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Flying Colors: Changes

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.

Three hundred miles north of Chicago is a town called Tomahawk, Wisconsin. When I was a little boy, I am 66 now, my family would go up there and camp and swim and fish and enjoy the great Northwoods.

Back in those days, there were 3,345 people living in Tomahawk. Today, there are 3,346 people living in Tomahawk.( +/- ). Very little has changed, especially the environmental footprint of the area. The Wisconsin river still runs through the town. The old growth pine and cedar and fir still reach to the sky. And the wild birds still have abundant fields and food to forage.

Forty years ago, I moved to Arlington. It was a cute little bedroom community, ten minutes from my favorite pizza restaurant in Washington. But in those forty years since, there has been an incredible amount of construction and destruction to the environmental footprint. The Metro corridor has exploded with high rise buildings blocking out the sun and sky.

Where once stood two story garden style apartment complexes, with green space and trees and gardens, “GIANT” steel and concrete structures live. Where fifteen acres of old growth trees and dense vegetation existed- Lee Highway between Harrison and George Mason Dr.- 1.5 million dollars homes now crowd the site. Gone is the green, except for patchy grass.

Five acres of beautiful trees and wildlife habitat on 16th St and George Mason Dr. are now removed and replaced with two million dollar homes, crushed together in tight formation. Gone is the homes for birds and foxes and butterflies and bees.

Patchy grass now exists. All throughout every neighborhood in Arlington, whether rich, middle class or relatively poor, small homes are being wiped away; along with 100 years of natural habitat. In their place are massive homes of every shape and size; in the same footprint. With patchy grass added.

Here is my point. I do not suggest that anyone not build their dream home wherever they want. But when Spring rolls around and people come into my store and say we do not need to feed the birds because they have plenty of food, I just cringe. Because if you look outside, you will clearly see that the birds have less and less food every year. In the same footprint of Arlington, Virginia.

So, no, the birds do not have plenty to eat. Especially in the end of Winter and beginning of Spring. Sure, all the hanging plants at the nursery look great; but birds do not eat pretty plants. Oh, but I see lots of bugs starting to hatch, so the birds have a lot of food. Yes, but they still need more in the form of fat. Fat from seeds and nuts and suet to replace the natural nut trees that have been taken down and replaced with Patchy grass.

Nesting season is right upon us. Many birds are setting up their breeding territories and beginning to attract a mate. Once they do and turn off the TV in their nests, eggs will come and chicks after that.

Then it is feeding the chicks, and the mate, and sending the fledgling young birds packing, and then maybe turning off the TV in the nest again. This is a very long and exhausting period of time for the birds. They need a lot of food. They also need nesting boxes for the birds that build in tree cavities. Patchy grass does not cut it. Although now you have to cut it every 8 days in the Spring and Summer.

Tomahawk, Wisconsin is a town frozen in time. That is one of the reasons I am contemplating retiring there in the future. The town is also “Frozen” for 4 months out of the year with -10-30 degree temperatures, so maybe I may have to contemplate a little farther south! Tomahawks birds are fine for the most part. Arlington, Falls Church, Mclean and most of Northern Virginia birds are constantly under duress from habitat destruction. They need help.

Look out your window. Look at nature in all of its forms, from sunrise to storm clouds, to rollicking Robins to the ending of the day. And Listen! Because now for the next 8 weeks, your mornings will explode with a symphony of sounds at the break of dawn. Feed your birds and the music will not stop. The birds do not have plenty to eat.

Stop into our store to save during our biggest bird seed sale of the year. All of our seed, suet, seed cylinders, seed characters and mealworms are on sale until March 11, 2018! We look forward to helping you find just what you need to help your birds. Also check out our nesting boxes, they are made in the USA!

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