Friends of Dyke Marsh is a volunteer group dedicated to preserving, restoring and enhancing Dyke Marsh, a freshwater tidal marsh in Fairfax County on the Potomac River just south of Alexandria, Virginia. The Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve is administered by the National Park Service.

What Is Dyke Marsh?

The Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve is a freshwater, tidal marsh on the Virginia side of the Potomac River in Fairfax County. It is a unit of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, U.S. National Park Service. For more information, visit the NPS website at

The Ospreys Have Returned


On March 7, 2017, we welcomed the return of ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) to the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve.  Ed Eder reported that “the female quickly began rearranging sticks on the nesting platform” at the Belle Haven Marina.  “She directs the construction although the pair both gather nesting material,” Ed observed.  Ed, an expert naturalist and birder, said that the male has used this platform for nearly 10 years. 

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FODMers and Friends Learn about Secretive Birds

Least Bittern

On February 26, 2017, Patrice Neilsen gave a presentation on her research on secretive bird species of the Washington, D.C., region.   She studied the king rail, Virginia rail, sora, least bittern and American bittern in surveys at 51 points in 25 marshes in 2013, 2014 and 2015. She surveyed at sunrise or sunset three times a year. She found no Virginia rails, sora or American bittern, but found least bitterns and king rails in several locations. 

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Carolina Wrens Delight

Carolina wren

Carolina wrens (Thryothorus ludovicianus) delight us year-round with their rich musical song.  They are common in surburbia and in the undergrowth of deciduous and mixed woods and along forest edges.  Jason Yee shared his photographs of these beautiful birds, photos he took on the February 5, 2017, FODM bird walk.

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Celebrating FODM’s 40th and NPS’s 100th


On October 2, 2016, 125 friends and supporters of the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve (photo by Ned Stone) celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Friends of Dyke Marsh, the 100th anniversary of the U.S. National Park Service and the start of marsh restoration. FODM thanks the many generous members, friends, volunteers, sponsors and donors who made the celebration possible. See the lists below.

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Honors Come to FODM

General Assembly

At FODM’s October 2, 2016, 40th anniversary celebration, Virginia Senators Adam Ebbin and Scott Surovell and Delegates Paul Krizek, Mark Levine and Mark Sickles presented a resolution honoring FODM’s 40 years of stewardship.  The Virginia General Assembly (building, photo) passed the resolution on March 10, 2016.

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FODM Urges Fairfax County to Stop Pesticide Spraying

Common yellowthroat

Beginning in 2000 and for several years since, Fairfax County has sprayed over thousands of acres targeting a native moth caterpillar called the fall cankerworm (Alsophila pometaria).  The National Park Service does not spray its properties, but a phenomenon known as “pesticide drift” can occur and chemicals can end up on unintended properties.  We estimate that at least 110 kinds of butterfly and moth caterpillars are at risk of being killed by this insecticide.

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Lingering or Wintering Warblers?

Wilson's warbler

Wilson’s Warbler

In early December 2016, sharp observers spotted two warblers in the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, birds that normally would be much further south in December.

A Wilson’s warbler (Cardellina pusilla) (photo by Ed Eder), a beautiful citrine yellow, long-distance migrant is apparently overwintering in the marsh. 

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Another Rare Winter Visitor, the Baltimore Oriole

Baltimore oriole

In mid-December 2016, FODMers spotted a Baltimore oriole (Icterus galbula) in Dyke Marsh, a rare winter sighting in Northern Virginia.  These birds typically migrate to Mexico, Central America and Cuba during the winter months and are likely vagrants here that have either failed to migrate or have stopped short of their final migration destination. 

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Restoring, Sustaining Productive Ecosystems

Purple joepyeweed

We can bring back functional ecosystems, Dr. Doug Tallamy explains in “Hometown Habitat,” a film that FODM featured at the November 16, 2016, meeting.  He describes the effort as “healing the Earth, one yard at a time.”  Dr. Tallamy is Professor and Chair of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware and the author of Bringing Nature Home.  

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A Multi-sensory Walk in Dyke Marsh

Rachel LeQuire

FODMers Jessie Strother and Ned Stone helped National Park Service staff lead a multi-sensory nature walk for low-vision and blind people in Dyke Marsh on September 24, 2016.   The group was led by Park Ranger Rachel LeQuire ( photo, by Mary Bielamowicz). As the group of 15 walked along the Haul Road trail, they felt tree bark, snake skins and animal pelts.

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FODMers Learn about Plants from an Expert

Dr. Wells

            On Saturday morning, September 3, 2016, as Hurricane Hermine pounded Virginia’s coast, 25 FODMers studied the plants of Dyke Marsh on a windy, “rainless,” three-hour walk.   “At least there’ll be fewer mosquitoes,” quipped walk leader Dr. Elizabeth Wells, Associate Professor Emerita of Botany at the George Washington University.  Her commentary was engaging and wide ranging, covering plant taxonomy, reproduction, structure, pollination, predation, host plants and more.

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STEM Students Visit Dyke Marsh

Emmet Rosenfeld

On July 14, 2016, FODM hosted 25 George Washington Middle School students participating in the Alexandria Public Schools’ summer STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program and two of their teachers.  The students learned about the natural resources of Dyke Marsh and conducted some water testing using seine nets. 

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