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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

2016 in the Books

noerpel_new

(Presented to the Board of Supervisors February, 2017) “The last three years have demonstrated abundantly clearly that there is no change in the long-term trends since 1998. A prediction from 1997 merely continuing the linear trends would significantly under-predict the …

A Rainy Romance

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By Samuel Moore-Sobel “If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all” – a simple phrase uttered in an acclaimed musical that helped birth a star. The movie’s Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) catches his attention so completely that Don Lockwood (Gene …

Concerned Parents

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By Michael Oberschneider, Psy.D. Dr. Mike, Our 15-year-old son is out of control and we don’t know what to do anymore. He smokes pot and drinks, disobeys us left and right, is truant from school often, comes home whenever he …

It’s Time To Review Your Estate Planning Basics

Smith0035

Beginners and billionaires alike should refresh their knowledge of these basic estate planning terms and concepts. The word “estate” tends to conjure up images of billionaires and aristocrats, but estate planning is not just for the wealthy. It’s widely believed …

Just Like Nothing (Else) on Earth: George Marshall Center

George Marshall Center

I used to wonder why – after an assignment to visit the interior of this place, I’d return feeling exhausted – both mentally and physically worn out – as if I’d been carrying an extra couple hundred pounds or so …

Meeting the “Other America”

blueridge2

By Nicholas Reid Ever since the presidential election last November, there has been a lot of talk about the “two Americas”: coastal and continental America. The many differences between these two sections of the United States are numerous and oftentimes …

The Trump Effect

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“Corals are marine magicians. As colonies of the tiny ocean organisms grow, they transform the calcium that circulates in seawater into enormous limestone reefs. These reefs—which can extend for more than 1,000 miles and provide homes for crabs, eels, sea …

Student News

Congratulations, Class of 2016

6 Jul 2016

grads_woodgrove

Woodgrove High School’s Class Of 2016 Graduation – By Amanda Clark On June 16, Woodgrove’s Class of 2016 was the 5th graduating class to walk the stage and accept their diploma. The ceremony was filled with anticipation as the chorus, …

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Buckland Earns Degree In Medicine

6 Jul 2016

buckland

Molly Buckland, D.O., graduated from the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine with a degree of Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine on May 28. While at WVSOM, Dr. Buckland received the Dr. Roland P. Sharp President’s Award and the James R. …

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Adams Promoted To Lieutenant

6 Jul 2016

adamspromoted

Lt. James Adams, from Sterling and a Potomac Falls Halls Graduate, earned the promotion to the rank of Lieutenant. Adams is a Navy Week and Executive Outreach Planner for the Navy Office of Community Outreach in Millington, Tennessee. U.S. Navy …

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Calendar

February 2017
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
January 30, 2017 January 31, 2017 February 1, 2017 February 2, 2017

Chair Yoga

Chair Yoga

Yoga for Men

Yoga for Men
February 3, 2017 February 4, 2017

CHINESE NEW YEAR EVENT

CHINESE NEW YEAR EVENT

GALLERY COFFEEHOUSE: Readers Theater

GALLERY COFFEEHOUSE: Readers Theater

Notaviva Vineyards - Bluegrass Jam - FREE event

Notaviva Vineyards - Bluegrass Jam - FREE event
February 5, 2017
February 6, 2017 February 7, 2017 February 8, 2017 February 9, 2017

Chair Yoga

Chair Yoga

Yoga for Men

Yoga for Men
February 10, 2017 February 11, 2017

Valentine's Pizza & Champagne

Valentine's Pizza & Champagne

Sweetheart’s Soirée- A Night of Dinner & Dancing

Sweetheart’s Soirée- A Night of Dinner & Dancing
February 12, 2017

Candlelight Concert Fundraiser

Candlelight Concert Fundraiser

GALLERY COFFEEHOUSE: Writers’ Night Out

GALLERY COFFEEHOUSE: Writers’ Night Out
February 13, 2017 February 14, 2017 February 15, 2017

Bob Brown Puppets: Dragon Feathers

Bob Brown Puppets: Dragon Feathers
February 16, 2017 February 17, 2017

ARTSPOWER: RAINBOW FISH

ARTSPOWER: RAINBOW FISH
February 18, 2017

Wine & Chili Weekend

Wine & Chili Weekend

BALLET THEATRE OF ASHBURN AND EDGE PERFORMANCE COMPANY: MALONE BENEFIT CONCERT

BALLET THEATRE OF ASHBURN AND EDGE PERFORMANCE COMPANY: MALONE BENEFIT CONCERT

Comedy Night feat. Tyrone Davis

Comedy Night feat. Tyrone Davis
February 19, 2017
February 20, 2017 February 21, 2017 February 22, 2017 February 23, 2017 February 24, 2017

