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Since the 17th century, Chesapeake's Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge has provided sanctuary to birds and bird watchers alike. The Swamp's wooded swamplands and canebrakes create lovely living conditions for the 213 species of birds that nest in or near the refuge. In fact, more than 200 species have been identified on the refuge since its establishment.
During the spring Neotropical songbird migration, bird watchers in the Refuge will delight in catching a glimpse of the Swainson's warbler and the Wayne's warbler (a race of the Black-throated Green warbler), two of the most secretive and least observed of all North American birds. Lucky visitors will likely catch a "peep" of the white-throated Sparrow, the graceful Great Egret and even the regal Bald Eagle. Other birds of interest that can be seen in the Refuge include the wood duck, barred owl, pileated woodpecker and prothonotary warbler.
To learn more about Chesapeake's fine feather friends, visit Chesapeake Birding.
Why are birders from around the country and overseas flocking to Chesapeake?
In addition to the many long-term migratory birds that pass through Chesapeake in late April and early May, a large number of Neotropical migratory songbirds call the Refuge's 120,000 acres of unbroken forest home. "Serious birders want to see birds in their natural habitat," says Freeman, "so they seek areas with vast stretches of unbroken woods." More than 200 species of birds have been identified on the refuge since its establishment; 213 of these species have been reported as nesting on or near the refuge.
An 8-year veteran at the Refuge, Deloras offers insider tips to bird enthusiasts:
Rule #1 - Always wear comfortable shoes. "We aren't hiking the Appalachians," she says, "but our birding tours are more rigorous than most people expect. Also be sure to bring insect repellent, sunscreen and a light long-sleeved top to cover bare skin."
Freeman also encourages birders to come equipped with a high-grade pair of binoculars. She recommends to serious bird watchers, "Do your homework and be sure that binoculars provide sharp, bright, and high-contrast images before investing."
"For outdoor activities, look for binoculars that are fully waterproof and fog-proof." While mid-to-high-quality binoculars cost a little more, they are worth the investment and usually come with a lifetime guarantee.
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