Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge If you're looking for the official source of information about the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, please visit our homepage at http://www.fws.gov/refuge/back_bay/.
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For more information about the USFWS, head to http://www.fws.gov/ Welcome to Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). Located in the southeastern corner of Virginia, Back Bay NWR was established by Presidential Proclamation in 1938 to provide habitat for migrating and wintering waterfowl, particularly greater snow geese. Today, the Refuge continues to be an important link in the chain of National Wildlife Refuges located along the Atlantic Flyway. Refuge grounds are open seven days a week, sunrise to sunset. The Visitor Contact Station is open Tuesday - Friday 8:00am-4:00pm and Saturdays 9:00am-4:00pm, closed Sunday and Monday.

Mission: Our mission at Back Bay NWR is to provide habitat for migrating and wintering waterfowl, particularly great snow geese. In addition, as part of the National Wildlife Refuge System (US Fish and Wildlife Service) our mission is to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.

Operating as usual

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
09/11/2020

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Today we remember all those who tragically lost their lives on September 11, 2001. We honor the brave souls who sacrificed to protect our freedom and the innocent people who lost friends, family, and neighbors.

#Honor911 #September11

Photo: Bald eagle by USFWS

It may be September but ticks are still active. Remember to do a tick check after visiting any natural area.
09/10/2020

It may be September but ticks are still active. Remember to do a tick check after visiting any natural area.

Well, we got a lot of rain in August... That has led to lots of mosquitoes recently in the backyard. Thankfully we have ...
09/09/2020

Well, we got a lot of rain in August... That has led to lots of mosquitoes recently in the backyard. Thankfully we have also been seeing these backyard friends - dragonflies! Dragonflies eat mosquitoes and other insects both as aquatic larvae and terrestrial adults. These great blue skimmers were hanging around the garden this week, hopefully gobbling up some of those pesky mosquitoes!

This is a red-spotted purple butterfly. This butterfly is all about mimicry. It resembles the poisonous pipevine swallow...
09/08/2020

This is a red-spotted purple butterfly. This butterfly is all about mimicry. It resembles the poisonous pipevine swallowtail butterfly as an adult. As a caterpillar the resemblance is to bird droppings. Perhaps this isn't the most beautiful item to imitate but it can be an effective strategy to avoid predators!

Apart from nectar these butterflies also eat rotting fruit and dung - yumyum. They are beautiful to see, though, so be on the lookout during your next outdoor adventure!

It is the last day of summer for many school children in our area. We hope all are ready for a return to the academic ye...
09/07/2020

It is the last day of summer for many school children in our area. We hope all are ready for a return to the academic year, albeit a much different kind of year than normal.

Remember - the refuge is always here for a little outdoor exploration, education and adventure. See you soon!

We have had some great questions this past week about trail maintenance, primarily along the Raptor Trail, our most popu...
09/06/2020

We have had some great questions this past week about trail maintenance, primarily along the Raptor Trail, our most popular and heavily traveled walking path.

Many of our regular visitors have noticed that we have done a lot of cutting back along the edges of this trail. This area of the refuge is one of many spots where an invasive reed, Phragmites australis, had taken over the landscape. Phragmites grows very tall and in dense stands, outcompeting smaller native plants. Additionally, since the Phragmites is so tall it bends over into the trail, obstructing the path. For the last two years refuge staff, interns and volunteers have worked to cut back a swath of Phragmites on each side of this trail. This has taken multiple cuts per year as Phragmites grows now just by seed but also by rhizome (roots that run horizontally underground). The effort is paying off! As we walk down the Raptor Trail now we see a variety of different plants that have grown up in the absence of Phragmites. These plants provide far better food and habitat for our wildlife than the invasive reed.

Visitors may also notice that when we prune, or cut back this and other trails, we throw the cut vegetation off the sides of the trail, back into the habitat. This organic material will break down over time, enriching the soil. Additionally, organic debris such as this provides a home for wildlife in natural habitats.

09/05/2020

It's the "last weekend of summer" - how about a visit to the refuge?

