Friends of 
Mason Neck State Park

Newsletters





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  • 05 Sep 2019 11:07 PM | Thomas Blackburn (Administrator)


    September 2019 Newsletter


    Join Us for an

    Owl Moon Evening



    Join us at 7 PM on Saturday, September 14 for the Friends of Mason Neck State Park's Owl Moon evening. 


    Secret Garden Birds and Bees will present "A Year in the Life of an Owl." Learn what great horned owls, barred owls, barn owls, and eastern screech owls are doing from January through December.

    Follow them through courtship, nesting, raising young, fledging and finally dispersal of the young to their own territories.

    Secret Garden will bring a Barred Owl, a Great Horned Owl and an Eastern Screech Owl to the event, and you'll have an opportunity to see and photograph them. 


    This event is open to the general public.  Registration is only $10 per person, which will help to offset the cost of the program.  Entrance to the park is free (no parking fee) after 6:30 pm.  You can register at Owl Moon Registration.




     


    Shoreline Cleanup on

    National Public Lands Day




    Give back to Mason Neck State Park by helping clean up the Park's shoreline on National Public Lands Day, September 28.  Park visitors are very good about not littering, but large amounts of trash float down the Potomac and Occoquan Rivers and end up on the Park's shoreline.  This is the last cleanup of the year, so we want to get as much trash cleaned up as possible.  You can walk along the shoreline or take out a canoe and clean the areas that are not accessible from the shore. 


    Make sure you dress for the weather and wear clothes you can get dirty and shoes or boots that can get wet.  We'll start the cleanup and assign cleanup crews at 9 AM sharp.  We'll provide work tools for getting the job done, including large trash bags.  Bring your own gloves if you have them.  The park will have a few for those who don't have their own.


    And after the work is done, stick around and join one of our afternoon programs for some fun while learning about the park and its resources or take a walk on one of the Park's trails.


    The Friends of Mason Neck State Park will provide light snacks and reusable water bottles for those who don't bring them.  


    There is free parking/admission on September 28.

    For questions, please call the Park at 703-339-2385.  


    Raptor Education and Photo


    Encounter


    Saturday October 19, 2019



    Would you like the opportunity to photograph magnificent raptors from just 10 feet away?  Imagine being close to owls and hawks with your camera in a natural outdoor setting. 

    The Friends of Mason Neck State Park and Secret Garden Birds and Bees are offering a unique opportunity to get up close to some beautiful birds. Participants will be able to photograph raptors up close.  At least four raptors, including a Red-shouldered Hawk, a Red-Tailed Hawk, an Eastern Screech Owl and a Barred Owl, will pose for you on a natural looking perch. You’ll hear from Secret Garden Birds and Bees staff about each one of them, making this a learning experience as well.  

    The cost of the event is $65 for either of two 90-minute sessions - one at 10 AM and one at 1 PM.  This is a fundraising event that will help the Friends continue to present programs and work on projects in support of the Park.  $40 of each registration fee is tax deductible to the extent permissible by law.  

    Space is limited to 20 participants per session, so don’t wait to register! Register at Raptor Photo Session.


               


    Members' Corner



    Canoeing at Mason Neck during twilight was really relaxing and the vibrant orange sunset was a bonus. Thanks much to our awesome guide and fellow naturalist.

    Toni Genberg

    _________________

    We'd like continue to highlight in the newsletter the photos and experiences of visitors to Mason Neck State Park.  Send us photos of your experiences the Park, with a few words or sentences explaining them, to Members' Corner Photos and we'll publish them in the newsletter.  That way everyone can appreciate what a wonderful place Mason Neck State Park is.  

    __________________


    JOIN THE

    FRIENDS OF MASON NECK STATE PARK

    AND HELP SUPPORT THE PARK!

    We would love to have you join the Friends of Mason Neck State Park!  Memberships fund the many Park activities we support each year.  And for as little as $20 per year, you will enjoy monthly newsletters, emails about special events and priority registration for special events such as our members-only Owl Moon in September, and Swanfall in December, and other activities during the year. You can sign up right here:  Join the Friends of Mason Neck State Park  




  • 05 Sep 2019 11:05 PM | Thomas Blackburn (Administrator)


    August 2019 Newsletter


    Youth Conservation Corps Members Are Working to Improve Mason Neck State Park

    Ten young men and two leaders arrived at Mason Neck State Park on July 21 to spend three weeks working on trails and other maintenance tasks at the Park.  The Friends of Mason Neck State Park welcomed them with a pizza lunch.

    Photo by Mary Scala                      


    Following the lunch, Friends Board Member Randy Streufert presented a program on what to expect during their stay at the Park including how to work as a unit, identification and precautions to take against insects and poison ivy, and the wildlife they are likely to see.  


    Photo by Mary Scala       

    The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation's Youth Conservation Corp's program was honored as the United States Department of the interior's Outstanding State Volunteer Program in 2010.  The program engages young people in a structured program of important conservation and park projects on public lands while providing learning that fosters teamwork, self-esteem, social responsibility and respect for the environment.

