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Walker Nature Education Center

A LOOK INSIDE • Calendar of Events 4 • Kid’s Corner 6 • Bird Count Results 7

Nature Notes By Sharon Gurtz

March • Wood Frogs begin to mate. • Red Fox kits are born. • Salamanders breed. • Tufted Titmice and Eastern Bluebirds begin nesting.

April • Hawk and warbler migration begins. • Box Turtles emerge from their winter homes. • Bloodroot, Trillium and Virginia Bluebells bloom. • Ruby-throated Hummingbirds return to Virginia.

May • First baby birds leave the nest. • White-tailed Deer fawns are born. • Bullfrogs begin to breed. • Wild Columbine, Wood Poppy and Mayapple bloom.

BRANCHING OUT Race Against Time By Ken Rosenthal In early spring, a race begins on the forest floor. This race has nothing to do with special tires, teams of mechanics or winning sponsorships. It does not involve scientifically designed footwear, starting blocks, or even legs and feet. No, this race involves seeds, leaves and getting enough sunlight to survive another year. The winner earns the ability to reproduce and propel its genes into the next generation. Spring ephemerals are some of our more beautiful spring wildflowers. They include White Trillium, Spring Beauties, Bloodroot, Hepatica, and Trout Lily. These plants use interesting adaptations, including an early bloom time, inhibition of frost damage, and seed dispersal by ants, to survive in early spring and ensure that their seeds will be dispersed.

Ready, Set, Grow!

Spring ephemerals are plants that have a short life cycle in the spring. They sprout, bloom, become pollinated, and produce seeds, all in the space of 6-8 weeks. Timing is crucial. Because these plants are small and grow on the forest floor, they must complete their short growing cycle quickly before woody plants (trees and large bushes) produce leaves and shade them out. Space and sunlight are not the only resources ephemerals compete for with trees. Trees utilize the same moisture and nutrients in the soil that these small wildflowers need. By starting early in the spring, before trees begin to gobble up nutrients or remove moisture in large quantities, ephemerals face less competition for these limited resources. Early spring is also ideal because a fresh layer of nutrients is available from decomposition of the previous autumn’s leaves.

Continued on page 2

Spring 12 Volume Fifteen

Walker Nature Education Center 11450 Glade Drive, Reston, VA 20191 Enjoy year-round access to trails, free parking and restroom facilities dawn to dusk.

FEATURES 72 acres of forested land, a picnic pavilion, demonstration gardens, educational signage, a campfire ring, two streams, a pond, the entrance to 44-acre Lake Audubon and an interpretive green building, known as Nature House.

Race Against Time continued from page 1 How Plants Stay Warm

Spring can be a volatile time of year in regards to temperature. For this reason, large woody plants produce leaves later in the season, reducing the chance of damage from extreme temperature changes. In early spring, small wildflowers have the advantage because they grow close to the ground where the soil’s moisture and warmth have a protective buffering effect. Many ephemerals also produce leaves or other structures that protect the plant from damaging frost. Bloodroot has large leaves that surround the main stem, trapping warm air. Dense hairs cover the stem of Hepatica. These hairs act very differently from the fur or feathers of animals, which trap body heat to help the animal stay warm. Instead, the hairs on the stem of Hepatica inhibit ice condensation, protecting the plant from frost damage.

Ants Aid at the Finish Line

Once spring ephemerals have produced seeds, many rely upon ants for dispersal. This relationship with ants is mutualistic, benefiting both the ants and the wildflowers. These seeds have a structure called an elaiosome, a fleshy structure rich in oils and proteins. This structure is used to attract ants, which gather seeds and take them to their colony. There they feed the elaiosome portion of the seed to their larvae. The obvious benefit to the ants is a meal for their young.


Monday - Friday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Closed on Tuesdays

Saturdays 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. Sundays 1 - 4 p.m. Closed May 31 for Memorial Day

FOR MORE INFORMATION 703-476-9689 • www.reston.org

Branching Out is a quarterly publication of the Walker Nature Education Center (WNEC), owned and operated by Reston Association. The mission of the WNEC is to foster an environmental stewardship ethic in the community. It is named after Reston’s first Open Space and Nature Center Director, Vernon J. Walker.

