61°Partly Cloudy

by ARLnow.com Sponsor April 13, 2018 at 11:45 am 0

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.

The maestro is ready. Resplendent in his red garment, he mounts the stage. The arena is respectfully still and quiet. The maestro sings his 8 note song to get the attention of the musicians.

Slowly, the musicians awaken and test out their vocal instruments. There are long, slow base notes. There are high pitched notes. There are repetitive notes. There are melodic notes.

The musicians begin to interact and the notes and songs begin to intertwine to become a symphony of grand proportions. When you think another layer could not be offered, the percussion comes in and anchors the performance.

You have been to this performance. It is FREE!

You know the orchestra. It is right in your neighborhood. The performances are every day. Right at the break of dawn.

The magic of Spring (when and if the darn wind would ever stop) is the magnificent orchestra of the wild bird’s dawn symphony. Any small patch of woods, shrubs and landscaping will give you a performance of 15-20 different songbirds each calling out their signatures notes.

The cardinal is the maestro, always seemingly the first to awaken the day. Its two to three second call — birdie, birdie, birdie or cheer, cheer, cheer is very easily distinguishable.

The American Robin cheer-up, cherrio is also fast and repetitive. The Carolina Wren tea-kettle, tea-kettle, tea-kettle, tea has a fast and distinctive rhythm. Listen for the Carolina Chickadee asking for a cheeseburger. But don’t give him one! They prefer seeds, nuts and bugs.

Most yards can easily contain an orchestra of 20-30 different bird species, all with the unique calls. Add to that the percussion of Five woodpecker species banging on trees, telephone poles and metal exhaust vents on your house, and your rock and roll band is grooving.

What makes this even more exciting is that every Spring, guest artists migrate up from the south to join the band. These are Neo-Tropical birds migrating north from their Winter home in the tropics. Many Warbler species, Thrushes, Vireos and other singers can visit your yard.

Being mostly insect eaters, the best way to see them is to offer water. Dripping or misting water is always the best option to attract birds to a bird bath.

Their visit may be short; but their songs and distinct colors are breathtaking. Offering bark butter bits, fruit or dishes of mealworms is another sure way to get these migrating beauties in your yard singing a happy tune.

Customers have been coming in praising the songs of Grosbeaks, Cedar Waxwings and Chipping Sparrows. Stop in and fill up on these specialty foods and tell us about the amazing birds you are seeing this Spring.

Northern Virginia-check out these great birding spots for Spring. (more…)

by ARLnow.com Sponsor March 30, 2018 at 12:45 pm 0

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.

We walk straight up. Looking straight ahead to insure we do not walk into buildings, fast moving trains and dinosaurs. Or, at least we did. These days, some of us would never know the dinosaur was on us until it was too late.

Yet, this is a great time to look Up, Down and All Around. Because Spring is finally here! And with it, an abundance of exciting things Up, Down and All Around. Not only in our backyards but in our parks, on the lakes, in the rivers and in the sky.

Many birds are coming up into this area with their normal migration. Many can be seen in our yards. Many can be seen in state and local parks. Many birds can be seen just walking along the Georgetown waterfront.

With the southerly flow of warm air, many migrant birds such as warblers, thrushes and other insect eating birds will be moving into our area. Many are small and hard to see. But you can begin to hear their many songs, especially in the quiet of the morning.

Experiment with different foods in your feeders, especially insect — live or dried — to attract some of these birds.

Also, start to clean your birdbaths and if you have a dripper or mister, set that up. Running water is a fantastic way to attract the insect eating birds. And every other bird in your yard.

So, shed some of the layers you have been dragging around for the last 4 months and flex your muscles as the weather warms. Put your phones in your pockets. Take to the woods, parks and fields.

Look Up, Down and All Around!

by ARLnow.com Sponsor March 16, 2018 at 11:45 am 0


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.

Two weeks ago, I talked about how more and more of Nature’s natural wardrobe is being removed by human actions. I discussed the impact it had on the birds and their challenge to find food and shelter.

Well, just after that, Mother Nature showed us how to really shake things up and walloped us with a WIND storm for the ages. I hope that everyone is safe and no one sustained any injuries. That was scary.

But what of the birds?  Where did they go? How did they survive? How many lost homes or potential homes with so many downed trees and broken limbs?  They did survive. Although my instincts tell me some did perish during the storm. But these tiny birds are very resilient.

