Park Authority

Fairfax County, Virginia

CONTACT INFORMATION: Open during regular business hours 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Monday - Friday

TTY 711

12055 Government Center Pkwy.
Fairfax, Virginia 22035

Sara Baldwin,
Acting Executive Director

Snapshots E-Newsletter January 2019


January 2019

First Hike Photo Contest Winners

What a difference a year makes!

Last year’s First Hike photo contest winner captured a frozen winter landscape. This year, hundreds of people flocked to county parks to enjoy a first hike in balmy temperatures for New Year’s Day.

Brian W. Knight’s photo of his fiancée, Christy Wahle, striking a pose at Scott’s Run Nature Preserve was voted the Judges’ Choice winner by Park Authority staff. It perfectly captured the spirit of the annual First Hike initiative.

Brian W. Knight - Scott's Run Nature Preserve

Diane Willen wowed the general public with a sunrise photo shot at Burke Lake Park to become the People’s Choice winner.

Diane Willen - Burke Lake Park

Both winners will receive a four-month RECenter pass valued at up to $300. All photographers who entered the contest will receive two free RECenter guest passes. There were nearly 280 entries – more than triple that of last year.

See all the entries at:

Where to Photograph Winter Wildlife in the Parks

Heron at HuntleyWinter is a great time to work on your wildlife photography. With the leaves down, it’s easier to see what critters are making a home in the parks.

Staff at Green Spring Gardens suggest a circuit tour that might provide a glimpse of animals flying, swimming or scampering by. Read on to find suggestions for wildlife spotting at other parks, too. Get even more detail by clicking on our blog, Spotting Wildlife in Winter.

Green Spring Gardens

Start near the grassy field between the parking lot and the Horticulture Center and look for Canada geese nibbling on the grass and black vultures and red-tailed hawks overhead. White-throated sparrows love to call from the thick bushes by the gazebo, and chickadees and Carolina wrens can be found near the Horticulture Center entrance.

You may spot mockingbirds eating holly berries in the Children’s Garden. In the Discovery Garden, listen for screaming blue jays in the cedar trees. Gray squirrels often scamper along the fence behind the picnic tables.

On the Virginia Native Plant Trail, look for white-tailed deer browsing low-lying shrubs and squirrels jumping from branch to branch near their dreys high in the oak trees. You may see nuthatches moving head first down the trunk of a tulip tree, or hairy or downy woodpeckers pecking at maple trees. At dawn or dusk, try to spot one of the local foxes.

Peer into Turkeycock Run and you will often see Northern cardinals bathing. Across the bridge, there are dead trees perfect for woodpeckers looking for insects or squirrels eating acorns.

At the ponds, you will probably see Canada geese, mallard ducks and maybe a lone great blue heron. On warmer days, you may spot a sunning turtle or bluegills swimming near the pond surface. If you hear crows cawing, they’re probably mad at a Cooper’s hawk that may have a nearby nest. Look in the mud for raccoon and deer prints.

As you head up the hill back toward the parking lot, there are usually squirrels and blue jays foraging on the ground near the willow oak in front of the Historic House, as well as sparrows, chickadees and wrens in tree branches closer to the parking area.

Burke Lake Park

Hermit thrush at Burke Lake See birds you won’t find at other times of the year during the winter waterfowl migration. As temperatures dipped, staff spotted ring-necked ducks, bufflehead, hooded mergansers, ruddy ducks and horned grebes. The park is also an excellent place to spot and photograph bald eagles.

Photo credit: Burke Lake Park Program Manager Eric Malmgren

Frying Pan Farm Park

Frying Pan Farm Park The meadow behind Frying Pan Farm Park’s indoor arena, the service road behind it and the adjoining woods are usually the park’s best wildlife viewing spots. There have been deer, foxes, squirrels, hawks, wild turkeys and other birds in the meadow and surrounding trees. Look for deer, foxes and turkeys while strolling the nature trail and around the trailer parking lot.


Photo credit: Dick Hoffman, board member, Friends of Frying Pan Farm Park

Hidden Oaks Nature Center

At the first red bridge as you go down the Old Oak Trail from the nature center, look for deer or turtles by the creek. Behind the nature center, the pond is a good spot for black squirrel sightings.

Huntley Meadows

Stroll the Huntley Meadows boardwalk through the park wetlands to spot winter waterfowl such as gadwalls, shovelers, pintails, hooded mergansers, ruddy ducks, canvasbacks and others. Capture beautiful landscape views and lighting in winter, too.

Lake Accotink

Lake Accotink map There are great locations along the Cross County Trail and the Lake Accotink Trail for wildlife viewing. On the south side of the lake, look for the large bald eagle nest and its breeding pair. Great blue herons, osprey, and cormorants can be found in and along the edges of the lake. Deer and fox are plentiful throughout the park. You may spot a beaver upstream along Accotink Creek.


