Fall Migration

The Fall Migration in Northampton County
Posted on 10/03/2019

A bald eagle catches a fish on a Northampton County creek.

Bird watching on the Eastern Shore
Photo Credit: William Dyas

It's migration time! The importance of Northampton County as a stopover for migrating birds on the Atlantic Flyway is recognized internationally. The Eastern Shore is a designated UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve because of the habitats and food that can be found here for many migrating species.  

It takes a tremendous amount of energy to fly long distances, especially over the ocean. The narrow land form of the County creates a bottleneck Northampton County aerial view or funnel effect for migrating birds. Large swaths of protected wilderness offer food these birds and butterflies need to sustain the journey.

Many species of birds and butterflies are being lost due to a lack of  plentiful nutrient rich nectar, seeds, berries and bugs. It is imperative we begin to rethink our choices for lawns and gardens that don't offer natural and native plants.  A wild corner of the yard is a step in the right direction for providing wildlife with the nourishment they need to thrive. It's also a great opportunity to watch the migration unfold on your doorstep.                                          

Goldenrod in bloom
Wild goldenrod blooms in the fall providing pollen for many butterflies and bees.
The seeds are eaten by birds in wintertime and provide habitat for many small animals.
Photo credit: Jean E. Flynn

It's all interconnected. We need to remember we are Nature and are not separate from it. When we do our part to align ourselves with the natural systems we begin to understand just how important our choices are on the whole.  Allow the weeds to grow! Nature will provide the plants and grasses the ecosystem needs most to return to balance. Your wild meadow will provide birds, pollinators and wildlife with food and shelter. And you will have endless hours of astonishing wildlife observation!  

 "All things by immortal power,
Near or far,
To each other linkèd are,
That thou canst not stir a flower
Without troubling of a star;" 

 From ‘The Mistress of Vision’
By Francis Thompson (1859–1907)


There are many agencies on the Eastern Shore working together to educate and provide the public with incentives for conservation. 

The Nature Conservancy's Virginia Coast Reserve manages the barrier islands. It has the largest eelgrass restoration project in the world. They monitor nesting birds on the islands, research coastal resilience and provide the public with environmental education opportunities.

The Eastern Shore Soil and Water Conservation District offers incentives and programs for farmers and landowners to preserve some of their farmland for wildflowers  and natural habitat. 
"Two of the District's major roles are to administer Virginia's incentive program for agricultural Best Management Practices and provide environmental education. Since conservation involves everyone, the District provides various programs to students and adults promoting awareness, action and support for the area's natural resources." 

Kiptopeke State Park provides hiking trails and educational opportunities, as well as a raptor platform to site hawks and eagles. 

Birdwatching Platform at Kiptopeke
Photo Credit: William Dyas

Eastern Shore Wildlife Refuge also has trails and a butterfly garden. 

The Master Gardeners provide education about native plants and maintain public gardens throughout the County that attract pollinators. 

Geese in flightFor the best information on Bird watching visit the Birding Eastern Shore website. They provide a list of places to watch birds, when to see them and a platform to connect with other birders. 

Want to follow the migration? Here is a list of interactive and real time migration maps: 



Monarch butterflies: https://journeynorth.org/monarchs 

Check out this neat Animated chart of 42 North American butterflies.

Butterfly tent
Photo Credit: William Dyas

For upcoming birding and butterfly events, please see our Calendar

Please be sure to visit our Birding page on this website. 

Happy Fall, Everyone! 

Jean Flynn
Website Content Coordinator
Northampton County, VA