09/04/2020
Yield to Wildlife

Usually wildlife move too fast for us humans and we wish they would sit still so we could identify the species, or snap a great photo. But other times, we wish they would hurry along, particularly when they are blocking a trail.

Remember that we humans are the visitors at the wildlife refuge and we yield to the wildlife. Sometimes wildlife, like this cottonmouth, need to cross the trail and they may take their time. Take the opportunity to snap a picture or retrace your steps to spend a little more time at a spot you just passed.

So many dragonflies! We love to see dragonflies at the wildlife refuge. These insects are sometimes called odonates when...
09/03/2020

So many dragonflies! We love to see dragonflies at the wildlife refuge. These insects are sometimes called odonates when grouped with their relatives, the damselflies. You can find dragonflies of almost every color of the rainbow at this time of year. The different colors can help us distinguish between species and, sometimes, between males and females of the same species.

But what is the best thing about loads of dragonflies in the air? These predators eat other insects, such as mosquitoes, deer flies and other biting insects - yay!! That being said, their diet is pretty broad, so they may also make a meal of an unsuspecting butterfly. In the end dragonflies are a great predator of the insect world. But don't worry, you are not on the menu - humans are just too big!

Have you seen these in your backyard or neighborhood? Northern flickers were present this last week in our backyards.The...
09/02/2020

Have you seen these in your backyard or neighborhood? Northern flickers were present this last week in our backyards.

These unique woodpeckers may be seen frequently on the ground eating their favorite food - ants! They dig in the dirt with their beaks to find their prey and then snatch them up with a barbed tongue. A bit different than what we might expect from a woodpecker!

Look for brown-grey plummage with black spots, a black chest band and red spot on the back of their necks. Here on the East Coast our flickers will also show a splash of yellow when they take flight.

The beginning of the school year means the start of a new year for the Every Kid Outdoors program! This program runs Sep...
09/01/2020

The beginning of the school year means the start of a new year for the Every Kid Outdoors program! This program runs September 1 - August 31 each year and is a special opportunity for 4th graders and their families.

Students complete an activity at www.everykidoutdoors.gov and print off a voucher. The voucher can be redeemed at a federal land, like Back Bay NWR for a pass. Happy exploring!

The Refuge's Friends group - the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge Society has completed a new project! Plant identifica...
08/31/2020

The Refuge's Friends group - the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge Society has completed a new project! Plant identification signs have been installed along the popular Raptor Trail at the wildlife refuge. These signs provide information about plants common to this trail and the wildlife refuge. Be sure to check these new signs out on your next walk along the Raptor Trail!

Thank you Back Bay NWR Society for providing this resource!

Sometimes you just need a walk in the sand. A beach walk can be a great time to soak in some sun, solitude and peace. We...
08/30/2020

Sometimes you just need a walk in the sand. A beach walk can be a great time to soak in some sun, solitude and peace. We hope you have an opportunity to do so soon!

An End-Of-The-Season-Surprise!Yesterday a sea turtle nest was found near the south boundary of Back Bay National Wildlif...
08/29/2020

An End-Of-The-Season-Surprise!

Yesterday a sea turtle nest was found near the south boundary of Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge's beach. It is unusual for a nest to be laid this late in the season, although it has happened in the past. This nest is not expected to hatch until November.

Over the last two years we have been fortunate to have lots of volunteers help us plant dune grasses on the refuge beach...
08/28/2020

Over the last two years we have been fortunate to have lots of volunteers help us plant dune grasses on the refuge beach. Dune grasses help stabilize and improve dune systems, protecting areas behind the dunes from storms, tides and overwash.

The dune grasses planted last November and this January had an excellent growing season. Thank you to everyone who has assisted with this project!

We hope to plant more dune grasses in the future, although specific dates are not yet available.

Sea turtle update!! We are happy to announce that this week the loggerhead sea turtle nest on Sandbridge Beach hatched. ...
08/27/2020

Sea turtle update!! We are happy to announce that this week the loggerhead sea turtle nest on Sandbridge Beach hatched. The little hatchlings crawled out of the nest by the dozens to make the dash to the ocean. Check out their tiny tracks in the sand in these photos. Go baby turtles go!

