A D.I.Y. Yoga Invitation for the New Year

Take Five

If I had a dollar for every time I bounded into a new year with a freshly updated list of health and wellness goals, well . . . I would have a lot of dollars. The health-related New Year’s Resolution: it’s a common practice among us, and apparently many people do begin the new year with a bang in fitness or wellness activity, only to begin flagging in attendance and efforts by February, or sooner. Lofty goals; noble efforts . . . none of it a fool’s pursuit. However.

I have shifted my focus over the years to the matter of compliance. Through observation of my own efforts, those of friends, clients, and hundreds of office workers, my unscientific thesis goes something like this: Small actions every day top the big effort once, or even twice, a week. Like attracts like. When we start small, we have something to build on. When we go all out, down might prove our most likely direction. 

With that, I offer a DIY approach to movement, based in the foundations of yoga. If we invite our spines to bend and twist just enough each day, we might find greater ease within our bodies and minds. The “Five-Minute Yoga” guide I’ve created aims for a shorter time commitment to inspire daily compliance. Take five minutes before your commute; carve out a five-minute break during your work day; interrupt a repetitive movement, or a prolonged sedentary period. As you consider the multitude of other things you might do with five minutes each day, it becomes easier to imagine fitting a moment of stretching and breathing into the mix.The downloadable PDF guide (clarkeva.com/2019/12/09/take-five) offers a path to moving the spine in all directions each day, which can be a helpful adjunct to any activity, or an antidote to an otherwise sedentary day (marathon meetings, lots of road time, etc.). Also included in the guide are resources for exploring yoga at home. 

Sometimes what we need is so close by we don’t even notice it. A deep breath; a long stretch for a tired back; a moment of quietude. When can you take five?

The Berryville Beat

Well, Berryville, we have reached the end of the year and the holiday season is upon us. We wish you and your family a safe and happy end to the year.

The end of the year is always a time to reflect, but also look ahead. One of the exciting projects we are looking forward to in 2020 is a revamped John Rixey Moore playground in Rose Hill Park. The project entails keeping many of our popular playground features, and making some necessary updates.

Central to the project is the replacement of the current playset structure. The current structure is expected to be removed sometime in December. In its place will be a new play structure ideal for ages 5 to 12 years old, with slides and climbing structures. 

We have made sure to maintain some of the current playground’s biggest draws. The four-seated seesaw and riding horses will remain, though they will be repainted to match the new play structure. New diggers will be installed. The swing set structure will remain, but with new swings — including two that are ideal for younger riders — and new chains. It will also be repainted. 

There will be some new additions to accommodate our younger residents and visitors. There will be a stationary car, a basketball goal and musical equipment, all appropriate for children aged 2 to 5. 

For those sunny days, we hope you will appreciate the installation of a shade structure, fixed to a picnic table, to provide some relief from the heat. As part of this project, we will also seal and re-line the basketball court, and make some improvements to the central feature of the park, the gazebo. All told, our total budget for this project is not to exceed $60,000.

The construction schedule is extremely weather dependent, as one can imagine, but we anticipate completion by late winter or early spring. We look forward to the warmer weather when town families and visitors, young and older, can enjoy the playground and the park. We anticipate a grand opening celebration sometime in the spring.

This monthly column is authored by the members of the Berryville Town Council. For more information on town government, including meetings, agendas, and contact information for the Town Council and town staff, visit www.berryvilleva.gov.

81 Outfitters Opens in Winchester

By Claire Stuart
It’s possible to find fashionable clothes that are affordable, but the shopping experience in big box stores can be frustrating. A store can simply be too big. It becomes an exhausting chore to push your way through crammed spaces full of crowds of shoppers.  You have to rummage through too many bulging racks trying to find what you’re looking for, with no store personnel handy to help you find it or answer your questions.

In October, 81 Outfitters opened their doors in Winchester, providing affordable, stylish clothes for women, men and children. It is not part of a chain but rather a family-owned business operated by Jeff Moen, Chris Bryce, and their families. 

The store is bright and airy and the displays are attractive and placed for comfortable, leisurely shopping. Someone will always be right there with a smile and a greeting when you walk in the door.

“Each one of us can say hello!” says Bryce.

“You get the same feeling as when you shop in a higher-end store,” Moen adds,  “and you don’t have to work to find our stuff.” 

