Winter Wildlife Festival

Join us for a month-long celebration of coastal wildlife and nature culminating January 29-31!

​​​​​​​​​​​2021 Festival Highlights

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The 2021 festival will be celebrated a little differently. We are going the distance to safely observe our nature’s beauty and our health and safety guidelines. Featured activities, virtual workshops, and boat trips are taking flight and highlighted below.

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MRB award

Mary Reid Barrow Wildlife Advocate Award

Help us select the next honoree! Nominations accepted through Dec. 1. See details below.


Amar Ayyash

Virtual Keynote Speaker: Amar Ayyash presents 'Man & Gulls'

Ayyash takes us through an entertaining and intriguing journey of their natural history, behaviors, and adaptations. Read on below.

Invest in SYEP

NEW! Winter Wildlife Festival Birding Challenge & Big Sit

Compete as a team to identify species or BYOC (bring your own chair) and spot wildlife in guided, one-hour sessions. Read below.

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Winter Wildlife Photo Contest | Jan. 4-31

Snap even more wonderful wildlife for a chance to win prizes. See below for 2020 winners and details.

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Winter Wildlife Festival StoryWalk

This traveling exhibit features a seasonally-appropriate, nature-themed children’s storybook that pops up at various outdoor locations. See below for details.

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Boat Trips, Virtual Workshops & Activities

Enjoy boat tours through our partners at the Virginia Aquarium and sign up for virtual workshops and activities. Standby for details.

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New Facebook Group | Join Nov. 16

Connect with a community for all things winter wildlife. Get real-time festival updates, interviews with experts, wildlife watching tips from the pros, and special behind-the-scenes opportunities from our festival committee. Use this forum to share information and ask questions with other wildlife enthusiasts. Join the group on Nov. 16!

 Wildlife Advocate Award

Mary Reid Barrow Wildlife Advocate Award

Mary Reid Barrow.jpgMary Reid Barrow captivated and educated Virginian-Pilot readers for over 40 years with her columns on nature, sustainability, and healthy living. When the Winter Wildlife Festival began 10 years ago, she became one of its biggest champions and helped it grow to what it is now. 

Barrow was unanimously chosen by the Winter Wildlife Festival planning committee as the first honoree and namesake. As Walter Camp from the Virginia Beach Parks & Recreation Foundation put it, “Without her, most of us would know nothing about our local wildlife; she helps those of us who are just curious become people who are in the know.” Join us as we celebrate Mary Reid Barrow by honoring her and her work with the first-ever Wildlife Advocate Award.​​​

Nominate a candidate who embodies this award for their dedication to educating, celebrating, and advocating for local wildlife each day. Nominations accepted through Dec. 1.

Current committee members are not eligible. All nominees must be over 18 years old and must have completed their work in the Hampton Roads/Eastern Shore area. The Winter Wildlife Festival Committee will review all nominations, select the winner and announce the 2021 award recipient during the festival weekend, Jan. 29-31, 2020.

 Virtual Keynote

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Virtual Keynote: Amar Ayyash presents 'Man & Gulls'

January 29 | 7-9pm
'Man & Gulls' | Of all the world's seabirds, gulls are the most visible to man, gaining admission into our most immediate surroundings. Often approached with apprehension, gulls have earned a love-hate relationship with many birders, and they're often perceived as second class avian creatures. Also among the larids are some of the most coveted bird species in the world, presenting us with an interesting juxtaposition. Do we prefer some gulls over others? And if so, why? 

Amar Ayyash, an expert on North American gull species, will take us through an entertaining and intriguing journey of their natural history, along with some of their less-known behaviors and adaptations. Amar will also touch on recent genetic data on this group which compels us to reassess the very concept of a species.

About Amar | Amar is both an expert on gull identification and an evangelist for ‘gull recreation’. He hosts several popular websites devoted to gulling, has published various technical articles on gull ID, molt, and range shifts, serves on the Board of Directors of the Illinois Ornithological Society, and coordinates the Annual Gull Frolic. A well-known speaker and blogger found at birding events and festivals throughout the continent, Amar lives in Northern Illinois and does much of his gull-watching in the Lake Michigan region. Besides supplementing the need to ramble about this fascinating family of birds, the primary objective in maintaining anythinglarus.com is to advance gull recreation in North America. Join the North American Gulls Facebook Group.
Online conference registration and details coming soon

 Birding Challenge & the Big Sit

NEW! Winter Wildlife Festival Birding Challenge & Big Sit

birding challlengeBirding Challenge
Compete as a team to identify species in two divisions:
1. The Big Day | 24-hour challenge for those who like to go big or go home! 
2. The Mini Day | 3-hour challenge for those who just want to get their feet wet this go-round!

Big Sit
If 'birding in place' is more your speed, or you're interested in increasing your knowledge of local bird species and birdy places, interacting with other nature enthusiasts, then signup for a Big Sit session. These guided, 1-hour sessions will take place at various locations. Be sure to BYOC – bring your own chair!

 2021 Photo Contest

Photo Contest | Jan. 4-31

Show off your skills by capturing unique moments during the Winter Wildlife Festival and enter to win some great prizes. The 2021 contest is extended from Jan. 4-31, so you can snap even more wonderful wildlife. Standby for contest rules and other details.
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2020 Photography Contest Winners​

Congratulations to all the winners!​

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Wildlife Portrait Winner

Guy Babineau | Black Snake

brown pelican

Wildlife Portrait Honorable Mention

Helen Pipcho | Brown Pelican

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Wildlife Action Winner

Judy Jones | Herring Gull

humpback whale

Wildlife Action Honorable Mention

Elizabeth Keefer | Humpback Whale

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Festival in Action Winner

Pam Monahan | Cherry Bark Oak Notable Trees 

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Festival in Action Honorable Mention

Mary Wadsworth | Seaside Lagoon Boat Tour

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Youth Winner

Malaya P., age 12 | Boy with Snake in Exhibit Hall

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Youth Honorable Mention

Kai P., age 7 | Mounted Duck at Exhibit Hall

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People's Choice Winner

Elizabeth Keefer | Humpback Whale



 StoryWalk

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In partnership with the Virginia Beach Public Library, this traveling exhibit will feature a seasonally-appropriate, nature-themed children’s storybook that pops up at various outdoor locations throughout the month of January. Check back for details.

 Boat Trips & Virtual Programs

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Boat Trips, Virtual Workshops & Activities

Enjoy boat tours through our partners at the Virginia Aquarium and sign up for virtual workshops and activities. BONUS: Our keynote speaker, Amar Ayyash, will also be hosting a virtual workshop, 'Introduction to Gull Identification'.

 ‭(Hidden)‬ Festival Partners