Arlington, VA

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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A pair of eagles and their eaglets have taken up residence along the GW Parkway, around Arlington’s Ft. Bennett Park northwest of Rosslyn.

Glenn Mai, a local resident who spotted the nest, said it is “viewable from Ft. Bennett Park” and “there are currently three chicks in the nest that can be seen with binoculars and/or a spotting scope.”

Another local spotted the nest late last month and has since posted several photos via Twitter.

This isn’t the first bald eagle sighting in the county, though most of Arlington’s bald eagles aren’t cruising around Clarendon.

Bald eagles, according to Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology, build nests that are about five to six feet in diameter and two to four feet tall — making the nests the largest among birds. It can take up to three years for a pair of eagles to build a nest.

The Center for Conservation Biology keeps a map of eagle nests, as well as Chesapeake Bay herons, ospreys, and nightjars.

Photos courtesy of GM and MB/Flickr

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Morning Notes

Murder of Crows Pooping All Over Shirlington — A large contingent of crows have taken up residence in Shirlington, and locals are getting fed up with cars and sidewalks being covered in bird doo-doo. [WTOP, NBC Washington]

Design Contest for 2019 ‘I Voted’ Sticker — “In an effort to gin up voter enthusiasm during what is expected to be a slow 2019, Arlington election officials… plan to hold a competition to design a logo for next year’s election.” [InsideNova]

Arlington No. 3 on ‘Best Counties’ List — A new list of “best counties” in the U.S. ranks Falls Church — a city — No. 1 while Arlington is No. 3 and Fairfax is No. 6. The list was compiled by the website 24/7 Wall Street. [WTOP]

Mitten Given the Boot By Grand Rapids — The city of Grand Rapids, Michigan is restarting its search for a new city manager after an outcry from residents and interest groups. Arlington Deputy County Manager Carol Mitten was among the three finalists for the job to speak at a community forum, prior to the city announcing the restart. [Fox 17, MLive]

Police Recruiting for Student Safety Patrol Camp — “The Arlington County Police Department’s School Resource Officer Unit is currently accepting applications to the Summer Safety Patrol Camp. This weeklong camp is offered to incoming 4th and 5th grade students who want to participate in safety patrols during the upcoming 2018-2019 academic year.” [Arlington County]

More on Market Common Redevelopment Approval — The redevelopment of a portion of Market Common Clarendon will widen a narrow sidewalk that was the source of resident complaints, among other community benefits. Arlington County Board member Christian Dorsey hopes the project can help “bring a little funkiness back into Clarendon.” [Arlington Connection]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Morning Notes

I-66 HOT Lanes Open Dec. 4 — Beginning on Dec. 4, the new toll booths along I-66 will be switched on and solo drivers will be able to use I-66 during rush hour, for a price. Cars with two or more occupants will be able to continue using I-66 for free, as long as they have an E-ZPass Flex transponder. [WAMU]

Transportation Secretary Regrets Streetcar Cancellation — “As he prepares to wrap up a four-year tenure as Virginia’s secretary of transportation, Aubrey Layne said the cancellation of the Columbia Pike streetcar project ranks as one of the major disappointments of his tenure.” [InsideNova]

Investigation into ANC Cop Photo — “Officials at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall now say they are conducting an internal investigation after a photo surfaced depicting several officers who patrol Arlington National Cemetery smiling and laughing while pretending to beat a fellow co-worker. A source within the base police department shared the photos with FOX 5 and says the officers took the pictures on Thanksgiving Day while on duty at the cemetery.” [Fox 5 DC]

Roaches Run Now Sanctuary for DCA Drivers — The Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary was first established by FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps in the mid-1930s. What was once intended as a tranquil place to watch waterfowl is currently mostly being used by drivers waiting to pick up passengers at Reagan National Airport. [Falls Church News-Press]

