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Help Needed: New Coordinator(s) for CJ Chicken and Crab Feast
June 13, 2022
Chicken and Crab Feast In Need of New Coordinator(s) Cabin John’s annual community celebration and fundraising event held each September urgently needs a new coordinator or coordinators to take the over helm from Allison and Patrick de Gravelles who have capably overseen the event for the last five years. Thank you, Allison and Patrick! Allison and Patrick said, “Coordinating the Chicken and Crab Feast has been a highlight of our time as Cabin John residents, and we have thoroughly enjoyed having a hand in the community’s largest annual fundraiser. For the most part, the work of the coordinator is as simple as making sure the supplies are purchased and ready to go on time. The event largely runs itself because of the incredible corps of volunteers that turns out each year.” The position of Crab Feast coordinator has been held by a fantastic cast of Cabin John volunteers and is one of the best ways to get involved in our special community. And many of the volunteers who manage the vegetable prep, chicken and crab cooking, drink sales, setup, serving, and more will carry on for this year. We just need some enthusiastic logistical leadership! To find out more, please call, text, or email Scott Lewis: (202) 257-9957, email@example.com. Top Ten Reasons YOU Should Become the Next Crab Feast Coordinator 10) Support CJCA Activities. Funds raised by the Crab Feast support other great CJCA activities, like the Turkey Trot, the Holiday Party, and Fourth of July Parade as well as The Village News and CJ Directory. 9) Perfect Time of Year. It takes place on the second Saturday after Labor Day, when Cabin John weather is at its best. 8) Set Game Plan. It’s been a roaring success for 51 years, so the game plan is tried and true. 7) Experienced Crew. There’s a cadre of experienced crew chiefs to back you up, with long lists of volunteer crew members already recruited. 6) See and Be Seen. You will see and be seen at the most happening event of the season. 5) Learn Secret Recipes. You will learn the secret to making those delicious collards! 4) Find Happiness. Your idea of happiness is a trunkload of Kirkland paper towels. 3) You Cabin John! 2) Built-in Expertise. You will have the expertise of Allison and Patrick available in August to help you get organized. And the number one reason why you should become the next CJ Feast Coordinator(s): 1) We need you! Thank you to former Crab Feast Director Tina Rouse for inspiring this Top Ten list....
Recap June 1 CJCA Meeting: Invasive Plant Species Talk; New CJCA Officers Elected
June 13, 2022
Invasive Plant Species: Your Garden May Not Be the Oasis You Think CJ resident and ecologist Mark Frey started his talk on invasive plant species by telling the attendees of the June 1 CJCA meeting they were not going to like what he had to say…and he was right! Folks in the audience actually groaned as he described well-loved greenery, including English Ivy, Bush Honeysuckle, Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina), and the Butterfly Bush as plants non grata in the garden. It turns out the dense ground cover provided by English Ivy also makes a perfect habitat for rats. The fragrant Bush Honeysuckle produces berries that birds love. But it’s like giving them a diet of Twinkies, said Frey, explaining that the lower nutritional value means birds are undernourished. The early leafing by Bush Honeysuckles also attracts birds building nests. But since they leaf out before other shrubs, there is a less dense protective canopy making the nests more vulnerable to predators, such as racoons and hawks. Nandina also is bad news for birds, and possibly cats and dogs, as its berries contain cyanide and can be toxic when consumed in large enough quantities. The Butterfly Bush actually harms the beautiful flying insect it is named after. While its abundant nectar attracts butterflies and other pollinators, the leaves of the Butterfly Bush do not provide caterpillars with the feed and habitat they need to grow into butterflies. These plants and others named by Frey, including Pachysandra, Silver Grass (Miscanthus), Periwinkle, daylilies, most viburnums, and Garlic Mustard are all