    Park Manager Reinhardt Gray treated the YCC team to an ice cream social later in the week.  Several Friends Board members and many Park Staff also attended the event.


    Photo by Randy Streufert


         

    Members' Corner

    We're inaugurating a new feature in this month's newsletter.  We'd like to highlight in the newsletter the photos and experiences of visitors to Mason Neck State Park.  Send us your photos of your experiences the Park, with a few words or sentences explaining them, to Members' Corner Photos and we'll publish them in the newsletter and may even put them in the Friends of Mason Neck State Park website.  That way everyone can appreciate what a wonderful place Mason Neck State Park is.  


    Here's the first Members' Corner submission:


    Ugly can be beautiful.  While photographing wildflowers near the shoreline towards Sandy Point, this ugly-looking fly landed near me.  I'd seen this kind of fly before and assumed it to be just another kind of biting fly, like a horsefly - those pesky insects that like to take out a chunk of one's flesh. 


    But I was wrong!  I later identified it as a species of Robber Fly.  Turns out that hornets and horseflies are among the prey they seek out.  They land on their victim in flight and inject a chemical solution into its back.  The Robber Fly then carries its now-dead prey away to feed on it.  What a beautiful way for a horsefly to end up and what a great predator-insect to discover at MNSP.  


    Mason Neck State Park

    Is Searching for Volunteers


    Mason Neck State Park needs YOU!  Do you want to help preserve Virginia’s natural heritage? Are you a retiree or empty nester with a passion for conservation? Are you looking to show a current or future employer you can handle the challenge of public outreach? Then you are perfect for the job of Mason Neck State Park Volunteer! This is where you can help! Mason Neck State Park is offering new volunteer opportunities to help us better serve all those who visit the Park, which has been voted among the best state parks in the Nation. 

    Contact Station Greeter:  YOU will greet visitors at the Contact Station, check passes or collect parking fees, and (most important!) suggest ways to best experience the many wonders of the Park, whether a family picnic or a visit to the playground alongside Belmont Bay, a hike or bird walk along one of our many trails, or (for the more adventurous) a few hours kayaking, canoeing, or biking. 

    Visitor Center Greeter:  YOU will be the face of the Park to all those who enter the Visitor Center by answering questions about Park activities and conservation initiatives, scheduling canoe/kayak tours and bike rentals – and just chatting with the many people who visit the park from all across the Nation and the world, perhaps encouraging them to return to enjoy one of the many educational programs the Park Rangers offer each month. 

    For more information, contact:

    Ariel Hartman, Assistant Manager

    Mason Neck State Park

    703-339-2385 (Office)

    Or email Ariel at ariel.hartman@dcr.virginia.gov

    __________________

    JOIN THE

    FRIENDS OF MASON NECK STATE PARK

    AND HELP SUPPORT THE PARK!

    We would love to have you join the Friends of Mason Neck State Park!  Memberships fund the many Park activities we support each year.  And for as little as $20 per year, you will enjoy monthly newsletters, emails about special events and priority registration for special events such as our members-only Owl Moon in September, and Swanfall in December, and other activities during the year. You can sign up right here:  Join the Friends of Mason Neck State Park  



  • 05 Sep 2019 10:59 PM | Thomas Blackburn (Administrator)


    July 2019 Newsletter

    Native American Life on Mason Neck:

    the Archaeological Evidence

    Photo by Randy Streufert     

           

    For the Park’s annual History Day, a full house enjoyed a presentation by Rich Eilers on his efforts to discover Capt. John Smith’s Tauxenent. Tauxenent was the main village of the Taux (also known as the Dogue) tribe. It is believed that the village was located on land that later submerged beneath Belmont Bay.

    With a background in radar design as a chief engineer and thousands of hours of field and laboratory work with Fairfax County Archaeology and other groups, Rich described his approach to this search, using an extensive sonar survey coupled with follow-up, limited underwater test pit excavation and evaluation under a permit issued by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.


    Photo by Randy Streufert                                

    __________________

    Boys and Girls Club of the Greater

    Washington Area Camped Out at

    Mason Neck State Park

    Seventeen young people from the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington enjoyed two days of outdoor activities and an overnight camping experience at the Park during the Great American Campout.  

    Photo by Ariel Hartman                          

    The campers enjoyed hiking and kayaking, and participated in educational programming that taught them about the wildlife of Mason Neck.   

      

                                 Photo by Randy Streufert     

    __________________

    Volunteers Cleaned Trash

    from the Park Shoreline

    Nearly thirty volunteers helped keep Mason Neck State Park trash-free on June 1, National Public Lands Day.  Some volunteers collected trash from kayaks and canoes, while others hiked the shoreline, bringing back large quantities of plastics, bottles and lumber that had washed ashore during the last two months.    


    Helping to keep the Park trash free is an important task since trash floats down the Potomac and Occoquan River, then washes into Belmont Bay, where tides and winds deposit it on the Park shoreline.  The Park has three cleanups each year.  It can be challenging to clamber over fallen trees and across tidal creeks, gathering large and small items that don't belong.  So here's a huge THANK YOU to those who helped out!  

