Friday, March 28, 2014

BRFAL Visits Virginia Museum of Natural History for Tour and Lecture

In mid-March several members of the local Blue Ridge Foothills And Lakes (BRFAL) Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists (VMN) and their guests traveled to Martinsville for a behind the scenes tour of the Virginia Museum of Natural History. 
L-R: Dick LeRoy (BRFAL Pres), Charlotte Hubbard, Doug Horne, Becky Cooper, Meg Brager, Guy Buford, Dick Hendrix, Rich Brager, Lee Borgman, Jeanne Borgman, Carl Boast, Linda Boast, Kathy Scott outside the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville.  Not pictured, Jason Scott.

Dr. Denny Casey, Director of Education and Public Programs treated them to views of the museum not usually seen by the public.  This included the Vertebrate Paleontology lab where specimens dated to 500 million years ago and uncovered by recent mining operations are carefully extracted, examined and cataloged.

In the collections area the group saw storage areas for insects, mammals, geological specimens and invertebrates. 
Dr. Denny Casey (L) of VMNH shares behind the scenes info on Geology with BRFAL members Lee Borgman (top), Dick Hendrix and others.

The building, which opened at its current location in 2007, is carefully climate controlled and the group got to see the complex machinery related to that on their way to the roof of the building to see the Weatherbug station maintained at the museum.  The final stop on the tour was at the zooarcheology lab where human remains in conjunction with animal remains are studied.

The group then joined forces with the Southwestern Piedmont Chapter of VMN, which serves the cities of Martinsville and Danville, and the counties of Henry, Patrick and Pittsylvania, for a continuing education program on Invasive Insects in Virginia.  The program was given by Jessica Driver a member of the Southwestern Piedmont Chapter.
Master Naturalists from the BRFAL & Southwestern Piedmont Chapters attend training on Invasive Insects in VA at the Virginia Museum of Natural History.

The class covered up to date information on some familiar invasive insects such as Japanese Beetles, brown marmorated stink bugs, Asian lady bugs and gypsy moths. They also learned more about recent invasions by the emerald ash borer, Chinese praying mantis, European earthworms, Kudzu stink bugs and fire ants.  They were alerted to several potential new threats including the Asian Longhorn Beetle, Walnut twig beetle, European Grapevine moth, light brown applemoth, oak ambrosia beetle and the green oak tortrix.

Several of the latter bugs are not yet in the USA, but carelessness in transporting luggage, plants, automobiles, outdoor clothing and furniture and agricultural materials could result in their introduction.  Once present, invasive insects can be difficult to get rid of and can be costly to agriculture as well as other endeavors.

Several projects were brought to the attention of the Master Naturalists at the training course.  Volunteer projects are the central focus of the program.  These projects included finding and reporting ladybugs, doing tree checks for Thousand Cankers Disease (a fungus transported by the Walnut twig beetle),  a phone app for reporting stink bug activity and an ash seed collection team.

For more information about BRFAL contact or

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Blue Suck Falls.......What?

I didn't make it up 
That is really the name of the water falls in Douthat State Park. And since my wife Meg and I had never occasioned to visit Douthat before and it was one of the rare beautiful Spring days that Mother Nature has allotted us so far this year, we decided to take the approximate 1-1/2 hour drive to the Covington, VA area to visit Douthat.

That is where we discovered the uphill trail to the Blue Suck Falls shortly after enjoying our sandwiches at the lakeside of the small lake at Douthat.  Our hike to the falls was about 1.5 miles and medium strenuous for us old timers. The falls are not huge but beautiful nevertheless. And this was just one small hike for mankind out of 43 miles of trails at Douthat.  For more information about our hike follow the link:

Here are a couple of pix below.

Virginia State Parks is one of the sponsoring agencies for the Virginia Master Naturalist Program. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Bee's Knees

Congratulations to one of our own.  Kathy Scott got interested in bee keeping about 2 years ago after a great presentation by Franklin County expert bee keeper Ron Hanawalt made a presentation to the BRFAL chapter.