problematic because of how easily they spread, crowding out native species that local insects and animals need for their habitat. Garlic Mustard is especially insidious as it also produces harmful chemicals that can damage the soil, making it harder for native plants to grow. Frey and fellow CJ resident Eric Dinerstein, who writes the beloved Nature column in this newsletter, are on a personal crusade to eradicate Garlic Mustard from the area of Cabin John Creek in our community. If you’ve hiked the forest trail from Seven Locks to the park by the one-lane bridge recently, you may have noticed pulled Garlic Mustard lying on the trail. The plant is easy to identify and pull when it first comes up, and it must be pulled two years in a row to get rid of it. Next spring, they hope to create a wedding brigade of CJ residents to tackle the Garlic Mustard scourge in this area. The good news to come out of Frey’s talk is that there are plenty of native plants that can be used in the garden to achieve a similar effect without doing harm to the ecosystem. For instance, butterfly milkweed also produces lots of nectar attracting butterflies, including the threatened Monarch butterfly, which only lays eggs in the nine milkweed species. It’s easy to grow, but does take several years to flower. Instead of invasive ground covers, Frey suggests trying Pennsylvania Sedge, a drought tolerant, low-growing plant that provides dense cover. For cover in shady areas, consider Wild Ginger, whose early-blooming hidden flowers provide food to insects. While Wild Ginger goes bare in the winter months, it comes up early to provide cover. Consider swapping out Silver Grass and other invasive grasess for switchgrass, Little bluestem and native sedges, which not only look good but can fight erosion. Frey provided the following links for more information and purchasing native plants: https://www.earthsangha.org/wpn http://chesapeakenatives.org/ https://www.mdflora.org/plantsales.html/ CJCA Officers Elected for the 2022-2023 Term Four new officers are joining a cadre of dedicated returning veterans to lead the Cabin John Citizens Association for the coming year. Attendees at the June 1 CJCA meeting elected new co-presidents Scott and Heidi Lewis of MacArthur Blvd., who said they stepped up to ensure that Cabin John activities and traditions carry on. The two other new officers are Kelly Banuls as secretary and Vice President of Communications Theresa Burton. The new officers will be profiled in upcoming issues of The Village News. When you see these folks in the neighborhood, make sure to thank them for their service! • Co-Presidents — Heidi Lewis and Scott Lewis • Secretary — Kelly Banuls • Treasurer — Bob Walsh • Vice Presidents for Activities — Irena Bojanova • Vice President for Activities — Kesha Leets • Vice President for Advocacy — Charlotte Troup-Leighton • Vice President for Communications — Marcy Harrison • Vice President for Communications —Theresa Burton • Vice President for Community Outreach — Stephanie Lai • Vice President for Community Outreach — Heather Tomlinson • Vice President for Community Service — Justin Webster By Susan Shipp CJ Resident, Past Co-President CJCA...
Palisades Pool Free Swim for CJ Residents Begins June 21
June 13, 2022
As always, CJ residents can take a well-timed dip in Palisades Pool whether they are members of the private swim club on Seven Locks or not. Once the pool starts their summer hours on June 20 through Labor Day, Cabin John residents are admitted free of charge to the Palisade Pool on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm. The Cabin John Free Swim arrangement is part of the 1967 agreement between the Cabin John community and the founders of the Palisades Pool to gain neighborhood approval of the zoning variance that permitted the pool to be constructed. Cabin Johners need to sign in at the pool and provide some proof of residency such as being listed in the CJ Community Directory, an ID with address, or mail received at a Cabin John address. Children ages 7 and under must be accompanied by a supervising adult. Children age 8-14 who will be left by themselves at the pool will be asked to satisfy the swim test by swimming one length of the pool and treading water for one minute. Happy Swimming!...
