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Walker Nature Center

A LOOK INSIDE • Reston BioBlitz 3 • Calendar 4 • Kids’ Corner 6 • Spring Festival 8

Nature Notes MARCH By Sharon Gurtz

• • • •

Forsythia and Wood Violets bloom. Spring Peepers and Wood Frogs are calling. Maples have red blooms. Wood Ducks return to area lakes.

APRIL • • • •

Eastern Bluebirds are building nests. Bloodroot and Trillium bloom. Look for turtles near ponds and lakes. Dogwood and Red Bud trees bloom.

MAY • • • •

Wild Geranium, Foamflower and Wild Columbine bloom. Spring Azure and Tiger Swallowtail butterflies are in flight. Garter Snakes and Copperheads emerge from winter hideouts. Eastern Box Turtles lay eggs.

BRANCHING OUT Walker Nature Center – What Really Happens Here? By Susan Sims

The Nature Center offers environmental experiences for Reston residents and visitors to increase knowledge and foster good environmental stewardship. Seventy-two acres of forest, two streams and educational programming make the Center an important natural and community resource. But what really happens here?

The Corn Snake is partial to thawed mice while Dozer the Eastern Box Turtle’s favorite food is strawberries, followed by a warm bath. After the animals are well cared for, Mark ventures into the gardens and up to the pond for his habitat maintenance duties like weeding, watering and cleaning the filter on the waterfall’s pump.

A Day in the Life

While Mark keeps the facility in good shape, Environmental Educator Abby gathers parttime Teacher Naturalists to meet a bus full of local school children. The Nature Center offers science field trips that support Virginia Standards of Learning and develop an appreciation for nature. Subjects include habitats, geology, earth cycles and insects. When the field trip wraps up and the students are done with their lunch,

As the sun rises over the Nature Center, a Red Fox zips down the trail, back to its den after a night of hunting. Birds and squirrels descend on the feeders for a black oil sunflower seed breakfast, and the blossom of the Virginia Spiderwort closes in the sun. Spring at the Nature Center is a busy time, not only for flora and fauna, but for staff too! Morning starts with Caretaker Mark inspecting Nature House and its surrounding trails, then whipping up a tasty lunch for the animal ambassadors that live inside Nature House.

Continued on page 2

Spring 18 Volume Twenty

Walker Nature Center – What Really Happens Here? continued from page 1

Walker Nature Center 11450 Glade Drive, Reston, VA 20191

Abby develops plans for an upcoming watershed program, schedules camp counselor interviews, and counts out owl pellets for a visit to the Girls in Engineering, Math and Science club (GEMS) at a neighborhood school.

Enjoy year-round access to trails, free parking and restroom facilities dawn to dusk.

Interpretive Specialist Sharon can be found hiking the trails to collect data on ephemeral wildflowers like Bloodroot, Jack-in-the-Pulpit and Toadshade Trillium for Project Budburst. Their elegant blossoms will disappear when summer arrives. Afterwards, she updates the educational displays in the resource room, then it’s off to the phones to coordinate orders for the Native Plant Sale with local nurseries.


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.


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

Saturday 10 a.m.–1 p.m. Sunday 1–4 p.m. CLOSED MAY 28 MEMORIAL DAY


703-476-9689 • www.reston.org naturecenter@reston.org www.facebook.com/walkernaturecenter

But where’s Naturalist Idalina? She’s got her waders on down in Snakeden Branch. She’s monitoring macroinvertebrates to test the health of Reston’s waterways. Soon she will have to return to Nature House to schedule a dinosaur birthday party for a five-year-old, who’s a budding paleontologist. She’ll prepare a batch of rental contracts before teaching Boy Scouts gathered around a campfire about safety and outdoor cooking – marshmallows included! An operation this diverse needs a leader to keep things running smoothly, of course. Nature Center Manager Katie trains and schedules the welcome desk volunteers, most of whom are Reston Garden Club members. She oversees special events and serves as the editor of this newsletter. Katie not only administers the Nature Center budget, but she also serves as Executive Director of Friends of Reston, which will provide Nature Center funding for projects like the new Insect Traveling Trunks, youth scholarships, accessibility improvements and the Environmental Film Series. Donations to the Nature Center are gratefully received at www.friendsofreston.org.