After operating for three years on-line, an excellent location in Apple Valley Square became available where 81 Outfitters could open their brick-and-mortar store.  The shopping center includes a large discount grocery store and gets a lot of traffic.

Asked how they hope to compete with established local big-box discount stores, they explained that rather than trying to compete, they are filling a niche. Their aim is to be the affordable clothing store that provides a relaxed, personal shopping experience.

Moen explains that they buy their merchandise from liquidation centers. Much of it is what you see in high-end stores but just out-of-season, as those stores get ready for the next season.  This can remedy a problem that has always frustrated shoppers—you realize your kids need new winter coats but stores are sold out and already showing spring clothes.

“We want to be an in-season store,” says Moen.  

He reports that they put out 200 to 250 new items every day, five days a week. As a new store, they continue to ask their customers what they want to see. “We look at what we sold and buy more of that. We’ve sold a lot of coats, and we’re trying to get a lot more coats.   We just tried selling shoes, and people are asking for more shoes. We take note of the things customers ask about. ”

Moen gestured to a pile of earrings that he’d been sorting for a new display. “We’re trying earrings,” he said, “and we’ll see how they go. We’ll be carrying women’s hats, and we’re figuring out how to display them.  We build a lot of our
own displays.”

A lot of thought went into the décor, and the store has a modern industrial feel, casual yet welcoming.  “The ceiling is black,” Moen pointed out, “and it’s white in most other stores.”  He explained that the black paint absorbs sound to prevent echoes from the high ceiling.  He noted that most of the merchandise is displayed on racks designed by his son Tyler, using wooden pallets as the end supports.  “All of our stuff comes in on pallets, so we are building with them. We want to be as green as possible. We aren’t corporate, so we can have fun.”

You will find affordable prices at 81 Outfitters on top name clothing like Polo, Ralph Lauren, Levi, Tommy Hilfigerer and more, at prices 60-90% below the major big box stores.  Check in often to see what new merchandise has just come in.

“And have a cup of free coffee,” added Bryce. “We have a coffee station. Just ask!”

A Clarke County Portrait In Music

An original by composer James Meredith premiered at The Barns

By Krista Jo Brooks

This year the Clarke County Community Band commissioned a piece of music to be written by Virginia composer James “Jim” Meredith in celebration of Clarke County and as a way to give back all the love and support the band receives from its community. 

The band premiered the piece, titled “A Clarke County Portrait,” on December 6 during the their first holiday concert of the season at Barns of Rose Hill. It will be performed again during the second holiday concert at Armstrong Hall, Shenandoah University on December 13 at 3pm.

“A Clarke County Portrait” has four distinct sections. The River, Daniel Morgan, The Village, and a Clarke Celebration. As Mr. Meredith writes in the program notes, “The pieces I write are not specific moments like scenes from a movie, but are open to any number of interpretations according to where your heart takes you.” The following is one flute player’s interpretation of “A Clarke County Portrait”.

***

It starts with the late silence of the witching hours. The collectively held breath of an audience interspersed with the shifting of a leg or muffled cough like the creak of a branch or a single bird plopping onto a bed of new spring growth. 

The conductor’s raised arms make small, timed movements and suddenly dawn has arrived on the Shenandoah River. The rays of the sun shooting across the sky as they escape over the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains and out of the holes of woodwind instruments.

 Sunlight sounds like bells as it bounces in ever more vibrant forest colors and punctures the gentle flowing water. You can hear the waves lapping the shore and rolling over the rocks of the shallows.

The river awakens, playful and gentle. A fish splashes, a bird twitters, and the sun continues its song of bouncing light and flitting colors. The band seems to sway with the waves and the audience closes their eyes to feel the warm sun on their shoulders and the cool water between their fingers as they dream of floating down the river that nourishes the soul of Clarke County.

***

Jovial voices ring loudly across the intersection of the Winchester Turnpike and Charlestown Road as rowdy young toughs stumble out of the Battle Town tavern into the sticky summer evening. Their boisterous banter playing up their own greatness to each other in the happy temperaments of early drunkenness. 

Frontiersmen puff out their chests and slap one another on the back as trombones cheerfully slide through the melody like so many men of that 
historical time.

