Archive for March, 2014

Read all about this wonderful wildlife walk event, co-lead by Beth Arsenault and Donna Quinn!
Check our Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy website for more events like this:

DISCOVERING THE WILDLIFE and HABITATS of WILLOWSFORD

Willowsford pic 1

On Saturday, March 22, 2014, a group of 23 participants set off in search of signs of spring around the Willowsford Farm Loop Trail. The day started chilly and overcast, but by 10 am the sun burned through the clouds and the day warmed up quickly. As we began our walk, a Tree Swallow swooped over our heads in declaration that spring is here even if the weather has been slow to catch on. Our spring ramble began by the vernal pool area of the trail and we were thrilled to locate a Wood Frog egg mass. Beth shared her passion for amphibians.  She also treated us to a lesson on the life cycle of Wood Frogs and why spring is such an important time of year for amphibians (and for the humans who study them).  Willowsford pic 2

willowsford pic 3

As we proceeded around the Farm Loop Trail we enjoyed the tentative peeps of Spring Peepers and the songs and calls of birds announcing themselves and claiming territories. We also examined tracks captured in the muddy trail, including the obvious travels of raccoon and turkey. Further along the trail we spotted an Anglewing butterfly, but it flew too quickly for us to fully identify it. Still, it was a welcome reminder that soon we will be walking the trail in search of butterflies and other summer sights.

willowsford pic 4

Many birds were also observed, including:

Canada Goose

Mallard

Black Vulture

Turkey Vulture

Bald Eagle*

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Mourning Dove

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Northern Flicker

Eastern Phoebe

American Crow

Tree Swallow

Carolina Chickadee

Tufted Titmouse

Carolina Wren

Eastern Bluebird

American Robin

Northern Mockingbird

European Starling

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Field Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Dark-eyed Junco

Northern Cardinal

Rusty Blackbird*

*While previewing the vernal pool area prior to the start of the walk, walk co-leaders Beth Arsenault and Donna Quinn spotted a group of Rusty Blackbirds and were treated to a low fly-over by a mature Bald Eagle. Unfortunately, these birds did not make an appearance for the group. 

Reported By Donna Quinn
Edited by Sarah Steadman

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JN-hummer-map-3-25-2014

The latest reports from Journey North show that Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are just south of us!

They usually arrive here in Loudoun around April 15th so now is a good time to dig out your feeder, stock up on white granulated sugar, and start watching the migration maps.

The dots represent sightings by people like you and me who clicked over to the Journey North site and submitted their sighting. This information makes it not only fun for us as we follow their migration but also provides really valuable data on these birds. 

Here is the map from yesterday: http://www.learner.org/jnorth/maps/humm_ruby_spring2014.html.

Contributing your sightings is really quick and easy to do. So, while we await the hummingbirds’ return, why not get familiar with the journey north site, set up your account, even download their app! Then when you see a hummingbird (or later on, a Monarch), you can enter it and be a part of this great data collection effort!

Visit the hummingbird portion of the Journey North site here: http://www.learner.org/jnorth/humm/

 

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As part of our partnership with Morven Park, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy has taken on the role of stewarding approximately 350 acres of wonderful natural habitat on the property and this includes restoring/creating some nature trails that are not only great for people to enjoy but also ensure that wildlife still have the habitat and quiet that they need to thrive there.

Morven_Wood_Thrush_Trail_20140322-5We are happy to share that this past weekend, working with the Leesburg Daybreak Rotary, the first trail was defined! Over 50 volunteers led by 10 adult mentors came out on Saturday morning and spent the whole day working the trail, and collecting and tagging historic artifacts.

This project started last spring as Wallace Judd, Abby Pfisterer, Jackie Wright, Martin Graves and Nicole Hamilton began laying out the trail route, discussing design elements, and identifying volunteers. We want to give a big thanks to Wallace Judd from the Rotary Club who led the organizing effort for the project and enlisting the volunteers for the work days and to Morven Park staff (Abby, Jackie, Martin) who helped define the trail and set guidelines for the trail that are consistent with other elements at Morven.

As with the other nature trails being developed/defined, this is a natural surface trail. It has been lined by downed tree limbs to provide route definition but as it is used the foot traffic will provide the definition and the logs will fade back into the landscape. The trail is just over 1 mile long and takes you through a lowland forest area.

