president’s Message

Welcome to the website of the Northern Neck of Virginia Chapter of the National Audubon Society, succinctly called, the Northern Neck Audubon Society. We are a relatively small group of folks covering a large, mostly rural area. Four counties comprise the Northern Neck: Lancaster, Northumberland, Richmond and Westmoreland. Depending on your reference, some include King George County. In this region are Westmoreland State Park, Belle Isle State Park, George Washington’s Birthplace National Monument, Chilton Woods State ForestHickory Hollow, Dameron Marsh, Hughlett Point, and Bush Mill Stream Natural Area Preserves, and various other local birding and wildlife trails. The Northern Neck is also home to the Lower Rappahannock Important Bird Area.

 When this area was visited by John Smith in 1607, the word “neck” was Old English for peninsula. The Northern Neck is the northernmost of the 3 peninsulas in Virginia on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay.  The Potomac River is the northern boundary, with the Rappahannock River being the southern boundary. The area contains some of the most diverse habitats in Virginia including 1100 miles of shoreline, transitional watersheds, fresh and salt marshes, open fields, hilly woodlands and tidal rivers.  These habitats are home to more than 460 bird species, some permanent residents, and some for a short time during migrations. Our avian friends range from hummingbirds to tundra swans, tanagers to buffleheads. And you can’t forget a strong population of ospreys, and the largest nesting area on the east coast for our nations symbol, the bald eagle.

As president of the Northern Neck Audubon Society, I have the chance to pick up on a journey I started in the early 70’s when I was around 8.  I was ‘in’ to the ecology movement, even at that young age.  There was that advertisement on TV of the Native American paddling his canoe on a scummy, polluted river, factories and garbage everywhere. He lands his canoe in the muck of the shore, steps out & stands staring at a factory that is vomiting thick, dense smoke.  A car drives by and the driver throws out a bag of trash that lands at the Native Americans feet…then the camera moves to his face, when a single tear falls.  I wondered what he’d do at Great Falls Park in Maryland back then. There, I remember that portion of the C & O canal was smelly, gooey & trashy, and there were “NO SWIMMING, NO FISHING – POLLUTED WATER” signs.

Then there was the osprey. Or lack thereof. We would go visit Gulf Shores, Alabama every summer where my grandparents lived, close to the lagoon that connected to the Gulf of Mexico. They were 3 miles from Gulf Shores proper. Somewhere nearby on one of the bayou’s, there was an osprey nest. My grandfather would take us out there to see the bird, and I could tell he was excited, but at the same time pensive, as he knew about the effects of DDT. We did not.  Each time we didn’t see it, he’d reassure us that it would be there next time. I don’t remember how many years it was ‘til we saw it, but finally, one day, it was there. We were, in today’s vernacular, “totally stoked”.  And I was totally hooked on birds. Especially ospreys.  I got my bird books, my binoculars, and I learned all my backyard birds.  For whatever reason, it never dawned on me that there was so much more to learn. I didn’t realize there was so much more to know.  The fire dimmed to a spark, life got in the way, and birds were an aside.

 I am thrilled to share my enthusiasm for our avian friends and the environments in which they live.  I’m still a relative newbie in this chapter and in this whole group called Audubon. It’s so much more than bird walks and a monthly meeting. I have more to learn, and we all have so much to do. And here is my brazen plea: The NNAS needs you. In order to function we need people to be on the board. It doesn’t take a lot, but it does take a little effort, and a commitment to one board meeting a month. We need people interested in building bird boxes. We need some folks who are interested in showing up at farm markets to get the word out about us, and people who are willing to help maintain Hickory Hollow. There are more positions to fill, but a ‘brazen plea’ can only be so long.

Thank you for taking a little time to check us out. Please take a look around on the web site. Our new web master has done an outstanding job with a new web platform!  Find out about our events, join the hotline to get updates/pictures/announcements/, then come check us out in real life at a walk or meeting. We look forward to sharing the ‘Neck with you!

Melissa Gross, President NNAS