Winter Wildlife Festival

presented by Virginia Beach Parks & Recreation with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries​

​​​​January 20 - 22, 2017​ | Princess Anne​​ Recreation Center

This is your chance to witness winter wildlife all around Virginia Beach; whether it’s following fascinating bird activity, exploring the natural areas of our community or the musings of harbor seals near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Learn what it takes to properly observe and identify wildlife in their natural settings. View 2016 festival photos | View the 2016 bird species list  

​R​egistr​ation is ​Open!​

Register Online

We recently launched a new online registration system​ which allows you to use your email address to login or create an account. Open the registration page, then c​heck to see if you already have an account, by clicking 'Sign In' then "Forgot Your Password'. If you're new, you can click on 'Create an Account'​ to get started​​. Search Winter Wildlife Festival and sign up for the Main Registration first, then you'll be able to register for individual sessions.​​​

Register by Mail or Walk In

Complete the registration form and submit with payment via mail to:  Special Events - Winter Wildlife Festival, 300 Edwin Drive, Virginia Beach, VA 23462​. Or​ register ​in person at any Virginia Beach Recreation Center. 

Note: Most sessions have limited capacity. Online registration is recommended to secure your space early! You can join the waitlist for any full trips here: https://vbforms.seamlessdocs.com/f/fBPODj.

Exhibit Hall​

Saturday, January 21 | 10:00 am - 4:00 pm

Stop by Princess Anne Recreation Center for the 2017 Winter Wildlife Exhibit Hall to check out the vendors and environmental exhibitors, walk-up workshops, live animals and raffles! Children's activities will take place at the neighboring Princess Anne Library. Local food truck, Ferg's Missing Ingredient, will offer delicious eats from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm. 

Want to become an exhibitor? Download an exhibitor application​

Special thanks to our Festival Partners:​ ​
Department of Game & Inland Fisheries | Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge | Lynnhaven River Now | Virginia Aquarium​ | Virginia Beach Audubon Society Club | Virginia Beach Public Library | ​Virginia State Parks​​​

Festival Excursions & Sessions

Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel & Fisherman’s Island - FULL​​​

This trip is full, but you can join the waitlist
18 & up | Spend the morning on the man-made islands of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel looking for wintering water birds and seals. After a stop for lunch at Stingray’s – an Eastern Shore local’s favorite (lunch is not included in price) – we’ll head to Fisherman’s Island National Wildlife Refuge. This Virginia barrier island is classified as “a wetland of international im​portance,” and due to the critical nature of its habitats for wildlife, it is only accessible during guided tours. Additional registration form required by Jan 6. Recommended for experienced birders. | $45, lunch is on your own
Meet at Bayville Farms Park, 4132 First Court Rd., for transportation to locations
Friday, January 20 | 8:00 am – 4:00 pm

Birding Basics Workshop & Field Session

10 & up | Are you just starting to get into birds? Do you enjoy watching them in your backyard and wish you knew what they were? Then this class is for you! This workshop will introduce you to the pastime of birding and will cover all of the basics: how to identify birds, tips for finding birds, and the materials and equipment you need to get started. There will be an indoor presentation, followed by an outdoor nature walk to practice your new birding skills! A limited supply of binoculars will be available for loan during the class, but if you have your own, it is recommended to bring them. Recommended for new birders. | $5 for adults; free for youth ages 10-17
Meet at Brock Environmental Center, 3663 Marlin Bay Dr​ive
Friday, January 20 | 9:00 am – 11:30 am

NEW Explore the Bay Sea Adventure

12 & up | Join the Virginia Aquarium in a special 4 hour encounter to explore the waters of the Chesapeake Bay and the man-made islands of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel in search of migrating wildlife. This unique experience may offer eye-level views of whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, and locally rare seabirds. Aquarium experts will provide in-depth information on species identification and natural history, as well insight on how we care for similar animals at the Aquarium. Wildlife enthusiasts and photographers will not want to miss the diversity that this unique habitat provides during the winter.  Marine mammal sightings are not guaranteed. All experience levels welcome. | $30
Meet at Virginia Aquarium Dock, 717 General Booth Boulevard
Friday, January 20 | 9:00 am – 1:00 pm

Festival Keynote: “The Narrow Edge – A Tiny Bird, an Ancient Crab and an Epic Journey” with Deborah Cramer

12 & up | Deborah Cramer’s eloquent book, “The Narrow Edge,” is the recipient of the Rachel Carson Book Award and the National Academy of Sciences Best Book Award. Hear about her extraordinary odyssey accompanying tiny shorebirds along the length of two continents and explore how Virginia is critical to the story. More about Deborah​ | Free; registration required
Meet at Joint Use Library, intersection of S. Rosemont and College Crescent​
Friday, January 20 | 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm

Chesapeake Bay Boat Trip

16 & up | View the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel Islands "up close and personal"! This boat trip offers eye-level views of birds, harbor seals and other wildlife on and around the CBBT islands. This is an excellent opportunity to view sea ducks, shorebirds and seabirds. Recommended for experienced birders. | $40
Meet at Dockside Marina, 3311 Shore Drive
Saturday, January 21 | 8:00 am – 11:30 am

Cape Henry Tour

8 & up | This trip highlights two destinations in the historic Cape Henry area of Virginia Beach; First Landing State Park and the Old Cape Henry Lighthouse located on Fort Story. These locations offer views of the Chesapeake Bay where shorebirds, wintering seabirds, and waterfowl can be plentiful. In addition to wildlife viewing this trip will include historical information on the first landing of the Virginia Company and the old Cape Henry Lighthouse. Participants 16 & older are required to bring a government-issued picture ID for access to Fort Story. All experience levels welcome. | $15
Meet at Princess Anne Recreation Center for transportation to locations
Saturday, January 21 | 8:30 am – 11:30 am

Pleasure House Point Birding

16 & up | This 188-acre site at Lynnhaven Inlet encompasses Maritime forest, beaches, marshes and mudflats and was recently added to the Virginia Birding Trails. These varied habitats support a wide array of birds and wildlife like songbirds, raptors, shorebirds and is home to many breeding diamondback terrapins. At one time this site was targeted for intense development, but a partnership between the City of Virginia Beach, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and The Trust for Public Land made the preservation of this space possible. Recommended for experienced birders. | $5
Meet at Pleasure House Point Natural Area, 3957 Marlin Bay Drive (please park along roadway)
Saturday, January 21 | 8:30 am – 11:00 am

NEW Waterfowl Walk

10 & up | Thousands of waterfowl visit the Back Bay every year to rest and feed during the winter migration. This one-mile walk will be led by local expert birders and focus on identification of the various ducks found at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Binoculars and cameras are highly recommended. A spotting scope will be available, but participants may bring their own if desired. | $5
Meet at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, 4005 Sandpiper Rd
Saturday, January 21 | 9:00 am – 11:00 am

Intro to Nature Photography

16 & up | Award winning photographer, G. Michael Brown will inspire you with his superb nature images. Learn the basics of your digital camera and how to apply them in capturing the extraordinary natural subjects that inhabit our area.  Basic concepts of image composition and proper lighting will be highlighted using bird, flower, and landscape digital images. All experience levels welcome. | $5
This classroom session meets at Princess Anne Recreation Center
Saturday, January 21 | 10:30 am – 11:30 am

NEW Fisherman’s Island: A Wildlife, Nature, and History Walk - FULL​

This trip is full, but you can join the waitlist
10 & up
| Fisherman’s Island has been a marine hospital (1890), an artillery site (1942), part of Back Bay (1973) and the Eastern Shore of Virginia (1984). Additionally, it is critical habitat for royal terns and brown pelicans. Join us as we walk along sandy trails thru maritime forest, swales, secondary dunes, and beach areas. Migratory birds and a variety of flora and fauna are also part of this walk. Don’t miss out on the spectacular views this location offers of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel! | $15
Meet at Bayville Farms Park, 4132 First Court Rd., for transportation to locations
Saturday, January 21 | 8:00 am – 12:00 pm

Back Bay/False Cape Terra-gator and Tram Tour

All ages | Take a scenic tram ride through Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park to the site of the historic Wash Woods community in what is now False Cape State Park. Hike the 1-mile round-trip trail to the historical site, where a church steeple and cemetery remain. Ride back along the remote beach observing shorebirds and perhaps whales while riding in our unique beach transporter, the Terra-Gator. All experience levels welcome. | $15
Meet at Princess Anne Recreation Center for transportation to location
Saturday, January 21 | 12:30 pm – 5:00 pm

Urban Birding Tour

12 & up | Did you know that there are many “birdie” places right in the heart of the city? This trip will take you to some of Virginia Beach’s prime urban bird spots where a surprising variety of birds can be seen. Some of the sites are so easy to bird, we may not have to leave the bus! This trip focuses on acquainting you with various places to go birding in Virginia Beach. Recommended for new or casual birders, but all experience levels welcome. A limited supply of binoculars will be available for loan during the class, but please bring your own if you have them. | $15
Meet at Princess Anne Recreation Center for transportation to locations
Saturday, January 21 | 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm

NEW Macro Photography

16 & up | Most of today'​s digital cameras offer settings that allow photographers to create close-up photographs.  Professional photographer G. Michael Brown will explore the often unseen in nature’s world through Macro or close up Photography.  He’ll share tips and techniques of how to capture the patterns, textures, and drama of insects, plants, and other subjects.  The importance of composition will also be discussed. | $5
This classroom session meets at Princess Anne Recreation Center
Saturday, January 21 | 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Whales & Wildlife Sea Adventure

All ages | Join the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center, the longest running and most experienced whale watching entity in Virginia, in an immersive encounter with some of the ocean’s most magnificent creatures. Specialized educators will share a program built upon the Aquarium’s scientific research and almost three decades of experience connecting guests with the area’s marine mammal visitors. Trips take place on a spacious and stable catamaran that boasts one of the most comfortable rides in Virginia Beach, and has been outfitted especially for conducting dolphin & whale watching trips. Experience spectacular views from the outdoor covered seating areas, or from cushioned seats inside a heated cabin. This ~2.5 hour adventure is an exploration in search of whales, dolphins, seals, and seabirds. Marine mammal sightings are not guaranteed. All experience levels welcome. | $23 for ages 12 & up; $18 for ages 3-11; free for children under age 3​
Meet at the Virginia Aquarium Dock, 717 General Booth Blvd.
Saturday, January 21 | 2:00 pm – 4:30 pm

First Landing Nature Walk

5 & up | Experience firsthand the amazing habitats that exist within First Landing State Park. Discover what makes the park’s environment so unique that it has been made a national natural area. The 2 mile hike will take participants across swamp overlooks and through maritime forest in search of wildlife and natural phenomena found within the park. All experience levels welcome. | $5
Meet at the First Landing State Park Trail Center, 2500 Shore Drive
Saturday, January 21 | 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm

Owl Prowls

10 & up | Choose from two locations! Explore the night time woods of West Neck Natural Area or Great Neck Park looking and listening for their nocturnal hunters. Great horned, barred and screech owls and other creatures of the night are all possibilities for these trips. All experience levels welcome. | $10
Meet at West Neck Natural Area or Great Neck Park​​
Saturday, January 21 | 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm

NEW Owls and S’mores

5 & up | Enjoy this traditional nighttime outdoor activity. Listen and look for nocturnal animals of First Landing State Park, especially the park’s owl inhabitants. Then join park rangers around the campfire for special activities and of course a S’more! | $10
Meet at First Landing State Park (2500 Shore Drive) at the large Chesapeake Bay Center sign in front of the main office building
Saturday, January 21 | 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm

Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel

12 & up | The man-made islands of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel provide rest stops for migrating and wintering birds. The islands can offer unusual or locally rare sightings. Northern gannet, brant, king eider, harlequin duck, little gull, great cormorant, purple sandpiper and rarities such as black-tailed gull make this one of the best winter birding sites in Virginia. The presence of the occasional harbor seals and wintering whales adds to the appeal of this unique site. All experience levels welcome. Additional registration form​ required by Jan 6. | $15
Meet at Bayville Farms Park, 4132 First Court Rd., for transportation to location
Sunday, January 22 | 8:00 am – 12:00 pm

Mackay Island Birding

12 & up | Located in North Carolina, just one mile past the Virginia border, this National Wildlife Refuge offers a variety of habitats including freshwater and brackish marshes to upland and lowland eastern pine hardwood forests. Its location on the edge of Back Bay and the Currituck Sound, make this peninsula a fascinating place to view winter wildlife including large numbers of snow geese. Refuge volunteers will provide a guided tour of the main refuge. Recommended for experienced birders. | $15
Meet at Princess Anne Recreation Center for transportation to location
Sunday, January 22 | 8:00 am – 12:30 pm

Princess Anne Wildlife Management Area Birding

12 & up | This trip will visit the Beasly Tract of Princess Anne Wildlife Management Area, a patchwork of marshes, weedy fields, narrow freshwater impoundments, and pine woodland. Likely bird sightings include raptors, sparrows, wintering songbirds, and other grassland/ shrubland birds. Snow geese and tundra swans are likely fly overs. (Please note: Due to on-going installation of a new pumping system at this site, the freshwater impoundments may be dry, so the high numbers of waterfowl and wading birds usually seen during the winter season will most likely not be present this year.) Comfortable waterproof shoes or rubber boots are recommended as trails may be wet. Recommended for experienced birders. | $15
Meet at Princess Anne Recreation Center for transportation to location
Sunday, January 22 | 8:00 am – 12:00 pm