    Would you like to help keep the Park clean and reduce the amount of trash that is in our rivers and bays?  tuned -- the next Park cleanup will be in September.  

    __________________


    Mason Neck State Park

    Is Searching for Volunteers


    Mason Neck State Park needs YOU!  Do you want to help preserve Virginia’s natural heritage? Are you a retiree or empty nester with a passion for conservation? Are you looking to show a current or future employer you can handle the challenge of public outreach? Then you are perfect for the job of Mason Neck State Park Volunteer! This is where you can help! Mason Neck State Park is offering new volunteer opportunities to help us better serve all those who visit the Park, which has been voted among the best state parks in the Nation. 

    Contact Station Greeter:  YOU will greet visitors at the Contact Station, check passes or collect parking fees, and (most important!) suggest ways to best experience the many wonders of the Park, whether a family picnic or a visit to the playground alongside Belmont Bay, a hike or bird walk along one of our many trails, or (for the more adventurous) a few hours kayaking, canoeing, or biking. 

    Visitor Center Greeter:  YOU will be the face of the Park to all those who enter the Visitor Center by answering questions about Park activities and conservation initiatives, scheduling canoe/kayak tours and bike rentals – and just chatting with the many people who visit the park from all across the Nation and the world, perhaps encouraging them to return to enjoy one of the many educational programs the Park Rangers offer each month. 

    For more information, contact:

    Ariel Hartman, Assistant Manager

    Mason Neck State Park

    703-339-2385 (Office)

    Or email Ariel at ariel.hartman@dcr.virginia.gov

    __________________

    Thank You for Supporting

    Mason Neck State Park!

    We truly appreciate your membership in the Friends of Mason Neck State Park!  Your membership dues and donations help us to support the Park's activities such as First Day Hikes, shoreline cleanups, and educational events and also enable us to fund special events such as the annual Eagle Festival, our Owl Moon evening each fall and the annual Holiday Program at the Jammes House each December.   

    __________________

    JOIN THE

    FRIENDS OF MASON NECK STATE PARK

    AND HELP SUPPORT THE PARK!

    We would love to have you join the Friends of Mason Neck State Park!  Memberships fund the many Park activities we support each year.  And for as little as $20 per year, you will enjoy monthly newsletters, emails about special events and priority registration for special events such as our members-only Owl Moon in September, and Swanfall in December, and other activities during the year. You can sign up right here:  Join the Friends of Mason Neck State Park.  



  • 12 Jun 2019 9:51 AM | Thomas Blackburn (Administrator)

    June 2019 Newsletter

    Native American Life on Mason Neck:

    the Archaeological Evidence

    Sunday, June 15, 10 AM

    Mason Neck State Park invites you to a two-part program to explore the park through an archaeologist’s interpretation of the Native Americans who lived here many years ago.  Learn about the Taft Archaeological Site where Native Americans lived for 3,000 years, and view some of the artifacts found during excavations. This program will be led by Dr. Mike Johnson, the former Chief Archaeologist for Fairfax County Park Authority, who directed the excavation of the site in the 1980's.  We'll meet at the Visitor Center, where Dr. Johnson will discuss this site, and then walk closer to the site.  

    This event is FREE, but please register so we know how many people to expect.  You can register at Native Americans at Mason Neck.



    Enthusiastic Crowds Enjoyed the 

    Eagle Festival 

    A near-record crowd enjoyed perfect weather as they participated in Mason Neck State Park's 22nd annual Eagle Festival.  

     

    Photo by Susan Laume

      

    Photo by Susan Laume

    Photo by Ana Ka'ahanui

              

    Photo by Andrew Sporrer                                        Photo by Ana Ka'ahanui                    

    Photo by Kim Thompson

    Photo by Andrew Sporrer

         

     

    Photos by Ana Ka'ahanui

    Photo by Andrew Sporrer

    Photo by Ana Ka'ahanui

    Funding for the Eagle Festival was provided by generous donations to the Friends of Mason Neck State Park by our donors:  

       

              

    Did you miss this year's Eagle Festival?  Next year's Festival will be on May 10.  Put it on your calendar now!

    ______________________


    Mason Neck State Park Programs


    Mason Neck State Park is offering more than 50 family-friendly activities in June.  You can learn about snakes or survival skills, participate in a campfire or go on a night hike, and many more activities.   


    Have you and your children ever geocached?  the Park has several geocaches hidden in the park, and you can learn how to find them with a ranger at 3 PM on June 9 or 11 AM on June 22 -- or just go out and find a geocache yourself!

     

    Photo by Ariel Hartman


    Are you interested in paddling a canoe or kayak? The Park has 5 guided tours in June, and you can also rent a canoe or kayak and go out on your own.  The evening tours during the full moon are simply spectacular!


    Photo by Ariel Hartman


              

    You can find a complete list of the Park's programs at Mason Neck State Park June Programs.  

    __________________

    JOIN THE

    FRIENDS OF MASON NECK STATE PARK

    AND HELP SUPPORT THE PARK!

