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

Friday, December 18, 2015

Master naturalists elect new officers

As authored by Jim Pilversack:
The Blue Ridge Foothills and Lakes (BRFAL) Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalist program (VMNP) elected new officers at its annual membership meeting.  Outgoing President Dick LeRoy congratulated new President Kathy Scott on her election as the third President of the Chapter.  Outgoing Vice President, Rich Brager welcomed Warren Clark to the position.  The Chapter, one of thirty in the state has over 35 members.

If you, or someone you know, are interested in becoming a member consider attending our Nature Expo on Saturday, January 23 from 2 to 4 pm at Booker T. Washington Memorial to learn all about this great program. Our next training sessions begin on February 18.

Please call (540) 365-4613 if you have any questions.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

More Information Coming Soon About Details of Training!

Basic Training!

The Next Basic Training will begin on February 18, 2016 and conclude on April 9, 2016. Classes will occur the Smith Mountain Lake Association office at 400 Scruggs Road in Moneta. An application and cover letter will be available soon to download. In the meantime contact us at 540-365-4613 or at and we will email or mail you the necessary forms.