Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail
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Site CES04: Kiptopeke State Park
Kiptopeke provides excellent wildlife viewing in unique and interesting habitat. The old ferry landing, decommissioned with the advent of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, is marked by a series of partially submerged aged concrete ships that sit just off the shoreline. These old hulks provide nesting habitat for gulls and structure for fish. A few feet away from the fishing pier is a wooden stairway that leads onto the sandy beach, where relatively few people go. This is where you will find the federally endangered northeastern beach tiger beetle, a tiny insect that scuttles about the sand preying on smaller insects. The striking coloration of these beetles is beautiful, and a moment spent studying them with close-focus binoculars is well worth the effort. The beetles are dependent on soft, friable sand for suitable habitat, so please tread lightly and try to limit walking to hard, compacted sand. In the park, woodland trails wind through mixed stands of hardwoods and pine, and open up onto an impressive butterfly garden. Since the early 1960s, neotropical songbirds have been banded at the station here as part of the Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory (www.cvwo.org), making it one of the longest running migratory banding stations in eastern North America. A raptor banding station is also in operation at the park during migrations. The annual hawkwatch counts in excess of 70,000 raptors. Without question, this is one of the finest sites in the Americas to view migrating birds of prey, especially from a handicap accessible elevated platform. Songbird migrations in spring and fall also produce large numbers of wood warblers, and the total species list for the park exceeds 300 birds. The park is a venue for the annual Eastern Shore Birding Festival, and offers a variety of interpretive/naturalist programs, educational programs, and opportunities to participate in songbird banding activities. Hiking trails provide up to 1.5 miles of wooded and open habitat for wildlife viewing. Camping, boating, and RVs are all allowed at the park.
From the GATR Tract of Mockhorn Island WMA, return to Seaside Road/Rt. 600 and turn right. Travel 0.6 miles and turn left on Rt. 645/Cedar Grove Road. Drive 0.1 miles and turn right on US 13N. Proceed 0.3 miles and turn left on Rt. 704/Kiptopeke Road. Continue on Rt. 704 to the State Park entrance.