Here’s another chance to help pollinators!

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and several local groups, including Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, have planned a Habitat Planting for the Park and Ride Lot near the intersection of Rts. 50 and 340 in Clarke County on Thursday, September 22.

There will be 2,500 native plants that need to be put in the ground, including milkweed and at least 15 other species, and we’d be thrilled to have your help for any or all of the time that day. The planting is scheduled to go from 10 a.m. to about 2:30 p.m.

Monarch butterfly

More native plants help more pollinators

Please wear sturdy shoes, bring a trowel if you have one, and pack a lunch if you can stay long. There will be water available and there are several convenience stores nearby.

For more information contact Steve Carroll at

RAIN DATE: The decision to go ahead or not will be made the day before. In case of cancellation the rain date is Tuesday, September 27, 10 a.m. to about 2:30 p.m.


Ten people showed up for Saturday morning’s Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy bird walk at the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship in the northwestern corner of Loudoun County. While there may have been fewer species of butterflies (17) than there were birds (33), there more a lot more butterfly individuals. During the very humid walk with temps rising from a low of 67 to a high of 82, we visited portions of the Sweet Run Loop and Butterfly Alley on the south side of the center where there was a wide variety of native wildflowers in bloom with lots of butterflies nectaring on them.

The well-seen bird highlights were two White-eyed Vireos, two fledgling Chipping Sparrows, a male American Goldfinch feeding a recently fledged goldfinch, and while not uncommon, a beautiful Great Crested Flycatcher that posed for us in the open. Another poser was a Northern Rough-winged Swallow on a line over the Visitor Center parking lot. We were especially pleased to see a dozen Monarchs as well as two Monarch caterpillars (one a late instar and the other an early instar) on Common Milkweed, which was plentiful in all the different meadows, as well as about the same number of Great Spangled Fritillaries, which were highly fond of the various thistle plants. We also saw two Cicada Killers, one of which was holding a large moth as it flew in front of us.

Butterflies seen included 2 Black Swallowtails, 75 Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, 10 Spicebush Swallowtails, 2 Clouded Sulphur, 2 Orange Sulphur, 12 Eastern Tailed-Blues, 12 Great Spangled Fritillaries, 3 Pearl Crescents, 1 Mourning Cloak, 4 Red-spotted Purple, 2 Hackberry Emperors (both of which were attracted to the salt on various participants),  1 Northern Pearly-eye, 12 Monarchs (& 2 cats), 1 Silver-spotted Skipper, 1 Least Skipper, and a dozen Dun Skippers (10 of which were on one thistle plant).

American Goldfinches

American Goldfinches feeding! Photo by Diane Nastase

For a complete list of the birds see the eBird list below.

Information on the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship can be found at  Information on the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and its many free activities can be found at

Joe Coleman

BRCES–Sawmill and Butterfly Alley, Loudoun, Virginia, US Aug 27, 2016 8:00 AM – 10:15 AM

Protocol: Traveling

1.7 mile(s)

Comments:     Regular monthly bird walk by Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy at the Blue Ridge Center; led by Joe Coleman & Del Sargent and assisted by Jane Yocom, Pidge Troha and others.

33 species (+1 other taxa)

Black Vulture  1

Turkey Vulture  2

Cooper’s Hawk  1

Red-tailed Hawk  1

Mourning Dove  2

Yellow-billed Cuckoo  2

Ruby-throated Hummingbird  3

Red-bellied Woodpecker  3

Downy Woodpecker  2

Eastern Wood-Pewee  2

Empidonax sp.  1

Great Crested Flycatcher  3

Eastern Kingbird  5

White-eyed Vireo  2

Red-eyed Vireo  2

Blue Jay  1

American Crow  2

Northern Rough-winged Swallow  2

Tree Swallow  3

Carolina Chickadee  2

Tufted Titmouse  1

White-breasted Nuthatch  1

Carolina Wren  2

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  3

Eastern Bluebird  6

American Robin  1

Gray Catbird  1

Brown Thrasher  3

Cedar Waxwing  15

Chipping Sparrow  2

Field Sparrow  2

Northern Cardinal  2

Indigo Bunting  3

American Goldfinch  18

View this checklist online at

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (


By Nicole Hamilton

As we headed into the 20th year of our butterfly count on August 6th, many of us wondered what our tally would be.  Springtime had been out of whack again.  Rains that we should have had in March and April came in May. It was warm then cool; the plants seem to be a little behind the clock too.  We wondered about those species of butterfly that overwintered as caterpillars or eggs – would they have food in time to develop or would we miss a brood this year?

