The Animal Welfare League of Arlington is advising residents to remove their bird feeders while officials still try to figure out why birds across the region are getting sick and dying.

“We are asking Arlington Co (and DMV) residents to bring their bird feeders inside for the time being. Due to the unknown illness in local birds, we are looking to take as many precautions as possible to keep illnesses from spreading (and bird feeders can be a common source of illness),” reads the social media post from late last week.

Local authorities in Virginia, Maryland, D.C., and West Virginia remains stumped as to why so many birds have turned up dead in recent weeks. Reports from across the region cropped up in late May about birds littering local roads and sidewalks.

Additionally, these reports do not seem to be decreasing and are remaining steady, writes Megan Kirchgessner, State Wildlife Veterinarian with the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, in an email to ARLnow.

Symptoms usually include the swelling of eyes, a crusty discharge, and neurological signs, according to a Virginia DWR statement from Friday (June 11).

One theory is that it’s related to the emergence of the cicadas and the use of insecticide. Another is that it’s a bacterial disease. But, as of now, there’s nothing conclusive.

“We have continued to send out specimens for further testing but have not received any conclusive test results,” writes AWLA Animal Control Chief Jennifer Toussaint in an email to ARLnow. “We will immediately alert the public once we know what is going on and are making these additional suggestions just to lessen the possibility of this illness spreading from bird to bird at this time.”

Kirchgessner is also asking residents to remove their bird feeders and baths.

“Although we are not able to confirm at this time that an infectious disease is the cause of this mortality event, we have recommended removal of bird feeders and baths to be on the safe side,” Kirchgessner writes to ARLnow. “Feeders congregate birds and will facilitate transmission of disease from sick to healthy birds.”

DWR’s statement additionally advises residents, if removing a feeder or bath is not possible, to clean it with a 10% bleach solution.

There are still no definitive lab results as to the cause, but “at least three wildlife health labs are involved so hopefully we will have results soon,” Kirchgessner notes.

The labs that are investigating include the USGS National Wildlife Health Center, the University of Georgia Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, and the University of Pennsylvania Wildlife Futures Program.

Both AWLA and DWR are reminding residents to avoid handling the dead birds without gloves, to keep pets away from them, and to report incidents to either DWR or AWLA.

“We are very saddened by this ongoing issue and are hopeful for more finding soon,” said Toussaint. “These birds are federally protected for a reason, they are a national treasure and vital to our ecosystem.”

Photo (1) courtesy of Erinn Shirley/Flickr

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Birds are dying in large numbers across Arlington and much of the D.C. area, prompting an investigation.

Dead birds have become an eerily common sight along local roads and sidewalks, and a common discussion thread in local Nextdoor groups. The wave of bird deaths this month — which seemingly corresponded with the emergence of Brood X cicadas — has also caught the attention of local and state authorities.

“Beginning on Tuesday, May 18… Animal Control began receiving an increase in the number of calls regarding sick/injured juvenile birds, specifically Grackles and Blue Jays,” wrote Animal Welfare League of Arlington Animal Control Chief Jennifer Toussaint. “Eye issues were reported in what otherwise looked like healthy juvenile birds, causing blindness and the birds to land and stay on the ground. Animal Control is now seeing additional species of birds affected. Other agencies and localities across the region and state are reporting similar issues at this time.”

Arlington County Natural Resources Manager Alonso Abugattas tells ARLnow that the issue “is widespread” across the region and is a hot topic of conversation among local naturalists.

“We have received numerous [reports]… from numerous places outside the county as well,” he said, adding that he is in contact with the state biologist about the matter.

“He is investigating and will examine the birds,” said Abugattas.

In addition to Arlington, an increase in dead birds has been reported in Fairfax County, Bethesda, and parts of D.C., according to Nextdoor posts viewed by ARLnow. One post, from a wildlife veterinarian, suggests that a bacterial disease may be behind the phenomenon — but the information is very preliminary.

