Entries tagged with “wetlands”.

The Native Plant Lecture Series at Rust Nature Sanctuary presents:

Wetland Habitat Flora and Fauna
By Bruce McGranahan

Tuesday, September 13, 2011 7pm lecture at Rust
Saturday, September 17, 2011 8:30am field trip

This course will explore what a wetland is, why these habitats are so prolific and productive, the critical role they play in supporting uniquely adapted plants and wildlife, and how they can be enjoyed through nature exploration or as a backyard water garden.

Discussion will include native wetland plants and typical bottomland dwelling trees, how to identify common wetland plants, and the insects, amphibians and mammals that frequent these areas. We will also discuss gardening with wetland plants, pond maintenance, and wetland conservation.

The Saturday morning field trip will be to Bruce McGranahan’s farm in Bluemont where we will explore a pond, wetland garden, marsh, wet meadow, floodplain, forested wetland and vernal pool.

Cost $20

To register email




We had our first amphibian class and field trip yesterday and we had lots of great encounters! 

We spent the day at the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship, which is great any time of year but especially fanstastic for amphibians this time of year.

First we had our indoor talk about the Amphibians (frogs, toads, salamanders and newts) of Loudoun and their habitats. We enjoyed looking at an adult male Jefferson Salamander, an adult gravid female Spotted Salamander, and 4 Red-spotted newts (at least one was a female).

Then we went out into the field and checked the vernal pools and permanent ponds for activity.

Wood frogs were calling along the mill race along the stream and Spring Peepers were in full chorus in the flooded field. We saw the Skunk cabbage in bloom and tiny buds on spicebush starting the show.

In the pools, there were a good number of wood frog egg masses although not quite as many as i past years. In one location though, there were over 100 egg masses, indicating that at least 800 wood frogs had been present!

We saw a couple of Spotted Salamander egg masses and a decent (although not high) number of Jefferson egg masses.  Don’t despair though…….I think the ladies are still needing to migrate to the pools or perhaps just arrived, because we saw a lot of spermatophore.  I think in an other week or so we’ll see lots of salamander egg masses.

The pools were all full, the flooded field was nicely flooded. So, that big rain we had last wednesday was a great start to the amphibian season.  I hope the pools stay wet through the next few months so the frog and salamander young can develop and get back to the woods.

The stream was pretty high and running fast. We managed to cross it just fine, but boots were a must.

Photos from the day are in our facebook gallery.

I had a great day! I hope everyone who came out enjoyed it too!


Here in the middle of February, whether it be a warm winter day or snow on the ground, the Skunk Cabbage is emerging as one of our first signs of Spring.

Skunk Cabbage is an interesting plant in that it can generate heat and maintain temperatures that are as much as 86 degrees higher than surrounding air temperatures. When the ground is covered in snow, the plant uses cellular respiration to melt it and thereby emerge.

To see the flower of the skunk cabbage, you need to peer inside the emerging vegetation. Inside, you’ll see the stubby pinkish ball covered in little yellow flowers, all warm and ready for stoneflies, bees and other flies to come by and pollinate it.

The stink of the plant discourages animals, like deer from eating it. Here’s another fun fact from Wikipedia:

Eastern Skunk Cabbage has contractile roots which contract after growing into the earth. This pulls the stem of the plant deeper into the mud, so that the plant in effect grows downward, not upward. Each year, the plant grows deeper into the earth, so that older plants are practically impossible to dig up. They reproduce by hard, pea-sized seeds which fall in the mud and are carried away by animals or by floods.

Skunk cabbage is a wetland plant. When you find it, also look for signs of frogs and salamanders that may use the wet habitat for early spring breeding.


Here’s a great video done by students at Loudoun Valley High School.  We can all make things better!



This past Sunday we had our first amphibian foray of the year and headed over to Algonkian Park to explore the amazing network of seasonal waters and swampland that is over there.

The good news about all that snow that we had this year is that the swamp area and the vernal pools that run through Algonkian were full! We compared photos from last year at some of the same points along the trail and the comparison was dramatic. A vernal pool last year that was no bigger than a bathtub spanned over 100′ this year. It was great to see the water levels back up and the ground properly saturated.

Along our walk, Mike Hayslett, our field trip leader and director of The Virginia Vernal Pools Program, talked about soils, seasonal wetland habitats, lifecycles of the amphibian life found in these habitats, and other cool nature facts.

We did a bit of netting to try to find evidence of Marbled Salamanders as well.  Marbled salamanders lay their eggs in the fall in the dry leaf litter. The female then waits and protects the eggs until the fall rain comes and fills the pools. The eggs then hatch and develop through the winter. At one of the pools we did find a Marbled salamander tadpole. It was not alive but we could still make out the markings to identify it. Salamander tadpoles are easier to find at night because they are nighttime predators….moving through the water column in search of tasty insects.

Other critters that showed up in our netting were various freshwater insects – isopods, coepods – as well as clams. It was really fun to explore these swampy waters and learn about the lifecycles of the animals that use them. 

As soon as we have our first “Big Night” rainfall of the spring, the swamp will be crazy with activity from Wood Frogs, peepers, and other salamanders. Looking forward to that rain, hopefully this week!

