Fairfax Station Patch Article (by Elizabeht Vittori)


Walney Amphibian Campfire Program

As a young boy growing up in Centreville and Clifton, Mark Khosravi always had a fascination with nature.

“Especially things that crawled or moved around,” Khosravi, who now lives in Clifton, said.

He spent much of his time in the then woods near Cub Run observing turtles, fish and frogs.  He credits several family friends with nurturing his early curiosity, teaching him to fly fish, introducing him to nearby waters via boat, and instilling in him an appreciation for Civil War history.

A biology teacher at Lake Braddock High School since 1998, Khosravi now shares his passion for the outdoors, particularly reptiles and amphibians, with his students.

“Something so common to me like a box turtle draws excitement and questions from the kids,” Khosravi said.

While he enjoys seeing young student’s reaction to the species he introduces in class, he is concerned that young people today do not have the same unfettered access to the natural world’s activity that he did.  


“When I was a teenager, I had a demanding schedule.  I played sports, but we were still outside in open areas and spaces,” Khosravi said.

As a resident of the Southwestern part of Fairfax County for 45 years, Khosravi is concerned by the changes he observes in the local environment.  

While he was quick to point out that his observations come strictly from personal experience, he has noticed more trash and solid waste in local streams and parks, naming Bull Run, Hemlock and Popes Head parks specifically.  

“Take queen snakes for example; you just don’t see them that much anymore,” Khosravi said. He noted the decline in several bird calls that he heard regularly as a boy.  

He suggested the rapid pace of area development may be the cause.  As a teacher, a volunteer naturalist and a blogger, he hopes to reverse that trend.  In fact, Khosravi has several classrooms that stretch well beyond the campus of Lake Braddock High School.

A member of the Virginia Herpetological Society and several other historical and conservation-conscious groups, Khosravi spends a good part of his spare time educating area residents on threats to indigenous local wildlife.  

His blog, “On the Trail with Mark and Mike, Our Encounters with Nature and the History Beneath our Heels” details his first-hand experience with all things natural from arachnids to blooming bluebells to the moon and beyond.


On any given day, residents might expect to find him monitoring streams and wildlife, working with Fairfax county biologist Vicky Monroe, or hosting a seminar on historical awareness.  

Khosravi admits that his varied interests often pose a challenge to his schedule.  

“I wish I had a photographic memory.  I want to absorb everything I can and stay updated in current knowledge. I don’t feel like I’m doing enough,” Khosravi said. “There’s not enough time.”  

A self-described collector, his goal is to procure “a collection of knowledge.”  

He said he accepts and may even relish the demands of pursuing so many passions concurrently: “There’s discovery even at my age.”

Mammals Camp at EC Lawrence Park Dec 27,28 2010

Started the mammals camp program with a nice display of specimens of native and naturalized animals found in our park. Picutred here are Eastern Coyote, Red and Gray foxes, Fawn (white tail deer) Meadow vole, shrew, chipmonk, white footed mouse, deer mouse, mole, brown bat and more.


Below: Kids check their sherman traps set the day before. As part of their camp experience the participants are given the opprotunity to capture live mammals- typically a variety of small rodents. 


Below: We have a successful capture!! A sherman trap is carefully inspected for its contents.

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The next step is to transfer the rodent into a pillow case so that it can be carefully manipulated for observation.


The best method is to grab the animal from the back just behind he neck and head but in such a manner as to not cause more stress to the animal.  This trap produced a white footed mouse.



Turkey Program at Walney


This morning went on a Wild Turkey Program led by Eric Malmgren. We covered the lenght from North to South of the park boundary looking for tracks or signs of the wild beast. Eric went as far as baiting certain known areas of previous sitings hopping to attract some birds for our visitors. Unfortunatley didn’t see any but did see evidence they had been in the area mainly in the form of scratches in the places where Eric baited with corn.
The over all hike was at least 2 maybe 3 miles long with no complaints or winers. Weather was excellent temp in the 50’s and sunny.


Below possble wild turkey scratch


Cub Run Stream Valley. Below crushed spotted salamander a casualty of the Pipeline construction. 


Pathway created by the dozers downstream of Cub Run rte 29 bridge.


After the walk My friend Mike and I went overto Cub Run stream valley to check out the construction of a new pipeline. The pipeline project is pretty harsh on the ripparian zone of the stream-especially in areas 2-300 yards up and down stream of the rte 29 bridge.

Pond Monster at Walney!

Mike and I started the day of f at 8:00 am birding at Cabels Mill.  A Baltimore Oriole and some Flickers were the more interesting types of birds we encountered on this trip. After our brief hike around the meadow trail we headed over to the Walney Pond to prepare for our Pond Life program.  While scouting and planing my route I noticed a huge shadow just under the surface of the pond (towards the shallow end).  I expected to see a beaver but instead turned out to be a gigantic Carp which we now dubbed the Walney Pond Monster. Mike and I both agree it had to be close to three feet long. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get any closer to get a better shot with my cannon point and shoot camera. 

Carp are nothing more than giant minnows and are completey harmless (they don’t attack humans) but they can, at least some species, be detrimental to an aquatic ecosystem in particular to aquatic vegetation. 


Above a young Hickory tree along the meadow/woodland edge -one of our most abundant hardwoods at Walney

Golden Rod and Cardinal flower . A colorful combination we see this time year at Walney

Box Turtle under a snake board.  This completely caught me by surprise. I either expects a Water Snake or a Meadow Vole or nothing at all-But a Box Turtle? Another Box turtle was found completely submerged within the shore line of the pond.  It is the same turtle the other Naturalist have reported seeing in that location for the past week.