PWCAPrince William Conservation Alliance

Community Report, June 4 2020

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BluebirdBlack Birders Week
I'm always trying to get that message out to let people of color know that public land belongs to them and there's millions of acres of it, and it is yours to access as much as anyone else's. --Dudley Edmondson

The realities of being a black birdwatcher, CNN
Dudley Edmondson has long had to deal with people calling the police on him while out in nature.As a black birdwatcher and professional nature photographer, his presence with a camera can arouse suspicion among white people. 

BlackBirdersWeek Seeks To Make The Great Outdoors Open To All, NPR Podcast

Tiger SwallowtailIt's a Zoo Out There!
Thursday, June 11, 7:00pm, webinar
RSVP Required, click here to register and receive a link to join the meeting.

Join PWCA and Judy Gallagher, co-author of the Butterflies of the Mid-Atlantic, for a light-hearted tour of local critters that share their name with animals found at the zoo. Bring your stories and comments! 

Neabsco Creek WatershedPrince William Watersheds (If I Were a Raindrop...)
with Charlie Grymes, PWCA
Thursday, June 18, 7:00pm, webinar
RSVP Required, click here to register and receive a link to join the meeting.

Some raindrops that land in Prince William soak through the soil into groundwater aquifers. Most raindrops become stormwater that flows into our drinking water reservoirs and then to the Chesapeake Bay.

Development patterns dramatically affect how fast stormwater carves into our creeks and carries sediment and other pollution to Lake Manassas, the Occoquan Reservoir and the Potomac River.

Neabsco Creek, where there are significant impervious surfaces throughout the watershed, faces far greater challenges than the upstream portion of Cedar Run, which is largely undeveloped. But if we add impervious roofs and roads in the Rural Area, that stormwater headache and the threat to drinking water supplies will grow too. 

2020 Rain BarrelRain Barrel Raffle - Last Chance to Buy Tickets!

Please visit our raffle website to purchase tickets today. Join us Saturday, June 6, 11am on Facebook Live for the drawing and announcement of the winning ticket.

Award winning artist James Gallagher has outdone himself with a beautiful and functional work of art to brighten your personal landscape. 

You receive five tickets for every $20 donated. Proceeds benefit outdoor programs at Merrimac Farm, including the Bluebell Festival, Wildlife Garden, Annual Butterfly Count, and others.

Along Dumfries Road

Program Recap: Planning for the Future
On May 21, Bill Milne, Chair of the Planning Commission, was the key speaker for a presentation via Zoom on the 2040 Comprehensive Plan. The discussion was constructive, illuminating, and valuable for understanding how the future of the county will be defined.  

The first public hearing of the Planning Commission since the pandemic forced cancellation of public meetings will be June 17, 7pm. If you're looking for good background and perspective, check out his presentation, perhaps especially the interactions during the Q&A session. The meeting recording is online at PWCAs YouTube Channel here.

Program Recap: Urban Planning in the Time of Corona
On May 28, Tom Eitler from the Urban Land Institute assessed how residential and commercial development are being affected by COVID-19, and what could change in the future as a result.  Demand for office space may drop as telecommuting increases, but demand could increase as new office layouts spread workers further apart.  

Tom worked for years in Prince William County's Planning Office, before developing a world-wide base of experience. His Zoom talk and responses to questions were  peppered with references to specific places and experiences in Prince William. The meeting recording is online at PWCAs YouTube Channel here.

ButterfliesButterflies of the Mid-Atlantic

A new field guide by local naturalists Bob Blakney and Judy Gallagher! This book is a must-have for people interested in identifying and learning more about local butterflies. 

Color photos for each species show field marks and text provides additional information, including host plants, habitat preferences, and when you can expect to see each species. 

This book is now available on Amazon here. If you purchase through Amazon Smile and name PWCA as your charitable organization, we will receive a donation from Amazon.

Jim WaggenerOne Person Makes a Difference

When the Army closed the Harry Diamond Research Lab, located at the end of Dawson Beach Road, where the Occoquan River flows into the Potomac River, Jim Waggener already knew this approximate 640-acre site was a unique and valuable natural area.