Before the storm, every morning at 5:45, a Cardinal sang an eight–note song near my bedroom window. “Siri” did not have to wake me up for work! Then the yard would be silent until six o clock when the bird would start to sing.

So you can imagine my surprise when at 5:45 in the morning, when the winds were howling at 60 miles per hour, the eight-note song came on at exactly 5:45.  How, I wondered, could it survive out there when I was up all night scared to death in my house? And what of the simple wakeup call? How and why would that bird do that in the storm?

My answer would be that it needs to keep to its internal rhythm to make it through the day. The bird made it through Spring hatching and fledging.  It made it through the heat and drought of Summer. It made it through the cold and dark of Winter. Now it was time to herald in the light and love of Spring and the bird needed to test its songs.

I was up all night; but I gladly welcomed my familiar song; even if it was only for eight notes. I will have to research why this bird only sang eight notes and then did not sing another note for 15 minutes.

Nature does not take any rest. The world keeps spinning around, the sun and moon define the seasons with their visit every day. So too bird’s cycles go on. Weather patterns do not slow that down. Sure, a late Winter Nor-Easter can cause undue stress on all species. But migration, breeding and raising young must continue. All the birds are continuing to look for homes to raise their young.

You can be a vital key to their survival by keeping out those bird feeders filled with seed. Having a birdbath ready to bathe and drink from. Putting up nest boxes to watch them feed and raise their young. Chickadees, Nuthatches, Woodpeckers, Titmouse and Bluebirds are some of the more common cavity nesting birds. Robins, Cardinals and Mourning Doves do not used this type of box. Robins and Doves will make nests on Nesting perch boxes.

If you already own a nest box, GREAT! If it’s looking a bit shabby it might be time for a new one. There are a few things to look for in a nest box, not all are the same. (more…)

by ARLnow.com Sponsor March 2, 2018 at 1:45 pm 0

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. (more…)

by ARLnow.com Sponsor February 16, 2018 at 11:45 am 0

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.

Wait? What? It is only February 16. What are you talking about? There is no April Fools in Winter.

But you can easily be fooled in Winter. When the thermometer skyrockets into the 70’s and short sleeved men and women whack little balls on the golf course. It’s easy to see how you can be fooled. In February in Winter. When Cardinals start their melodic songs before the first light of dawn and brown lawns show signs of sprouting new garden flowers, it is easy to be fooled. In February in Winter. When outdoor seating is filled to capacity in cafes and coffee shops and the brisk walk of Winter has slowed to a leisurely pace, it is easy to be fooled in February in Winter.

Oh, and don’t look now, but our temps are going to drop by 48 degrees in the next day, so no Winter is not over. Even if the cold and snow do not come back, all of your backyard birds are still in need of foods that you have been providing. While we are snuggling in front of the fireplace watching the Olympics, they are hanging on — literally — the branches and shrubs at night staying warm.

They can only do that if they are sufficiently filled in their stomachs, with high fat foods. Suet and tree nuts are two great sources of fat that your birds need. The nights are still longer than the days. Your chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers and all the other wild birds need to eat a lot. Also, those early morning love songs are not for our pleasure.

Although who cannot be enthralled when those songs come floating down the street into your yard. Birds are beginning to stake their claim for breeding territory and to attract mates. You know how hard it was to race around town to get those flowers and chocolates! Well the birds have to stand out also or they will be left out in the cold. This requires a lot of energy to set up a breeding territory, attract a mate; fight for that mate; mate; and then with success, feed the mate and offspring.

That is were your feeders are invaluable. Multiple sources of high fat foods and foods with protein will help the songs in your backyard multiply. And multiply they will. Many of our birds will start breeding in the middle of March. By the middle of April there will be a tremendous amount of new activity flying around your yard.

Sadly, many species of birds are in a decline. After watching 250 robins eat every berry off many large holly trees in the last month you would think they are doing well. That is not the case for this iconic bird of our yards. It is in decline. Installing and monitoring their nest boxes can help this bird try to recover and build a healthy population. (more…)

by ARLnow.com Sponsor February 2, 2018 at 11:45 am 0

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.

So, your mom wanted you to be a doctor or a lawyer. Well how about a scientist. Well you can be. We all can be!

How can I do that you ask? I am only eight years old. You can become a scientist for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology by participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC).

