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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Travel Tip for Virginia - Chincoteague NWR

            For travelers heading to the Delmarva Peninsula, a visit to Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge is a must. A little to far for a day trip, you should plan to stay at least one night in the town of Chincoteague. I would recommend the Best Western Hotel which is the closest hotel to the refuge. 

            Chincoteague NWR, located primarily on the Virginia side of Assateague Island, consists of more than 14,000 acres of beach, dunes, marsh, and maritime forest. Chincoteague Refuge, originally established in 1943 to provide habitat for migratory birds (with an emphasis on conserving greater snow geese), today provides habitat for waterfowl, wading birds, shorebirds, and song birds, as well as other species of wildlife and plants. More than 320 species of birds are known to occur on the refuge.

Marbled Godwit and Whimbrels
               We usually travel there during President's Day weekend when the rates are cheaper and the visitors are few. However, the wildlife is still abundant, with many waterfowl, both species of loons and many Gannets. Egrets and herons are still around and the occasional White Pelican has been known to make an appearance there. You might be surprised, but there are still quite a few shorebirds present in February. These include Black-bellied Plover, American Oystercatcher, both yellowlegs, Willets, Marbled Godwits, Dunlin and more. A few warblers are also present including Yellow-rumped, Palm and Pine Warblers plus Am Pipits.

            The refuge is open from sunrise until well past sunset so you have plenty of time to visit. There are two roads that you are able to drive around the refuge but one is closed most of the day and only opens at 3PM. However, this provides a great opportunity for the walkers and bikers who can use the 3 mile trail without the interference of auto traffic.
Ponies at Chincoteague
             Another treat for wildlife watchers are the Chincoteague Ponies. Originally, the ponies made they way to the island after a Spanish Clipper shipwrecked off the coast.  The modern-day descendants of those domestic horses are wild and have adapted to their environment. Prior to the refuge's establishment in 1943, the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company purchased the ponies and continues ownership to this day. The Firemen are allowed to graze up to 150 ponies on refuge land.

      Although I have only birded the area in May one time, this would be the ideal time for spring migrants. There are many warblers but you also get to search through massive numbers of shorebirds. I would not recommend going in July and August as the bugs are atrocious.
             After your birding adventures are through you can stroll around town and shop your heart out at the many gift shops and restaurants that are available. I think you will enjoy your stay at Chincoteague and highly recommend a trip there soon.
Pony showing large stomach from eating salt grass

              Those of you who have read this far might be interested in trying to find a problem with one of the photos presented in this blog about Chincoteague NWR.                    

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