“The resolution of [a bird’s symptoms] after administration of an antibiotic suggests that this is a bacterial infection, not a virus,” the veterinarian wrote. “Hopefully we will have more definitive answers from the lab in a couple of weeks.”

AWLA says it is in contact with the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, which is performing tests on a selection of deceased birds.

“We await any results that may shed more light on the current situation,” the organization said. “At this time we are asking members of the public to dispose of these birds promptly when found on their property.”

The league provided the following safety tips for residents who dispose of dead birds.

  • “Wear hand covering (such as gloves) and avoid any direct contact with the birds”
  • “Consider picking up the birds using the same method you would for pet waste. Invert a bag over your hand, pick up the bird, and then pull the bag over the bird, tying with a knot at the top before disposal.”
  • “Dispose of in waste receptacle outside of the home… use diligent hand washing following”

Another tip: don’t use insecticide on cicadas, which can poison whatever creature later eats them.

ALWA is also encouraging residents to report dead birds via an online form, and to report dead and injured birds on public property via phone.

“If a resident finds an injured bird or deceased birds on public playgrounds, parks, and fields please promptly call Arlington County Animal Control promptly at 703-931-9241,” the organization said. “We appreciate your patience and understanding as we work with State Agencies to better understand and address this issue.”

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(Updated at 9:55 p.m.) The Arlington County Fire Department doesn’t just untangle flags from national monuments. It also rescues parakeets that have flown the coop.

Yesterday evening the fire department received a “public service” call for a prized sun parakeet that was stuck in a tree. The bird’s owner was out on a walk with her avian companion when “the bird was spooked by a dog and flew into a tree and did not come down,” ACFD spokesman Taylor Blunt tells ARLnow. She called the fire department after running out of options for getting the bird down.

The crew of Truck 106 responded and used the fire engine’s ladder to gently grab the bird from its perch above a house, bringing it back to its grateful owner.

“As firefighters, we never know what our day will be like!” the fire department said on social media this morning. “Happy to help.”

“This was an interesting run for us,” Blunt added.

The bird rescue happened around the same time as other ACFD crews were battling an apartment fire on the 1300 block of N. Pierce Street in the Radnor/Fort Myer Heights neighborhood, near Rosslyn. No injuries were reported as a result of the fire.

Photo courtesy ACFD

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The Arlington County Fire Department answers the call for all hazards, from fires to chemical spills to explosives to technical rescues. And, it turns out, for birds that get themselves stuck on roofs.

Yesterday firefighters responded to a multi-story residential building in the Ballston area to help free a bird that somehow had its head become wedged in the siding.

Using ladders to get to the roof, firefighters successfully rescued the bird, which was identified by animal control as a starling.

There’s no word on whether any opportunistic cats got stuck in trees while attempting their own extraction of the hapless bird.

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Morning Notes

Two Library Branches Are Back Open — “County officials on March 9 reopened the Shirlington and Westover branch libraries, albeit with curtailed hours and limiting the public to no more than 15 minutes inside at any one time. Where the reopening plan goes from here is anyone’s guess. ‘All other branches remain closed at this time, and a reopening date for the remaining branches has not yet been determined,’ library officials said.” [Sun Gazette]

Arlington Vultures Make National News — “When [Harvard University] closed because of Covid-19 in midsemester last spring, I relocated to my wife’s home in Arlington, Va… What I had not anticipated was that shortly after my arrival, my wife and I would be joined by a pair of black vultures, who thought the attic of her garage would be the ideal place to raise a family. And that’s just what they’ve done.” [Wall Street Journal]

Public Meeting on HQ2 Phase 2 Planned — “Arlington County is looking for public input on the next phase of new construction for Amazon’s second headquarters — including plans for a futuristic, spiral-shaped building called ‘The Helix.’ A virtual ‘Community Kick-off Meeting’ is now planned for March 25 at 6:30 p.m. It will be the start of a lengthy public review process that will take several months to complete.” [WJLA]

