Hippity, Hoppity, Rabbits on Their way

By Claire Stuart
Winchester Medical Center’s popular animal assisted therapy program has been around for over 20 years. Most people are familiar with therapy dogs, but bunny rabbit therapy isn’t as well known.
Rabbits come courtesy of Tom and Lynn Miller of Berryville, who became involved with rabbits in the 1990s when their now-grown children were in the 4-H rabbit program.
Lynn Miller has raised rabbits for 15 years and shown them since 2004. Her rabbits are fancy breeds like French Lops, Angoras and Lionheads, in all colors, shapes and sizes. Some are not even immediately recognizable as rabbits!
Rabbits have been with the hospital’s animal-assisted therapy from almost the beginning. Lynn Miller explained, “In the second year of the program, they had a lady who volunteered with a rabbit. It was successful, so they wanted more.”
That same volunteer approached the Miller children at the county fair and asked them to become junior volunteers. However, an adult had to accompany them, thus bringing their parents into the program. When their children reached high school and became interested in other activities, their parents continued with the hospital visits.
Cindy Newcomb of Berryville is one of the volunteers with the rabbit therapy program. Anyone who grew up in Clarke County probably knows Newcomb, who retired several years ago after teaching at Clarke Elementary for 40 years. She taught three of the Miller children and reconnected with Tom Miller in a Bible study class, and he asked her if she’d like to volunteer. Other volunteers are Gary Paulson and Lois Hitchcock.
The volunteers visit different parts of the hospital. Once a week, Newcomb comes to the hospital and visits the 4th floor.
“We put the rabbits on carts and take them around,” she said. “They have their own volunteer identification badges with their names and pictures. The rabbits are the most docile animals I’ve ever been around, and they love the attention of the patients.”
Newcomb reported that the rabbits wore Santa hats for Christmas, and that they have some costumes that they wear for various holidays. The rabbits are rotated so that the same ones do not visit every week. A group of new rabbits will be certified in June.
“Tom hopes to get more volunteers, since he has plenty of rabbits,” she said. “Right now, we visit one day a week.”
With additional volunteers, they could add more days and/or expand the amount of territory they cover in the hospital, including Rehabilitation Services on Cork Street.
Patients, both adults and children, love the rabbits. “And the nurses do, too. They know them by name. The nurses fight over them,” laughed Newcomb. “They need therapy, too!”
Newcomb is not bound by any time limit for a visit with a patient, and patients can have rabbits on their beds. “Some patients just want to pet the rabbit for a few minutes, others want more time,” she said. “I spent about 15 minutes in two rooms last night. I don’t pace myself or just see so many. “
Tom Miller explained that the rabbits have to be tested for temperament and get checked by a veterinarian. Most of the rabbits they use are French Lops, a very large breed.
“Our contacts in the rabbit show world allow us access to about half a dozen different rabbit breeds, where we can pick the rabbits with the best personalities,” he said. “I’ve never had a problem with a rabbit.”
He went on to say that nurses alert the volunteers when a patient has some special needs. “The patient might be blind or might not speak English, or might be depressed and need some cheer. Some people get few visitors and they enjoy the company. The volunteers talk with them. We’ve even been invited into a room when a patient has passed away and the family is there. The rabbits seem to be able to offer comfort and distraction.”
And, as Lynn Miller noted, “Some people, especially children, are afraid of dogs, but everybody loves bunny rabbits.”
Newcomb related a funny experience she had while taking a rabbit into a room. “A little boy was watching from a doorway across the hall where he was visiting his grandmother. I heard him tell her that he was going to go across the hall and pet the rabbit. The grandmother told him, ‘You stay right here. You know that there are no rabbits in a hospital!’  Boy, did we surprise her!”
Added Newcomb, “What touches me the most is when people say, ‘This is the best thing that happened to me today. It made me smile.’ People are so appreciative of the rabbits. This is as rewarding to me as it is for the patients. I come home every Monday evening glad that I went!”

Around Clarke March and April


17 Crazy Cash Party

John H. Enders Fire Company. 9 S. Buckmarsh St. Berryville. Doors open at 5:30pm, barbecue chicken and beef dinner at 6:30pm, first number drawn at 8pm. $1500 grand prize and only 275 tickets sold at $25 each. To purchase tickets call 540-955-1110 or email travis.sumption@gmail.com.

18 Long Branch Speaker Series

Long Branch Historic House and Farm. 830 Long Branch Lane. Millwood. Sarah Cohen, creator of Route 11 Potato Chips, presents “So, You Want to Start a Business.” $25 for one event, $80 for four part series. Reserve tickets ahead. 6pm.540-837-1856.

18 Film Series: “Frantz”

Barns of Rose Hill. 95 Chalmers Ct. Berryville. French and German film depicts the aftermath of World War I. 4pm. Members $5, nonmembers $8. Visit www.barnsofrosehill.org or call 540-955-2004(12–3 pm Tuesday to Saturday).

18 Autoimmune Disorders Class

The Sanctuary Wellness Center. 208 N. Buckmarsh St. Berryville. Susan Fidler, MCPP, ND, RH (AHG) leads “Methylation Mutants: Rising Above Autoimmune Disorders, Autism, Mysterious Health Issues and Beyond.” 3–4:30pm. Registration required. 540-227-0564. www.sanctuaryberryville.com.