Nature Center by the Numbers

There’s plenty of programming and habitat maintenance at the Nature Center and its LEED Gold Certified Nature House – but what about the numbers? Here are a few favorites. The Center serves more than 23,500 people annually. This number does not include the thousands of casual visitors who come to walk the trails, watch birds or fish. But it does include approximately 5,000 children who participate in over 200 field trips and classroom visits as well as approximately one thousand people of all ages who enjoy the Spring Festival on the first Saturday in May. Each year, over 40 rental groups reserve the multipurpose room, fire ring and pavilion for meetings and celebrations of their own.

@restonnature @walkernaturecenter Groups: Please call ahead to arrange your visit. Branching Out is a quarterly publication of the Walker Nature Center (WNC), owned and operated by Reston Association. The mission of the WNC 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.

Volunteers, visitors and staff have spotted 67 bird species from the Nature House viewing windows, including Reston’s official bird, the Pileated Woodpecker. The Center relies on more than 200 volunteers annually to help with special events, citizen science, trail maintenance, and habitat care. Three demonstration gardens boast native plants that grow in a variety of conditions. Six bluebird houses are part of a 32 box Reston-wide Bluebird Box Trail, recognized by the Virginia Bluebird Society. There’s also the Nature Center’s three friendly mascots – Earl the Squirrel, Myrtle the Turtle, and Walker the Woodpecker. It really is a team effort to keep things on track – or on trail – at this special place. These numbers may be impressive, but there are two more valuable ones. Those are the thousands of smiles, and miles of footsteps – human and animal – that have made their way through the forests of the Walker Nature Center and through the doors of Nature House. Those are the numbers that matter the most, and the real reason why what happens here, happens. Join us at the 15th Anniversary of the Nature Center 5K to log some miles of your own. Details on page 8.

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


Nature Camps at the Walker Nature Center Give your child a five star summer experience. Nature Tots (Ages 3-5) Walker’s Rangers (Ages 6-9)

Each one-week session has a fun, nature theme. These half-day camps run M-F, June 25-August 17. Fee is $95/RA Members, $120/Non-member. To register or get more information, go to www.restonwebtrac.org.

Click the Camps button, then select Walker Nature Center in the location field.

Please and Thank You By Katie Shaw Volunteers and donors play essential roles in Nature Center operations and environmental stewardship in Reston. If you’d like to catch the volunteer spirit, contact habrock@reston.org or fill out the volunteer application at www.reston.org. New this year, we are looking for volunteers to help with Reston’s first BioBlitz on Saturday, June 2. We will be inventorying as many species of plants and animals as possible in a 24-hour period. Expert identifiers, iNaturalist app users and digital photographers are needed for this event. Springtime abounds with other great volunteer opportunities, including Arbor Day on April 2, the Nature Center 5K Run/Walk on April 14, the Earth Day Project on April 23 and Spring Festival on May 5. As always, charitable donations are gratefully received by our 501c3 supporting organization, Friends of Reston, 11450 Glade Drive, Reston, VA 20191 or you can donate online at www. friendsofreston.org. Include a note that your donation is for the Nature Center. You will receive a letter of thanks for tax purposes.


Reston’s First BioBlitz June 2, 2018 (Rain or Shine) • Scientists, naturalists and volunteers invited

Rick Beyer, Charlie & Julie Bond, Marilyn Dicke, Janine Greenwood, Izaak Walton League of America, Lake Thoreau Festival of Winter Lights, Reston Garden Club