American Lady butterfly

American Lady butterfly

Well, as we headed out on August 6th, the weather was great for butterflying so if they were there we would have found them.  Seven teams of over 60 people met up in their sectors at 9 a.m. and started spotting, counting and identifying butterflies. Across the teams, however, our team leads reported fairly slow going.

All in all, we recorded just 2,118 individual butterflies but on a day with similar weather conditions we typically would count 3,500-4,500. Our species count was just slightly down. We had encountered 41 species for the day compared an average of about 45. Some species, like the Red Spotted Purple were absent from the count altogether. Just 29 Monarchs were seen, compared to 51 last year. Sulphur numbers were significantly lower. There were other surprise misses too.  We invite you to take a look at our 20 years of butterfly count data here to look more closely and numbers that were on par versus down. It’s quite interesting.

As you look at it, think about the host plants that these different species need to survive. It’s all connected.


Ruby Throated Hummingbird May 4 2008 3The first hint of cooler weather touched Northern Virginia in the overnight hours, suggesting shorter days and the start of fall not too far away.

It brings with it, too, not just the start of school again but awareness of the continuing migration of creatures. Those that came north are heading south again. There are reports of warblers coming through – Black and White, Northern Parula and more.

The Ruby-throated Hummingbirds that give so many of us joy during the late spring and summer months are getting ready for their journey south too. The fewer hours of sunlight trigger hormonal changes that tell the birds it’s time to move.

You may be noticing the usual territorial buzzing getting even more frenetic as the hummers fuel up with nectar from feeders and flowers all day long. The hummers will head for Central America, crossing the Gulf of Mexico.

It’s said the males leave first. Have you noticed that? You can report your sightings at Journey North, where you’ll also be able to watch their progress on a map next year when they come back, some of them looking for the feeders you put out.



On an extremely hot morning eight birders came for the monthly birdwalk at Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve in Loudoun County. The walk, sponsored by Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and the Friends of Banshee Reeks, is held on the second Saturday of each month and is open to all.

Highlights of this walk included a young RED-SHOULDERED HAWK, so young that its call was mostly a squeak and a family group of RED-EYED VIREOS. The hawk perched at the parking lot to provide good views.

Cedar Waxwing

The elegant Cedar Waxwing.
Photo by Diane Nastase

A total of 40 species were recorded as follows:

Canada Goose
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Red-shouldered Hawk
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Wood-pewee
Acadian Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Kingbird
White-eyed Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
American Crow
Fish Crow
Barn Swallow
Carolina Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Common Yellowthroat
Eastern Towhee
Field Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Indigo Bunting
Orchard Oriole
House Finch
American Goldfinch

Dori Rhodes and Del Sargent


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!







It is August already so we are beginning to get ready for the fall Native Plant Sale on Saturday September 10, which will be here before you know it!

Once again we will have the gorgeous, pesticide-free plants from Nature By DesignHill House Farm & Nursery and Watermark Woods. You can visit the nurseries’ websites to see what they have in stock and, if you like, order in advance so you’ll know the plants will be there when you arrive.

Fun at the native plant sale

The plant sale is always fun!
Photo by S.A. Ferguson

In addition, we will again feature the very popular used books sale. If you have duplicate copies of nature books or ones you’d like to donate – preferably nature books with a local focus – please bring them by our office in the Carriage Museum at Morven Park (GPS location: 17171 Southern Planter Lane, Leesburg) on any Saturday this month between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. We will be closed Labor Day weekend.

The plant sale will again be at the main parking lot at Morven Park from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. You can read more about it here.



Thirteen birders came for the monthly, 4th Saturday, birdwalk at Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship in Loudoun County. It was hot, above 80 at 8 am, and humid. We did the Farmstead Loop, which kept us in the shade most of the time.

Birds were rather quiet and a total of 28 species were recorded as follows:

Indigo Bunting

Indigo Bunting.
Photo by Del Sargent

Green Heron.  Photo by Diane Nastase

Green Heron.
Photo by Diane Nastase

Green Heron
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
Easter Wood-pewee
Acadian Flycatcher
Great-crested Flycatcher
Red-eyed Vireo
American Crow
Fish Crow
Tree Swallow
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
Eastern Bluebird
Gray Catbird
Cedar Waxwing
Common Yellowthroat
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Indigo Bunting
American Goldfinch

Del Sargent


With the very hot weather upon us, this is a good time for some evening outdoor activity. Celebrating National Moth Week might just be the ticket!

National Moth Week takes place the last week of July each year – or has done since its inception five years ago. The Friends of the East Brunswick Environmental Commission (FEBEC) in New Jersey, which coordinates the event globally, encourages everyone to go out and see what moths you can identify and contribute the data as a citizen scientist.

