Brush with the Wild

Highlights of VDGIF’s Bird & Wildlife Trail in Eastern Virginia.

Illustration by Aldo Crusher

Virginia’s Coastal Plain is rich in breathtaking scenery. From the rugged shores and untouched barrier islands along the Atlantic coastline to the cypress swamps, dense pine forests, and bayside salt marshes of the inland, for spotters of wildlife, there is plenty to discover. Bald eagles, rails, shorebirds, marine mammals, turtles, lizards, and snakes—there’s hardly a species native to Virginia that can’t be found here. The Virginia Bird and Wildlife Trail, an organized network of outdoor sites highlighting the best places to see birds and wildlife in the Commonwealth, operates 18 trail loops in the Plain, and all of them are worth exploring. 

Start your trip with the Northern Neck loop (1), which offers plenty of trail miles between the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers, hosting some of the largest concentrations of bald eagles on the Eastern Seaboard. Then head down the Mathews loop (2) eastward into the Chesapeake Bay between the North and Piankatank rivers—the nine locations along the trail are united by their brackish waters. Farther south, the Gloucester loop (3) offers countless opportunities to spot wildlife, including shorebirds, gulls, and waterfowl. Rent a canoe or kayak and explore the area’s river channels, lakes, and marshes. 

The trail’s loop within the state’s southernmost peninsula, stretching from the York River in the north and the James River to the northwest, also includes the busiest shipping lanes in the world at its tip. Enjoy the popular beaches, where you will find a wide array of wildlife, including migrant shorebirds, songbirds, and raptors. The winter wetlands are home to waterfowl, dolphins, and whales swimming offshore.

At last, explore the wildlife habitat native to Virginia’s Eastern Shore (4), from Chincoteague at its northern end to world-class venues like the Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge, Kiptopeke State Park, and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel at its southern end. DGIF.Virginia.gov/VBWT


This article originally appeared in our Best of Virginia 2019 issue.

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