I posted a few photos from our walk on our Facebook page – feel free to check them out.


For those interested in Amphibians this will be an exciting week!  I was just checking the weather and there’s a chance of rain Wednesday through Friday and the temps are supposed to be around 50 degrees!!  PERFECT!!

We still have room in our Amphibians Afoot Class and Field Trip so if anyone is interested please sign up soon. If it rains those nights we’ll definitely be doing a night excursion and perhaps a road crossing assist.

So what’s the big deal about the first spring rains in March? Man, if the typed word could only show my excitement! I’m about to jump out of my seat on this and can barely catch all my typos!

The first warm rain in March is when Wood Frogs, Spring Peepers, toads, Jefferson Salamanders and others make their move! Imagine them in their forest homes, under logs, in burrows, nestled in the cushion of fallen leaves….the winter slumber is over and it’s time to breed!  They can’t leave their havens without some rain because their skin will dry out and they can’t move during a daytime rain because predators are out. So they wait……then it happens! Nighttime falls, the rains come and they migrate in force! 

They’ll migrate from as far away as 1/4 mile to get to the vernal pools and other wetlands where they were born in order to meet up with their fellow species to mate, stay a few days and then return to the forest. Wow – it gives me goosebumps just thinking about it! Here’s an interview I did with Mike Hayslett when he was here with us last year: Spring Wetlands Interview

This special spring rain sets the season off and is also why we get our amphibian monitoring program going this time of year.  We have these big events and the amphibians are most visible from March through about June/July. Oh it is just so much fun!

So, watch the weather and if you’re out at night when it’s raining, watch the road – what you may think are leaves blowing across the road may actually be frogs, toads and salamanders trying to cross!  Let us know what you encounter!

And please do check out the Amphibians Afoot Class mentioned above – there’s a small fee for this one to help cover some of our costs but it’s well worth it!


Please forward this far and wide to anyone and everyone you know in Virginia and ask them to act today!  Share it! forward it! Make this action alert go viral – it’s that important! Please Email your Virginia State Senator and ask them to vote No on HB515

For those in Loudoun: Please Email Senators Herring (district33@senate.virginia.gov) and Vogel (district27@senate.virginia.gov

For those in other parts of Virginia look up your Senators’ info here: http://conview.state.va.us/whosmy.nsf/main?openform 

Our Virginia Senate is about to vote on a bill that will cripple what little wetlands protection we have here in Virginia. This will have a seriously negative impact on our Virginia wildlife and the health of our environment.

Please take one minute to send an email – Please make your voice be heard!

There is going to be a vote on HB 515, Wetlands and Stream Mitigation. The bill summary as passed by the house is as follows:

Prohibits localities from regulating the location of wetlands and stream mitigation projects that are subject to a Virginia Water Protection Permit or a Corps of Engineer § 404 permit. However, a locality may continue to determine the allowed uses within its zoning classifications.

This bill would remove a locality’s ability to require, encourage or incentivize that wetlands or stream mitigation occur within the jurisdiction that is being impacted. In doing so, this bill would also eliminate a county’s ability to enforce a “no net loss” policy for wetlands. Loudoun County has had such a policy in place since 2001, and it is important to note that Loudoun’s policy DOES NOT conflict with State or Federal guidance/regulations on the mitigation of wetlands.

This is a push by wetland engineers to force landowners to either use their services or the wetland banks they have created and haven’t been able to sell. In fact some rural land is so cheap some developers will see this as a chance to push development in Loudoun County (and other areas) and mitigate in jurisdictions far away where the land is much cheaper. The negative impact on our wildlife will be dramatic, especially on the amphibians and invertebrates that depend on smaller wetlands.

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy is opposed to HB 515 because: 

1) Allowing a locality to regulate the location of mitigation protects a major community value, water quality, and provides for mitigation in such a way that both the watershed (broad) and local water quality impacts from development are reduced.

2) This bill would hamper a locality’s ability to meet water quality standards, such as reducing pollution in streams to meet Federal standards.

3) “No net loss” policies, such as the one Loudoun County has in place, do not conflict with higher level regulation (State and Federal). As long as this is the case, the Commonwealth should respect local authority to protect local priorities such as clean water.

4) Wetlands in locations like Loudoun County help minimize the pollution and sediment that reaches the Chesapeake Bay.

5) Wetlands, even small ones, are invaluable wildlife resources and important nurseries for a wide variety of animals. This is especially true for a number of amphibians and invertebrates that depend on smaller wetlands.

This legislation was proposed because some in the wetland mitigation business dislike county wetland policies or regulations, and they would prefer not to have to compete with other wetland banking operations. They also argue that limitations on mitigation unfairly increase the cost of development and mitigation activities.

Please contact our State Senators and ask them to oppose HB 515:
Jill Vogel at 804-698-7527 or district27@senate.virginia.gov
Mark Herring at 804-698-7533 or district33@senate.virginia.gov

Wetlands are paramount to healthy habitats and drinking water for humans and wildlife – and are critical to amphibian and other animal lifecycles. Wetlands are one of our most valuable habitats.