Polyphemous moth

Polyphemous moth. Photo by Nicole Hamilton

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy will mark the week with a program this Friday evening, 7-10 p.m. at the Winmill Carriage Museum at Morven Park. Entomologist David Adamski has been studying moths for many years, part of it as a researcher with the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. He’ll not only talk about this species but take participants outside to see what moths show up when he turns on his blacklight! You can find out more about it and sign up for the free program here.

It’s estimated there are more than 150,000 species of moths, which means there are lots and lots of moths large and small and with beautiful patterns for you and your family to discover.

The National Moth Week website  has a lot of information, including book and field guide recommendations, resources for children and more.


Her name was Meredyth but everyone knew her as Merry, “just like in Christmas,” she told one person.

When she died last week from a rare blood disease, Merry Breed was park manager at Claude Moore Park in Sterling, part of the Loudoun County Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Services.

“Merry was always interested in nature. She loved going on hikes and walking on trails,” said Phil Daley, a past president of Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy. “She even talked me into going on a night hike without a flashlight!”

Daley said that while she was still a pre-school teacher at Sterling Community Center, Merry worked with him to set up natural history camps in the 1990s for the Piedmont Environmental Council. “She later went on to work as a naturalist at Claude Moore Park,” said Daley.

A longtime member of and volunteer with Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, Merry shared her knowledge and her love of and joy in nature with fellow supporters of the organization, as well as with park visitors and parishioners of her beloved St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Sterling.

Merry Breed, children planting waystation

Merry Breed and friends after planting a waystation.

Here, in appreciation, are some Loudoun Wildlife tributes to Merry Breed.

Nicole Hamilton, Executive Director

Merry was an amazing woman. Her love of nature and passion for sharing it was infectious.  I knew her best through our Monarch campaign.  She rallied the people at St. Matthew’s to convert lawn in front of their church into a Monarch waystation garden that became alive with pollinators and welcomed Monarchs.

She made Monarch lifecycle costumes and put on plays for her congregation and others to share the Monarch story.  She worked with her team at Claude Moore and with teachers at Sterling Elementary School to plant milkweed, raise Monarch caterpillars and inspire others to do the same. She and I often talked about Monarchs and how the magic of it all never gets old.

Merry was fearless, would speak for wildlife and habitats and the human connections.  She shared her knowledge so freely.

Last February we did our amphibian program kickoff with her at Claude Moore and we walked through the woods at night in order to hear and see frogs. Bats flew through the trees as we shuffled along the path; toads and frogs called from the pond.  She was in her element and I will always remember and cherish those moments together.

Merry was keeping the magic alive every day and we know she continues to smile with us with every wild encounter and every heart touched by nature.

Sarah Steadman, Youth and Family Programs Chair

Most people know that Merry’s nickname comes from her name Meredyth, but I always imagined it could be short for ‘merriment.’

In everything she did, in every class she led, in all the classroom walls, nature center features, and event tables she crafted, and always in her wide-eyes and in the enthusiasm of her voice — especially when engaging with children — Merry was joyful! She gifted so many with her mirthful light and teaching.

I first met Merry when our Monarch conservation paths crossed, but we really bonded over our shared passion for environmental education and youth.

Evermore, when I visit Claude Moore Visitor Center, especially the beautiful Monarch waystation she established there, I will tip my hat to this master educator, passionate conservationist, and loving grandmother.

Ann Garvey, Audubon At Home Coordinator

It was at the very first orientation for volunteers on the Plant NoVA Natives campaign that I meet Merry. That evening in 2014, Merry was tooling around with one leg on a scooter recovering from a recent leg surgery.

She said, ‘Hi I’m Merry, just like in Christmas, and I’d like to help on this campaign.’

And help she did working the Loudoun Wildlife Native Plant Sale at Morven Park, handing out Plant NoVA Native guides. Whenever there was an event at Claude Moore Park, there was a display of information on Plant NoVA Natives that Merry had arranged.

She lived what she preached about the importance of native plants for our animals by helping to establish monarch waystations at Claude Moore, her church and her home.

Like many people, I will miss Merry as will the plants and animals she cared so much for.

Katherine Daniels, President

I worked a long shift with Merry at one of our plant sales a couple of years ago. She and I were exhausted as the event finally ended. We were two of the few left to clean up.

I was limping with sore knees and feet. She told me about her rheumatoid arthritis and immunologic treatment. She had such a great attitude regarding how much the latter helped her. She stayed and helped until we were done. It inspired me to push, too.

She was a very kind person who really loved nature!



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