Volunteers: David & Joanne Bauer, Julie & Charlie Bond, Bill & Della Brown, Bill Burton, Anne Cannizzaro, Ian Carmack, Edward Clark, Don Coram, Freya DeCola, Marilyn Dicke, Robin Duska, Millan Fentress, June Ferrara, Michael Filchock, Janine Greenwood, Carol & Jay Hadlock, Heidi & John Lankav, Pat Lenz, Paulette Lincoln-Baker, Sharon McHugh, Collin Mills, Cynthia O’Connell, Terri Ostrowski, Barbara Paolucci, Ellen Perrins, Tara Ravishankar, Jim Seret, Mireya Stirzaker, Sandra Twohie, Brenda Van Doorn, Jenny Vick, Verna Webb

A bioblitz is a quick, but intense, biotic survey completed within a 24 hour period. Consider it a snap shot of what plants and wildlife are found in a certain place during that period of time. Contact: pgreenberg@reston.org 703-435-6552. More details will follow.


WALKER NATURE C Register online with WebTrac www.restonwebtrac.org

Advance registration, including payment, is required for all nature activities unless otherwise noted. A WebTrac account is required for online registration. New accounts may take up to two business days for approval. If you have questions, need assistance or prefer not to register online, contact naturecenter@reston.org or 703-476-9689 ext. 3.

All programs will be held at the Walker Nature Center, 11450 Glade Drive, unless otherwise noted. Refunds are available with two weeks’ notice or if we cancel for any reason. Activities may be canceled due to severe weather, severe weather warnings or low enrollment. Children must be accompanied by an adult.



Reston’s Environmental Advisory Committee presents the findings and recommendations of the first RASER Report. RASER reflects more than 1,000 hours of research by scientists, volunteers and RA staff. The report covers topics such as water resources, wildlife and air quality. It informs RA and the public about environmental concerns and trends as Reston continues to grow. Register by Feb. 29. This is an encore presentation of the Feb. event. 106201006 3/1 Thu 7:00 pm–8:00 pm Adults Free RAPTOR EXPLORATION

Meet live raptors up close, including an owl and a hawk. Then go for a walk to find raptor nest sites. Learn where and what to look for as evidence of new nest activity. Copresented by wildlife rehabilitators from Secret Garden Birds and Bees. Register by Feb. 28. 106011008 3/3 Sat 10:30 am–12:00 pm All Ages $7/RA Member, $9/Non-member WIND IN THE WOODS

March is the windy month. Feel the wind as it dances around you. Blow around like a gale and float like a breeze. Make a windsock so you can always tell which way the wind is blowing. Listen to the sound of woodwinds and play an instrument as we walk through the woods. Register by March 2. 106111001 Mon 3/5 10:00 am–11:00 am Or Tue 3/6 10:00 am–11:00 am Ages 18-35 months $7/RA Member, $9/Non-member




Can you make green? Can you be green? Learn all about the color green. Make green goop, find green in nature and enjoy a green felt board story. Discover ways you can take green practices home with you. Register by March 14.

Decorate a terra cotta pot. Plant seeds and learn how to care for your plant. Head outside for a nature walk and learn about the importance of native plants and how to identify some exceptional flora. Register by March 25.

106121008 3/17 Sat 10:30 am–11:30 am Ages 3-5 $6/RA Member, $8/Non-member

106011012 3/28 Wed 10:30 am–11:30 am All Ages $7/RA Member, $9/Non-member



30 years after the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster, 100 women fiercely cling to their ancestral homeland in the radioactive “Exclusion Zone.” Why do they live on farms that the Ukrainian government and radiation scientists have deemed uninhabitable? How do they manage in an abandoned landscape guarded by soldiers, and rife with wild animals? How has radiation affected them? Registration recommended by March 22. Copresented by Friends of Reston. 106201051 Fri Adults

3/23 7:00 pm–8:30 pm Free, $5 suggested donation


Reston is a Tree City USA as certified by the National Arbor Day Foundation. Join us as we plant and celebrate trees and shrubs. Volunteers will be treated to a pizza lunch following a special flag raising ceremony. Perfect for gardeners, small companies, scout groups and students. Groups-register by contacting habrock@reston.org or 703-435-7986. 206011201 Mon Ages 5-Adult

4/2 9:30 am–12:00 pm FREE



Snakeden Branch stream will be stocked with hundreds of trout. All equipment will be provided. Northern Virginia Trout Unlimited members will help clean the fish. Volunteers will teach how to bait, cast, hook and cook your freshly caught dinner. Adults may not fish during the kids’ time. In partnership with Wetland Studies & Solutions, Friends of Reston and the 2017 Virginia Wildlife eStore Grant Program of the VA Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Wildlife Foundation of Virginia. Register by March 21.