    We would love to have you join the Friends of Mason Neck State Park!  Memberships fund the many Park activities we support each year.  And for as little as $20 per year, you will enjoy monthly newsletters, emails about special events and priority registration for special events such as our members-only Owl Moon in September, and Swanfall in December, and other activities during the year. You can sign up right here:  Join the Friends of Mason Neck State Park  


  • 01 May 2019 9:39 AM | Thomas Blackburn (Administrator)

    May 2019 Newsletter


    Eagle Festival 

    10 AM to 6 PM on Saturday, May 11, 2019  

    Mason Neck State Park's Eagle Festival is bigger and better than ever!  This year we'll have 8 live animal shows in the Main Tent -- hawks, owls, a Bald Eagle, reptiles and local mammals.  

     

    We'll have children's activities from our conservation partners all day in the Hartwell children's tent, as well as pony rides and hay rides for children.

      


    You'll have a chance to use telescopes and binoculars to watch Bald Eagles in their nest or watch them on an Eagle Cam in the Visitor Center while you look over a Wildlife Photography Exhibit.

      

    Do you want to try out a canoe, kayak or stand-up paddleboard? Head down to the boat launch area.  


    Twenty environmental organizations will have interactive displays.

        

    Two live bands will provide music for the day, and food and drink will be available for purchase.     

    The Audubon Society of Northern Virginia will lead a bird walk on the Bayview Trail at 8:30 am. Meet at the Picnic Area, not the Visitor Center.  Registration is required.  You can sign up for the bird walk at Register for Bird Walk.  

      

    And our costumed fox, eagle, owl and raccoon will be there to greet you as you tour the festival grounds.  

      

    Funding for the Eagle Festival was provided by generous donations to the Friends of Mason Neck State Park by our donors:  

     

      


             

    ______________________

    Volunteers Needed to Help Make the Eagle Festival a Success

    We still need a few volunteers to help with parking cars for the Eagle Festival.  Can you spend a couple of hours helping out before or after youvisit the festival?  You can sign up to help at Volunteer for the Eagle Festival

      

    We'll give you a vest and a special hat, and a walkie-talkie to communicate with the other helpers.  And you have access to the Friends' snacks and drinks, which are only available to volunteers and exhibitors. 

    ______________________ 

    Bird Versus Bird

                 


    Birds sometimes compete for nesting space to raise their young.  Friends of Mason Neck State Park Board Member Randy Streufert was watching a pair of Carolina Chickadees bring nesting materials to a nest box when a Downy Woodpecker landed at the nest box.  The resulting confrontation lasted only about one second, but Randy caught it in a series of ten photos taken 1/10 second apart. You can view a slide show of this amazing interaction here: Carolina Chickadee versus Downy Woodpecker.  


    Dr. Mike Johnson Talks about Native Americans at Mason Neck State Park at 10 AM on June 15

    Join us for a two-part program to explore the park through an archaeologist’s interpretation of the Native Americans who lived here many years ago.  Learn about the Taft Archaeological Site where Native Americans lived for 3,000 years, and view some of the artifacts found during excavations. This program will be led by Dr. Mike Johnson, the former Chief Archaeologist for Fairfax County Park Authority, who directed the excavation of the site in the 1980's.  We'll meet at the Visitor Center, where Dr. Johnson will discuss this site, and then walk closer to the site.  

    This event is FREE, but please register so we know how many people to expect.  You can register at Native Americans at Mason Neck.


    Enthusiastic Volunteers Cleaned

    the Park Shoreline


    Thirty volunteers participated in the Alice Ferguson Foundation shoreline cleanup on April 20.  The tide was high, but that didn't stop them from collecting over 400 pounds of trash that had washed onto the shore, including  a large amount of decking that had been knocked into the rivers during last year's storms.  


       


      


    Would you like to help keep the Mason Neck State Park shoreline clean?  The next cleanup will be on June 1, starting at 9 AM.  You can pick up debris from the shore or from a canoe.  Put it on your calendar!



    Mason Neck State Park Programs


    Mason Neck State Park is offering more than 30 family-friendly activities in May.  You can learn about ospreys; the critters that live in the marsh; take a canoe or kayak trip; and much more. 


                                                                           

    You can find a complete list of the Park's programs at Mason Neck State Park May Events.  

    __________________

    JOIN THE

    FRIENDS OF MASON NECK STATE PARK

    AND HELP SUPPORT THE PARK!

    We would love to have you join the Friends of Mason Neck State Park!  Memberships fund the many Park activities we support each year.  And for as little as $20 per year, you will enjoy monthly newsletters, emails about special events and priority registration for special events such as our members-only Owl Moon in September, and Swanfall in December, and other activities during the year. You can sign up right here:  Join the Friends of Mason Neck State Park  



  • 16 Mar 2019 7:43 PM | Thomas Blackburn (Administrator)

    March 2019 Newsletter

    Join Us on March 3 to Learn About 

    Vernal Pools 

    Vernal pools, which are pools that dry up in the summer, are vital habitat for salamanders, fairy shrimp and several species of frogs. 


