Archive for the ‘Birding’ Category

DUCK BREAKFAST A LA CARTE’

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

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This is a true Eastern Shore duck tale, not a tall Eastern Shore duck tale.  But “breakfasting with friends” took on a whole new meaning for me down at the Bayford crab shacks in Nassawadox, VA recently. I had left home at first light, hoping to shoot a few photos of  some colorful puffy clouds reflecting over the confluence of the Chesapeake Bay and the Nassawadox Creek inlet at Bayford.  

But once I got there, what really ended up captivating me was a duck breakfast.  (Very different than breakfast atDSC_0735 Duck Donuts for those in Duck, NC  and Virginia Beach, who are addicted to those fabulous treats).  Dawn was just breaking as I pulled in. As it grew lighter, I noticed 2 ducks paddling steadily up the inlet towards the boat ramp. Arriving, they proceeded to walk directly up the ramp and onto the land, totally ignoring me.  They waddled, quack-quacking,  over to an old pier adjacent to the ramp in what I initially thought was just random meandering. But immediately 2 additional ducks popped up to greet them from a large crevice by the dock pilings, which apparently are a duck version of Air B’nB accommodations, emphasis on the “air”, as in very open air!

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 Then the 4 of them, like the group of old buddies they were, immediately turned back around, waddled down the ramp and straight into the water. These old  friends of a feather swam leisurely over to a nearby dock offering plenty of mud and barnacle-encrusted pilings and began to nibble around them, devouring what I assume was their idea of a delicious meal, probably bristle worm ceviche, served with a mud aioli and finished with chiffonade of eel grass.  Duck Breakfast a’ la carte!   Thereafter the sunrise, with soft pink glows, huge billowy clouds, vivid water reflections, everything I had come to see and photograph. Voila’, full daylight and off to my people breakfast.  Thankfully, no worms, mud or eel grass on that menu!

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“Fire”, A Female Cooper’s Hawk, Was The Hit Of The 21st Annual Eastern Shore of Virgina Birding & Wildlife Festival

Monday, November 25th, 2013
Image of Eastern Shore flyway

Eastern Shore Virginia bird migration flyway

Every year during the first week of October, thousands of bird lovers gather on the Eastern Shore of Virginia for the annual Birding Festival.  Hosted by the Eastern Shore of Virginia Festivals, Inc, a local non-profit, we recently celebrated the 21st annual Birding and Wildlife Festival.  Coinciding each year with the annual fall bird migrations,  the Festival is a celebration of the amazing variety and quantity of bird life found here on Virginia’s  Eastern Shore, especially at the Shore’s beautiful Southern Tip.  Since the land mass of the DelMarVa  (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia) peninsula, of which the Virginia portion is the southern terminus, is widest at the northern section and narrows gradually as one moves south,  it acts almost like a funnel.  The bountiful tip of  Virginia’s Eastern Shore,  just south of Cape Charles, VA where the land ends as the  Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay converge,  is a bird-friendly area offering lots of food, water and protective vegetation becomes the natural  “layover”  point for  millions of migrating feathered friends as they travel south along the Atlantic Flyway. 

Eastern Shore Virginia Barrier Island chain

Eastern Shore Barrier Island chain, part of the Virginia Coast Reserve

So what better location to hold a Festival to see and learn about a whole variety of birds than the special place where they stop to rest and feed before beginning a  journey over open waters ?   Having spent a summer nesting and parenting,  munching on gourmet goodies like seeds,worms and insects, just generally loafing around and yuking it up in the temperate climate of the East Coast of North America, the Birding Festival takes place during the peak migration period.  Migration is dangerous, a  journey from which  is estimated that nearly half  will not survive to return to breed in the Spring because of  the  predators encountered en route and the hazards of  a long, energy-demanding flight over  lengthy stretches of open waters.  Since the Chesapeake Bay is a large physical barrier,  it is especially important that natural habitat offering plentiful food and cover be available at the tip of the Shore to provide for refueling and protection from predators as the birds  rest for a day or two before  departing on the next leg of their journey.  This makes it especially important on the Eastern Shore for individual landowners and conservation groups to make sure that the trees, shrubs and grasses which  provide the critical seeds and berries needed by the birds are maintained . Towards this end, several large farm parcels  located in this very critical rest corridor have been purchased by The Nature Conservancy for the express purpose of trying to maintain vegetative cover for bird habitat. And The Nature Conservancy has also been very active in preserving other critical  bird life areas on the Eastern Shore including  acquisition of  the famed “Virginia Coast Reserve“, the off-shore Virginia Barrier Islands chain, now designated as a United Nations Biosphere,  purchased by the Conservancy to protect them from development and to maintain crucial wildlife habitat.