Our fun backyard wildlife sighting this week comes from the herb garden. Black swallowtail butterflies have laid eggs, w...
08/26/2020

Our fun backyard wildlife sighting this week comes from the herb garden. Black swallowtail butterflies have laid eggs, which have since hatched, on parsley plants.

The caterpillars (larval stage of the butterfly) change in color as they grow and develop. When young, they are mostly black and yellow with a white "saddlebag" around the middle of the body. As they grow the white band disappears and the caterpillar exhibits pale green and black stripes with yellow dots. After about 10-30 days as a larva the caterpillar pupates, forming its chrysalis, in which it will undergo the transformation into a butterfly.

We have been unable to snap a good photo of an adult black swallowtail in the backyard. If you have one please share below!

We are nearing the end of sea turtle nesting season here in Virginia Beach. On a recent patrol no sea turtle tracks were...
08/25/2020

We are nearing the end of sea turtle nesting season here in Virginia Beach. On a recent patrol no sea turtle tracks were found but, unfortunately, 14 balloons were.

Balloons can cause problems for many kinds of marine life, including sea turtles, fish and even dolphins. Wildlife may mistake balloons for food or become entangled in balloon strings.

Please help ocean wildlife by popping balloons and throwing them in the trash so they don't end up in our oceans.

Did you know? Sea turtle eggs are soft and leathery, instead of hard and brittle. When biologists look for sea turtle eg...
08/23/2020

Did you know? Sea turtle eggs are soft and leathery, instead of hard and brittle. When biologists look for sea turtle eggs they very carefully dig in the sand so the soft eggs are not punctured or torn during the search.

Turtles breathe air and need oxygen, just like us, and the eggs provide for this by allowing gas exchange through the shell. In fact, this is one of the reasons female sea turtles must lay their eggs in dry sand and not in the water. If the turtle eggs are underwater the little turtles cannot develop.

In this picture we can see that when sea turtles hatch out of their shells, they tear the shell, rather than cracking it open. Hatchling turtles have an "egg tooth," a special little sharp extension of their upper jaw, to tear open their shell. Most of the turtles in a nest emerge from their eggs at the same time and they work together to crawl upward and reach the surface of the sand. After this brief period of cooperation it is a mad dash to the ocean, where they each find their own way and do their best to escape predators.

Two nests are predicted to hatch in the next few days so stay tuned for updates on our local turtles!

Black and yellow garden spiders, zipper spiders, writing spiders… these arachnids have lots of names. Whatever you call ...
08/22/2020

Black and yellow garden spiders, zipper spiders, writing spiders… these arachnids have lots of names. Whatever you call them, they are all over the Raptor Trail each August. The large, conspicuous black and yellow spiders are the females of the species. Males are much smaller and all brown.

Although their large size may invoke fear, remember, like other spiders, the garden spider eats insects. Just think – the more deer flies and mosquitoes that fly into a web, the less that will be flying around to bite you.

If you see one of these spiders also look around the web for a brown, dry egg sack. These egg sacks contain several hundred to over a thousand eggs! The baby spiders hatch inside the egg sack but do not emerge until the next spring. Many of the young will be predated but, as you may have noticed along the trail, many also survive!

08/21/2020
Frog for Lunch

We caught the tail-end (rather the leg-end) of a cottonmouth preying on a frog! After we stopped the video the snake shook its head a few times to help swallow the food. It then meandered off the trail and out of sight.

We don't see snakes on the trail that often. Usually when they are on the trail they are just trying to get from one spot to another. This was an interesting case of a snake stopping for a snack before moving along.

TIP: If you do come across a snake on the trail like this, wait a minute for it to move along. You may need to go out of sight of the snake for a minute or two. Remember - you are a predator as far as wildlife are concerned. A cottonmouth may wait for the "threat" (you) to be out of sight before it feels safe to move.

08/20/2020
Ocean Worlds: The Search for Life

This week is #OceanWorlds Week. Did you know that scientists at NASA have discovered many planets with more oceans than Earth? Research is underway to determine if any of these ocean worlds have the necessary components for life. Perhaps in the future NASA will discover a new kind of wildlife for us to observe and learn about!

