Why did the salamander cross the road? To get to the vernal pool breeding grounds, of course.
Most people wouldn’t laugh at that, but the joke might have killed at Thursday’s salamander patrol training session at Arlington’s Long Branch Nature Center.
The nature center holds yearly salamander training sessions to educate volunteers on the dangers that salamanders and other vernal-pool-dwelling amphibians face during the annual migration.
Amphibians generally live in ponds but some, like the spotted salamander or wood frog, only live in vernal pools — watering holes that dry up in the fall. These are ideal spots for the critters to thrive in, because predators like fish and other amphibians prefer year-round pools.
But because only two or three vernal pools remain in the increasingly urbanized county, hundreds of salamanders and wood frogs have no choice but to cross the pool-adjacent driveways and sidewalks, according to Jennifer Soles, an Arlington County naturalist and long-time Arlington resident.
Soles began the salamander squad program in 2013 after attending a master naturalist training the year prior. As Long Branch Nature Center volunteers were leaving the class, salamanders and frogs began their breeding ground migration — across the parking lot, and under a lot of car tires.
“They’re all there because they love nature and it’s their master naturalist training,” said Soles. “And everyone is running over the frogs and salamanders.”
Soles grabbed a flashlight and began escorting the unhurried salamanders off of the pavement, joined by other horrified naturalists.
Arlington’s naturalists have since tried to prevent further amphibian annihilation through the salamander training sessions. At the Feb. 8 training session, at least 16 community members learned how to protect their local croakers from another Arlington County naturalist, Rachael Tolman.
The session focused on frog and salamander biology and breeding habits, and taught volunteers safe handling practices. Tolman walked volunteers through filling out scientific forms that allow on-site naturalists to predict travel patterns.
“If it’s a little squish, it’s a [spring] peeper, if it’s a medium squish, it’s a wood frog,” said Tolman, explaining how to fill out the alive-or-dead count portion of the form for the rundown animals. “If it’s kind of a spotted, long squish, it’s probably a spotted salamander.”
A salamander patrolman is nothing without his or her tool kit, which includes a reflective vest, headlamps, pens — and a garden spade for scraping squished salamanders off of the road.
While the event was intended to be for ages 13 or older, few teenagers were in attendance. Most volunteers were much older with a more developed environmental interest.
Peter Hansen, a Federal Reserve Board researcher, is a 24-year-old Arlington resident and one of the county’s master naturalists.
“I saw the email blast about the salamander patrol, and it sounded really hype,” said Hansen, noting that several of his friends are nature enthusiasts that he admires for their vast knowledge of the environment.
“I can add a lot of color to my experience in nature,” said Hansen. Most likely, he’ll be returning to serve on the salamander squad.
Tuesday’s heavy rains caused some flooding around Arlington, especially in the northern reaches of the county.
An overflowing storm drain brought elevated water levels to the intersection of Military Road and 35th Street N., where drivers had to contend with significant standing water following a slug of heavy rain this morning. Police were on scene, but there were no road closures.
An earlier report suggested higher, more hazardous water levels along Military Road while the rain was still falling.
Other areas of reported flooding included the area of Glebe Road and Chain Bridge and the intersection of Yorktown Blvd and N. Harrison Street — though no standing water was observed there when an ARLnow.com reporter drove by.
The National Weather Service warned earlier today about flash floods in the region, with the threat running through early afternoon. The heavy rain that brought flooding to Arlington appeared to bring more severe conditions to Northwest D.C., where residents posted photos and videos (below) of roads turned into fast-moving streams.
Arlington’s Dept. of Public Safety Communications & Emergency Management, meanwhile, reminded residents to “turn around and don’t drown” when encountering flooded roadways.
It's legit flooding, I almost got knocked over by a stream pic.twitter.com/K8nSjBiMsv
— Sansa DARK (@HAITIANPAPI202) August 15, 2017
— Dave Dildine (@DildineWTOP) August 15, 2017
— Post Local (@postlocal) August 15, 2017
— Ready Arlington (@ReadyArlington) August 15, 2017
The area of heavy rain that triggered the flooding is making its way out of the District. pic.twitter.com/ienpVV1ccA
— Capital Weather Gang (@capitalweather) August 15, 2017
Neighborhoods across the county are getting ready for Neighborhood Day, set to take place Saturday and feature a wide range of events and activities.
The day looks to bring together neighbors to strengthen bonds on blocks and across the county.
This year’s events are:
Jennie Dean Park Historical Markers Unveiling Ceremony
At noon, the park’s new historical markers will be unveiled, followed by a tour of Arlington Food Assistance Center’s new office at 2708 S Nelson Street.
Seventh Annual Turtle Trot 5K Race
A chip-timed 5K race at Bluemont Park on a certified course. The race begins at 10 a.m.
