Fun and Games

Rachel Carson said, “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder without any such gift from the fairies, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”

This year, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy is expanding its Youth and Family Programs by adding a host of field trips, nature walks, school programs, and speaker programs designed specifically for Loudoun’s K-12 citizens.  We know our young stewards are the future of conservation and people and wildlife living in harmony. Please check our programs calendar to sign up!

One of the main features to this new effort is the addition of the  “We’re Going Wild” Family Nature Walks, a series of discovery hikes in various natural habitats all over the county, and led by seasoned naturalists.  These walks are special because they are EDU-taining and designed to be hands-on, unstructured to allow for deeper exploration of findings, and FUN for FREE!

They are not just for the kids, but also for their families!  When families go wild together, a special process of shared learning takes place…where adults and children are students together as equals.  This is a significantly powerful paradigm shift that creates a richer learning environment for children learning alongside their adult role models!  This further fosters applying new knowledge together outside of our programs–in your own backyards and communities.

This group WENT WILD at Algonkian Regional Park on May 17, 2015.

This group WENT WILD at Algonkian Regional Park on May 17, 2015. Guide Ed Clark (far left) will see you again in June for the next “We’re Going Wild” Family Nature Walk at  the South Riding Blvd. pond…on Father’s Day, June 21st!

Our first “We’re Going Wild” walk took place Sunday, May 17th at Algonkian Regional Park on The Woodlands trail along the beautiful Potomac River. Local entomologist and naturalist, Ed Clark, led an enthusiastic and inquisitive group of families who seemed to have an EYE for wildlife!  Highlights of the many exciting finds on their 1.5 mile hike were a Broad-headed Skink, North American Millipedes, 6-spotted Tiger beetles, Blue-Black beetles, Skippers, and this season’s Eastern Tent Caterpillars and their tented silk nests. Additionally, hikers studied the difference between a beetle and a true bug, as well as between dragonflies and damselflies.

Broad-headed Skink

Broad-headed Skink

Plant ID included Poison Hemlock, Poison Ivy, Bush Honeysuckle/ Barberry Bush/Autumn Olive (providing the platform for a talk about non-native plants), Multi Floral Rose, Pawpaw trees (host plant for Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly), Wingstem (native aster blooming yellow later in summer), Deer Tongue plant, Morning Glory and Bindweed, Virginia Creeper, Common Milkweed (host plant for Monarch Butterflies), and Sycamore trees.

Our families also found the handiwork of wood-peckers on trees, identified as work of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker based on the pecking patterns in the tree bark, and they enjoyed learning the distinct songs of the Cedar Waxwing, Warbling Vireo, and Gray Catbird.

What an exciting day spent outdoors on the trail together!

Please join us for next month’s walk:

“We’re Going Wild” Family Nature Walk Series ― Sunday, June 21, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m., South Riding Blvd. Pond, South Riding. Join Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and local naturalist and USDA entomologist Ed Clark to explore the natural world through the wonder-filled eyes of children! This series of family nature walks invites families to explore the wide world of nature together, led by an expert in nature and fun! This month’s walk will explore a community pond habitat during pollinator week and ON Father’s Day! Space is limited to 12 children, ages 7+, with accompanying adult. Note: Not designed for Scout groups; no strollers or pets. Registration required: Sign Up Online.




Monarchs are flying through Loudoun! They are laying eggs and caterpillars are growing! If you plant milkweed and native nectar plants in your garden you may attract them. You can just enjoy them but it’s also really fun to raise and release them through the summer too! Check out this video on how you can raise Monarchs and experience the magic!

Note: The key to success is having enough milkweed for caterpillars to eat (they eat a lot) – 10 healthy plants is a great number

More information is on our website:

A big Thank You to Charlie Snyder and Susan Becilia for putting this video together!


Dr. Chip Taylor, Director of Monarch Watch, based in Kansas, sent over this note earlier in the week. In it he provides some great insights into understanding the Monarch migration and how it’s unfolding. Our latitude is 39N so our sightings are really important in reading the tea leaves:

The progression of monarchs northward has been slower than normal due to the cold weather*. (We had frost on the deck and on the car windows this morning – unprecedented!) A warming trend is projected to begin on Tues and that may save the season, especially if monarchs arrive in the northern breeding areas in good numbers before the end of the month.

If the arrivals are few or mostly delayed until the first 10 days of June, the chances that the population will increase this year will be greatly diminished.

I’ll be watching Journey North very closely for the next 22 days. I wish I could say there are a lot of monarchs waiting to move north but there is no way to tell what’s out there at this time.”

Monarchs need to arrive north of 40N in good numbers before the end of May for the population to have any chance of rebounding. To date (late on the 19th) only 17 (or so) monarchs have been sighted north of 40. Last year  – a year in which the population declined (for the third year in a row) – there were about twice the number sighted north of 40 by this date.

If you go back through the records of first sightings as of the 23 of May for each year, you will see a sharp contrast between this year and years past.

There is hope as mentioned in the first paragraph but with each passing day with few sightings the prospects for a recovery become slimmer.

Watch the temps, the wind map and the first sightings reported to JN to get a sense of how monarchs will do in your area in the coming months. If the majority of first sightings over the nest 3-4 weeks occur in June, we can expect another late migration.