20 Plants That Eat Animals Educational Event

Blandy Experimental Farm. 400 Blandy Farm Lane. Boyce. Steve Carroll teaches which plants “eat” animals, how they manage, and the costs and benefits. FOSA members $10, nonmembers $15; member family $20, nonmember family $25. 540-837-1758.

23 Mink’s Miracle Medicine Concert

Barns of Rose Hill. 95 Chalmers Ct. Berryville. Raw, earthy sonic minimalism country music. $15. 8pm. Visit
barnsofrosehill.org or call 540-955-2004 (12–3 pm Tuesday
to Saturday).

24 Relationships and Conflicts Class

The Sanctuary Wellness Center. 208 N. Buckmarsh St. Berryville. Renowned speakers and award-winning authors Kelly Dorfman, MS, LND and David Mercier, MS, Lac offer “The Way of Wholeheartedness: A Course in Relationships.” 9am–4:30pm. Register with Eventbrite or at davidmercier.com. 540-227-0564.

24 Egg Hunt with the Easter Bunny

Clarke County Recreation Center. 255 Al Smith Circle. Berryville. Ages 1–2 11 am, 3–4 11:20am, 5–7 11:40am. $3. 540-955-5140.

25 Martha Washington Talk

Burwell-Morgan Mill. 15 Tannery Lane. Millwood. Historian Steven Campbell gives a lively talk on the first First Lady. CCHA members $10, nonmembers $15. 2–3:30pm. 540-837-1799.

25 Classical Concert

Good Shepherd Episcopal Church. 27 Good Shepherd Road. Bluemont. “Moonlit in the Sun,” a string trio of violin, cello and viola, will present beautiful music by Mozart, Beethoven and Dohnanyi. Free will offering will benefit FISH of Clarke County. 3pm. 540-955-2600.

25 “At the Fork” Film

Barns of Rose Hill. 95 Chalmers Ct. Berryville. Filmmaker and omnivore John Papola, together with his vegetarian wife Lisa, offer up a timely and refreshingly unbiased look at how farm animals are raised for our consumption. 4pm. $5. Visit barnsofrosehill.org or call 540-955-2004 (12–3 pm Tuesday to Saturday).

25 Ayurveda Self-Care Workshop

The Sanctuary Wellness Center. 208 N. Buckmarsh St. Berryville. Join Ayurvedic Health Counselor Kimber Hyatt for self care strategies. 2–4pm. Register by emailing kimber.barefoothealth@gmail.com or visit www.sanctuaryberryville.com. 540-227-0564.

29 Invasive Plant Identification and Management

Blandy Experimental Farm. 400 Blandy Farm Lane. Boyce. Learn to identify and manage invasive species during the spring season. 1–5pm. FOSA members $20, nonmembers $25. Reservations required. 540-837-1758.

29 Maundy Thursday Service

Crums United Methodist Church. 2832 Crums Church Road. Berryville. 7pm. 540-955-1852.

30 Ken and Brad Kolodner Concert

Barns of Rose Hill. 95 Chalmers Ct. Berryville. Dynamic father and son duo perform on hammered dulcimer, banjo and fiddles. 8pm. $20 in advance, $25 at door, 12 and younger free. Visit www.barnsofrosehill.org or call 540-955-2004 (12–3 pm Tuesday to Saturday).

31 Easter in the Park

Rose Hill Park. Main Street. Berryville. Egg hunt, storytelling, bouncy house, drama, games, crafts, music and more. Free. 11am–1pm. Provided by Emmaus Church. www.emmausofclarke.com.

31 Full Moon Walk

Blandy Experimental Farm. 400 Blandy Farm Lane. Boyce. Explore the arboretum under the full moon. Wear comfortable shoes and bring flashlight. 7:30–8:30pm. FOSA members/UVa alumni $10, nonmembers $15; member/alumni family $20, nonmember family $25. Reservations required. 540-837-1758.

31  Community Easter Egg Hunt

Historic Long Branch. 830 Long Branch Lane. Boyce. Hayrides, bouncy castles, flowering spring garden, carriage rides and professional photographer. Jordan Springs barbecue for purchase. Adults $5, children free. 12–3pm.540-837-1856.


1 Pancake Breakfast

John H. Enders Fire Company, Berryville. 7am–12pm. Pancakes, sausage, eggs, sausage gravy, baked apples, coffee, milk, hot tea, apple and orange juice.
Adults $8, children $4, children under 6 eat free. 540-955-1110.

1 Easter Services

Crums United Methodist Church. 2832 Crums Church Road.. Berryville. Sunrise service 6:30am, contemporary service 8:45am, traditional service 11:15am.540-955-1852.

6 Bluegrass and Barbecue

Barns of Rose Hill. 95 Chalmers Ct. Berryville. Bud’s Collective performs bluegrass. 8pm. $15 in advance, $20 at door, 12 and younger free. Visit www.barnsofrosehill.org or call 540-955-2004 (12–3 pm Tuesday to Saturday).

7 Barbecue Chicken  Dinner and Auction

Clarke County Ruritan Fairgrounds. 890 W. Main St. Berryville. Prepared by Clarke County Ruritans. Silent auction 4:30–6:30pm, live auction 7pm. Proceeds benefit Clarke County Relay for Life. Adults $15, children 8 and younger $10. 540-323-0097. patsyburner1948@gmail.com.

