Flying Colors is a sponsored column on the hobby of backyard bird feeding written by Michael Zuiker, owner of the Wild Birds Unlimited store at the Lee Harrison Shopping Center. Visit the store at 2437 N. Harrison Street or call 703-241-3988.
For 25 years now, my business, Wild Birds Unlimited, has been helping bring people and nature together with the hobby of backyard bird feeding. All types of people, from very young to very old, have come into my retail store and purchased products to feed the wild birds in their yards.
When I first started my business, I found that people feed for various reasons. Many people grow up with this hobby learning from their parents. Many feed the birds as a way of helping the birds survive in an ever-changing urban environment. But year after year, from behind my counter I discovered many more reasons why people feed the birds.
We are very fortunate to have four seasons of different climates in our area. With each season, nature and the birds change. Winter, spring, summer and fall all bring different challenges for survival. Each season brings a different level and type of joy to our backyards. From 20 bright red cardinals on snow covered winter tree branches to four fuzzy bird heads peeking out of a nest in the spring, there are visual joys to absorb all year long. Bird feeding is a yearlong hobby.
We are all connected to nature, that is all around us, in different ways. I, for one, find no pleasure in cutting grass every eighth day, in searing heat and dripping humidity, with 7 billion gnats, per square foot, attacking me. So, for the past 30 years, in the two homes I have lived in, I dug up my lawn and planted a hummingbird, butterfly and bee garden.
I enjoy the beauty the flowers give me, the sounds the many different types of bees give me and the joy of the hummingbird zipping around my Bee Balm and Cardinal flower. The eight feeders on my back deck give me nonstop action as I sit and write this story in my office. I am surrounded by natural life.
One of my customers told me every night he and his wife would pour a glass of white wine and sit in their small backyard and watch the birds. It was their church he said. It gave them peace and tranquility. This became so much more important in his later life when his health was fading.
One day, a familiar customer came into my store to purchase seed. When I asked how she was, she started crying. Tragically she has just lost her oldest son. But she said she had to feed her birds. For many of us there is an incredibly strong emotional connection, that cannot be broken, with the natural world around us.
Many of my customers feed the birds as a sense of environmental duty to help the different species survive. There is a weekly routine I have with some customers when they come into my store and ask me: “do the birds need us?”
I will look out my storefront window and tell them 100 years ago if we were standing in the same spot and looking, we would see fields and trees and flowers. Now all we see looking out the window is concrete and asphalt and wires and buildings. With that perspective, it becomes clear that the more the natural habitat is removed, the more the wild birds will be challenged to find food and survive.
In that way, yes, the birds do need our help. That does not mean you cannot take a two week vacation this summer to go to the beach. The birds will find other sources of food. They will also readily come back to the little restaurants you have in your yard once you fill them up again.
My customers — my friends — have created and embraced the hobby of bird feeding in their yards for their own special needs. Be it emotional, spiritual, environmental or physical, the feeding of the wildlife including chipmunks and squirrels, along with the birds, fulfills a need which enhances their lives. It is only natural that nature does that. For we are just a part of our natural world. It is just that the birds sing better.
With apologies to Mick Jagger, Bono, Beyonce and Willie Nelson!
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The Arlington-Aachen High School exchange is returning this summer and currently accepting applicants.
The sister-city partnership started in 1993 by the Arlington Sister Cities Association, which seeks to promote Arlington’s international profile through a variety of exchanges in education, commerce, culture and the arts. The exchange, scheduled June 17th to July 4th, includes a two-week homestay in Aachen plus three days in Berlin. Knowledge of the German language is not required for the trip.
Former participants have this to say:
_”The Aachen exchange was an eye-opening experience where I was fully immersed in the life of a German student. I loved biking through the countryside to Belgium, having gelato and picnics in the town square, and hanging out with my German host student’s friends. My first time out of the country, the Aachen exchange taught me to keep an open mind, because you never know what could be a life changing experience.” – Kelly M._
Learn about the new assessment of Arlington’s urban tree canopy and the many ecological and social benefits trees provide. Staff from the Green Infrastructure Center (GIC) will share study results and compare canopy cover for different areas of Arlington.The webinar will include assessments of ecosystem services such as stormwater mitigation, air quality, carbon uptake, and urban heat islands. For background on Arlington trees see the “Tree Benefits: Growing Arlington’s Urban Forest” presentation at http://www.gicinc.org/PDFs/Presentation_TreeBenefits_Arlington.pdf.
Please register in advance to assure your place at the webinar, https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/29543206508863839.
About the Arlington County Civic Federation: The Arlington County Civic Federation (“ACCF”) is a not-for-profit corporation which provides a forum for civic groups to discuss, debate, inform, advocate and provide oversight on important community issues, on a non-partisan basis. Its members include over ninety civic groups representing a broad cross-section of the community. Communications, resolutions and feedback are regularly provided to the Arlington County Government.
The next meeting is on Tuesday, February 21,2023 at 7 pm. This meeting is open to the public and will be hybrid, in-person and virtually through Zoom. Part of the agenda will be a discussion and vote on a resolution “To Restore Public Confidence in Arlington County’s Governance”. For more information on ACCF and this meeting, go to https://www.civfed.org/.
Valentine gifts for someone special or for yourself are here at George Mason University from noon -4pm on February 14, 2023. Satisfy your sweet tooth with Kingsbury Chocolates, find a handmade bag from Karina Gaull, pick up treats from Village