Please report your Monarch sightings to Journey North — your data is so important!  Here is the link:



Please report your Monarch sightings to us ( and post it to Journey North ( — they’ll show up on a map — the data is so important, especially this year! 

Plus, when we report our data we can see the migration play out before us – it’s happen right now you know!


If not, it’s time!!  Here’s snapshot of the sightings that people have posted on Journey North – visit their site to see the details and to submit your own sightings. They’re just south of us and could arrive any day!

Ruby-throated Hummingbird Migration Map, Spring 2014 - Internet Explorer_2014-04-09_06-30-40

Need a refresher on the sugar water mixture?  It’s very easy:

- 1 cup water (boiled or hot enough to dissolve the sugar)
- 1/4 cup white granulated sugar (just use plain white granulated sugar, don’t get fancy – other sugars and honey are not a good choice since they can cause bacteria to grow and the “nectar” that you buy with red dye isn’t necessarily good for them – and the red dye is not necessary)




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:

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:



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:
or contact Shawna DeWitt,, 571-271-2136.


When I first moved to Loudoun and had a place of our own, the first thing I did (even before the house was finished being built) was to put up a bird feeder.  I then discovered Cornell’s Project Feederwatch and was hooked on birds…and plants that the birds liked and the shelter that the birds needed and, well, you see what happened….

Anyway, Cornell just sent out their annual fall reminder that Project Feederwatch is starting up again for the season so I wanted to share the info here so you too can get hooked on the fun! It’s a wonderful way to help with bird conservation – data is king!

Take a Fresh Look at Nature with Project FeederWatch
More participants needed to track birds at their feeders

Ithaca, N.Y.—A fresh new season for the Project FeederWatch citizen-science project kicks off on November 9. Anyone with an interest in birds and nature is invited to be part of the action. FeederWatch also has a fresh new look for its 27th season, plus new web tools that make participation and exploration even easier and more fun.   Join the tens of thousands of people who keep tabs on the birds that come to their feeders from November through April. Participants submit their observations to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. These long-term data from across North America could not be gathered any other way. Observations help reveal important patterns in bird distribution and numbers that may be changing over time at a continental scale or in a participant’s own backyard.   New and returning participants are urged to sign up now at   “We have a new interactive tool called ‘Common Feeder Birds’ that allows people to learn about the food and feeder preferences of nearly 100 species, based on data collected by participants,” says FeederWatch project leader Emma Greig. “The tool can be used to predict what birds can be attracted to an area so you can offer foods strategically to attract desired species.”   Observations from a record number of participants last season helped scientists follow the changes in woodpecker and nuthatch populations in the Midwest where trees were infested with invasive emerald ash borer beetles.

“We need continued FeederWatch data on woodpecker and nuthatch populations throughout North America to better understand the long term consequences of this beetle invasion,” Greig says. “We also need renewed FeederWatcher effort to monitor the health of House Finches, which are susceptible to a disease that causes swelling around the eyes. Our participants will be asked to report whether they looked for the disease and whether they saw sick birds.”   To learn more about joining Project FeederWatch and to sign up, visit or call the Cornell Lab toll-free at (866) 989-2473. In return for the $15 fee ($12 for Cornell Lab members), participants receive the FeederWatcher Handbook and Instructions with tips on how to successfully attract birds to your feeders, an identification poster of the most common feeder birds, and a calendar. Participants also receive Winter Bird Highlights, an annual summary of FeederWatch findings, as well as the Cornell Lab’s quarterly newsletter, Living Bird News.

Project FeederWatch is a joint research and education project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada.



No? Well get busy! Go pull it out of the basement or garage, clean it off, and fill ‘er up with sugar water (1 part white sugar to 4 parts water).

I just hung mine out today after seeing the sightings report from Journey North. I’ll paste a copy of it in here.

Yes indeed –  Ruby-throated hummingbirds are flying through our area as we speak! So, we might as well start putting out the welcome sign!

When you see a hummingbird, visit the Journey North site and enter in your good news – it will show up as a dot on the map like the ones you see here.



Frogs are neat animals – they fill our evenings with great choruses, they eat lots of insects, and the are really fun to watch. 

But as you know, they are really having a tough time making it right now and they need our attention.

Save the Frogs Day is coming up on April 27th and this is a great day to focus in on our amphibian friends.

Here are a few ideas on things you can do to get to know our local amphibians a bit better and help them out:

- Visit one of our local parks and look for frogs.  Claude Moore Park has not only the big ponds but also a wonderful garden pond behind the visitor center where Green Frogs and tadpoles can be seen. Or, head over to the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship – there’s a great pond right at the start of the trail that has Green Frogs, Bullfrogs, Pickerel frogs and more. Other Great Places across Loudoun are also terrific for frog watching – let us know what you find!

- Sign up for our Frog Call Survey or adopt a site to survey.  You can pick a location or route close to home so it’s easy to do.

- Have a Happy Hour for the Frogs and toast to the frogs with whatever grog you have onhand

- Grab your shovels, mark off a spot of lawn (you weren’t having fun mowing it anyway) and make a little frog pond.  They’re easy to build and can be a really fun family project.  After digging and filling, resist the urge to stock it with fish or frog tadpoles from the nursery…just watch and wait.  The frogs and toads already in your yard will find it!



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