Archive for the ‘Birding’ Category

NOW IS THE PERFECT TIME TO PLAN YOUR SUMMER VACATION IN CAPE CHARLES, VIRGINIA

Friday, February 22nd, 2019

As I write this post, cold rain is sloshing down here on Virginia’s Eastern Shore but almost everywhere else on the East Coast, folks are digging out from under another miserable storm, with yet another avalanche of snow and ice. Brrrr… So what that says to me is that it’s time to turn to more pleasant thoughts …. like planning a beach vacation ! Nothing like dreams of summer fun, of toes wiggling in the sand and sea breezes cooling the brow to push away the reality of winter blues. ( Did the groundhog see his shadow? How many more weeks to go ? )

And if you’re looking for a weekly vacation rental which offers both a relaxed and quiet atmosphere paired with lots to do, might I suggest Cape Charles, VA as a great destination. Coastal traditions, historic towns and tiny villages to explore, soft sandy beaches to relax on, off-shore Barrier Islands to visit, broad saltwater inlets to boat and kayak,  fabulous fishing and crabbing, artist’s studios and antique shops to visit,  seafood restaurants to sample, Palmer and Nicklaus golf to take a swing at– from A for Art Galleries to Z for Zesty clam dip, there is so much to do.  Or… just laz around on the deck,  book in hand, a  iced tea or cold glass of Chardonnay waiting close by,  letting the tension just slip away like an outgoing tide.  That is the promise of a Simply Relaxing Vacation on Virginia’s Eastern Shore because Virginia’s Eastern Shore is not just a place, it’s a relaxed coastal state of mind !

Which brings us to the list of  the 9 terrific vacation homes offered this year for weekly vacation rental through Blue Heron Vacation Rentals   ( Use this link to email them your desired dates and the house you are most interested in at easternshorevacationtime@gmail.com   .  Or call them at 757-678-5277 )   Though the homes vary by size and price, each has a distinctive personality–  historic, waterfront, beachfront, in-town, in the country.  From a ” 1 bedroom cozy nest for two”  through ” 5 bedrooms, sleeps 14″,   there is something for everybody.  ( And a couple are even for sale,  so if you fall in love with it, it could be yours for life !! How cool is that ? 

“SEA GATE”-Ca. 1912 Charm. 1 Block to Beach. Sleeps 14. Equipped Rec. Room.

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“BayPlace”-Exquisite Historic Home, 7 Bdrms, Sleeps 18 ,Comfy Furnishings, Fully Equipped Kitchen.

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Historic “Peach Retreat” Sparkles Like New! Great Location. Pets Considered.     

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SEASHELL COTTAGE” -Enjoy Your Vacation With Only Steps To The Soft Sand Cape Charles Beach. 

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“BayView Cottage”- West Indies Style Home; Community Beach & Pool; Waterfront Dining Nearby.

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“SEAHORSE RETREAT”, Only 1 Block From The Beach, A Sweet Beachy Vacation Nest For 2 Or 4 In Quaint Cape Charles.

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“Dolphins’ Doorway” 3 Bedrooms, 3 1/2 Bath With A Backyard Beach!

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Bayfront Breezes”- Charming Bayfront Home, Spectacular Sunsets Over the Water, Beach Access.

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“SANDY HARBOR COTTAGE” A Waterfront Vacation Home With Beach Access On Virginia’s Eastern Shore Offering Both Beach and Boat Dock.

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WATERFRONT DUTCH COLONIAL ON VIRGINIA’S EASTERN SHORE

Friday, January 25th, 2019

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This attractive 3 bedroom, 3 bath Dutch Colonial style home with backyard dock located on Virginia’s Eastern Shore is priced to sell at $299,000 . Plenty of elbow room, located on a partially wooded, well-maintained 2.1 acre parcel. Spacious kitchen features granite countertops, and custom cabinetry, opens to a very comfortable sunroom overlooking the water. Beautiful views of the saltwater inlet from the Chesapeake Bay. Great property to enjoy the property’s abundant bird life and many species of water fowl. Hardwood floors and tile downstairs in the common rooms, solid wood doors, multiple ceiling fans, two balconies upstairs overlooking the water. The backyard dock is perfect for a small boat or kayak. Property includes a detached three car garage, large storage shed and a potting shed. Boat launch for a larger boat is located only about 3 miles away. Come live the Eastern Shore coastal life !

 

 

 

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Gorgeous and Affordable Bayfront Home Near Cape Charles, VA.

Tuesday, October 9th, 2018

frontviewLocated on the Eastern Shore of Virginia not far from Cape Charles, this 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath home priced at $397,000 offers first floor living and a dramatic wall of windows featuring huge water views ! Enjoy entertaining and relaxation surrounded by these amazing views & sunsets. Expansive deck & patio overlooking the Chesapeake Bay adds to the enjoyment of this coastal home. Immaculately maintained ranch home with bright & open floor plan, hardwood floors throughout & spacious great room all over looking the water and a beautifully landscaped yard. Located in a “laid back” coastal community that offers beach, pool, tennis and boat ramp, truly making this one of the best coastal communities the Shore has to offer. Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Birding all from your back yard! Centrally located on the Shore for shopping, dining, public boat ramps, world class golf courses & Historic Town of Cape Charles .

