Habitat Restoration

With the passing of Otto Gutenson last week, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and the region as a whole has lost a valued environmentalist and volunteer.

As noted in his obituary, Gutenson, 68, passed away September 20 of complications of Parkinson’s disease.

He was “a very dedicated conservationist and wildlife activist,” said Phil Daley, who worked closely with Gutenson since the inception of Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s stream monitoring program in 1996.

“As a long time advisor to Loudoun Wildlife’s Board and stream team, he will be sorely missed. I will miss his wit, knowledge and friendship,” Daley said.

Through Gutenson’s many contacts with federal, state and local officials “he kept our ‘stream team’ abreast of trends in monitoring and data collection requirements,” Daley said. “Otto was key in establishing Loudoun Watershed Watch as a widely recognized advocate for water quality within Loudoun County and the state.”

“He used his professional experience to inform his volunteer participation and inform those of us who didn’t have that background,” recalled Gem Bingol, Clarke and Loudoun County Land Use Officer with the Piedmont Environmental Council.

Daley and Bingol said Gutenson helped Loudoun Wildlife’s stream team adopt the more volunteer-friendly Virginia Modified Save Our Streams system of gathering insects and evaluating the health of Loudoun’s streams.

“He felt that it was important that the process be easy, yet reliable enough for anyone to do. He helped us see how our work fit into the bigger picture,” Bingol said.

But it wasn’t just Gutenson’s expertise that left a mark; his wit and personality shone through as well.

David Ward, who currently heads Loudoun Watershed Watch, and his wife, Carol, began their stream monitoring under Gutenson’s guidance.

“Occasionally joined by other volunteers, we cherished our time with Otto as he entertained us on a myriad of subjects,” Ward said.  “With pipe in hand, Otto never missed the opportunity to share his thoughts and political ramblings. His twinkly-eyed dry humor made collecting and identifying macroinvertebrates an enjoyable event.

“One monitoring event coincided with Otto’s birthday, so we presented him with an oversized magnifying glass and a ‘King of the Bugs’ baseball cap,” Ward said.

“We will miss Otto’s ‘streamside’ manner, uncanny wit – our mentor and our friend.”

Photo by David Ward

Photo by David Ward


Drivers, there is a way to help Monarchs and other butterflies and insects with your car. Well, okay, not exactly your car but with your license plate.

You can now purchase a lovely Pollinator Plate from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles for $25 and after the first 1,000 sold, $15 of the $25 fee is transferred to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and is used to support its Pollinator Habitat Program. If you don’t live in Virginia you can still buy a souvenir plate and contribute that way.

Sample Pollinator license plate

What is the Pollinator Habitat Program? One example of what VDOT is doing through the program is the planting last fall of more than 8,000 pollinator plants at the Dale City rest area off I-95  north to create a Monarch waystation.  Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy volunteers teamed up with VDOT, Dominion Power, the Native Plant Society and Valley Land for this project, which covered a 15,000-square foot meadow as well as two smaller plantings.

VDOT is working on other waystations elsewhere in the commonwealth of Virginia – and that’s what the revenue from these plates supports.

You can order the license plates and souvenir plates here and can even personalize them. The site also suggests you contact your tax advisor because part of the price might be tax deductible!







As we all know, it’s going to take a lot of work by all of us to restore the pollinator populations, including honey bees and Monarch butterflies, to healthy levels. Weather, pesticides, disease, habitat loss are contributing factors and we can’t control all of it but we need to do what we can.

The current administration has spoken out before about the need for federal government agencies to work together to help. Today, the administration released the Pollinator Partnership Action Plan (PPAP), which encourages and gives examples of possible partnerships as well as suggestions that you can follow on farms and in your yards and gardens.

Bruce Rodan, Assistant Director for Environmental Health for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said “As the President made clear, ultimate success can only be achieved through an all-hands-on-deck approach to create the necessary long-term change and fully internalize the value of these creatures to our well-being.” You can read his comments here.

The PPAP examples range from research projects with state governments to making land available to bee keepers and providing tax benefits to landowners who help apiaries. Another project teams a federal agency with the Xerces Society and private seed companies to test native milkweed for commercial production. Milkweed is, of course, essential to the lifecycle of the Monarch as it’s the only plant the butterfly lays its eggs on and that the caterpillars eat.

