Trip Report

Birders Eastern Shore NWR,VA Black Scoter-(f)-Virginia Beach, VA Dunlin Eastern Shore WR, VA Northern Shoveler Eastern Shore NWR, VA Red-breasted Merganser Virginia Beach VA Red-throated Loon Kiptopeke SP, VA Snowy Owl Assateague NWR, MD Snowy Owl Assateague NWR, MD Sunset Eastern Shore NWR, VA Tundra Swan Eastern Shore NWR, VA Yellow-rumped Warbler Eastern Shore NWR, VA
  • Birders Eastern Shore NWR,VA
  • Black Scoter-(f)-Virginia Beach, VA
  • Dunlin Eastern Shore WR, VA
  • Northern Shoveler Eastern Shore NWR, VA
  • Red-breasted Merganser Virginia Beach VA
  • Red-throated Loon Kiptopeke SP, VA
  • Snowy Owl Assateague NWR, MD
  • Snowy Owl Assateague NWR, MD
  • Sunset Eastern Shore NWR, VA
  • Tundra Swan Eastern Shore NWR, VA
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler Eastern Shore NWR, VA


Tidewater Virginia Trip Report
January 16-20, 2018



It was not that cold for a January day when we assembled in Asheville en route for Durham, NC to pick up Mike. After a good lunch locally it was then a longish drive to Virginia Beach. And when at the beach, why not eat seafood? We started tonight and this was set to be a theme for the rest of the week!

Virginia Beach does not look its best on a gray winter day (!), but we were not there to sit on the beach and besides, the wind was beginning to become quite icy. A stop outside the hotel in the morning produced several Lesser Black-backed Gulls on the beach, sitting next to a Great Black-backed Gull – for a good comparison. A short way down the coast was Rudee Inlet. This sheltered (somewhat) stretch of water had several sea ducks within close range, including Red-breasted Merganser and Black Scoter.

The weather report had just been updated with an incoming snowstorm so we decided to head across the bridge and stay ahead of the storm. A few stops along the bridge were pretty successful with flocks of Scaup, White-winged and Surf Scoter and a single Brant. A couple of Purple Sandpipers were very nice as well. Lunch was at Sting-Ray’s in Cape Charles – a great local seafood restaurant that serves fresh fish. It was becoming very cold and windy and we could see the snow coming in across the sea as we finished some birding at Kiptopeke State Park. Several Red-throated Loons were very close and the whole bay was dotted with Scoters, Scaup, Grebes and Loons. We made a brief stop at Eastern Shore NWR which was fairly birdless, before deciding that we needed to get to our hotel ahead of the storm. It was snowing quite hard as we started to drive north and the snow was starting to stick on roads and sidewalks. Highway 13 is a very straight road with no hills and very few curves, so it was a real surprise to see 2 cars in the ditch plus a tractor trailer that had jackknifed across the road; thankfully just past our hotel. We drove through the snow with no problems and settled in to the hotel, but the snow was not slowing down which made dinner plans somewhat interesting. We ended up at Sub-Way as most places were closed, but at least we got dinner!!


The next morning was cold and icy and traffic was barely moving, if at all, along Route 13. We relaxed and waited for the conditions to improve before driving south back to Eastern Shore NWR. It was still cold, but the sun was melting the snow off the roads and also the grassy verges, where large flocks of Yellow-rumped Warblers were feeding. We tend to ignore such common species, but when one looks at them close-up, they are lovely little birds. A couple of Gray Catbirds were wintering well north and a few Fox Sparrows made a brief appearance. It was then up to Chincoteague NWR, with the obligatory lunch stop at Sting Rays. It was quite icy at Chincoteague, but the open water was full of ducks. The most abundant were Snow Goose, Gadwall and American Black Duck, with smaller numbers of Bufflehead and Shoveler. The highlight had to be both male American and Eurasian Wigeon feeding together giving us great views. There are not a lot of restaurants open during the winter but our dinner tonight was pretty good – and the place was packed with duck hunters! We had been watching the local bird reports so were very pleased to hear that a Snowy Owl had been hanging around at Assateague National Seashore. After an early breakfast we drove north into Maryland in search of the owl. Assateague is a barrier island so there was a lot of waterfowl: Brant, Surf and White-winged Scoter, Red-throated and Common Loon and flocks of Canada Geese. We spent some time searching the campsite where others had reported the owl without much luck to start with, but thanks to Mike’s sharp eyes, we found it sitting next to some lights on the roof of a large building – phew. We spent the next 40 minutes enjoying this rare visitor from the north and keeping our distance to prevent spooking the bird. Other birds in the area included hundreds of Yellow-rumped Warblers, Brown-headed Nuthatch and Cedar Waxwing. Lunch was nearby in Berlin, MD – a very nice and upscale town with some great restaurants; a great surprise. We spent the rest of the day back at Chincoteague where we again saw the Eurasian Wigeon, as well as a big flock of Dunlin, Black-bellied Plover and American Oystercatcher. Offshore was a nice flock of Long-tailed Ducks, mixed in with Surf and Black Scoters, Bufflehead and Greater Scaup. All were feeding in the surf and were particularly photogenic as the sun started to set. It was back into Chincoteague for dinner and our very convenient hotel; immediately adjacent to the wildlife refuge!

It was home the next day and a long drive back to Durham with a stop at Eastern Shore to once again look for the elusive King Eider, which we again missed. Oh well. At least we had great views of Red-throated Loon – almost at our feet. It was then over the bridge and back to North Carolina after a very, if rather chilly, long weekend at the beach. We had good birds, with the highlight being the Snowy Owl of course, some delicious seafood and great company. We braved a rather impressive snowstorm and got where we were going safely. Thanks again to Mike for suggesting the trip and helping to coordinate things for a great trip.



Simon Thompson 

Birds and wildlife seen on our Venture to
Tidewater Virginia
January 16-20, 2018


Snow Goose
Canada Goose
Tundra Swan
Northern Shoveler
Eurasian Wigeon
American Wigeon
American Black Duck
Northern Pintail
Lesser Scaup
Greater Scaup
Surf Scoter
White-winged Scoter
Black Scoter
Long-tailed Duck
Common Goldeneye
Hooded Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Wild Turkey
Red-throated Loon
Common Loon
Horned Grebe
Northern Gannet
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Cormorant
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Great Blue Heron



Great Egret
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk
Bald Eagle
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Oystercatcher
Black-bellied Plover
Purple Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Greater Yellowlegs
Bonaparte’s Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Snowy Owl
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
American Kestrel
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay



American Crow
Fish Crow
Common Raven
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Brown-headed Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
American Robin
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
White-throated Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Eastern Towhee
Northern Cardinal
Eastern Meadowlark
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow




White-tailed Deer

Gray Squirrel