Woodwinds echo the tune as the youth’s pitch and drunkenness rise and an older, brasher Daniel Morgan stands above the rest in jolly competition. And much like those many years ago, the music soars with the egos: too high and too far. Morgan’s famous pride has been prodded and poked past its limits and what was a pleasant time suddenly turns into a right brawl. Stones fly and fists fall as many ripe bodies fight for greatness in the dirt of the crossroads.

In the end, Daniel Morgan stands imposingly above the rest as the losers skulk away into the night. His temper extinguished and a well-timed chuckle throws the remaining group back into the swing of its earlier temperament until none can stand a moment longer.

***

An Iroquois woman sat atop the hill that rises above her village below and gazed at the valley beyond. Smoke rose in the distance on the sound of a flute. It has started. Her people set the land afire and soon the flames would be visible from her perch. The fire would reset the barrens so that the grass will grow as tall as a man and the elk and bison can range close by. The burned forest floors will fill in with Oak, Hickory, and Table Mountain Pine. The woman lightly touched the petal of a wild rose growing next to her. The roses will thrive.

The smoke thickens, and in it she can see the generations of her people that the stories and skills have passed through. Behind her she can hear the sounds of children climbing the hill to see the red horizon. The flames lap the skies and a stag runs out of the smoke to safety. A few will be lost so more can thrive. This is the way of a healthy world.

***

This community is small, but fiercely loyal and tightly woven into a diverse tapestry of histories. Together we are the beating heart of Clarke County. Our surroundings give us a strong sense of place. The Cardinals and the Sycamores have taken root in our blood. The river nourishes us, our history grounds us, and our diversity strengthens us. The heartbeats of our people create a rhythm. As we have added more voices and more stories the beat has strengthened into a 
celebratory dance.

Our feet tapping with the sirens of John H. Ender’s firetrucks as delighted school kids don plastic fire hats. Our heads bobbing to the sounds of the High School marching band practicing on the field after school, filtering through our house and car windows. The crash cymbal sounds of crackling fireworks bouncing around the sky as somebody celebrates one of their best days at Rosemont Manor. You can feel people swerving around antique cars parked on Main Street or bobbing and swaying to better see the goods for sale at a Saturday yard sale.

It is our home that we love and as the final movement of the piece reaches its peak, we no longer know if our beating hearts form the music or the music beats in our hearts. But isn’t that the point? This music is a celebration of all of us, here now or gone, and is thus added to the grand tapestry that is Clarke County.

The conductor holds his arms up, welcoming the last joyful note into the hall, before cutting it off. For a moment a ghost of the feeling the note held reverberates off the walls before that first clap of that first citizen breaks its mood and the real world filters back in.

***

The Clarke County Community Band was founded in 1992 to promote music in the Northern Shenandoah Valley. It is a group of local musicians who gather together Tuesday nights to play. They give a variety of concerts throughout the year and have a wide range of ages and skill levels among the players.

The band had its 25th anniversary last year. As a way to celebrate, Mr. Shoremount proposed the idea of commissioning a Grade 4 piece of music for and about Clarke County. The band enthusiastically agreed that this was a way to give back to the community a gift that would outlast us all and cement the Clarke County of today into the history of tomorrow.

It was very important to Mr. Shoremount that a composer from Virginia be used and Mr. James Meredith fit the requirement perfectly. Meredith, known as “Jim”, is an alumnus of the Shenandoah Conservatory of Music in Winchester. He passed through the county on his way to and fro and would often stop and read the historical markers and take in the quaint, old buildings of Berryville. His favorite part, though, was the Shenandoah River. His heart had a stake in this composition.

Mr. Meredith has been a staple of Virginia for decades, retiring from forty years as a band director in the classroom. During his tenure at Sandusky Middle School in Lynchburg, Virginia the band received statewide, national, and inter-national recognition for its many superior ratings, awards, and multiple performances at the Virginia Music Educators’ Conference, at universities, and the Midwest Clinic in Chicago. Jim is the 2013 Virginia music Educator of the Year and the recipient of the 2015 Shenandoah Distinguished Alumnus Lifetime Achievement Award. He is co-founder of James River Music Publishing Company, and, in his own words, “Enjoys trying to master the frustrations of golf.”

