CES05: Town of Cape Charles & Cape Charles Natural Area Preserve
A plethora of birdwatching opportunities are available in the vicinity of Cape Charles, including Cape Charles Natural Area Preserve. Visit them all by following the recommended driving route below.
Recommended Driving Route for Birding in Cape Charles:
From US 13, turn west onto SR 184 toward the town of Cape Charles. After 1.9 miles, turn right onto Fig St. Continue north on Fig St. for five blocks where you will come to the entrance of Marina Villages. There is marsh area to the right as you drive into the Villages, and access to the boat dock overlooking Kings Creek. Clapper rails and shorebirds can be found in season. During winter storms, many species of waterfowl take refuge here.
After leaving Marina Villages, turn right onto Washington Ave. to observe the lake on your right. Migrant waterfowl and gulls can often be seen here.
Continue on Washington Ave to Bay Ave. Turn left onto Bay Ave and park along the shore of Chesapeake Bay. To your right are pilings, the remains of an old seaside restaurant, now used by many roosting gulls and terns in the evening. A short walk up the boardwalk, wooden overlooks offer a vista scanning the flats at low tide for shorebirds, gulls, and terns. About 18 species of shorebirds have been recorded here. On higher tides, look for bay and sea duck species in the cooler months.
Bay Ave ends in 0.1 miles at Mason Ave, where a fishing jetty and pier at the harbor’s mouth offers a great walk for viewing oldsquaw and purple sandpiper among other species. Gulls, including the very occasional lesser black-backed, roost here through the day, being most numerous in morning and late afternoon. In mid-March, migrating brant appear on the flats. Watch the swallows here; in addition to a few pairs of northern rough-winged swallows nesting around the harbor, there are many tree and barn swallows, and purple martins also nesting nearby.
From Bay Ave, turn left onto Mason Ave, and at 0.6 miles, bear right onto Rte 642/ Old Cape Charles Rd. After passing over the “hump” overpass, turn right onto Bayshore Rd/ Rte 108. In 0.2 miles, Rte 1108 becomes Marina Rd, which forks to the right. Turn right here and continue 0.4 miles to the Harbor, where gulls, loons, and diving ducks often abound, including sometimes oldsquaw in small numbers.
Continuing from the Harbor on Marina Rd, return to Bayshore Rd and turn right. Follow Bayshore Rd until reaching Patrick Henry Ave and turn right. Continue past the Wako Chemicals office building, park in the rear parking lot, and head towards the kiosk for Cape Charles Natural Area Preserve to begin the hiking trail.
The 29-acre Cape Charles Natural Area Preserve, owned by Virginia Department of Conservation & Recreation, has a long boardwalk that traverses several natural communities, including a Maritime Loblolly Pine Forest, and ends at a low bluff overlooking the Chesapeake Bay. The preserve provides habitat for the federally threatened northeastern beach tiger beetle and is part of the Lower Delmarva Important Bird Area. During fall bird migration, the forest abounds with migratory songbirds and raptors resting and feeding before continuing their journey across the Chesapeake Bay. Please note: There is no beach access for the public due to the sensitivity of the habitat.
(Note: To travel directly to the Preserve from US 13, follow the directions below.)
To the Start of the Full Driving Route
Beginning from US 13, turn west onto SR 184/ Stone Rd and follow the recommended driving route described above.
From the previous site on the Eastern Shore Loop of VBWT:
From Kiptopeke State Park, return to US 13N. Drive 6.5 miles and turn left onto SR 184W/Stone Road.
To Cape Charles Natural Area Preserve
From US 13, turn west onto SR 184/ Stone Rd, then turn left on Fig St. Turn right on Mason Ave and then, almost immediately, make a very sharp left on Old Cape Charles Rd/ SR 641 and continue .4 miles. Turn right on Bayshore Rd and continue .6 miles as the road curves. Turn right onto Patrick Henry Ave. Park behind the building and head towards the kiosk to find the trailhead.