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Work began yesterday (Wednesday) on the long-delayed Ballston Beaver Pond remediation project — but no busy beavers will be involved.

The $4.2 million, 18-month project approved by the County Board this summer will retrofit the pond, originally built in 1980 to collect stormwater runoff from I-66. Today, sediment in the pond prevents detention, and it instead has become home to abundant wildlife, including beavers, according to a county report.

The project, expected to wrap up in July 2023, aims to improve stormwater retention and the wildlife habitat by restoring native plant species and adding habitat features. There will be a new observation platform with educational signage, seating and a reconstructed trail with bike racks.

Arlington County says the new two-acre wetland area will provide stormwater treatment to 460 acres of land in the Lubber Run watershed, and “is among the County’s most effective opportunities to achieve its water quality objectives and meet its regulatory requirements.”

This month, the construction contractor will be setting up the site, county project manager Aileen Winquist tells ARLnow. Excavation will begin next year.

“From now until the end of the year, neighbors will see the contractor bringing in equipment and setting up the boundaries of the construction area,” she said. “In the new year, neighbors will begin to see dump trucks full of sediment removed from the pond leaving the site.”

Public access will be limited as well. The grass area within the park will be off-limits, as it will be used for construction. A bike and pedestrian detour will reroute trail users from Washington Blvd to the Custis Trail and along the south side of the pond.

The detour will be in place for the entirety of construction, Winquist says.

A bicycle detour around the Ballston Beaver Pond construction project (via Arlington County)

The project is divided into a few phases, as work can only occur on one half of the pond at a time, Winquist said.

First, workers will remove sediment from and re-grade a half of the pond while removing invasive plants.

After the second half of the pond receives the same treatment, construction will begin on a new observation platform, trail upgrades, native species planting and new habitat features, including basking stations for turtles, she said.

The project is a long time in coming.

After community engagement in 2011-12, the project was paused in 2013 until the necessary easements were obtained from property owners. A redesigned project with new permits went to the public in January 2019, but “COVID-19 and related budget concerns” again delayed the project, the report says.

Still, those nearby welcome the pond redo, according to the report.

“The community continues to be very supportive of the project and it is highly anticipated by Ballston area residents and businesses,” it said.

But once beaver baffles are installed to discourage these critters from returning — and damming the pond again, which could compromise water quality — the wetland area will need a new name.

“This beautiful natural area needs a name that fits its unique space,” says Department of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Martha Holland.

Next year, the county plans to ask the community for name ideas and provide an opportunity to comment on a list of potential names.

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Morning Notes

Kadera Concerned By Test Score Drop — “Give Democratic School Board endorsee Mary Kadera credit for recognizing the elephant in the room. At the Sept. 8 Arlington Committee of 100 campaign forum, Kadera acknowledged the massive drops in scores on state Standards of Learning exams (SOLs) as Arlington students were locked at home over the past school year. And, she said, steps need to be taken to get back on track.” [Sun Gazette]

Ruthie’s Makes National ‘Gem’ List — Arlington Heights restaurant Ruthie’s All Day has made “OpenTable’s 100 Best Neighborhood Gems in America for 2021” list. The southern-inspired restaurant will soon be celebrating its one-year anniversary. [OpenTable, Restaurant News]

Metal Grid Near Airport Explained — “Fencing in part of Roaches Run near Reagan National Airport is designed to protect native plants put in by the National Park Service. The enclosures keep carp and turtles from nibbling on cattails, willows and alders.” [Washington Post]

Flickr pool photo by Michael McCullough

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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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A fleet of drones will take to the skies above Arlington next month in an effort to figure out how many deer call the county home.

The drones will be piloted by a firm contracted by the county and overseen by Arlington County police. Normally, drone flights this close to D.C. are strictly prohibited, but Arlington is being granted special permission by the Federal Aviation Administration and other federal agencies. The county is also coordinating with Reagan National Airport.

The drones will look for heat signatures in the woods in order to develop a count of Arlington’s white-tailed deer. This will be “the first accurate measure of Arlington’s deer population,” the county says, noting that “only anecdotal data… currently exists.”

The dones will be launched just before sunrise on Monday, April 5 and the count will continue until just after sunset, for up to two weeks.