NBC Correspondent is Arlington Resident — NBC News correspondent Peter Alexander lives in Arlington with his wife, ABC 7’s Alison Starling, and their two daughters. He recently shared ten pieces of wisdom he’s learned over the years. [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Arlington Store Featured on VOA — Wild Birds Unlimited, the store for bird watching enthusiasts along Lee Highway, was featured in a recent Voice of America report about the “popular American hobby” of bird feeding, which “connects people to nature.” The store and owner Michael Zuiker also publish a biweekly column on ARLnow.com. [Voice of America]

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Morning Notes

Metro Delays Due to Disabled Train — A 7000-series Metro train reportedly lost power between Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom, just before 9 a.m., leading to delays on the Orange, Blue and Silver lines. [Twitter, Twitter]

Confederate Monument at Arlington Nat’l — On the western edge of Arlington National Cemetery there is a monument to Confederate war dead. Writes the Post: “A soaring testament to Southern pride, placed in Arlington nearly 50 years after the Civil War ended, the monument features a frieze depicting Rebels shouldering rifles, a black slave following his master and an enslaved woman… cradling a Confederate officer’s infant.” [Washington Post]

ACFD Rescues Bird — Members of an Arlington County Fire Department rescue company successfully managed to rescue a blue and yellow macaw from a tree. [Twitter]

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Flying Colors column banner

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.

Most of us welcome the coming of spring with warmer weather, longer days and the colorful beauty of flowers and plants. With this change of seasons, we often have customers who come in and tell us this will be the last bag of food they will purchase until the fall. They tell me that the birds have plenty to eat and do not need the feeders anymore. Yet for those who feed the wild birds in their yards, this is exactly the opposite time you should stop feeding.

Most of our local birds who reside in our yards are seed, nut, fruit and insect eaters. Of those four foods, there is really only one that is in abundance naturally. As you swat your arm, you know which one that is. There are very few seeds, nuts or fruits out in the natural world in the spring.

In my front yard, which has been turned into a flower garden, all the plants are just coming up. There is no food on these green and flowering plants. Holly tree berries have been eaten during the winter. Large trees, such as oaks will not produce acorns until the Fall.

Now combine this with the fact that the wild birds in your backyard are much more active in the Spring. They are fighting for territory. They are finding mates. They are building nests. They are raising the young chicks. They are much more active during these longer days. The bird’s nutritional needs are greater with a reduce source of food to forage.

Even my perennial hummingbird plants are just coming up and will not be in flowering stage for another three to four weeks. But the hummingbirds are already here. You can be sure they are looking for a source of high energy food, i.e. sugar water, which will help them whether they stay here all summer of migrate north.

With the spring nesting season upon us, offering seed blends and suets with calcium is highly recommended. This added calcium will help with egg production and nestling growth. You can find the extra calcium in many seed blend mixes and suets. Another great source of protein is mealworms. Why give them bugs when so many insects are flying around? Giving the adult birds an easy source of high protein for their young, in the form of a juicy mealworm, can help the chicks and the parents. In addition, many migrating, insect eating birds, will come to a mealworm feeder. This may include warblers, thrushes and vireos.

Even if you do not see these birds up in the newly leafed tree canopy, you can hear their varied songs at the break of dawn. This free concert, in the spring mornings, is one of the bonuses of spring.  That brings us to another bonus of continued feeding.  During the winter, we are closed inside our homes looking out at the birds.

With the springtime, we are now free from the shackles of the cold wind and actually outside with the birds. The colors, the songs, the activities; we are right there in their midst to observe and enjoy. This is one of the hidden joys that I get from feeding birds in the warmer months. Not only do they need the source of food, but my presence outside makes me feel like a part of the environment.

Springtime for many of us is a more leisurely pace with less layers of clothing and more outdoor activities. Springtime for the birds is a more hectic pace with migration, breeding and raising their young. Feeding the birds now will help to ensure you have beautiful songbirds in your yard all year long.

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Flying Colors column banner

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.

Who wouldn’t like a healthy meal full of protein? Well maybe you wouldn’t if the meal were live mealworms. But if you are a wild bird surviving in the wilds of Arlington, then you certainly would.

Everyone who enjoys the hobby of backyard bird feeding knows about the different choices of bird foods to offer their backyard visitors. In many yards you will see different feeders offering seed, nuts and suet. But many people are missing out on attracting a much greater variety of birds by not offering bugs, specifically, mealworms.