Locally, as you may know, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy has worked with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) on modifying mowing practices and teamed up with VDOT and Dominion Power to plant waystations at rest stops in the commonwealth.

Elswhere, the PPAP says, the Federal Highway Administration and six states in the Mid- and Southwest have informally designated the 1,500-mile I-35 as the Monarch Highway for migrating butterflies.

The report suggests – and we strongly support – planting more native pollinator plants and not using pesticides. Native plants support a greater variety of species in the local environment and are essential to their life cycle.

So take a few minutes to read the report, talk about the ideas, and do what you can. Make a difference.



Huge thanks to all the volunteers who planted 9000 native plants for Monarch butterflies! The planting occurred Sept. 29 at the Dale City rest area at mile marker 156 of I-95 heading north – and yes! Monarch butterflies heading south were seen and wished a safe journey.

Way to go, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, VDOT and VA Dominion Power for teaming up to keep the magic alive.

We are making a difference!







A huge thank you to VDOT and Dominion Power for jumping in to Bringing Back the Monarchs, Keeping the Magic Alive with us!  Having these two powerhouse organizations as part of the solution is a huge, positive step and we are grateful for their commitment and engagement!

In June we had our first projects with Dominion Power with plantings at the W&OD Trail. They have been busy in others areas of Virginia too planting waystations and spreading the word about the plight of the Monarch. Here’s one they did in Roanoake:

Then as fall rolled around, Loudoun Wildlife, Dominion and VDOT teamed up!

We had a great project on October 29th and are looking forward to wonderful partnerships ahead….Medians for Monarchs anyone? The milkweed and nectar plants are already there along stretches of roadways so this is a no-cost solution – we just need to shift the mowing schedule – could even save $$$ — other ideas are percolating too!

VDOT put together a great video from the planting event on October 29th  - you can see it here:

And their press report is here — please let VDOTand Dominion Power know how much you appreciate this effort!


More news here:



Here’s an excellent article (with photos) that has the how to’s: 


Great Spangled Fritillary on Bergamot

Great Spangled Fritillary on Bergamot


Head out to your garden now and collect some seeds from your favorite plants — and see what comes up :) !




Tawny_Emperor_Joe_pye-weed_20140730Native Plant Sale ― Sunday, September 14, 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., Morven Park.

Native plants are beautiful and grow better because they are adapted for our weather conditions and soils; they also provide greater benefit to our native wildlife because plants and animals evolved together.

Hill House Farm and Nursery, Watermark Woods and Nature-By-Design will be selling plants at this sale sponsored by the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy.

To see plants each nursery carries or to place orders ahead of time (all nursery stock is not present), visit their websites:

Hill House Farm and Nursery: http://hillhousenativeplants.com/

Watermark Woods: http://www.watermarkwoods.com/

Nature-By-Design: http://nature-by-design.com/

More details about the food, fun and plants are here: http://www.loudounwildlife.org/Event_Native_Plant_Sale_Fall.html

You’ll find the plant sale happening at Morven Park in the big parking lot on Southern Planter Lane. The address is 17263 Southern Planter Lane, Leesburg.

See you there!


With so many people involved in Loudoun County’s Monarch efforts, it’s a delight to shine a spotlight on some of them, so we thought it would be purposeful to share a few exciting and diverse efforts coming out of Loudoun county.

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy joined in the extraordinary citizen science and conservation effort for the Monarch butterfly in 2013 by launching the “Bringing Back the Monarch, Keeping the Magic Alive” program consisting of several important goals.  A local information campaign is key to this effort, including public talks, workshops, and hands-on opportunities to learn about raising and releasing Monarchs and restoring and protecting the dwindling habitat along their migratory path between Mexico and Canada.

The campaign has been enthusiastically embraced county-wide and has inspired eagerness among all age groups, resulting in a deeply committed effort across so many levels of involvement.  Dozens of Loudoun’s public and private schools have taught their students by planting and registering Monarch Waystations, and countless residents now know of and understand the importance of Milkweed, the Monarch’s only host plant.

