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Wildlife

Watching wildlife in the park and in the neighborhood can be fun.  Bring you birding book on your next walk.  Kids love to pack up their butterfly net and magnifying glass and explore.  Look for signs of wildlife like tracks after a rainstorm or scat.  Have fun getting "lost" in green space.  Enjoy nature!  For a fun way to track the animals that you have spotted, print out the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia's checklists of animals sighted in Northern Virginia.

Sightings

In the park and surrounding Maywood neighborhood, people have spotted white-taileed deer, wild turkey, fox, coyote, ground hog, racoon, eastern cottontail, Virginia oppossum, gray squirrel, common eastern chipmunk, patent-leather beetle, and worm snake.  Bird species spotted include barred owl, small raptor, sparrow, finch, wren, titmice, chickadee, junco, cardinal, blue jay, woodpecker (downy, red-headed, and common "yellow-shafted" flicker), ruby-throated hummingbird, mockingbird, robin, catbird, crow, starling, and dove.  If you have seen more wildlife or if you have pictures, feel free to send them to post here.  The deer above was spotted at the east end of the park (picture taken by Alison Davis-Holland).

Nesting Boxes

To help attract native wildlife to the park, Alonso Abugattus, a naturalist from Long Branch Nature Center, define the best animal species to attract, design specification, locations, and heights.   Based on his recommendations, we are trying to build habitat for the following native animals:

Birds.  Barbara and Charlie Chambers from the Virginia Bluebird Society (VBS) built and installed two bird boxes in the open field in November 2006.  In urban areas where standing dead trees (snags) are often removed by owners, these nesting boxes will provide much needed habitat for small cavity nesting birds such as blubirds, chicadees, titmice, nuthatches, and wrens.  

Bluebirds have severely declined in Virginia over the last 100 years due to human activities and harsh winters.  Native cavity nesting bords need this extra help in the DC area because they have lost habitat due to urban sprawl, the lack of snags, the introduction of the invasive house sparrow, the increase use of lawn over gardens, and the reduction of native plants.

Keep your eyes open for the sights and sounds of hatchlings and fledglings from April through August.  The boxes are monitored weekly during the nesting season, and house sparrow nest material are removed.  If you are interested in helping with monitoring or would like to join us to take a peek during our monitoring visits, email Alison Davis-Holland at thriftonhillpark@gmail.com.


Mason Bees.  Junior Girl Scout Troop 5718 (4th graders from Taylor Elementary) drilled the snag (standing dead tree) between the open field and the soundwall to create a nesting site for mason bees – a native, solitary (not living in hives) bee which unlike social (hive) bees are not aggressive and are unlikely to sting.  

Bees are important pollinators of flowering plants and trees in the early spring; however, with the increased use of pesticides, bees are in decline.  Mason bees nesting boxes are a great way to help these very efficient pollinators.  Look for these blue-green metallic bees in April.  At other times of the year, you can look for the telltale signs that they are here – caps of bumpy hardened mud on the holes starting.  Female mason bees lay eggs in these holes and seal each egg chamber with a partition of ordinary mud (similar to a mason laying bricks). 

These mason bee house designs are really easy to make with any untreated wood and a specially sized drill bit.  Feel free to email Alison Davis-Holland at thriftonhillpark@gmail.com if you would like to borrow the drill bit and make your own mason bee nesting box.  

Many thanks to Troop 5718 for building this nesting site and more habitat for native animals like chipmunks, and salamanders.   View pictures of this project.

Flying squirrels.  Arlington is home to the Southern flying squirrel or glaucomys volans, a nocturnal animal that rarely leaves the tree tops.  They fly between trees by leaping off high branches and gliding as far as 300 feet. 

It is about half the size of its ground-based cousins and weighs only two to three ounces.  January is the best time to observe the flying squirrels.  They are active because they have to hunt for food, such as any nuts or left-over berries.  In the summer, you don’t see them because they are quietly nesting and have a ready supply of insects and bird eggs to eat.

We also plan to put in boxes for screech owls.

Ways to Help

Project Wildlife Watch.  Arlington County is working on its first comprehensive natural resource inventory and is looking for volunteers to help identify and observe wildlife.  If you enjoy walking in the park, consider becoming a wildlife observer through Arlington County's Project Wildlife Watch.

Habitat in your own backyard.  Think about encouraging wildlife into your backyard by adding habitat like nesting boxes or a bird bath.  For more ideas on how to provide cover and places for wildlife to raise young and attracting wildlife, visit the National Wildlife Federation's web page on backyard habitat and Arlington's Wildlife Habitat Project.