7 Make ‘n Take Air Plant Terrarium

Blandy Experimental Farm. 400 Blandy Farm Lane. Boyce. Let your creativity grow and discover the fascinating life of air plants. Price includes all materials. 10–11:30am. FOSA members $25, nonmembers $30. Reservations required. 540-837-1758.

7 Piano Concert

Barns of Rose Hill. 95 Chalmers Ct. Berryville. Award-winning pianist Petronel Malan performs. 8pm. $20 in advance, $25 at door, 12 and younger free. Visit
www.barnsofrosehill.org or call 540-955-2004 (12–3 pm Tuesday to Saturday).

12 Walking Tour of  Arboretum

Blandy Experimental Farm. 400 Blandy Farm Lane. Boyce. Come see glorious displays of flowering trees, shrubs and wildflowers. 1–2:30pm. Free. Reservations required. 540-837-1758.

12 Irish Music Concert

Barns of Rose Hill. 95 Chalmers Ct. Berryville. The Alt, three masters of Irish music, perform. 8pm. $20 in advance, $25 at door, 12 and younger free. Visit
www.barnsofrosehill.org or call 540-955-2004 (12–3 pm Tuesday to Saturday).

13–15 “The Little  Mermaid” Musical

Clarke County High School auditorium. 627 Mosby Blvd. Berryville. Students will bring to life the Disney musical based on the beloved animated movie. 7:30pm Friday and Saturday, 2:30pmSunday. Adults $12, children $8.

14 Tastefully Simple Open House

Duncan Memorial United Methodist Church. 210 E. Main St. Berryville. All welcome to stop by and sample products. Proceeds benefit Clarke County Relay Team Razmataz. 1–4pm.540-323-0097. patsyburner1948@gmail.com.

14 Family Dance Party and Silent Auction

D.G. Cooley Elementary School Lower Campus. 240 Westwood Road. Berryville. DJ, concessions, silent auction, glow store, dessert bar and more for elementary students and families. $1 admission. 6–9pm. www.pantherspto.org.

14 An Evening with Elvis and Conway

John Enders Fire Hall. Berryville. Join the Stone’s Chapel Memorial Association at a special benefit concert featuring tribute artist Kevin Booth. First half features Conway Twitty and second half Elvis Presley. All proceeds benefit the ongoing restoration of the historic Stone’s Chapel. 7pm. Tickets sold at door only. Adults $10, students $5. 540-955-1110.

15 Desegregation Retrospective Roundtable

Boyce United Methodist Church. 8 Old Chapel Ave. Boyce. CCHA and the Josephine School Community Museum will partner together for a discussion with former teachers and students with firsthand experiences from Johnson-Williams High School and Clarke County High School 2pm. 540-955-2600.

18 Live Trivia 

Barns of Rose Hill. 95 Chalmers Ct. Berryville. CCHA and the Clarke County Library team up to bring live team trivia with categories including history, movies, literature, science and more. Prizes donated by local businesses. 7pm. Free. 540-955-2600.

21 Spaghetti Dinner

Boyce Fire Hall, Boyce. All you can eat dinner with food, fun and fellowship to benefit Boyce United Methodist Ministries. Takeout trays available. Free will offering. 4–7pm.540-336-3585.

21 Earth Day Celebration

Sam Michael’s Park. 235 Sam Michaels Lane. Shenandoah Junction, W.Va. Local artists, musicians, food vendors, environmental organizations, kids’ activities. Free. 11am–7pm.240-520-7058.

22 Blue Ridge Hunt Point to Point Races

Woodley Farm. 590 Woodley Lane. Berryville. First race at 12pm. Stick horse races for children and other activities. $25 per car, $150 for VIP tailgate parking. 540-631-1919. diana.perry@viasatinc.com.



Tuesdays, 8:15–9:15pm. Grace Episcopal Church. N. Church St. Berryville. For friends and families of alcoholics.  If someone else’s drinking bothers you, please join us. 540-955-1610.

FISH Clothing Bank

Saturdays, 9am–12pm. Old Chapel Road and Route 340 south of Berryville. Also new location at 36 E. Main Street. Berryville. 540-955-1823.

As the Crow Flies

After 20 Years, A Purple Martin Colony!

