Friends of 
Mason Neck State Park

February 2019 Newsletter

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





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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