Archive for the ‘Public Programs’ Category

Pecha Kucha, Nature and You

Interested in horse racing? You should have heard Shirley Couteau’s talk on the Preakness Race at Pimlico, Maryland.  What about biomimicry – you know, that’s when a bullet train is designed to be as aerodynamic as the beak of a kingfisher, or a 6” drone is modeled on the physiology of bats.

Or what about Amelia May’s look at how man has constructed beautiful buildings from nature’s materials – rocks, mud and twigs – that last hundreds of years.

A crowd of almost 100 people heard those talks and much more at Pecha Kucha Nature Night last night. Rob Hartwell spoke about the success of the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River’s shad restoration in the Potomac River; sturgeon restoration is the next project.

Up next was Kate Norris with a presentation about her love of Hawaii, and closer to home Judy Gallagher talked about springtime in Woodbridge. The shared aspect of these disparate presentations, aside from the passion of the speakers, is that they were all six minutes long. Continue reading

Nokesville Christmas Bird Count

Together a team of nearly 30 volunteers recorded 81 species at the Nokesville Christmas Bird Count on December 26 2011 (species list below the fold). Previous counts ranged from 82 species in 2008 to 86 species in 2009.

Some species seen previous years were noticeably absent, including Red-breasted Nuthatches, Purple Finches, Horned Larks and Bobwhite. Sadly the Brewers Blackbirds, known to frequent a farm on Fleetwood, were nowhere in sight.

Highlights of the day include 12 bald eagles seen at the Prince William County landfill. The Bald Eagles were watching/hunting the 1000+ gulls, mostly ring-billed, foraging through uncovered trash. One Raven was also seen at the landfill, with 2 others at MCB Quantico and 2 in Fauquier County.

A Screech Owl was in Fauquier County along with Barred Owls, which were also seen at Merrimac Farm. Woodcock were seen at MCB Quantico and in Fauquier County. There were many Eastern Bluebirds, with an impressive flock of 50+ at the Rte 234 Wetland Mitigation Area. Continue reading

Bluebirds! Chinn Park Trail Update

Guest Post by Amy Wilson, Chinn Park Bluebird Trail Leader

The bluebird trail at Chinn Park library and recreation center is having a very successful season!  So far this season, in our twelve boxes, we have seen a total of 31 cavity-nesting birds fledge.  Of these, eighteen were Eastern Bluebirds, eight were Tree Swallows, and five were Chickadees.

A nest of three Bluebirds chicks and another of five baby House Wrens will be fledging any day now, and there are five active bluebird nests (with a total of eighteen eggs so far) and one active tree swallow nest (containing four eggs) underway.

If all of the current chicks and eggs go on to successfully fledge, that will bring our total fledgling count for the season up to 61 birds!  That number seems bound to increase even further, because now we are seeing birds already beginning to brood their second clutches of the season in four of our boxes.

There have been a few problems this season, as there always are.  One nest with six eggs (Chickadees or Titmice) was destroyed by an unknown predator.  We have also had a few problems with house sparrows (a non-native species that can destroy bluebird nests and eggs and even kill hatchlings) trying to take over one box. Continue reading

2011 Bluebell Festival at Merrimac Farm

Bring your family and friends to Merrimac Farm on Sunday, April 10, beginning at 10:00 am, to welcome spring and view the spectacular display of Virginia Bluebells that carpet the floodplain along Cedar Run for nearly a mile. In the words of one visitor, it’s like walking through Oz.

We’ll have naturalist-led tours to the Bluebells and Cedar Run, where you can stay as long as you’d like. The event also includes a nature art show, children’s activities, concessions and (out)door prizes. Bring your kids, cameras and binoculars for a fun day! Click here for more information and directions.

Sponsored by the Prince William Conservation Alliance, Virginia Dept. of Game & Inland Fisheries and Marine Corps Base Quantico.

2011 Conservation Forum – Lots of interest in local natural areas

PWCAs 2011 Conservation Forum attracted a full house. With more than 100 people attending, it was close to standing room only in the Board Chambers. Brief presentations from 11th District Congressman Gerry Connolly, Hartwell Fund Chairman Rob Hartwell, Piedmont Environmental Council Conservation Officer Mike Kane and PWCA Chairman Charlie Grymes were followed by a lively community discussion.

Last year’s Conservation Forum highlighted opportunities and challenges associated with land acquisition in Northern Virginia. This year our focus was on Public Access to Public Lands, an important topic for the Prince William area, where more than 1,500 acres of publicly-owned natural areas are closed to the public

Three publicly-owned natural areas with no public access were highlighted. Although all these sites are closed, all are actively used by squatters, poachers and ATV users whose unregulated activities are damaging resources. Continue reading

Public Access to Public Places – 2011 Conservation Forum

Update! The Conservation Forum is on Monday, March 21, 7:00 pm at the McCoart Government Center, One County Complex, Woodbridge.

