Winter Wildlife Festival

Join us for a month-long celebration of coastal wildlife and nature! 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.
SAVE THE DATE: The 2022 Festival has been set for January 28-30.
COVID-19 Response: For the latest operational information, please refer to Parks & Rec FAQ, visit Rec Center Safety Guidelines, and follow our Facebook page

​​​​​​​​​​​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.

 Photo Contest

2021 Winter Wildlife Festival Photo Contest Winners

Wildlife Portrait Winner

 Birding Challenge

Birding Challenge

Get your flock together and take your perch to compete in the new Winter Wildlife Festival Birding Challenge! Designed for teams with two to five members, identify as many bird species as possible in a day. Flap your wings and celebrate your observations with a challenge T-shirt for all participants and award recognition for top teams in each division. See Birding Challenge overview, Rules & Regulations, and resources at right.

Birding Challenge Overview
Pine Crest Manor
Best Team Photo: Pine Crest Manor

Birding Challenge Winners:

  • Big Day – Team Lazuli (89 species) – Steve & Amy Myers 
  • Mini Day – Team What the Flock (37 species) – Ana Colon, Marie Smith, Elisabeth Wilkins, and Michelle Slosser 
  • Backyard Bird Count – Team HartWood (37 species) – Darol & Tony Wood 
  • Best Team Photo – Team Pine Crest Manor – Jessica Hinke and Martin Rothe

 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

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Watch the Winter Wildlife Festival 2021 playlist for recordings of the keynote and virtual workshop sessions featured below.

  • Keynote: 'Man & Gulls' with Amar Ayyash
  • Workshop: What's that bird?
  • Workshop: Seabird Conservation in Hampton Roads
  • Workshop: Introduction to Gull Identification with Amar Ayyash

About Amar Ayyash

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.

 ‭(Hidden)‬ 2021 Photo Contest

 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.jpgOn Friday, January 29, during the 11th Annual Winter Wildlife Festival keynote presentation, Virginia Beach Parks & Recreation announced the recipient of this year’s Mary Reid Barrow Wildlife Advocate Award as Meredith Broadhurst

Broadhurst is a valued member of the wildlife rehabilitation community who goes above and beyond to help injured animals in need. Answering the calls of concerned citizens at all times of day or night, her dedication knows no bounds when it comes to assisting wildlife. To aid in her work, she raises funds and finds creative ways to educate the greater community through social media, outreach, training, and workshops. Through those efforts, she has also established a network of other caring individuals to share in the work of caring for the animals. It is for all of those reasons that she was nominated and selected as the 2021 award recipient. Read press release.


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 >>

Virginia Beach Public Libraries Wildlife Resources


Special Thanks to our Festival Partners

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