In my own close-knit community, South Riding, it is not so rare to see a neighbor of mine now carefully turning over milkweed leaves in the yard. Such selfless volunteers are looking for Monarch eggs or caterpillars.  They have joined in the effort because the Monarch is a creature we can save just by KNOWING more and adjusting our compass to align with their needs as they journey North and South, crisscrossing Loudoun County in that tell-tale glide as they seek out a nectar source or a tender milkweed plant just right for egg-laying. We are making a difference in that magical journey here in Loudoun County, one garden plot or Monarch talk at a time.

"Tres Amigos" 4th generation caterpillars in Loudoun, so to be adults Monarchs headed to Mexico. Photo Credit: Sarah Steadman

“Tres Amigos” 4th generation caterpillars in Loudoun, soon to be adult Monarchs headed to Mexico.
Photo Credit: Sarah Steadman

From all corners of Loudoun, we are hearing reports of Monarch caterpillar and butterfly sightings (please report your sightings to Journey North), we receive inquiries about how to rear the caterpillars, and we answer requests for native plant and milkweed plant needs with plant sales to foster the development of habitats across our area.  Waystations bursting with these native beauties and with the Monarch’s milkweed are now popping up on apartment balconies, in school courtyards, in park meadows, and in front yard planter beds.  These Waystations are diligently registered with Monarch Watch, too.  And why is that, really…why REGISTER your garden?  Well, among the many incentivizing reasons, my favorite is that a SIGN goes up to communicate the good news of the important work that space is now up to. That sign is powerful because people walking past stop to read it, then they ask questions or visit the website whimsically scripted at the bottom (MonarchWatch.org). Really, a sign like that on a garden means something special is going on, and people want to know more.  That’s the golden ticket! It’s the Salesman’s “grab” convincing you that there is something new to learn today. Remember those neighbors of mine I mentioned…those curious souls staring carefully into the milkweed?  They saw our sign, and then they asked what it was all about.  Sometimes, it’s just that easy. In other ways, the efforts are more gregarious and elbow-greased.

Ed Felker's Waystation proves successful in its first season. Photo Credit: Ed Felker

Ed Felker’s Waystation proves successful in its first season.
Photo Credit: Ed Felker

To start with, our dedicated president, Nicole Hamilton, along with another very active Loudoun Monarch advocate, Caroline Kuhfahl, has been writing letters and hosting meetings with local wineries (like 868 Vineyard and Sunset Hills) to foster event planning initiatives that call attention to the wonderful butterfly habitat opportunities available on the grounds of these vineyards. There are several events in the works, and some already successfully held, so keep your eyes on the events calendar to catch the next “WINGS & WINE” event (to be posted).

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy works with public libraries, parks, and community centers all over Loudoun County to host Monarch talks aimed at informing our local communities of the plight of the Monarch and to invite citizens to be awed by the Monarch’s unique story.  In addition, a series of “Raising and Releasing Monarchs” workshops have been very popular and have equipped a growing crowd of citizen scientist volunteers with the knowledge, the tools, and the support to collect eggs and caterpillars from the wild that are then reared in captivity to be released as adult butterflies.  This is a fascinating and joyful journey for all involved.  One such Loudouner, Ed Felker, wrote about his first-time experience raising and releasing Monarchs this summer in a stunningly poetic photo-essay.  If you have not read it yet, here is the link; trust me, you’ll feel as though you are watching it all unfold before your own eyes.

A stunning capture of this last life cycle stage. Photo Credit: Ed Felker

A stunning capture of this last life-cycle stage.
Photo Credit: Ed Felker

Loudoun citizens are showing their commitment to habitat restoration, too.  Aside from the countless private Waystations, Monarch Waystations are now registered at public spaces including Ashburn Farms, Brambleton, Loudoun Soccer Park (where Chip Taylor of Monarch Watch himself planted milkweed), and at over 30 Loudoun County Public Schools. This is an extraordinary response! In an effort to learn just how many Monarch releases are occurring in Loudoun County, Loudoun Wildlife has created an online form where citizens can report their release data.  The total count and information will be displayed on Loudoun Wildlife’s website–that portion is still in development to be deployed in the coming days. Click HERE to enter YOUR releases!