First Cabin John Creek Challenge a Success
June 13, 2022
Although thunderstorms raged the night before, the Cabin John Creek subsided and the sun shone brightly May 28 for the inaugural Cabin John Creek Challenge, which drew some 50 participants including nine Cabin Johners. Organized by the Friends of the Cabin John Creek (FoCJC), the challenge involved walking the 10 miles of the CJ Creek trail from Goya Drive in Rockville all the way down to the Potomac River. Hikers also had/have the option of hiking the various trail segments over the course of 2022. A special thanks to Cabin Johner and FoCJC Board member Scott Hoffman for setting up the water and information stations along the trail and to the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club for keeping the trails well maintained. Prior to the start of the hike, State Delegates Marc Korman and Sara Love presented a citation provided by the General Assembly in Annapolis and a proclamation crafted by the county. Both documents celebrated the CJ Creek and the efforts of the FoCJC to advocate on the creek’s behalf. FoCJC board member Greg Gurley then spoke about the threats to the creek, especially stormwater runoff, as well as various aspects of the 10 miles ahead. Then the eager hikers were off. An early treat was the evidence of beavers, but none were sighted that day. Prior to the hike, Greg and another board member, CJ resident Jon Putnam, had placed educational QR codes at pertinent spots in the path to educate walkers on particular watershed subjects. Lunch was taken on the benches beneath the large sycamore tree at the Locust Grove Nature Center off of Democracy Blvd. There was a really lovely stretch of mountain laurel in bloom in the section between Bradley Blvd. and River Rd. In the end, the larger group broke into three smaller groups as they made their way downstream towards the Potomac, thus allowing everyone to hike at their own pace. All participants received the lovely “CJ Creek Challenge 2022” sticker on the basis of either completing all 10 miles that day or with the promise of finishing the remaining segments sometime this year. The Challenge is the first of the outreach and educational events/activities that FoCJC is planning as part of the new $53,000 grant received from the Chesapeake Bay Trust and the Montgomery County Dept of Environmental Protection. This event seems likely to be repeated each year from here on out. The hope is that over time the M-NCPPC Montgomery Parks, who were very supportive of the Challenge, along with the County/State DOT offices, will work to make the trail more continuous with improved crossings at the highways and also continue managing stormwater runoff into the creek. The Cabin John community should be extremely proud of nurturing and supporting FoCJC over all of these years. By Burr Gray President, Friends of the Cabin John Creek...
Local Nature: A Summer of Bats
June 13, 2022
Halloween comes early to Cabin John: for the summer months the next three columns will focus on some of the most fascinating animals to inhabit our night skies. Welcome to the world of bats. For some readers, this will be your first introduction to these remarkable creatures, among the most highly specialized of vertebrates. For the more hesitant reader, this is an opportunity to shed your bat phobia, as I did, when I morphed from a young man squeamish about bats to one who gained appreciation for these fascinating, intelligent mammals. Appreciation turned to rapture when I held in my hands the adorable Honduran white bat, which looks like a bat in a clown costume. This bat and other fruit-eaters became the focus of my Ph.D. field research in the cloud forests of Costa Rica. Once you move past the Dracula propaganda, bats have a lot to like about them: for example, they are the only mammals that have mastered flight. Sure, there are “flying” squirrels and “flying” lemurs, but those mammals can only glide through the forest from one tree to another for a few hundred meters. Bats fly rings around them, and some migrate from here to Central America. Bats are also 1st runner-up to rodents for the title of most diverse group of mammals. There are about 4,000 species of rodents and about 1,400 species of bats. Even so, about one out of every five species of mammal is a bat. In addition, from an evolutionary perspective, the giant flying foxes and smaller fruit bats of Asia are closer to primates than they are to rodents. Think of bats as our very distant cousins. Bat diversity is astounding—in the tropics you can find in the same forest: bats that catch fish with their feet; bats with long tongues that, like hummingbirds, feed on flower nectar; bats that eat figs, frogs, birds, katydids, lizards, and even other bats. I won’t mention vampires, three species that feed exclusively on the blood of mammals or birds, except to say that they are highly intelligent creatures with complex social lives. As flying agriculturalists, bats are essential for so many tropical fruits whose flowers they pollinate or whose fruits and seeds they disperse, such as the progenitor of the banana, the agave that gives us tequila, and delicious fruits like figs and papayas. Bats also serve as flying pest control agents, consuming tons of flying insects