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Ring-Necked Pheasant – Fanciful Holiday Bird

December 2, 2015 Columns, Wild Loudoun Comments Off on Ring-Necked Pheasant – Fanciful Holiday Bird
Ring-Necked Pheasant

The cherished 18th Century 12 Days of Christmas song celebrates a long list of increasingly grand gifts one true love gives to another.

Some say that the original “five golden rings” or “five gold rings” in the song was referring to the colorful neck banding of the ring-necked pheasant. Roasted pheasant was a traditional holiday food enjoyed by the rich folk in both Asia and later in North America, Australia and Europe, where the colorful game bird was later introduced.

Whatever the human lore that has developed over this beautiful bird, the common ring-necked pheasant – seen rarely if at all in Loudoun County these days – has a natural history just as grand as the holiday gift it once represented.

Ring-necked pheasants sport exquisite colors. Males have iridescent gold, copper and bronze feathers across their alternatively stripped and dotted sides, back, wings and long tapered tail feathers. The head is a wonderful bluish-green punctuated by a short crest. And their throat and breast is a deep, brownish burgundy – as regal as the most prized port wine. A bright red face and a white or goldish ring around their neck finishes off the head and shoulders.

Females are a lovely and soft golden-buff color with equally distinctive streaks, dots and stripes. She needs the camouflage … he needs the colorful “I’m here” display. Males in fact establish harems of hens, and will defend those harems from aggressive rivals.

Pheasant are essentially ground birds, with a fast walk-run movement. They do sometimes fly short distances, especially when disturbed by predators and/or what they sense as human dangers. But mostly, they seek concealment. Females nest in fields or in hedgerow-type habitat, incubating up to one dozen eggs on their own. Young pheasant can fly within two weeks of leaving the egg, a defense mechanism against their high mortality rates. In the fall the bird forms flocks, families they will depend upon for survival until the following spring.
The pheasant’s diet consists of seeds, grains, insects, berries and some times small animals. In agricultural areas they benefit greatly from waste grains in after-harvest fields. They also favor the cover and protection offered by agricultural areas that are interspersed with low woodlands and areas of high grass and bushy vegetation.

Males have a loud, rooster-like cackling-type display that lends itself to long distances, a form of communication common to ground birds. They also display a wing-flapping behavior in open areas, especially during mating season.

The wild pheasant’s average lifespan is short – just 10 to 20 months. But, that short life is a colorful, grand and oft noisy one … just so we know, if only in song, that they are out there.

Wild Loudoun: of Chipmunks and Chestnuts

November 4, 2015 Columns, Wild Loudoun Comments Off on Wild Loudoun: of Chipmunks and Chestnuts
wildloudoun

Chipmunks are small, beautifully elegant little creatures, with large glossy eyes, a sleek brown body, a short, pointy head, dainty white stripes above and below the eye, and a series of black land white lines down their sturdy little backs.
They have a very sweet posture – sitting upright and holding food with their two perfectly formed front feet, while balancing contentedly on nimble back legs.

Like raccoons, possum and other forest dwellers, chipmunks are quite at home in and around barns and other farm structures, as well as suburban homes. … Continue Reading

Dragonflies – To See Is To Believe

August 7, 2015 Columns, Wild Loudoun Comments Off on Dragonflies – To See Is To Believe
wildloudoundragonflies

Shadow Darner. Unicorn Clubtail. Black Shouldered Spinyleg. Blue Dasher. Ebony Jewelwing. Calico Pennant. Sanddragon.

Their names conger up some magical place inhabited by devils and demons, elegant queens, daring lovers – creatures you would need to see with your own eyes to believe really existed.

But, each of these, including the Calico Pennant, is actually one of the most common and numerous insects with which we share our Wild Loudoun world. Dragonflies.

The dragonflies of Loudoun County, some 80 or so in all, are grouped under seven categories – including Darners, Clubtails, Spiketails, Cruisers, Emeralds, Skimmers and the related Damselflies. … Continue Reading

Belted Kingfisher – Streamside Rock Star

June 3, 2015 Columns, Wild Loudoun Comments Off on Belted Kingfisher – Streamside Rock Star
wildloudoun

It’s hard to say what you noticed first.