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Reopens — “Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) will reopen the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier plaza to the visiting public [on] March 9, 2021. ANC is taking this action as part of a gradual reopening under improved COVID-19 conditions. Reopening the Tomb plaza to the public, while continuing to maintain current health protection conditions, is an important element of the yearlong centennial commemoration for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which culminates on Veterans Day 2021.” [Arlington National Cemetery]

Residents Hold Nightly Pandemic Happy Hour — “They’re bundled up and socially distanced in front of a roaring fire, with drinks in hand. In this Arlington neighborhood, residents have met for a happy hour called Six Feet at 6:30 every night for nearly a year. ‘It’s been my therapy,’ Mary Stump said.” [NBC 4]

Big Metro Cuts Averted By Stimulus Bill — “Metro expects to avert service cuts and layoffs that had been proposed in its FY22 budget thanks to new federal relief approved by Congress today. ‘Congress has once again stepped up to address the needs of Metro and the regional transit systems that will be critical to our region’s economic recovery,’ said Metro Board of Directors Chair Paul C. Smedberg. ‘While it will take more time to work out all the details, including Metro’s exact share of this funding, the $1.4 billion provided by the American Recovery Plan for our region’s transit agencies will allow us to avert the painful service reductions and layoffs that were on the table.'” [WMATA]

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A young red-tailed hawk that fell out of a tree “like a sack potatoes” near the Virginia Square Metro entrance is being nursed back to health.

The Animal Welfare League of Arlington said one of its animal control officers was able to safely capture the ailing hawk, and it’s now on the road to recovery at a “local bird of prey rehabber.”

More from AWLA’s Facebook post:

Thanks to our community working together, this juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk is now safe and sound! Earlier this week, our officers received a call about a bird that “fell out of a tree like a sack of potatoes” in front of the Virginia Square metro station. Officer Rose was dispatched to the scene, and was able to safely capture him and bring him to one of our local bird of prey rehabbers. They determined that the hawk was young and underweight, and so will care for him until he is back at a healthy weight and can be released back into the wild.

Thank you to everyone who helped get this hawk on the road to recovery!

Photo via AWLA/Facebook

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The holiday season can be quite stressful — but even more so when you’re a bird of prey who accidentally flies into an Arlington Public Schools operations building and can’t get out.

That happened this past Monday, at the county and APS yard on S. Taylor Street in Shirlington, but luckily Arlington County Natural Resources Manager Alonso Abugattas was on the case.

APS staff member Lauren Hassel said staffers heading out of the building that day heard banging coming from a covered, outdoor stairwell window, where the bird was seen seen frantically trying to fly out.

“Our building is about 200 yards from the Animal Welfare League but they were closed,” Hassel recounted. “A call to nearby Long Branch Nature Center led to a referral to our next door neighbors at the Dept of Parks and Recreation. Minutes later… Abugattas appeared with heavy gloves and a blanket. He spotted the bird through the window, put on his gloves, walked up the stairs and calmly retrieved the stressed out raptor.”

The county naturalist told a gathered crowd that the bird was a Cooper’s Hawk, and that it appeared to be unharmed. After a few photos, Abugattas unwrapped the bird and it flew off.

“Alonso is the ultimate wingman,” said Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services on Twitter.

According to National Geographic, the population of Cooper’s Hawks is increasing on the East Coast, especially in suburban areas.