that could destroy food crops, such as the corn borer moths they intercept in the air as the moths move north from Mexico to the U.S. grain belt. The bats that live near us in the Washington, D.C. area, the focus of these columns, eat only insects, from beetles to flies to gnats to mosquitos. So give bats, the most remarkable creatures in nature you may once have found frightening, a chance. Hoary, Hoary Night Sometimes children are handicapped by awful names. It’s the curse of clueless parents. The same phenomenon happens when oblivious naturalists bestow an unfortunate name on an otherwise beautiful species. A case in point: in 1796, on a collecting trip to America, the French naturalist Palisot de Beauvois dubbed a handsome bat covered in dense fur and displaying long narrow wings that he had discovered a “hoary bat” (Atalpha cinerea). The name stuck, and though infelicitous in truth, it is accurate. Hoary is a kind of fur where dark bands end in white tips, giving the animal that sports such pelage a hoary, or frosted appearance. A better descriptor might have been “tree bark bat,” as its fur blends so perfectly against the trunk of a tree or branch that predators cannot spot it. Hoary bats, and their three close cousins, the red, yellow, and chestnut bats, have faces like tiny dogs, with a dog-like muzzle and pointed ears. If the hoary bat’s coat does not have sufficient aesthetic appeal, please Google images of the red, yellow, and chestnut bats. I have held all three of these species in my hand, and they are surely among the most beautiful of mammals. The red bat is a crimson fellow, the yellow bat is a mixture of gold and saffron, and the chestnut bat’s fur is a lustrous reddish-brown. All four of these insect-eating bats can be found in our region. Their very small eyes are a result of adaptations for echolocation (bat sonar) to navigate through the forest or pick off bugs on the wing. Imagine a Chihuahua that finds its way around or to its food bowl by sending out signals from its mouth and listening for the echo to find objects. Over time, its eyeballs would shrink, too, but maybe its ears would become more funnel-shaped and open. (If you are looking for bats that truly resemble dogs, look at the faces of the fruit bats of Africa, Asia, and the South Pacific. Bats in this group don’t echolocate but instead have developed large eyes, excellent night vision, and a keen sense of smell.) Female hoary bats weigh slightly less than an ounce (females are 40% heavier than males) and have a wingspan of about 15 inches. Remarkably, when its wings are folded under its body, it can fit in the palm of your hand. But don’t let that small size fool you. These bats are long-distance migrants, here with us for the summer or traveling much further north into Canada to roost before heading back south to spend the winter in the southwestern United States or Central America. Individuals tracked with telemetry devices have been known to fly 25 miles a night. Hoary bats are widespread in North America and even occur in Hawaii, one of the few land-based mammals that reached that archipelago. All migratory species face great risks during transit. Wind turbines and the energy from wind they harvest are essential if we are to move to 100% renewable energy. But where wind turbines occur along migration routes, which they often do, as they are located on ridges typically used by birds and bats for increased lift or navigation, collision by bats or birds can be common with tens of thousands killed each year. Hoary bats have a higher mortality rate from wind turbine accidents than any other North American bat. One theory is that exhausted migrating bats mistake wind turbines for trees upon which they can roost. Watch for these bats as you look to the night sky. If the wings seem long and narrow it is most likely a hoary bat, or maybe its cousin the red bat, out for a night of filling its mouth with moths to prepare for the upcoming trip north to Canada or south to Costa Rica. By Eric Dinerstein Contributing Writer Illustration by Trudy Nicholson Contributing Artist...
Nominating Committee Delivers Candidate Slate for CJCA Leadership Positions
May 17, 2022
On April 10, after several months of deliberations and conversations with a broad cross section of Cabin John residents, the Cabin John Citizens Association (CJCA) Nominating Committee submitted a slate of candidates, including Heidi and Scott Lewis serving as co-presidents, for the 2022-2023 term. The Committee nominated Kelly Banuls as secretary, replacing Meredith Griggs who is stepping down, and Theresa Burton to the newly-created position of vice president for communications focusing on the CJCA listserv and other outreach to the community through emails, The Village News, and the website, cabinjohn.org. Theresa will join Marcy Harrison, the CJCA’s other vice president of communications, whose focus is on the Cabin John Directory. Eight officers are returning to their CJCA positions. Elections for the 2022-2023 term will be held at the Wednesday, June 1 CJCA meeting at 7:30 pm at the Clara Barton Community Center. Outgoing president Susan Shipp served the Cabin John community in the role for six years. Among her more visible accomplishments was the CJCA 100th anniversary