Exploring the "Wild" in Chesapeake
Chesapeake, VA is home to unspoiled nature and 22 miles of waterways that provide a sanctuary for migratory birds passing through the area. The heart of Coastal Virginia boasts an array of birding and wildlife options that are part of the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail South Chesapeake Loop. In short, it’s a bird lover’s dream come true.
Day One - Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
Since the 17th century, the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge has provided sanctuary to birds and bird watchers alike. The refuge's wooded swamplands are home to 213 species of birds that nest in the area.
When the magic of springtime emerges, so do the birds and faithful bird watchers. Spring is the most popular time for birders to visit the Chesapeake area. Many make the trek each year for the chance to catch a rare glimpse of the Mourning Warbler or the American Pipit.
During the spring Neotropical songbird migration, bird watchers will delight in catching a glimpse of the Swainson's warbler and the Wayne's warbler, two of the most secretive and least observed of all North American birds.
Visitors will likely catch a glimpse of the elegant white ibis, 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.
Observe a kaleidoscope of butterflies that call the refuge home each Summer. White-tail deer, black bears, bobcats, and river otters can also be seen from the trails. Winter brings a gaggle of snow geese and tundra swan to energize the stillness of Lake Drummond.
After a full day on the trail, head over to Black Pelican Seafood Company. Savor Mid-Atlantic Coastal Cuisine in a casual atmosphere at this local’s favorite restaurant. Hiking boots are welcome!
Day Two – Explore Parks on the Birding Trail
Swoop by Duck Donuts for breakfast and grab a coffee and made-to-order treats before hitting the trails. Once you’re fueled up, head out to experience the beauty of Northwest River Park. Take a self-guided bird tour or wildflower hike to learn about local flora and fauna. Night owls can spy shooting stars and listen for actual owls during Skywatch - an intergalactic tour of the night sky complete with telescopes and astronomy. Check the calendar of events for dates and times.
At Bells Mill Park you’ll wander through acres of tidal marsh – a unique ecosystem that attracts migratory and native bird species. The dense reeds provide cover and safe nesting areas while mulberries, cherries, and blackberries provide food for the birds that call the marsh home. Observe the brilliant Great Blue Heron as she hunts in the shallows alongside numerous species of reptiles, amphibians, crustaceans, and fish.
Just because your hike is over doesn’t mean the bird watching has to end. Bring song, color, and life to your home with the help of Wild Birds Unlimited. Certified Bird-feeding Specialists will show you how to turn your yard into a bird feeding habitat that benefits the wild birds and the environment in your area. Pick up bird feeders and birdseed, as well as insider knowledge about local birds.
Day Three – Dismal Swamp Canal Trail
Adjoining the single largest tract of land in Coastal Virginia, the Dismal Swamp Canal Trail provides a variety of birding and wildlife viewing opportunities. History buffs love visiting the trail, as it’s nationally recognized as a stop on the Underground Railroad. It’s also a resting spot for thousands of migratory birds in the fall and spring.
The 8.5-mile multi-use trail allows people of all abilities to explore the wildlife of the Great Dismal Swamp. Running alongside the Dismal Swamp Canal at the edge of Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, this trail supports pedestrian walkers, boaters, bicyclists, and equestrians. Marked trails range from a 2-mile up-and-back to a 16-mile bike loop, and of course, a place to put in your kayak.
Observe over 200 species of birds, 65 varieties of butterflies, and native dragonflies flitting along the canal. Resident black bears, bobcats, and otters are frequently spotted during hikes. And it wouldn’t be a swamp without the reptiles and amphibians that call it home.
After a day in the wild, enjoy a wild night out at Eagles Nest Rockin’ Country Bar. Some of the biggest names in country music today have graced the stage at Eagles Nest. Not to mention, it’s the only place in town where you can attempt 8 seconds on a mechanical bull!