts for Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy Members!

Tufted_Titmouse_Jan_31_2010_51) Southern States in Purcellville and Middleburg is offering a 10% discount at both stores on regularly priced bird seed, feeders, plants, plant material. You must present your 2014 membership card in order to receive the discount.

2) The Natures Way (a fantastic source for live mealworms to feed the birds) is offering 10% off their regular pricing through march 2014. After March they will evaluate and will see about continuing the discount. To receive this discount you will have to either call or email in your order and tell them that you are a member of Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy. Any orders placed on their website WILL NOT BE ELIGIBLE for the discount. The company is in the process of having a new website built and hopefully the new one will be able to do such discounts, but for now the discount is only possible through phone or email. Visit The Nature’s Way here to see their products.

Other discounts already in place for our members are:

Abernethy & Spencer in Purcellville which is selling native plants for your garden. Show your 2014 member card to receive a 10% discount

The Bird Feeder in Reston – a full suite of birding gear from books to gifts to seeds and feeders. Show your 2014 member card to receive your 10% discount there too!

If you have not yet joined or renewed for 2014, please do – we need you! Upon joining or renewing we’ll send you your 2014 membership card and thank you letter. If you are not sure if you renewed/joined for 2014, send us an email – we’re happy to check on it for you.

Memberships start at just $20 for the year! All donation levels are welcome.
- $20 Individual Membership
- $30 Family Membership
- $200 Individual Lifetime
- $300 Family Lifetime

Send us your suggestions for other local businesses that you’d like to see us ask for member discounts. We see this as not only a great member benefit but also a great link between our mission and the local business community.

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy is a 501(c)3 and your contributions are tax deductible as allowed by the law.



Birding provides the best and worst of both  time and weather. Having ‘weathered’ the previous Sunday’s wet Central Loudoun Count, the Calmes Neck Count’s Sector 8 team started out at 5:00am, Sunday Jan 5th  near Round Hill.

We were thrilled as the sky was full of stars for the  five early risers trying to listen for owls despite the frigid weather. After stopping at several desolated locations with no results, we sought out the hospitality of Tabby Finch near Edgewood. Tabby’s porch light was a welcome sign as we pulled in and almost immediately were treated with the far off call of a Great Horned; after some warming coffee and snacks, we headed back out to her porch and were once again alerted to an owls call; this time the local resident Barred Owl.  

After saying our goodbyes, the group headed out into the dark once again, traveling south along the back roads towards Round Hill where we met up with the rest of the team for a hearty breakfast at Tammy’s Diner.  Here we planned our strategy for the rest of the morning and chatted with the several local folks who came in for an early morning breakfast. After splitting the group into two teams we all set off once again to search for birds.

Of course, by this time it was just turning light enough to see them and our tabulations began to really grow—while the weather seemed to take a nose dive. Dawn arrived along with a sprinkle of rain-the latter of which continued to increase in intensity as the temperature rapidly dropped. By 11:45, after slipping and sliding on many back roads, ‘Team 2’ had completed their subsector, checked in with ‘Team 1’, and headed towards Anthony’s for lunch where  all were to rendezvous. Nice warm location, good lunch—but alas, no ‘Team 1’.

Thanks to cell phones we learned our colleagues vehicle was stranded, but they walking (and Gatoring )out a mile or so, and asked to be picked up. Yeah for all wheel drive vehicles. Following our reunion at Anthony’s we again attempted to continue the count; slipping and sliding as we drove back towards Round Hill.

Discretion finally took over from foolishness and we decided to terminate our efforts for the day. Despite  count totals of 41 species and 1841 individual birds being well below our average for Sector 8, everyone had an exciting, if not always enjoyable experience.

We vow to do better next year; hopefully be able to stay out longer and cover the entire area. Consider joining us next year; we always have a fun time, learn a little and enjoy both the company of friends and the scenery or western Loudoun.. Pictures of team one provided by Constance Chatfield-Taylor.


This just in from Natalie Pien:

Did you know that local Aldie resident and 350 Loudoun member, Jerry Stewart, will be participating in the 3000 mile Great  March for Climate Action (‎, beginning on March 1, 2014 in Los Angeles, CA and ending 8 months later in Washington, D. C. ?  

Come & meet this unique individual!  350 Loudoun and Sustainable Loudoun will be hosting a send off for Jerry, details below.  

Jerry will be fund raising for his march ($20 per day) and will be presented with solar gear for energy for his communication and marching needs from a local business, ZOETHAN (  

Please help spread the word.  RSVP to 350 Loudoun FaceBook page ( so that the number of attendees can be determined.

What: A Loudoun Send-off for the Great March for Climate Action.

When: Friday, February 7, 2014

Where: Vintage 50, 50 Catoctin Cir. N.E. #100, Leesburg, VA (food & beverage available for purchase)

Why: Meet Jerry & learn why he will be walking 8 months a distance of 3000 miles across the U.S.


How’d you like that polar vortex? If there was ever a time to talk about the weather it’d be this year!

With all the highs and lows there’s a lot to talk about and Kevin Ambrose is the expert to lead a great discussion and share some cool stories! (so to speak)

Join us for this free program!

Morven_woods_20131215What’s Up With Washington Weather? ― Thursday, January 30, 7:00 p.m., Morven Park.

Join us for a talk about weather. Author Kevin Ambrose will provide an explanation of changing local weather patterns.

The program will cover the past three centuries of local weather, including blizzards, cold waves, thunderstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and heat waves.

Kevin is the author of two books:
- Washington Weather
- The Knickerbocker Storm

Registration required: Sign Up Online; Questions: contact Jill Miller at