Celebrate Arbor Day with the age-old favorite The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. Go on a forest scavenger hunt. Make a one-of-a-kind leaf art craft to take home. Register by April 2.

106101301 3/24 Sat 8:00 am–12:00 pm Check-in at 2303 Soapstone Drive Ages 3-15 Free

206121008 4/5 Thu 1:30 pm–2:30 pm Ages 3-5 $6/RA Member, $8/Non-member


Why are baby animals so cute? How are animal baby lives different from ours, and how are they the same? Enjoy a beloved storybook. Play matching games. Take a picnic on the trail and help mother animals find their babies. Register by April 6. 206111001 Mon 4/9 10:00 am–11:00 am OR Tue 4/10 10:00 am–11:00 am Ages 18-35 months $7/RA Member, $9/Non-member WE LOVE TREES

Tall trees, short trees, big trees, little trees — celebrate them all with a walk in the woods and get to know a tree up close. Learn to identify trees by their bark and leaves. Discover new and historical uses for trees. Make and decorate a tree cookie key chain or necklace to take home. Register by April 13. 206131008 4/16 Fri 1:30 pm–2:30 pm Ages 5 -12 $6/RA Member, $8/Non-member EARTH DAY PROJECT

Celebrate Earth Day by digging in to spruce up the Nature Center with new plantings and fresh woodchipped trails. Individuals, families and companies are encouraged to participate. Register by April 20. Groups with more than 5 people, contact habrock@reston.org or 703-435-7986. 206011202 Mon Adults and Children 5+

4/23 1:00 pm–4:00 pm Free


She set out to save a species…us. Featuring the voice of Mary-Louise Parker as the influential writer and scientist, this intimate portrait illuminates the public and private life of the woman who launched the environmental movement and whose books revolutionized our relationship to the natural world. The film draws from Carson’s writings, letters and recent scholarship. Registration recommended by April 26. Copresented by Friends of Reston. 206201051 4/27 Fri 7:00 pm–9:00 pm Adults Free, $5 suggested donation

May SPRING FESTIVAL See ad on page 8. 206011305 Sat

To register, visit https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/ soil-water-conservation/rain-barrel by May 16. Limit 2 per household. 5/5 1:00 pm–5:00 pm

206201012 5/19 Sat 10:30 am–12:30 pm Adults $55 per barrel



Discover nature through textured art. Enjoy a nature walk and play discovery games to get to know the many textures of nature at your fingertips. See if you can identify natural objects by touch alone. Then, gather your favorite textures to make a nature discovery bowl out of clay. Register by May 8.

Learn about our wonderful Reston turtles from the woods of the Nature Center to the banks of Lake Audubon. Discover turtle anatomy. Meet a box turtle, and make a craft. Conclude your adventure by going on a turtle search. Register by May 20.

206131012 5/11 Fri 6:30 pm–7:30 pm Ages 5-12 $7/RA Member, $9/Non-member

206121008 5/23 Wed 1:30 pm–2:30 pm Ages 3-5 $6/RA Member, $8/Non-member ENV. FILM: MINIMALISM


In honor of Mother’s Day, bring your mom to a delightful morning at the Nature Center. Sip tea or juice and sample a variety of pastries and fruits. Make a bouquet of paper flowers for mom to display on her special day. Take a stroll through the gardens to look for spring-blooming wildflowers. Register by May 9. 206011008 5/12 Sat 10:30 am–11:30 am All Ages $7/RA Member, $9/Non-member TREE FRIENDS