 Kathy, in her usual manner, took her new found hobby to heart and has become very knowledgeable about bee keeping in her own right.  She keeps 2 bee boxes on her property within a bear proof electric fence.

 Armed with her new found knowledge and always willing to share, Kathy agreed to give a bee keeping presentation at the Westlake Library on March 12, which turned out to be very well attended (about 30 people).  Kathy schlepped a large quantity of bee keeping equipment to the presentation for show and tell.  Many questions were asked (and answered!).

 The pictures below give a little view into the presentation.  If you missed this one and you have an interest in bees, try to make Kathy’s next presentation.  You will find it interesting and entertaining.  We are very proud to have Kathy as a member of the BRFAL chapter of Virginia Master Naturalists. 

Rich Brager

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Minding our own bees-wax...presentation at Westlake Library on Beekeeping!

Beekeeping Presentation
Our own BRFAL Chapter Member Kathy Scott is sharing this presentation!
Calling all nature lovers! Please buzz on over and join Master Gardener and Master Naturalist Kathy Scott as she presents the wonderful world of Beekeeping. Kathy will bring beehive equipment, tools, and protective clothing (no live bees!), and discuss how bee colonies function and the role of beekeepers. 

She will offer advice on bee purchase, feeding, disease prevention and more. She will also discuss plant selection and how to make your garden ‘bee friendly.’ BEE there! 

When: Wednesday, March 12, 3:00 PM 
Where: Westlake Branch Library; Franklin County Public Library 
Cost: FREE 
Contact: (540) 483-3098 opt. 3 
Joesephine Clarke
Branch Manager
Westlake Branch Library

Franklin County Public Library

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

New Header for the BRFAL Blog

What are the photos on the new BRFAL BLOG header?
We didn't include this one
1) Building a new bench on Grassy Hill Natural Area Preserve, 2) Forest and Fields training field trip with field guides for ID, 3) SML Town Hall Meeting Buffer Landscaping Display, 4) Eastern Spotted Newt (juvenile salamander) at Booker T Washington Nat Monument, 5) Old Man of the Woods Mushroom, 6) Water quality training at the Pigg River Franklin County, 7) Karst and Caves Training at Museum of Natural History, 8) Dendrology Field Trip & Training, 9) Daisy Troop water quality monitoring 

Feel free to share your photos with us from BRFAL Projects and Events! 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Mr. Denny McCarthy of Dept. Of Forestry Addresses Virginia Master Naturalists

On the evening of Thursday, February 20, Mr. Denny McCarthy of the DoF graciously addressed the Blue Ridge, Foothills and Lakes Chapter (BRFAL) of the Virginia Master Naturalists.  Denny told us that this is the 100th anniversary of the VA DoF.  The main functions of the DoF include Forest Management, Fire Management, working with landowners, and Water Quality Monitoring when timber is harvested.

 But on this evening, Denny imparted his knowledge of rain gardens to our group.  A rain garden is used to provide a reservoir to filter and slow flow of rain water during a heavy downpour.  Rain gardens help with erosion control as well.  They are often used to control flow from large impermeable surfaces such as parking lots or roads.  Rain garden may be very large or quite small depending on the amount of flow that needs to be moderated.

 The rain garden utilizes a pond storage area that is dug out and filled with gravel and then topped with planting soil.  It is then planted with suitable Virginia native species plants.  The DoF can recommend suitable plants and can even provide many of them.

 This information was very useful for the BRFAL team members since many of our members are on the Buffer Landscape Committee, which is sponsored by the Smith Mountain Lake Association (SMLA).  The Buffer Landscape Committee provides free advice to landowners on the lake or on the feeder streams and rivers that feed the lake.  If you would like a personalized visit to your property, please contact the Buffer Landscape Committee by calling 540-719-0690 or emailing to arrange a visit.
                                         Denny McCarthy Addressing BRFAL Members

By Rich Brager