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AN EXCITING OPPORTUNITY TO PURCHASE ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WATERFRONT LOTS ON THE ENTIRE EASTERN SHORE OF VIRGINIA

Friday, April 6th, 2018

Aerial summer view-1Located in a tiny upscale waterfront neighborhood near the historic town of Eastville, VA, and priced at $495,000, this spectacular 6.7 +/- acre building parcel with high banks and loamy soils offers a special opportunity to have a spacious property with deep boating water on a colorful saltwater inlet. Plus simply amazing views out to the Chesapeake Bay, views that will never get old!! Buying a waterfront lot and building a custom home offers exciting opportunities to refine exactly what you want in a home, take advantage of modern building materials and create a special design that reflects your own personal style. If you love skies painted in deep pinks, golds and purple, this parcel’s East-West orientation offers the chance to showcase views of inspiring sunrises from your breakfast nook and brilliant sunsets across the water from your great room and deck. ( Also imagine the pearly moonrises and moon sets ! ) Let this exceptional property introduce you to the unique laid-back, coastal lifestyle of Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Call Blue Heron Realty Co. at 800-258-3437 for more information. And check out our website for other opportunities. Owner is a licensed Virginia agent.

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HERALDING SPRING – – THE 39th ANNUAL CHINCOTEAGUE EASTER DECOY AND ART FESTIVAL

Thursday, April 5th, 2018

DSC_9302Saturday was such a beautiful and warm day, compared to most of what we have shivered through this March, that on the spur of the moment Saturday afternoon we decided to take a ride up to Chincoteague, VA to attend the Annual Chincoteague Decoy and Art Festival which is traditionally held the Friday and Saturday before Easter. The 2018 event was the 39th Annual, a real testament to the popularity of this delightful show which provides an important opportunity each Spring for local and national carvers, artists and photographers to exhibit and sell their works. And for art enthusiasts, it offers a wonderful chance to meet the artists and, in the case of some of the many carvers, observe them at work. It can be fascinating to watch someone with talent in the process of converting a plain old lump of wood into a work of art ! Attendees also have the opportunity to vote for the show’s “Best Carver” and “Best Artist” and to bid at two silent auctions.

Unfortunately, the show closed at 4pm, and we were running late, so we didn’t have as much time to tour the exhibits as I would’ve liked. DSC_9306But it was loads of fun nevertheless. We did stop and watch Russell Fish carve for a bit, I love his work and our decoy collection at the Machipongo office of Blue Heron Realty Co. includes one of his striking carvings, a tall pelican perched on a set of 3 pilings. My husband and grandson got to chatting with carver Bob Gray about his two horned grebes, one shown before molting where it presents with drab black and white feathers and one after molting where its white plumage becomes a riot of colorful orangish red. Nature is so amazing ! In the course of looking around, my husband found a walking stick he liked, my grandson discovered an interesting old poster depicting the off-shore Barrier Islands and at the “Silent Auction” table, I fell in love with a small framed print of a colorful waterfront scene painted by local artist, Grover Cantwell. So we each left with our own little treasure, icing on the cake.

DSC_9351After a quick bite at Bill’s, a favorite Chincoteague restaurant, we took a moment to admire a quiet garden spot across from Bill’s, complete with a colorful full-wall sea life mural, dedicated to “Miss Ruby Lee”. I’m not sure exactly who Miss Ruby Lee was, but clearly, as the dedication scroll proclaims, she was much beloved by the Islanders. From there, we were off to a leisurely drive through the Assateague Wildlife Refuge. There’s always something unique to see at the Refuge and, once again, we were not disappointed. But the most unique sighting Saturday was not some interesting wildlife or a wild pony come to town, no, it was a person sitting in chair, stock still.

Dressed in a camouflage jump suit covered completely by netting stuffed with twigs, leaves, pine needles, looking for all the world like a pileDSC_9417 of yard debris, this patient photographer was zeroing in on two great white egrets fishing in the shallow blue stream, using a camera sporting one of the longest lenses I have ever seen, also in camouflage colors. ( A treat to watch, quite interesting, maybe on assignment from National Geographic or some other Nature publication.) In Tom’s Cove, a flock of tiny ducks was out in full force, foraging away. Cearly something totally yummy to ducks was stirring about underfoot because they ducked and dived and dived and ducked, just munching away, ignoring us completely. The last stop on the way out was …. Island Creamery ! In Cape Charles, we are lucky to have the ever-delicious, ever-amazing flavor combinations offered at the now-famous Brown Dog Ice Cream Shop. And on Chincoteague they have Island Creamery, also home to some excellent ice cream, of which we quite enthusiastically partook, the sweet conclusion to our lovely Spring afternoon adventure.