Photo provided by Lauren Hassel 

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Morning Notes

Crows Are Swarming Rosslyn at Dusk — “As the sun begins to sink below the horizon, ghostly caws and flapping wings echo through the air. Then, they come in droves. Hundreds, if not thousands, of huge, black birds darken the sky, swooping through buildings and swarming like giant gnats. This Hitchcockian scene is a typical Tuesday in North Rosslyn.” [Washingtonian]

New Candidate for School BoardCristina Diaz-Torres has announced that she is running for Arlington School Board to replace Tannia Talento, who is not seeking a second term. Diaz-Torres is planning a campaign launch event on Columbia Pike this Sunday. [Twitter, Facebook]

Arlington Residents Are Up at All Hours — “The massive Nov. 8 water-main break underneath Chain Bridge Road taught Arlington public-works officials a number of lessons. Among them: Some county residents are up and at ’em in the wee hours of the morning. The county government received its first call complaining of no water at 2:59 a.m., a mere three minutes after the rupture of the 36-inch, 75-year-old pipe.” [InsideNova]

More on GMU Arlington Campus Expansion — “As George Mason University leaders celebrate the 40th anniversary of the school’s Arlington campus, they promise that its Amazon-inspired expansion will be ‘unlike any building ever built’ by a state institution.” [Washington Business Journal]

Upgrades for 911 Call Center — “The County’s 9-1-1 call processing system was upgraded today! Our staff are thrilled to have made the switch to this top of the line system that will allow us to best collaborate with neighboring jurisdictions and serve the community.” [Twitter]

NORAD Exercises Planned Tonight — “Don’t be frightened if you see and hear military aircraft speeding overhead… The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is expected to conduct air exercises over the Washington area from Thursday night into early Friday morning. Flights are scheduled between midnight and 5:30 a.m.” [WTOP]

Five Year Anniversary of Streetcar Cancellation — “Five years ago this week – Nov. 18, 2014 – County Board Chairman Jay Fisette stood somewhat grimly in front of a microphone and TV cameras to announce that Arlington officials were abandoning plans for a streetcar system in the Columbia Pike corridor.” [InsideNova]

Nearby: Food Star to Open in Bailey’s Crossroads — “A Food Star grocery store is opening up in the former Toys R Us building at 5521 Leesburg Pike in Bailey’s Crossroads – possibly by the end of the year.” [Annandale Blog]

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Morning Notes

Heavy Seas Alehouse to Close — “Heavy Seas Alehouse, the restaurant affiliated with the Baltimore-area brewery, will close its doors in Rosslyn by the end of October, one of its principals said Thursday. The restaurant plans to close Oct. 27, said Mike Morris, a partner in Monogram Hospitality, which operates Heavy Seas Alehouse.” [Washington Business Journal]

Real Estate Costs Going Down? — “In every major jurisdiction of the local area, the median per-square-foot price for housing for the January-through-September period declined, in many cases by double digits, according to new figures reported Oct. 11… Arlington led all local jurisdictions for the nine-month period, but its median per-square-foot cost of $436 was down 6.8 percent from $468.” [InsideNova]

Kaine to Talk Vaping at Arlington School — “On Friday, October 18, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine will hold a roundtable discussion on efforts to address the epidemic of youth e-cigarette use. The discussion at Montessori Public School of Arlington will include students, teachers, counselors, parents, health experts, and Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni.” [Press Release]

Road Closures for Festival in Shirlington — “The Shirlington Shucktoberfest, sponsored by the Copperwood Tavern, will take place on Saturday, October 19, 2019 from 11:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.  Set up will begin at approximately 6:00 a.m. and cleanup should be completed by 7:00 p.m. The Arlington County Police Department will conduct the following road closures…” [Arlington County]

Arlington Woman’s Alleged Killer Charged — “The killer of Pamela Butler, a Washington, D.C., federal worker who disappeared before Valentine’s Day in 2009, has been charged in the 1989 death of his wife. Marta Haydee Rodriguez-Cruz disappeared from Arlington, Virginia, in 1989. Her remains were found along Interstate 95 in Stafford County in 1991 but weren’t positively identified until 2018. Her husband, Jose Angel Rodriguez-Cruz, also dated Butler for a time.” [NBC 4]

Arlington Man Convicted in Child Sex Sting — “An Arlington man is among more than 300 people arrested worldwide in connection with a website that authorities describe as the largest child sexual exploitation operation of its kind ever discovered in terms of the volume of content. Ammar Atef H. Alahdali, 22, pleaded guilty in the Eastern District of Virginia to receipt of child pornography and was sentenced to serve five years in prison and ordered to pay $3,000 in restitution.” [Patch]

Nearby: Birding Store Near Fairlington Closing — “After 33 years, birding and nature store One Good Tern (1710 Fern Street) near Fairlington is closing as longtime owner Charles Studholme faces a grim kidney failure diagnosis.” [ALXnow]

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Bird lovers of all feathers can head to Bluemont this weekend for a morning of avian education and exploration.