The U.S. Government has owned the property that is now the Featherstone National Wildlife Refuge for more than forty years. Dove’s Landing, located along the Occoquan River has been owned by Prince William County since 1996. Lake Manassas is an 800 acre water supply reservoir owned by the City of Manassas.

These three publicly owned properties have one thing in common. Although they are valuable potential resources for recreational and educational uses, they are all closed to the public.

Why not use properties that are already owned by the citizens when there is little or no risk of harming the wildlife and environment and the cost of access is relatively low? What are appropriate uses for publicly owned refuges and vacant land? What are the minimum improvements and staffing needed to open these properties to the public?

These are some of the questions to be addressed by a panel of regional experts at the 2011 Annual Conservation Forum Public Access to Public Lands. Keep reading for the Agenda and participating organizations. Continue reading

Dark Skies – Saving the Nighttime Environment on Jan. 6

Look up – can you see many stars? Can you even see the Milky Way?

On January 6, PWCAs 1st Thursday Speaker Series features Milt Roney of the International Dark Skies Association, who will present information on Saving the Nighttime Environment… 7:30 pm at Bull Run Unitarian Church, 9350 Main Street, Manassas.

If someone smeared red paint across the Mona Lisa, there’s be an immediate response. The canvas of our night sky has been marred by urban light pollution, but the process was so gradual we hardly squawked.

Light by light, we are losing the night sky that is the source of inspiration, comfort and constancy to people throughout the world. The night sky is a national treasure that is now getting national attention.

This talk describes the components of light pollution – light trespass, glare, and sky glow – and the many ways they affect us. Bring your ideas and questions for a discussion about what can be done locally and nationally.

Featherstone Wildlife Refuge – Special Tour

Please join us this Saturday for a special tour to support opening this important natural area to the public.

When: Saturday, July  24, 8:00 to 10:30 am
Where: Meet at the Rippon VRE station parking lot, Farm Creek Dr. & Rippon Blvd, Woodbridge
appreciated to Prince William Conservation Alliance, 703-499-4954 or,

For the Featherstone National Wildlife Refuge, 2010 marks the 40th anniversary of public ownership with no public access. While trail and other improvements would be positive additions in the future, none are currently needed to open the Refuge to the public.

In a July 15th letter to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Congressman Gerry Connolly called for immediate action in opening the Featherstone Refuge to the public.  “This Refuge is owned by all Americans and they should have access to it now,” said Connolly in his letter.

At the start of the July 24 tour, a representative from the US Fish & Wildlife Service will provide an update on the status of efforts to open Refuge. The Virginia Dept. of Game & Inland Fisheries, a potential partner for opening Featherstone, will also be at the tour.

The Featherstone Refuge covers 325 acres of bottomland forests and freshwater tidal marshes. It’s great place to watch birds and other wildlife.

Tour guides include representatives from the Prince William Conservation Alliance, Prince William Wildflower Society and Audubon Society of Northern Virginia.

Community discusses local opportunities at Conservation Forum

A crowd of 75 interested and influential people participated in the PW Conservation Alliance May 17 Conservation Forum, held at the McCoart Government Center.

In addition to Gerry Connolly, 11th District Representative in the US Congress, and Supervisor May, Occoquan District Supervisor, three state officials spoke at the Forum: Robert Davenport, Virginia Land Conservation Foundation; Bob Lee, Virginia Outdoor Foundation; and Sara Richardson, Virginia Department of Conservation & Recreation.

Also in attendance were State Senator George Barker and Occoquan Mayor Earnie Porta, plus a number of county officials, conservation advocates, landowners, local developers, and interested citizens.

Two quotes stood out at the start…

“Metrics are essential for guiding land use decisions,” stated by Rep. Gerry Connolly, as he highlighted how specific goals for tree canopy coverage and parkland acquisition in the Comprehensive Plan has spurred Fairfax County to protect its environmental assets.

“It’s like drinking the water in your bathtub,” is how Supervisor Mike May described the need to manage stormwater and wastewater discharges flowing into the Occoquan Reservoir, a primary source of drinking water in Northern Virginia. Continue reading

Locally grown and locally sold

What:     PWCA 1st Thursdays – Local Food & Sustainable Agriculture
When:    Thursday, March 4 at 7:30 p.m.
Where:  Bull Run Unitarian Universalist Church, 9350 Main St., Manassas

Once home to a thriving farming community, subdivisions and shopping centers have replaced much of Prince William’s rural landscape. This loss isn’t unique to Prince William. Family farms have given way to corporate agribusiness nationwide, essentially entrusting the quality of our food and well being to big business.

Today, after years of rising obesity and blood pressure, fast food diets are giving way to increasing interest in locally grown food… fresher food that retains more nutrients.

Better food is only part of the benefit. Locally grown means locally sold. Supporting urban farming also preserves open space, improves the appearance of our community and supports our local economy, helping keep our taxes in check. Continue reading