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Located on Virginia’s Eastern Shore Near Cape Charles, VA This Contemporary Style Home Offers Beachfront Par Excellence!

Thursday, April 5th, 2018

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A lovely maritime forest shades this spacious 3 story, 4 bedroom and 4 bath beach cottage of about 3800 sq. ft. sited on over 2 acres with 200 feet frontage on one of the most beautiful soft sand beaches on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Priced at $999,000, this home features newly refinished oak hardwood floors, granite & ceramic tile treatments thru-out, elegant eat-in kitchen, living room with fireplace, huge master suite with elegant bath & walk-in closet, huge recreation room, formal dining room – all overlooking the spectacular sunsets on the horizon of the Chesapeake Bay. Beachcomber’s delight and a great home for entertaining! Also, 3 car garage, third floor loft, entry level guest suite & bath, grand waterviews from nearly every window in the house, beachfront patio & decks. The impressive beach neighborhood offers private walkways to the beach, community pool and tennis club, dock access to private fresh water lake for canoe/kayaks. A fantastic house on the beach of your dreams! Close to the historic little town of Cape Charles, VA with lots of amenities including golf, marinas, restaurants, shopping and galleries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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From Pea Soup Fog To Clear As A Bell, A Beautiful Morning For Photos In Willis Wharf, VA.

Friday, November 17th, 2017

DSC_5021Up early one morning in late October and decided on the spur of the moment that it might be a perfect Indian Summer day to get some pretty sunrise pictures at the seaside harbor in the tiny Eastern Shore village of Willis Wharf, the picturesque aquaculture capitol of Northampton Co. But about half way down the driveway, I realized that a thick blanket of fog had settled over the landscape. Hmm, to stay or to go ? Decided to go. Although barely peeking over the horizon as I zipped into the harbor, the sun was already engaged in battle with the fog, valiantly trying to penetrate the thick mists hovering over Parting Creek inlet. It took some time, but the sun won, insto-presto, no more fog ! And thus rewarded with a real variety of photos, the early ones hazy and obscured by the fog, the last ones crystal clear, including some with gorgeous water reflections. All in all, an interesting hour in a quaint little seaside village.

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The 2017 Eastern Shore Virginia Birding and Wildlife Festival

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017

DSC_5254For the past 25 years, on the first weekend in October, excited Birders throughout Virginia and nearby states flock to Virginia’s Eastern Shore to celebrate the annual Eastern Shore Birding and Wildlife Festival. As migrating birds fly south each fall, they are funneled into the narrow tip of the Shore so Northampton County is a truly critical part of the Atlantic Flyway. Each fall literally millions of songbirds and thousands of raptors migrate through our area, taking advantage of an important opportunity to feed and rest before continuing their long and difficult journey south. ( And not just birds, this is the time of year when beautiful clouds of butterflies, the gorgeous orange and black monarchs, float through on their way to tango in Mexico for the winter. )

The Festival headquarters were at Kiptopeke State Park and offered numerous activities including hikes, an DSC_5273evening “owl prowl”, bird banding, hawk observatory, kid’s craft activities, hay rides, information booths sponsored by numerous environmental groups — plus a surprise appearance by a stalwart Smokey the Bear ! The fascinating “Flight of the Raptor” show featured such fine feathered friends as Scooby Doo, a great horned owl, and Salim, a Lanner falcon. It was quite interesting to see these magnificent birds swoop and chase the lures presented to them by their trainer, and being carnivores, then munching on the attached rewards of raw chicken. Learned several interesting raptor facts … The leather hoods covering the birds heads are placed there by the falconer to help the birds relax. ( Who knew birds needed R&R ? ). Harris hawks work together to hunt their prey and are called the “wolves of the sky”. Peregrine falcons are some of the fastest birds on the planet and can reach an amazing 300 mph as they dive. Unlike most other birds, the raptor males are smaller, therefore faster than the females, making them more suited to their role as the hunters while the larger females are busy protecting the eggs in the nest. If a hawk is on the ground when it catches it’s prey, it spreads its wings around its catch to keep it safe from interlopers, called “manteling”.

DSC_5083Also integral to the Birding Festival fun are the wonderful boat tours originating from the harbors in Willis Wharf, Oyster and Wachapreague which meander out to the Barrier Islands to observe the shorebirds. Offered by various local tour captains, including Broadwater Bay EcoTours, Seaside Ecotours and Eastern Shore Adventures, these trips offer a fine vantage point to enjoy waterfront bird watching and present a unique opportunity for visitors to observe and photograph the many species of marsh, wading and shorebirds found in the marshes lining our waterways and out on the Barrier Islands.

 

 

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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
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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. 

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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.

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

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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.