World Migratory Bird Day Festival” will feature bird walks, games, activities, and free coffee from 9-11 a.m. Saturday at Lacey Woods Park, organizers say. Attendees to the free event are asked to meet at the park’s basketball court near the intersection of Washington Blvd and N. George Mason Drive.

The Wildlife Rescue League will also showcase some of its live feathered friends, including a blue jay named “Snafu.”

Arlington County naturalists Jennifer Soles and Ken Rosenthal are organizing the weekend event. Rosenthal told ARLnow on Monday that festival attendees have a chance to spot interesting birds because several species often flock to Lacey Woods Park, which he described as a “green oasis that will get the birds in.”

Last year, Rosenthal said attendees spotted a blackpoll warbler. These songbirds typically weigh less than an ounce but migrate over 1,800 miles across North America, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and 88% of blackpoll populations have died out in the last half century.

Many other birds that can be spotted in Arlington migrate between North to Central America — such as hummingbirds and osprey.

Soles and Rosenthal say all the printed materials for the event are in English and Spanish, but they are seeking one to two volunteers who can help translate some of the discussions on Saturday into Spanish.

Soles said these migratory birds “live half their lives in Spanish-speaking countries” and hopes that Arlingtonians with roots in Central American countries like El Salvador and Guatemala will attend the event and get a chance to recognize some familiar species.

“We sort of share these birds between us,” said Soles.

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Morning Notes

Amazon Talking to Unions — “Amazon.com Inc., JBG Smith Properties Inc. and union representatives in the D.C. region have met a few times in the last six weeks to discuss benefits and wages for the workers who will build HQ2 in Pentagon City.” [Washington Business Journal]

Changes Coming to Arlandria? — “For decades, developers have eyed Arlandria, the working-class neighborhood near Reagan National Airport where a transplanted Hispanic culture flourishes amid Northern Virginia’s upscale condominiums… Now, crime is down, the economy is humming, and Amazon is moving in virtually next door, with plans to hire thousands of well-paid workers, who’ll be in search of easy commutes.” [Washington Post]

Local Strategist Sued by U.S. Rep Raising Funds — Political strategist and Arlington resident Liz Mair is being sued by Rep. Devin Nunes, in a bizarre defamation suit that also names Twitter and two parody Twitter accounts as defendants. Mair is raising money for her legal defense. [Donorbox, Twitter]

Op-Ed: Nix Arlington Arts Cuts — “If the 2020 budget that Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz submitted to the County Board is implemented, it will prove to be devastating to the Arlington arts community.” [Washington Post]

Arlingtonians Help Save Bird — A pair of Arlington residents, including former Arlington Outdoor Lab executive director Neil Heinekamp, “came to the rescue of a distressed bird” found on a nature trail in The Villages, Florida.  [InsideNova]

Kitchen Fire in N. Arlington High Rise — “Units called to 4300 blk of Lorcom Lane for oven fire on 6th floor of a residential high rise. Fire is out with minor extension to surrounding cabinets. Crews working to ventilate smoke and scaling back response.” [Twitter]

Nearby: Halal Butchery Controversy Continues — “Letter-writer compares proposed halal butchery in Alexandria to *slave auctions*: this is the same brutality…’ Even by the standards of Alexandria micro-controversies, the rhetoric around this thing is remarkable.” [Alexandria Times, Twitter]

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