Kids petting a skunk at eastern Shore VA birding festival

Petting A De-perfumed Skunk At The Eastern Shore Virginia Birding Festival

Fire, A Harris Hawk, Munching On A Her Raw Chicken Reward

Fire, A Trained Harris Hawk, Munches On Her Reward For A Demonstration Well Performed

The Festival includes a central Exhibitor’s Hall in Cape Charles, a forum for conservation groups and private firms to provide information on their programs. Once again the exhibits by the Virginia Living Museum were a big hit, especially the de-perfumed skunk which the kids had great fun petting.  But some of  the really fun stuff  involved a few special programs and the amazing variety of  unique field trips.  Which brings us to the beautiful  Harris Hawk  named Fire.  She is the big star of  an amazing show featuring  various raptors  in flight, called, duh, the Flight of the Raptor.  Started in 1995 by Master Falconer Ray Pena,  this fascinating demonstration includes numerous hawks and peregrine falcons who have been trained to catch a lure in mid-air and bring it to ground,  just as they would in the wild.  Apparently for nearly four thousand years  raptors have been trained by man to help  hunt for food, especially rabbit and pheasant.  During the show, Fire and other hawks are released and freely fly to any nearby perch— in Fire’s case,  to the top of a Bay Coast Railroad locomotive.   The falconer then twirls a feathered or fur lure in circles over his head, the hawk circles overhead and then dives for the lure, bringing  it dramatically to ground.  Ray gets the hawk to release the prey to him and rewards it with a bit of raw chicken,  Fire’s favorite treat. ( By the way, hawks eat everything from their catches —  feathers,  fur, bones, the whole nine yards, which help satisfy the mineral requirements in their diets. )  The substantial crowd which had gathered for this demonstration was pretty amazed to see how, when these hawks are released from their perches, they fly off to a nearby tree or whatever, watch for the lure, dive for it and then let the falconer take it away from them.   

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Banding songbirds at Kiptopeake State Park

Bird Banding At Kiptopeake State Park During The 2013 Eastern Shore VA Birding Festival

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Aerial View of the Oyster, VA Harbor, Departure Location For Several Birding Festival Boat Tours

All kinds of interesting field trips are available for attendee  participation — ranging from bird banding demos, hikes,  boat tours and workshops, there is something for everybody.   The bird banding is fascinating and the  hikes are a big favorite, especially the  Eyre Hall Hike over 600 acres of diverse habitat along Cherrystone Creek.  Here hikers will see mature forests, freshwater marshes and ponds, open saltwater beaches and tidal flats as well as open farm fields.  Bird watchers are invited by the owner to tour the famous gardens associated with Eyre Hall’s  circa 1760 home.  The  Owl Prowl Sounds of the Night outings at the Virginia National Wildlife Refuge and the Kiptopeake State Park are also lots of fun and  good opportunities to experience nocturnal wildlife activity.  Captain Buddy Vaughan’s Cobb Bay Boat Excursion leaving out of  Oyster village harbor is an exciting way to see a barrier island beach and view numerous shorebirds including oystercatchers, whimbrels, sandpipers and terns. For attendees hoping to see clapper rails saltmarsh sparrows and maybe even a Delmarva fox squirrel, Capt. Rick Kellam’s Broadwater Bay Ecotours out of Willis Wharf  offered a boat tour of the pristine Machipongo River, a seaside saltwater inlet from the Atlantic Ocean.  Popular workshops included the Butterfly Walk and the Dragonfly Workshop &  Field Trip.  Another interesting boat trip, sponsored by the Virginia Dept. of Environmental Quality, was the Sea Grasses and Oyster Reefs Boat Trip.  Also departing out of  Oyster village, this trip traveled to the nearby sites of the US’s largest and most comprehensive  aquatic grass restoration project,  a $6,000,000 investment by Virginia Coastal Zone Management to support shellfish farming and ecotourism.  Something for everyone is the promise of  each Birding Festival and it truly delivers on that promise. 

 

 

 

 

Contemporary Eastern Shore Virginia Waterfront Home On Dramatic Point For Sale

Saturday, June 22nd, 2013
Aerial view of contemporary Eastern Shore VA waterfront home near Jamesville VA

Aerial view of this lovely waterfront home on the Virginia Eastern Shore

The very first thing you notice coming up the driveway of this like-new contemporary-feel Chesapeake Bay area waterfront home for sale near Jamesville, VA on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, is the water itself.  Located on the very high banks of a dramatic waterfront point and boasting  water on three sides, it offers the great beauty of having  blue saltwater all around you.  Three bedroom, three bath, this lovely home was custom- designed for this unique property and nestles contentedly into the woods, blending seamlessly into its surroundings, looking for all the world as though it just grew naturally up from the land instead of being the result of meticulous planing and construction.

Jamesville VA contemporary Eastern Shore home for sale  great room views

Light filled great room with walls of windows and dramatic stone fireplace

Once inside,  you are immediately struck by how all the glass just brings the outdoors right on in. The spacious 2 story foyer offers immediate views through the hallway and the great room right out to the waters beyond, azure points and silver sparkles dancing in the sun, peeking through the trees. This truly is a lovely home, filled with natural light, with an open, airy floor plan, the kind of home that just feels relaxing and natural, comfortable in its own skin so to speak, where it would be easy to be inspired every day by the beauty of the landscape. Because creating a casual and comfortable coastal lifestyle were key requirements when designing this home, instead of  a traditional formal living room and dining room configuration, a great room as created, with walls of windows and sliding doors out to the wraparound deck  organized into two distinct conversation areas.  The first overlooks the eastern side of the deck  and offers  glimpses of  the inlet as it curves around as well as the backyard boat dock.   Oriented towards the full-wall length hearth and fireplace,  the second conversation  area is oriented towards the  point itself and the gorgeous long views of the broad blue waters that lead out to the Chesapeake Bay.