Mr. Meredith and Mr. Shoremount knew each other from their days at Shenandoah University, where Mr. Shoremount earned his Bachelors and Masters in Music Eduction. Shoremount taught in public schools for thirty-one years where his various bands received numerous accolades and Superior ratings, as well as various positions at the collegiate level. Among his many awards and honors, he was inducted into the Virginia Band and Orchestra Directors Association’s Hall of Fame in 2018 and was awarded the “Presidents Award” at the Shenandoah Apple 
Blossom Festival’s Concert Band Competition. He currently is an adjunct professor of Music Education at Shenandoah University and performs regularly with “Jumptown”, a rhythm and blues soul band.

The Clarke County Community Band is sponsored by the Clarke County Board of Supervisors.

The Traveling Art Club Offers Opportunities and Fun, Welcomes Artists

By Rebecca Maynard

When Julia Young attended back-to-school night at Middletown Elementary School, she asked the principal when the art club met and discovered it hadn’t existed for several years.

“No one in the community had taken the initiative to take it back up, so a couple of moms got together to talk about forming an art club in Middletown,” Young said. “But we found out quickly as we talked to people that it was a huge void in the surrounding community and it’s evolved way past the Middletown Art Club.”

Thus the Traveling Art Club (TAC) was born, a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to providing sustainable no cost arts programming, mentorship, education and supplies to the youth of Winchester City, Frederick, Clarke, Warren and Shenandoah counties. Young serves as its president.

A free program for children and teens called Investigation Stations is offered at Bowman Library in Stephens City on alternating Tuesdays and Fridays, and TAC hopes to soon include a similar program at Clarke County Library.

“Investigation Stations partners literature and art, and we have books that kids probably wouldn’t normally be exposed to,” Young said.

“We read a book, talk about the book, and do three or four art projects that pertain to the subject we just read. Sometimes we bring music and movement into it, because kids are restless and need to move around.”

A call for art is open to all Shenandoah Valley artists through January 1 for an exhibit called Artists of the Valley, which will be displayed at the Shenandoah Museum of Contemporary Art in Strasburg. Interested artists can sign up by visiting www.thetravelingartclub.org/artists-of-the-valley.  

“We plan to have a reception in January and an opening event that will be open to the public so it really encourages community involvement in art,” Young said. “We’ve heard over and over that there’s a real need to involve the community at large in whatever the programming is that we offer. It means people other than artists are seeing their work.” 

The community is invited to a free open house at 4:45pm on Jan 22 at the Clarke County Recreation Center to learn about an upcoming series of ”Unconventional Arts” workshops for children ages 5 to 14 that allows them to freely express themselves with art using unconventional methods and upcycled materials so that they are able to continue to experiment at home regardless of the availability of art supplies. Call the recreation center at 540-955-5140 for details and to register.

Young has been talking with a librarian who works at Clarke County High School  about the possibility of doing something with their art program, geared toward learning how to showcase art. “We like the idea of students partnering with local artists as mentors,” Young said.

The TAC is also planning a partnership with the Barns of Rose Hill. For up to date information about activities and opportunities, visit www.thetravelingartclub.org or visit their Facebook page. 

The organization is grateful to Bank of Clarke County and Sheetz for their sponsorship. Local businesses can sponsor at different levels, and individual donations are welcome and are tax deductible.

“When you donate, you enable our founders and board members who are all actively invested in their community, all in the trenches of our local education system, to enrich the local community through art,” the TAC says. “Imagine a world in which our children are encouraged, excited, and able to explore all sides of their artistic abilities in a safe space. The Traveling Art Club aims to provide this safe haven for the youth of the Frederick, Clarke, & Warren Counties as well as the surrounding areas.”

Take Time To Appreciate Our Community And Those Who Serve Us

By J.C. Moore

There is nothing like a debilitating injury to kick in a reflective mood. ‘Flying branch meets knee’ has had me on the meditation bench for over a week. The crisis is over, and now it’s the droll work of healing and what it takes to do that. The usual heat and ice, a little ibuprofen, moderate movement—all help. The good side is that pulling out all the stops for full-on healing brought me closer to things that matter most, and often get taken for granted. Amazing how many of the usual distractions and priorities are just not so important. The good things come to light, the real antidepressants: relax, breathe, check the attitude and where the 
energies go. 