Each year, for the past 21 years, the Cornell Lab has been recruiting volunteer scientist to help them study the wild birds all over the world. All you need is a pen, a piece of paper and internet access, and you can help them with this study. You will need to set up an account at http://gbbc.birdcount.org.

This year the GBBC takes place from February 16-19. It’s as easy as 1-2-3.

  1. Find a comfy spot, grab some snacks and hang out for 15 minutes. Have a pen and paper ready and jot down what species you are seeing. You can sit and hang out longer if you like, just keep track of how long you recorded the birds.
  2. Keep a tally of the birds you see, if there is a large flock just try for your best estimate. Make sure to account for gender.
  3. Finally hop online and enter your data. Voila! You are a scientist.

You don’t have a feeder you say? No problem. You can also go out hiking or just walk your local neighborhood and keep a tally that way too. Or better yet stop on in and we will get you started on the best hobby ever.

There is no better way to start your “Year of the Bird” like helping out and being a scientist. In 2017, Great Backyard Bird Count participants in more than 100 countries counted more than 6,200 species of birds on more than 180,000 checklists.

Why do we count the birds? Scientists keep track of the birds with our help to answer many questions. How will their migration this year differ from last years? How will weather and climate change affect the bird population? Why do large numbers of winter finches show up one year but not the next?

While you are on the GBBC site, check out their tab marked “Explore Data.” Under this tab you can check out other peoples check list, who knows maybe your neighbor three blocks over has a bird different from you. You can also watch the map for live updates, and there is a tab where you can search for sounds.

Are you a skilled photographer? You can enter the 2018 photo contest located on the home page of their site. There are gifts for the winners: a squirrel proof feeder and a finch feeder are just two of the great prizes you can win!

We hope you will help the Cornell Lab this February and count the birds. We look forward to helping you find the perfect set up for your yard. Stop in our store and you can get a FREE one-pound bag of our No-Mess seed blend with any purchase.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor January 19, 2018 at 11:45 am 0

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.

It is not a movie. It is not a Hallmark special event. It is simply the “Year of the Bird”. All Birds.  Any bird. But not simply a year.  It is a recognition; an awareness that birds, which dominate most of the planet, are an incredibly diverse, beautiful and important living species.  A recognition that will be observed all year long.

Four great organizations — National Geographic Society, Audubon Society, Cornell Lab of Orinthology, Birdlife International — will be embarking on a yearlong effort, dedicated to celebrating and protecting birds and their habitats.  

What exactly is Year of the Bird?  That is a good question. Throughout the year, all four of these organizations, along with more than 100 other participating organizations, will be celebrating birds while raising awareness about their troubles. These organizations are calling on you to “Bird Your World”, by discovering why your backyard is an important jigsaw piece to an entire continent.

Birds are so easily dismissed.  How can that be?  Well first of all, no one looks up into the sky anymore.  Or straight ahead for that matter.  But that is where they are! There are over 10,000 species of birds on the planet. They fly.  That is reason enough to take notice. One minute they are here. Then they are gone.  But they are not gone.  

They fill our world with a musical symphony of songs.  They stimulate our eyes with majestic colors.  They confound us with aerial flights that seem impossible against the earth’s gravity.  They help control the vast insect populations.  They reseed plants from one yard to another; from one block to another; from one town to another.  

The raptor species, of birds, helps keep in check the mice, moles and other vermin in yards, parks and city alleys.  They also help cull the small bird populations that sometimes becomes overcrowded and stressed in our small ecosystems where we live.

Birds use a lot of their energy helping our planet thrive. They are the behind the scenes workers, constantly out in the rain, sleet, cold, and hot summers. They don’t ask for anything in return, but wouldn’t it be nice if they didn’t have to?

By putting up birdfeeders in your yard full of sunflower seeds, suet pellets, mealworms, and so much more, you can help them survive all of these elements. A birdbath filled with warm clean water, or cold clean water is another way to say thanks to your feathered friends. Water is an essential part of a birds’ survival any time of the year.

This year, we will focus on bringing the lives of birds into your life. We will do this with our bi-weekly blog. We will do this with live talks in our store.  We will do this by highlighting the great organizations that are promoting and educating us on the health of all birds.

Here is a link for the National Geographic Society that will get you started into this great yearlong event. Click on the count me in button to become part of the worldwide effort to protecting birds today and for the next hundred years.