The cool blue streak of color. The piecing cry – a sharp rattle – here one second and gone the next. The splashy exit as a very spirited bird made off with a very unlucky fish.

These are the behaviors, sights and sounds of the belted kingfisher, one of our local waterways’ most dramatic avian hunters.
Belted kingfishers are loud, colorful and fast, but their noisy, bandit-like disruptions don’t last long. The bird spends most of its time perched above its watery kingdom scoping out the food sources in and around the streams, marshes, ponds, rivers and shorelines below – including small fish, crayfish and shellfish, salamanders, lizards and frogs. … Continue Reading

Brook Trout – Colorful Aquatic Gems

May 5, 2015 Wild Loudoun Comments Off on Brook Trout – Colorful Aquatic Gems
wildloudoun

In his 2006 book The Road, author Cormac McCarthy writes a beautiful passage about a lush, living landscape that once was, as a father tells his son about what had lived in a now spoiled waterway. “Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains … You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand … On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming …” … Continue Reading

Northern Cardinal – Celebrating the Language of Love

February 3, 2015 Columns, Wild Loudoun Comments Off on Northern Cardinal – Celebrating the Language of Love
cardinal

Most wildlife biologists classify the northern cardinal as a bird that mates for life. And, why wouldn’t they?

The unmistakably brilliant lipstick red of the male cardinal cannot be described as anything other than inspiring the language of love. Catching that bolt of red as it streaks across a field of freshly fallen snow is like watching a modern oil painting emerging from its bright white canvas.
Female cardinals are often described as sporting plumage of “an attractive tan/grey” or a “dull brown.” But, that’s not what I see. I see a sophisticated pale olive lady edged along its brow, neck, tail, wings and pointy crest with a subtle watercolor red. And, when you see a pair of these birds perched together on a twig or fence railing, it is clear that they are perfectly suited for each other. Perfectly. … Continue Reading

See a Skunk Doing a Handstand? Run.

January 6, 2015 Columns, Wild Loudoun Comments Off on See a Skunk Doing a Handstand? Run.
wildloudoun skunk

Skunks and humans have something in common: they don’t want to be near us and we don’t want to be near them.

With their bold and dramatic markings, if they weren’t so darn smelly – and for that reason, scary – we might actually consider them to be a quite the handsome/pretty member of our local wildlife community. But, only one bad encounter with a skunk makes for one perfectly clear message … don’t go there!

Skunk Varieties

Worldwide, there are eleven species of skunk, nine of which are found in our western hemisphere. … Continue Reading

The Red-Legged Partridge – Here in Song, Spirit, and … the Flesh?

December 10, 2014 Columns, Wild Loudoun Comments Off on The Red-Legged Partridge – Here in Song, Spirit, and … the Flesh?
wildloudoun

“The Twelve Days of Christmas” was first published in the late 1700s. Celebrating a wealth of gift giving and other activities that take place from late December through early January, the famous carol is most well known for its iconic opening verse, “On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me a partridge in a pear tree.”

Now, people who know partridges argue that the song is talking about the common grey partridge, for it – in contrast to it’s more colorful, rocky habitat cousin the red-legged partridge – is a tree-dweller.

However, the famous carol is thought to be of French origin, and that settled it for me. … Continue Reading

Raccoons – the Fascinating Commoner

November 5, 2014 Columns, Wild Loudoun Comments Off on Raccoons – the Fascinating Commoner
raccoons

By Andrea Gaines

It’s not a good idea to come in physical contact with a raccoon – or any wild animal for that matter – or to allow your dog or cat to do so. As I found out one night trying to aid a raccoon that had been hit by a car, they do not like to be cornered and can be very aggressive as well as vocal. Luckily, the Animal Control professional I called knew just what to do – put on big heavy gloves, lasso the raccoon with a long stick and protective noose, ease it slowly into a sturdy cage and get it some medical attention as quickly as possible. … Continue Reading

Beavers – Biodiversity with a Paddle

October 1, 2014 Columns, Wild Loudoun 1 comment

It is a bit of a touchy subject to write about beavers. Recent news reports document, for example, how a beaver, later found out to be rabid, threatened children fishing in a pond in Fairfax County and went after an elderly woman swimming in a lake in Reston.