International Migratory Bird Day Festival
From 9-11 a.m., celebrate International Migratory Bird Day by learning about migratory birds such as hummingbirds and osprey with hands-on activities, games, crafts, bird walks and more. Meet at Lacey Woods Park Picnic Shelter, 1200 N. George Mason Drive.
Tuckahoe Home and Garden Tour
The self-guided Tuckahoe Home & Garden Tour showcases recently renovated Arlington homes that solve common space and design challenges through creative remodeling.
Fairlington Home and Garden Tour
Tour a variety of renovated homes and gardens in Fairlington Village. Tickets are $10 each and can be purchased in advance or on the day.
Remove Invasive Plants
Increase native species diversity by helping with the return of ferns and wildflowers, and the animals that depend on them, in areas once covered in destructive invasive plants. The Gulf Branch Nature Center will host the event from 2-4 p.m.
Tara-Leeway Heights Community Day
From 1-3 p.m. at Big Walnut Park, the Tara-Leeway Heights community will host an event complete with food vendors, games and more.
LBCCA Celebration and Movie Night Series Kick-Off
The Long Branch Creek Civic Association will bring the community together to celebrate from 5-9 p.m. at Troy Park. The event will include a moon bounce, games and activities, potluck dinner, snacks, beverages and an outdoor movie screening.
Ashton Heights Neighborhood Yard Sale
From 8 a.m.-noon, visit the Ashton Heights neighborhood for a community-wide yard sale.
The event is taking place from 7-8 p.m. and will feature a fire and some wintery activities. Registration is required, according to an event listing.
“Celebrate the longest night of the year with candle making and s’mores!” says the listing. “Then we’ll take a night hike under the half moon.”
The Gulf Branch Nature Center at 3608 North Military Road will be celebrating its 50th anniversary with two events in June.
Both events will be free, with the first one taking place on Thursday, June 2 at Arlington Central Library and the second taking place at on Sunday, June 12 at the nature center.
The nature center released the following press release about the events:
On Thursday, June 2, starting at 7:00 p.m., a one-hour symposium will be held at the Arlington County Central Library on “Gulf Branch Nature Center: The Birth and Future of Arlington Parks.” Three speakers will be featured: Local author Charlie Clark, on how the creation of Gulf Branch in 1966 in response to the construction of Metro and I-66 sparked the move to protect parkland in Arlington; Jane Rudolph, director of Arlington County Parks and Recreation Department, who will review the status of park and green space in Arlington, and what they have on the drawing board; and Peter Harnik, Trust for Public Lands, on creating new parks in heavily urbanized areas.
On Sunday, June 12, from 1:00-4:00 p.m., a birthday party open to the public will be held at Gulf Branch Nature Center, 3608 North Military Rd.; Arlington, VA 22207. The party will include live music, food and beverages, a special visit (in an antique car) by silent-movie icon Pola Negri (who once lived at the Gulf Branch house), live demonstrations of ironsmithing by the Blacksmith Guild of the Potomac, tours of the nature center’s Native American Room and log cabin, live raptors, and (of course) a birthday cake. This family-friendly event is sure to be a hit with kids!
These events are being sponsored with the assistance of the Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation and the Arlington County Central Library.
For more information, visit the county’s website for Gulf Branch Nature Center and the Friends of Gulf Branch Nature Center website.
From 6:00-9:00 p.m., attendees can take part in bat-centric habitat walks, games and crafts at Gulf Branch Nature Center (3608 Military Road). There also will be three live bat shows. The show schedule and which age group each is aimed at can be found online.
There is an $8 fee to attend the event and online registration is recommended to guarantee a spot.
From 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. at the Gulf Branch Nature Center (3608 N. Military Road), visitors are invited to participate in some old-fashioned games and crafts, including building a scarecrow.
The family-friendly event is “a celebration of our nation’s heritage,” according to the county website, and visitors will gather at the Walker Log Cabin at the nature center for the festivities.
The event is $5 at the door and parking will be along N. Military Road and 36th Road while the parking lot is closed for the event. Those who wish to build scarecrows should bring old clothing for the scarecrows to wear.
Photo by Maryva2
The Arlington Bat Festival is back Saturday, Aug. 24, at Gulf Branch Nature Center.
The annual event, which serves to entertain and educate locals about the flying nocturnal creatures, begins at 6:00 p.m. with “Bat Talk” activities for younger children at 3608 N. Military Road.
This year, the festivities will include habitat walks, games, crafts, a festival lantern parade and live bat shows presented by Leslie Sturges, Director of Save Lucy, A Little Brown Bat, established to protect and conserve bats in the region. Bat shows run every 45 minutes until the event ends at 9:00 p.m.
Image via Department of Parks and Recreation
The Gulf Branch Nature Center at 3608 Military Road will be hosting its annual Fall Heritage Festival on Saturday.
The festival will feature live music and family-friendly autumn activities. Admission is $5 per person, though children under three may attend for free.