NASA Solar System Exploration

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=086N-X1Bd2o&feature=youtu.be

Life as we know it requires three ingredients: energy, organic molecules, and liquid water. Astrobiology, our search for life beyond Earth, is a search for p...

An fun backyard discovery this week came to us thanks to a canine friend. The dog was sniffing at something unseen and p...
08/19/2020

An fun backyard discovery this week came to us thanks to a canine friend. The dog was sniffing at something unseen and pretty soon we found a praying mantis hiding on the deck!

Praying mantises are voracious predators, snaring moths, crickets, flies and other insects with lightening fast reflexes. Sometimes the females even eat their mates!

They can also turn their heads 180 degrees, allowing them to easily scan their surroundings. This can help them find prey but also avoid their own predators, including frogs, lizards and birds. You may have even seen a praying mantis in a defensive posture. They will rear up to "stand tall" and wave their forelegs around in a show of strength if they feel threatened.

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge Society Board Member Reese Lukei was featured again on The Hampton Roads Show's Reck o...
08/18/2020
Reck On the Road: Urban Eagles

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge Society Board Member Reese Lukei was featured again on The Hampton Roads Show's Reck on the Road series.

Back in April Reese responded to a call that two nestling bald eagles had fallen from their nests. After four months of growing and care at the Wildlife Center of Virginia the eagles were released back to the same area they hatched!

www.wavy.com/hr-show/reck-on-the-road/reck-on-the-road-urban-eagles/

Two juvenile bald eagles were released in the heart of Virginia Beach.

Leopard frogs are one the most common frogs to see in the summer at the wildlife refuge. Look for them when waters are l...
08/18/2020

Leopard frogs are one the most common frogs to see in the summer at the wildlife refuge. Look for them when waters are low in the pond next to the Seaside Trail, or along the Raptor Trail. The body of the frog may be a coppery brown or bright green, with black “leopard” spots. Also look for two coppery-gold ridges running from their eyes to their rumps.

While we often see these frogs hanging out in shallow waters or mud flats, they primarily forage on land for insects, other arthropods (like spiders) and worms. They are widespread in the eastern half of Virginia in freshwater marshes, so you may see them when visiting other locations as well.

NOTE: The coppery-brown frogs can be tricky to spot in leaf litter!

Have you seen this plant at the refuge lately? Pickerelweed is one of the beauties of the marsh in the summer. The purpl...
08/17/2020

Have you seen this plant at the refuge lately? Pickerelweed is one of the beauties of the marsh in the summer. The purple flower stalks extend or "emerge" out of the water, as do the semi-heart-shaped leaves. This plant grows well in calm waters - look for pickerelweed in D-Pool or on the Sunset Point Overlook Trail Loop.

If you have spent time at the beach you have probably seen sea oats. Sea oats are the tallest of the dune plants in our ...
08/16/2020

If you have spent time at the beach you have probably seen sea oats. Sea oats are the tallest of the dune plants in our area, growing up to six feet tall. Look for the panicles, or seed heads, which are made up of many “spikelets” and contain the plant’s seed. As you might guess the plant gets its name from the similarity of appearance to oats we humans eat.

Sea oats are extremely well adapted to the dune environment and are important plants for the stabilization of sand dunes. They are drought-tolerant, salt spray-tolerant and have massive root systems that hold on to sand, even in windy conditions. Roots from sea oats can reach depths of 9-12 feet! The plant also produces rhizomes, or running, horizontal roots, which allow sea oats to spread in the dune system.

08/15/2020

Pollinators at work! Check out this industrious bee feeding and pollinating these trumpet vine flowers.

When you think of gulls on the shore what comes to mind? For some it is memories of stolen french fries. For others it i...
08/15/2020

When you think of gulls on the shore what comes to mind? For some it is memories of stolen french fries. For others it is groups of birds walking at the shore's edge. For still others it may be distinct webbed footprints in the sand. Have you ever noticed a difference between the gulls you see at the beach? There are several different species you may see in our area, each with their own quirks.

