Sign up for the Fall Class

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Applications are being accepted for the 2017 training program. Classes are led by experts and meet two Saturdays a month from September 2017 through April 2018.  Each class will cover one or two topics such as local plants, mammals, birds, trees, fish, mammals, soils, weather and more, and typically include field exercises to further explore the subject discussed in the classroom.

The classes are held at Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve, at 21085 The Woods Road in Leesburg. The is open to those older 18 years old. See the course schedule. For more information, call 703-669-0889.

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Summer 2017 Newsletter published

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You can find the latest newsletter here.

 


Also, don’t forget these important upcoming dates:

August 5th – (Vol) LWC Butterfly count
August 5th (CE) – Bat Program
August 13th – VMN Banshee Reeks picnic
August 15h – Application deadline for new class
Sept 9th – (Vol) Native plant sale
Sept 15-17 – (Lots o’ CE) State VMN Conference

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Enter the VMN Photo Contest by Friday, July 21, 2017 Last Chance!

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We’ve extended the deadline for photo submission to the 2017 Statewide VMN Photo Contest, to this Friday, July 21! We’re looking for interesting and creative pictures to represent the Banshee Reeks Chapter in the upcoming contest at the VMN Statewide Conference.

Chapters may submit one photo each to three separate categories:

  • Virginia flora, fauna and other species
  • Virginia landscapes and habitats
  • Virginia Master Naturalists in Action

If you think you have what it takes to represent the Banshee Reeks Chapter, please submit your digital photos to vmnbansheereeks@gmail.com and include the following:

  • Date of photo
  • Species in the photo, if applicable
  • Location of photo taken

The VMN Board will choose one photo for each category, and those photos will go on to represent Banshee Reeks Chapter in the contest.

Due Date Extended to Friday, July 21!  Submit your photos Today!

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Journey Through Hallowed Ground Native Plant Trail Dedication Ceremony at Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve

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Date: Saturday, April 15, 2017

Time: 11 am

Join community members and volunteers to celebrate the dedication of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Living Legacy Project native tree planting at Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve in Leesburg, VA. The Living Legacy Project commemorates the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. Dedication will feature comments from local dignitaries, patriotic music, and time to tour the Living Legacy planting.

Ninety-five trees were planted at Banshee Reeks, through a partnership with Loudoun County and the Virginia Master Naturalist Program. All trees are native species and include white oak, sassafras, black gum, and Virginia’s state tree – flowering dogwood.

Through this program, one tree will be planted for each of the 620,000 soldiers who died during one of the most defining moments in American history. Upon completion, the Project will create the first 180-mile landscaped allée in the world, and the only one dedicated to memorializing the American Civil War.

For more information about the preserve, visit http://www.bansheereeksnp.org/.

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Continuing Education

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Exactly what events qualify for CE credit has been a source of confusion, and sometimes controversy, since the VMN Program’s earliest days.  I recently corresponded with the State Office and asked for some guidance on their current understanding.  They started by citing the entry on page 16 of the Volunteer Handbook and Policy Guidelines, which is available on the VMN website (http://www.virginiamasternaturalist.org) under “Documents and Resources”.

Does the continuing education opportunity:

  1. Promote continued learning and development of naturalist skills?
  2. Provide Master Naturalists with knowledge and skills to work in volunteer efforts?
  3. Provide Master Naturalists an opportunity to focus their interests in one or a few specific topics?
  4. Build on the core curriculum initially provided by the local chapter?
  5. Provide information on natural resources and resource management or naturalist skills applicable to Virginia?

 

Under these guidelines they note that an event does not need to be of a specifically educational nature to be providing a Master Naturalist with new knowledge and/or skills.   Of greater importance is the presence of a leader who can share from his or her own knowledge and experience.  With this in mind they now say that events such as general Nature walks or bird walks could present CE opportunities, a change from earlier interpretations.  They added that, while the decision to accept or reject a given event for credit lies with the individual chapter, many of the chapters are now accepting things like bird walks for CE credit.  For us this opens LWC’s Birding Banshee, Birding the BRCES and the like for consideration as CE.

