Monday, July 20, 2015

Happy Birthday Guy

In order to honor our first and past President of BRFAL, Guy Buford, on the occasion of his 85th birthday, we managed a little surprise birthday party for him at our BRFAL board meeting last Thursday. 

We are pretty sure Guy enjoyed it.  What do you think?
 Happy Birthday Guy!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Welcome to the Front Porch at Smith Mountain Lake State Park

The BRFAL Chapter of Virginia Master Naturalist are participating in some informative talks on great topics on the Porch at Smith Mountain Lake State Park:
  • Sat. June 6 Dick Leroy SOS/CoCoRaHS 10am - 11am AND 12-1pm
  • Sat. June 13 Rick Brager  VMN/BRFAL 11am - 2 pm
  • Sun. June 14 Jim & Denise Pilversack Eastern Box Turtles 2pm - 3pm
  • Thurs. June 18 Rick Watson Water Quality Sampling 11am-11:30 AND 1-1:30pm
  • Sat. July 11 Rich Brager VMN/BRFAL 11am - 2 pm
Mark your calendars and come to Smith Mountain Lake State Park for a hike, a swim and spend some time on the front porch. Click here for more events at this beautiful Virginia State Park.

Monday, April 27, 2015

BRFAL Master Naturalists at Boones Mill Elementary's Earth Day

On Wednesday 4/22 Boones Mill students participated in a series of school-wide educational Earth Day activities  Activities included outreaches presented by the VA Museum of Natural History; Smith Mountain Lake State Park-Park Naturalist; Cooperative Extension and BRFAL Master Naturalists.
Students interviewed said that their favorite activity was the "Turtles of Virginia" presented by BRFAL's Denise and Jim Pliversack

Other activities included: Water Cycle; Litter and Wildlife; and Recycling. The Recycling exhibit was designed and created by the school's Student Naturalists - Green Team.  The event was organized by BRFAL's Victoria Keenum

Friday, April 17, 2015

Mr. Kevin Heffernan Addresses BRFAL Chapter about Virginia Invasive Plant Species

On the evening of April 16, 2015, Mr. Kevin Heffernan, DCR Stewardship Biologist was kind enough to travel down from Richmond (this was his second visit to us) to update us on the latest Virginia Invasive Plant list and further educate us on the importance of controlling these plants.  He described the difference between “non-native” and “invasive species", the main factor being that invasive species cause harm to our environment.  Of ~30,000 plant species introduced to North America over the years, ~500 are considered invasive and of those 90 are in Virginia.  For more detailed information, please visit  Kevin's presentation was informative and entertaining.  Thank you Kevin.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Bat conservation is theme of Virginia Cave Week, April 19-25

Shellie & Dick working on a hands on project for Caves and Karst previous training
Date: April 08, 2015
Contact: Julie Buchanan, Public Relations Specialist, (804) 786-2292,
Bat conservation is theme of Virginia Cave Week, April 19-25
RICHMOND — Virginia’s rich cave heritage will be celebrated during Virginia Cave Week, April 19-25. Activities include tours of a wild cave in Giles County, an opportunity to see a bat up close in Front Royal and a trash cleanup at a one of Virginia’s many karst landscapes in Bath County.
Virginia Cave Week is coordinated by the governor-appointed Virginia Cave Board. The board was established in 1979 to conserve and protect the state’s caves and karst landscapes, and to advocate the wise use of cave-related resources. 
More than 4,000 caves have been documented in Virginia. They provide habitat for rare and threatened species, such as the Virginia big-eared bat (Virginia’s state bat) and the Madison Cave isopod. 
Karst landscapes are characterized by caves, springs, sinkholes and sinking streams. In Virginia, these landscapes occur in 27 counties west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Thousands of Virginians depend on karst aquifers for drinking water.

April 19
Cave Week Kickoff
1-4 p.m.
Warren County Community Center, 538 Villa Ave., Front Royal, Virginia

Learn about bat conservation with the Front Royal Grotto and theSave Lucy Campaign, a nonprofit that educates about the effect of white-nose syndrome on North American bats. This event will include educational displays, a bat craft and, between 1 and 2 p.m., the chance to see a live bat.
Trash Cleanup
10:30 a.m.
Aqua Campground, Bath County, Virginia
Free, but requires registration
The Butler Cave Conservation Society is sponsoring a trash cleanup at this karst site. Bags and disposable gloves will be provided. Sign up by contacting Nathaniel Farrar at or 540-315-2643. Driving directions will be provided upon registration.
April 22 and 23
Under the Earth Day Cave Tour

Giles County, Virginia
Free, but requires registration
Take a guided tour of New River Cave, one of Virginia’s largest wild caves. Owned by the National Speleological Society, New River Cave contains nearly 8 miles of mapped passages and many unusual cave formations. Staff with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and VPI Cave Club members will lead participants through the front section of the cave. Learn about bats and other cave inhabitants and the relationship between caves and water quality. 
Participants must wear long, durable pants, long-sleeved shirts and sturdy footwear. Gloves are recommended. Bring water and a snack. Helmets and lights will be provided. Trips will depart from and return to Newport, Virginia, and driving directions will be provided to those who register. It is a steep, half-mile hike to the cave entrance.
Space is limited, and registration is first-come, first-served. Register by calling Faye McKinney at 804-225-4856. Tours will run April 22, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., and 5-10 p.m., and April 23, 1-6 p.m.
For more information about Virginia Cave Week, including teacher lesson plans and virtual tours, visit
For more information about Virginia’s cave and karst resources and to see sites on the Virginia Cave and Karst Trail, visit

Saturday, March 28, 2015

BRFAL Meeting at the Front Porch

Our monthly BRFAL meeting was graciously hosted by Smith Mountain Lake State Park officials Dave Gunnels, Cliff Goodwin and Jet Lawler at what is know as “The Front Porch”.  The Front Porch is in the Visitors Center and is in a small room set up for “down home” presentations on various nature and local history topics. 

