Thursday, April 14, 2016

Native Grass Restoration Project Workers Plant Grass Seed Planted at BOWA

A Citizen Science Virginia Master Naturalist collaborative effort kicked off the spring by planting the three types of seed mixes that will be tested as native grasses that may successfully out-compete the invasive Johnson grass now growing in a hay field at the Monument in the Booker T. National Park (BOWA).

Last fall the area was successfully cleared of all grass and this spring the area was "disked" by Park personnel to prepare it for the seeding effort.  

Six hardy volunteers braved the very cool April day and worked the 20 x 32 m area clearing the rocks, laying wood chip observation corridors, and gridding the area in 18 subplots. Native grass seed mixes representing habitats for tall grass, short grass and forage were then hand-broadcast into each subplot for a total of 6 subplots per mix. Now all we have to do is cross our fingers and hope it grows! Quantitative observations of the results will be conducted this fall.  

This project and more Citizen Science projects can found at this website: Collaborative Science

Native Grass Restoration Project Workers Plant Grass Seed Planted at BOWA

Monday, April 11, 2016

Who knew? (Hint: It was Charlotte)

It was a cold, windy, cloudy early April day in the near campus wilderness of Ferrum College. Who in the world would be out there on an early Saturday morning? BRFAL’s 2016 Master Naturalist Class, that’s who!

 Kathy holds two students’ attention as she challenges them to find out more about the amazing diversity of the plants all around us. 

But students, trip leaders and hosts were not the only ones in the woods! Clyde recorded over 40 species of birds during the morning as he tried to tune our ears to identify their songs. 

We netted sparrows and chickadees for an up-close encounter. 

Frogs, toads, skinks and salamanders showed themselves thanks to fall traps and some coaxing from Nell and Todd. Adams Lake offered us a great blue heron and mallards plus a variety of wriggling chubs. But most interesting to me were the furry critters: white footed mice that left our attention with freshly tagged ears and a flying squirrel that put on an aerial display for us as he was released.

Alone in the woods? Not hardly!

 Come join the BRFAL gang and all the creatures out there. Our next public event will be our BRFAL Nature Expo at Booker T. Washington National Monument from 2-4 pm on Saturday, May 7, 2016. It's free, it's educational, it's fun.  And by the way, did I mention it's free?

Pictures & text by BRFAL member Charlotte Hubbard.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Meet our current master naturalists in training

Pictured are, left to right: Neil Fredericksen, Paul Pautler, Beth Pautler, Linda Atwell, Ellen Nuss, Donna Haarz, Peter Brinckerhoff, and Jean Frederick
Meet the current class taking the Virginia Master Naturalist training course. This enthusiastic bunch will soon become members of our Blue Ridge Foothills and Lakes Chapter, and we are pleased with their progress. 

They have already completed the classroom instruction portion, and now have the field trips ahead to round out their training.  

So much information in such a short time, but they are all still smiling (a very good sign indeed!) 

We look forward to having them as active members in our chapter. 

Submitted by Kathy Scott, BRFAL President

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Got snow?

Post by dedicated Virginia Master Naturalist Charlotte Hubbard:

Since my work and life are frequently demanding, I don’t mind so much being snowed in for a few days. (my photo)  I am safe and warm and well fed, and even when the roads are impassable, I have some charming visitors! 

One of my favorites is the male yellow bellied sap sucker who has begun frequenting my suet feeder. 

As described by Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are fairly small woodpeckers with stout, straight bills. The long wings extend about halfway to the tip of the stiff, pointed tail at rest. Often, sapsuckers hold their crown feathers up to form a peak at the back of the head.

Because of our visitor’s frequently ruffled appearance, and the fact that he seems to have a collection of traits resembling several other more commonly seen birds, my husband and I often refer to the YBSS as the “spare parts bird”. He may well have been made of parts left over from the other woodpeckers we see!

On a walk through the forest you might spot rows of shallow holes in tree bark. In the East, this is the work of the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, who laps up the leaking sap and any trapped insects with its specialized, brush-tipped tongue. They sit still on tree trunks for long intervals while feeding. To find one, listen for their loud mewing calls or stuttered drumming.

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers live in both hardwood and conifer forests up to about 6,500 feet elevation. They often nest in groves of small trees, and spend winters in open woodlands.