Over the coming weeks, two trail head kiosks will be installed, and there will be an official trail opening on June 7th. You can visit the trail now however by walking over to Turkey Hill. You will see a yellow sign that says “Walking Trail” that will guide you into the woods from there.  Remember – dogs are welcome but must be leashed – Enjoy!

This trail was named the Wood Thrush Trail after this wonderful bird, the Wood Thrush, which nests in these woods. As spring returns you should be able to hear its wonderful flute-like song calling through the trees.

You can see more photos from the work day on our facebook page.

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What’s better than kids discovering nature?  Kids discovering nature through art!

Sign your kids (ages 5-8) up for a wonderful, nature-inspired art class offered by and held at the beautiful Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship! These sessions will fill up quickly, so spread the word to those local kids in your life, and get them a spot in these exciting classes.

Art Classes | Spring Session | Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship

Class: Seeing Nature | An Art Classes for Kids
Duration: 8 weeks (March 28 through May 16)
Day: Friday
Time: 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM
Ages: 5 – 8
Class size: 1-10 students
Location: Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship
Instructor: Maria Nicklin, illustrator and graphic designer, owner of Furyworks Productions
Fee: $65.00 per student for the 8-week session; $12.00 per student for one class/drop-in. Materials included.
Note: Kids are encouraged to bring an oversized shirt to wear to protect clothing.

10% of all proceeds generated from this class will be donated to BRCES

Description: Each week the students will look closely at something from nature (either the actual specimen or photographs); for example, a species of butterfly, birds, farm animals, woodland trees, or farm-raised plants, insects, or more! The kids will share their ideas about what they see and what they know about each subject.

Activity No. 1: Kids will make a drawing and notes of what they see in their journal each class. Students will decorate the front cover of their journal during the first class. Students who do not make it to the first class will be given a blank journal to use and decorate when they have time.

Activity No. 2: Kids will make or decorate something fun or practical that they can use again at home. The object from nature that they study at the beginning of the class will be integrated into the project. 8-WEEK SESSION (once per week)

Date Project, Natural Inspiration, and Art Medium
March 28 The Journal / Cherry Trees & Blossoms / Block Printing
April 4 Burlap Pencil Bag / Jonquils & Honey Bees / Sewing, Stenciling
April 11 Painted Herb Planter / Rosemary & Bluebirds / Painting, Planting
April  18 Craftsman’s Apron / Frogs & Bluebells / Design, Fabric Printing
April 25 Tiny Puppet Stage / Walnut Trees & Cardinals / Construction, Design, Painting
May 2 Puppet Characters / Rabbits & Carrots / Drawing, Painting, Cutouts
May 9 Placemat or Bag / Cows & Alfalfa / Printmaking, Sewing
May 16 Cookie Decorating / Sunflowers & Butterflies

For more information, or to sign up, visit their website link:  http://www.blueridgecenter.org/calendar?eventId=877811&EventViewMode=EventDetails
or contact Shawna DeWitt, Shawna_Dewitt@yahoo.com, 571-271-2136.

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Twelve enthusiastic participants came out this morning (March 22, 2014) for the regular Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy monthly bird walk at the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship.  Saturday’s walk was skillfully led by Bruce Johnson & Joe Coleman.

Highlights of the walk were signs of spring, with at least five different flocks of Canada Geese flying North in nice V-formations, a flock of Ring-billed Gulls high over the mountains, Eastern Phoebes and Field Sparrows singing in locations where they usually nest, two Fox Sparrows, and more sightings than one usually sees of Song Sparrows together and singing.

Early in the morning, Bruce, while waiting for the group to gather, enjoyed the view a flock of a 100 Tundra Swans fly right over his head; later during the walk we twice heard distant flocks of Tundra Swans but were unable to locate them. As the day warmed up, a number of Red-tailed Hawks were seen soaring overheard. The two very vocal Ravens, which were heard more than once, were also a nice addition to our walk.

Saturday’s walk took place on the southern portion of Blue Ridge Center, near the end of Sawmill Road and along Arnold Road–the area which is slated to become a future state park.

Information on the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship can be found at http://www.blueridgecenter.org.  Information on the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and its many free activities can be found at http://www.loudounwildlife.org.