Back Bay/False Cape Birding

12 & up | Take a scenic ride through Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge on the “Blue Goose Express” observing wintering snow geese, swans and other wildlife. Journey to the heart of False Cape State Park for a chance to further observe and photograph the abundant wintering waterfowl. Scopes and cameras are allowed and encouraged. Recommended for experienced birders. Due to refuge policy, no stops will be made while traveling through Back Bay. | $15
Meet at Princess Anne Recreation Center for transportation to location
Sunday, January 22 | 8:00 am – 12:30 pm

Seal Spotting Sea Adventure

All ages | Seals are frequent visitors to this area when the water temperatures drop, although their favorite haul-out spots can make them difficult to see. During this trip, catch eye-level observations while educators from the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center provide information about the species that frequent our waters. Possible sightings include harbor seals, gray seals, harp seals, and hooded seals. Learn about the most recent research conducted by the Virginia Aquarium’s Stranding Response Team, and how we care for similar animals at the Aquarium. The 65-foot Atlantic Explorer provides spectacular views from the outdoor, covered seating areas as well as from the interior heated cabin. Marine mammal sightings are not guaranteed. All experience levels welcome. | $23 for ages 12 & up; $18 for ages 3-11; free for children under age 3
Meet at the Virginia Aquarium Dock, 717 General Booth Blvd.
Sunday, January 22 | 2:00 pm – 4:30 pm
 

Walk-Up Workshops at Princess Anne Recreation Center​

All workshops are free and take place at Princess Anne Recreation Center. Pre-registration is preferred.

Peregrine Falcons

10 & up | Join Reese Lukei, a volunteer for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since 1974 and a licensed bird bander, as he discusses the description, behavior, nest sites, history, distribution, recovery and current status of the Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) in Virginia with a focus on the Tidewater and Eastern regions of Virginia.
Saturday, January 21 | 10:30 am – 11:30 am

Urban Predators

10 & up | Join DGIF Biologist Pete Aker as he discusses coyotes and bears, the largest predators in Virginia - both found in Virginia Beach! There will be additional information on bobcats, foxes, and mountain lions. Come learn which of these animals may live closer to you than you think, what they eat, and what to do if you spot one. Become informed on these intriguing species and how to keep them away from your home, while enjoying them respectfully.
Saturday, January 21 | 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

Choosing Optics for Nature Observation

16 & up | Explore what goes into making a great binocular for birding and nature observation. Learn what the numbers mean, how to use various binoculars and why some may or may not be best suited to what you do. This session includes hands-on time with a number of ZEISS binoculars.
Saturday, January 21 | 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm

Birding for conservation: Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas Season 2 (VABBA2)

10 & up | Join VA Atlas Coordinator, Dr. Ashley Peele, as she shares stories and results from the fantastic first season of the VA Breeding Bird Atlas. Learn why scientists and wildlife managers need the help of volunteers to gather essential information on bird distribution and breeding. The VA Breeding Bird Atlas Season 2 project is a fun way to make your own contribution towards preserving heritage while learning a lot about bird behavior and conservation.​
Saturday, January 21 | 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm

Additional Festival Activities

Sea Watch Station on the Boardwalk at Rudee Inlet

All ages | Stop by the boardwalk at Rudee Inlet to see what birds are flying over the waves, feeding, or resting on the water. You are likely to see Surf & Black Scoters, Buffleheads, Northern Gannets, Double-crested Cormorants, and an assortment of gulls (Ring-billed, Herring, Lesser Black-backed, & Great Black-backed). Red-throated & Common Loons, Red-breasted Mergansers, Laughing Gulls, and Forster’s Terns are also possible. And if you are really lucky, you might see a Common Eider, White-winged Scoter, Horned Grebe, or Bonaparte’s Gull. Bring binoculars if you have them. If not, we’ll have birding scopes set up. Dress warmly! | Free; no registration required
Saturday, January 21 | 1:30 pm – 3:30 pm

Flying WILD Teacher Workshop

For formal & non-formal educators | Celebrate birds with Flying WILD, a conservation education guide featuring interdisciplinary hands-on classroom activities. Key concepts include migration, adaptation, the importance of habitat and bird conservation efforts. Designed originally for middle school teachers and stude​nts, the guide contains activities suitable for all grade levels. All participants will receive a copy of the Flying WILD Activity Guide and supplementary materials on Virginia birds. Additional registration form required (unless registering online) | $10
Meet at First Landing State Park Trail Center, 2500 Shore Drive
Tuesday, January 24 | 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm​​ ​

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