Fall Bounty in Clarke County

Spectacular autumn weather and sensational people made Clarke County an extraordinary place to be on Saturday.  Communities of all kinds gathered from one end of the County to the other for no reason other than to soak in the sunshine and enjoy each other’s company on a made-to-order fall day.

Clarke Sets Hawk Migration Record

The Snickers Gap Hawk Watch gathered at the VDOT parking lot at the intersection of Route 7 and Mount Weather Road early Saturday morning. Members of the group have stood watch at the site every day for the past several weeks with their eyes (and binoculars) trained on the sky.

“We’re counting the number of hawks and eagles that migrate down the ridge,” explained Winchester bird watcher Jon Little. “This is an excellent place to observe the birds as they follow the ridgeline on their way south.”

Snickers Gap Hawk Watch - Photo Edward Leonard

Greg Butcher, National Audubon Society’s Director of Bird Conservation, added that it is common to see all types raptors from the Snickers Gap site including bald eagles, golden eagles and hawks.

“This week we’ve been seeing a lot of broad-wing hawks here,” Little said. “Most of broad wing hawks that we’ve seen this week have probably made it to Columbia by now.”

The Snickers Gap Hawk Watch tallied its 40,000th hawk on Saturday according to BJ Little, also of Winchester.

“We counted 14,000 birds on September 18th and 9,000 more the next day,” BJ Little said with a smile of satisfaction. “40,000 is a new record!”

Little said that the Snickers Gap Hawk Watch annual census is part of a national bird count conducted by the Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA). More information about HMANA and participation in its work in preserving North American hawk populations can be found at http://www.hmana.org.

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Blue Ridge Volunteer Fire Company Hosts 29th Annual Craft Fair

Not far down the mountain local crafters were preserving a different kind of tradition that may not be quite as old as that practiced by Clarke County’s raptors but has occurred just as regularly each fall for the past 29 years.

“The Blue Ridge Fire Company offers tables to local crafters each year,” said volunteer Carol Weare. “The fire company raises a small amount of money from the event but it’s more designed to provide a chance for the community to get together to meet neighbors and to share crafts and fellowship.”

Volunteer Sharon Wine said that this year the craft fair included 21 crafters mainly from Clarke County but also from Loudoun and Frederick Counties.

While every craft table at the event offered excellent and unique handcrafted items that will surely become cherished gifts in the coming holiday season, Janet’s Crider handcrafted quilt featuring a rich red border with green holly squares hung at the front of the craft hall as its unofficial banner crafting excellence.

“I’m not sure how many quilts that I’ve donated to the fire company over the years,” Crider said. “One or two a year over the last ten years or so I would guess.”

Dogs (and Cats and Horses) Rule

This year’s Furry Fall Fling sponsored by the Clarke County Humane Society gave animal lovers and their animals a fun opportunity to get together and, in some cases, just touch noses!

Horse rides sponsored by Clarke County Humane Society - Photo Edward Leonard

Pony rides, bar-b-que lunch, live music and animal shelter tours made for a howling good time as hundreds of visitors stopped by the animal-friendly event throughout the day.

“Last year the event generated a lot of animal supply donations for us,” said shelter manager Jenny Wright. “This year we’re hoping to raise more in cash through donations so that we have the flexibility to purchase things that we need.”

Wright said that most of the shelter’s annual budget comes from the Clarke County Humane Society and goes toward spay and neutering services, vet trips and emergency surgeries for shelter animals.

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Shelter staff member Brittany Ferrell said the Fall Flurry Fling provides a chance for the community to see all of the good work that the animal shelter does for the County and to visit the shelter’s new location.

“This a good time of the year for us to host this event,” Fewell said. “During the summer months we’re very busy but things slow down in the fall. Right now we have 25 to 30 cats and about a dozen dogs.”

Fewell said that shelter staff also like showing off the shelter facility to community members.

“A lot of people still don’t know that we are now located on Ramsburg Lane near the high school,” Fewell said. “Most people really like the new building.”

Heritage Day in Clarke

Visitors gathered both inside and outside the Burwell Morgan Mill in Millwood, Virginia while celebrating Clarke County’s 300+ year history. Colonial re-enactors dressed in period attire demonstrated what life on the frontier was like during the early 18th century. By many accounts on Saturday, life wasn’t all bad.

“There’s something for everyone here today,” said Clarke County Historical Association executive director Jennifer Lee. “We’ve been pressing fresh cider all day, children have been floating pumpkins in the mill race and inside we have all sorts of colonial life demonstrations.”

Lee said that the annual event is intended to increase community awareness of the Burwell Morgan Mill while at the same time providing people with a glimpse into what colonial life was like.

Jan Long demonstrated colonial wool spinning at the Burwell Morgan Mill - Photo Edward Leonard

Adults and children were rewarded with both informational and culinary treats as they wandered freely through the mill’s massive spaces.

While Laure Wallace offered freshly made colonial-style donuts dipped in sugar Mike Herder and Jimmie Harp pressed cider from fresh apples in front of the mill. Jan Long traveled to Millwood from Front Royal to demonstrate spinning wool, a skill that she only recently acquired.”

“I normally do Civil War reenactments on the weekends,” Long said. “About a year ago a friend introduced me to spinning. I really love it.”

Visitors also watched as Carl Maples turned out ornately fashioned tool handles from his handmade treadle powered lathe. Nearby author Maral Kalbian signed copies of her new publication Images of America – Clarke County.

Later in the afternoon music was provided by the The Fox Hunt band.

“Heritage Day is a wonderful way for all of us to give something back to this wonderful place where we live,” said Laure Wallace as a batch of her freshly made donuts are snatched up by hungry youngsters and adults alike.        

After all, what could be better than a fall day and a fresh donut in Clarke County, Virginia.

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