Trees are important to every living creature. Discover how they provide food, shelter and oxygen to animals and people. Meet some giant trees. Make a tree craft, and enjoy a story and a snack in their shade. Register by May 11. 206111001 Mon 5/14 10:00 am–11:00 am OR Tue 5/15 10:00 am–11:00 am Ages 18-35 months $7/RA Member, $9/Non-member

How might your life be better with less? This film examines the many flavors of minimalism by taking the audience inside the lives of minimalists from all walks of life. Copresented by Friends of Reston. Registration recommended by May 24. 206201051 5/25 Fri 7:00 pm–9:00 pm Adults Free, $5 suggested donation BIRD CLASS: AN INTRODUCTION

Learn the basics of bird identification, and how to look and listen for the common birds of Reston. Discover the major groups of birds and the best places to watch for them. Discuss a variety of bird guides, and take home a Checklist of Birds of Reston. Learn how to use eBird and support Reston’s biodiversity projects. Register by May 28. 206201205 5/31 Thu 7:00 pm–8:30 pm Adults $5/person, free for Bird Count Participants


Make your own 52 gallon rain barrel from a recycled pickle barrel. Rain barrels collect water from the roof and store it for use later. If you already have a barrel, volunteer to help others master the drill or place screens on their barrels.


Nature Journals


1. Stack 3 bags on top of each other with their openings facing alternate directions-- Bottom bag with opening to the right, middle bag to the left, top bag to the right.

Project time=30 min. Supplies

2. Fold your stack of bags in half to form a book shape.

• 3 brown paper lunch bags • Scissors • Tape • Glue stick • Hole punch • Ribbon • Washi or masking tape • Stapler • 12 sheets of white paper for pages • Crayons, markers or stamps

3. Staple the left-hand side along the edge in three places to hold your book together. 4. Wrap washi or masking tape over the left-hand edge to cover the staples and create a binding. Run your tape along the front and back covers. 5. Use crayons, markers or stamps to decorate the covers. 6. Trim your white paper pages to fit inside your journal. Tape or glue them onto the paper bag pages. 7. The openings from the bags are now pockets to store little treasures, drawings, game ideas, notes or photos! To secure your pages and items, hole punch the front and back covers, then loop a ribbon around the journal and through the holes to tie it closed. Enjoy filling your journal with creative things. I saw, I heard, I smelled pages are great fun to write. You can also make your own scavenger hunts, trail maps, sketches or doodles.

Nature Counts

By Earl the Squirrel (with help from Abby Stocking)

We squirrels are always paying attention to the world around us. We use our senses to stay aware of what is happening and where things are located. We find where the best stashes of acorns, walnuts and hickory nuts are found. We watch birds to see if they have discovered any other good spots for finding seeds. We keep watch for signs of changing weather like winds that blow hot or cold or dark clouds forming. We do this to survive.

Check out my ideas for how you can make discoveries in nature.

I have noticed that humans also like to watch the world around them. I see people on the trails around the Nature Center with binoculars, cameras and sketch books. Some people even call themselves “citizen scientists.” That means that they may not work as a scientist, but that they want to help science. You can be a citizen scientist, too.

3. Participate in a citizen science project such as Project FeederWatch in your own backyard or come to the Nature Center to help us on Wednesdays and Thursdays. An adult can help you get started and report your findings. https://feederwatch.org

1. Keep a nature journal. Draw pictures of what you see or write down observations 2. Nature Scavenger Hunt. See how many types of seeds or leaves you can find. Be sure to leave things the way you find them.

4. Take photos on a Smart Phone and submit them to iNaturalist. Others who use this app will even help you to identify the plants and animals in your photos.

Kids’ Corner 6

Bird Walks

Native Spotlight:

No registration required. 7:30 am‑10:30 am Adults Free

WILD COLUMBINE (Aquilegia canadensis)

Cosponsored by Audubon Society of Northern Virginia and The Bird Feeder store.

Brown’s Chapel Park

Sun 3/18 Park at 1575 Brown’s Chapel Road

Lower Glade Stream Valley

Sun 4/15 Park on Glade Drive near Twin Branches Road.

