Bird Watching in Chesapeake

Chesapeake has been a bird watcher’s oasis since the 17th century. Recognized as one of the country’s greatest birding sites, the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail – South Chesapeake Loop provides sanctuary to over 213 species of birds.

Stops on the trail provide visitors the chance to catch a glimpse of resident species as well as traveling neotropical songbirds during the spring and fall migration seasons. Along the trail, visitors may encounter birds ranging from nuthatches flitting through the pines to prothonotary warblers nesting in hollow swamp trees and stealthy great blue herons hunting in the shallows.

When to Watch

When winter's grip loosens, grab your binoculars and head outside. Chesapeake is a birder's paradise with more than 200 types of birds residing in the forest or just passing through during the Spring Bird Migration. Enthusiasts will love the chance to catch a rare glimpse of the Mourning Warbler or the American Pipit.  
Waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors, and songbirds pass through Chesapeake on their way to warmer climates during the Fall Bird Migration. Swainson's Warbler and Wayne's warbler - two of the most secretive and least observed of all North American birds – also make appearances. 
Chesapeake is located within the Atlantic Flyway and is the winter location for more than 1 million birds! Swans, geese, ducks, and other migratory birds stop for a winter vacation in the unique and abundant wetlands of Coastal Virginia.  
Christmas is a magical time of year for bird watchers in Chesapeake. Each year, the Audubon Society hosts its annual Christmas Bird Count, inviting the public to participate in the ‘bird census’ to track the migratory patterns of feathered friends. The Christmas Bird Count takes place over several weeks during the holidays and is open to beginners and experts alike. 

Where to Watch

There’s no shortage of places to bird watch in Chesapeake. Bells Mill Park is home to acres of tidal marsh that attract migratory and native bird species. The dense reeds provide cover and safe nesting areas for many birds, including the regal great blue heron. Consisting of 130 acres, Oak Grove Lake Park provides an attractive habitat for dragonflies, butterflies, and songbirds.

Northwest River Park comes to life each spring with bluebirds, robins, great-crested-fly-catchers, and many other species. Cooler temps bring chipping fox sparrows, song sparrows, and dark-eyed juncos. Look up to spot red-tailed hawks and the occasional bald eagle. Then, head down to the river to spot herons, osprey, mallards, wood ducks, pied-billed grebes, and buffleheads. 

The Dismal Swamp Canal Trail features 8.5 miles of converted roadbed that allows people of all abilities to explore the wildlife of the Great Dismal Swamp. Abutting the single largest tract of land in the region, this trail provides full immersion in the region’s wildlife population. Birds abound and flutter alongside butterflies and dragonflies. Bears, bobcats, and otters frequent this area, as well.

One of Virginia's finest trail systems meanders through the mature hardwood forest at Chesapeake Arboretum. This stop crosses a small clear stream that flows through the forest, which attracts reptiles, amphibians, and butterflies and provides a bathing spot for the woodland passerines that frequent the property.

The 8.5-acre natural area behind the Girl Scout program center, A Place for Girls – Nellie Hayse Site offers access to diverse ecological habitats. The woodland trails are worth birding during any season and feature warblers, flycatchers, and other species.

How to Watch

Whether you are a beginner or a novice, Chesapeake offers Bird Watching Tips to make the most of your birding experience. So, pack your binoculars and enjoy your time in this avian sanctuary. 

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