Jim had been surveying birds since 1990 and learned the value of this site. “Of the 243 [bird] species that are documented for Prince William County, 214 have so far been found right here in one square mile," says Waggener

Conserving the Harry Diamond Research Lab as a National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) was by no means certain. There was talk of building a complex to store books for the National Archive. And, of course, there was talk of residential development.

Jim was on the job. As President of the Prince William Natural Resources Council, he led the successful community effort to protect this property as the Occoquan Bay NWR. He led public tours and talks, organized educational programs, wrote letters, and attended countless meetings. In 1997, Jim’s efforts resulted in the transfer of this land to the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

Thanks to Jim’s leadership and persistence, this land is now the Occoquan Bay NWR, an important spot of green in a densely developed area. It is a key part of Northern Virginia's network of natural areas along the Potomac River.

Now, more than 25 years later, Jim continues to lead surveys, which are valuable for many reasons. For butterflies, Jim leads the 2nd longest running survey in the U.S. His data shows the long term effects of land uses and climate change. All the surveys use a standardized protocol to document high quality habitats as well as changes to species diversity for birds, butterflies, dragonflies, and plants. 

Jim also helps groups design protocols for other new surveys. His education activities introduce residents to nature close to home and communicate the value of protecting high quality habitats. Jim’s enthusiasm and knowledge has inspired generations of naturalists of all ages.

Pakara sp.Blooming Now at Merrimac Farm WMA

We took a walk along the Pond Trail at Merrimac Farm last week and were delighted to see spring plants are popping up all over.  Pakara sp., featured in this photo, and Sundrops are in bloom along the side of the trail.

We also saw Fleabane, some had grasshopper numphs with faces full of pollen, and it looks like a good year for Ebony Speenwort. Along the way we spotted a Fowler's Toad and one green frog. We didn't see the Cricket frogs but they were having a wild party at the pond.  

In the Wildlife Garden, look for Coral Honeysuckle growing up the trellis and white Beardtongue is in full bloom.The Baptisia is budded up and ready to go. We spotted a turtle tucked into plants at the edge of the path. This is just a sample of the cool things to see at Merrimac Farm WMA. View photos from our walk on Facebook here.

SundropsThe Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge with Kelley Studholme

I love the Spring just before total leaf out, here in Prince William County. We are so fortunate to live in a place near the Occoquan River, Belmont Bay, Occoquan Bay and Potomac River; all of which are tidal, causing a constant ebb and flow of the water and wetland areas. Each day is new and different offering migrating birds and ducks and other water fowl, not to mention the many plants, reptiles, and animals.

Due to the quarantine, I have limited my time outdoors to only a few locations in the area to observe wildlife and get a little exercise. Lately, Occoquan Bay Wildlife Refuge (OBWR) has been my go to place to enjoy nature. My back yard also works but I don't get as much exercise there.

I am a very amateur birder/naturalist but my husband is a very good one with many years of experience of observing and reporting on nature, i.e. birds, water fowl, reptiles, bugs, mammals, wildflowers, and plant life especially trees. As such, we can turn a one hour walk at OBWR into a 3 hour walk quite easily.

On our last trip to OBWR with binoculars and spotting scope in hand, we had a wonderful time looking out into the bay and into the wetland areas. On this particular day the tide was out, the sky was partly cloudy, and the wind was gusty so much so that when we looked out at the bay the water was very stirred up and wavy.

Even so, at Deep Hole Point and at the main out flow we saw Pied Billed Grebes, Mergansers (Hooded, I think), Common Loons, Cormorants, Great Blue Heron, Eagles and Osprey. Then we retraced our steps back to the parking lot and along the way observed in the wetland areas some Spotted and Mud turtles, some Bull frogs and 2 Black Rat snakes, ( looking quite cozy on a tree limb) and an Eagle incubating eggs in a huge nest.

All of this wildlife was observed because we took our time and were at the refuge to see and enjoy the wildlife all around us. On other occasions there we have observed, Otter, Beaver, Muskrat, Deer, Fox, Coyote and tons of cool birds, butterflies, dragon flies, wildflowers etc.

I am truly thankful to the handful of people, headed by Jim Waggener (Kim Hosen included), who worked hard to make the case in the early 1990's to save a piece of property that the US Army was moving out of and instead of developing it to make it into a wildlife refuge. In the 1990's they saw the property as a grasslands oasis but now the property landscape has changed, but is still an oasis.

Yellow baptisia