The kitchen,  well-equipped and sporting white counters and cupboards which contrast nicely with the earth-tone terra cotta floor tiles, offers a great work triangle for whipping up a favorite meal.  A little breakfast nook nestles into one corner of the kitchen, offering views of  shimmering  water  through the trees.  ( If you love birds, this home is truly a birdwatcher’s delight– in summer you’ll see lots of herons,egrets  and other wading birds,  ducks, geese and loons in the winter and  dozens of  varieties of  tiny songbirds warbling cheerfully from spring to fall, especially during migration seasons.)  Lots of  kitchen storage space for dishes, cookware, etc.  plus a large pantry for spices and food items as well as a little wet bar area  all  make entertaining in this home an absolute snap.  The window package in the kitchen is as well thought-out as those in the rest of the home, a full wall of windows fills the kitchen  with soft natural light throughout the day, opening  easily to be able to take advantage of  cool breezes off the water all season long.

View of dock at Jamesville VA waterfront boating home

The sturdy backyard dock offers plenty of room for your boat and all your other water toys

A large  workshop area adjacent to the 2 car garage has plenty of room for all your special projects plus extra storage space as well.  And if a boat and kayaks are your main water toys, you’ll be well prepared to enjoy them.  A  large, sturdy backyard dock provides ample room for a good-sized power boat and kayaks too.  It’s just a short cruise down the inlet to access the Chesapeake Bay and some of its prime fishing and crabbing grounds are nearby. This time of year, as the waters in the Bay have warmed,  the fish are running,  the big fish chasing the little fish and the whole cycle begins once more, fertile grounds for this season’s  myriad fishing yarns about ” the big one that got away.”  So, all in all, this home is great  opportunity to own a home where everyday you can soak in that coastal feeling of leisurely living, in  your very own castle,  right at the water’s edge, on Virginia’s truly gorgeous Eastern Shore.

( Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134 Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo,VA. )

Living Life On The Water On The Eastern Shore Of Virginia

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

In my efforts to let folks who are considering buying property on the Eastern Shore of  Virginia know what  living  here  would be like,  I sometimes think I write too much about the many “Happenings”  and the wide variety in  the myriad of  things to do here  and not enough about the simple pleasures of  daily life at home here on the Shore. We  are very lucky to live  on a beautiful waterfront parcel near  the town of Nassawadox, VA, named for one of the Shore’s  Native American tribes, long since vanished.  And one of my cherished treats on beautiful days when I won’t be going into the office is to have my morning coffee out on our screened porch or the adjacent back deck, both overlooking the clear blue waters of  a wide, pristine saltwater inlet from the Chesapeake Bay. ( On days when I’m going into the office I don’t even try to relax outside, instead I start getting geared up for another long day of  everything but the kitchen sink.)

Bradford Pear tree in our backyard

Our Bird Sheltering, Shade Producing Bradford Pear Tree Standing Proudly Between The House And The Woods

This morning, sitting on the porch very early, coffee mug in hand, the sun coming up over the tops of the trees in the orchard and just beginning to illuminate the now  huge Bradford Pears  in the backyard,  the thought occurred to me that it probably is hard to truly understand how relaxing and peaceful it really is to live on the water, to be able to just  sit and gaze at the ripples along the channel, listening to the sounds of Nature, watching the birds get a start on the day.  ( We have a number of bird feeders in both the back yard where we can enjoy them from the porch and also in the front yard, hanging from a magnolia tree,  easily viewed from what I lovingly call ” the library” but which is  a very large south-facing room with an entire wall of windows overlooking the expanse of front yard lawn and flower beds.  Over-stuffed with not only two walls of book shelves,  crammed with a lifetime collection of  books, but also two desks with adjustable office chairs, two comfy Lazy Boy loungers, a stereo system plus a billion and counting compilation of cd’s & dvd’s.  It’s a veritable paradise for two,  filled with  things we love.)  As I look out now into the backyard, a  pair of cardinals and a couple of fat  doves are pecking at seeds on the ground which have dropped out of  the feeder, two tiny yellow finches are flitting between the feeder and the pear tree, trying to eat and keep safe too,  and a pesky squirrel is trying to decide what to do, munch off what’s fallen on the ground from the feeder or attempt to shinny up the pole to get to the serious goodies !  Out on the inlet, an early morning waterman checking his crab pots has startled a large blue heron which gives a loud squawk-squawk-squawk as it skims over the water, searching  for a more promising breakfast venue further down the  shoreline.

View of the water from our deck

Views Of The Water From Our Deck

When we first bought this house, there were two small Bradford  Pear trees that the original owner had planted about 150 feet apart in the middle of  the large expanse of lawn between the house and the woodline along the water.  It seemed to me that the trees marred the view of the water from the porch and deck  and I wanted to have them cut down but my husband loved them and convinced me to wait a year to see if I still wanted to have them removed.  Well, that was quite a few years ago and the Bradfords are still there,  bigger and taller now than most Bradfords  ever normally grow.  But what I came  to realize over the course of that very first year was that those trees don’t interfer with the view, they are a part of the view.  Miss Charlotte, our first Newfie,  loved to sit under the one to the left of the porch, relaxing in the shade of  its branches,  scanning the woods along the water for signs of rabbits or squirrels, maybe even a deer,  ready to instantly  jump up and futilely chase.  Now she is resting forever  in the shade of that tree, her big floppy stuffed bunny buried with her for company.  Songbirds adore that tree because the large bird feeder hanging from a metal staff just outside the dripline  is so easy to reach from the safety of its leafy branches, they establish a sort of rhythm, eat for a few seconds, fly  into the tree and look around, then back to the  feeder, a careful ritual, repeated over and over by all sorts of sweet, tiny birds, singing  songs we love.  And although I know hawks have to eat too, when I see a soaring redtail  land in a high branch of a big oak or  a tall pine in the woods, I love knowing that the sweet little birds who come to our feeders are safely hidden among those Bradford leaves, the trees being too close to the house for hawks to comfortably venture near. I often think how much we would have missed had those trees been removed.  Thanks Hubby,  you were  so absolutely right.

