Posts Tagged ‘Hawk Observatory’

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,  ( )  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