Be aware of the ones you’re feeding. There has been a lot of pain, but how it’s dealt with is a choice. There is plenty to feel good about; choose to focus on the progress rather than what was lost, relieved it wasn’t worse. Extra time at home is always nice, maybe now I’ll get that house cleaning done (maybe).

I’m reminded of the things of everyday life we should not forget. Most obvious are the loved ones that get you through these things. They can even be people you didn’t know you knew. How reassuring it is just knowing they’re around, and magically how they appear when you need them. 

And also the less obvious things you love, that inspire and touch your soul, bring you uplifting energy. For me it’s music and Tai Chi. Both for the joy of learning and ‘grounding’, reconnection to the original creative energies, also those ‘forever’ projects. You know those great ideas that may take forever—junk sculptures, great homemade wine, the masterpiece you want to paint. But that’s alright. It’s the joy of doing them, and not necessarily the result, but the good space they create. That’s the inner space.

But without the outer space of community to ground it, there would be little comprehensive meaning. I never stop marveling at this beautiful environment we live in. After all the years and changes, I still find this place breathtaking when I stop and take the time to notice. I take comfort just being in town, the farmers market where families (Fido included) come to partake of the wonderful provisions of local farmers and craft persons, the coffee shop experience for lovers of socializing and caffeine, eateries etc.

It’s hard to not gush with pride when speaking with those who come to the Barns for the first time. “This community is amazing!” I tell them. It’s very active, diverse, and has a lot to be proud of. We are capable of so many things. If more localities could have what we do, humanity would be profoundly better off. This grounding is our foundation. 

What makes it possible? Where do we get the freedom and peace of mind to do all of this? Much of it is about those who are always there, 24/7, dependably, no matter what. The “first responders,” those quietly working behind the scenes, ready for anything. If community was a school of fish, they’d be the water. 

I’ve started volunteering at the local Policeman’s Appreciation Awards Banquet for the last several years, and have gotten a better perspective of what these people actually do and who they are. Some I’ve known for decades, but most are new to me. Now, I’m not exactly “Mr. Law & Order,” but if these members of our community can be out there every day of the year, at least I can carry things around and set up some chairs once a year to show that I do appreciate them.

Like the natural environment, we have great resources in those dedicated to protecting us. I want everyone to realize how good we have it. It’s easy for “news” of the world to give us distorted perceptions. With media’s obsession to sensationalize the news, there’s a tendency to internalize negative things around us. But let’s remember where we are. Here, our sheriff is elected by us with much deserved popularity and respect. We often get good “face time” with our deputies and officers in casual settings. Even though it may be fleeting or go unnoticed, don’t underestimate the importance of this recognition.

We can all benefit by making more intentional contact, like complementing a friend just to make their day better. It doesn’t cost anything, but gives so much return!

The awards banquet brought to awareness that these people are not all about the dramas of sensational “cop stories,” though sometimes it does get like that. They risk their lives everyday. But the care-taker aspect of how proactive they are in preventing problems in the first place is understated, like the creative genius that enables them to de-escalate domestic violence and handle a serious drug overdose, restore functionality to a traffic accident, education programs for the public—it never seems to stop.

The awards for administrative improvements and things that just make them better coordinated and functional demonstrate how these agencies are constantly improving themselves. The different enforcement agencies in the area, including Clarke County, Fredrick County, Berryville and Mount Weather, had previously not been communicating much before these gatherings. Now they are more familiar with each other and their operational procedures. It’s reassuring to know that in the event of a catastrophe, the local agencies are prepared for a 
unified response.

But what I like most about the ceremony is that it is homegrown. Social and formal, it’s attended by many of the local and state politicians. Like many things in the community, someone saw a need, got others on board, and it grew. It was spawned out of the Horseshoe Curve Benevolent Association under the dedicated ministry of Jim Wink, who deserves special recognition for his tireless efforts.

Don’t wait until you’re knocked down to say “thanks” to those who are there for you.

Conservation News

Blue Ridge Conservation Alliance Meets To 
Further Collaboration 

A coalition of dozens of conservation organizations and agencies met December 6 in Clarke County to discuss collaboration on a new community outreach effort supported by the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program (RTCA). Also on the agenda was a preview of potential conservation-related legislation in the 2020 General Assembly session. 