The benefit to the seed is more subtle. The fleshy elaiosome is nutritious, but its consumption has no effect on the seed’s ability to germinate. After consuming the elaiosome, the ants place the remainder of the seed in their discard pile, a “trash” pile where refuse and dead ants are placed to keep the rest of the colony’s living space clean. This discard pile provides a perfect place for the ephemeral seed to germinate. It is protected from other seed-eaters by the ant colony, a structure few animals dare disturb because ants vigorously defend their home. The discard pile’s collection of ant frass (droppings), carcasses and other refuse will provide nutrients to the seed when it germinates in the spring. After their sprint to flower and reproduce, the above ground structures of the ephemerals die off. In a 52-week year, these little wildflowers are only active for 6-8 weeks. During this time their leaves must collect enough energy from the sun, so that 10 months later the stored energy in their roots will be able to jump start the cycle again. As the forest canopy fills with leaves, only the below ground structures remain, the promise of next year’s spring color lying just beneath the forest floor.

CARPENTER ANTS David Cappaert Michigan State University www.bugwood.org http://www.forestryimages.org/

Branching Out is printed on 100 percent recycled paper using soy ink. It is produced using 100 percent wind power. Please recycle.


Please & Thank You



Saturday, April 21, 8 a.m. Walker Nature Education Center 11450 Glade Drive

Adult Fee: Children’s Fee:

$25 prior to April 1 $30 regular $15 prior to April 1 $20 regular

Register at www.active.com. Funds go to Friends of Reston, a 501c3 organization, to benefit Nature House. Donations above and beyond the race entry fees are tax deductible.

The on-going support of the community is essential to the nature center. Many people choose to support the center through volunteer work, others through cash or in-kind donations. Here are some ways that you can help, like your friends and neighbors below.

Please Tax-deductible donations are gratefully received by our charitable 501c3 organization, Friends of Reston, 12001 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston, VA 20191. Write “Nature Center” in the memo section of your check. You will receive a letter of receipt for tax purposes. If you can donate one of the following items in new or excellent condition, please contact kshaw@reston.org or call 703-435-6510. Friends of Reston will provide you with a letter of receipt for tax purposes. Wish List: binoculars, freezer, black oil sunflower seeds for feeders, and a subwoofer for the stereo system.

Thank You to the Following Donors: Jim Cleveland, Ellen Douglas, David Ralston, and The Sallie Mae Fund

Thank You to the Following Volunteers: Heather Anderson, Kela Anderson,Christopher Antonopoulos, Carolyn Badila, David & Joanne Bauer, McNeill Bauer, Matt Bender, Diane Blust, Bill Brown, Bill Burton, Nancy Callaghan, Anne Cannizaro, Ian Carmack,Marc Dessauvage Nancy Davis, Freya De Cola, Karen Elliott, June Ferrara, Michael Filchock, Cindy Foster, Maryann Fox, Gwendolyn Ghiloni, Karla Gonzales, Carol & Jay Hadlock, Ananya & Subray Hegde, Helaine Krob, Beth Lannon, Doreen & Steve Larson, Catherine Linberg, Rachel & Keith London, John Lovaas, Jim and Ilene McNeal, Laura Moroz, Kevin Munroe, Polly Noble, Cynthia O’Connell, George Paine, Sonia Patterson, Barbara Paolucci, Ellen Perrins, Mary Pina, Andy Rabin, Reston Garden Club, Chris Robbins, Vanessa Sterling, Jim Stocking, Judy and Bob Wolf, and Richard Xue

Photo by Jim Stocking

Volunteers at the 2012 Winter Bird Count



MARCH MARCH MIGRATION Sunday, March 4 ∙ 2 - 3 p.m.

$4/person RA Members $6/person Non-members All ages Spring is on the way and it’s time for bird migration to begin. Discover which birds will return from southern locations and which birds will be heading north. Learn about flyways and what you can do to help migratory birds. Reservations required by March 1.