The greatest hope of all of these sorts of activities is to spread a little wonder with the education we are sharing.  Wonder leads to that special kind of curiosity that motivates one to seek information. More than a year ago, that marvelous wonder sparked something in a now 9-year old Loudoun student, Carter Steadman.  Carter has been chasing down every bit of current Monarch information available, and he’s been chasing Monarchs through milkweed patches, collecting over 200 eggs and caterpillars this season alone.  It’s a daily exercise in observation and careful caterpillar headcounts as he rears his Monarchs to adults that flit off with whimsy while he watches with that stunning wonder in his smile. He is determined to save this creature, and he takes every opportunity to tell anyone willing to listen, earning him the nickname, “The Monarch Kid.”


Child-like wonder is all over Carter Steadman's face as he admires the Monarch caterpillar. Photo Credit: Sarah Steadman

Child-like wonder is all over Carter Steadman’s face as he admires the Monarch caterpillar.
Photo Credit: Sarah Steadman

Brotherly love. Photo Credit:Sarah Steadman

Brotherly love.
Photo Credit:Sarah Steadman

This summer, Carter’s level of passion, along with his natural at-ease disposition, have been at play for Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and the Monarch.  He has presented with Nicole Hamilton to children and families at local libraries and community centers, and he has created and planted four registered Monarch Waystations, including a very large and already successful garden at his school, Hutchison Farm Elementary School in South Riding. Planting events at his school were held at the end of May to put the plants in place for summer, and Carter tended to the school’s garden twice a week all summer making sure it was weeded, watered, and ready for Monarchs should they arrive.  Well, in his own words, “THEY CAME, I FOUND A MONARCH!”  The first Monarch caterpillar was found in mid July, and since then Carter has found eggs, caterpillars, and butterflies in the garden.  He proudly reared the first caterpillar at home and released it back into the school’s garden as a healthy adult male named “Husky” in honor of the school’s mascot. Carter’s enthusiasm for sharing the magic of the Monarch with the students led the school to rename the hallway leading to the garden “Monarch Hallway,” which Carter thought was pretty cool because it means “…everyone will say ‘MONARCH’ every day, and that means people will be wondering about Monarchs.”  We think he’s on to something there.

The Monarch Waystation Carter planted at his school, Hutchison Farm Elementary School, is active with Monarchs just 2 months after planting. The students who helped plant this garden are learning hands-on that they are "never too young to make a difference." Photo Credit: Sarah Steadman

The Monarch Waystation Carter planted at his school, Hutchison Farm Elementary School, is active with Monarchs just 2 months after planting. The students who helped plant this garden are learning hands-on that they are “never too young to make a difference.”
Photo Credit: Sarah Steadman

Perhaps the most special part of Carter’s efforts is that he truly has a tireless passion for the recovery of the Monarch migration…he believes recovery will happen. This is not a “maybe” or “if” scenario for him, perhaps because he is only 9 and at this young age possibilities are limitless, or perhaps because part of the answer to the problem is so simple:  tell people.  Share what you know.  When people know better, they often do better.  And so, Carter tells people…and some people with rather large audiences have started listening. Louder voices, like local and national newspapers and TV news, are helping Carter share the magic of the Monarch.  This summer, Carter was filmed for “The Meadow Project” http://themeadowproject.com, an independent educational “documentary focused on showing how and why native plants are critical to the survival and vitality of local ecosystems.” Nicole & Carter were also interviewed for a news spot related to the recent pollinator task force appointed by the White House. The piece aired in California where a portion of the annual migration takes place. Such opportunities to share Loudoun’s efforts far and wide have an important role toward inspiring others to become involved, and ultimately impact the Monarch’s chance to bounce back. See the news video HERE.

"On your way Little Lady...enjoy your journey," says Carter, releasing a healthy female. Photo Credit: Sarah Steadman

“On your way Little Lady…enjoy your journey,” says Carter, releasing a healthy female.
Photo Credit: Sarah Steadman

Follow Carter on Facebook, join in any of Loudoun Wildlife’s free events, and participate from the comfort of your home by simply sharing this post with your own networks in a sort of information migration effort.

carter mon on head






milkweed-plants-sale_20140719-2If you love Monarch butterflies then you must love milkweed. It is the only plant that the Monarchs lay their eggs on and the only plant that they eat as caterpillars.

The two favorites of the Monarch are (in this order) Common Milkweed and Swamp Milkweed — and we have both available for you to buy this weekend.