        

    Cope's Gray Tree Frog tadpole and snail                                    Spotted Salamander photo by Randy Streufert

    photo by Randy Streufert


    Karen Sheffield, the Manager of Huntley Meadows Park, will present a program on vernal pools on Sunday, March 3 at the Mount Vernon Government Center, 2511 Parkers Lane, Alexandria.  We'll have an informal social gathering at 1:30 and the program will start at 2 PM.  The program is presented by the Friends of Dyke Marsh and cosponsored by the Friends of Mason Neck State Park, the Friends of Huntley Meadows Park and the Friends of Accotink Creek.  


    Wood Frog photo by Randy Streufert


    Volunteers Needed to Help with the

    May 11 Eagle Festival!


    The Mason Neck State Park Eagle Festival on Saturday, May 11 is the Park's biggest event of the year. More than 20 environmentally-oriented organizations will showcase interactive exhibits.  We'll have a full day of programs, including shows on reptiles and raptors, live music, pony rides, a tent for children's activities and more.  Last year more than 4000 people attended this great event.  The Friends of Mason Neck State Park covers all the expenses for the Festival, as well as providing the volunteers that help to make the event go smoothly.  Would you like to help us out?  Send an email to Volunteer for Eagle Festival and we'll find you a job that you'll enjoy. 




    Save the Date:

    Dr. Mike Johnson Talks about Native Americans at Mason Neck State Park on June 15


    Join us for a two-part program to explore the park through an archaeologist’s interpretation of the Native Americans who lived here many years ago.  Learn about the Taft Archaeological Site where Native Americans lived for 3,000 years, and view some of the artifacts found during excavations. This program will be led by Dr. Mike Johnson, the former Chief Archaeologist for Fairfax County Park Authority, who directed the excavation of the site in the 1980's.  We'll meet at the Visitor Center, where Dr. Johnson will discuss this site, and then walk closer to the site.  


    Mason Neck State Park Programs



    Are you keeping up with all the activities the Park has to offer?  Mason Neck State Park is presenting more than 30 family-friendly activities in March, including programs on turtles, skunks, eagles, coyotes and beavers.  You can find a complete list of the Park's programs at Mason Neck State Park March Activities.  


    __________________

    JOIN THE

    FRIENDS OF MASON NECK STATE PARK

    AND HELP SUPPORT THE PARK!

    We would love to have you join the Friends of Mason Neck State Park!  Memberships fund the many Park activities we support each year.  And for as little as $20 per year, you will enjoy monthly newsletters, emails about special events and priority registration for special events such as our members-only Owl Moon in September, and Swanfall in December, and other activities during the year. You can sign up right here:  Join the Friends of Mason Neck State Park  




  • 16 Mar 2019 7:41 PM | Thomas Blackburn (Administrator)

    February 2019 Newsletter

     

    Huge Turnout for First Day Hikes at Mason Neck State Park


    Photo by Randy Streufert

    Unseasonably mild temperatures greeted a record number of people who visited the Park on January 1.  The 2,104 people who enjoyed the Park for First Day hikes filled the parking lots and set a record that has only been beaten on the days of the Park's spring Eagle Festival. 


    Over 260 people enjoyed the Park's scheduled hikes, including an astonishing 107 people who showed up for the Friends of Mason Neck State Park's Tundra Swan hike at the National Wildlife Refuge's Woodmarsh Trail.  


                            Photo by Mary Scala


    Photo by Mary Scala               

    Photo by Mary Scala

    There weren't many Tundra Swans in view, but Black Ducks and other waterfowl seemed quite at home in the Great Marsh.


    Photo by Randy Streufert


    Where Are the Tundra Swans?


    The Tundra Swan population at the Great Marsh seems to be lower than it has been in a long time.  In some years, as many as 400 of the beautiful white birds call the marsh their winter home.  This year, there have seldom been more than 100, and often fewer than 20 Tundra Swans are present.  




    So why are there so few Tundra Swans this year?  The answer lies in the heavy and frequent rains we had throughout most of 2018.  The DC area experienced rainfall that was 67% higher than average, and nearly equal to the rainfall for 2016 and 2017 combined.  The rains increased water levels and silt in the rivers and bays and reduced the clarity of the water, hampering the growth of vegetation. 


    Nancy Rybicki, an expert on submerged aquatic vegetation with the US Geological Survey, concluded after canoeing the Potomac north of Mason Neck that the growth of submerged aquatic vegetation was the poorest she had seen in decades.  Without vegetation, plant-eating waterfowl such as Tundra Swans have less to eat and fly off to find better food supplies.  




    If rainfall returns to normal this year, we'll probably see more Tundra Swans next winter.  


    Local Resident Wins Second Place in State Photo Contest

    Brenda Amaya was one of the more than 2,000 people who enjoyed Mason Neck State Park on January 1.  While walking the Bayview Trail, she took this photograph of four children at the water's edge.