Good birding,
Reported by Joe Coleman
Edited by Sarah Steadman

The complete eBird list follows:

Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship – MFF01,Loudoun, US-VA

  • Mar 22, 2014 7:30 AM – 11:15 AM
  • Protocol: Traveling
  • 2.0 mile(s)

37 species observed:

  • Canada Goose  200
  • Tundra Swan  100
  • Mallard  1
  • Great Blue Heron  1
  • Black Vulture  2
  • Turkey Vulture  15
  • Cooper’s Hawk  1
  • Bald Eagle  1
  • Red-shouldered Hawk  2
  • Red-tailed Hawk  4
  • Ring-billed Gull  3 (also observed a distant flock above the mountain moving North which went uncounted)
  • Mourning Dove  2
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker  5
  • Downy Woodpecker  2
  • Pileated Woodpecker  2
  • American Kestrel  1
  • Eastern Phoebe  3
  • American Crow  X
  • Fish Crow  1
  • Common Raven  2
  • Carolina Chickadee  4
  • Tufted Titmouse  4
  • White-breasted Nuthatch  1
  • Carolina Wren  1
  • Eastern Bluebird  8
  • American Robin  12
  • Northern Mockingbird  1
  • European Starling  6
  • Eastern Towhee  2
  • Field Sparrow  4
  • Fox Sparrow  2
  • Song Sparrow  22
  • White-throated Sparrow  6
  • Dark-eyed Junco  12
  • Northern Cardinal  8
  • Red-winged Blackbird  3
  • Brown-headed Cowbird  2

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Led by Mary Ann Good and Joe Coleman, 8 people visited the privately owned Dulles Greenway Wetlands Mitigation Project on a chilly, drizzly March 19, 2014 for a Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy bird walk. We found 32 species of birds and a multitude of animal tracks in the mud and lingering snow.

We were thrilled to find a family of beavers has moved in and dammed the spillway for the wetlands. While the dam has probably only raised the water level by 6-12 inches, the area around the wetlands is a flood plain, so the water has really spread out. The beavers have also done a nice job of radically pruning the black willows and Ash leaf maples, so it is a bit more difficult to approach the wetlands without the ducks becoming aware of you.

The highlights of the walk included the Bald Eagles on their nest, a flock (26) of turkeys crossing the road right before the walk, a Woodcock closely seen, and a Northern Harrier, who briefly checked out the area. While only a few people saw the turkeys and the Woodcock, most of the group saw one of the Bald Eagles bring prey in to the nest and leave with it shortly thereafter. The only significant difference from my scout of the wetlands the day before was the absence of a large flock of Widgeons and a single Hermit Thrush that were there previously. It was disappointing not to find a single Rusty Blackbird either day.

See below for complete eBird list of the birds seen on the walk.

While the Dulles Greenway Wetlands Mitigation Project is generally closed to the public, the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy has permission to occasionally lead walks there.  Please check out the schedule on the website (www.loudounwildlife.org) for upcoming bird walks there and elsewhere in the county, in addition to the many other free activities.

Also, Mary Ann Good, who manages the bluebird trail on the wetlands, was thrilled that one of Wednesday’s participants volunteered to help with the trail this summer.

Good birding,
Joe Coleman
(nearby  Bluemont, Loudoun Co)

eBird List

Dulles Greenway Wetlands Mitigation Project, Loudoun, US-VA

  • Mar 19, 2014 7:45 AM – 10:00 AM
  • Protocol: Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz
  • 1.0 mile

Comments:
Mary Ann Good and Joe Coleman led a walk for the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy on the privately owned Dulles Greenway Wetlands this morning. There was a chilly drizzle during much of the walk and not as many species as were expected; also, no Rusty Blackbirds.

32 species observed:

  • Canada Goose  X
  • Gadwall  15
  • Mallard  30
  • Canvasback  6
  • Ring-necked Duck  20
  • Bufflehead  22
  • Ruddy Duck  2
  • Wild Turkey  26

NOTE: The Wild Turkey flock was seen crossing the road in front of one of the participants and behind another. They were moving from the edge of the wetlands north toward Oatlands.

  • Northern Harrier  1
  • Bald Eagle  2
  • American Coot  6
  • American Woodcock  1
  • Belted Kingfisher  1
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
  • Downy Woodpecker  2
  • Northern Flicker  5
  • Eastern Phoebe  2
  • American Crow  X
  • Fish Crow  X
  • Carolina Chickadee  8
  • Tufted Titmouse  3
  • White-breasted Nuthatch  2
  • Carolina Wren  1
  • Eastern Bluebird  1
  • American Robin  2
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler  8
  • Song Sparrow  4
  • Swamp Sparrow  1
  • White-throated Sparrow  12
  • Dark-eyed Junco  6
  • Northern Cardinal  8
  • Red-winged Blackbird  20
  • Rusty Blackbird  0

View this checklist online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S17506357

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (http://ebird.org/VA)

Reported By Joe Coleman
Edited by Sarah Steadman

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LWC logoWarning:  This is not your average LWC blog post, but it is about Cross Pollination…of sorts!

