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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

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

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

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

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

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?

“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

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

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

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


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









2016 Energy Summit – George Washington University


On Friday evening, October 28, George Washington University, Virginia Campus in Ashburn will host the 10th annual Don Sandros Energy Summit in cooperation with local businesses and non-profits. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. for a reception with wine donated by …

Attributing Disaster


“Humans are likely to create a catastrophe, and possibly an associated disaster, that vastly exceeds our own ability to recover from it. In the face of all our efforts, it will persist.” – Richard Guthrie [1] “Here we show that …

Concerned Parent


By Michael Oberschenider Psy.D. Dr. Mike, We recently signed our four-year-old daughter up for gymnastics. It wasn’t cheap, but her friends from the neighborhood do it, and she has been begging us to go. It turned out to be a …

Invisible Illnesses

Lunde new

By Mary Rose Lunde It is general knowledge that when people think about illnesses, they don’t think about illnesses that aren’t physically apparent. Sure, people know about conditions such as multiple sclerosis and other diseases with visible symptoms, but many …

Robinson Park

robinson park

Looking back, now – I’m glad it wasn’t what most people would’ve considered a nice day; I don’t know about you, but I’ve had my share of hot and sunny to last me for at least a generation (especially since …

Are Your Estate and Financial Plans Shock-Proof?


Don’t wait until “what if?” becomes “what is.” Where will you live as you age? Think about your housing options now, so you have choices and won’t have to make a hasty decision should an unexpected health event force you …

In Defense of ‘Adulting’


By Samuel Moore-Sobel Most friends transitioning from college to the workforce long for the days of college, wishing to be back in class and participating in campus life. To be honest, I may be in the minority, but I have …

Student News

Congratulations, Class of 2016

6 Jul 2016


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


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


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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October 2016
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
September 26, 2016

Dreams of Trees and Other Living Things

September 27, 2016

Dreams of Trees and Other Living Things

September 28, 2016

Dreams of Trees and Other Living Things

September 29, 2016

Dreams of Trees and Other Living Things

September 30, 2016

Dreams of Trees and Other Living Things

October 1, 2016

Notaviva Vineyards - Bluegrass Jam - FREE event

October 2, 2016
October 3, 2016 October 4, 2016 October 5, 2016 October 6, 2016 October 7, 2016 October 8, 2016

Virginia Outdoors Foundation 50 years of Conservation Celebration

October 9, 2016
October 10, 2016 October 11, 2016 October 12, 2016

Barefoot Puppets: Dreamtime, Tales From Down Under

October 13, 2016 October 14, 2016 October 15, 2016

Loudoun Centre Theatre: The Scamps Of Scapin!

October 16, 2016

Harvest Celebration & Fall Farm Tour


October 17, 2016 October 18, 2016 October 19, 2016 October 20, 2016 October 21, 2016

Anthony Semiao Live at North Gate Vineyard


October 22, 2016 October 23, 2016

Come Paint with us at Breaux Vineyards

October 24, 2016 October 25, 2016 October 26, 2016 October 27, 2016 October 28, 2016

October Fourth Friday

October 29, 2016

2 Pound Sterling Live at North Gate VIneyard

October 30, 2016

Music With A Cause - Music of Colonial America

October 31, 2016 November 1, 2016 November 2, 2016 November 3, 2016 November 4, 2016 November 5, 2016

OysterFest at North Gate Vineyard

Notaviva Vineyards - Bluegrass Jam - FREE event

November 6, 2016
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Veteran’s Day 10k Raises Funds for Veteran Causes

13 Oct 2016


On November 6, the Loudoun County Road Runners Club will again conduct the annual Loudoun 10K Trail Race in order to raise funds for veteran causes. Since it’s origin in 2011, the trail race has generated more than $90,000 with 100 percent of proceeds going directly to veteran’s charities, specifically Boulder Crest Retreat and Pets for Vets.

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FBRM Clean-Up Day at Blue Ridge Regional Park

6 Oct 2016


Join Friends of the Blue Ridge Mountains for an Autumn clean-up to remove invasive vegetation from Blue Ridge Regional Park on Saturday, Oct. 15 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Some tools and equipment will be provided, but please bring your clippers, pruning shears, or saws if you can. Directions: From Leesburg, drive west on Route 7 past the turnoff …

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Painted Barrel Auction Saturday, October 8

6 Oct 2016


The Auction for The Painted Barrels around Purcellville will be held on Saturday, October 8 at 7:00 p.m at the Bush Tabernacle – 250 S. Nursery Ave. Purcellville. Thirty-Five local Loudoun County artists were given an oak wine barrel to create a Purcellville / Loudoun theme on it. Each barrel was sponsored by a local business and was displayed throughout …

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Grief and Greed


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 …


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


– 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


– 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

New Proposed Uses for Western Loudoun

Loudoun County Seal Color

If you live in the middle or western part of Loudoun where you enjoy a parcel of open space near your property (which probably was put into an open space …

Bennett Knows How To Make Economy Work for All


In the election for the 10th District House seat, only one candidate has a more than three decades of success growing a local business. As the owner of a successful …

View From the Ridge

Broken Promises, Hidden by a Six-Foot Berm


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

History’s Holy Places: Four Local Sites Worth Exploring This Fall


The Journey through Hallowed Ground is a 180-mile long, 75-mile wide trek from Gettysburg to Monticello, encompassing nine presidential homes and places, 18 national and state parks, and thousands of small and large historical sites. Dozens and dozens of these sites and related museums are short ride from just about …

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Land Trust Receives Large Donation

land trust

On August 22, The Land Trust of Virginia received a $10,000 gift from the Sharon D. Virts Foundation, based in Herndon. The presentation of this grant was part of the Foundation’s official launch event, held at Selma Plantation in Leesburg. Notable speakers included Sharon D. Virts, FCiFederal Founder and Chair, …

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Farmers Urged To Be On The Lookout For Marijuana


Farmers in Southwest Virginia are being urged to check their property for marijuana planted by trespassers. Within the past year, hundreds of marijuana plants have been discovered between rows of hay bales on farms in and around Pulaski County, according to the Claytor Lake Regional Drug Task Force. “Unfortunately this …

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Hunter’s First Professional Race

7 Sep 2016


Drew Hunter and Loudoun Valley classmates at his first professional race, Sir Walter Miler in Raleigh, NC in early August , l to r:  Marcos Pierce, Matt Slook, Drew Hunter, Max McNerney. Hunter finished with a time of 3:57.15. Hunter turned professional and signed with Adidas.

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Let’s Make Some Memories

3 Aug 2016


American Legion Baseball At Fireman’s Field, August 3 – 7 By Andrea Gaines American Legion Baseball is here at Fireman’s Field in a big way, featuring five consecutive blockbuster Mid-Atlantic Tournament games – August 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. Our local Leesburg Post 34 Rangers had some nice wins …

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