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!







Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy is delighted to hear that the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), has received a Virginia Green Travel Star Award for Most Innovative Green Project for a commitment to green tourism practices through its Pollinator Habitat Program at Virginia Welcome Centers.

In 2014, VDOT launched the Pollinator Habitat Program working with Loudoun Wildlife on four pilot plots in four Northern Virginia, planting milkweed and other native plants that will help species of beneficial insects such as bees and Monarch_20150823-98butterflies, including the Monarch.

Last year, Loudoun Wildlife volunteers and Dominion Power representatives worked with VDOT to restore a 15,000 square foot meadow restoration as well as smaller plantings at a center on I-95 north in Dale City. The Dale City Rest Area on I-95 south was one of the four sites planted in 2014.

VDOT has worked on three other sites in southwestern Virginia and is planning other projects as the program expands around the state. You can find out more about VDOT’s Pollinator Habitat Program here

You can start your own pollinator welcome center at home, at school, at your business and just about anywhere. Mark your calendar for the April 23 Loudoun Wildlife Native Plant sale at Morven Park and go to our website, for events and information about Monarch butterflies and other species.


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!




The NRDC sums up the issue quite well in their video and petition to Dow Chemical. Please sign and share: NRDC Petition to Dow Chemical


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 ( 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”, 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






Monarch_20140804-24Interested in learning how to raise and release Monarch butterflies from caterpillars found in your garden?

Join us this Saturday for this free workshop:

Saturday, August 9, 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Raising and releasing butterflies can be a great way to not only learn about the life cycle of Monarch butterflies but also see the direct relationship between plants and animals.

We’ll share tips for finding eggs and caterpillars and for raising and releasing Monarchs through the summer and fall.

Rearing cages, milkweed plants and the book “How to Raise Monarch Butterflies” will be available for purchase.

The workshop will be held in the Carriage Museum at Morven Park (17263 Southern Planter Lane, Leesburg). Registration required: Sign Up Online ( Questions: contact us at


The 11 people on this regular bird walk (every 4th Saturday of each month) at the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship spent most of their time in the forest with only a short walk along Butterfly Alley on the power line. The walk,  led by Joe Coleman and Elliott & Nancy Kirschbaum, followed Arnold Road to the Sweet Run Loop, to Butterfly Alley, and returning by the westernmost segment of the Sweet Run Loop. We also took two jogs, the Old Bridge Trail & Little Turtle Trail, down to Piney Run.

The highlights of this exciting walk included two American Kestrels along the power line a little east of where it crosses Arnold Rd, the same location as last month, and a Yellow-breasted Chat who flew in and perched near us while we tallying at the end of the walk next to the Monarch Butterfly Waystation.

The three Baltimore Orioles who flew in while we were tallying was also nice. In addition to 46 bird species, we found 14 different species of butterflies after the heavy clouds lifted, including one Monarch! The most common butterflies today were Clouded & Orange Sulphurs. The previous day, while checking out the ford on Sweet Run to see if it was easily passable, my wife & I also saw a Monarch along Butterfly Alley as well as several Great Spangled Fritillaries; today’s Monarch was nectaring among the thistle near the Center’s Monarch Waystation.

Don’t forget this Saturday’s Loudoun County Butterfly Count which stretches from Leesburg to the Blue Ridge Center, beginners and experienced butterflies are all welcome.  There will be two teams at the Blue Ridge Center, one of the count’s most productive locations. To register for the Butterfly Count event, go to Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy online.

Reported by Joe Coleman
Edited/Posted by Sarah Steadman

The complete list follows:

Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship – MFF01, Loudoun, US-VA
Jul 26, 2014 8:00 AM – 11:15 AM
Protocol: Traveling
2.5 mile(s)
46 species

  1. Turkey Vulture  5
  2. Red-shouldered Hawk  1
  3. Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  3
  4. Mourning Dove  10
  5. Red-bellied Woodpecker  5
  6. Downy Woodpecker  7
  7. American Kestrel  2
  8. Eastern Wood-Pewee  12
  9. Acadian Flycatcher  15
  10. Eastern Phoebe  1
  11. Great Crested Flycatcher  1
  12. White-eyed Vireo  2
  13. Yellow-throated Vireo  1
  14. Red-eyed Vireo  15
  15. Blue Jay  2
  16. American Crow  8
  17. Fish Crow  1
  18. Tree Swallow  3
  19. Barn Swallow  27
  20. Carolina Chickadee  4
  21. Tufted Titmouse  6
  22. White-breasted Nuthatch  4
  23. Carolina Wren  3
  24. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  4
  25. Eastern Bluebird  8
  26. Wood Thrush  5
  27. Gray Catbird  2
  28. Brown Thrasher  1
  29. Northern Mockingbird  1
  30. European Starling  1
  31. Cedar Waxwing  3
  32. Common Yellowthroat  3
  33. Yellow-breasted Chat  1
  34. Eastern Towhee  2
  35. Chipping Sparrow  4
  36. Field Sparrow  8
  37. Grasshopper Sparrow  3
  38. Song Sparrow  1
  39. Scarlet Tanager  3
  40. Northern Cardinal  5
  41. Indigo Bunting  9
  42. Common Grackle  1
  43. Baltimore Oriole  3
  44. House Finch  4
  45. American Goldfinch  9
  46. House Sparrow  6

View this checklist online at
This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (


The highlights of this morning’s regular monthly bird walk, sponsored by the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and the Friends of Banshee Reeks, were three (possibly four) Yellow-breasted Chats, three of which were well seen as they perched high in trees and chatted away; a Cooper’s Hawk carrying prey as it flew overhead; and two Eastern Towhees who perched high in shrubs and were singing away. Most interesting were the birds that have been common on previous July walks at Banshee Reeks that were absent, such as Red-shouldered Hawk, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Eastern Kingbird, Starlings, and Cedar Waxwings. Del Sargent, co-leader of the walk, maintains a spreadsheet of birds seen at Banshee Reeks by monthly walk date, and all of these have been seen on five or more of the previous seven July walks at the preserve.

