Atlantic Shores Retirees Shelter Wayward Wildlife

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55 and Better Neighborhood Rescues Creatures Living in Community, and Serves as Wildlife Refuge During Recent Hurricanes

Red Wing Lake at Atlantic Shores

We're always on the lookout for animals that might need our help

Things are wild at Atlantic Shores in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The 100-acre campus, located just one mile from the Atlantic Ocean shoreline, is providing a coastal refuge for a wide range of wildlife, including wayward Arctic seabirds recently washed inland by a hurricane.

Residents and staff are coming together to provide habitat, and rescue trapped or injured animals to set them free -- including the recent rescue of a Canadian Goose, which eagle-eyed residents called in as acting strangely. Atlantic Shores’ ground crew researched and contacted a local wild goose rescue organization, which came out to capture and transport the bird to local rehabilitation center. After determining it may have been poisoned, the bird was sent off to Roanoke, Virginia for specialized care.

Other rescues have been conducted directly by the community’s staff, including foxes that have been trapped in holes. According to Atlantic Shores Supervisor of Grounds, Dave Myers, “We’re always on the lookout for animals that might need our help. Our goal is to live in harmony with nature. Raccoons also sometimes climb into community dumpsters and can’t get out. So our crew stacks logs or boards to create a bridge for them. Sometimes a whole family comes climbing out, which is pretty cute.”

Other creatures are not so cute, but are given a gentle catch and release treatment, including Banded Kingsnakes, Eastern Hognoses, and Red Bellied Watersnakes. All are wrangled using a special “snake stick” and moved off the property in 55-gallon containment drums.

With it’s waterfront location on Red Wing Lake, surrounding woods, and extensive lawns and gardens, Atlantic Shores is also a natural bird habitat, ranging from songbirds to birds of prey. Ospreys are a common sight, as are a local flock of eight bald eagles, which conduct raptor training with their young over the lake.

The community also has many residents who are active bird watchers, including resident Jeanie
Drescher, a degreed biologist and ornithologist. After a major storm, she spotted several non-native Red-necked Phalarope, which only breed in the arctic, and quickly called other area ornithologists to view the rare birds at Atlantic Shores before they moved on.

Residents create shelter for their featured friends by building Bluebird, Purple Martin and Wood Duck houses in the community’s woodshop. Staff helps set up the birdhouses around the campus, with everyone in the community eagerly awaiting the hatchlings each year.

Atlantic Shores also carefully manages natural resources in order to preserve habitat -- especially Red Wing Lake, which is the natural highlight of the community. After storms, staff and residents come together to clean up debris along the lakeshore, and regularly work with City of Virginia Beach to conduct extensive clean-ups of the entire lake, including removing sunken tires and trash. In addition to benefiting wildlife, including playful otters, residents also enjoy the clear water, by sailboarding, kayaking and catch-and-release fishing.

Atlantic Shores also uses organic fertilizers for two of the three fertilizer applications applied each year, all based on soil analysis. The community is a working under an optional Certified Nutrient Management Plan issued by the State of Virginia, to protect waterways and grow turf properly, including planting buffers to help reduce turf bank erosion and run-off.

Special Butterfly Bushes and select flowers are planted throughout the neighborhood to attract both birds and bees, and spot clover treatments are timed to reduce impact on Honey Bees.

The community’s Victory Garden also benefits from the bees. Started as a small plot in 1998, the garden has bloomed into a fertile way to satisfy the urge to get into nature, and bond with fellow gardeners. Residents sign up for a plot each year, and let their creativity and tastes dictate what they plant. And while wildlife is encouraged elsewhere on the campus, a resin alligator stands guard to keep crows from nibbling the tomatoes.

Produce from the Victory Garden helps complete the circle of life in the community. Excess items from abundant crops are shared at the concierge desk, and some even make their way into specialty dishes created by Atlantic Shores’ chefs. And once the resin alligator is put away for the season, the birds finally get their all-you-can-eat feast.

To explore more about Atlantic Shores, visit http://www.atlanticshoresliving.

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Beth Pursley
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