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Cozy & Comfy– From A Cup Of Early Morning Coffee To A Glass Of Wine At Sunset, Our Screened Porch Is About My Favorite Place To Be

As I finish this post, after a coffee refill, the breeze is picking up, gently moving the  kitetails of the two wind chimes positioned on opposite ends of the deck, creating gentle music.  I love wind chimes and since  being on the water offers  breezes all season long,  our deck is ideal chime territory. It’s also home to a myriad of flower pots filled with bloomers of all kinds, this year mostly in  shades of lavender and pinks, including a gorgeous deep pink mandevilla,  although the big pot of red geraniums may be the most eye-catching.  Since we’ll be here  all day today, I’ll serve lunch out on the screened porch, on our little glass-topped rattan table for four.  I’m thinking cold roast chicken from last night, sliced thinly for sandwiches, bread and butter pickles,  maybe a glass of well  chilled Riesling,  a tiny piece of Kate’s Kupboard coconut pound cake, just  a sliver to satisfy the sweet tooth.  After lunch, maybe an hour or two with Dan Brown’s new book, Inferno, read stretched out in a big, comfy porch chair, totally relaxed, totally into Home Sweet Home on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, the house, the water, the birds, the butterflies, the  Newfies and squirrels still carefully eyeing each other, for today life is good.

( Posted by Marlene Cree, a licensed agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134  Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo,VA.)

 

Lovely Single Story Eastern Shore Waterfront Home With Contemporary Flair For Sale

Saturday, January 26th, 2013

On the Eastern Shore,  lovely Virginia  waterfront homes  near the Chesapeake Bay are not unusual but many of those  homes are of a traditional style and the majority of them are two story,  albeit many with total living on the first floor.  But for the  growing number of  folks looking for a waterfront home in Virginia who are absolutely set on  acquiring a single story  home, this new listing could be just perfect.  One of the features important to many of our clients when looking for a  waterfront home is being able to open the front door and say “wow”  as they look  from the foyer,  across the living area and are immediately treated to a glorious view of  the water– this home gets a  ten- out- of- ten on that score  !

A few years ago,  this lovely 3 bedroom,  3  bath home was renovated  with three goals in mind–    1) opening up the floor plan to have larger, light-filled rooms and   2) creating  water and nature views from every possible angle and  3) adding an additional, more spacious master bedroom suite.   Definite success on every goal !  Walls of windows frame scenes of the sparkling blue waters,  several new sets of sliding glass doors facilitate an easy flow between the indoors and the outdoors and the spacious new master suite also offers more privacy as it is located on the opposite side of the home from the guest bedrooms.   During renovation, the  kitchen, highlighted by custom cabinets and granite countertops,  and dining room were opened up and combined into the living room.  The resulting great room is simply spectacular !   A large skylight  centered  in the main living area was added,  offering defused natural light which spreads  throughout the  entire great room.  The fireplace adds additional cheer. Hardwood in the great room transitions seamlessly to custom terracotta tile in the sunroom.

Outside, lots of great nooks for entertaining a group or just a best friend.  Located on a gentle knoll overlooking a colorful saltwater inlet from the Chesapeake Bay, one of my fav outdoor spots on this property is a little landing on the path down to the dock and boathouse.  It’s a tiny landing, just big enough for two Adirondack chairs. But it’s so close to the water and offers such a tranquil feeling that you want to just sit and relax in those chairs forever !  In addition to this little landing,  there is also a attractive flagstone patio and full-house length deck with a cozy separate little portion of deck which wraps around to the new master suite.  So—  lots of places to enjoy the outdoors which is great because our very mild climate allows for lots of outdoor activities during most of the year.  Lots of mature landscaping and bird-friendly shrubs attract a variety of  songbirds year-round and of course blue heron and other wading birds stroll the shoreline,  keeping a sharp eye out for a quick fishy snack. For boaters,  a dock with  large boat lift.  The boathouse, which is a rarity here, offers plenty of kayak storage for that tremendously popular sport, both  facilitate easy access to the Chesapeake Bay which is literally just around the corner. And for those who love fishing, a  real fishing hot spot dubbed  “The Cell”  is quite close by.  For gardeners, a large garden area with lots of colorful plantings, a veggie bed,  birdhouses galore and a cute potting shed is enclosed by a white picket fence, a real oasis of  natural serenity.  

