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Wildlife & Habitat

Swarm of tree swallows during migration.
  • Migratory Songbirds and Raptors

    Red-tailed hawk.

    The southern tip of the Delmarva Peninsula is an important migratory bird stopover location along the Atlantic coast. This narrowing peninsula created by the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, causes a funneling effect on the birds as they fly south. The Eastern Shore of Virginia and Fisherman Island Refuges, fortuitously located at the southern tip, provide critical stopover habitats where the birds can rest and feed before resuming their migration. The funneling effect also means more birds to observe in a much smaller area. Our current bird list of 406 species, found in and around the refuge, is a great resource for planning your bird watching visit.

    If it’s the big birds you are after then you are in luck! Raptors just like songbirds migrate down the peninsula and aren’t shy about showing off their wingspans pretty much no matter where you are on the refuge. If you are fortunate enough to be in the Visitor Center during the migration you may watch a raptor hunting from the one-way glass viewing window.

  • Marsh and Water Birds

    Yellow-crowned nightherons.

    What better place is there for marsh and water birds than the Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge? The abundance of water is ideal for these water-loving birds! The salt marsh is ideal for herons, egrets, ibis and rails, just to name a few! Don’t forget you may even get to see some waterfowl as they fly overhead and when they take advantage of the brackish pond near the boat launch.

  • Mammals

    Native mouse.

    Thirty-four mammal species are recorded for the lower Delmarva Peninsula and are also likely to be found on the Eastern Shore of Virginia Refuge. Those mammals include the white-tail deer, gray and red foxes, raccoons, muskrats, rabbits, and smaller creatures such as deer-footed mice and northern short-tailed shrews. A variety of bats can also been seen throughout the year just as dusk begins to paint the sky. The best times to view mammals on the refuge is at dusk and dawn as they creep though the underbrush, forage along the wood’s edge or dart across the roads and trails.

  • Shrub

    Scrub Shrub

    Shrub habitat on the refuge might look like a mess, but it’s actually some of the most important habitat for migratory songbirds on the refuge. This habitat provides valuable food and protection that is critical to the survival of migrating wildlife. Some of this habitat includes: wax myrtle, northern bayberry, sassafras, viburnum, winterberry, pokeweed, Eastern red cedar, shining sumac, high-tide bush and groundsel.

  • Maritime Forest

    Maritime Forest

    Loblolly Pine is one of the most common trees you will find on the Refuge. Their lofty presence gives them an appearance as though they are keeping watch over the rest of the forest. Throughout the refuge you will also find species such as oaks (White oak, Southern red oak, Black oak and Willow oak) , Black cherry, Sassafras, Wax myrtle, greenbrier, Poison ivy, Virginia creeper, American holly, Sweet gum, Black gum, Red maple, Flowering dogwood, Yellow poplar, hickories, Black locust, Devil’s walking stick, Yaupon holly.

    Walking the Wildlife loop trail you will find yourself in a thicket of trees that play host to woodpeckers, owls, squirrels, deer, fox and rabbits, just to name a few of the residents.

  • Marsh

    Salt Marsh

    You can’t visit the Eastern Shore of Virginia NWR without an appointment at the salt marsh. You are bound to have all your senses graced by the sight, sound, smell and feel of this tidally ruled landscape. Morning, afternoon or evening the scenery is always changing. At low tide you may be entertained by the scurry of Fiddler crabs as they march across the muddy flats, disappearing and reappearing from their homes in the mud. Test your patience and see if it is up to par with the stealth hunting skills of a Great Blue Heron. Count the Periwinkle snails as they move up and down the cordgrass in response to the high and low tides. If you are lucky you may hear the applause-like call of a Clapper Rail.

Last Updated: Mar 28, 2013
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