The pond near the Audubon Naturalist Society’s Rust Nature Sanctuary Manor House is not only excellent wildlife habitat that many of us love to visit, it is a favorite educational tool for the numerous environmental education classes that are held at the sanctuary.  It is a favorite of both adult visitors and children. 

Rust_pondUnfortunately it has sprung a leak which needs to be repaired.  Additionally, there are a lot of invasive alien plants around the pond as well as some other aggressive plants that need to be removed. 

On Friday, November 6, from 9 am to about lunch, the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy will help Bruce repair the leak and begin working on removing the invasive and aggressive plants.  On Saturday, November 7, from 9 am to about lunch, we will concentrate on removing, or at least, reducing, the aggressive plants and invasive alien plants.

If you are interested in helping please contact Bruce McGranahan at bruce@audubonnaturalist.org or 703-669-2561.

A group of volunteers renovated the Audubon Naturalist Society’s Rust Nature Sanctuary pollinator garden to include only native plants and shrubs.  Now they would like to enhance the pollinator garden by adding more host and nectar plants to an area behind the present garden.  To do this they must first remove the non-native invasive wisteria which covers this area.  Once that is completed they will plant pawpaw, sassafras, and spicebush as host trees and possibly a couple of other trees as well.  They also plan to plant additional flowers as nectar sources as well as some native grasses.

The Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy plans to help Ann with this project on Saturday, November 7 from 9 am to noon.   If you are interested please contact Ann at ahgarvey@aol.com or 540-882-4405.


On August 8th, four of us worked on the shrubs and trees that were planted along the tributary that flows into the Catoctin on the western edge of the Phillips Farm.  We were pleased to find the trees and shrubs that were planted on April 22 thriving. 

To keep them healthy we first hand weeded around the plants and then put mesh guards around them to keep the deer, rabbits, and rodents from gnawing on the stems and eating the leaves.  We managed to complete about half the trees and shrubs there but need to go back and finish the reminder there as well as work on the trees and shrubs that are near the village. That’s where we could use your help!

On Wednesday, August 19th, from 9:00 to noon we will complete this project if enough volunteers can come on out and lend a hand. 

We’ll meet at the mill and put mesh guards around the plants which are experiencing some deer, rodent, and rabbit damage and remove some of the aggressive invasive alien plants in the planting area.  We also plan to so some hand weeding around the trees and shrubs so if you have some favorite weeding tools please bring them and work gloves along.  A mallet to hammer the mesh strakes in would also be useful.  One group will finish the work along the tributary while the others will work on the trees and shrubs closer to the village.

We’ll also water the new plants with our new pump if it doesn’t rain between now and then.

Please come out and help if you can and leave when you need to. If you are planning to come, please let Joe Coleman know: 540-554-2542 or jcoleman@loudounwildlife.org

Thanks for your help in making this restoration a success!


Please Take Action by Attending this Public Input Session: On Wednesday, July 29 at 7pm, Supervisor Kurtz, along with other members of the county, will hold a public meeting to hear the county’s plans to realign the Woods Road. This is a serious threat to the Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve. The location for the meeting is 215 Depot Court in Leesburg. Please come out to show your support for Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve!

banshee_july_25_09Loudoun County claims that the landfill’s expansion requires that The Woods Road be shifted from its current location into the preserve itself. If this occurs it could seriously harm the preserve’s natural values and destroy a rare natural habitat.

First we need to ask if this relocation is necessary at all. The county claims it is necessary based on a special exception that was passed over 15 years ago.

Lots has changed since then and it is hard to believe that this still the case especially when one considers how valuable and special the Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve is.

1) Seriously degrade, if not destroy, a rare natural habitat, a Mountain/Piedmont Basic Seepage Swamp, of which there are only 12 examples known in Virginia.

banshee_rabbit_July_25_092) Seriously impair the integrity of the entire natural preserve which is a mix various different kinds of habitats including the large, intact upland forest that The Woods Road would bisect. It will disrupt wildlife habitat, destroy wetlands and other sensitive areas.

3) Create a paved road with a minimum speed limit of 35/mph right next to a natural area and result in excessive and unnecessary amounts of roadkill.

4) Destroy an historic road that has existed for over two centuries and linked the Carolina Road to Oatlands Plantation.

5) Possibly destroy other archaeological treasures along this historic road.

6) Violate an existing Virginia Outdoor Foundation conservation easement.

banshee_reeks_3_july_25_09At the March 2008 meeting on The Woods Road, in response to concerns raised by its citizens, the county indicated they would create a transparent process and involve various stakeholders in the development of their plans for The Woods Road. Inexcusably this has not happened. To our knowledge the public has not been involved in any of the deliberations that have occurred since March 2008. This is not a transparent process and is indicative of a county handling business as they always have and ignoring citizens and their concerns for the environment.

The Woods Road as it exists today is an historic dirt road steeped in both natural and cultural history that forces people who drive on it to slow down; to protect the treasure that is Banshee Reeks, it should stay the same.

Please attend this meeting! Let’s fill the room and show our support for Banshee Reeks! In addition, email your Supervisor bos@loudoun.gov and let them know how much you value Banshee Reeks and keeping it as it is!