For anyone looking for a gorgeous waterfront home featuring an open floorplan, top of the line materials and great indoor-outdoor entertaining potential, this home could suit to a T.  Check it out on in the “Boating Properties” section of the Blue Heron Realty Co. website at  http://www.blueheronva.com/property.php?print=propid=1253       ( Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134 Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA )

On Resolute Wings- Celebrating Birds And Birding At The 19th Annual Birding Festival on The Eastern Shore of Virginia

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Eastern Shore Migration Paths

The importance of the Eastern Shore of Virginia as a feeding and rest area for migrating songbirds and raptors as they travel south down the Atlantic Flyway cannot be over estimated.  Because birds need to catch their breath,  rest up and chow down,   before flying over large spans of open water the beautiful southern tip of  the Virginia Eastern Shore  serves as  a Howard Johnson’s  for birds– pleasant motel plus 24 hour full service restaurant.  ( I know I’m dating myself here but as a child I loved  their fried clam strips and  awesome Indian pudding, not that anyone knows about Indian pudding anymore, and of course Howard Johnson’s has been gone for a thousand years. )  As the birds funnel down the ever-narrowing peninsula  by the thousands each fall,  flying south for the winter, flock after flock between September and November,  the habitate and food resources available in our southern tip, from Cape Charles south to the Bridge-Tunnel become critical to these birds,  life or death even.  And fortunately for these beautiful feathered creatures,  Kiptopeake State Park,  with its unique coastal habitate and ample food supply,  is ready and waiting for them.  And for over 30 years, long before it became a state park,  an important bird banding program has been on-going at Kiptopeake with over a quarter of a million birds banded in that time.

Examining And Measuring Songbirds Being Banded At Kiptopeake State Park

The bird banding program is so interesting, kids and adults alike are  just fascinated by the process.  Nets constructed of a nearly invisible mesh are placed at strategic points throught out the  Park’s wooded areas and then checked by volunteers every half hour or so.   Usually several birds have been caught in the net and these are carefully disentangled by the volunteers and the birds brought into the banding station for a careful examination.  The volunteers have data charts on which they measure and note such items are age, sex, fat, body molts, wing molts, skull size, etc., etc. for each bird that is banded.

Eastern Shore Butterfly Migration

And from the banding program and the interest of many groups including US Fish and Wildlife and the Virginia Department of Conservation and many individuals the concept of a Birding Festival was born and has been gaining strength ever since,  adding additional activities each year for Birding Festival attendees to enjoy.  In addition to all day demonstrations of Bird Banding and various Hawk Observatory programs at Kiptopeake Park,  this year some of the many other activites included  Butterfly Walks at both the Virginia National Wildlife Refuge and Kiptopeake Park, with the expectation of possibly seeing up to 60 + species of butterflies and skippers as they migrate  through,  several Owl Prowls during the evening hours at both the Refuge and the Park,  a Barrier Island Walk  at Fisherman’s Island, home to many waterfowl, shorebirds and wading birds,  A hike through the Savage Neck Dunes Preserve  which has a mile of  Chesapeake Bay shoreline as well as the highest dune on the Eastern Shore and a hike at Wise Point, a pine forest located at the very, very tip of the Shore.

The Popular “Touch and Feel” Tank From The Virginia Marine Science Museum

Water related activities included eco-tours by Broadwater Bay Ecotours leaving from both Willis Wharf and Watchapreague,  getting a duck’s eye view and exploration of our pristine seaside salt marshes, mud flats and open waters, look for seabirds and shorebirds. For kayak lovers there were three wonderful trips, the Cherrystone Creek Kayak trip and the Chatham Vineyard’s Kayak and Winery Tour to see wading birds, osprey, etc. and the Wildlife Refuge Kayak trip along the Virginia Inside Passage, home to osprey, plovers, egrets and herons among others. And this year, for the more adventurous, a Stand Up Paddleboard Trip from the Wildlife Refuge. Paddleboards are billed “as the coolest craft on the water”  and apparently are a great way to do birding, certainly sounds like a lot of fun.  For the less adventurous but also interested, a variety of exhibits and demonstrations take place at the Cape Charles Fire Station including a “touch and feel”  aquarium tank  exhibit from the Virginia Marine Science Museum,  perfect for kids of all ages.  In short, this Festival is a wonderful event for everyone  who is interested in having fun while celebrating birds and birding.  For  information on the upcoming 2012 Birding Festival  on Virginia’s  Eastern Shore,  keep updated by visiting    www.esvafestivals.com .

(Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134  Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA)

The Exciting Sights And Sounds To Be Savored When Crossing The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

A few  weeks ago,  David Kabler, broker for Blue Heron Realty Co.’s Cape Charles, VA branch office,  wrote an  interesting post about an unusual tour he and other members of the Cape Charles Coast Guard Auxillery were priviledged to be able to take of the inner workings of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel complex which connects the Eastern Shore to the Virginia Beach/Norfolk area of mainland Virginia.   Dave’s post was primarily about the interesting things the group learned about the history, construction and operation of this amazing structure, known far and wide as one of the great engineering marvels of the modern world.   Like Dave,  I too have traveled  “The Bridge”  countless times, on the old single lane span and the new double lane span,  in good weather and bad,  during the day and in the middle of the night,   “going across the Bay”,  the old Eastern Shore colloquialism,  a throw-back to the days when traveling  for several hours by ferry was the only way to cross these wide waters, a significant trip for sure.  People didn’t say they “were going to Virginia Beach”,  they said “I’m going across the Bay” and that native phrase is as alive and well today as it was 50 years ago.  I love traveling on this Bridge, for reasons too numerous to count, but let me give it a try.