celebration and projects, which include the ongoing beautification of MacArthur Blvd. and Cabin John sign project, as well as driving CJCA support for the preservation of CJ’s historic Moses Hall and Cemetery. Less visible to the community is the behind the scenes work Susan led in restructuring the officer structure of the association. Susan split the one vice president position into eight distinct roles, allowing for greater involvement from CJ residents, while lessening the scope and workload of both the president and the vice president roles. Susan also reintroduced the concept of co-presidents by recruiting Vashi Van Wyke to serve as co-president for this current year. Together Susan and Vashti demonstrated that leadership of the CJCA is a cooperative, collaborative effort that is shared by many. In addition to the elected officers, CJCA has volunteers who have committed their time and talents for specific activities including Chicken and Crab Feast Coordinators, Allison and Patrick de Gravelles; Neighbor-2-Neighbor Coordinator, Judith Bell; and SSL Coordinator, Stephanie Lai. The community’s two most visible communications tools – CabinJohn.org and The Village News – benefit from the skills and dedication of Robin Sidel for the website and Loretta Devery Ingalls and Noelle Tower for the newsletter. Thankfully, they have agreed to continue as editors! The Nominating Committee included seven Cabin John residents: Amanda Benjamin, Phil Corcoran, Sarah Craven, Amy Elsbree, Andy Fishburn, Marget Mauer, and Neil Shaut. The CJCA is grateful for their work. The full slate of officers nominated for 2022-2023 CJCA leadership includes: • Co-Presidents — Heidi Lewis and Scott Lewis • Secretary — Kelly Banuls • Treasurer — Bob Walsh • Vice Presidents for Activities — Irena Bojanova • Vice President for Activities — Kesha Leets • Vice President for Advocacy — Charlotte Troup-Leighton • Vice President for Communications — Marcy Harrison • Vice President for Communications —Theresa Burton • Vice President for Community Outreach — Stephanie Lai • Vice President for Community Outreach — Heather Tomlinson • Vice President for Community Service — Justin Webster By Amy Elsbree Coordinator, CJCA Officers Nominating Committee...
Decent Haul at Cabin John Creek Cleanup
May 17, 2022
A small but committed group of volunteers took to the trails and even went to the other side of the creek to collect trash during the annual Cabin John Creek Cleanup held April 9. “We finally got rid of those landscaping tarps which have been an eyesore for some time,” noted Greg Gurley, the Friends of the Cabin John Creek director who coordinated the event, which is cosponsored by the Cabin John Citizens Association. In all, the nine volunteers collected 13 big orange bags of trash, two bags of recyclables as well as the tarps, a metal bedspring, a tire, a busted plastic laundry basket, and a toilet seat! Thanks all and keep picking up trash as you hike the trails! As a follow-up to the February CJCA meeting, the Friends of Cabin John Creek wants the CJ community to know that the Chesapeake Bay Trust did award a $53,523 grant to the group for a public outreach and stewardship projects in the Cabin John Creek Watershed. Greg reports that the funds will support a variety of efforts to protect the creeks in the watershed, including community outreach to more diverse neighborhoods, increased water quality monitoring, and the expansion of the Creek Keepers stewardship program. By Susan Shipp CJCA President...
CJCA June 1 meeting: elections; speaker on invasive plants
May 17, 2022
The next CJCA meeting will be held on Wednesday, June 1 at the Clara Barton Community Center at 7:30 pm. It will include two important votes: The Election of the CJCA Officers for the 2022-2023 term. (See related story)Approval of an online password-protected version of the CJCA Neighborhood Directory. Invasive Plants in Parks & Your Garden What are they? What can be done? Invasive plant species, like the Kudzu vines and bamboo found in local parks or the Nandina that we planted in our garden years ago, can jeopardize our environment. To learn more about problematic invasive plants and native plant alternatives, come to the June 1 CJCA meeting for a presentation by CJ resident and invasive plant species expert Mark Frey. If we are lucky, maybe he will also share how he manages to grow grapes, apples, pears, blueberries, and strawberries on his tiny plot in Cabin John Gardens! Mark Frey has been working in natural areas for more than 20 years with much of that time focused on invasive species. Professionally he is the National Park Service lead for Science and Natural Resources Management in the Southeast Region. Mark has also held roles managing the invasive plant program for the National Capital Region, as the NPS national Invasive Plant Program Manager, as the Chief of Natural and Cultural Resources for Mount Rainier National Park, and as a Project Director for the National Invasive Species Council. Mark’s federal career began in San Francisco where he managed the Presidio Trust’s habitat restoration program. Frey has lived in Cabin John for ten years. In his spare time he is an active Weed Warrior volunteer for Montgomery County Parks. By Susan Shipp CJCA President...
