It’s not surprising that residents of an island would have a fascination with waterfowl. One way our coexistence with our ocean environment manifests itself is through the art of the Chincoteague residents. Some especially beautiful specimens of this work will be on display during the 23rd Annual Chincoteague Decoy Carvers’ and Artists’ Association Decoy Show, taking place over Labor Day weekend, Saturday & Sunday August 31 & September 1, 2013.
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I really think everyone should have somewhere special they go once the weather turns nice. It can be close to home, like a swimming hole or a sunny riverbank a short drive away. Sometimes it is a little farther out – a stretch of beach up the coastline, or windy hillside cabin with buckets of sunlight.
For many in Virginia and along the Atlantic seaboard, Chincoteague Island is just such a place. While we have a thriving and artistic permanent community, the influx of visitors that love the island and cherish their memories of her make summer a special time for everyone.
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This is our final post on bird species of the Virginia coast. We hope you get to see all your favorites when you come to visit Chincoteague.
Oystercatcher: American Oystercatchers are a colorful marsh and shorebird. Oystercatchers have black and white bodies, bright red-orange bills, pink legs and feet and red eyes. Their noisy whistle is also very distinctive. They are usually between 16 -21″ in height. Their red-orange bills are long and flattened at the side and are designed to catch and open the shells of oysters, mussels, and clams. They were once hunted to near-extincetion along the Atlantic Coast.
Bald Eagle: The bald eagle was in danger of extinction just 25 years ago, but its numbers have significantly improved. This raptor has a wing span of 6-7 feet and can weigh up to 14 pounds. Bald eagles feed manly on fish along coastal areas and inland waters. You can also see the eagles hunting seabirds, flying low over the ocean, between the wave troughs, in order to catch their dinner by surprise.
Bald eagles add to their nests each year and some nests weigh up to 2,000 pounds. Young eagles can fly at 3 months of age. Bald eagles can live to 30 yeas of age or longer and they also mate for life.
Piping Polver: This little bird is one of the species struggling to maintain a healthy population in the face of growing human development in coastal areas. They lay their eggs on the ground, so they have to watch out for natural predators – like foxes, gulls and racoons, as well as vehicles on the beach. The little Polver is a sensitive bird – if there is too much human disturbance around their nests, they will abandon it. So the National Park service sometimes closes beaches at the Assateague Island National Seashore in order to protect these nesting grounds.
The last couple of posts were devoted to discussing birdwatching around Chincoteague and the Virginia coast. This blog follows the same theme as we discuss bird species that live on the island.
Great Horned Owl: Birdwatchers on Assateague Island sometimes spot the great horned owl in the loblolly pine forest. Owls weigh two to five and a half pounds, but have a wing span up to 80 inches in length. Owls are predatory birds, feeding mostly at night on birds (including ducks), fish, small mammals and reptiles.
Visitors hiking through the marsh may sometimes find a pile of duck feathers, which may be evidence of an owl’s overnight dinner.
Brown Pelican: Virginia is the most northerly state sustaining a year-round Brown Pelican population. The Brown Pelican is the only non-white pelican in the world. Its most distinguishing feature is the huge bill and expandable pouch below. The bird’s height can reach 50 inches and its windspan up to 6 1/2 feet. Pelicans plunge headfirst into the water from great heights to catch fish – they can eat upwards of four pounds of fish per day. It is fun to watch groups of pelicans fly low over the waves and catch fish. The Brown Pelican was endangered in the 1970s due to pesticides. Successful conservation with strict regulations have led to the recovery of the pelican’s population.
Merlin: The Merlin is an aggressive falcon that feeds along Assateague Island for songbirds and other prey similar to that of the horned owl. This raptor will sometimes hunt from a high tree, waiting for the right moment to ambush its prey. The Merlin often approaches a potential meal by imitating the flight characteristics of a pigeon or woodpecker, in order to disguise itself. The Merlin is very territorial and will harass other raptors that trespass even if the other bird is much larger in size.
In my last post, I discussed bird watching in and around the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. In this post, I will go into more detail about the different species of birds and waterfowl you can expect to encounter while on Chincoteague.
The Black Skimmer: The Black Skimmer is the only bird in the world whose lower mandible (beak) is longer than the upper.