My family and I have lived on the Eastern Shore of Virginia  for over 25 years.  We love it, wouldn’t want to live anywhere else,  we treasure the Shore’s beautiful lands, the relaxed pace of life,  its friendly people.  But I also love the shopping malls,  the numerous special events,  the art  institutions like Norfolk’s Chrysler Hall and Harrison Opera House as well as the numerous restaurants featuring cuisines from all over the world,  all  to be found less than an hour away  in Virginia Beach and Norfolk.  And then there are the  points further west but still within a 2-4 hour’s  drive of the Eastern Shore,  fabulous and historic cities  like  Williamsburg,  Richmond,  Charlottesville and Washington DC,  all of which  which we visit for one occasion or another at least several times a year.  In fact,  we  just got back from a week-end trip to D.C. and Richmond last month and are planning to make our annual fall   “apple trek”   to Carter’s  Mountain in Charlottesville later this month.   So the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel  is our easy, fast,  safe and truly beautiful connection from our splendid low-key, relaxed cocoon here on the Eastern Shore to the wider, faster, ultra busy-busy  world on the other side of the Chesapeake Bay, our tether to a metropolitan lifestyle but  “on-demand”,  our demand.   It’s  a lifeline from one set of  interests to another,  a  way we Eastern Shore residents  have found to have  our cake and eat it too,  a time machine,  enabling the traveler to emerge  smiling from one type of world into another —-  in less than an hour !

Not only does the Bridge allow the practical physical connection of our slender peninsula to the Mother Ship of mainland Virginia,  from an aesthetic point of view,  the Bridge itself  is a beautiful sight to see  and the sights and sounds of a trip on the Bridge are extraordinary.   The 17 mile crossing point is placed approximately where the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic  Ocean merge so it’s like traveling over a water wonderland,  seabirds  swooping and calling overhead,  flocks of pelicans skimming over the waves,  that little flock of cormorants usually perched on the railing outside the second tunnel or  what seem to be billions of chattering gulls, diving madly into the water to take advantage of a passing school of  menhaden.   In summer sometimes we’ ll be lucky enough to see a school of dolphins jumping — this area is the nursery ground for  the bottlenose dolphin.  The Eastern Shore is a critical part of the Atlantic Flyway and autumn brings sights of  large bands of migrating songbirds and raptors  swooping gaily through the skies or taking a break in the sanctuary of Fisherman’s Island ( seen  just as one gets on ( or off)  the main span ).  In winter we keep our eyes peeled for the small number of  humpback whales that  migrate through between December and March but  have never been fortunate  enough to see one,  still hoping though.

 

Large tankers traveling the Baltimore Channel on the horizon,  sailboats and power boats  crusing along, doing their fishing or crusing thing are a common but nevertheless, interesting sight.  Sometimes, if you’re lucky,  near the south tunnel you’ll see  one of the  destroyers  or a submarine, maybe even a huge hovercraft,  from Naval Station Norfolk,  one of the Navy’s largest  U.S. bases, traveling through the  open navigation channel for large ships at  Thimble Shoal Tunnel, the south tunnel.  Once we happened to be traveling on that section of the Bridge just as the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise  passed through,  deploying for the Middle East.  She is quite an impressive  sight.   And a couple of months ago,  for the first time ever,  I saw a helicopter carrier ship which had just passed  through the channel,  going east– I pulled over at the special viewing area on the tunnel’s 5 acre manmade  island to watch for a few minutes and saw flying out,  one by one,  to land on her deck,  about  8 helicopters, no doubt deploying to some faraway part of the world,  leaving home and family behind in Virginia Beach.   And  quite frequently we see  huge cargo ships up close,  loaded with containers to be off-loaded at Norfolk Terminals.  From time to time we’ve seen ocean liners  passing through the channel over the tunnel,  headed to the  Cruise Ship Terminal next to  Nauticus Museum in Norfolk,   these ships passing in the night  are especially pretty,  lights blazing from long rows of  portholes.  There’s  always,  always something interesting going on as one travels  “across the Bay”.

                     

When you first get on the Bridge  you cannot see  the land on the other side,  you are just suspended above  what seems to be an endless expanse of  water,  blue and glistening on a sunny day,  deep pinks and violets when traveling at sunset,  very, very  special  on full moon nights,  the  golden-white moonbeams casting a long trail across dark  waters,  a perfect  illustration for the nursery poem  ” Winken,  Blinken and Nod”,  as they sailed  off into a river of crystal light with the glorious stars above,  one of the most beautiful times to be on the Bridge.   And in my estimation, one of the prettiest sights you’ll see on the Shore is the  gracefully curved shoreline of  Fisherman’s Island Wildlife Refuge on a sunny day as viewed  from the top of the homeward bound north span’s  high level bridge,  the sparkling blue waters,  waves breaking on  the shore,  lacy white sea foam,  the  glistening  white sands,  green beach grass,  the infinite waters of the Atlantic beyond, ….. well,  ” mid  pleasures and palaces though we may roam, be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home !”   And the Bridge is our faithful conduit from pleasures and palaces b

(Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134  Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA)

ack to our Eastern Shore home, sweet, sweet  home.

 

The First Flowers Of Spring 2011 On Virginia’s Eastern Shore. They’re Here At Last !