    Brenda's photo, titled "Friends by the Water", won a Second Place Prize in the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation's First Day Hikes Photo Contest.  Congratulations, Brenda!


    Join Us on March 3 to Learn About 

    Vernal Pools 


    Vernal pools, which are pools that dry up in the summer, are vital habitat for salamanders, fairy shrimp and several species of frogs. 


        

    Cope's Gray Tree Frog tadpole and snail                                    Spotted Salamander photo by Randy Streufert

    photo by Randy Streufert


    Karen Sheffield, the Manager of Huntley Meadows Park, will present a program on vernal pools on Sunday, March 3 at the Mount Vernon Government Center, 2511 Parkers Lane, Alexandria.  We'll have an informal social gathering at 1:30 and the program will start at 2 PM.  The program is presented by the Friends of Dyke Marsh and cosponsored by the Friends of Mason Neck State Park, the Friends of Huntley Meadows Park and the Friends of Accotink Creek.  


    Wood Frog photo by Randy Streufert


    Save the Date for the Eagle Festival!



    The Mason Neck State Park Eagle Festival will be held on Saturday, May 11.  Put the date on your calendar -- you won't want to miss this great environmental festival, complete with live music, animal shows and activities for children.


    Mason Neck State Park Programs


    Are you keeping up with all the activities the Park has to offer?  The 
    Park Staff is presenting 25 family-friendly activities in February, including programs on eagles, foxes, woodchucks, beavers and frogs.  You can find a complete list of the Park's programs at Mason Neck State Park Activities

    __________________


    JOIN THE

    FRIENDS OF MASON NECK STATE PARK

    AND HELP SUPPORT THE PARK!

    We would love to have you join the Friends of Mason Neck State Park!  Memberships fund the many Park activities we support each year.  And for as little as $20 per year, you will enjoy monthly newsletters, emails about special events and priority registration for special events such as our members-only Owl Moon in September, and Swanfall in December, and other activities during the year. You can sign up right here:  Join the Friends of Mason Neck State Park  



  • 30 Dec 2018 9:34 PM | Thomas Blackburn (Administrator)

    January 2019 Newsletter


    START THE NEW YEAR OFF RIGHT WITH A HIKE IN THE PARK!

    New Year's Day is a perfect time to get out and enjoy some time in Mason Neck State Park.  The weather will be spring-like and, for a change, no rain is predicted.  You can sleep in a little and get to the Park for a 10 AM hike on the Kane's Creek and Eagle Spur trails, with a length of 3.5 miles and still get home for a nice lunch.  Or you could atone for your New Year's Eve celebrations with an 11 AM fast-paced hike of 5.5 miles on a series of Park trails.  These two hikes start at the Visitors Center.  




    The Friends of Mason Neck State Park are leading a hike to see the Tundra Swans at 2 PM.  This hike starts at the Woodmarsh Trail parking lot, which is on the right side of the road about  third of a mile before you reach the Park's Contact Station.  This hike is a 2-mile round trip on level ground.  Bring binoculars if you have them.  If not, we'll have some to share, and a telescope as well.  If we're lucky, we'll see as many as a couple of hundred swans, plus a number of other kinds of ducks that we only see in the winter.  Note:  the rest rooms at the Woodmarsh Trail are closed, so it's best to use the ones at the Park picnic grounds or Visitor Center.  




    Finally, at 3 PM there's a leisurely stroll on the Park's Bayview Trail, where you can walk along the shoreline of Belmont Bay, see what's happening in a marsh and return through beautiful winter forest, all in just one mile.  This hike starts at the Visitors Center.  




    Admission to the Park is free on New Year's Day.  Even better, you can enter for a chance to win prizes of up to $500 in a photo contest and a New Years Challenge sponsored by Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.  You can read the details at New Year's Contest.  


    THE FRIENDS ENJOYED GOOD FOOD, GOOD COMPANY AND A GREAT SPEAKER AT SWANFALL 2018


    The Friends of Mason Neck State Park's annual Swanfall holiday celebration at the Jammes house featured Ashley Kennedy, a PhD candidate at Delaware State University, who treated us to a very entertaining and informative presentation on What Birds Eat. 




    Ashley, an entomologist, used her own observations and photos provided by citizen scientists from around the country to determine what types of insects various species of birds eat.  Ashley's great videos and photos kept the crowd engaged as she explained how native plants, which are favored by insects, help support the birds who rely on those insects to feed themselves and their young.




    The Friends provided a wide variety of good things to eat, and Jammes House was a wonderful setting for the event. 






      

    FOCUS ON THE PARK:

    ANIMALS IN THE WINTER


    Winter may seem like a slow time in Mason Neck State Park, but many of the Park's animals are already getting ready for spring.  Friends of Mason Neck State Park Board member Randy Streufert caught sight of a female raccoon fending off a too-friendly male, who was much more interested in starting a family than she was.  


     


    Bald Eagles mate for life, but during the winter they spend increasing amounts of time together as they prepare to mate.  In Virginia, females lay their eggs in late winter to early spring. Here's Randy's stunning photo of a mated pair of Bald Eagles.