REPTILES RULE Monday, March 5 ∙ 10 - 11 a.m.

$5/child RA Members $8/child Non-members Ages 3 to 5 Learn about the cold-blooded animals that live in Reston. Meet and learn about the nature center’s live reptile friends. Make a reptile craft and sing a reptile song. Reservations required by March 2.

AMPHIBIAN IDOL Saturday, March 10 ∙ 11 a.m. - Noon

$4/person RA Members $6/person Non-members All ages Frogs and toads sing in the spring, but they are hoping for mates instead of recording contracts. Learn about which amphibians are making which sounds, and make noise as part of a frog chorus right here in the nature center. Reservations required by March 7.

SPRING PEEPERS Monday, March 12 ∙ 10 - 11 a.m.

$5/child RA Members $8/child Non-members Ages 18 months to 35 months Frogs called Spring Peepers are among the first animals to make their way out of their winter hibernation and welcome the new spring season. Listen to the call of these little frogs and discover where they live. Feel some slime and make a froggy craft. Reservations required by March 8.


$5 suggested donation Adults Leopold is considered the most important American conservationist of the 20th century because his ideas are so relevant to the environmental issues of our time. His classic book A Sand County Almanac still inspires us to see the natural world as a community to which we belong. This film explores his personal journey and challenges viewers to contemplate their own relationship with the land, from inner cities to the most remote wild lands. After the film, there will be a discussion with Professor Stan Temple of the Aldo Leopold Foundation. Brought to you in partnership with Northern Virginia Conservation Trust, Ecologreal Society of America and Sustainable Reston. Reservations required by March 13.


Call 703-476-9689 and press 5 or e-mail naturecenter@reston.org for reservations and information. Advanced reservations are required for all fee-based programs. Programs may be canceled in the event of severe weather, severe weather warnings or low enrollment. Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

All programs will be held at the Walker Nature Education Center 11450 Glade Drive, unless MARCH BIRD WALK: SNAKEDEN STREAM VALLEY Sunday, March 18 ∙ 7:30 - 10:30 a.m.

Free Adults Location: 11450 Glade Drive. Park at the nature center. We will walk down to the Snakeden Stream valley and head upstream to the west. Leader: Carolyn Williams

GATHER ROUND THE CAMPFIRE Friday, March 23 ∙ 6:30 - 8 p.m.

$5/person RA Members $8/person Non-members All ages Welcome the spring with some fun around the campfire. Sing silly songs and be a part of a frog chorus. Make popcorn in the fire and roast a yummy s’more, too. Reservations required by March 20. WNEC Campfire Ring - On Soapstone Drive, between Glade Drive and Lawyers Road.

LIVING WITH WILD NEIGHBORS Thursday, March 29 ∙ 7 - 8 p.m.

$5/person RA Members $8/person Non-members Adults Ever have a coyote saunter down your street, a woopecker drum on your house, a snake slither in your garage or a squirrel nest in your attic? These are just a few of the issues we may have living in close proximity to wildlife. Join Fairfax County’s Wildlife Biologist, Victoria Monroe, for a discussion of wildilfe issues and what you can do to live harmoniously with our wild neighbors. Reservations required by March 26.

APRIL NATURE UNMASKED Friday, April 13 ∙ 7 - 8:30 p.m.

$4/person RA Members $6/person Non-members All ages Superstitious? Then don’t miss this Friday the 13th night hike! Bring your flashlight to shine some light on the truth about bats, snakes, spiders and other misunderstood creatures. Reservations required by April 10.

APRIL BIRD WALK: BROWN’S CHAPEL PARK Sunday, April 15 ∙ 7:30 - 10:30 a.m.

Free Adults 1575 Brown’s Chapel Rd. Drive past the chapel to park in the upper lot near the basketball court. Leader: Bill Brown

LIFE UNDER A LOG Monday, April 16 ∙ 10 - 11 a.m.

