Winter Wildlife Festival

Join us for a month-long celebration of coastal wildlife and nature culminating January 28-31! We're going the distance this year and presenting virtual and in-person components to ensure a safe, yet engaging experience for all. See all the festival highlights below.
wwf facebook group.png

New! Join our Facebook Group

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.

​​​​​​​​​​​2021 Festival Highlights

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 excursions are taking flight and highlighted in our 2021 Festival Schedule. See full details and registration links below. 

A Parks & Recreation membership is not required to register for Winter Wildlife Festival activities.

 Birding Challenge

Birding Challenge

Join Winter Wildlife Festival in celebrating the abundant and diverse birds overwintering in Coastal Virginia! Challenge yourself and your team to get outdoors and observe as many bird species as possible in a day in the Birding Challenge. See Birding Challenge flyer and details below.


Big Day (24 hours) #59143 
Mini Day (3 hours) #59144 
Backyard Bird Count (single location) #59145 

How to Register 

Step 1: Select your teammates and challenge division. 
Step 2: Register and pay online. Only one registration per team. One member should register online, select the total number of teammates, and pay the total cost; a Parks & Recreation membership is not required.
Step 3: Team Captain must complete supplemental online Team Registration Form.

 Big Sits & Excursions

Big Sits & Other Excursions

Fee based | Online registration is required. View the 2021 Festival Schedule.

Big Sits | Ages 10 & up | $10/person

Birders of all expertise levels come together to spot and identify birds from the comfort of a chair! Leaders will guide the experience and offer Natural History of locations. Participants are asked to BYOC (bring your own chair) as well as their own spotting equipment (binoculars and scopes). Have fun while contributing to Citizen Science as we record how many species we find at each location! All registrants must meet onsite at location.

Pleasure House Point
Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge  
Princess Anne Wildlife Management Area
​Sat., Jan. 30 8:30-9:30am #59106
Sat., Jan. 30 1-2pm #59108 ​
Sun., Jan. 31 8:30-9:30 am #59110
​Sat., Jan. 30 10-11am #59107
Sat., Jan. 30 2:30-3:30pm #59109 
​Sun., Jan. 31 10-11 am #59111 
​Sun., Jan. 31 8:30-9:30am #60080 ​​Sun., Jan. 31 1-2 pm #59112

​Sun., Jan. 31 10-11am #60081
Sun., Jan. 31 2:30-3:30pm #59113

Big Sits After Dark
 | Ages 10 & up | $10/person

Take the party into the night! Learn about our local owls and the night sky. Binoculars are recommended. Bundle up and BYOC! All registrants must meet onsite at location.

​Great Neck Park
Marshview Park
​Thurs., Jan. 28, 7-8 pm #59116
​Thurs., Jan. 28, 7-8 pm #59114
​Sat., Jan. 30, 7-8 pm #59117
​Sat., Jan. 30, 7-8 pm #59115


Whale Watching Boat Trip
 | All Ages

COST: Ages 12 & up: $31.95 | Ages 3-11: $26.95 | Ages 3 & under: Free
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.

​Meeting location: Virginia Aquarium Dock ​
​​Sat., Jan. 30, 2-4:30 pm #59123
​​Sun., Jan. 31, 10-12:30 pm #59127

Notable Tree Tours | Ages 12 & Up | $15/car 
(up to 4 people per car) 
Join Lynnhaven River Now's Captain Brent James on tours through Northeast and Central Virginia Beach to take in some notable trees! See trees up close and learn about their history on the properties in which they reside, along with age and size relative to the state and national champions of their species. 

Your personal car is required to caravan your party from location to location. It is exceptionally important to arrive on time at 12:45pm for tours and keep up with the group on the road and while walking at sites. All experience levels welcome. Sturdy, waterproof footwear is recommended. Walking short distances may be required. Terrain may be uneven at times.

NOTABLE TREE TOURS SCHEDULE (meet promptly at 12:45pm)
​Northeast Virginia Beach
​Central Virginia Beach
Meeting Location:​ Brock Environmental Center 
Meeting Location:​ Princess Anne Recreation Center
​Sat., Jan. 30, 1-4 pm #59119​
​Sun., Jan. 31, 1-4 pm #59120

 Virtual Activities & Keynote

Virtual Activities & Keynote

FREE | Online registration is required. Once registered, you will receive Zoom login details. View the 2021 Festival Schedule.

Amar Ayyash (1 of 1).jpg

Keynote: 'Man & Gulls' with Amar Ayyash

Friday, January 29, 7-8:30 pm | #59132 | Ages 12 & up
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. But 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 is to advance gull recreation in North America.

Workshop: What's that bird?

Friday, January 29, 10:30-11:30am | #59134 | ages 12 & up
Do you enjoy watching the birds around your home, but wonder what they are? If so, this virtual workshop led by a DWR Watchable Wildlife Biologist is for you! You will get to know these common "backyard" birds and learn to identify them by sight, sound, and other means.

Workshop: Seabird Conservation in Hampton Roads

Saturday, January 30, 11am-12pm #59137 | ages 18 & up
Hear the evolutionary tale of Virginia's most unique seabird breeding colony located at the Interstate 64 Hampton Roads Bridge and Tunnel (HRBT) between the cities of Norfolk and Hampton. You will learn about its formation into the Commonwealth's largest waterbird colony, its inhabitants, and its near demise and eleventh hour salvation. You will learn how strong support from the birding community and conservation organizations and the implementation of out-of-the-box management techniques saved the HRBT colony and what the future holds in store for this most impressive aggregation of breeding birds.