The nature center issued the following promotional blurb about the event.
On Saturday, October 13 from 1 to 5 p.m., visit Gulf Branch Nature Center for old-timey fun for the whole family. This is a beloved community event that has been attracting hundreds of Arlingtonians for over a dozen years. “We’re starting to see the second generation now – young families coming whose parents remember making cider here when they were little.” said Jennifer Soles, staff naturalist. Last year, two more activity stations were added: pumpkin-painting and scarecrow making, so bring old clothes! Families can also participate in activities such as butter-churning, candle-dipping, cornhusk doll-making and LOTS more. “Everyone always wants a chance to explore the log cabin when they visit” reports naturalist Marty Pross. The Blacksmithing Guild of the Potomac has ongoing demonstrations in the forge. “Kids love to see the sparks – but the dads are the ones who often have to be dragged away” smith Curt Welch remembers. Festival goers enjoy music by Andrew Acosta & the New Old-Time String Band too! Summing up, 4-year old Mason Schnell says of the whole festival “It’s my favorite!”
For details, please call (703) 228-3403. Gulf Branch Nature Center is located at 3608 Military Rd, Arlington, VA 22207. $5 per person (children under three enter for free). Parking lot is closed for the event. On-street parking available on Military Road and 36th Road North.
The Gulf Branch Nature Center (3608 N. Military Rd.) is hosting its popular annual Bat Fest Arlington event on Saturday, with a live bat presentation and a “bat walk” for adults, weather permitting.
“Bat rehabilitator” Leslie Sturges will explain the mysterious nocturnal mammals with a 6:30 p.m.- 7:15 p.m. live presentation.
The event includes crafts and games for families and a walk through the woods to check out the bats’ habitat. Adults are welcome to stay until later, when Nature Center guides will go out to search for flying bats.
The bats typically don’t start flying until 8:30 p.m.
Bat Fest draws about 100 people each year, so the Nature Center is asking those interested to register in advance online. Admission is $5.
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Borland
The nature center was saved from potential closure and demolition in 2009 when supporters rallied to have it removed from a list of county budget cuts. Now, the nonprofit Friends of the Gulf Branch Nature Center organization is throwing the wooded outpost another birthday party.
The free event is scheduled from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 16. The program includes:
- Live music by the New Old Time String Band
- Live animal encounters and nature fun for everyone
- “Open forge” with the Blacksmiths’ Guild
- Birthday cake
Photo via friendsofgbnc.org
“Bring the kids and be immersed in 19th century Virginia life,” beckons county parks spokesperson Nate Spillman. “This is a great outdoor event for the whole family!”
The fun includes watching blacksmiths in action, touring a log cabin, as well as making your own apple cider, corn husk dolls and hand-dipped candles.
There will also be old-timey music, historical interpretation, folks dressed up in traditional 19th garb and more. Tickets are $5 per perform, with a maximum of $20 per family. Kids 3 and under are free.
The event it being held on Saturday from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.
The parking lot will be closed, but street parking will be available nearby. For more info call 703-228-3403.
See other weekend events around Arlington here.
Naturalist Jennifer Soles is looking for volunteers who want to call part of the nature center their own. Volunteers would be responsible for keeping the area free of invasive plants and litter. In recognition of their work, a small marker will be placed in the ground bearing the name of the volunteer or the volunteer group.
Soles said that adopting an area is a great way to get to know the forest in greater detail.
“It’s your area,” she said. “You see the long-term health and recovery of that area, and that’s very gratifying.”
“Eventually I’d like to see the whole park adopted,” Soles added, while acknowledging that would require a lot of volunteers.
Children as young as middle school may be able to effectively manage an adopted area on their own, Soles said. Adoption is also an ideal volunteer opportunity for groups.
For more information, call 703-228-3404 or email jsoles[at]arlingtonva.us.
Photo c0urtesy Community Volunteer Network
Firefighters ultimately determined the substance was non-toxic. A subsequent Department of Environmental Services investigation revealed that the cloudy white water was caused by runoff from concrete work at a nearby home.
The incident is not altogether uncommon — DES investigates 50 to 100 complaints of stream contamination each year — but it serves as a reminder that many residents still don’t know where the county’s storm drains go.
Arlington’s 300 miles of storm sewers all empty into local waterways said Aileen Winquist, an environmental planner with the county.
Paint, antifreeze, petroleum products and portable toilet chemicals have all wound up in streams around Arlington due to people –purposely or inadvertently — dumping into storm drains.
“It impacts the invertebrate population in the stream,” said naturalist Jennifer Soles, who works at the Gulf Branch center. Invertebrates, the critters that live under rocks in streams, are especially sensitive to pollution.
Click here to see the county’s guide to identifying and reporting stream pollution.
Photos courtesy Arlington County Department of Environmental Services.