Next issue we will continue to discuss the efforts and effects your feeding has on the birds in the Winter months. We will also help you become involved in the Great Backyard Bird Count, Feb. 16 through 19, which our CEO Jim Carpenter helped to create and in which all 300 plus Wild Birds Unlimited stores sponsor and support.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor January 5, 2018 at 2:45 pm 0

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.

We all have our theories. Most of them are based on facts and our emotional connection to those facts. But what happens when those emotions skewer those facts? Then a theory or feeling or philosophy can misdirect people who may not be as knowledgeable to the actual facts.

So, this year, my goal will be to share with you as much factual knowledge I have about the hobby of backyard bird feeding. For 26 years, my store Wild Birds Unlimited, has been bringing people and nature together through the hobby of bird feeding.

For 35 years, our CEO, Jim Carpenter, has been bringing people and nature together with over 300 stores in the country. His vast knowledge has led him to write the definitive book on this hobby — “The Joy of Bird Feeding.” With the information in this book and other scientific studies, we will explain what does and what does not happen in your backyards.

With that said, Mother Nature has a really good sense of humor and will shake things up just for kicks. So, if I tell you Nyjer/Thistle seed is really only for the Goldfinches, you can bet someone will have a Cardinal on their feeder eating thistle. So, I teach my staff and tell my customers there are absolutely no absolutes when it comes to the laws of nature.

One of the most common questions that is posed to me is, “do the birds need us?” My first gut reaction would be to say, “if we were not here, they would not need us.” They would be fine. But we are here and we — humans — have radically altered their environment. Birds do not go to the grocery store to get food. But we cut down their trees, dig up their shrubs, filled in their streams and built a store.

So, where is their food? It is broken and scattered and eliminated from their habitat. With that analysis, I would say, yes, the wild birds do need us. All the time? Not likely. The birds are always foraging for food. But to supplement what they can and cannot find, they come to the feeding stations that we put up. (more…)

by ARLnow.com Sponsor December 22, 2017 at 11:55 am 0

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.

We have just ended the darkest day of the year. With it comes the longest night. In our region of the country, this night comes with cold temperatures. And who is sitting out in the dark on cold nights like this? Cardinals, chickadees, woodpeckers, titmouse and many other species. To make it through the night, there are two very important things these birds need. They need water and high fat foods.

Why water you say? It is cold. Why would they want water? All birds need water during the entire year. Winter is extremely critical time to provide water for the birds to bathe and drink. I am sure you have noticed that we have been extremely dry for the past three months. So many natural areas of water have dried up or are very low. Many of us have turned off our outside water faucets. Gardens and lawns are dry and gone to seed. So, very little moisture is retained in these areas. Yet the birds need to find sources of water to bathe and drink every day.

Bird baths, especially in Winter months becomes a magnet for many species of birds. Birds that may not frequent the bird feeders, will come to the bird baths. Filling up the bath every day is critical. Cleaning the bath is also very important. This is especially true if the bath is used heavily by many different birds. You should not see much mildew or algae on the bath. But a strong brittle brush will help knock off any bird droppings that may accumulate on the edges.

The biggest challenge may be trying to monitor the temperature swings that occur this time of year. A small amount of water in the bath, over the course of a 10-12 hour night of freezing temperatures, will freeze up rock hard. One of the best ways to prevent that is to use a thermostatically controlled bird bath heater. These heaters are set to turn on when the water temperature goes below 34-35 degrees. The small amount of current will prevent the water from forming ice. If the temperature starts to rise during the day, the heater will turn off and not use electricity. There are also some good bird baths that have the heating element built into the bath. A simple outdoor extension chord from the house to the bath gives your birds a sauna for the Winter. (more…)

by ARLnow.com Sponsor December 8, 2017 at 11:45 am 0

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.

Every Fall, many customers come into my store and ask me what is the matter with the birds. They tell me they do not see them in their yards or at their feeders. They have become concerned that maybe there is some disease that has reduced the number of birds.

If you are new to feeding the birds, it is alarming to all of a sudden see the birds almost disappear. At best the birds only intermittently come to the feeders. And yet this is a perfectly normal event that occurs in the Fall. Some people think the birds have all migrated. Most of our backyards birds do not migrate. We lose the hummingbirds and warblers and some robins (although they seem to be staying around all winter now. We also receive a lot of Winter visitors like Juncos, White Throated Sparrows and Purple Finches. They will be in very large flocks usually bouncing around the ground and on platform feeders, picking up millet, sunflower chips and peanut pieces.

