Great Dismal Swamp Birding Festival

Join us for a weekend of guided bird walks, natural history talks, live animals and family fun activities! All events are free. Registration required for Guided Walks and Bus Tours and recommended for Presentations. Please check the registration website often as spots open up when there are cancellations. We look forward to seeing you at the refuge!

Here is an interactive map for the locations (trailheads) for walks, tours and other activities. Please note, some locations are over 30 minutes from Refuge Headquarters as there are no roads through the refuge. Each trailhead location has a street address and is provided below in the activity descriptions. Thank you!!!

Registration: March 1st - April 23rd


Here's how it works in 3 easy steps:
1) Click this link to see Bird Festival Registration on 
2) Review the options listed and choose the activities you would like.
3) Sign up! It's easy - you will NOT need to register an account or keep a password on Be sure to add your email.
4) You must choose the number of participants- CHOOSE 1 IF IT IS JUST YOURSELF!

Schedule of Events - Friday, April 26

Evening Owl Prowl/Night Walk - 7:00 PM 

(Approximately 1-1.5 hours; Registration required)
Join former GDSNWR Biologist Don (The Legend) Schwab for an evening in search of owls and other critters of the night. Please note, owls cannot be guaranteed!
Location:  *Site TBD: Either Jericho Lane Trailhead (1330 White Marsh Rd, Suffolk, VA) or Washington Ditch Trailhead (3076 White Marsh Rd, Suffolk, VA). Registered participants will be notified of the chosen location.

Schedule of Events - Saturday, April 27

Guided Refuge Bird Walks - 7:00 AM 

(Approximately 3 hours; Registration required)
- Jericho Lane Trailhead (1330 White Marsh Rd, Suffolk, VA)
- Washington Ditch Trailhead (3076 White Marsh Rd, Suffolk, VA)
- Dismal Swamp Canal Trail (1246 Dismal Swamp Canal Trail, Chesapeake, VA)
- Birding by Bus (open air) (Departs from HQ, 3100 Desert Rd, Suffolk, VA)

Beginner Refuge Bird Walk - 8:30 AM

(Approximately 2 hours; Registration required)
Guided bird walk for those with little to no bird watching experience. Bring binoculars if you have them (a limited number of pairs are available for loan). 
Location: Brothers Field - Go to 3216 Desert Road & follow signs to nearby meeting spot.

Dismal Swamp State Park Bird Walk - 9:00 AM

(Approximately 2 hours; Registration required)
All levels walk (*Beginners welcome). Check out the Park’s awesome visitor center after the walk and learn more about the natural and cultural history of the swamp!
Location: Dismal Swamp State Park (2294 U.S. 17N., South Mills, NC)

Exhibitor Tables and Family Activities - 10:30 AM - 2:30 PM

Stop by our Refuge Headquarters for some fun! We will have tables and tents with activities, exhibitors, refreshments, and a self-guided nature walk around our Pines Trail. There is something for everyone.
Location: Refuge Headquarters (3100 Desert Rd., Suffolk, VA)

Live Bird Presentation – Native Owls & Hawks of Hampton Roads – 12:00 PM

Nature’s Nanny Wildlife Rehabilitators will present their raptor ambassadors and discuss each bird’s natural history, including their habitat, diet, breeding and life cycle.
No registration required. Open to all visitors
Location: Refuge Headquarters (3100 Desert Rd., Suffolk, VA)

Presentations - 11:00 AM and 1:00 PM

Come hear a first-hand account of managing a wildlife refuge with a storied history of statesmen, secret settlements, ancient trees and flammable soil. In the afternoon, learnabout a colorful little songbird that only lives on the Atlantic Coastal Plain of Virginia, North and South Carolina and why scientists recommended this subspecies be added to the Endangered Species List. 
(Registration suggested, not required) Open to all ages
Location: Refuge Headquarters Conference Room (3100 Desert Rd, Suffolk, VA)

 - 11:00 AM: The Great Dismal Swamp from Past to Present
Chris Lowie, Great Dismal Swamp NWR Manager, will discuss the challenges and successes of working in this unique ecosystem with a fascinating past. From catastrophic wildfires, plane crashes and train wrecks to endangered species, globally rare trees and boot-sucking mud, the Swamp has it all. Celebrate the refuge’s 50th anniversary.

- 1:00 PM: Exploring Wayne's Black-Throated Green Warblers in Virginia
Chance Hines, Research Biologist at William and Mary’s Center for Conservation Biology, will present on the habitat and behavior of Wayne's black-throated green warblers in Virginia. Current research (including at GDSNWR) provides valuable insights into the ecology of this species and aims to illuminate the role of Virginia in the broader context of the species' range and conservation efforts.

Guided Nature Walks - 11:00 AM and 1:00 PM

Looking to learn more about the natural and cultural history of the Great Dismal Swamp? Join us for a guided nature walk!
(Approximately 1 hour; Registration required)
Location: Washington Ditch Trailhead (30176 White Marsh Rd, Suffolk, VA)

Wildlife Drive Bus Tours - 10:00 AM and 12:30 PM

Take a ride on our open-air tram! Join us for a tour to Lake Drummond via Wildlife Drive and learn about the unique cultural, historical, and natural history of the Great Dismal Swamp!
(Approximately 1.5 hours; Registration required)
Location: Board the tram at Refuge HQ parking lot (3100 Desert Rd., Suffolk, VA) 

Schedule of Events - Sunday, April 28 

Very Early Morning Guided Bird Walk: The Blocks - 5:00 AM 

(Approximately 4-5 hours; Registration required)
Join us for a guided bird walk into the rare pond pine pocosin inhabited by the federally endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. Travel through freshwater emergent marsh and forested wetlands along the way. Trip will be a combination of short drives and walking in a closed area of the refuge.
Location: The Blocks – Great Dismal Swamp NWR* (Chesapeake, VA). 
*Departs from/Returns to Refuge HQ (3100 Desert Road, Suffolk, VA) 

*Please note: Space is extremely limited. Must be willing to carpool. There will be no restroom facilities after leaving Refuge HQ. Participants under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult. Cell service is intermittent. Participants are asked to coordinate social media posting with the trip leader. Please pack water and snacks, if desired.  

Event date and time
Event location name
Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

Event category

Age range
All ages
Recreational activities