 Dave, Cliff and Jet requested that BRFAL members consider being presenters on the Front Porch.  There are other volunteer activities available at the State Park as well including interpretive hikes and pontoon boat ride nature guide.  Our Kathy Scott agreed to be BRFAL volunteer coordinator for the State Park.  If you would like to volunteer, please contact Kathy.

 After a short BRFAL business meeting, Jet took us on a hike of the Turtle Island trail to show us how a trail interpreter conducts a hike in hopes that some of us would volunteer to conduct some hikes at the Park.

 Some pictures from our visit to the Front Porch and hike are shown below.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Successful Kick-off of Master Naturalist Speaker Series

The Blue Ridge Foothills and Lakes Chapter (BRFAL) of the Virginia Master Naturalists held the first of a continuing series of lectures concerning our natural world open to the public and sponsored by the Smith Mountain Lake Association.  

Our first presentation was held on a rainy afternoon at the wonderful local attraction, the Booker T. Washington National Monument auditorium, on Saturday March 14, 2015.

Our guest speaker was Mr. Robert Jennings of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.  Robert is a grassroots field specialist for the Blue Ridge, Piedmont and Valley regions of Virginia.  He works with the Virginia government officials in Richmond to advocate clean water policies.  His topic for the day was

Alter-NATIVE: the benefits of landscaping with native plants to beautify your property and reduce stormwater run-off

 Robert’s presentation lasted about and hour and a half was both very informative as well as entertaining.  We learned that by utilizing Virginia native species plants we can reduce watering and fertilizing needs since these plant grow here naturally.  Native species plants are deep rooted compared to turf grass and therefore hold soil in place to minimize erosion, while better retaining the moisture in the soil and trapping nutrients and sediment.

Robert suggested many native trees, shrubs and wildflowers that all provide the benefits mentioned above, but they also provide significant benefits to our natural species wildlife by providing both nourishment and habitat and all these creatures to survive heat, cold and drought. 

A number of brochures were available for our guests to take home with them.  We had to judge our day as a success. We had 55+ participants, gained lots of good information and had some good laughs to boot. 

So if this sounded interesting to you, mark your calendars for:

Our Water Wise event being held on Sunday April 12th from 1:00-4:00pm at the 4H Center to learn more about protecting our beautiful watershed.  

Also, our next speaker series at BTWNM is being held on Saturday May 16th to learn about our native bird species.  

Robert Jennings presenting to our knowledge hungry group
For more information about our BRFAL Chapter and VirginiaMaster Naturalists read our website you are on, or email us here.

We recommend a visit to the Booker T National Monument in Hardy Virginia, for more information click here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Kudzu and bamboo and privet! Oh my! New list identifies invasive plants in Virginia

National Invasive Species Awareness Week runs through Saturday
Can you identify an invasive species?
PR 02.25.15 RICHMOND — Virginians considering adding English ivy, golden bamboo or Japanese barberry to their yards may want to reconsider. These plants — and 87 others — are on the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s new list of non-native invasive plants of the state
While the list is helpful to land managers and conservationists, home gardeners can use it to make wise decisions about landscaping. The list is for educational purposes only and has no regulatory authority.
“Planting anything on this list could affect adjacent natural areas,” said Kevin Heffernan, DCR Natural Heritage stewardship biologist. “Gardeners should think twice about planting anything that might be aggressive in their yard, especially if they live near a park or a forest.”
Invasive plants can displace native plant species, reduce wildlife habitat and alter ecosystems. They threaten natural areas, parks and forests. In the United States, they cost an estimated $34 billion annually in economic loss.
Invasive, non-native plant species typically:
•    Grow and mature rapidly.
•    Produce seed prolifically.
•    Are highly successful at germination and colonization.
•    Outcompete native species.
•    Are expensive to remove or control.
DCR Natural Heritage scientists used a risk-assessment protocol to determine an invasiveness rank for each species listed. Species were assigned a high, medium or low level of invasiveness in Virginia.
The list also includes species that may not be established in Virginia but are known to be invasive in habitats similar to those found here. These are referred to as “early-detection” species. If they are discovered in Virginia, the goal for these species is eradication to prevent their establishment and spread. People who spot these in Virginia should notify DCR.
One example of an early-detection species is wavyleaf grass (Oplismenus hirtellus subspecies undulatifolius). It’s been seen in nine Northern Virginia counties and has the potential to become widespread. A native of southern Europe and Southeast Asia, wavyleaf was first discovered in the United States in 1996 in Maryland. It ranks as highly invasive on DCR’s list.
Monitoring and preventing the spread of invasive plants is a major focus for DCR scientists and land managers. This work is often conducted with the help of volunteers. The Virginia Invasive Species Management Plan outlines challenges and strategies associated with combating invasive plants and animals. 
Many invasive plant species arrived as packing material or seed contaminants and became established. The spread of plants such as Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum), kudzu (Pueraria montana variety lobata) and common reed (Phragmites australis subspecies australis) has wreaked havoc on Virginia natural areas.
Links to more information

Thursday, February 12, 2015

VMN Presentation at Booker T. Washington Monument March 14, 2015

Virginia Master Naturalist Presentation at Booker T. Washington National Monument

 The Blue Ridge Foothills and Lakes Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists is very pleased to announce the first in a series of guest speakers to present an interesting topic concerning nature which is open to the public.