Did you know that Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy is active on Facebook? 

Wait…don’t click that CLOSE button…I promise there is a good reason for this blog post!

We want need you to Follow LOUDOUN WILDLIFE CONSERVANCY on Facebook!

Since Facebook is one of society’s most rapidly growing marketing tools, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy is employing it to effectively and efficiently promote important information, events, accomplishments, and action items.  Beyond these central goals, Facebook posts afford LWC a modern and lightening-speed outreach highway.  Not only can LWC connect with other conservation-minded citizens, but it can also reach out to the wider public to promote involvement and education about countless, significant topics.

Our Facebook page currently has 1,392 Followers! 

Some of these Followers are already active members who want to see photos from and read the feedback about our field trips (like last weekend’s vernal pools events). They are local residents seeking details about the upcoming events being promoted, or who enjoy learning about native plants and their seasonal growth. Some of our Facebook Followers have their own photos of backyard birds or other wildlife visitors to share with their community. Some have wildlife or habitat concerns to share, insect populations to report, or plant identification questions.

Actively posting on Facebook affords Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy an influential voice that can be shared from a Follower to a family member, neighbor, or colleague.  This means our efforts are being communicated to others who are then learning about LWC and its important (and edutaining) efforts. This kind of instant sharing generates interest and action, and it encourages engagement with communities well beyond the boundaries of Loudoun County.  This means that LWC, its projects and events, and the exciting and purposeful work of conservation and wildlife research is being more broadly shared, and shared again, and again.  Thus, Facebook is enabling Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy to CROSS POLLINATE…information, ideas, research, conservation efforts, and so much more.

There are so many delicious bits of information out there that can’t usually be quickly shared on a static website platform.  So, LWC can’t always post and repost on the website about the latest in Monarch research, the recent multi-national interest regarding the migratory Monarch habitat restoration, or the bluebirds now arriving in their bluebird boxes…but we CAN post that to Facebook where it is instantly accessible from any smart phone or computer.

So, why do we need (not merely want) you to follow LWC on Facebook?

Simple math can illustrate:

  • If I am a Follower, I am getting all the LWC Facebook posts—daily.  This increases LWC’s visibility to me.
  • If I share a Loudoun Wildlife Facebook post on my Facebook page, and I have 10 Facebook friends…I have just increased our visibility by 10X.
  • If you and I both share a Loudoun Wildlife Facebook post, and we each have 10 friends…well, that is 20X the visibility.

The more visible we are, the more powerfully we can educate and impact.  It’s like having a superhero cape. So, even if you are not a huge Facebook fan, or you are only a casual user, consider “FOLLOWING” the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy page and sharing our posts.  You’ll be our superhero!

Next year, in 2015, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy celebrates its 20th anniversary; wouldn’t it be incredible if we could increase our number of Followers to 2,015…or more? Imagine that power!

Oh, and if you want to share this blog post, it’ll be cross posted pollinated on our Facebook page!  You’ll recognize us there by our familiar logo.

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beeLoudoun Wildlife Conservancy members and friends – come on out to the Loudoun Lyme Commission public meeting this Friday, March 21, 2014, from 1:45 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Loudoun County Government Center, 1 Harrison Street, SE in Leesburg. Information about the Loudoun Lyme Commission is posted at http://www.loudoun.gov/index.aspx?NID=1273. The County meeting calendar is posted at http://www.loudoun.gov/calendar.aspx

The Lyme Commission is placing new emphasis on inviting community input – and now is an important time for us to offer it! Although the Board of Supervisors has already voted to fund a spring 2014 program that includes tick spraying in five County parks, we have an opportunity to influence all the recommendations the Lyme Commission will make for July 2014 and beyond.

By attending the Lyme Commission meeting to listen and learn, you can help to show the level of public concern – and you can gather valuable information for future letter-writing, speaking, or conversations with neighbors and friends on the issue.  The Lyme Commission also provides an opportunity for two minutes of public comment by up to five different speakers.