The county is careful to note that the drones will only be looking for deer and will “not identify people.”

More from a county press release, below.

Arlington County has hired a contractor to perform a drone survey of heat signatures of the County’s white-tailed deer population. The survey information will assist with the development of the County’s Forestry and Natural Resources Plan. The survey will only collect heat signatures of deer and does not identify people.

“We’ve all seen deer in the County at one time or another,” said Alonso Abugattas, the County’s Natural Resource Manager. “We’d like more than just anecdotal evidence. We want to clearly see how many and where they are so we can mindfully steward our natural resources.”

Thermal and infrared imagery has helped improve counting by relating animals’ unique heat and visibility signatures to precisely count only deer. In one study, it was shown that Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), commonly referred to as drones, can be about 43-96% more accurate than ground or human-made observations in counting wildlife. Montgomery County, MD, has conducted UAV deer surveys in locations throughout Montgomery to determine carrying capacity.

The drones will be flying over Arlington beginning a half hour before sunrise April 5 (weather permitting) each day until 30 minutes after sunset, until the survey is completed. They will not be flying at night. The survey could take up to two weeks but is weather dependent. Drones are not permitted to fly over Arlington except for very limited instances. Arlington has coordinated the project with US Department of Homeland Security, Federal Aviation Association (FAA), Transportation Security Administration, Ronald Reagan National Airport, and Arlington County Police Department (ACPD). In accordance with FAA guidelines, ACPD will be onsite monitoring the drone flights.

This will be the first accurate measure of Arlington’s deer population. Only anecdotal data on Arlington currently exists. By 1900, white-tailed deer population had been destroyed in most of Virginia. Through the 1940’s to 1980’s with restocking efforts, laws protecting deer and favorable habitat, deer have rebounded at an exponential rate in Virginia.

Accurate data will determine Arlington’s deer carrying capacity. Deer are important and a necessary aspect of wildlife with important wildlife functions when in balance with the surrounding habitat. Per the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, the carrying capacity for deer can vary widely between and within communities. Data from the surveys will help determine Arlington’s carrying capacity.

Photo via Arlington County

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Morning Notes

Beyer: Trump Must Be Removed — Rep. Don Beyer: “Donald Trump is a danger to our democracy. I continue to support his impeachment and removal from office, and am looking carefully at new articles of impeachment being drafted and offered by my colleagues… Congress must ensure Trump’s removal from office by the swiftest and surest method available: confirmation of the American people’s will as expressed in the 2020 election.” [Press Release]

Bishop: ‘Saddened and Appalled’ — From Bishop Michael Burbidge, of the Arlington Diocese: “Today, I was saddened and appalled to see the violence at the US Capitol that disrupted a constitutional process. I ask all people to pray for unity and healing in our nation. May God bless and protect this great country and grant us the peace for which we long.” [Twitter]

Northam: ‘Virginia Will Be There’ — Gov. Ralph Northam: “I continue to pray for the safety of every member of the House and Senate, all the staff, the journalists, everyone who works in the Capitol. And I commend the Virginia National Guard and Virginia State Police for quickly stepping up in this time of great need. Let me be clear: Virginia will be there for as long as it takes to protect our nation’s capital and ensure the peaceful transfer of power.” [Gov. Ralph Northam]

Lopez Discussed Capitol Chaos on BBC — Del. Alfonso Lopez appeared on BBC’s Newsnight, discussing the insurrectionists who stormed the U.S. Capitol: “This is an extreme group that have bought into the misinformation from the Trump family,” he said. [Twitter]

State to Speed Up Vaccinations — “Governor Ralph Northam today announced new actions to support the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution program and accelerate the pace of vaccinations across Virginia.” [Gov. Ralph Northam]

Now for Something Completely Different — “About this time yesterday I posted a video of an Arlington fox playing with dog toys — I’m just gonna re-post now for anyone who needs a break from today’s news cycle.” [Twitter]

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Morning Notes

Local Dog Adoption Demand is High — “Kim Williams, who volunteers for the Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation of Arlington, Virginia, has tapped into a puppy pipeline of sorts to bring some of Georgia’s homeless pet population to the mid-Atlantic region where they are bombarded by requests for dogs to adopt.” [WMAZ]

