Posts Tagged ‘songbird migration’

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 .

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

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