Mealworms, whether they are alive or dried, offer a tremendous source of protein and fat. During the nesting season, most birds need the protein as they build nests, breed, and raise the chicks in the nests until they fledge. I am sure you are probably saying, “Let them eat all the mosquitos in my yard!” Well, some birds will and do.

But a juicy mealworm is a better meal for the adult and baby birds than a tiny mosquito. It would be like comparing going to dinner at Ruth Chris’ to 7-Eleven. At least, that is what the birds told me.

Here is the great thing about offering a feeder filled with dried and live mealworms. During the migration season of the songbirds, which is occurring now, you have the opportunity to try and attract 20-30 different species of birds that do not eat seeds. For the next two months, warblers, thrushes, vireos, flycatchers and other birds will be migrating through our yards and parks. When they travel, they use up a lot of energy.

So a quick and easy rest stop at a new restaurant will be very attractive to them. Mealworms are the larvae of the non-flying beetles. When offering them in feeders, they mimic natural insects. This is just too good to pass up for birds.

Offering this as an add on to their other bird foods, give the birds a good source of fat and protein. Live mealworms provide approximately 22 percent fat and 18 percent protein. Dried mealworms provide the birds 32 percent fat and 49 percent protein. Whereas live mealworms are more attractive to the birds than the dried mealworms, the dried mealworms are easily added to other foods for the birds to eat. Most insect eating migratory birds readily eat this live treat.

When feeding live mealworms, you will need to use a feeder with slippery sides. There are many styles made of wood, plastic, metal and glass. The slippery sides prevent them from climbing out. In my yard, I will put out 50 or so at a time. This feeder is close to my sliding glass doors in my back office and offers me a great view of the birds. The smaller bird feeders help to prevent the bigger birds, like the European Starlings, from dominating the feeders.

Mealworms typically come in containers of 500 worms. They can be kept in your refrigerator for up to a couple of months. Even if your significant other sleepwalks and raids the refrigerator for a midnight snack and grabs a handful, they will be fine. Some cultures eat mealworms regularly as a snack.

Feeding mealworms is part of the “new school” of bird feeding. When you stop in, we will help you understand this new way of feeding to see how you can incorporate “mealworms” in your bird feeding stations. We carry a variety of glass feeders and trays to get you started. Live and dry mealworms work well in these feeders.

Don’t miss out on this great chance to feed this unique food to the breeding and migratory birds.

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Flying Colors column banner

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.

Are you ready? Have you laid out the welcome mat? More accurately, have you installed any new houses that your new neighbors would be interested in moving into?

In your great backyard, side yard and front yards, wild birds are looking for homes. They are singing, courting and ready to mate to start new broods of families. For cavity nesting birds, this means looking for safe and solid places to build nests and raise their young.

There are at least 12 different species of birds that will build nest in cavity boxes in our area. The most common birds are House Wren, Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse and a variety of Woodpeckers. Depending on the size of the bird, the box will have a few different characteristics.

A very small hole size of 1″ to 1 1/8″ in diameter will restrict most birds and give the House Wren a safe place to breed. The larger the hole size, the greater the number of birds you could have checking out the house. Most floor sizes of our common cavity nesting bird boxes will be around 4″ by 4″. The larger woodpeckers, such as the Hairy Woodpecker and Red Bellied Woodpecker, require a larger floor space in the boxes. They also require a larger hole opening and usually are deeper to accommodate the larger chicks.

We at Wild Birds Unlimited feel there are three very important characteristics that must be adhered to, to make the box attractive to the birds and a success in breeding.

  1. There must be adequate ventilation at the top of the box. If there is a spike in early spring temperatures or a second late spring brood, the box must be able to vent the hot air that could build up in the box. If you find a decorative house that has a metal roof, make sure it is a light color that will reflect the suns rays and not a dark colored roof that will absorb the heat of the rays.
  2. The nesting boxes must have good drainage. This is very simply a number of small holes or a small slight opening in the bottom to allow water to drain out. Even if the box has a large roof overhang, a strong wind driven rain could enter the opening and flood the nest.
  3. There should be a simple method to clean out the nest after the chicks have fledged — left the nest — to give the birds an opportunity to breed again.