American Reducing Service at DCA — “American Airlines is discontinuing service to more than 20 destinations from Reagan National Airport in January, according to new data reported by the Official Airline Guide. Cities and/or airports dropped range from major (New York-JFK; Las Vegas; St. Louis; Minneapolis-St. Paul) to smaller (Jackson, Miss.; Manchester, N.H.; Greensboro, N.C.). Many were served just once or twice per day.” [InsideNova]

Land Transfer May Speed Bridge Project — “Interesting: NPS is ‘supportive’ of conveying four acres of parkland to VA and DC to construct the Long Bridge(s), rather than just permitting. That would likely speed design and construction, and could result in a ped/bike span that doesn’t compromise as much on width and lighting in order to conform to NPS interests.” [@CarFreeHQ2/Twitter]

Local Wildlife Caught on Camera — “Arlington resident Levi Novey and his wife Alicia have captured footage documenting quite an array of critters passing through their yard via a fence that Levi has dubbed a ‘wildlife superhighway…’ So far their fence camera has photographed foxes, raccoons, mice, housecats, chipmunks, and lots of birds and possums.” [WJLA]

Redistricting Commission Applications Open — “Beginning Monday, Virginians will have a month to apply for one of eight public seats on the state’s new redistricting commission, which has begun its work with a panel of retired judges setting out plans for the application process.” [Washington Post]

Stormy Day Today — “Get ready for a wild weather finish to November. A strong storm system develops and moves through… bringing a mix of hazards to our area in a short time frame, capped off by the potential for strong to possibly severe storms Monday afternoon. No specific warnings or advisories have been issued, but expect a good soaking of one to two-plus inches of rain (and some wild temperature swings).” [Capital Weather Gang, Twitter]

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An especially bold deer with unique markings was seen going for a morning run in Arlington’s Williamsburg neighborhood today.

A reader sent the above video, taken at the intersection of Williamsburg Blvd and N. Ohio Street, wondering what the heck is going on with the “cow deer” that was galavanting around the neighborhood.

We steered that question to Alonso Abugattas, Arlington’s Natural Resources Manager — the expert in all things wildlife in the county.

“This is a piebald buck,” Abugattas explained. “As it’s the rut season, this buck is looking for does in estrus, and so is taking a lot of chances he would not normally do, often resulting in this being when the most road kills happen and car accidents involving deer happen.”

In other words, the deer has a recessive genetic trait that causes the cow-like spots, and was literally going buck wild looking for a mate.

That may answer the videographer’s question, but the takeaway for drivers is to remain alert on the roads this time of year, even in Arlington. You never know when a hyped-up deer will cross your path.

Video courtesy Joe Blackburn

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Morning Notes

It’s Veterans Day — Today is Veterans Day, and as a result of the holiday government offices are closed and metered parking is not being enforced. Per the county, Arlington is currently home to about 13,000 veterans. [Arlington County]

Trump Scheduled for Cemetery Visit –“To mark Veterans Day… President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will visit Arlington National Cemetery. The President will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown [Soldier],” according to CBS News producer Sara Cook. [Twitter, Washington Examiner]

Man Exposes Himself a Block from Police HQ — “At approximately 12:05 p.m. on November 9, police were dispatched to the late report of an exposure. Upon arrival, it was determined that approximately an hour prior, the female victim was inside her parked vehicle when she observed the suspect expose himself. Arriving officers located the suspect and took him into custody without incident.” [ACPD]

From Record Warmth to Heavy Rain — Tuesday “set new daily record highs at the three major climate-observing locations in the Washington-Baltimore region. Washington reached 76 degrees, tying a record set in 1999.” Meanwhile, heavy rain is expected later today. [Capital Weather Gang]

County Updating Natural Resources Plan — “Arlington County is updating its Forestry and Natural Resources Plan to conserve, plant, and maintain wildlife there. Over the next year, the project team will be collecting comments from the public about the county’s conservation and maintenance. The county hosted its first public comment session on Tuesday.” [WDVM]

About Today — ARLnow will be publishing on a limited schedule today due to the holiday.