Monday, February 28th, 2011
Picture of deep pink camillias with golden centers and deep green leaves.

Such show-offs ! Early Eastern Shore of Virginia pink camellias with blazing gold centers, nestled among leaves of deep, deep green.

I’m not sure what it is about the first blossoms of Spring that I find so exciting,  invigorating actually.  We have such a moderate climate, 4 mild seasons,  here on the Eastern Shore of Virginia so it’s not as if we have suffered through 5 months of  the miserable freezing  weather that folks to the north and mid-west have endured.  After all, the temperature here is going to be nearly 70 degrees  today while a customer who just visited from Connecticut reported that it was snowing when they left to come down here last Friday !  And most of our winter days are sunny and pretty mild.  So really,  bad weather is  not the reason that seeing the camellias begin to bloom  puts a smile on my face every year,  but smile I do.  

Masses of pink camellia bushes at Bay Creek Golf Resort in first Spring bloom.

Throughout Bay Creek Golf Resort, masses of red and pink camellias have begun their annual Spring Show, delighting property owners and guests.

My  ” Camellia Watch”  starts not too long after New Year’s– about the middle of January I start to think, well– the camellias will be blooming pretty soon.  And by the middle of February I am truly longing for the bright reds and deep pinks of the very first flowers.  Near our Machipongo office we have a huge bush,  at least 30 maybe even 40 years old, which seems to have literally nearly a thousand blossoms every year,  in a very pale, delicate shade of  pink.  I have  several at home, both the fall blooming as well as the spring blooming,  but they are still small as camellias are  slow growers.  Number Three Daughter who lives in Cheriton, a tiny town about 5 minutes from Cape Charles,  has at least 10 amazing spring blooming camellias.  Their house was built about 1925 so their plants are  fairly old and quite large,  really more like trees than bushes,  unbelievably spectacular when they flower.  She has one variety which is quite unusual, a variegated red and white,  a  late spring bloomer,  and it puts on a real show every year !    ( I’ll post a picture when it blooms,  it’s worth seeing if you love flowers.)  One of my favorite places to see masses and masses of  blooming camellias is at  Bay Creek Golf Resort in Cape Charles, Virginia, which has just amazing landscaping throughout.  The  roads are built  with  one-way lanes  and wide  medians separate  the two lanes.   The medians are  lushly landscaped  with a huge variety of  showy plants that bloom throughout the spring and fall and  the colorful  “Knock-out”  variety roses which bloom here from early spring until very late fall.  Needless to say, the camellias there are simply gorgeous,  massed under tall pines and hardwoods. ( One of the benefits of buying a home at Bay Creek is that the landscaping throughout is so beautiful,   it’s just eye candy all the way home !  )   So, it’s official  !    The robins are here, a few gold finches have already been seen and the brightly colored flowers  of  camellia japonica  have stamped  their imprimatur upon the landscape.  Spring has sprung on Virginia’s Eastern Shore !      P.S.   Check out    www.easternshoremastergardeners.com   for some great gardening tips on gardening on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

“Sweet Baby” James Taylor’s Gift to the Birds Of Eastern Shore Of Virginia

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Singer/Songwriter James Taylor has enabled a wonderful legacy for wild birds on Virginia’s  Eastern Shore.  On Friday, October 8, 2010, an addition to Kiptopeke State Park was officially dedicated in his name by the Director of Parks and Recreation for the state of Virginia.  Thanks to James Taylor’s  generosity,  the state of Virginia ,  in cooperation with the Nature Conservancy,  added an additional 37 acres of upland area to the park.  Kiptopeke State Park is located at the very southern tip of the Shore in an area that is vital to the migration of songbirds in their flight south for the winter from their summer breeeding grounds in the northern regions of North America.  (See a great  video of James Taylor and his wife  kayaking on Virginia’s  Eastern Shore at   www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPBTypUfgYM )

On-site Information Marker for the James Taylor Bird Habitat At Kiptopeake State Park

As the topography of the East Coast shapes into a funnel at the end of the Delmarva Penninsula so follows millions of migrating songbirds where they gather at the tip of Virginia’s Eastern Shore to refuel for the crossing of the Chesapeake Bay and for leaving the mainland of the continent to migrate across thousands of miles of the Atlantic Ocean towards Central and South America.  James Taylor personally donated $200,000., the proceeds of a 2009 fund raising concert he performed in Virginia Beach.  The land that was purchased and added to the state park was formerly agricultural in use and now will be allowed to flourish as wild bird habitat for future generations forever. Hundreds of native trees, shrubs, and grasses have been planted there to support the songbird migration. Birds truly have  “got a friend”  in   James Taylor.

The Eastern Shore of Virginia Master Gardeners donated 500 hours of volunteer labor and the plants necessary to establish a demonstration garden of native plant species, the perfect compliment to the James Taylor bird habitat.  I joined the Master Gardeners two years ago and have gained quite a bit of knowledge and experience in gardening, landscaping, plant diseases, and maintenance.  The best part is making new friends and contributing to our wonderful community.  Each new class that graduates has installed a garden in a public place and maintains it.  The  Virginia Eastern Shore community benefits also by the thousands of hours of volunteer work that the Master Gardeners donate each year in support of education and maintenance of public gardens.