Birding and Butterflies together: Another hightlight was that the meadows are full of Common Milkweed, especially the area between the pond & Goose Creek, and while we found only one Monarch butterfly we were hopeful that there were many caterpillars hidden among the milkweed plants.

See below for complete eBird list of the birds seen at Banshee Reeks.  Also, please see the online events calendar for the regular monthly free bird walk (every 2nd Sat) at the Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve, sponsored by the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and the Friends of Banshee Reeks.

The next event is for CHILDREN and their FAMILIES, and we want to especially INVITE you to sign up for this wonderful event.

Birding Experience for Children
Friday, July 18, 6:00 p.m. – dusk
Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship.
Come learn about our bluebird trail monitoring by helping us do a weekly survey of the nest boxes, then join some of Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s birders for an evening stroll looking and listening for the birds and other interesting critters that call the Blue Ridge Center their home. Appropriate for children ages 8 to 12 and their families; limited to 18 participants.
Registration required: Sign Up Online. Questions: Contact Phil Daley at 540-338-6528 or

Report by Joe Coleman
Edited & Posted by Sarah Steadman

Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve – MFF08, Loudoun, US-VA
Jul 12, 2014 8:00 AM – 10:20 AM
Protocol: Traveling
1.5 mile(s)
Total: 44 species

  1. Green Heron  3
  2. Black Vulture  1
  3. Turkey Vulture  6
  4. Cooper’s Hawk  1
  5. Red-tailed Hawk  1
  6. Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  1
  7. Mourning Dove  6
  8. Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1
  9. Red-bellied Woodpecker  3
  10. Downy Woodpecker  2
  11. Northern Flicker  1
  12. Pileated Woodpecker  1
  13. Eastern Wood-Pewee  15
  14. Acadian Flycatcher  3
  15. Great Crested Flycatcher  1
  16. White-eyed Vireo  2
  17. Red-eyed Vireo  3
  18. American Crow  3
  19. Tree Swallow  2
  20. Barn Swallow  2
  21. Carolina Chickadee  3
  22. Tufted Titmouse  2
  23. White-breasted Nuthatch  4
  24. Carolina Wren  1
  25. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1
  26. Eastern Bluebird  4
  27. Wood Thrush  9
  28. American Robin  25
  29. Gray Catbird  2
  30. Brown Thrasher  2
  31. Northern Mockingbird  3
  32. Ovenbird  2
  33. Common Yellowthroat  6
  34. Yellow-breasted Chat  3
  35. Eastern Towhee  2
  36. Chipping Sparrow  3
  37. Field Sparrow  13
  38. Song Sparrow  2
  39. Scarlet Tanager  2
  40. Northern Cardinal  6
  41. Indigo Bunting  6
  42. Brown-headed Cowbird  5
  43. House Finch  3
  44. American Goldfinch  15

View this checklist online at

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (


Art and Science Combine in Crowd-Sourced Dance and Plant Event

When: Saturday, June 21, 3:00 – 6:00
Where: Loudoun Soccer Park, 19798 Sycolin Rd, Leesburg, VA
Please sign up online:
Questions: contact Nicole Hamilton at


Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy is joining forces with Moving for Monarchs and Monarch Watch to create a unique opportunity for local participants to take action in a nation-wide effort to save the monarch butterflies.

In an event designed to build community and enable people to take significant steps toward preserving the magnificent monarch migration, attendees will each plant two or three plants in a Monarch Waystation. They will also take part in a Monarch Move event during which the crowd will experience firsthand how we are all connected in the “Dance of Life.”

Participants’ monarch memories and stories will be gathered by the Moving for Monarchs team, and from these the group will create a short movement dance phrase. Along with Monarch Moves gathered in Mexico this past March, this brief movement story will become part of a growing international, crowd-sourced choreography.

This Dance and Plant event will take place at Loudoun Soccer Park, 19798 Sycolin Rd, Leesburg, VA, on Saturday, June 21, 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. It is free and open to the public, but due to the nature of the event, space is limited and so pre-registration is recommended. Registration is online at  All ages are welcome, and no experience in gardening or dancing is necessary.

Milkweed plants (common and swamp milkweed) will be available for purchase, $3 per plant!

About Moving for Monarchs

“Moving for Monarchs” is a dance, film, and photography project designed to capture the public’s imagination while demonstrating that human beings and pollinators are intricately tied together in the “dance of life” and ultimately share the same fate.

The project has three goals: to raise awareness of the essential role of all pollinators in the “dance of life,” to highlight the plight of those pollinators, and to inspire grassroots action to restore habitats for monarchs and other pollinators by adding milkweeds and nectar plants to gardens.

Moving for Monarchs has conducted Monarch Move Events in Michoacan, Mexico, beginning the project where the monarchs begin their annual migration. Leesburg, VA, is the group’s first stop in the U.S. coinciding with National Pollinator Week. The team is tracing the migration, gathering the stories and Monarch Moves of people along the way who are working on behalf of the iconic butterfly.

“Moving for Monarchs: The Awakening”:


here’s a great video from Cornell that tells all about the hostile situation a Monarch caterpillar is born into on a milkweed leaf and the strategies it uses to overcome the milkweed plant’s defenses so it can gobble it up!


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