As a now life-long conservationist and someone who has related to wildlife in the most fundamental of ways from my earliest years, I’ve learned that the best way to protect wildlife is to promote the idea of living in community with them. We don’t need to share our Sunday dinner with the groundhog or squirrel in our yard, but, otherwise, maybe we can make some adjustments to just let them be. … Continue Reading

Nature, Moving from Season To Season on a Wing and a Prayer

September 3, 2014 Columns, Wild Loudoun Comments Off on Nature, Moving from Season To Season on a Wing and a Prayer
hummingbird

The term “on a wing and a prayer,” or “coming in on one wing and a prayer” is a WWII reference to the hardships pilots faced desperately trying to guide their disabled aircraft home and land safely, rather than be lost between the last place they were seen and the home base they were so desperately trying to reach. Using their wits, their instincts, any tools at their disposal and their desire to live, they make do with what they have to survive another day.

While it is not a reference to nature, the term on a wing and a prayer is very relevant to the life around us as we leave summer’s warm temperatures and abundant food sources and head into the lower temperatures and scarcity of fall and winter. … Continue Reading

Mighty Little Crayfish

August 6, 2014 Columns, Wild Loudoun 2 comments
wildloudoun

Several years ago I was walking along W&OD Trail in Reston when I saw a mighty little thing – maybe two inches long – strutting directly toward me in a very menacing way. It was moving pretty fast and had two large claws raised. I didn’t know if this was how this thing behaved – vulnerable and out in the open – or, if it had “seen” me and was preparing for a fight. As I got closer I saw that it was a crayfish. A perfectly proportioned mini lobster intent on what, I didn’t know.

In doing research for this article I learned that crayfish are very territorial and pack a mighty pinch when handled. Glad that at that moment I decided to leave the crayfish alone instead of picking it up for closer inspection. … Continue Reading

Wild Loudoun- Milkweed – Sustenance of the Monarch

milkweed

Where there is milkweed, there are monarchs. Sounds like a simple enough idea. Butterflies like flowers and milkweed is a flower. But the connection between the monarch butterfly and the milkweed plant is as strong as the connection between you and the oxygen you take into your lungs every time you draw a breath.
Humans and monarchs live in the same world, but, we don’t use it in the same way. While you and I can survive in just about every climate on just about any kind food, and find shelter and successful ways of producing the next generation in, literally, billions of different ways, the monarch butterfly is quite different.

Adult monarchs can draw nectar – food – from a fairly wide variety of flowering plants: asters, goldenrod and bee balm, for example. But, as they leave their southern wintering grounds – including small patches of high forest in Mexico – and head north and east through Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee, the Carolinas, Virginia and beyond, they are 100 percent dependent on the milkweed plant. Female monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed and milkweed alone, and the tiny caterpillars that emerge from those eggs to take a fighting chance at life eat milkweed and milkweed alone. … Continue Reading


 

 

 

 

Columns

Asterisk No More

moore-sobelnewmug

By Samuel Moore-Sobel “Moods come and go, but greatness endures.” These prescient words were uttered by President George H.W. Bush, a man who knows firsthand the truth of his own saying. In 1992, President Bush garnered only 37 percent of …

Second Bull Run

Bull Run Creek

It may not have been a battle, but – seeing as how it was my second attempt at getting a good look at Bull Run Creek – coupled with the fact that I’m a native Northerner – I felt a …

Snowmageddon III?  Seven Survival Tips for Parents

Michael_Pic

By Michael Oberschneider, Psy.D. “snOMG,” “snowmageddon,” “snowpocalypse,” and “kaisersnoze” are a few terms to describe what just happened in Northern Virginia. The storm was reported to be the second worst storm on record. And while many children and teens gladly …

What Is a Sport?

