Wednesday, April 17th, 2024

Wild Birds Unlimited Story


Trish and Brandon Lohman help others strengthen their connection to birds and wildlife

by Candance Moore

Brandon and Trish Lohman of Wild Birds Unlimited

Brandon and Trish Lohman of Wild Birds Unlimited

Every day across Hampton Roads, thousands of dramatic scenes play out right under our noses. Fortunes are stolen, lovers are lost, miscreants are chased, hard lessons are learned, and new friendships are formed. It's the fascinating world of backyard wildlife-those adorable critters who scamper and flutter by our porches just out of human reach. Their world may be small, but it's rich in beauty and intrigue that humans can tap into.

For the past six years, Trish and Brandon Lohman have led the area's premier urban wildlife retailer-Wild Birds Unlimited. From accommodations for the tiniest beneficial bugs to the goods that attract and nurture larger species, the store has something for just about any feathered or furry friend. With one visit to Wild Birds Unlimited, even diehard suburbanites and city dwellers can discover ways to bring a little wildlife into their lives.

"We serve customers of all ages and backgrounds," Trish notes. "Some want to see butterflies and hummingbirds visit a balcony patio. Others want to turn a flowerbed into a diverse ecosystem. Many parents want to teach their children to appreciate animals. The great thing about backyard wildlife is its flexibility; there are options to attract specific species."

Food, of course, remains the most effective way of getting an animal's attention, and it's the starting point for most beginners. Wild Birds Unlimited works with local suppliers to curate high-quality species-specific foods that nourish the animals most likely to be present. No filler, no useless seeds that sprout weeds, and no one-size-fits-all recipe. Want to attract a few cardinals but not blackbirds? There's a seed for that. Want to help squirrels that are looking lean in winter?

There's a seed for that too.

The team at Wild Birds is highly educated on the cultivation and maintenance of a feeding routine. Beginners who visit the store can get advice on the best location for a feeder, what kinds of species are likely to drop by, and how long it takes to establish a hangout.

After putting a feeder in place, humans can watch as little or as much as they please. Some people simply have an altruistic wish to make food plentiful, and that's fine with the animals. Others, through the hobby of animal watching, can come to learn distinct patterns in wildlife behavior. It's also an immensely healthy activity for isolated or disabled people, and it's a great source of free entertainment for anyone with a bit of time on their hands.

Brandon and Trish discovered the hobby while homeschooling their three children. Trish, an educator, began to treat the family property as a classroom, explaining the complex mechanisms of an interconnected ecosystem. The family enjoyed it so much that it grew into a part-time endeavor. Family connections brought the Lohmans to Hampton Roads in 2015. As luck would have it, the area's Wild Birds Unlimited franchise was looking for a buyer. Trish and Brandon knew they had found their calling.

"We all have the power
to make a difference.
Right in our own yards are
dozens of animal species
we could help preserve."
                                     -Trish Lohman

Trish and Brandon Lohman, with Sales Associate Anne McDaniel with the store mascot Newt the cat

Trish and Brandon Lohman, with Sales Associate Anne McDaniel with the store mascot Newt the cat

Chesapeake's Greenbrier location, a well-known landmark, recently moved into a larger space in the same parking lot, now next to Bed Bath and Beyond. Then there's a Hilltop location in Virginia Beach and a new store in Suffolk. Stores offer seed, supplies, hobby gear, and decorative wildlife gift items. Outside the store are feeders that offer quite a show. A visit to a store is the best way for a beginning nature watcher to get ideas.

The Lohmans are still educators at heart who now get to teach hundreds of wildlife lovers. To visit Wild Birds Unlimited is to walk through a gateway of knowledge: exhibitions, training sessions, rehab presentations, and informative books are available on site. Brandon, daughter Madison, and son Tyler are all part of a warm, engaging atmosphere where customers are encouraged to ask questions.

Customers are surprised to find a rescue cat as part of the team. Since the stores don't sell live animals, there's nothing for a cat to hunt, and it's another way for the Lohmans to benefit an animal population. With a chuckle, Trish reveals how the cats even contribute to the store: they are excellent ambassadors on animal safety and wildlife preservation. Dogs, cats, and other in-home pets have their place on a property with wildlife, as long as certain boundaries are set. The Wild Birds team can offer tips on keeping every creature safe. Should a customer encounter an injured animal in the wild, the store connects with local rehabilitation organizations. The idea is to turn one's property into a safe haven where animals are looked after with minimal intrusion.

If a customer decides to stick with a particular seed product, online ordering for routine refill is a popular option. Online orders can be filled through in-store pickup, curbside service, or home delivery, but the staff encourages an in-person visit for education before setting up a new project.

For customers looking to expand beyond a bird feeder, Wild Birds carries an extensive line of supplemental products. Stepped birdbaths can multitask as a bee and butterfly watering hole. Pollination housing allows helpful insects to safely breed on location. This results in higher pollination and more fertilization for healthier plants. Meanwhile, the bugs bring the lizards, the lizards bring the hawks, and soon a robust ecosystem revolves around a flower garden.

Such results are possible even in suburban areas. As Brandon explains, it may take time for wildlife to brave unfamiliar human traffic, but once they've learned that humans are harmless, they go about their business.

"Individuals often feel powerless about issues in the environment, but the truth is, we all have the power to make a difference," Trish remarks. "Right in our own yards are dozens of animal species we could help preserve. With a few simple tools and affordable, high-quality feed, the wildlife on a property can remarkably improve. Then imagine if homes throughout a neighborhood were all doing this. We could make our towns more beautiful-and more interesting-for generations to come."

Wild Birds Unlimited

Greenbrier Market Center
Chesapeake, 23320