Vernal Pools Are Alive!!! Clifton, VA

Vernal Pools near my house are thriving with life. My wife, my friend Rad, and I went out on Wednesday and the the next subsequent evenings to check the pools for Wood Frogs.

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Watch this video on YouTube.

As we approached the pool we could hear the chorus of male wood frogs calling in the darkness.
Wood Frogs in Vernal Pool February 24th 2012
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The sounds diminished momentarily but upon shinning our lights on the pool revealed dozens of amplexing wood frogs some spotted salamanders bobbing to the surface to gulp air
Spotted Salamander Vernal Pool
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and a red spotted newt lying on the bottom on top of some submerged leaves.

Underwater Footage of Male Breeding Spotted Salamander 2/24/2012
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I returned to the vernal pool the day after to see the the outcome of the breeding frenzy. Below is a vid I took showing not only the egg masses but the diversity of zoo plankton and life that exist beneath this forested puddle. Amazing!! At the end of the vid is brief glimpse at a larva salamander

Beneath a Vernal Pool.MTS
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Webelos Naturalist Badge Program at Walney

Today I led two groups of Webelos through Walney Park. Walney is part of a 640 acre tract of  forested stream valley and meadow community located in Centreville-Chantlilly Virginia.  The kids learned about local wildlife, native vs invasive plants, birds and their migratory flyways, and human impacts on the environment.   While on the trail  we spotted a variety of cool things. Most interesting to the kids were a large adult red shoulder hawk perched on a low lying branch in the middle of the woods. Snakes, turtles and lizards made up the bulk of our large animal discoveries. We didnt take a photo of the raptor but were able to take pics of some of the native reptiles. P1000078

Broadhead skink perched on top of a tree branch North Trail

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Eastern Box Turtle spotted crossing the North Ttrail

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Another Broadhead Skink but this one clearly has lost most of its tail.

Frosty Meadows Gray Tree Frog Mecca.

Went out to Frosty Meadows after a severe thunderstorm that hit our area. Driving down Chapel Road one could not help to see the many frogs both alive and squashed in the roadway. The frequency of such encounters only increased the further I traveled towards the low lying wet areas. I pulled over and hopped out into a  field following the deafening sound of calling frogs. Below is a pic of one of the many that I observed and video’d with my new Panasonic DMC T-53 water proof camera.

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watch video of congregating Gray Tree Frogs and their calls.

Gray Tree Frog Mecca Experimental video Panasonic DMC- T53
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Fairfax Station Patch Article (by Elizabeht Vittori)

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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.  

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“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.

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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.”