Lunde new

By Mary Rose Lunde On January 10, hundreds of talented dancers from across the East Coast competed at the Universal Dance Academy Regional Championship at West Springfield High School. Tensions were high and the stakes couldn’t have been greater. What …

Six Things to Know to Weather a Market Downturn

Smith0035

It’s natural to be nervous when the markets head for negative territory. Keep a positive perspective with these six investing reminders. It can be very unsettling for investors when their portfolios and the markets start heading for the red and …

El Nino Evolution

Figure 3. Sea-surface height as inferred by by NASA satellites during the current El Niño (December 27, 2015, at left, from Jason-2) and at a comparable point during the last “super” El Niño (December 28, 1997, at right, from TOPEX/Poseidon). Warmer temperatures in the upper ocean result in higher sea-surface heights, as the seawater expands. In 1997, the above-average sea surface height was generally more intense and peaked in November. In 2015, the area of high sea levels was less pronounced but considerably broader. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. (see [4])

Figure 1 shows the annual global temperature anomaly since 1980 up to November 2015 using the NASA GISS data set [1]. NASA has not yet published December’s data though BEST has [2] and yes 2015 was the hottest year on …

Editorial

Grief and Greed

blueridge2

By Matthew Parse What would drive a single individual to cause so much emotional stress and financial burden on hundreds, if not, thousands of families? What would drive the Town …

Op-ed

Oh No, It’s the Christians!

blueridge2

By Nicholas Reid In the hours and days following every massacre perpetrated by radical Muslims, there is one unifying theme across most news coverage of the massacre, wherever it may …

Dear Editor

Job Well Done!

town of purcellville sign

Kudos to Town Manager Rob Lohr and his awesome hard working staff. You did a fantastic job of snow removal throughout the Town of Purcellville this past week. Mr. Lohr …

View From the Ridge

An Open Letter to the Citizens of Purcellville

blueridge2

Mark Your Calendar, They’ve Asked for Our Input So Let’s Give It To Them By Steady and Nobull The Purcellville Planning Commission has tentatively scheduled a series of public input …

Student News

Four Scouts Achieve Eagle Scout Rank

3 Feb 2016

eaglescout

Joel Gicker, Kyle Siecker, Sam Soltis and David Watson achieved the rank of Eagle Scout at a Court of Honor conducted at Blue Ridge Bible Church in Purcellville on January 9. The four Eagles are members of Troop 711 of …

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8th Grade Writers Honored At Blue Ridge Middle School

2 Jul 2015

blueridgemiddleschool

Sixty-seven Blue Ridge Middle School eighth graders have been honored for their writing during the 2014-2015 school year. Many students had their writing selected for publication by Creative Communication, a program for student writers, while others won county-wide writing contests. …

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Ben Kellogg Achieves Eagle Scout

1 Jul 2015

benkellog

Benjamin Robert Kellogg achieved the rank of Eagle Scout at a Court of Honor conducted at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Purcellville on March 29. Friends, family and troop leaders attended the celebration, including his parents, Robert and Deirdre Kellogg. …