On becoming a landlord to the largest North American swallow
Article and photos by Doug Pifer
For over 20 years my wife and I have wanted purple martins to nest where we lived.  We bought books about attracting martins. I set up a wooden three-story purple martin house with the proper measurements and studied the best places to attract the birds. I made white painted gourd houses, hung them from a telescoping pole the proper height above the ground, and installed a baffle to deter climbing raccoons and other predators. I measured the site’s distance from large trees and from our house. I even carved and painted realistic martin decoys which I put up each year.
I bought a CD recording of the dawn song of purple martins and played it from April till July from 5:00 until 8:00 in the morning. We watched and waited as house wrens, tree swallows, and bluebirds successfully nested in our martin house. A colony of 8 bluebirds even roosted in our wooden martin house all winter. But no martins.
Sometimes three or four martins would show up. They would call out loudly, circle lazily around the house or gourd rack, or hover in front of it. They sat in the upper branches in a dead tree nearby, checking things out. But they neither stayed nor even landed on the house! Each year we held our breath as the martins would come, circle around and then leave. Something didn’t
suit them.
In 2016 we bought a historic red brick farmhouse a mile or so from the Potomac River, with a barn, woods, a spring-fed stream, and five acres of pasture. After we moved in, I bought a new aluminum four-tiered martin house and put it up the following March. I set up a couple of decoys.
Finally, one May morning three purple martins appeared. They came every day but seemed to shy away from the decoys.  After I swallowed my pride and took my decoys down, four purple martins came back, hung around for an hour or so and then left. They repeated this daily routine until the end of July, but never nested or stayed overnight. Bruce Johnson, then owner of Wild Birds Unlimited, Inc. in Winchester, assured me they would return to nest next year.
Bruce was right! I put up the martin house in the same spot, and around the first of May four purple  martins came. With much excitement and loud chirping, they circled around and entered all the nest chambers. In early June, three out of eight chambers contained active nests.  By summer’s end all three nests had produced baby martins —not bad for a first-year colony. The first brood fledged at the end of June and the last one left near the end of August.
Maintaining a martin colony requires a firm, long-time commitment from the landlord. Many folks are much more actively involved than I was last summer. They check the nests regularly during the breeding season, examining nestlings for parasite infestations, and, when necessary, replacing their nests and dusting the babies with insecticide. I only lowered the house on the telescoping pole and opened the chamber to check the nests once.  I hated disturbing the birds, especially because they all seemed to be just fine without
my interference.
Here are things I learned last summer about purple martins:
Purple martins aren’t in a hurry to do anything.
Martins require lots of clear, open space around housing.
Activity around the nest is generally in early to mid-morning.
Martins spend much of the day away from their nests, even when feeding young.
If you have house sparrows around, martins won’t nest. Buy and use a sparrow trap.
Get the half-moon shaped entrances for your houses to discourage starlings.
Not all martins choose the same material for their nests.
You don’t have to monitor martins as closely as some people do.
Martins capture and feed their young many large flying insects like dragonflies and cicadas.
Young martins may not return to the house to roost after they fledge.
First-year males look much like the gray breasted females, but can breed as successfully as older “purple” males.
Martin housing should have a nesting chamber larger than 6 inches by 6 inches.
Gourds used for martin housing should be at least 12 inches in diameter
Trust martins, and don’t get excited if they don’t do what you think they should do. If you do everything right but don’t get martins right away,
be patient!
When I took down the martin house to clean and put it away for the winter, I examined the three well-used nests the martins made. Each nest was a shallow cup of plant material lined with fresh green leaves plucked from trees. Yet each was uniquely constructed according to the preference of the builders. One nest was composed exclusively of small dried rootlet rosettes of short grasses plucked from the ground. Another was made of 4 1/2-inch long hay stems. The third nest consisted of short, dead twigs, and contained some dried mud and about a dozen fingernail-sized freshwater clam shells, evidently gathered from the banks of nearby Rocky Marsh Run.
The Purple Martin Conservation Association, www.purplemartin.org, offers helpful information for martin landlords, a blog where you can connect with fellow enthusiasts to share your concerns, and sales and discounts on martin housing and supplies.
I can’t wait for them to come back this spring!

Big Birds and Big Green Eggs

Story by Claire Stuart, photos by Bre Bogert
If you take a drive down Springsbury Road in Berryville, you might catch a glimpse of two huge ostrich-like birds in a field beside the road.
No, you aren’t seeing things. It’s just Big Bird and Puff, Dave and Lauren “LuLu” Conrad’s emus. The Conrads have been keeping the gigantic birds since 2006. Emus are flightless birds that are native to Australia. They grow to be five to six feet tall, weigh well over 100 pounds and live about 20 years in the wild and about 35 in captivity.
Dave Conrad explains how they came to own them. “One day my daughter called and said, ‘Dad, I’m bringing you some emus.’  She knows that Dad will take anything that’s free! At the time, we didn’t even know what an emu was.”
Their daughter was into horses, and the family of one of her friends had a riding stable. For whatever reason, they’d bought some emus and soon discovered that juvenile emus are like packrats —they love bright shiny objects. The birds were stealing items of horse tack and anything else interesting they could find. They had become a nuisance, so the owners decided to get rid of them.
“They’ll pick at people’s rings and watches,” said Dave Conrad,  “and they’ll try to take glasses off your face.”
The Conrads describe Big Bird, the male, as friendly, but he gets aggressive when he has young. Puff, the female, is more standoffish. Once a clutch of eggs is laid, the male emu sits on the eggs and turns them for about eight weeks, without eating or drinking. When they hatch, he cares for the young. In the wild, the female leaves and finds another mate.
Emus can run at speeds of 30 to 40 miles an hour, zipping off in a flash from a standing start. They readily demonstrated this as they took off after a family pup who was annoying them. They defend themselves by kicking, and they have long, sharp claws. However they are generally gentle birds.
Dave Conrad explained that you can’t tell the sex of an emu by looking at it. Emu reproductive organs are internal, and trying to do an intrusive examination of a six-foot, 150-pound bird with claws like a velociraptor, while possible, is not anything most people would attempt. It is easier to do when the birds have just hatched. You can send for an expensive DNA test, or you can just wait and see, as the Conrads did. When emus reach maturity, which takes a few years, the females begin to make a drumming sound. The males just grunt like pigs.
Lauren Conrad brought out one of the emu eggs. It was huge and green and looked a bit like an avocado. “Last year we got 29 eggs,” she said. “One emu egg is equal to about a dozen chicken eggs. We don’t eat the eggs but you can. You can scramble them. We hard-boiled one, but there was too much white before you could find the yolk.”
“It took three sandwiches worth of white sliced off to even get to the yolk,” Dave Conrad recalled. The eggs are not green inside and look just like giant chicken eggs.
In this part of the country, emus only lay eggs in winter, from about November into March. In normal winters, they usually lay an egg every three or four days. In very cold winters, they lay less often. The birds are very cold hardy but they take shelter in their shed in extreme cold.
Big Bird and Puff are very curious. They like certain noises, especially the sound of a loud car exhaust, and they will run to the fence to check it out. The Conrads guess that a local young man with a noisy exhaust purposely guns his engine to get the attention of the emus when he drives by.
The Conrads were raising and selling emus for a while, but it became too much work and expense, considering the price they could get for the emu chicks. Now they only sell the eggs, which people buy to decorate. A customer arrived to pick up some eggs that she planned to use in a decorative nest.
Egg carving is also popular and has a long history as an Australian aboriginal art form. Emu eggs are particularly good for carving with a Dremel or similar tool because the thick shell has three layers of different colors. The outer layer is green, the next layer is turquoise and the inner layer is white, allowing for beautiful three-dimensional effects.
Lauren Conrad sells emu eggs at the Clarke County Yard Sales and other community happenings, or you can e-mail her at:  lulupot47@gmail.com