Local Nature: Nighthawks
May 16, 2022
Ask an art major what comes to mind when they hear the word “Nighthawks,” and the response is immediate: the name of an iconic Edward Hopper canvas, painted in 1942. The oil on canvas features three customers and a server behind the counter of a well-lit diner, late at night, viewed through the restaurant’s large glass windows and set against a gloomy urban streetscape. It is arguably Hopper’s most famous work and one of the most recognizable paintings in American art. Even though New York City is full of pigeons, there is not a bird in sight, resting for the night on a lintel or edge of a rooftop. If Hopper had set up his sketchpad, sitting across the street in late spring or summer, and had worked until late afternoon or dusk, he might have heard overhead a loud peent. And if he looked up from his work, he might have noticed a bird flying with irregular wing beats, as if it were injured, darting this way and that. There, above the streets of Greenwich Village, he would have spotted one of the most fascinating birds of our avifauna, the common nighthawk. Nighthawks, even for seasoned naturalists, are more commonly heard than seen. Here in Cabin John, every Spring around May 5th, I remember to listen for that distinct nasal peent, uttered way above me, and then look skyward for an erratic tapered winged bird beating vigorously across the sky. Peent! Good luck trying to see one when it is perched. Even though the common nighthawk is no hummingbird, measuring almost 10 inches long and with a wingspan of nearly 24 inches, when perched on a tree branch or wooden post, the cryptic coloration of its plumage—as if the bird were coated in flakes of bark rather than feathers—renders it nearly invisible. It becomes one with its perching stand. If it doesn’t move, you could walk by a few feet from the bird and never see it. Another reason people rarely see nighthawks is that even though they breed here, their time in our area is relatively short. They arrive from the south in early May and most stay until the end of summer, though some individuals begin heading south again by end of July. Where “south” is depends. Some of the species fly all the way to Uruguay and Argentina to winter, one of the longest migrations of North American birds, about 4,100 miles. Nighthawks live only around 4-6 years, but still that is a lot of frequent flier miles to put on those wings. Why would a bird fly so far each year in its relatively short lifespan? To thrive and breed, common nighthawks must eat lots of insects, which they catch on the wing in their huge gaping mouth. Nighthawks are an anomaly, a bird with a tiny beak, but when it opens its mouth it reveals an enormous opening, able to swallow whole insects in flight. By flying to where insects are abundant during the breeding season in our area in June and then leaving before fall when flying insects virtually disappear, the migrating nighthawks take advantage of the austral summer in Argentina, when the flying bugs are fluttering and the tango dancers perspiring in the heat and humidity of December and January. An interesting physical characteristic of nighthawks and other members of its family is weak legs. This is a bird that is poorly designed to move around much on the ground, yet that is where it builds its nest. It lays its two eggs in a small pile of stones and gravel, and then…blends. A favorite nesting spot is the flat roofs of office buildings in Washington, D.C. The more flat roofs available in a city, the more nighthawks can nest. Finding nighthawks and their close relatives, called nightjars in Europe, Africa, and Asia, when they are perched and at rest at night is made easier with a flashlight. From far away, the reflective eye shine you see from a perched bird is a bright red dot. In fact, when I was fresh out of college and studying tigers in the wild jungles of southern Nepal, I came upon this field tip in a book by Jim Corbett, the most famous hunter of man-eating tigers and leopards in the British Colonial era. He warned the reader: “One red eye, and it’s a nightjar. Two red eyes and it’s a tiger.” I did see nightjars on the road a lot when driving along the dirt tracks, their single red eye lit up by the pick-up truck’s headlights. Occasionally, to my great delight, there would be two red dots. There are no tigers in my backyard here, only the odd fox and raccoon. But in early May, I stand on duty, binoculars around my neck, ears cocked, for that familiar call of the long-distance flier home from the Argentine. Peent! By Eric Dinerstein Contributing Writer Illustration by Trudy Nicholson Contributing Artist...