Who is visiting you? Consider participating in the Great Back Yard Bird Count February 12-15.  The four-day count each February to create an annual snapshot of the distribution and abundance of birds. Find out more at

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Application for 2016 Basic Training is Here

 Virginia Master Naturalist Program - Blue Ridge Foothills and Lakes Chapter
Winter 2016

To Potential Applicant:

Thank you for your interest in applying to be a Virginia Master Naturalist through the Blue Ridge Foothills and Lakes Chapter (BRFAL) training program.  Plans are underway to offer the training program beginning on Thursday February 18, in Westlake, Virginia.

The BRFAL training program is designed to prepare individuals as Certified Virginia Master Naturalists for the statewide corps of master naturalist volunteers carrying out the Virginia Master Naturalist Program mission of “providing education, outreach and service dedicated to the beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within their communities”.  As such, it will provide the background knowledge and opportunity for skill development necessary to be effective as a volunteer Certified Virginia Master Naturalist.

To become a Certified Virginia Master Naturalist, a trainee must:
  • Complete 40 hours of basic training, which includes a minimum of 25% time in the field;
  • Participate actively in an informal class assessment at the completion of training in which trainees will be asked to demonstrate their knowledge.
  • Complete 8 hours of approved advanced training designed to focus volunteer efforts on one or more specific topics of interest; and
  • Complete a minimum of 40 hours of service in a BRFAL approved project within 12 months of the completion of the basic training program.
To maintain certification, each Virginia Master Naturalist must complete an additional 8 hours of advanced training and 40 hours of service annually.

BRFAL’s training sessions will start February 18 and conclude April 9. Classes will be held on a combination of Thursday evenings from 6:00pm- 9:00 pm and  Saturdays 9am-5pm,  in the Smith Mountain Lake Association Office building located on Scruggs Road, Westlake. Actual dates are: Feb 18, 25, 27, Mar 5, 10.  The location of the Saturday field sessions will vary based on the topic being presented.  Actual dates for field trips are Mar 19, Apr 2, 9.  Attendance is very important and all missed sessions (maximum 2 classes) must be made up by attending the appropriate class(es) within 12 months of the completion of training. 

The cost of the program, including materials, is $125.  This fee also entitles each participant to a one-year membership in the BRFAL Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalist Program. Registration opens up to applicants on December 15, 2015. Because of limited seating, the deadline for submitting applications is February 2, 2016.  The BRFAL Application Committee will notify all applicants of their status of their application.  Applicants accepted for the training program must send a check for $125 (payable to BRFAL) to be received at the address below not later than February 11, 2016, one week before the beginning of the class.  A minimum of 8 students is required to hold these training classes; enrollment by fewer than 8 will likely result in the class being cancelled and monies refunded.

If you wish to apply for the Winter 2016 training program, please complete and mail the attached application form  (along with the course fee of $125 if you choose to do so at this time) to:

Virginia Master Naturalists
Blue Ridge Foothills and Lakes Chapter
P.O. Box 42
Wirtz, VA 24184
ATTN:  Application Committee

BRFAL generally holds monthly meetings on the 3rd Thursday of each month at 7:00 pm.  The meeting place alternates between Rocky Mount (in the Franklin Center), and the Westlake area of Smith Mountain Lake (in the Smith Mountain Lake Association office on Scruggs Road, in Moneta).  In general, in even months the meetings are held in Westlake and in odd months in Rocky Mount.  Please feel free, if you are interested in joining the program, to attend any of these meetings. We try to have guest speakers throughout the year and you are certainly welcome to these meetings, as well as our regular business meetings.

For any questions about the Virginia Master Naturalist Program and/or BRFAL Chapter, please call (540) 365-4613 or email us here.


2016 Training Syllabus
DATE                       PRESENTATION
     Classroom Training
18-Feb     Introduction
                VMS log on and access
                Naturalists take-home journal-take home with instr.
                Risk Management

25-Feb     Lake Ecology/stream ecology
                 Aquatic Ecology

27-Feb      Dendrology
                 Forest Management (Online) classroom check-in

5-Mar       Ichthyology
                 Geology Soil Geomorphology
                 Environmental Presentations

10-Mar     Plant Id and Taxonomy
                 Weather (Online) classroom check-in
                 Submit Journal
                 Submit Naturalist report
           Field Training
19-Mar     Geology & Soils
                 Stream ecology

2-Apr      Birds and insects

9-Apr      Field practical exercise

April 23 or 30   Graduation