Lead Toxicity Remains A Problem For Raptors 

by the Wildlife Center of Virginia
Lead is a soft, pliable, elemental metal that is found in naturally occurring deposits around the world. While it has been used for centuries for many purposes, the highly toxic properties of lead have become well-known over the last 100 years through the issues of food contamination in cans sealed with lead solder, the toxic effects of lead-based paints and glazes, the polluting effects of leaded gasoline, the presence of lead in drinking water which passes through pipes connected with lead solder, and, more recently, the toxic effects of lead ingested by wildlife.
In wildlife, lead is most toxic when consumed by an animal, as opposed to lead bullets or shot simply lodging in muscle tissue. Exposure to digestive fluids and stomach acids breaks down the lead, allowing it to be absorbed into the blood stream and distributed to internal organs, the nervous system, the respiratory system, and the renal system. Lead may also leach from lead fragments lodged in joints and in bone marrow.
In 1991, the public became very concerned that nearly four million waterfowl in North America were dying from lead poisoning each year. Ducks and geese were ingesting bits of lead they found while filter feeding on the bottoms of
wetlands, marshes, shallow estuaries, or other bodies of water. The lead fragments the birds ingested were mainly shotgun pellets that had missed their primary target and rained down over the water.
The birds would deliberately pick up this shot and swallow it, thinking it to be food or grit they need for digestion. After years of debate, the federal government finally enacted a ban on the use of lead shot for most waterfowl hunting. The use of lead and lead-based projectiles for hunting of so-called upland species of game and nuisance wildlife has remained legal, presumably on the logic that spent shot which falls upon the land is very unlikely to be found and ingested by wildlife.
However, overwhelming scientific evidence now confirms that lead fired at upland game and nuisance animals is also finding its way into non-target wildlife, but mainly from lead projectiles that actually hit their intended targets. This lead is being ingested by eagles, raptors, scavengers, and non-target species when they prey upon wounded animals that have been shot, or scavenge the remains and entrails of animals that have been shot and left in the field.
While this once unrecognized toxic threat has existed for many decades, there is a dramatically increased awareness of the problem because new technologies and increased surveillance have enabled lead poisoning cases to be more readily identified. Also, the successful recovery and rapid expansion of once-endangered populations of species like Bald Eagles, whose historic habitat is greatly diminished, are forcing the birds to move into sub-optimal habitats where preferred food sources are not readily available.
As they move farther away from major bodies of water, like tidal rivers and bays, and are no longer able to find adequate supplies of fish for their normal diet, birds like Bald Eagles resort to scavenging as a primary foraging practice. Especially during and after the hunting season, animals and animal parts that are left in the field become a main food supply. As a result, often tiny fragments of the lead-based ammunition that remain in these dead animals and animal parts are available to be consumed by Bald Eagles and other
Between 2011 and 2017, the Wildlife Center of Virginia admitted 275 Bald Eagles, with 55 eagles being admitted in 2017 alone. The majority of these eagles came from the eastern third of Virginia, the Tidewater and Piedmont regions. More than two-thirds of the eagles admitted were suffering from measurable lead intoxication, to varying degrees.
Of the 55 birds admitted in 2017, approximately 35 percent had clinically observable indications of lead intoxication, including a general listlessness, inability to maintain balance, refusal to eat, overall weakness, and lack of muscle coordination. In severe cases, lead intoxication can cause a head tilt, blindness, convulsions, and eventually death. In such cases, treatment options are very limited and seldom successful.
Another 35 percent of the eagles admitted in 2017 were found to have elevated but less critical levels of lead in their blood, indicating some degree of intoxication, though the noticeable effects were less obvious. With “sub-clinical” levels of lead in their bloodstream, eagles may appear normal but still suffer damaging effects of the toxicosis. The birds may be able to fly, but with less agility. They may be able to see, but with less precision. They may be able to feed themselves, but not capture live prey. Their reaction time and reflexes may be slowed. Such sub-clinical intoxication is the functional equivalent of driving drunk; the birds are more likely to suffer accidents or injuries that would otherwise be avoidable.
As in waterfowl, the source of the toxin in eagles is lead shot and bullet fragments that were ingested by the birds as they feed. Frequently, diagnostic radiographs of the eagles show actual lead shot or bullet fragments still in a bird’s digestive tract. In some cases, the lead can be surgically removed, but not always. Even if the actual projectile has passed out the digestive tract and no longer remains in the body, dangerous amounts of dissolved lead can still be circulating in the blood or stored in the bones, brain, or internal organs of the body. No level of lead in the body is considered “safe.”
Compounding the threat is that, unlike organic toxins, lead is a heavy metal; an eagle’s internal organs are not able to easily purge the lead in the bird’s bloodstream. Once the lead enters the body, it remains virtually forever, accumulating in the bones of the bird and continuing to have permanent negative impacts. If the bird is exposed to additional lead in its diet, the amount of the toxin will accumulate and increase over time, eventually affecting the bird’s ability to survive. The cumulative impacts can last for years, and can only get worse over time.
For many people who don’t like hunting, this seems like an easy answer; but the truth is, it’s not that easy.  Hunting is not as popular as it once was in the United States, as a greater percentage of our population has gravitated to urban and suburban locations, but it is still an extremely popular pastime in the United States.  In some states, like Virginia, hunting and fishing are rights guaranteed in the state constitution.  And, to some extent, a hunting ban would be like banning driving as a way to reduce traffic accidents—not a proportional response.  In truth, many of the leaders of the movement to eliminate lead from hunting ammunition are themselves, hunters.  They are often the most effective messengers for information about lead toxicity.  Conversely, someone who openly opposes all hunting is NOT the right person to try and educate or inform the hunting public about this issue.  It may make you feel good to rant about hunters and declare, “Just shoot the hunters!” but that is actually extremely counterproductive.  The issue is about the availability of lead to scavengers, not about whether or not hunting is a good thing.
The challenge is not to find a way to ban the use of all lead — it is to find a way to reduce the amount of toxic lead fragments available to non-target wildlife and to do it without unreasonably affecting those whose activities are otherwise legal and acceptable to the public. Most lead-based firearms ammunition is used for national defense and public safety — by the military and police agencies. Target and competitive shooters, and those who own firearms for self-defense, consume the majority of munitions purchased by the private sector. Hunters use only a small percentage of all ammunition sold in the United States each year. A ban on all lead-based ammo would deal a serious blow to national security and public safety, and would hurt a lot of law-abiding firearms users, who are not contributing to the problem of lead-poisoned wildlife!
Thanks to the Wildlife Center of Virginia for this dispatch. The Wildlife Center of Virginia was formed in 1982 to provide quality health care, often on an emergency basis, to native wildlife. For more information, visit www.wildlifecenter.org 