     


    Red Foxes are also active in the winter.  They generally mate in January and the kits are born in March.  At night, you can sometimes hear the blood-curdling  Red Fox Scream of the vixen, or female, as it's looking for a mate. 


     


    JOIN THE

    FRIENDS OF MASON NECK STATE PARK

    AND HELP SUPPORT THE PARK!

    We would love to have you join the Friends of Mason Neck State Park!  Memberships fund the many Park activities we support each year.  And for as little as $20 per year, you will enjoy monthly newsletters, emails about special events and priority registration for special events such as our members-only Owl Moon in September, and Swanfall in December, and other activities during the year. You can sign up right here:  Join the Friends of Mason Neck State Park  


  • 27 Nov 2018 7:57 AM | Thomas Blackburn (Administrator)


    December 2018 Newsletter


    Register for Swanfall 2018

    Before It’s Too Late! 

    There are only a few spaces left for Swanfall 2018, the Friends of Mason Neck State Park’s annual holiday party.  The Friends will gather at the Jammes House, a former lodge that is normally closed to visitors, at 2 PM on Sunday December 2. 


    You can enjoy a delicious light buffet in the Jammes House, which will be decorated for the holidays, followed by a presentation by Ashley Kennedy on “What Birds Eat.”  Ashley is a PhD candidate at Delaware State University who studies the insects birds eat in order to gain a better understanding of what insects and habitats are most beneficial to birds. You can enjoy her fascinating videos of birds bringing food to their young as you learn how you can make your property more bird-friendly. 


    Swanfall is open only to current members of the Friends.  If you’re not a member you can join for as little as $20 per year here.  Once you're a member, you can register for Swanfall for yourself and one guest, for $10 per person, at Swanfall 2018.  Your registration entitles you to free admission to the Park on that day. 

    Register now! There were only 11 spaces left when this newsletter went to print, and this event always sells out.


    Friends of Mason Neck State Park

    Participate in the

    Mount Vernon Environment Expo


    The Friends participated in the Mount Vernon Environment Expo at Walt Whitman Middle School on November 10.  More than 20 exhibitors participated in the event, providing information on how to help protect and improve our environment.  The event, which was organized by the Environmental Advisory Committee of Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck, also included workshops and presentations on reducing greenhouse gases, landscaping for wildlife and tree planting and care. 


    The Friends of Mason Neck State Park provided information about the Park, their efforts to reduce the use of disposable plastic water bottles and the importance of reducing amount of the trash that ends up in our rivers. 


     





    Focus on Mason Neck State Park:

    Ariel Hartman


    Have you noticed a new face at the Park lately? It’s Ariel Hartman, Mason Neck State Park’s Assistant Park Manager. 



    Ariel joined the Park staff several months ago, but she went off for 22 weeks of law enforcement training.  She’s back now, and ready to make your experience at the Park as enjoyable as possible. 

    Ariel has a Bachelor of Science degree in Parks, Recreation and Tourism, and a Master of Science degree in Recreation Services and Interventions (recreational therapy).  After graduation she taught Outdoor Recreation and Tourism at Southwest Virginia Community College for two years before joining the Park staff.  She is perfectly suited to take on her principal passion, which is teaching young people to enjoy nature through outdoor educational programs.  She oversees the Park’s interpretive staff, as well as leading programs herself. 

    Ariel has numerous other tasks at the Park, including law enforcement activities, patrolling the park’s roads and trails, and the inevitable administrative work.  Next time you’re at the Park, keep an eye out for Ariel and give her a big welcoming “hello.” 


    Smithsonian Associates Hike

    at Mason Neck State Park


    The Smithsonian Associates’ Nature, History, and Art in Fairfax Countyprogram brought a group of 36 people to the Park on November 3.  The program was led by Rachel Cooper and Renee Sklarew, authors of 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Washington, D.C.  In preparation for their hike, which included parts of the Bayview, Wilson Spring, and Kane’s Creek trails, the leaders reached out to the Friends to get insight into some of our personal experiences in the Park.



    The Friends greeted the hikers upon arrival, providing them with refreshments and information about our mission.  Several Friends members joined the hike and talked about our commitment to the Park and shared stories about the Park.  Park naturalist Elizabeth Thakkar described the Park’s natural features as the group walked from the shoreline to the marsh and through the woods.  


    First Day Hikes at the Park


    Mason Neck State Park invites you to start the year off with an invigorating hike in a beautiful location on January 1. The Park has 9 trails from .16 miles to 3.0 miles in length, all rated at no more than moderate difficulty. All feature the opportunity to see some wildlife and winter wonderment. The Park is offering three guided hikes: At 10 a.m. is a 3.5 mile hike of moderate difficulty but at an easy pace. This hike includes our Kane's Creek and Eagle Spur Trails.  At 11 a.m. there's a fast-paced, heart pumping hike incorporating several trails that will cover 5.5 miles. This hike includes our Kane's Creek, Dogue, Meadow View, Wilson Spring, and Bay View Trails.  At 3 p.m. is a leisurely stroll on the Bay View Trail covering 1.0 miles and at an easy pace.