The great black-backed gull is the king of them all. This is the largest gull in the world so size can help you when identifying it. Also look for a pink legs, a yellow bill and black back. While they will scavenge food like other gulls these birds also hunt mussels, crabs, fish and even other, smaller, birds.

Like many birds, the North American great black-backed gull population struggled in the 1800s when these birds were harvested for feathers, used in the fashion industry. Once the feather trade dried up populations rebounded and they are now a common sight once more along the East Coast.

Beautiful sunny days are great for a fishing excursion. Thank you to all the fishermen at the refuge who #RecreateRespon...
08/13/2020

Beautiful sunny days are great for a fishing excursion. Thank you to all the fishermen at the refuge who #RecreateResponsibly by keeping social distance.

These may be commonplace backyard visitors but they are one of our favorites! Eastern bluebirds have absolutely brillian...
08/12/2020

These may be commonplace backyard visitors but they are one of our favorites! Eastern bluebirds have absolutely brilliant blue backs and reddish-brown chests. You are likely to see them perched on a branch or power line, waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting inspect on the ground.

Bluebirds take well to backyard nest boxes. If you have one in your yard you may even get to see two sets of nestlings fledge each year. Young from early nests fledge in the summer; the second round of babies might stay with their parents all winter.

Have you seen bluebirds about this summer?

Address

4005 Sandpiper Rd
Virginia Beach, VA
23456

General information

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge contains over 9,250 acres, situated on and around a thin strip of coastline typical of barrier islands found along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Habitats include beach, dunes, woodland, farm fields, and freshwater marsh. The majority of Refuge marshlands are on islands contained within the waters of Back Bay. Approximately 10,000 snow geese and a large variety of ducks visit Back Bay NWR during the peak of fall migration, usually in December. The Refuge also provides habitat for a wide assortment of other wildlife, including threatened and endangered species such as loggerhead sea turtles, piping plovers and peregrine falcons. Back Bay NWR provides scenic trails, a Visitor Contact Station, and, with advance scheduling, group educational opportunities. The Refuge is located just south of Sandbridge Beach in Virginia Beach, at the southern end of Sandpiper Road. Outdoor facilities are open daily dawn to dusk. PLEASE NOTE: To avoid conflicts with wildlife, and for visitor safety, pets are not allowed on the Refuge at any time. The Visitor Contact Station hours are 8:00 A.M. - 4:00 P.M. weekdays, 9:00 AM - 4:00 P.M. weekends. The Visitor Contact Station is closed Sundays, November through March as well as federal holidays with the exception of Memorial Day, July 4 and Labor Day. Our Administrative Office and mailing address is: 1324 Sandbridge Road, Virginia Beach, VA 23456. COMMENTING POLICY We encourage civil and constructive conversation. We never discriminate against any views, but we reserve the right to delete any of the following: --- personal attacks or otherwise violent or hateful comments --- selling or advertising --- promoting illegal activity --- off-topic posts --- personal information such as email addresses, telephone numbers, or mailing addresses If you violate these policies repeatedly, we will remove you from this page.

Opening Hours

Tuesday 08:00 - 04:00
Wednesday 08:00 - 04:00
Thursday 08:00 - 04:00
Friday 08:00 - 04:00
Saturday 09:00 - 04:00
Sunday 09:00 - 16:00

Telephone

(757) 301-7329

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Comments

Are there any tram tours going on at Back Bay?
Another beautiful morning at the nature reserve!
This has been one of my favorite places to visit in the last few months.
Sunrise at Back bay national refuge. Beautiful
Black Breasted Whistling Ducks...not native to Virginia...photographed in Pungo.
Can't take credit for the photo, but saw a scarlet tanager near the False Cape visitor's center just hanging out. Almost wrecked my bike, because I've never seen one in person! Awesomeness!
Saw the coyote this evening.
Found the Indigo Bunting!
On the site: https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Back_Bay/ What is a Special Tram Trous: $200.00?
Is there any way to post a reminder about bike safety for kids? Was out this morning and saw so, so many young kids without helmets on. I don't think we saw a single one wearing one, in fact. Not only is this ridiculously dangerous, but it's against the law. I don't want to see anyone get hurt :(