The RTCA program supports community-led natural resource conservation and outdoor recreation projects across the nation. Their national network of conservation and recreation planning professionals partners with community groups, nonprofits, tribes, and state and local governments to design trails and parks, conserve and improve access to rivers, protect special places, and create 
recreation opportunities. 

BRCA was awarded a technical assistance grant from RTCA to develop a strategic plan for the alliance’s collaborative efforts to conserve lands critical to the Appalachian Trail corridor. RTCA regional staff Anne O’Neill will facilitate the BRCA planning effort over the 
coming year.

Dan Holmes, policy director for the Piedmont Environmental Council, provided summaries of prospective legislation that could impact land conservation funding, environmental restoration programs, and an array of policies related to clean air and clean water. 

The Blue Ridge Conservation Alliance, or BRCA, is a network of partners working to protect the natural, scenic, and historic values of this landscape, and to conserve land, safeguard watersheds, and preserve the historic landscape along the Appalachian Trail corridor and the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. Its steering committee includes representatives from Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Friends of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Land Trust of Virginia, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, Piedmont Environmental Council, Virginia Working Landscapes, and Berryville-based The Downstream Project.

The quarterly gatherings of the Blue Ridge Conservation Alliance are open to anyone interested in the protecting the special character of the Blue Ridge.

Learn more at blueridgeconservaiton.org.

Downstream Project Launches Watershed Protection Initiative

The Downstream Project, the Berryville-based nonprofit communications and creative technology group, is launching a new initiative to help watershed advocates. Water Watch is a citizen engagement program that Downstream designed to connect watershed groups with members. Downstream believes Water Watch will help these groups activate volunteers, measure watershed restoration practices, and alert the public about stream contamination. “Water Watch brings monitoring data to life so that people can see what’s happening to the streams they love and the water they drink,” said Downstream executive director Bill Howard. 

Water Watch is built around two cloud-based applications—Water Reporter and Field Doc— developed by Chesapeake Commons. The Commons is a nonprofit organization that creates digital services to help people access, organize, and share data. Water Reporter is a social network for sharing images, observations, and monitoring data; Field Doc creates visual models of how decisions by individual landowners can help clean our streams. 

“Monitoring water quality helps keep streams safe,” said Howard. “But data alone won’t drive action if the right people can’t see or understand it. With Water Watch, Downstream wants to turn data into stories.”

Learn more at 
TheDownstreamProject.org.

Tracing The Travels Of Saw-Whet Owls

Story and illustration  by Doug Pifer

The caravan of cars reached the top of South Mountain. A couple dozen riders emerged into the night, bundled into parkas and wearing winter coats. As we inhaled crisp November air, our ears were blasted with a continuous amplified recording that sounded like a big truck backing up.

We were members of the Potomac Valley Audubon Society (PVAS) at the South Mountain owl banding station near Boonesboro, Maryland. We hoped to witness the capture and banding of migrating saw-whet owls.  The owl banding shed accommodates only a few people, so we gathered in front of the banding station, met station Coordinator Steve Huy and listened to his introduction. 

During October and November, Huy and a few intrepid volunteers band saw-whet owls as they migrate from their breeding grounds in the Canadian forests to their wintering grounds in the eastern United States. For Steve Huy (pronounced like the slang word for U-turn) this is a labor of love. He’s become accustomed to sleepless fall weekends.  

The smallest bird of prey in the eastern United States, a saw-whet weighs no more than a robin. The owl got its name from its nocturnal “song” that reminded early settlers of a whetstone sharpening a saw.  To twenty-first century ears unfamiliar with saw sharpening, the analogy is lost. It sounds more like a backup alarm. 

Banding migratory birds requires special licenses and training, under strict state and Federal regulations. Bird banding stations use mist nets, of mesh so thin it’s virtually invisible, to catch birds flying through the woods.  In the 1960s, bird banders discovered that if they opened their nets at night, they sometimes caught many migrating saw-whet owls. Now 125 partnering bird banding stations participate in Project Owlnet, with funding from the Maryland DNR and many other agencies.

In 1966, when Wisconsin ornithologist Tom Erdman played a recording of a male saw-whet owl’s call, he captured eleven times more saw-whets than he had before. Project Owlnet banders now routinely broadcast recorded songs of the male saw-whet owl as an audio lure.  Huy said barred and screech owls prey upon saw-whets, and sometimes get tangled in the nets. They too are banded and released “farther down the mountain.” 

