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Barred Owl Pair Has Established Breeding Territory

Barred owl

FODM surveyors believe that a barred owl (Strix varia) pair has set up a breeding territory near the Belle Haven Park picnic area this spring (2017).  According to FODMer Larry Cartwright, barred owls select a breeding territory based on suitability for nest sites and prey base, partly to monopolize food sources and partly to prevent another male from attempting to break the pair bond.  

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Students Visit Dyke Marsh


Under beautiful spring skies, 40 eighth graders and their teachers from Alexandria’s St. Stephens and St. Agnes School visited Dyke Marsh on April 5, 2017, under the leadership of their science teacher Robert Davis, Middle School Science Department Coordinator.  Using a seine net, students collected and studied fish and other aquatic life. 

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FODMers Survey Virginia's Breeding Birds

plover eggs

Several FODMers are helping with Virginia’s second Breeding Bird Atlas, a survey of all bird species breeding in the state.  Headed by Dr. Ashley Peele, a Virginia Tech avian ecologist, the project is featured in a March/April 2017 Virginia Wildlife magazine article by FODM President Glenda Booth and titled “On the Hunt for Virginia’s Breeding Birds.”  You can read it online here

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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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