On the Chapter website (http://www.vmnbansheereeks.org/) under the “Member Resources” dropdown at the top is a “Calendar” option.  On the calendar you will see various entries starting with either “(CE)” or “(Vol)” indicating that they are opportunities for CE or Volunteer hours.  We will try to keep the calendar updated with new opportunities as soon as we learn of them.  You can help by letting Chapter leadership know about new opportunities that you learn of.  An email to vmnbansheereeks@gmail.com is probably the best way to present something for evaluation and, if acceptable, posting on the calendar for all to see.

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2016 Annual Meeting – New officers and board

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On November 10th, the VMN Banshee Reeks chapter held an annual meeting.  The election results are:

  • President – Barbara Erlandson
  • Vice President – Frank McLaughlin
  • Secretary – Susan Sims
  • Treasurer – Angie Bommersbach

Board of Director Members:

  • Dave Cazenas
  • Bill Cour
  • Liz Dennison
  • Allison Gallo
  • Thaissa Klimavicz
  • Thomas Letonja

Other Members:

  • Kevin Rose, Chapter Advisor
  • Brian Meyerreicks, Past President & Chapter Agent
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eBird – a handy tool and a help to science

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Lists

Most people as they start birding on a regular basis decide to start keeping lists.  A life list, a state list, a county list – sometimes it seems that birders are more interested in lists than birds.   Did you know that eBird can BE your list?  If you enter your data regularly into eBird, it shows you a breakdown of your history of sightings by all kinds of different measures.

eBird provides life, year, month lists for a variety of locales

eBird provides life, year, month lists for a variety of locales

Hottest hotspots in Loudoun

Hottest hotspots in Loudoun

Checklists

When going to a new park, many folks pick up the copy of the bird checklist for that park – often a paper copy can be found in the visitor’s center.  Sometimes you go to a new park and there is no checklist, even no visitor’s center.  So you have to guess at what birds are likely and at what else you might have seen.  eBird can provide you a good checklist in all kinds of locations.  For a Hotspot (a publicly shared location like Banshee Reeks), it is based upon what has actually been seen at that location at similar times of the year.   And not just by the season (e.g. Winter), but for the week that you are there visiting.  Further, eBird will highlight which birds are rare – the central point of the feature is to keep the data clean, but it can be very helpful to help you choose between two similar species based upon likelihood.  eBird Mobile can be your notebook/checklist in the field – I find it much easier than scribbling notes down on paper.

Bar charts showing likely locations for a hotspot

Bar charts showing likely locations for a hotspot

Hotspot summary

Region summary

 

Planning

eBird has a few features that help with planning birding trips.  You can look at a particular Hotspot (or even a region) and see what birds are likely by looking at the bar charts for that location.  Or if you know you’ll be in a place, you can explore that region (a country, state, county) and find the Hotspots with the biggest number of species seen.   Next, if you want to see a particular bird, you can explore the data by species and see where you could go to see that bird.  Finally, you can look at a list of target species at a location based upon your life lists.

Target species list - clicking map will show where they might be seen

Target species list – clicking map will show where they might be seen

Alerts and Social

eBird provides the capability to subscribe to alerts – both rare birds (anything that would be flagged by eBird) and ‘Need’ birds.  ‘Need’ birds are birds that you haven’t seen that have been seen in a particular area.  These two features really help to ensure that you are more likely to see a wide variety of birds.  Finally, for each area, eBird will show you who has seen the most birds and who has submitted the most checklists – you can even see recently submitted checklists to see who is recently active.  This can help you connect with other active birders in your area.

Alert subscriptions

Alert subscriptions

The Science

eBird captures all this data and from it the researchers at Cornell (and other institutions) produce many papers and tools.  This dataset is one of the largest ever amassed biodiversity data sets.  eBird is being increasingly used to support Breeding Bird Atlas projects which dramatically reduces the amount of manual effort required to collect and compile the data.

To Get Started

 

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