Saturday, August 9, 10:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monarchs are here and they’re laying eggs in gardens across Loudoun – even on plants that were just planted this past spring! If you need more milkweed plants (common milkweed or swamp milkweed) come to our plant sale and get what you need.

All plants are $3 each and are ready for planting and welcoming in the monarchs! We’ll have Monarch handouts and rearing cages available.

You’ll find us at Morven Park in the big parking lot on Southern Planter Lane. The address is 17263 Southern Planter Lane, Leesburg. Questions: Contact Nicole Hamilton at nhamilton@loudounwildlife.org.

These native milkweed plants are perennial – so plant them now and they’ll not only grow and thrive this year but also come back year after year to welcome the Monarchs to your garden.

All plants are $3 each.

Monarch_Joe_Pye_weed_20140802-11In addition to planting milkweed at home, look around — do you see an open sunny grassy spot?

Those spots are wastelands — but you can convert them to a rich healthy habitat by planting a native garden that will come back year after year.

If you go to a church or live in a community with shared open space/landscaping, chat with people you know about creating a Monarch waystation together. It can save maintenance money and look beautiful.

Here are two quick tip sheets to help with planning:

10′x10′ sample garden plot — a rough estimate of cost, number of plants and a grid to plan a 10′x10′ garden (http://www.loudounwildlife.org/PDF_Files/Sample-plot.pdf)

Top 15 native plants list — Milkweed plus native nectar plants make a waystation — easy and perennial! (http://www.loudounwildlife.org/PDF_Files/Monarchs_Plants_for_Waystations.pdf)



Habitat restoration project ideas are numerous, and these great ideas are actualized by passionate and dutiful volunteers.  This project is especially inspiring because it took place at a surprising location…at a bowling alley! Habitat restoration can happen anywhere!

In 2009 & 2010, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy partnered with the Piedmont Environmental Council & the Town of Leesburg to plant over 500 native trees, shrubs, and perennials along Town Branch, next to the bowling alley on Catoctin Circle. It was a successful  and purposeful collaboration between the Town of Leesburg and its volunteers citizens.

Fast forward to 2014…

In February of this year, Charlie Mumaw, Deputy Director of Leesburg’s Dept. of Public Works, reached out to Loudoun Wildlife to see if we would work with Public Works on taking care of some issues that had arisen at the same Town Branch site.

Upon investigating the site, we found that beavers had done a fair amount of damage to several trees (mostly Pin Oaks, but also a few River Birches) and some of the shrubs. Furthermore, many of the mesh protectors we’d put up around the trees to protect them from the deer had been loosened by flooding and deer.  These needed to be redone.

Additionally, while our consultant had strongly recommend that we poison the fescue to give the native plants a better chance to get established, we did not because of the site’s proximity to the stream and the highly exposed nature of the site. This meant one of our most difficult tasks would be to get the fescue away from the immediate area of the native plants, and we needed to mulch that area so that the fescue would hopefully be choked out.

Of course, we agreed to take on this task of giving a needed touch-up to the original habitat restoration efforts.

Last month, on April 21st, a dozen of volunteers gathered at the site and spent several hours making sure most of the trees and shrubs there will continue to survive and thrive.  We also gathered several bags of trash, some of which had been deposited by storms, the rest by casual bystanders.  The volunteers that day were also thanked by the Town of Leesburg with a free pass for the Ida Lee Rec Center.

Will & Nan McCarry, longtime Loudoun Wildlife volunteers.

Will & Nan McCarry, longtime Loudoun Wildlife volunteers.

Angie Rickard, Loudoun Wildlife's new Habitat Restoration Coordinator.

Angie Rickard, Loudoun Wildlife’s new Habitat Restoration Committee Chair.

However, more hours are needed to fully complete the restoration tasks at this site.
If you are interested in helping Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy finish this important task, please contact our new Habitat Restoration Committee Chair, Angie Rickard, or volunteer online.

Also, check out our other Habitat restoration efforts online and think about how you could join our efforts toward this important and rewarding work.

In closing, we leave you with this beautiful poem about being of use.  We greatly appreciate our volunteers!

“To Be Of Use”
by Marge Piercy

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.

They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil, 
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used. 
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real. 


Submitted by Joe Coleman
Edited by Sarah Steadman


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