$5/child RA Members $8/child Non-members Ages 18 months to 35 months Fallen trees are homes to many creatures. Learn about who lives under logs, decorate a bug box, and take a short hike to see who we can find living under logs. Reservations required by April 13.

CONTAINER PLANTING Tuesday, April 17 ∙ 1 - 2:30 p.m.

$8/person RA Members $12/person Non-members Senior Adults, 55 years and older Have the perfect window sill or patio to enjoy a container plant? Join the Nature House staff as they show you what plants and herbs grow best in this environment. Listen to a brief presentation and then create your own container plant to take home. Registration required. To register, call 703-435-6530 or e-mail ashleigh@reston.org.

ENVIRONMENTAL FILM EARTH: THE OPERATOR’S MANUAL Friday, April 20, 7 - 8:30 p.m $5 suggested donation

Adults This climate change and sustainable energy documentary is a rigorously researched, beautifully filmed and uplifting antidote to the widespread “doom and gloom” approach to the subject matter. Its objective, accessible assessment of the Earth’s problems and possibilities leaves viewers informed, energized and optimistic. After the film, there will be a discussion. Brought to you in partnership with Sustainable Reston. Reservations required by April 14.

NDAR of Events

otherwise noted. EARTH DAY FUN Sunday, April 22 ∙ 2 - 3 p.m.

$4/child RA Members $6/child Non-members Ages 5 to 12 Celebrate Earth Day at the nature center. Make nature journals from recycled supplies. Participate in a “recycle relay.” Plant a seed in a pot made from newspaper that you can put in the ground near your own home. Reservations required by April 19.

CHEERY CHICKADEES Saturday, April 28 ∙ 10:30 - 11:30 a.m.

$5/child RA Members $8/child Non-members Ages 3 to 5 Learn about some of our smallest and most energetic birds. Make a bird craft, and then become a chickadee to see the forest through their eyes. Reservations required by April 25.

LATE APRIL BIRD WALK: TWIN BRANCHES Sunday, April 29 ∙ 7:30 - 10:30 a.m.

Free Adults Twin Branches Trail - Park near the intersection of Twin Branches Rd. and Glade Drive. Leader: Matt Bender

HOW TO MAKE A SOLAR OVEN Sunday, April 29 ∙ 1 - 4 p.m.

$5/person RA Members $8/personNon-members All Ages (Not recommended for children under 10) Solar ovens use sunlight as an energy source to slow cook or warm foods outdoors without the aid of electricity or other fuel source. They are primarily used in regions where there is no fuel available or a serious threat of a fire already exists. Solar ovens are also used to sterilize water and can be useful on camping trips. Build a simple solar oven and receive a recipe to try at home. Supplies are provided. Reservations required by April 26.

May MAY BIRD WALK Sunday, May 6 ∙ 7:30 - 10:30 a.m.

Free Adults Bright Pond - Bright Pond Lane, park at the end of the cul-de-sac. Leader: Andy Rabin

Photo by Sherly Pollock

SUNSET SPLENDORS Friday, May 11 ∙ 7 - 8 p.m.

$4/person RA Members $6/person Non-members All ages Sunset marks a transition in nature. Day turns to night, the sun gives way to the moon and diurnal animals trade places with nocturnal ones. Walk the trails to observe these changes, and transition yourself from using your eyes to using your ears. Reservations required by May 8.

BIRDS IN BOXES Saturday, May 12 ∙ 11 a.m. - 12 p.m.

$4/person RA Members $6/person Non-members All ages Have you ever seen a baby bird? Join a nest box monitor in checking the bluebird boxes around the nature center. Each year, Walker Nature Center partners with the Virginia Bluebird Society in maintaining and monitoring nest boxes around Reston. Learn about the importance of these nest boxes and which birds like to use them. Reservations required by May 9.

GREEN IS EVERYWHERE! Monday, May 14 ∙ 10 - 11 a.m. $5/child RA Members $8/child Non-members

Ages 18 months to 35 months

Celebrate the color green. As spring turns to summer green takes hold of our landscape. Learn why plants are green, what animals are green, and how these animals use the color green to hide. Make a green craft and go on a short hike to find as many green things as we can. Reservations required by May 11.