Pinecrest Golf Course

Pinecrest Mallard Players can score birdies and see them, too, at Pinecrest Golf Course. It’s an Audubon International-sanctioned course and has many birds that frequent it.


Photo credit: Pinecrest Superintendent, Mike Chipouras

Riverbend Park

The river attracts lots of winter waterfowl. Look for flocks of Buffleheads, mergansers, grebes, ring neck ducks, coots, black ducks and swans. Consider registering for a Winter Waterfowl Hike.

Sully Historic Site

There are wonderful birding opportunities on a short trail along the power lines on the eastern edge of the historic site. Wildlife edge habitat include bluebirds, cedar wax wings, red- shouldered hawks, Cooper’s hawks, raven, deer, red fox, squirrels and chipmunks.

Motion-activated Wildlife Photography

Sometimes the best way to catch wildlife in action is to let the camera do all the work.

The Park Authority uses motion-activated cameras in certain areas to monitor the actions of wildlife when humans are not on the scene. Huntley Meadows is just one of the parks where the cameras have been used for daytime and nighttime photography.

Some of the photos taken at Huntley are reminiscent of scenes from the Hitchcock classic “The Birds.” Others capture the eerie shine in the eyes of animals that have a light-reflecting layer called the tapetum lucidum just behind the retina. The curious photo of the deer on two legs ignited a caption contest on the Park Authority’s Instagram page.

Motion-activated Wildlife Photography

Stempson House Before and After

Before and after photos aren’t just for fashion makeovers. They’re also a great way to tell the tale of a historic property that’s getting the makeover treatment.

It was just over a year ago that the Park Authority held the first lease-signing in its Resident Curator Program. The program allows a curator to live rent-free in a historic property that needs rehabilitation in exchange for their work restoring the property. Steven McCullough became the agency’s first resident curator in December 2017 when he signed the lease at Stempson House in Lorton. Read his story in the Winter Parktakes.

With fresh paint, refinished hardwood floors, new windows and other improvements inside and out, here’s a look at the ongoing transformation:

Stempson House Before and After Photo

Stempson House Before and After Photo

Stempson House Before and After Photo

Stempson House Before and After Photo

Stempson House Before and After Photo

Photo Credit: Stephen McCullough and Don Sweeney

Brighten your Day with a Floral Photography Display at Green Spring Gardens

Take a break from the dreary browns of winter and put a burst of color in your life. Discover “The Beauty of Flowers” when Patty Hankins displays some of her floral photography in an art show at Green Spring Gardens.

Hankins’ exhibit will run from February 26 through April 28 at the Horticulture Center. The center is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on Sundays from noon to 4:30 p.m. Stop by to see the show and get inspiration for your own photography with a stroll through Green Spring’s gardens.

Brighten your Day with a Floral Photography Display at Green Spring Gardens

Photo Credit: Patty Hankins

Photo Classes

The Park Authority not only provides great settings and subjects for photos, it offers classes to help you boost your photography skills to the next level.

Focus on fine-tuning your winter photo skills in the “Nature Photography-Winter” class at Lake Fairfax Park. Take nature photos at the park and develop new perspectives and lighting techniques to use when shooting during the winter season. All skill levels are welcome. The class is being offered two times -- Sunday, February 10 and Saturday, March 16. It runs from 2 to 4 p.m. and is for photographers age 13 to adult. The cost is $35. Don’t forget to bring your camera with you!

To work on general skills with your digital camera, the Park Authority offers “Digital Photography” and “Digital Photography II” classes each season at sites such as Audrey Moore RECenter, Burke Lake Park, Frying Pan Park, Oak Marr RECenter and Spring Hill RECenter. These classes vary in length, and the series run from 5 to 10 weeks. Get details in the Fine Arts section of Parktakes.

Photo Classes - Nature Photography

Photo Credit: Don Sweeney

Don’t Forget to Check the Expiration Date on that Permit!

PermitAll photographers conducting business on Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) property or in FCPA facilities must obtain a photography permit. Those permits are good for one year, so if you have one, please take a moment and check the expiration date. If it’s time to get a new one, you can quickly purchase that $25 Commercial Photography Permit online at:  Commercial Photography in the Parks.

Permit holders automatically become part of the Photographer's Ambassador's Club, which includes a subscription to SNAPSHOTS. Those who wish to participate in the creation of Ambassador's Club activities and materials are asked to contact the Public Information Office at 703-324-8662.

SNAPSHOTS Reflections

emailWe would love to hear from you! Comments or suggestions for SNAPSHOTS E-News are welcome. We encourage you to contribute an article and share your photographs to be included in a future SNAPSHOTS E-News.

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Editor: Judy Pedersen, Public Information Officer

Writers and Contributors: Carol Ochs

Layout and Design: Don Tubel

Photograph Contributors: Don Sweeney, Mike Chipouras,Dick Hoffman, Steven McCullough, Cristin Bratt

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