Historically, Chimney Swifts nested and roosted in hollow trees, but as settlers from Europe arrived, forests were cleared to make way for houses and farms, and many of those nesting and roosting sites disappeared. Fortunately, the birds were adaptable to the new situation and began using chimneys for nesting and roosting. But, once again, the birds are losing nest sites as modern construction has switched to using smooth surface materials which are impossible for swifts to cling to. Our chimney was constructed in 2013 by Friends of Runnymede Park members. The inner walls are rough plywood, easy for swifts to cling and climb. The middle layer is foam insulation board, and the exterior is hardiboard siding, for durability and good looks. It has a metal collar to discourage predators, and a sun collar that reduces hot summer sun from entering the chimney. Only one pair of swifts will nest in the chimney in one breeding season, but other unmated swifts may use the chimney for nighttime roosting.
Chimney Swifts are summer visitors in northern Virginia. They are migratory, spending the winter in the upper Amazon River Basin and returning to our area around the middle of April. We usually hear them before we see them—a twittering sound as they circle overhead. An adult Chimney Swift is about 5.25” from beak to tail tip and has a wingspan of about 12-14”. It weighs only about .81 oz. The tail is square and each feather shaft ends in a sharp point. The legs are very strong with grappling hook-like feet. In fact, it is these feet that are the reason for their unusual nesting requirements. They cannot perch as other songbirds do and can only grasp a vertical surface. Because the body shape is rather pointed on either end with tail folded in flight, many people refer to them as “flying cigars.”
Check out this short video of Chimney Swifts using a chimney for nighttime roosting in Indiana: https://youtu.be/gcYnnDM0DdY
Friends of Runnymede Park maintain and monitor 6 nest boxes throughout the park. Our trail is part of the Fairfax County Bluebird Trail. Starting in April, we check each box weekly and record breeding data for each box—nest building, when first egg is laid, number of eggs, date of first hatching, date of first fledging. This data is reported to the county coordinator and to the Virginia Bluebird Society. Our boxes have been very successful, producing not only Bluebirds, but also Tree Swallows and Carolina Wrens.
The purpose of the Native Plant Project is to highlight the value of locally native plants to the environment, the homeowner, and the community at large; and to encourage the use of these plants in the landscape. The project is sponsored by the Friends of Runnymede Park, a Herndon, Virginia, non-profit organization. It is funded through a grant from the Nelson J and Katherine Friant Post Foundation.
Native plants have evolved naturally and adapted to an area’s sun, water, and climate conditions. That means they will require less fertilizer and less water. They also provide good sources of food for wildlife. Native plants allow us to create distinctive, attractive landscapes.They attract beneficial insects and the songbirds, turtles, frogs, and other wild creatures that brighten our yards.
Find the plants that are locally native to your area and that will meet the needs of your soil and sun conditions. Choose plants that will give height layers to your landscaping. Consider trees, shrubs, and ground hugging perennials that will provide the broadest array of shelter for wildlife.Look for plants that bloom at different times to add color to your garden throughout the season.Most landscapers and nurseries carry native plants. Ask your favorite nurseries to put identifying signs on plants that are locally native.
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The Monarch WayStation was installed to help promote Monarch Butterfly conservation. Milkweed plants are the only plants Monarch caterpillars can eat. This garden has both Swamp Milkweed and Common Milkweed. Each summer, adult Monarchs lay eggs on the plants. When eggs hatch, young caterpillars go right to work eating the leaves. When they are full grown, they pupate and become adult butterflies. Other species of butterflies, along with many bees and other insects, make use of the garden’s variety of flowering plants which provide nectar and pollen.
Northwest Federal Credit Union is a full service financial institution headquartered in Herndon, Virginia. For over 70 years, they’ve been working to transform lives of their members and the communities they serve like Herndon! Friends of Runnymede Park have benefited from generous donations in support of Stream and Park Clean-up, NatureFest, and the renovation of the native plant garden in the park. Equally valuable are the volunteer hours NWFCU employees have given to assist with various projects in the park.
Northwest currently serves 600 member companies & partners! As a member or volunteer of Friends of Runnymede Park, you are eligible to join and become a member of Northwest Federal Credit Union. To join, please visit their website at www.nwfcu.org or visit their Herndon branch at 200 Spring Street!
Persons who are not already a member of Friends of Runnymede Park and who wish to join NWFCU and select Friends of Runnymede Park as their community partner receive an introductory membership of $10.00 which NWFCU deposits in our account.
NWFCU has products & services designed to meet your needs. They can also help your business with business accounts & loans! They offer high tech solutions which include free online banking and a mobile banking app! Contact them at 703-709-8900 for more information.
NWFCU is focused on corporate responsibility with a mission to serve our community. Nominated as a Best Place to Work for 2018 & Non-Profit of the Year, their employees have volunteered over 6,000 hours YTD including at our park!
Contact them at Yourcreditunion@nwfcu.org for more information on how they can help you or your company with financial tools & financial wellness!