Winter Birds Need Food But Also Good Habitat

As the Crow Flies

Story and artwork by Doug Pifer

An abundance of good bird habitat is a benefit of life in an old farmhouse. While still in bed, we sometimes look out at a couple of house finches or bluebirds drinking runoff melted from the frosted metal roof.  Or we catch the flicker of wings as a yellow-rumped warbler or a Carolina wren perch momentarily, scanning the window frame for dormant spiders or other insects.
This winter morning when I let the dogs out, they scared up a mixed flock of songbirds from the driveway: dark-eyed juncos, white-throated and song sparrows, and house finches. I heard a Carolina wren, a cardinal, and a tufted titmouse singing from one of our mature shade trees.  While walking out to pick up the morning paper, I also noticed chickadees and nuthatches clambering among the lichen-covered limbs of the aging Kentucky coffee tree in the front yard.
Yesterday I saw a downy woodpecker testing various limbs to see which was best for a drum-roll. Sometimes he is joined by a pair of red-bellied woodpeckers. If I’m lucky, I might see a yellow-bellied sapsucker returning to one of the neat rows of sap wells he drilled in the trunk of our big tulip tree.
Last evening I heard the loud “check” call of the mockingbird that roosts in our big forsythia bush and saw him perched on top of it. Down by the creek, we sometimes hear the rattle of a kingfisher, or see the shadow of a great blue heron as it glides over the pasture on the way to one of his favorite fishing holes in the stream adjacent to our place.
Many folks are surprised when I tell them we never put out suet, seed or any type of supplemental food for the birds. My wife and I don’t own any kind of bird feeder other than those we use for our domestic poultry.
We don’t oppose bird feeding. Maintaining a regular source of supplemental food in appropriate feeders is a great way for people to bring birds close enough to observe and enjoy. And if you have kids, I think the educational value far outweighs any downside to artificially feeding wildlife. We don’t feed birds because we don’t have to. Wherever we’ve lived, we’ve encouraged year-round habitat for birds. This includes leaving the stems and seeds of last year’s flower gardens standing, planting trees that have fruits or seeds attractive to birds, and encouraging natural vegetation to flourish along our fence lines.
No place we’ve ever lived would appear in a stylish house and garden magazine or website. But we’ve offered birds, mammals, insects and other wildlife places to feed and hide. Overgrown fences give wildlife a place to evade predators, and they provide nesting, loafing, and denning sites for birds and mammals. We’ve planted native trees and shrubs along our stream as a natural buffer between our fenced pasture and the wetland. This offers wildlife a clean source of water, prevents erosion, and maintains a clean water flow from the nearby spring to our own stream, which flows into Rocky Marsh Run and, after a mile or so, into the Potomac River.
If, like us, you’re lucky enough to live on an old farmstead, wildlife is already there. Your encouragement and care will allow it to flourish.