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Coyotes have been known to roam around Arlington, but sightings of the bashful wild canines are relatively rare.

Nonetheless, a coyote is causing a stir in the Fairlington area after being spotted multiple times around the neighborhood, according to posts on a local Facebook group.

The Animal Welfare League of Arlington, which runs the county’s animal control operation, says it’s aware of the coyote sightings. The animal’s behavior, however, is so far not sounding any alarm bells.

“[We] received three calls from the public yesterday about a coyote spotted behind Abington Elementary School,” AWLA spokeswoman Chelsea Jones told ARLnow last night. “All the calls reported the coyote was exhibiting normal behavior, and by the time [an animal control officer] arrived the coyote was gone.”

“Coyotes do live in Arlington County, although sighting are typically rare,” Jones said. “They pose no threat to humans. We do, as always, recommend keeping your pets inside when not supervised, for this, and many other reasons.”

The last time we reported on an instance of a coyote spotted out in the open in Arlington was five years ago, when one was photographed along Washington Blvd.

“These animals learn to live next to humans and not mess with humans,” Arlington Natural Resource Manager Alonso Abugattas told ARLnow.com in 2014. “There have been cases, however, where feral cats and loose dogs, coyotes will occasionally eat a smaller dog, both as a competitor and as prey. Cats are considered prey as well. That’s the only way that they might affect the public.”

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(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) A bear was spotted near Bishop O’Connell High School this morning.

Social media posts on Reddit, Facebook, Twitter and Nextdoor have residents buzzing over the bear encounter in Arlington’s East Falls Church neighborhood.

The bear was spotted in the private high school’s parking lot by a construction crew, around 6:30 a.m., as seen in the photo above. It was later spotted around 7 a.m. closer to I-66.

“All the neighbors in the area saw it,” one poster said. “The workers saw it too.”

The Animal Welfare League of Arlington confirmed to ARLnow that its animal control unit responded to the area but was unable to locate the bear.

“Arlington County Animal Control was promptly alerted as was the Arlington County Police Department, Virginia State Conservation Officers, the Arlington County Natural Resource Manager, and Fairfax County Animal Protection Police,” AWLA said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

“The bear appeared to be a yearling male… Animal Control quickly responded and monitored the area but was unable to locate the bear and there was no property damage,” the statement continued. “The bear did not approach any people, pets, or residences and quickly left the area. If a resident ever sees a bear we ask that they keep a large distance and immediately report to Animal Control at 703-931-9241. Animal Control is continuing to monitor the area to ensure the bear has moved on.”

Alonso Abugattas, Arlington County Natural Resource Manager, also released a statement.

Bears, especially young males, travel away from their families and often, as they don’t know as much as older bears, into new areas that perhaps are not ideal for them. They are shy and almost always try to get away from people, would like for you to leave them alone as well. Eventually they either find their way back to more wild settings or are helped to get there. They are almost always not a danger and just would like to be left alone. If you find one, just calmly report it. If you know they’re around you, don’t leave trash cans, pet food, and bird feeders around that may attract them. This is not an uncommon occurrence as bear numbers have really built up. For example, there are 4 bears this calendar year that have been seen in Fairfax.

A bear was spotted in the Reston area two weeks ago, our sister site Reston Now reported.

It’s not uncommon to spot bears this time of year as they wander into residential areas in search of food,” Reston Now write. “County officials say that bears may be drawn into populated areas because of the smell of food. Other things that attract bears include garbage, compost piles, fruit trees, beehives and berry-producing shrubs.”

Photos courtesy Animal Welfare League of Arlington

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(Updated at 10:45 a.m.) The G.O.A.T. Sports Bar in Clarendon will be hosting a fundraiser to help animals affected by the recent, devastating wildfires in Australia next week.

The event will kick off at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, February 11, and run through closing. Entrance to the event will cost $10, which includes two drink tickets. The proceeds will go to Animals Australia, an animal protection nonprofit.

“Animals Australia is providing resources and support to expert veterinarians and caretakers tending to needs of affected wildlife,” the sports bar said in a press release.

The sports bar and lounge is located at 3028 Wilson Blvd, across from the Clarendon Metro station.

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