ORGANIC GARDENING Tuesday, May 15 ∙ 7 - 8 p.m.

$5/person RA Members $8/person Non-members Adults This presentation will cover the principles of organic gardening. Organic gardening uses landscape design and the environment to improve and maximize the health and the development of plants and soil without the use of commercial pesticides and fertilizers. Organic gardening is the mainstay of sustainable gardening. Cosponsored by Reston Community Center. Reservations required by May 11.

RAIN BARREL WORKSHOP Saturday, May 19 ∙ 10 a.m. - Noon

$50 per barrel (Limit 2 per household) Adults Rain barrels are a great way to help capture and control storm water from rooftops, to prevent erosion, to improve water quality, and to conserve water. This workshop is a quick and inexpensive way to bring home a rain barrel for immediate use. Participants must register and submit payment online at www.arlingtonenvironment.org/barrel. php. Cosponsored by Reston Community Center, Northern VA Soil and Water Conservation District, the VA Dept. of Conservation and Recreation and Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment. Reservations required by May 16.

BUSHELS OF BEETLES Monday, May 21 ∙ 10 - 11 a.m.

$5/child RA Members $8/child Non-members Ages 3 to 5 Beetles are the largest group of insects, and they come in a dazzling array of sizes, shapes and colors. Meet live beetles, decorate your own bug box to take home, and then go in search of beetles. Reservations required by May 18.


Free Adults Glade Stream Valley, park on Glade Drive at Twin Branches Road. Leaders: Joanne and David Bauer

BACKYARD COMPOSTING Thursday, May 31 ∙ 7 - 8 p.m.

$5/person RA Members $8/person Non-members Adults Dealing with all of the fallen leaves in the yard can be tough. Have you ever thought about composting them? Learn how to recycle them the natural way right on your own property. Plants will love the rich organic soil that composting efforts provide. Participants will also learn how kitchen waste and other yard debris can be composted right in the backyard. Cosponsored by Reston Community Center. Reservations required by May 29.


Tissue Paper Flowers

Materials Tissue paper – assorted colors Green chenille stems Scissors Large can (optional) Vase (optional)


1. Cut tissue paper into circles that are approximately 5 inches across. (Optional: Use the large can to trace a circle onto the tissue paper before cutting.) 2. Pick up to five of the circles to become your flower. You can choose the same color or a variety of colors for each flower. 3. Lay the circles, one on top of the other, on a flat surface. Grab the middle of the tissue paper pile and pull it up from the center. Twist the center so that the tissue paper looks like a flower. 4. Twist the end of one of the chenille stems onto the flower to form a stem. 5. Make several flowers using a variety of colors. You may want to put your flowers in a vase and display them in your home.

FLOWER PHOTO MATCH Using the clues, draw a line from the name to the matching flower.

By Earl the Squirrel with help from Abby Stocking Have you heard the saying,“April showers bring May flowers?” It means that the rain we often get in early spring helps flowers to grow. We animals look forward to the time when plants begin to send their shoots up from the ground. After we’ve spent the winter eating hard buds off trees and foraging for what was left of fall acorns and nuts, we enjoy the soft, tender plants of spring. These plants and flowers help us survive. Not only are flowers important foods for animals, they are also quite pretty. Gone are the gray and brown of winter as spring flowers dot their bright colors all over the forest floor. You can find a rainbow of colors in the spring – white on the Bloodroot, blue on the Virginia Bluebells, pink on the Wild Bleeding-heart and purple on the violets.





Photos by Sherly Pollock

Answers: 1. D 2. A 3. C 4. B


1. Wild Bleeding-heart (Look for the plant with a pink heart-shaped flower.) 2. Bloodroot (Look for the plant with a white flower.) 3. Violet (Look for the plant with a purple, or violet, flower.) 4. Virginia Bluebells (Look for the plant with blue, bell-shaped flowers.)