The Bitter Liberals at Bright Box Theatre in Old Town Winchester

Out + About in Winchester
By Keith Patterson

The excitement in the sold-out room was palpable. The “palp” in the air on this night was about the Bitter Liberals, who, after several successful years performing and recording as a four-piece with two guitars, a fiddle and a percussionist, played their first live show as a five-piece, including a bass player and a drummer on a full kit.
The Bitter Liberals have played at Bright Box Theatre multiple times, and have always drawn a crowd, so it was no real surprise that it was a packed house again. Clearly, for many in the crowd it was their first “Bitter” experience. These new fans quickly caught the buzz — they gobbled up advance tickets and left many Bitter Liberals groupies turned away at the door.
The opening act was a young Japanese solo guitarist, Hiroya Tsukamoto. His music incorporated classic Japanese melodies and textures with strong, Western rhythms and verse/chorus arrangements. He expertly utilized loop stations on both his guitar and vocals to create lush, evocative soundscapes worthy of an ensemble. The full-house was very appreciative and warmed-up for the headliners.
The Bitter Liberals are still co-fronted by singer/songwriter/guitarists Allen Kitselman and Clark Hansbarger. And Gary McGraw remains the ace-in the-hole sideman fiddler. These three players have developed a deep chemistry, and their playing together is a real joy. The new rhythm section, Michael Rohrer on bass and Nick Shrenk on drums, enhanced the nuanced sound of the band and played without a hitch. In fact, the more pronounced rhythms laid out a structure that really showcased the harmonies, melodies and solos of the featured players.
Allen Kitselman is a tone-hound, and when he plays guitar he produces some sweet sounds rooted in rock ‘n roll. Clark Hansbarger has more of a blues sensibility in his playing. And Gary McGraw, the classically trained hillbilly/Mozart fiddle player, generally just tears it up.
The Bitter Liberals mixed some outstanding new material into their strong set of mostly original songs. It is deep, evocative, emotional music. People in the audience laugh and cry as the lyrics and shared experiences hit home through the shimmer and jangle of well-played and inspired rock n’ roll.
This band is always on my radar for a live show and the Bright Box Theatre is a great venue to see them play. You can also get a meal and drinks and the wait staff is helpful and friendly. Never mind the cold, pouring rain outside. It was warm and rocking inside. Stay bitter, my friends!
For more information, visit thebitterliberals.com Join the bitter liberals email list by emailing: gem@garymcgraw.com.

Finding Balance Through Age-old Tradition

The ancient practice of Ayurvedic medicine comes to Berryville
By Geo Giordano, MSc, registered medical herbalist

Ayurveda is the traditional medical practice of India, estimated to be more than 5,000 years old. It teaches that the universe and everything in it is made up of the five elements: ether, air, fire, water and earth.
According to Ayurveda tradition, as humans, we are governed by the laws of nature. When we harmonize with the natural daily and seasonal rhythms, then we maintain balance and health. All illness is seen as living our life “out of balance” with the laws
of nature.
Often called “the sister-science of Yoga,” Ayurveda seeks to bring about and maintain wellness using three pillars of health: diet, lifestyle, and energy management.  Using relevant physical and energetic traits known as the Doshas in the Ayurvedic paradigm, we can offer a balancing regimen to promote our vitality and good health in mind, body and spirit.  Now this ancient wisdom practice is being offered right here in Berryville.
Kimber Hyatt began her interest in Ayurveda in 2012 while completing her yoga teacher training in Austin, Texas. This approach to personalized health fascinated and spoke to her like nothing else had, so, in 2015 she enrolled in the Foundations of Ayurveda program at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Massachusetts. In 2017 she completed Kripalu’s Ayurvedic Health Counseling program. By June of that year that year she began sharing this wisdom practice in Shepherdstown, W.Va.
Practicing an Ayurvedic lifestyle changed her life in amazing ways. It gave her an understanding of who she is, what makes her this way, and how to live in a way that puts her health in her own hands. One factor of Ayurveda, the one she discusses here, is a daily ritual
of self-care.