Workshop: Introduction to Gull Identification with Amar Ayyash

Saturday, January 30, 4-5:30pm #59138 | ages 16 & up
Whether you're just beginning to work on your local gulls, or have long struggled with the nuances of this group of birds, winter is the perfect time to brush up on how to identify them. Amar will walk us through the key components of identifying the gulls found in eastern North America. He will present a multitude of photos and collages for comparison, and will also touch on some of the often-ignored topics in gull-study such as the aging process and molt. Join virtually to learn why an increasing number of people are being drawn to this family of birds and are eagerly calling themselves "larophiles".

 Photo Contest

Winter Wildlife Festival Photography Contest | January 1-31

wwf photo contest.jpgShow off your skills by capturing even more wonderful wildlife all month long for a chance to win some great prizes. To qualify, all photo contest submissions must be taken in Coastal Virginia between January 1-31, 2021 (see areas below). Submit up to four photos, one submission per category outlined below. The deadline to enter is Sunday, January 31, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. Review the Photo Contest flyer and Rules & Regulations for complete details. 

Photo Categories

ALL photos must be taken in the following areas of Coastal Virginia to qualify:
Cities of Chesapeake, Franklin, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Suffolk, Virginia Beach, and Williamsburg 
Counties of Accomack, Isle of Wight, James City, Northampton, Southampton, and York

  • Wildlife Portrait – must show wildlife animal(s) still
  • Wildlife Action – must show wildlife animal(s) in motion, displaying a behavior
  • Nature Enthusiast in Action – must show people participating in an outdoor, nature-based recreational activity
  • Landscape/Scenic – must show scenic landscape and/or native flowers, trees, shrubs or plants 
  • Youth – subject may be of wildlife, nature, or people participating in nature-based recreation; must be under 16 to qualify
  • People’s Choice – subject may be of wildlife, nature, landscape/scenic or people participating in nature-based recreation taken in location. Photographs entered in any of the above categories may also be entered in the People’s Choice category​​​​​​​

2020 Photography Contest Winners

​Congratulations to all the winners!​

bodyflow class

Wildlife Portrait Winner

Guy Babineau | Black Snake

brown pelican

Wildlife Portrait Honorable Mention

Helen Pipcho | Brown Pelican

herring gull

Wildlife Action Winner

Judy Jones | Herring Gull

humpback whale

Wildlife Action Honorable Mention

Elizabeth Keefer | Humpback Whale

cherry bark oak notable trees field

Festival in Action Winner

Pam Monahan | Cherry Bark Oak Notable Trees 

seaside lagoon boat tour

Festival in Action Honorable Mention

Mary Wadsworth | Seaside Lagoon Boat Tour

boy with snake

Youth Winner

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

mounted duck at exhibit hall

Youth Honorable Mention

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

humpback whale

People's Choice Winner

Elizabeth Keefer | Humpback Whale

 StoryWalk® & Children's Activities

StoryWalk® & Children's Activities

storywalk.jpegIn 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. 

Featuring Winter Dance by Marion Dane Bauer

storywalk_winter dance.jpgSnow is coming, and it's time to get ready! The squirrel gathers nuts, the geese soar south, and the snowshoe hare puts on its new white coat. But what should the fox do? Each animal advises the fox that its own plan is best, but the fox thinks otherwise—yet it's not until he meets a golden-eyed friend that he finds the perfect way to celebrate the snowfall. 

Stunning illustrations by the new talent Richard Jones are the perfect complement to the Newbery Honor winner Marion Dane Bauer's lyrical and playful homage to the natural world. 

Saturdays (12-3pm)
Wednesdays (12-3pm)
Festival Weekend (12-3pm)
​Jan. 2
​Marshview Park​ 
​Jan. 6
MEO Central Library
​Jan. 30
​Red Wing Park
​Jan. 9
Lake Lawson/Lake Smith Natural Area
Jan. 13​
​Kempsville Library​ 
​Jan. 31
​Great Neck Park
​Jan. 16
West Neck Natural Area​
​Jan. 20
Oceanfront Library
​Jan. 23
​​Stumpy Lake Natural Area​
​Jan. 27
Princess Anne Library

 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.​​​

The call for 2021 nominations is now closed. The Winter Wildlife Festival Committee will review all nominations and announce the 2021 award recipient during the festival weekend, Jan. 29-31, 2020.


Plan Your Birding Adventure

It’s easy to discover Virginia’s wild side with the Virginia Bird and Wildlife Trail (VBWT), an organized network of outdoor sites highlighting the best places to see birds and wildlife in the Commonwealth. With 400 species of birds, 150 species of mammals, 150 species of amphibians and reptiles, 250 species of fish, plus hundreds of butterfly, dragonfly, and other invertebrate species, you’ll soon see why Virginia is a premier destination for birding and wildlife viewing.  The VBWT features 65 trail loops to help you plan your outdoor travels to multiple birding and wildlife viewing sites each with a webpage, map, descriptions, and links to tourism information. 

Free Apps

Connect with Nature. Explore and share your observations from the natural world with these free apps. Download and follow the step-by-step instructions for using the apps from a mobile device.

​Download eBird
​Download Merlin
​Download iNaturalist
Google Play
App Store
Google Play
App Store
Google Play
App Store

Hidden Treasures in our Parks & Natural Areas 

Discover the hidden treasures, unique wildlife, flora, and fauna tucked within our city parks and natural areas.
Watch Hidden Treasure video series >>

Wildlife Booklists presented by Virginia Beach Public Libraries

Special Thanks to our Festival Partners

VA Aquarium200.png
lynnhaven river now.png