You can also help your feathered friends by hanging out nesting material.  Examples of safe nesting material are dog hair, cat hair, your own hair, yarn, string, or alpaca wool, which we carry in our store. These materials can be placed in a small suet basket. Please do not use dryer lint, it is full of chemicals and when it gets wet it gets clumpy and hard.

After nesting season is over in late summer, you could take the box down and if it is wood, sand down the sides and bottom to clean any waste. This will also help remove any mites and other insect webs or cocoons from the inside. Recycled plastic houses can be cleaned with a 1 to 10 solution of bleach, rinsed very well and then left out to dry. All houses can be left out for the birds to use all year long as a roosting area when very harsh winter conditions arise. Installing a “Roosting Box,” which is different from a house, would be potentially more successful during these times.

When young birds fledge, and leave the nesting boxes for the first time, they are not strong enough to fly. They usually leave the box and are on the ground for some time.  The adult parent birds are always around. If you see them bouncing around on the ground and squawking, do not pick them up. The adults are getting them to stretch and strengthen their wings.

But please do not allow your indoor cats to go out during this vulnerable time.  If your neighbor has a cat that comes into your yard, ask them to please keep them inside or controlled in their yard. It has been scientifically proven that all cats love to sit in an open sunny window with the remote control to the TV and watch The Discovery Channel, The Weather Channel and the Kardashians! But maybe not in that order.

If you need a chart of the cavity nesting birds in our area, we have them available free for you in our store. We can also go over in detail types of wood to use and decorative additions you can make to your house, should you chose to build one yourself.

The love songs are unmistakable. They are all throughout the neighborhoods. Set up some new homes and invite the new neighbors to start a family.

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Flying Colors column banner

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.

There are rainbows in your backyard. There are rainbows in your front yard. There are rainbows on your patio and on your deck.

You have rainbows in the early morning, mid-afternoon and early evening. Rainbows come during all the seasons. But what is unique about these rainbows is that they do not go away. They actually sit, perch and fly around. You can even bring one of these rainbows right to your hand with a little patience.

Bird - Flying Colors share imageThe rainbows I am talking about by now you have figured out. They are the dozens of beautiful wild birds that visit our yards all year round. All the colors of the rainbow show up. The radiant red male cardinal. The brilliant blue of the Bluejay. The golden yellow of the Goldfinch. Those are only a few of the many wild birds, that we, as landowners, have become stewards of. Being good stewards we provide food, water, houses to raise the young and habitat to live.

The “hobby” of backyard bird feeding is the second most popular hobby in the Unites States right after gardening. Over 60 million Americans feed the birds in their backyards in one form or another. It is very easy to attract anywhere between 20-30 different rainbows in your yard. You do not need a large size yard to accomplish this. By setting up a couple of feeders with different food types in your yard, you will attract many different birds. Fresh birdseed, rendered suet cakes and live mealworms are just three types of food that are very to many birds eat. We used to have a window feeder attached to the back office window. This location was right above the rear parking area of my shopping center. And yet over the course of 2 years we attracted more than 24 different birds to his small feeder. One of my former employees actually had her apartment balcony designated as a “National Wildlife Federation Backyard Habitat”.

Most of us have yards with diverse habitat which are filled with these rainbows. And boy can they sing! The symphony started a couple of weeks ago, and is spreading throughout the neighborhood. I have no problem with dozens and dozens of birds waking me up in the morning with their beautiful songs and drowning out the roar of car tires in rush hour traffic. I say bring on the choir! So, this is a very exciting and fun time in the yards, even if it is still a little cold in the mornings. But get a little adventurous and put on a good coat, knit cap and warm gloves. Get that hot coffee or chocolate and sit out in your yard as the sun comes up. You will create some musical memories.

Your yards and world are filled with rainbows. Bring these rainbows into your Arlington backyard. And, whenever and wherever you go outside, marvel at the brilliance, beauty and diversity of the flying rainbows in our world.

