This video was taken August 8, 2019 in Machipongo, VA. The gulls created mesmerizing patterns in the sky- never running into each other- while they feasted on newly hatched flies. The flies seemed to just be carried up into the swirl to their demise.




Birders take in the sights and sounds of Northampton County
Photo by William Dyas

Birding in Northampton County

Northampton County, because of its rather isolated geographic position bounded by water on three sides, its mainly rural area, and its significant natural features, supports a large population of wildlife species, rare plants and communities.

Aerial of Northampton CountyThe significance is not only to the Eastern Shore and to Virginia, but internationally, since many of the birds using the Atlantic Flyway pass through Northampton County on their spring and fall migrations to Central and South America and the Caribbean. The narrow land form of the County creates a bottleneck or funnel effect for migrating birds. The value of this corridor is widely known to bird watchers and banders, biologists and conservationists.

Geese in flightThe bayside area and associated woodlands in the lower half of the County have been indicated as probably the most important focal point or "staging area" for raptor and passerine migration on the eastern coast of the United States.

Many of North America's woodland species using the Northampton staging sites are declining in numbers. Among other factors, loss of habitat is high among the reasons for the decline, and emphasizes the importance of good management of the migratory bird habitat in Northampton County. 

Here they pause for rest, cover, and forage in the trees and scrub growth along the edge of the Chesapeake Bay. The banding station at Kiptopeke is the only one on the Virginia coast. Thousands of birds of some 150 species are banded semi-annually. 

Sandpiper Great Blue Heron


Source: Northampton County Comprehensive Plan 


Natural Area Preserves Protect Habitat

Marsh birds

Northampton County has five Natural Area Preserves protecting significant habitats. The Virginia Natural Area Preserves System was established in the late 1980's to protect some of the most significant natural areas in the Commonwealth. A site becomes a component of the preserve system once it is dedicated as a natural area preserve by the Director of the Department of Conservation & Recreation. Natural area dedication works in much the same way as a conservation easement by placing legally binding restrictions on future activities on a property. The Natural Area Preserve System includes examples of some of the rarest natural communities and rare species habitats in Virginia (DCR).
The five Natural Area Preserves include:

  • Cape Charles
  • Magothy Bay
  • Savage Neck Dunes
  • Pickett’s Harbor
  • Wreck Island

Source: Northampton County Comprehensive Plan Part II Chapter 4,5,6 Revisions per 9-5-18


Birding Eastern Shore


Visit the Birding Eastern Shore website for everything you need to know about where, when and how to get the most out of your bird watching experience in Northampton County.

"The Eastern Shore Birding and Wildlife, Inc., a nonprofit organization, was created in order to own, develop, market and operate the "Birding Eastern Shore" website, promotions and events. The Birding Eastern Shore website is a strategic effort to realize the potential of the niche birding and nature tourism market by providing high quality subject-matter expertise related to birds and other natural elements coupled with information to help the visiting birders find lodging, food and other activities compatible  with their nature explorations. Resources for educators, children and adults will also be provided in order to cultivate an expanded interest in birds and nature of the Eastern Shore." 
-from Eastern Shore Birding and Wildlife, Inc.

Crane and waterfowl

Birding Eastern Shore is a Northampton Tourism Infrastructure Grant Recipient

Virginia Bird and Wildlife Trail

Moon rises over a tree

The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources has created "an organized network of outdoor sites highlighting the best places to see birds and wildlife in the Commonwealth."  

An interactive map and descriptions of each site along the loop will help you get to the best wildlife watching spots on the Eastern Shore. 

Visit the website at Virginia DWR/ Eastern Shore Coastal Trail