Celebrating The Great Fall Migration — The Eastern Shore of Virginia’s Annual Birding Festival

Monday, October 11th, 2010

See you at the Owl Prowl

What do the  “Run For The Birds”,  the  “Butterfly Walk”  and  the  “Owl Prowl”  have in common ?   ( No,  they’re not new dance steps !  )  Rather,  each is a part of the annual Birding Festival held on Virginia’s Eastern Shore on the first week-end in  October.  ( The first week of October is getting to be a pretty important week  what with the start of  the new term of  U.S. Supreme Court  and the Eastern Shore’s Harvest Festival and Birding Festival all held then. )  This year’s Birding Festival,  held last week-end,  was the 18th in this  series of highly successful  eco-tourism events and included the largest number of  participation activities of any Festival so far.   Bird lovers  from all over Virginia,  indeed from all over the East Coast,  came to  Cape Charles, Virginia  to hear the keynote address given by Dr. Gregory S.  Butcher,  an internationally renown ornithologist and Director of Bird Conservation for the National Audubon Society.

If you look at a map it’s easy to see that the shape of  the DelMarVa  (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia) peninsula  is rather funnel-like.   On the northern end,  in Delaware,  the funnel is rather wide.  Venturing  south, the penninsula grows more and more narrow so that  by the time you reach Northampton County,  the Shore is only about  8 miles across,  narrowing to about 4 miles south of Cape Charles.   During the Fall bird migration,  as the birds fly south along the Atlantic  Flyway,  they are funneled into an ever decreasing land mass.  This results in the Eastern Shore of Virginia having large concentrations of migrating songbirds and raptors at our southern tip where they are able to rest and replenish before flying over open water.  Great efforts to protect and study these birds have been expended by a large number of organizations including  US Fish and Wildlife,  The Nature Conservancy,  Coastal Management Dept of VDEQ and numerous others.  From those efforts grew the idea for the eco-friendly  Birding Festival.  The rest, as they say,  is history.

Part Of Our Pristine Chain Of 18 Barrier Islands

I personally think that what accounts for the continuing great success of the Birding Festival is that there are such interesting  activities in which to participate,  with new and different activities being added all the time.   This year a number of  different boating options were available including  a  two+ hour trip from  the little town of  Willis Wharf  out  to the Machipongo River to view shore and wading birds,  a 2 + hour trip out of Watchapreague  and  a 3 hour boat trip out of  the tiny town of Oyster to Cobb Island hoping to see  nesting terns,  oystercatchers, whimbrels, sandpipers,  etc., maybe even plovers out on these pristine Barrier Islands and a 2+ hour trip,  also from  Oyster,  out to Wreck Island to see what is being hailed as  the world’s  largest and most successful seagrass restoration program.

Adios Amigos, We Are Off To Mexico

I personally always enjoy the bird banding– it’s amazing  how calm these beautiful  birds are as they are banded but how quickly they flit away as they are released.  The bird banding station is located at Kiptopeake State Park which is the very, very  tip of the the Eastern Shore of Virginia.   Millions of songbirds migrate through our area each year and many of them can be found at Kiptopeake  Park  which has a huge natural maritime forest plus open areas and lots of  specifically planted beneficial shrubs and trees.  Like ducks to water,  the birds have really taken to the Park.   Apparently over half a million birds have been banded at Kiptopeake Station over the years,  a real achievement,  mostly by volunteers.   Also located at the Kiptopeake Park is an amazing hawk observatory.  On Saturday,  mermerized watchers were counting with glee the numbers and variety of hawks and falcons they were observing —  lots of Cooper’s hawks especially.  The Kiptopeake  Observatory is plays a vital part in the the annual raptor count for the Shore.  Kiptopeake Park  is also home to a  beautiful Butterfly Garden planted and maintained by the Master Gardeners of the Eastern Shore.   The Garden was filled with colorful Monarch butterflies on Saturday,  flitting along in their  migration  south to over-winter in Mexico .  Lots of  folks, many with kids in tow,  were snapping picture of them while waiting for the  “Butterfly Walk”  to begin.  Later still,  9-11 pm,  for those who  had the energy,  Kiptopeake Park would be one of several sites for a two hour  “Owl Prowl”.   ( I love owls.  Often,  if I am up very late,  I can hear a pair softly calling to each other not too far from my house.)

" Release Me Already, I'm Banded"

Finding Butterflies

Hawk Observatory- Seeing A Lot Of Cooper's Hawks Today

Meantime back in the town of Cape Charles,  at Festival Central,  ( www.esvafestivals.com )  lots of organizations  had booths set up,  literature to distribute,  ready to answer questions  and give advice.   Tons of interesting exhibits and plenty of stuff for kids too.  Next door,  the Marine Science Aquarium’s huge mobile truck was set up with its  “Oceans In Motion”  exhibit plus its  mini  “Touch and Feel”  tank which was attracting kids of all ages.   Anyone who loves Nature would love the Birding Festival.   So don’t forget– the first week of October each year signals  the new term of  the  Supreme Court,   the Eastern Shore of  Virginia’s Harvest Festival and the Eastern Shore Birding Festival !   Hope you can make it next year.

Aquarium In A Truck -- Amazing !

Virginia Dept. Game & Inland Fisheries, An Important Festival Sponsor

Festival Central- New Information, New Ideas, New Efforts