Please contact Conservation Advocacy Chair Alysoun Mahoney at amahoney@loudounwildlife.org if you plan to attend the Lyme Commission meeting, or if you would like additional information about Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s work on the issue of Lyme disease mitigation.

In February, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy released a position paper, Rebalancing Loudoun County’s Approach to Lyme Disease Mitigation, with recommendations for a focus on measures that provide high levels of Lyme disease protection and are also safe from the risk of toxic chemicals.   Co-signatories were the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia, Loudoun Beekeepers Association, Piedmont Environmental Council Loudoun Board, Virginia Native Plant Society Piedmont Chapter, and Wild Ones Blue Ridge Chapter.  The full paper can be read and downloaded here.

 

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Soaking Rain Makes for a Tough Christmas Bird Count

by Joe Coleman, Compiler

In spite of heavy rain 85 birders came out for the Central Loudoun Christmas Bird Count on Sunday, December 29, and found 85 bird species. The rain, an inch and a half in some areas, started a little after 4 am and didn’t let up until early afternoon. Surprisingly, over two thirds of the registered participants showed up.

The highlights of the count include our first ever Vesper Sparrows, a count week Northern Saw-whet Owl, a Merlin, Red-breasted Mergansers, a Virginia Rail, and a Horned Grebe. And while the owl count was very low, one of the counters did get a great photo of a Barn Owl peering down at him from the top of a silo. Other highlights included 98 Gadwall and 184 Common Mergansers, many at the Beaverdam Reservoir, 158 Wild Turkeys in a variety of sectors, and a flock of 45 American Tree Sparrows at the privately-owned Dulles Greenway Wetlands. Because the Loudoun County Landfill is closed on Sundays Bob Abrams checked it out on Saturday and found three of our winter gulls, including a Greater Black-backed, which is uncommon for this count, as well as at least 5,000 Ring-billed Gulls and 120 Herring Gulls, both of which would have been high numbers for this count. And while most of the county’s Red-headed Woodpeckers had migrated out of the area because of this year’s non-existent acorn crop, three were found the day of the count.

All of the participants who lasted into the afternoon were thrilled with the many birds that came out when the rain quit. One group had a flock of Golden-crowned Kinglets busily feeding near the ground at their feet amongst a large mixed flock of different bird species while another team managed to call in a Barred Owl which was followed by streams of small birds mobbing it. And a flock of Turkey and Black Vultures holding their wings out so they could dry out at a country church was a hit for another team. The heavy rain did limit walking as many of the streams that are normally easy to step over were impassible and even some of the country roads closed in the afternoon because of flooding.

For many of us the afternoon light shining through the dark clouds was beautiful as it illuminated the countryside and the many birds that came out to feed after a morning of avoiding the rain. And after sunset about half of the counters showed up for the Tally Rally at Morven Park where we shared stories of the birds seen and missed.

Our thanks go out to the many participants on the count and the four people who organized and ran the Tally Rally at the end of the day.

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We sure are! And to get ready for it, we got in a shipment of the most awesome field guide: “A Field Guide to the animals of Vernal Pools,” by Leo Kenny and Mathew Burne.

field_guide_vernal_poolsFor those who have come out on our amphibian field trips, this is the field guide that I always have with me.  I actually keep one at home and one in my car or backpack so I’m never without it. Yes – it’s that excellent. What I love about it is that it has species that not only show up in vernal pools but also those that may be found in permanent pools and streams. For frogs and salamanders, it has photos and descriptions of the different life stages (egg masses, tadpoles, adults) which is so helpful.

This guide is produced through the Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife and the Vernal Pool Association. So, while the target species are those of New England, it turns out that we have the same species that they focus on here in Loudoun. So it’s a very useful guide for us.

As I said, we took the plunge and bought a number of them so we can make it more readily available to you.  If you’d like to get a copy, you can buy one (while supplies last) at our speaker programs and fair booth or through the store on our website.

Here’s the official description:
The Field Guide is a cooperative effort between the MA Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program and the Vernal Pool Association to produce a pictorial guide which will help students and others to easily identify the vertebrates and invertebrates which are commonly found in vernal pools in Massachusetts. The guide was reprinted June, 2009, with a few minor changes.
The guide contains photographs of all reptiles and amphibians of Massachusetts as well as accounts of the amphibians, reptiles, and invertebrates commonly encountered at New England vernal pools. Each account provides a description of the organism and information about its natural history in relation to vernal pools.

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