When Fall comes, the bounty of natural food is exploding. In our yards and gardens, in parks, in the forests, in meadows and even in the median area of our highways; there is an abundance of food. Flowers produce seeds. Shrubs and bushes produce fruit. Trees produce nuts such as acorns. And the wild birds in our yards notice and take advantage of the bounty. With all of the different sources of food to choose from, our feeders are visited less often.

That does not mean they are not coming to your feeders. But it will take a little longer for the food to be eaten. It is important to keep the food fresh. It is never a good idea to let the food stay more than a couple of weeks in the feeder if the birds have not been visiting.

But this phenomenon always occurs in the early part of Fall. For the past two months, the natural food has been eaten down. Days are getting shorter.   Nights are getting longer and colder. The birds in your area are eating more to survive.

Twenty-five years ago, I heard someone describe wild birds as flying furnaces. That description has always stayed me and I use it often to help customers visualize the challenges of birds in the wild. They need to fill up their stomachs with enough food to burn off and stay warm throughout the ten, eleven or twelve-hour nights. The more fat, in the form of nuts and suet’s, the more calories the birds can pack in and burn off at night. The longer the night, the colder the night, the harsher the night in the form of ice, snow, wind — the more birds will need the fat to survive. (more…)

by ARLnow.com Sponsor November 10, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

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.

Thank You.

When I first started my Wild Birds Unlimited retail store twenty-six years ago, I was scared. My knowledge in the hobby of backyard bird feeding was very limited. I had two weeks training, a store full of feeders, bird food, birdbaths, books and other products for the hobbyists. But how was I going to answer the customers questions and solve their challenges when it came to attracting their favorite birds? How large would the learning curve be before I was comfortable and very secure in my answers to my customers? Little did I know that my teachers were going to be my customers.

You see, for twenty- six years, as I have been bringing people and nature together, my customers have been bringing me their stories of their backyard habitats. They have been educating me. They have been entertaining me. They have been challenging me. Like the guy who came in one Saturday morning and wanted to attract Blue Cardinals to his backyard.

After roaming this planet for 40 years I did know a few things. One there are no Blue Cardinals in Arlington, Virginia. Two, tailgate parties on Saturday mornings in the Fall start early. Three, Budweiser has a distinctive smell when someone has swigged down six of them for breakfast. So, I did not learn much from that guy.

But I learned from the customers that they have many different needs and desires when it comes to their backyards and birds. I learned that there are many favorite birds in my customers yards. That they will do anything to attract and feed them. That customers feed their birds at all times of the year. That there are year-round bird feeding hobbyists. That some customers feed only nine months out of the year.

When Spring comes, they put their feeders away. The belief is that the birds can fend for themselves. The reality of Spring is that the wild birds in our yards are very vulnerable because there is no “natural food” for them except insects. Were as most birds eat insects, that is not their only need. Most natural food goes to seed in the Fall. Then there is a bounty of food for the birds to choose from, including the restaurants (feeders) we have set up.

But in the Spring, plants that may provide food later are just beginning to grow. Add to that the stress of mating, building nests, and raising young birds and the birds are really hungry. This causes their need for food to increase. There are customers who want to just attract a limited variety of birds due to the size of their yards. There are customers who have a large habitat and invite any and all birds and animals to partake in their food pantry. (more…)

by ARLnow.com Sponsor October 27, 2017 at 12:30 pm 0

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 is a very big change happening in Arlington. It has been going on now for some time. No, I am not talking about the transformation of the Metro corridor, which has been happening for the past 25 years. Where the sleepy two, lane road of Wilson Boulevard is now surrounded by concrete giants and teeming with thousands of human beings. Human beings, living in village like communities, filled with shops, restaurants and entertainment, enjoying their lives.

The change that I am seeing, from my vantage point of my Wild Birds Unlimited retail store in north Arlington, is the migration of urban families to more suburban locations and lifestyles. Yes, it is only three miles away, but it could be a totally different planet. By moving out of the high rise apartments, condominiums and densely packed townhouses to the breath of fresh air single family home with a yard, a new world awaits.

A world of Nature. Nature in the form of open space. OK, we are not talking about Wyoming wide open spaces where the deer and the antelope play! Although deer do come with the real estate taxes. But there is flora; flowers, shrubs, huge trees for shade and life in the form of birds. There are easily thirty to forty different species of birds, who can filter through your yard during the four seasons. To sing, to build nests, to create families and to entertain with their forms, colors and antics.