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Every Thursday morning, rain or shine, the folks enjoying breakfast and coffee at the tables outside the Lee Harrison Shopping Center Starbucks get to see the delivery of two to three tons of birdseed hauled into the Wild Birds Unlimited store next door.

That’s two to three TONS of bags of wild birdseed.

“That’s how fresh it is,” says owner Michael Zuiker. “And we go through that mountain every week.”

During special promotions that mountain has been known to grow to seven tons, and it flies off the shelves as if on eagle wings.

Wild Birds Unlimited has been at the same perch at Lee Harrison for 26 years, ever since Zuiker gave up designing Roy Rogers restaurants for Marriott in the 1980s and decided to do something that connected him as well as others with the outdoors.

“I’ve always loved outdoors, always loved nature,” Zuiker says. “I always loved the concept of doing something all natural. So for 26 years we’ve been bringing people and nature together.”

Over the years Zuiker has established a loyal clientele of bird lovers in Arlington, Falls Church and McLean, and he’s heartened by the growing number of new customers who come to the store perhaps for the first time. But some of them aren’t clear on the concept when they first come in.

“Maybe twice a week people come in looking to buy birds,” he says. “I tell them, I have no clue how to sell a bird. And the other misconception they have is when they ask, Can you make a living doing this? That’s when I politely tell them feeding wild birds is the second-most popular hobby in America, next to gardening.”

Zuiker says some 60 million Americans actively feed birds all four seasons. “It’s a beautiful hobby,” he says.

Zuiker is careful not to run down the competition, but those inexpensive bags of birdseed at grocery and hardware stores are not the stock he’s carrying.

“They sell it so cheaply, I don’t see how they can make a profit on it,” he says. “But it won’t be fresh, it won’t be good quality seed. A 20-pound bag might have 70 percent cereal grain in it which the birds don’t actually eat. They’ll kick it to the ground.

“And it’s very possible it’s been sitting on the shelf for months, which, because there is larvae in it, it could produce bugs.

“Or it could have very few seeds that only a few species will eat and not the kind people are trying to attract to their backyards.”

In Arlington, that would be cardinals, chickadees, titmice, winter wrens, English sparrows, goldfinches, blue jays, doves — “a lot of color, a lot of songs in your backyard,” he says–or any of the six species of woodpeckers that inhabit the area.

A different bag of bird food, when used strategically, will bring in the migrating birds. Zuiker says there are some 10 to 20 species of those who swoop in for a snack before headed home.

Zuiker and his staff make sure customers have the seed and the feeders they need to accomplish their goals, and in Arlington and Falls Church, which are famously leafy neighborhoods, it’s not hard to do. But it has to be done right.

“You can put a feeder out and have birds on it within an hour,” he says. “But we tell our customers to give it a couple of weeks to really get going because the birds don’t recognize it as a food source right off the bat.”

Then there’s the squirrel challenge. “Everybody has a squirrel challenge,” he says, “but we can make any feeder in our store 100 percent squirrel-proof if you set it up correctly.”

Unsure about squirrels, feeders, seeds and the difference between a tufted titmouse and a white-breasted nuthatch? Just ask.

“I train my staff really hard to be real educators,” says Zuiker. “We want people to walk out the door with their solution for what they want in their backyards, and we try to educate them on the different ways they can do that. And it’s fun!”

Still fun, after 26 years?

“I never get tired of listening to the birds, I never get tired of feeding the birds and I never get tired of going out into the woods and exploring,” Zuiker says.

“But what really motivates me is, I don’t think I’ve maxed out [the customer base]. I don’t think it’s reached its potential. And I’m not interested in growing just to grow, but to help the staff and help other people–I’m still motivated by that.”

And not to mention helping the wild birds.

Wild Birds Unlimited is in the Lee Harrison Shopping Center at 2437 N. Harrison Street, Arlington. Call 703-241-3988 or email at [email protected].

The preceding business profile was written by Buzz McClain for our sponsor, Wild Birds Unlimited.

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