Bright Pond

Sun 4/29 Bright Pond Lane, park at the end of the cul-de-sac.

Glade Stream Valley/Sapsucker Woods Sun 5/20 Park at Glade Pool, 11550 Glade Drive.


Place orders by Friday, April 6, 5 pm Pick up on Saturday, April 21, 10 am -1 pm

By Sharon Gurtz

Did you know that there is a connection between one of our area’s most beautiful native wildflowers and our national emblem, the eagle? This wildflower – also called Eastern Red Columbine, Wild Red, American or Canadian Columbine – is admired for its flower with yellow petals and 5 upward pointing, red spurs. Many people believe that these spurs resemble an eagle’s talons and, in fact, the genus name for Wild Columbine is derived from aquila, the Latin word for eagle. Cultivated varieties of this species usually have European Columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris) as one or both parents; its flowers may not appear red like our native, but often other colors, including pink and blue. Another common native columbine of the western United States is the State Flower of Colorado, Blue Columbine (Aquilegia coerulea).

Hummingbird Nectar Source

Another endearing characteristic of this plant is its ability to attract the graceful Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Hummingbirds are well equipped to suck nectar from the long-thin tubes, and this plant can be a critical nectar source in spring when hummingbirds return from their southern winter homes. Bumblebees and Hawk Moths can also be seen hovering over these plants to get a bit of the sweet nectar. Wild Columbine blooms from May into June. It is an excellent addition to a shade garden or natural area and works well in borders. It combines well with a variety of early bloomers such as Wild Geranium, Foam Flower and Wild Ginger. Columbine can be grown in part shade to full sun in a wide range of soils if drainage is good. Young plants prefer a little shade from neighboring plants. Foliage appearance into summer can be enhanced by keeping soils moist. Removal of flowering stems after blooming will also encourage additional flowers. Foliage that has died back can be cut to the ground. If conditions are adequate, columbine will self-seed readily, and in two years you will be gifted with yet more drooping red flowers in your garden. Whether you’re a hummingbird or a human, this plant may become one of your favorites. Columbines have been gracing American gardens for years, maybe it is time for you to enjoy a plant that Thomas Jefferson admired on his hilltop Monticello when our country was young.

Other native perennials to attract hummingbirds: Trumpet Creeper (Campsis radicans) Beebalm (Monarda didyma)

Species to include a variety of sun and shade loving wildflowers and ferns. See the plant list on the order form available online at www.reston.org and at Nature House.

Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) Dense Blazing Star (Liatris spicata) Wild Bleeding Heart (Dicentra eximia)

Contact naturecenter@reston.org or 703-476-9689 for more information.

Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) White Turtlehead (Chelone glabra)



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

NATURE CENTER 5K RUN & WALK 15TH ANNIVERSARY Saturday, April 14, 8 a.m.

Walker Nature Center, 11450 Glade Drive

Adult Children

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

Register at www.active.com or in person starting at 7:00 a.m. on race day. Get into nature on one of the most scenic courses in the area. There will be lots of prizes, music and refreshments following the race. Hosted by Friends of Reston, Reston Association’s 501c3 supporting organization. Donations above and beyond race entry fees are tax deductible.

Walker Nature Center 11450 Glade Drive Saturday, May 5 (rain or shine) 1–5 p.m. All Ages Welcome FREE No registration required. Entertainment Live Animals Fishing Activities Craft Making for Kids Displays and Information from Environmental Groups Canoe and Kayak Rentals on Lake Audubon ($5) Volunteers needed. Contact habrock@reston.org or call 703-435-7986. Entertainment Sponsor: Reston Community Center

Volunteers needed. Contact habrock@reston.org or call 703-435-7986. To become a race sponsor or donate a prize, contact Katie Shaw at kshaw@reston.org.

See www.restonwebtrac.org for event updates.

Spring 18 Volume Twenty

Profile for Reston Association

Branching out spring 2018  

WNC Newsletter

Branching out spring 2018  

WNC Newsletter