Skimmers are named so because of the way they feed. This bird flies just above the water with its bill open, skimming the water’s surface with its long lower bill open like a pair of scissors. Their bodies are oddly proportioned: 18″ in length, long, narrow wings ( 44″ in wingspan) with very short legs that end in bright orange feet. Their bills are long and razor-shaped. The Black Skimmer is found along the coastal United States from Massachusetts to Texas as well as Central America and South America. Female skimmers lay 3-5 eggs and live in coastal bays and estuaries.
The Peregrine Falcon: Peregrine Falcons are a personal favorite of mine, in part because they are the fastest moving animals on the planet. Ducks and other shorebirds make a nice meal for this bird of prey. Birdwatchers often witness them diving at tremendous speeds towards their prey. Scientists have estimated the falcon’s speed to be more than 200 miles per hour. Ducks resting on open water will sometimes “bunch” together as the falcon swoops down on them. This is probably a tactic for confusing the falcon, making it more difficult to pick out any one particular duck as a target.
They are found along Assateague Island National Seashore and the nearby barrier islands. Assateague is an important recovery area for the peregrine falcon (once listed under the endangered species act). During the 1940’s peregrine falcon populations plummeted. The main cause was a build up of concentrations of the pesticide DDT. This entered the falcon’s system when feeding on birds that had eaten contaminated insects.
The US Fish & Wildlife Service removed the peregrine falcon from the list of endangered species in 1999. Restrictions on the use of DDT have helped peregrine populations recover. As a result of resource management programs, visitors to Assateague have the opportunity to witness one of nature’s most exciting birds to watch.
Check back next month for more bird species!
Birdwatching along Assateague and Chincoteague Islands is an amazing experience for many visitors. The Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge is one of America’s finest places for birdwatching along the East Coast. This little island is one of the richest birding regions in the U.S. with outstanding year-round populations. Assateague Island now has a healthy bald eagle population as well. Learn about and observe the islands’ 300 species of migratory and resident birds.
Summer is a good time to see large numbers of migrating shore birds, warblers, and others set up residence on Assateague. A variety of species are visible along the National Seashore. The Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge’s freshwater areas combine with saltwater marshes all along Assateague’s shoreline to host a variety of terns, egrets, sandpipers, waterfowl, and more. Making one’s way by boat or kayak along Assateague’s extensive inland waterway is a thrilling experience for any bird lover. Herons and terns fly out from the marshes as you proceed through the intimate waterways, where you can also see crabs, fish, oysters and other food sources for the birds.
Limited amounts of Assateague are accessible by car, so many bird watchers choose to travel by boat along the inland waters. A birdwatching trip via watercraft offers you the chance to see more of the refuge and it’s wildlife. After all, Assateague has over 37 miles of pristine waterways. Boat excursions take you to one of America’s most unique ecosystems, with an abundance of wildlife, water and fowl, as far as the eye can see.
Lodging While Visiting Assateague
If camping isn’t your thing, you’ll need to stay on Chincoteague while visiting Assateague. We would like to invite you to to be our guests at the Island Manor Bed and Breakfast. Enjoy lovely surroundings and unpretentious luxury while observing undisturbed nature at the Wildlife Refuge.
Does this warm weather make you wanna put on your sunscreen, grab your pole and some bait? If so, come on over to Chincoteague next month for Captain Bob’s Marina Flounder Tournament! Taking place from May 3rd through May 12th this year, there is no registration deadline, simply register before you start fishing! Here are some rules to keep in mind:
- Registration fee is $35
- You can fish on the shore or off a boat.
- There are 10 days to try and catch the biggest fish. You must fish using a hook and line and follow state and federal regulations in regards to size and creel limits, which is 16″ minimum in length with a creel/bag limit of four fish.
- The tournament takes place in Chincoteague and Assateague waters only. Fishing outside the inlet will get you disqualified.
- Daily weigh-ins take place between 1 and 6 p.m. The final weigh-in will be at 1 p.m. on May 12th.
- The winner is the fisherman with the greatest daily weight of three fish or less.
- Five cash prizes will be given
- Register online or via mail from Captain Bob’s website.
Not a competitive fishermen? Maybe you’re more of an armature? Consider chartering a fishing trip during your visit to Chincoteague. Summertime is the best season for fishing on Chincoteague. A charter boat Captain knows all the best places to cast a line. Whether you want to go deep sea fishing or fish for flounder in the inlet, these Captains know where to take you.