Local Bird Species Diverse and Threatened – Clive Harris, CJCA March 30
April 15, 2022
Loss of natural habitat, caused by everything from invasive species to climate change, is causing an alarming loss of bird population in Cabin John and throughout North America, Clive Harris told the 45 or so attendees of the March 30 CJCA meeting. Clive, an avid birder and past president of the Montgomery Bird Club, focused his talk on birds that breed in Cabin John. Using photographs and snippets of taped bird calls, Clive introduced the audience to dozens of bird species, while noting that when out birding about 80 percent of the birds are heard and only about 20 percent are seen. Roughly half of the 110 to 120 breeding bird species in Montgomery County are migratory, wintering as far south as the Andes Mountains in South America and returning here year after year to breed. This means they are also vulnerable to habitat issues where they winter. Clive cited a recent study by the journal Science that found North America has lost more than a quarter of its bird population, some three billion birds, since 1970! In Cabin John, more homes and lawns, too many deer, and the growth of invasive plants are impacting the local bird habitat. Clive explained that all birds feed their young insects and non-native vegetation does not support as many insects as native plants. In the case of Chickadees, if more than 30 percent of the vegetation is invasive, the species cannot maintain its population. The Wood Thrush, a migratory bird that winters in Central America and crosses the Gulf of Mexico in a single night’s flight as it comes north in the spring, is in jeopardy because of habitat loss in its wintering grounds and here where it breeds. Clive explained that the large deer population feeds on the underbrush where they build their nests, not only decreasing their food supply but making them vulnerable to predators. But not all bird populations are declining. Pesticide bans in the 1970s have led to increases in Raptor populations. Clive said there appear to be a growing number of Bald Eagles, who partner for life, nesting high in the trees along the Potomac River north of Cabin John. A pair of Peregrine Falcons have been present on the American Legion Bridge for more than 15 years, Clive noted, apparently the first breeding pair in the county since the 1940s. You can follow a track down by the south side of the bridge, all the way to the river to view them. A nesting box was placed on the bridge and is used by the falcons during the breeding season. Clive ended his talk with a list of things we can do to protect birds: Protect birds from window collisions Over one billion birds die each year due to striking window glass, with roughly half being collisions with windows in homes and other low-rise structures. In addition to screens, decals, and other alterations to the windows, one easy way to reduce threats is to place bird feeders well away from your windows. Keep your cat inside, or outside in an enclosed location Free-ranging cats kill more birds than any other direct threat – some 2.4 billion birds a year in the United States alone, according to the American Bird Conservancy. Improve your backyard habitat Gardens full of exotic and non-native plants do not support the native bird population. The reason is simple – native plants support native insects and with a few exceptions, all birds, even seedeaters, feed insects to their chicks. Native plants also provide the seeds, berries, and nectar to which our birds are adapted. (In fact, berries of some widely planted exotics such as Nandina, are toxic to birds.) Trees and shrubs also provide shelter and nesting sites for birds. Reduce pesticide use Some pesticides pose an immediate threat to birds, while others impact insects upon which birds depend. Neonicotinoids like imidacloprid are widely-used, systemic pesticides which are transferred to all parts of the treated plant, including seeds, leaves, nectar, and pollen. Wholesale spraying for mosquitoes is also a threat to birds. Despite what their websites promise, the sprays used by “mosquito control” companies promoting “pest-free” yards contain synthetic pyrethroids, which kill all insects that land on the treated leaves. We all are aware of the ongoing decline of insects – “the insect apocalypse” in the words of some scientists – and much of this is due to overuse of pesticides. No insects = no birds. Provide food, water, and nesting sites Most of us feed birds, and those with sufficient space may also provide water and nest-boxes. In addition to placing bird feeders away from windows, they should be sited near vegetation to provide cover. Feeders also should also be cleaned regularly to avoid avian diseases passing bird to bird. Sterilize hummingbird feeders regularly, and in hot weather, change the nectar frequently. Birdbaths or fountains need their water changed frequently – daily in hot weather – to avoid mosquitoes and to prevent the spread of bacterial disease. Nest-boxes must be carefully sited to avoid predators and other hazards. Since box designs, which target individual species, vary so much, seek out advice from such websites as NestWatch from The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. By Susan Shipp CJCA President ...
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