    Of course you are always welcome to hike on your own any time that day or any other day when the Park is open.  Mason Neck is a dog friendly park! You must have your four-legged friend on a leash at all times.

    Parking fees are waived for January 1. The first 100 visitors will receive a First Day Hikes bumper sticker. And you can also participate in the Virginia State Parks New Year Challenge or Photo Contest.  The top prize for each contest is a $500 gift certificate.  You can find out more about the contests at First Day Contests.  


    Join the Friends of Mason Neck State Park and Help Support the Park!

    We would love to have you join the Friends of Mason Neck State Park!  Memberships fund the many Park activities we support each year.  And for as little as $20 per year, you will enjoy monthly newsletters, emails about special events and priority registration for special events such as our members-only Owl Moon in September, and Swanfall in December, and other activities during the year. You can sign up right here:  

    Join the Friends of Mason Neck State Park  



  • 02 Nov 2018 1:44 PM | Thomas Blackburn (Administrator)


    November 2018 Newsletter

    Save the Date for Swanfall 2018, 

    the Friends of Mason Neck State Park's

    Holiday Event

    Please join us on December 2, 2018 for the Friends of Mason Neck State Park’s Fourth Annual Holiday Event: Swanfall at the Jammes House in Mason Neck State Park.  You can enjoy a light buffet, followed by a fascinating presentation by Ashley Kennedy, a PhD candidate in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware, who grew up on Mason Neck.

    The Jammes House is a former hunting lodge in Mason Neck State Park, located on the banks of Occoquan Bay.  It will be decorated for the holidays, and has stunning views over the Bay and the Potomac River. The Jammes House is not normally open to visitors, so take advantage of this rare opportunity to see the house and experience its magnificent setting.  We’ll have lots of tasty treats for you to sample at our buffet.


    Take a fascinating look into the lives of  birds as you watch Ashley Kennedy's stunning videos of  birds bringing food to their young.  Guiding avian conservation efforts, Ashley's research focuses on determining which insects are the most important in birds’ diets.  Learn what you can do in your own backyard to attract the insects that are vital to a healthy bird population.

    Ashley graduated from Hayfield High School and received a Bachelor of Science from Johns Hopkins University and a Master of Science Degree from the University of Delaware.  She has completed internships/seasonal positions at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, the National Zoo, and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, and worked as an educator for the Delaware Nature Society and a taxonomist for Delaware Mosquito Control. She currently is employed in the lab of Dr. Doug Tallamy, the noted author of "Bringing Nature Home." Ashley is a Science Policy Fellow of the Entomological Society of America, a 2018 recipient of the Entomological Society of America’s John Henry Comstock Graduate Student Award, and a member of the Delaware Native Species Commission. 

                



    Stay tuned; registration for this event will open on November 13, and it always fills up quickly. 



    Record Crowds Attended the Park's 

    "Park After Dark" Evening


    A huge crowd of 225 adults and children attended Park After Dark on October 20.  They took advantage of a unique opportunity to learn about what happens in the Park after the sun goes down.  Everyone enjoyed stories, s'mores and cider around the campfire.  

    Our favorite Park residents were there to explain their lives in the Park.  

                     


                


    Adults and older children had an opportunity to experience the woods in the dark with "no lights" hikes, learning how well their senses adjust to an environment with no artificial lighting.  Everyone had a great time during a beautiful evening.




    Friends of Mason Neck State Park
    Will Participate in the 
    Mount Vernon Environment Expo on 
    November 10

    On November 10th, the Friends of Mason Neck State Park will participate in the first Environment Expo held by Fairfax County’s Mount Vernon District.  We’ll be showcasing our efforts to promote environmental stewardship, including our campaign to keep single use plastic bottles out of our waterways. Please join us for a morning of free workshops, information and ideas!  

    Mount Vernon Environment Expo:

    Saving the Earth One Person at a Time

    8 a.m.-noon, Saturday, November 10

    Walt Whitman Middle School Auditorium

    2500 Parkers Lane, Alexandria

    Attractions Include:

    Over 20 exhibitors, useful info, and free stuff!

    The film “Hometown Habitat” shown continuously.

    Informative Workshops:

    Let’s Talk Trash!

    Audubon at Home: Landscaping for Wildlife

    Tree Care 101

    The Right Tree in the Right Place

    Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

    Play the Carbon Footprint Game!

    How Clean is Our River?

    Learn to be a better steward of our environment.

    Free! No need to register or RSVP—just come!

    For more information: https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/mountvernon

      

    JOIN THE
    FRIENDS OF MASON NECK STATE PARK
    AND HELP SUPPORT THE PARK!

    We would love to have you join the Friends of Mason Neck State Park!  Memberships fund the many Park activities we support each year.  And for as little as $20 per year, you will enjoy monthly newsletters, emails about special events and priority registration for special events such as our members-only Owl Moon in September, and Swanfall in December, and other activities during the year. You can sign up right here:  

    Join the Friends of Mason Neck State Park  


       



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