Lodging for Your Trip to Chincoteague
Whether you are here for the Flounder Tournament, some recreational fishing or just a getaway to the Virginia coast, Island Manor Bed and Breakfast has superior lodging at competitive prices. Check out our lovely, historical property and enjoy a great night’s rest in one of our guestrooms.
If you love to hike and experience the outdoors, make sure you leave a day for exploring Assateague Island. There are a variety of paved and unpaved trails open for hiking and 37 miles of beach to wander. Hiking on a barrier island is a very unique experience. Be prepared for the challenges of heat, humidity, biting insects, fast approaching storms and changing tides. Here are some things to make sure you have with you before heading out:
- long sleeve shirt
- insect repellent
Some other things to keep in mind before your trek:
- Check the weather forecast before you leave. We don’t recommend hiking in thunderstorms.
- Know when the sun is going to set. Don’t get stuck in the dark.
- Check for park closures. Sometimes regions are off limits due to nesting birds or habitat rehabilitation.
- Beach hiking is different. Terrain is soft and uneven, making it more difficult. Gauging distance can be challenging with fewer landmarks.
- Get a tide chart. Hiking during low tide can reveal hard packed sand, much easier to walk on.
- Wear (waterproof) hiking boots. Wet shoes with gritty sand can cause serious blisters.
Hiking Trails on Assateague
Service Road: The longest hike on the island is the Service Road, which is seven miles and heads north. You can reach the Virginia half of the island via this trail.
Wildlife Loop: A 3.25 mile hike around Snow Goose Pool. You can reach the Service Road trail via this loop, or take the Swan Cove trail to the beachfront.
There are a variety of shorter, mile and under hikes. Perfect for a more casual stroll.
Lodging on Chincoteague Island
Whether you are coming for days full of hiking and wilderness immersion, or, something more gentile, we hope you will make Island Manor Bed and Breakfast your home base in Chincoteague.
What are your goals for visiting our charming little island?
Depending on what you want to accomplish, you can schedule a visit for this Spring.
If seeing the pony roundup is your main concern – you will need to book for July. However, perhaps you are simply looking for a beach vacation that doesn’t involve mega-resorts and inflated prices. If charming shops, restaurants and southern charm all in a natural beach setting is more your pace, come visit us in Chincoteague this April!
On April 13, the Second Saturday art stroll is taking place.
The Art Stroll takes place at participating galleries and shops around the Island from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Come out to meet local artists, see exhibits of a wide variety of visual arts, listen to live music and more.
Participating Galleries and Shops
Visit these galleries and shops during Second Saturday to enjoy demonstrations by visiting artists, performances by musicians, readings and book signings by authors and wine and cheese tastings.
- Island Butterfly – 4107 Main St.
- Guinevere’s – 4076 Main St.
- Flying Fish Gallery – 4086 Main St.
- Island Arts – 6196 Maddox Blvd.
- Old Neptune Books – 4076 Main St.
- Sundial Books – 4065 Main St.
- Working Artists Studio – Maddox Blvd.
- Osprey Nest Gallery – 4096 Main St.
- And more!
More Springtime Activities in Chincoteague
Hiking on Assateague Island: This is a great time to hit the trails in Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. The temperature is cooler, there are less visitors in the park and birds are abundant.
The Wildlife Loop is a 3¼ mile round-trip route around a soil management area. It is a great place to observe wildlife, especially waterfowl and wading birds. It is open to walkers and bikers throughout the day, but vehicles are only permitted to drive on it from 3:00 P.M. till dusk.
Check back for our next blog with a full list of hiking trails in the Wildlife Refuge!
Are you in full swing with your workout regimen? Getting ready for that summer bikini body? If so, you might be interested in the newest trend in vacations: a fit-cation. Vacations don’t have to be an excuse to pack on the pounds! Stay sporty and active during your vacation. Enjoy a new place while making your body feel great.
If this sounds like your kind of trip, come to Chincoteague at the end of the month for the Bay-to-Bay 10k run/5k walk. The Chincoteague Island Family YMCA will host this annual race on Saturday, March 30, 2013. The race starts at 8:00 a.m. at Robert Reed Park and check-in starts at 6:30AM. Registration for adults is $25 ($35 after March 16); children 14 and under register for $10. Strollers are allowed in the walk only, and pets are not allowed in either the run or the walk.
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