Self-care, Self-love

“In our culture, productivity is often valued above all else. How much can we get done in a day, and how efficiently can it be done?” asks Kimber. “The term ‘multi-tasking’ has become the norm, as we see people eating meals while working or texting and putting on makeup while driving a car. Whether we are professionals or caregivers, there is no shortage of things we need to do in a day. In the name of productivity, practices of self-care and activities that bring pleasure often get skipped. But is that really making us more productive? When you skip the tasks that make you feel like your best self, can you put your best foot forward efficiently and effectively as you go about your day?”
A question she asks each of her clients is, “What do you do in your day to take care of yourself?” A seemingly harmless question that often inspires silence, followed by tears. It’s nobody’s fault, really. The repercussions can be barely noticeable at first. Then as the days become weeks, months, and years, we might find ourselves with more health problems than we can handle anymore, wondering from where it all started.
While there are many practices that  bring us back to health, Ayurveda truly shines in preventative medicine. This medicine comes in the form of what you are eating, when you are resting, and the care you give to yourself in order be and to stay healthy. This medicine isn’t taken as a pill. This medicine is about understanding your body’s unique needs, how you feel at your most balanced, and recognizing when something is off center.
“Upon waking, give yourself some time in the early hours. Use that time to nourish your sense organs. Give your eyes something pleasant to look at, before reaching for the screens of our computers, TVs, and phones. Give your ears some quiet time, or listen to the peaceful morning sounds. Sip warm lemon water or herbal tea. Take yourself for a light walk to prepare your body and mind for the day ahead.  Find a routine that works for you and make it your personal ritual. Commit to your ritual every day and watch it transform your life.  Patterns beget patterns, and repetition offers lasting changes,” explains Hyatt.
Join her on March 25, 2018, the first Sunday of spring, from 2–4pm pm to talk more about self-care strategies.  You will learn some traditional Ayurvedic techniques meant to keep your sense organs in healthy working order.  Each guest will receive a sample of a Banyan Botanicals massage oil matched to your Dosha, as you learn Abhyanga, a self-massage with warming oils. The massage will be done on your feet, so wear loose pants and bring warm socks to wear home. Bring a bath towel that you don’t mind getting a little oily.
An Introduction to Ayurveda and AyurYoga workshop takes place Sunday, February 25, 10am until noon.
Both classes will be offered at The Sanctuary Wellness Center, 208 N. Buckmarsh St,
Berryville, VA 22611.
Registration to both or a request for a personalized wellness consultation can be made online at www.Sanctuaryberryville.com  or by calling540-227-0564 or by contacting Kimber Hyatt directly at kimber.barefoothealth@gmail.com.

Medicare And How It Could Be Affected By The New Tax Bill Just in case you were wondering . . .

By Karen Cifala
On a bipartisan view, and no matter what side of the aisle you vote, 65 is still 65 years old, and everyone that is currently on Medicare or who will be registering for Medicare in the next few years (me) should be paying attention to what’s going on with the tax overhaul currently being hotly debated in Washington, D.C.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, or CBO, (my mom said “what’s the CBO?” — she is so darn cute for 85) the tax bill currently being debated by our congressional leaders would result in a measured increase of the federal deficit over the next decade. Largely unknown, but first enacted by President George H.W. Bush, a law passed in 2010 called PAYGO (pay-as-you-go law), was designed to keep the deficit in check by requiring the administration to reduce spending in many mandatory programs if the law doesn’t also provide offsetting revenue. Among the programs included, but not limited to, in this mandatory group are Medicare, federal student loans, operations of the US Custom and Border Protection, and agricultural subsidies.
Exempt from these reductions are programs like Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps, and other safety
net programs.
The enforcement of PAYGO would cap the trimming of Medicare at 4 percent, (which is estimated at $25 billion dollars in cuts for 2018), and, depending on the size of the budget, the amount could be higher over the years. While Medicare experts don’t expect the Medicare fund to run short until 2029, this “anti-deficit” law (PAYGO) could trigger automatic cuts immediately in the New Year.
Individual Medicare benefits would not be affected. However, PAYGO would affect payments to doctors, hospitals, and other providers treating Medicare patients. Consequently, these cuts would likely decrease the number of participating providers in Medicare, even prompting some healthcare providers to stop taking Medicare patients. That would result in reduced access across the board for seniors. Compensation for cuts to Medicare Part D drug plans could force passing those cuts onto beneficiaries by charging higher premiums.
So, not only would this tax overhaul, in its current form, trim the Medicare budget, it also undermines the Affordable Care Act’s insurance markets by repealing the individual mandate requiring everyone to be covered. Many good providers have already left our area, leaving few choices this year in Virginia. By losing the healthiest people in the pool of those covered — because the mandate to have health insurance would go away — economic evidence concludes that premiums will go up even higher, leaving millions without coverage at all.
The proposed tax overhaul also toys with limiting or greatly reducing the high-medical-expense federal tax deduction that is taken on the income tax Schedule A. This would affect millions of people, many of them seniors. As we know, large medical bills are still one of the largest contributors to bankruptcy in our country.
In the past, Congress has found ways to work around the PAYGO rule by including provisions in legislation to exclude the PAYGO cuts. Republican leaders say that this law has never been enforced since its passage in 2010, and have no reason to believe that Congress would not act again to forestall the PAYGO cuts. However (if you are not confused enough as it is), the special budget process Republicans are using for tax overhaul this year does not include this exception. The measure could pass by the end of the year, but would need 60 votes in the Senate, and they don’t have the support of
the Democrats.
In short, I believe the Senate tax bill really is also a healthcare bill in disguise. And it will have sweeping consequences for our American healthcare system that could affect the vulnerable and the
elderly most.
I really pray this holiday season that our congressional leaders will be given the knowledge and the sense they need to figure this all out.
Karen Cifala is a Realtor for Remax Roots in Berryville, VA and can be contacted by either email, kcifala@gmail.com or on her cell 303-817-9374.