Once captured, an owl is removed carefully from the net and placed in a cloth bag. This minimizes stress on the bird during transport to the heated, well-lighted bird banding shed. There the owl is weighed, measured, and an aluminum band is gently slipped over its tarsus, the feathered part of the leg just above the toes. Leg bands identify place and date of capture. If a bird is already banded, data from the band is recorded. 

Age and sex are determined by weight and feather condition. Males are generally one-third smaller than females. The owl is aged by shining an ultraviolet (UV) light on certain feathers. The fresh plumage of an owl then fluoresces bright raspberry red.  The fluorescence comes from a coating of pigment called porphyrin, which breaks down over time. The overall fresh feathers of saw-whets less than a year-old glow brightly. The more worn feathers on older birds glow quantitatively less under UV light.

Then after a short interval to allow its eyes to readjust to darkness, the little owl is released into the night. 

Why put a yellow-eyed bundle of feathers through the trauma of capture, banding and release?  Project Owlnet, a dedicated group of trained biologists and private citizens, has been gathering fascinating data on banded saw-whets for the past 20 years.  Recently, sophisticated nanotags and geolocators also enable bird students to track the wanderings of these owls. Saw-whets migrate erratically, and they’re far more numerous than was once believed. Over 90 percent of all captured owls are female, with only a few first-year males.

How many are there and are populations increasing or decreasing? Do adult males travel elsewhere or stay on their northern breeding territories? Like most research, the data leads to more questions. The more we learn about these wonderful owls, the better our ability to protect them in the future.

Illustration by Doug Pifer courtesy PA Game CommissionPhoto credit: Photograph of saw whet owl at South Mountain by Tykee James, Governmental Affairs Coordinator, National Audubon Society.

Eccentric Essentrics

Describing what “Essentrics” is, without the benefit of demonstrating it, is almost more challenging than the workout itself!  The exercise modality—based on the strengthening principles of ballet, the gentle mobility movements of Tai Chi, and the therapeutic wisdom of physiotherapy—has to be tried to really understand its multitude of benefits.Developed in Canada over 25 years ago by former professional ballerina Miranda Esmonde-White, these workouts promise pain-relief, increased mobility and range of motion, flexibility, strength, toning, and body awareness. Many people may be familiar with the method from seeing Esmonde-White on PBS with her show “Classical Stretch.”  What viewers may not know is that these exercises are appropriate for everyone—not just PBS viewers!Essentrics is used by many professional hockey teams (including the Montreal Canadiens), figure skaters, skiers, and other athletes to keep their bodies pliable, pain-free, balanced, and strong for their sports.  But athletes are not the only people who can benefit from it!  The workouts are always low-impact, gentle, and at a slow pace so that even those with the most painful impairments leave class feeling better than when they came in.Excellent for building strength and flexibility simultaneously—an Essentrics workout uses all 650 muscles in every class, rebalances over- and under-used muscles, and decompresses all the joints in order to relieve pain and tension.  And all of this can be done in as little as 25 minutes!Essentrics instructor, Anne Weshinskey (Wondercabinet Wellness) arrived at Essentrics as a 50-year old acrobat and circus performer in a great deal of pain and stiffness.  Unable to lift her arm above her head due to frozen shoulder, walking with sciatica, experiencing chronic neck pain, and feeling generally achy, Weshinskey just chalked it up to aging and a lifetime of overtraining.  After a week of 25-minute Essentrics workouts, she was pain-free, and feeling able to continue her foot juggling career into old age.  Most of Weshinskey’s clients who are older, formerly inactive adults claim to feel less aged, are sleeping better, have less pain, and more fluid joints than before they started regularly practicing Essentrics.  Her classes are now made up of males and females ranging in age from 14-87!  The 17-year old men’s track athlete working out next to the 81-year old grandmother with bad knees leave with something in common—walking out of class with ease and comfort thanks to Essentrics.Essentrics with Wondercabinet at the Sanctuary Wellness Center in Berryville every Tuesday beginning January 7, 9am–10pm and 6:30–7:30pm.  Drop-ins for $15/class or $50/5-week session.  To pre-register monthly, contact Anne Weshinskey at wondercabinetwellness@gmail.com or info@sanctuaryberryville.com.