So, as I watch the reduction of my long time (26 years in the Lee Harrison Shopping Center) customer base to the new young families, I ask myself — Do They Know?

Do they know the incredible peace and joy in partaking of the hobby of feeding birds in their new back and front yards? Do they know of the incredible bonding that happens when they engage their young children about the wonders of Nature? Do they know of the incredible color and diversity of birds that live in the tree canopies and in the shrubs and forage for seed, fruit, nuts and insects that call their home, home? (more…)

by ARLnow.com Sponsor October 13, 2017 at 12:15 pm 0

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.

You have been testing out different bird food and have discovered who is visiting your yard and what they prefer. The second step to Bird Feeding mastery in your yard really is a twofold process.

By using the appropriate food, in good quality feeders, you will have created a joyful experience that will last for many years. There will also be challenges that you will face when feeding your birds — shall we say it — SQUIRRELS! Yet, there will also be many opportunities to find better solutions to feed the birds you want and not the ones you do not.

You can offer a number of different blends and seeds as long as you give the Cardinal a good space to perch. They are not comfortable on small metal perches usually found on tube feeders. Hopper feeder with a large base, tray feeders and certain types of squirrel proof feeders with Cardinal rings and perches are perfect.

If you found that the cardinals ate multiple seeds, you can use a quality blend with most of the seeds in it. The good seed blends will almost always have Black Oil sunflower seed as the most dominant food in the bag. Safflower, striped sunflower, sunflower chips and peanut meats are in most quality blends.

Never purchase a bag of “bird food” if the ingredients include milo, wheat, flax and grain products. These are all filler seeds that the birds will not eat. The cost of the bag may be much less, but much more of the food will be thrown to the ground and not eaten.

If you were visited in your yard by Blue Jays, a strikingly large color bird with a bad guy reputation, you can give them their own feeder. Whole Peanuts or Peanuts in the Shell are one of the best foods to attract this bird.

A whole peanut feeder will keep them busy and help to keep them from visiting other feeders and intimidating the smaller birds. Do not be surprised if Titmice, Woodpeckers and even the small Carolina Wren sneak in a grab a large peanut in the shell.

Many yards have goldfinches visiting them. If you were successful in attracting them, more than likely you used a Nyjer or Thistle feeder. There are very few birds that will eat the thistle. Giving the Goldfinch its own feeder also works to keep them in the yard and reduce the stress of competition.

Surprisingly, what has been discovered over the last ten years is that the Goldfinches really like the sunflower chips (sunflower seeds shelled leaving the pure food). It is not unusual to see them mingling with the other birds to grab a chip. (more…)

by ARLnow.com Sponsor September 29, 2017 at 12:15 pm 0

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.

It is not rocket science. But it is a science. The science of nature and how the hobby of backyard bird feeding impacts the beautiful birds we see. Jim Carpenter, the President of the Wild Birds Unlimited franchise stores, has spent his lifetime passionately watching, studying and enjoying the wild birds.

His forty years of experience and knowledge gave him the foundation in which to write his book “The Joy of Bird Feeding.” Mr. Carpenter has developed a strategy which he calls “The Five Steps to Bird Feeding Mastery.” For the next three months, we will analyze in detail these five steps. They are:

  1. Offering feeder — free foods to discover what works
  2. Continue feeding the foods that work
  3. Consider the 12 elements of a thoughtful feeding station
  4. Improve your bird habitat to attract more birds
  5. Become seasonally savvy

Within each of these steps, we will attempt to guide you to be able to attract the greatest variety of birds in your habitat. We will also share with you all types of helpful practices to eliminate any potential critter issues. We will be giving you names of birds that are common and some who are spectacularly short time visitor’s.

We will also share stories from the 26 years we have been helping to bring people and nature together in their own backyards through our products and services from our Wild Birds Unlimited store.

When we are talking about the hobby of bird feeding, it is important to remember we are immersing ourselves into the natural world. So, anything we do or offer to the wild birds in their habitat will be more successful the more natural we keep it. There may be exceptions; but the closer we keep to that strategy, the better it is for the birds.

The best way to do this is to offer food in feeder-free set up. Large open trays allow you to provide multiple foods that many different birds can find.   Open, food cylinders type feeders are very visible to the birds. Backyard birds find their food by sight. Placing food on open tray or food cylinders (they can be seed, nuts, insects or a combination of all the above), will give the birds the best opportunity to see and sample the foods.