I hope you’ll go for a nice spring stroll, and stop to admire the flowers. Just remember to enjoy them with your eyes, and not with your hands. Leave them for the animals to eat, seeds to form and others to enjoy.


Kid’s Corner

Photo by Jim Stocking

Winter Bird Count 2012 Results By Abby Stocking

On January 7, approximately 40 volunteers and staff participated in the annual Reston Association (RA) Winter Bird Count. Every year, RA conducts two bird counts to monitor how well Reston’s natural areas support wildlife. This year, the count was held on an unusual January day with temperatures reaching into the mid 60s. After gathering at Nature House at 7 a.m., participants were sent out to four sectors to tally the numbers of species and individual birds found. A total of 46 species and over 1,700 individual birds were counted. The highest number of species ever seen on a Winter Bird Count was 59 in 2002, and the lowest was 45 in 2007. Average number of species for the counts is around 50. The species seen in the highest numbers were Canada Goose, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse and American Crow. A Bald Eagle was spotted in three of the four sectors. This is the third time eagles have been seen on a Winter Bird Count. If you would like to help in future counts, the Summer Bird Count will be on Saturday, June 2. To sign up, people should e-mail naturecenter@reston.org or call 703-476-9689.


The Sallie Mae Fund has generously granted $2,500 to Friends of Reston to support the nature center’s school outreach programs. The funds will be used to update materials in the traveling Nature Trunks, which are available on loan to local schools and youth groups. Topics include migratory birds, trees and watershed conservation. Equipment will also be purchased to enhance our winter classroom visit programs.

Native Spotlight: EASTERN REDBUD

(Cercis canadensis) By Sharon Gurtz

The Eastern Redbud is a small native tree found throughout the eastern United States. It can grow up to 40 feet tall, but is typically 15-30 feet, with a multi-branched trunk and wide rounded or flat-topped crown. With the exception of very wet areas, redbuds can be grown in a variety of soil types and moisture conditions and are relatively disease and pest resistant.

Spring Beauty Redbuds are beautiful in spring. Very showy pink to reddish-purple flowers appear in March to May prior to leaf development. Heart-shaped leaves often emerge as reddish purple and change to green in the summer. This member of the legume family produces flat, reddish brown seed pods one half inch wide and 2-4 inches long in summer, remaining on the tree until fall or winter.

Wildlife Value Flowers of this tree are pollinated by bees and are important in production of honey. The fruit is consumed by some wildlife species including the Northern Cardinal, Ring-necked Pheasant, Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Bobwhite Quail. White-tailed Deer and Gray Squirrel have also been observed eating its seeds. For spring color and overall appearance, the Eastern Redbud makes a wonderful landscape tree. Plant it as a stand-alone species or at the forest edge. It is a beautiful alternative to invasive exotic, flowering pear trees which are banned in Reston. For further information on native trees, visit www.na.fs.fed.us/pubs.

Native Plant Sale

Want to use more native plants in your landscape but have trouble finding them, or you don’t like the prices once you do? Pre-order some nature center favorites and enjoy the savings. Species include sun and shade loving wildflowers and ferns that do well in a variety of growing conditions, and add value to your backyard habitat. Orders must be placed by March 26 and picked up at the nature center on Saturday, April 7 • 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. See the plant list and prices on the order form available online at www.reston.org and at Nature House. Contact naturecenter@reston.org or call 703-476-9689 and press 3 for more information.

Photo by Sherly Pollock



www.reston.org Walker Nature Education Center 11450 Glade Drive Reston, Virginia 20191

Spring Festival

Saturday, May 5 (rain or shine), 1-5 p.m. Walker Nature Education Center 11450 Glade Drive

Free & Everyone is Invited • • • •

Entertainment Live Animals Fishing Activities Craft Making for Kids

• •

Displays and Information from Environmental Groups Canoe and Kayak Rentals on Lake Audubon ($3)

Festival volunteers needed. Contact Ha Brock at ha@reston.org or call 703-435-7986.


Branching Out



Profile for Reston Association

Branching Out 2012  

WNEC Newsletter

Branching Out 2012  

WNEC Newsletter