Monday, December 3, 2012
Recent report describes the Potomac River's recent degradation.
The Potomac River’s future presents “a troubling picture,” concludes the sixth annual report of the Potomac Conservancy. “Too many stretches...are still too polluted to allow you to safely swim, boat, or fish, or to support healthy populations of fish and other aquatic life,” the study proclaims. Titled “Troubled Waters,” the report targets non-point pollution as the “root cause” of the degradation along 51 percent of impaired steams miles, while agricultural practices contribute 37 percent. Unlike “point source” pollution discharged from a discrete site like a pipe, non-point pollution is diffuse and often carried in stormwater washing off impervious surfaces like roofs, parking lots and roads. The 405-mile Potomac River provides …
Friday, November 9, 2012
Alice Ferguson Foundation awards local environmental steward.
The Alice Ferguson Foundation (AFF) recognized Stratford Landing resident Elizabeth “Betsy” Martin as an environmental steward and litter prevention champion at the seventh annual Trash Summit in Silver Spring, Md., on Wednesday. “Elizabeth has partnered with us during the Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup for more than 10 years and last year she coordinated 10 sites along Little Hunting Creek,” said Lori Arguelles, AFF’s executive director. “Martin has engaged her community and raised awareness, building local stewardship efforts surrounding the litter problem. Though her cleanup efforts are extraordinary in themselves, what makes her a true champion is her continued work outside of cleanups.” Martin served on the advisory committee …
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Amazing monarch butterflies are moving through our area now.
Seen a little zigzaggy orange and black critter fluttering by lately? An extraordinary migration is occurring in northern Virginia this month, as monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus), wend their way to Mexico to join millions more and hang snugly together like little gray beards on oyamel fir trees at 9,000 to 11,000 feet all winter. “This is one of the most extraordinary annual migrations on our planet,” says monarch expert Dr. Lincoln Brower of Sweet Briar College. “This amazing migration eludes explanation.” The monarch, weighing one-fifth the weight of a penny, is the only butterfly to regularly undertake a two-way migration. Some monarchs, the ones that start in Canada, make a 3,000-mile trip. If a six-foot person made the …
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
River advocates honor Alexandra Cousteau.
“Fifty years ago the Potomac River was a national disgrace. It really smelled,” commented Hedrick Belin, president of the Potomac Conservancy in opening the “Romp on the River” at River Farm on Sept. 19. Much of the obvious pollution has been reduced, he contended. Nutrient pollution from agricultural operations has declined, but today, the more serious problem is that pollution is more diffuse and harder to see. “It doesn’t smell,” he explained. Belin was referring to “nonpoint” pollution carried to the river in stormwater runoff from suburbia’s hard surfaces like roofs and parking lots and from farms. Belin said that nutrients from agriculture have been reduced and 50 miles of river frontage protected, but “special interests want to …
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Friends of Dyke Marsh learn facts and hazards of migration.
It may seem quiet outside these late summer nights, but there’s a lot going on in the skies. Millions of birds are migrating south day and night. On Wednesday night, 75 people turned out to hear Alicia King of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Migratory Bird Program offer insights into the mysteries of bird migration. The program was sponsored by the Friends of Dyke Marsh and the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia. The Mount Vernon area is prime territory for the fall and spring migration because of the diversity of habitat, from wetlands to woodlands to the river. In mid-September, the numbers of neotropical species and dabbling ducks traveling through are on the rise. Shorebirds have been passing through since August. Migration is …
Thursday, August 30, 2012
Meadows are rare in Northern Virginia.
Visitors to the 4-acre André Bleumel meadow at the American Horticultural Society at River Farm can quickly suffer from sensory overload. In late summer and early fall, busy, buzzing bees are sampling the fragrant mountain mint. Crows are cawing and titmice squeaking as bald eagles and hawks soar overhead. Yellow- and black-striped tiger swallowtail butterflies are nectaring on purple, white and magenta blossoms, as yellow black-eyed Susans burst up through 5-foot-tall grasses and wave their silky, golden “heads.” Even the black- and gray-speckled indigo seed pods exude beauty as they sway in the breeze. From the mega to the micro, the Bleumel meadow is now reaching its second flush of color for the year as many plants come into their …
Thursday, August 9, 2012
More flooding could occur along the Potomac River.
As area's heat index regularly exceeds 90 degrees, weather experts are telling us that the last year has been the warmest on record in the United States. Extreme weather events “of the recent past,” like heat waves and droughts, are caused by climate change, reported climate scientist James Hansen and several of his colleagues in an August 6 study. They maintain that in the last three decades, as the average temperature has risen, “the extremes have soared and now cover about 10 percent of the globe,” Hansen wrote in the Aug. 5 edition of the Washington Post. He is a scientist for the Goddard Institute for Space, NASA and a professor at Columbia University. This study follows an Environment Virginia study in July that found that incidences…
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Caution is advised for swimming, eating fish.
As Northern Virginians swelter through another hot, steamy summer, the Potomac River looks inviting. But it really may not be very welcoming. Although the water temperatures range from the mid- to high-80s, the river is risky for swimming, caution officials at the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin (ICPRB) because of bacteria levels in some places. Commission staffers say they cannot provide a definitive answer when asked if the river is safe for swimming and wading. At certain sites, ICPRB scientists conduct weekly tests for bacteria that can cause gastrointestinal illness and other infections in people; they monitor some sites monthly. Their guidance is posted here. Summer is a popular time for fishing on the river and its …
Thursday, July 26, 2012
Potomac River sightseeing cruises show Mount Vernon from a new view.
If you want to see Mount Vernon from a new perspective, hop on a boat and take a cruise down the Potomac River. Historic Mount Vernon offers Potomac River cruises that offer sweeping views of Mount Vernon, the George Washington Parkway, the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, and Piscataway Park in Maryland. The 40-minute narrated cruises discuss interesting historical facts about the estate and George Washington's land. Also of note: when you are at the wharf where the tours leave the Estate, be sure to look for the osprey's nest. The Potomac River sightseeing tours are offered Tuesday through Sunday. Tickets are available for purchase on Mount Vernon's website. Estate admission is required.
Wednesday, July 4, 2012
What’s in a name? We may find out later this year when four, as-yet unnamed islands in the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve may get official names. Most Northern Virginia landlubbers probably don’t realize there are four islands in the preserve without official names. The U.S. Board on Geographic Names, part of the U.S. Geological Survey, or USGS, may change that. USGS scientists have proposed that the islands be named Angel, Bird, Coconut and Dyke Islands. The Potomac Riverkeeper supports these proposals. The U.S. National Park Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries “have no objection to the proposed names,” according to the Board’s executive secretary, Lou Yost. The Friends of Dyke …