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Calendar

February 2016
M T W T F S S
1 2 3

Loudoun Valley Boys Basketball Spirit Night at Coach's Corner

4

Music Together Classes - Winter Session

5

Loudoun Centre Theater: HAIRSPRAY

6

Loudoun Centre Theater: HAIRSPRAY

Notaviva Vineyards - Bluegrass Jam - FREE event

Loudoun Centre Theater: HAIRSPRAY

7

5K Race to Benefit Riverside High School Athletic Department

8 9 10 11

Music Together Classes - Winter Session

12

Loudoun Centre Theater: HAIRSPRAY

13

Loudoun Centre Theater: HAIRSPRAY

14

Gallery Coffeehouse: READERS THEATRE "LOVE LETTERS" BY A. R. GURNEY

15 16 17

Mad Cap Puppets: UNDER THE BONSAI TREE

18 19

LAST HAM STANDING COMEDY IMPROV

20

CHINESE NEW YEAR EVENT: Year Of The Monkey

21

Loudoun Symphony presents A LITTLE CHAMBER MUSIC

Gallery Coffeehouse: THE COMEDY CULT IMPROV

Gallery Coffeehouse: THE COMEDY CULT IMPROV

22 23 24 25 26 27

THE EDGE: Malone Benefit Concert

28

Loudoun School of Ballet Winter Showcase

29 1 2 3 4

VSA of Loudoun Spring Musical: SPECTRUM’S JOURNEY

5

Notaviva Vineyards - Bluegrass Jam - FREE event

VSA of Loudoun Spring Musical: SPECTRUM’S JOURNEY

6

VSA of Loudoun Spring Musical: SPECTRUM’S JOURNEY

GALLERY COFFEEHOUSE: Readers Theatre, 100 Lunches" by Jack Sharkey & Leo Sears

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Lifestyle

Creation and Evolution in Native American Spirituality

9 Feb 2016

turtle_swartz

In celebration of Evolution Weekend, an annual event led by clergy to encourage serious discussion and reflection on the relationship between religion and science, St. James United Church of Christ in Lovettsville has invited Roger and Deborah “Turtle” Swartz to guide a discussion of traditional Native American Spirituality and its wisdom in celebrating human relationship to the earth. In a …

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Run and Walk To Your Nearest 5K Pregame Event Happening on Super Bowl Day In Leesburg

3 Feb 2016

runandwalk

There is a new Running Company, the Pace Makers Running Company, in town and they are on a mission to help the local population with their health goals while raising money for selected charities. The race at The National Conference Center in Leesburg on February 7, is to help benefit the Riverside High School Athletic Department. The upcoming race on …

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Lovin’ Leesburg for All Its Beauty

3 Feb 2016

lovinleesburgrealestate1

By Hannah Hager We may be in the thick of winter, but this home on Cherry Spring Lane will melt your heart. Come spring you’ll fully be able to enjoy this simple, yet elegant brick home and its surrounding green pastures enclosed by miles of black wooden fences. Beyond your immediate yard are sweeping views of the mountains and valleys …

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Around Virginia

Education Savings Accounts Make Big Move in House

Dave_larock

The Virginia House of Delegates gave a strong push to House Bill 389, Delegate Dave LaRock’s (R-33rd District) innovative Education Savings Account legislation, as the House Education Committee voted 13-9 in favor of advancing the bill forward. “This is definitely an exciting development for parents and students in the Commonwealth,” …

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Kaine to Hold Hearing on Opioid Abuse

Kaine

On Monday, February 1, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, will hold a field hearing in Loudoun County to examine the ongoing fight against opioid misuse and abuse among older Americans. Kaine has met with families, law enforcement and business leaders across Virginia …

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Youth Can Apply for 2015 Livestock Exhibitor Scholarships

Virginia_seal

Youth who exhibited beef cattle, sheep, meat goats or swine in the 2015 State Fair of Virginia 4-H and FFA youth livestock program are eligible to apply for 12 new scholarships being offered by the State Fair of Virginia. Scholarships will be offered in three age groups: Juniors (9-12), Intermediate …

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Sports

Western Loudon Volleyball Club “Hitmen” Team Finishes Second

3 Feb 2016

westernloudounvolleyballclub

The Western Loudon Volleyball Club U14 boys team, called the “Hitmen,” finished second in a tournament held January 17. This is the first ever boys team for the WLVBC (and only the second boys club in the area). Coach Allan Kotmel led the seven-member team. WLVBC started eight years ago, …

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ODFC West Travel Soccer Program Shines

2 Dec 2015

ODFCsoccerpics

The Old Dominion Football Club West boys and girls middle school travel soccer program scored big the weekend of November 21 and 22.  The girls Quest Premier 22 team took home the championship in the U12 Girls Premier Division of the Hunt Country Classic located in Fauquier County. The boys …

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