February Fourth Friday

February Fourth Friday
February 25, 2017

Samedi Gras Celebration

Samedi Gras Celebration
February 26, 2017
February 27, 2017 February 28, 2017 March 1, 2017 March 2, 2017 March 3, 2017

LAST HAM STANDING COMEDY IMPROV

LAST HAM STANDING COMEDY IMPROV
March 4, 2017

Notaviva Vineyards - Bluegrass Jam - FREE event

Notaviva Vineyards - Bluegrass Jam - FREE event
March 5, 2017
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Lifestyle

LCSO Announces Project Emergency Response

22 Feb 2017

sheriff

The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, in partnership with Loudoun County Public Schools, has developed a pilot program to assist emergency responders and individuals with Autism and their families to successfully manage emergency situations. The program, called Project Emergency Response, will allow family members and other caregivers to provide crucial information about their loved ones to first responders. The information will …

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Hillsboro Plans Mardi Gras Celebration on February 25

20 Feb 2017

nothing else main in hillsboro grey

Mardi Gras celebration will be held in Hillsboro on Saturday, February 25 as a benefit for the Old Stone Schoolhouse. The event will begin at 7:30 p.m. Hurricanes and New Orleans drinks, as well as Old 690 beer and local wines will be served in the Garden District Bar. The Cajun Cafe will feature New Orleans cuisine, including King Cakes. …

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Four Young Historians Discuss Civil War Turning Points

2 Feb 2017

younghistorians

The Mosby Heritage Area Association will hold a talk featuring a panel of four young historians who will discuss turning points in the Civil War. The talk will be held at Unison Methodist Church, 21148 Unison Road, Middleburg, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, February 12. Tickets will be sold at the door or online at www.mosbyheritagearea.org/events for $15 …

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Editorial

Priscilla Nabs Plum Planning Commission Post

Loudoun County Seal Color

Appointment Shocks Many On January 3 Supervisor Tony R. Buffington Jr. (R-Blue Ridge) nominated Tom Priscilla for the Loudoun County Planning Commission to represent the Blue Ridge District. Priscilla was …

Op-ed

Opinion: Terrorism, Debt, and China: Oh My!

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– By Nick Reid world can be a very dangerous place sometimes, especially for a nation state such as the United States. Although danger is always present, the number and …

Metro Money Mess Pushing West

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– By Delegate Dave LaRock (R-33rd) A local paper recently quoted Loudoun Board Chair Phyllis Randall as saying that in her observation “some of the concerns raised by the people …

Dear Editor

Why Williams Gap Road Should Not Be Paved

blueridge2

Today, most residents of Loudoun County know nothing about Williams Gap, even those living on Williams Gap Road (Route 711). Knowing who “Williams” was, why a gap in the Blue …

Vote No To the Minor Special Exception

catesbyproposal

We are a group of Loudoun County citizens who will be adversely affected if the board grants a special exception for the Catesby Farm property at your upcoming meeting. You …

View From the Ridge

Broken Promises, Hidden by a Six-Foot Berm

blueridge2

By Andrea Gaines On August 9, 1825 at the age of 69, French military officer the Marquis de Lafayette was honored in Leesburg by former President James Monroe. The French-born …

Around Virginia

Walbridge To Run for State Delegate in the 33rd District

Tia walbridge

Tia Walbridge announces her run for the District 33 seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. Walbridge is a wife and mother of two daughters and an active member of the Round Hill community. “Like many people in our district, my family has found its prosperity in a Virginia-based small …

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Office Building on Capitol Square To Be Named After Civil Rights Pioneer Barbara Johns

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Governor Terry McAuliffe announced that the newly renovated state building located at 202 N. 9th Street on Capitol Square in Richmond (currently known as the 9th Street Office Building) will bear the name of civil rights pioneer Barbara Johns. The building, which reopened last year, houses the Virginia Attorney General’s …

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Rep. Comstock’s Key Top Priority Legislation Initiatives

barbaracomstock

Signed into Law in Her First Term Rep. Barbara Comstock, who serves the 10th congressional district in Virginia, recently reviewed the achievements of her first term in office, identifying 17 legislative initiatives that she supported that were adopted. She said: “My staff and I have met with stakeholders, local elected …

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Sports

WLVBC U14 Boys Finish 3rd at VA Beach Event

23 Feb 2017

WLVBC300

The Western Loudoun Volleyball Club’s U14 Boys Team garnered 3rd place in their first travel tournament of 2017, the Virginia Beach Invitational. This event was held Feb. 18-19 and featured more than 24 teams from the U14 to U18 age group. The team was second on their net on day …

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Woodgrove Gymnasts Advance To States

15 Feb 2017

gymnastics Snare

Two Woodgrove High School gymnasts have qualified to advance to the Virginia State Championships Saturday, February 18, at Patriot High School in Nokesville. Sophomore River Stone placed fourth in the all-around competition at the 1A-5A North Regional Gymnastics Championships at Park View High School on Wednesday, February 8, which earns …

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