There are many types of trays you can purchase, from small wood trays to large recycled plastic trays. Place different types of bird food on the tray. Sunflower seeds are the most popular bird food. Black Oil sunflower, sunflower kernels and safflower are a good start. Add proso millet, peanut meats and tree nuts, fats (suet or suet nuggets) and fruits.

You can create a buffet using blends of seeds. This may make it a little harder to see what seeds the birds are eating if they are searching and flicking seeds out looking for the one they want. Remember, keep it natural. You can eat the toasted sesame bagel with cream cheese. But don’t put it on the tray. Processed food with baking ingredients is not healthy for the birds.

If you offer the equal amounts of each food every day on the tray, you can compare what is left and quickly determine how much the birds like each food. Keep notes on who shows up and how often for 3-4 weeks. You can use this information to guide you for as long as you feed birds in your area.

(more…)

by ARLnow.com Sponsor September 15, 2017 at 2:45 pm 0

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.

As Halloween approaches, many people are taking time to learn about one of the holiday’s well-known icons and one of nature’s most misunderstood creatures: bats.

A lot of people do not understand the useful role bats play in helping control insect populations. Most of the myths about bats have created such fear that the topic of bat conservation is rarely discussed.

They do not drive around in fancy cars and have really cool, destructive gadgets. They also don’t have super hero friends. Although humans if they change some of their bad habits, could be those superheroes.

They do not fly into your hair. More than likely they fly near you when you are outside because you are attracting flying insects- which they love. On average one bat can consume 600 to 1,000 insects an hour. Over the course of the night, that would equate to 6,000-8,000 flying insects including mosquitos. They also eat coach roaches, beetles and flies.

Bats have vision, but it is very limited. They navigate at night and find their prey through a process call “Echolocation.” Think of it as a sophisticated type of sonar. Echolocation uses sound waves to determine where objects are in space. Bats use this to navigate and find food in the dark.

To echolocate, bats send out sounds waves from their mouth or nose.   When these sound waves hit an object, such as an insect, they produce echoes. The bats follow those echoes for a tasty meal. Some species of insects have developed a false echo that when emitted, will misdirect the bat and allow the insect to escape.

Bats are the only flying mammal on the planet. Air Force-funded projects have been created to learn how the wing motion and structure work on these mammals in an effort to create better flying machines.

There are 16 different species of bats in Virginia. Three of these species of bats, Virginia Big-Eared, Gray and Indiana are federally endangered. The Rafinesque’s bat is state endangered. The Big Brown Bat, Evening Bat and Little Brown Bat are three common species you could see at night. These three are the most likely to take up residence in a building.

If a bat is found indoors with people, the VA Department of Health recommends capturing the bat and having it tested for rabies. While less than half of 1 percent of all bats actually carry rabies, this is a time of caution. If you must handle the bat in any way, heavy gloves should be worn. But it would be better to contact a professional to help with the safe removal of the bat.

In recent years, significant populations of several hibernating bat species have declined. The cause of death is connected to Geomyces destructans, a cold temperature-loving white fungus, commonly known as White-nose Syndrome (WNS). Little Brown and Northern Long-eared Bats appear to be the species hardest hit.

WNS has been reported in 19 states in the U.S. and four Canadian provinces. It is believed that infected bats are depleting their fat reserves more quickly during hibernation, awaking more often and/or for longer periods of time. The fungus spreads across the wings causing scarring and, in the worst case, complete holes.

Secondarily, the fungus agitates the bats during hibernation causing them to wake thus expending energy. With no food source to be had during the winter, bats must rely on their fat reserves to make it through. The smallest species are most at risk because they simply are not large enough to store enough fat to last the winter.

What can be done to help? The Organization for Bat Conservation (OBC) suggests building or buying a bat box to provide roosting sites. They also suggest planting moth-attracting wildflowers to give bats an additional food source. Also, leave up dead or dying trees, as long as it is safe, to provide bats with natural shelters.

The OBC, in conjunction with Wild Birds Unlimited, has developed a bat box that meets OBC specifications and provides the features that successfully attract bats. In addition, a portion of the sales from each OBC bat box goes to OBC for bat research, rescue and public education.

These are truly amazing and beneficial creatures. The more people know about bats, the less frightening they are. If you have questions about bats, bat conservation and/or attracting bats to your yard, visit Wild Birds Unlimited, in your area.

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