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/. For more information about the USFWS, head to http://www.fws.gov/
(151)

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.

The West Dike Trail is open for hiking and biking access to False Cape State Park. Remember - there is no fishing along ...
04/01/2020

The West Dike Trail is open for hiking and biking access to False Cape State Park.

Remember - there is no fishing along the dike trails. Freshwater fishing areas are available at D-Pool, located about a quarter mile from the small parking area, and the dock on Back Bay, just next to the large parking area. Surf fishing is available all along the refuge beach, with the exception of the North Mile.

There are lots of ways to connect with nature during this time of social distancing. We will share a new idea every week...
03/31/2020

There are lots of ways to connect with nature during this time of social distancing. We will share a new idea every week for families and nature lovers of all ages.

For this week's #ConnectWithNature idea we recommend an oldie but a goodie - a leaf rubbing! Look around your backyard or neighborhood park for leaves that have fallen on the ground. Put the leaf under a piece of paper and gently rub over the leaf with a pencil or crayon. You will have a detailed picture of the leaf when you finished! You could even create an entire picture collage with these rubbings.

Remember to practice #LeaveNoTrace - if you use a leaf you found in a wildlife refuge, park or protected area leave it where you found it.

The green color of new bald cypress leaves is a beautiful contrast to the browns of late winter vegetation and barren tr...
03/30/2020

The green color of new bald cypress leaves is a beautiful contrast to the browns of late winter vegetation and barren trees. Take a look for these little green gems the next time you find yourself in a wetland area. Bald cypress trees can be found around the entire Hampton Roads area.

03/29/2020

Cottonmouths often steal the show when it comes to snakes at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. But there are a dozen species that may be observed, like this rainbow snake.

Rainbow snakes are primarily aquatic species but will come on land, especially when traveling from one body of water to another. Their favorite food is a meal of eel! If you spot one of these snakes at the wildlife refuge count yourself lucky - we don't see them every day and their beautiful and colorful patterns are certainly a treat to see.

We don't often think of seeing owls at the wildlife refuge since refuge hours are sunrise to sunset each day. However, w...
03/28/2020

We don't often think of seeing owls at the wildlife refuge since refuge hours are sunrise to sunset each day. However, wildlife will always surprise us! This great-horned owl was spotted early this month on the entrance road.

Great-horned owls are well-known for their excellent predatory skills. While they can take large mammals and even birds such as osprey and Peregrine falcons, the owls also opt for smaller prey. We can see in this photo this owl dined on a small rodent this night.

Thank you to Stephanie Rae for sharing this photo!

While outdoor sites remain open at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge during the current coronavirus pandemic, we urge vi...
03/27/2020
USFWS - FWS Public Health Update

While outdoor sites remain open at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge during the current coronavirus pandemic, we urge visitors to follow CDC guidelines. Maintain adequate social distancing, avoid overcrowding and exercise good hygiene. If a parking lot is full when you visit, please do not stop.

We understand that the outdoors can help relieve stress, but these guidelines must be followed for our public health and safety. For now, the refuge Visitor Center and other public facilities are closed and most scheduled events have been postponed. For more information please visit our webpage, www.fws.gov/home/public-health-update.html.

Web site of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

White ibis have been spotted frequently over the last couple of weeks. We have seen them flying overhead in groups of 4-...
03/27/2020

White ibis have been spotted frequently over the last couple of weeks. We have seen them flying overhead in groups of 4-24. Look for their long orange beaks and black wingtips.

If you see them in the water, as in this photo, watch them probe their long beak into the mud. They are looking for prey, anything from crayfish to frogs to small fish.

Thank you to Cindy Hamilton for sharing this photo with us!

It's a dinosaur! Wait, no, it's a snapping turtle! These prehistoric-looking creatures have, in fact, been walking the E...
03/26/2020

It's a dinosaur! Wait, no, it's a snapping turtle! These prehistoric-looking creatures have, in fact, been walking the Earth since the time of the dinosaurs.

These large turtles are voracious predators and will eat almost anything they can successfully catch, including amphibians, other reptiles, small mammals and even the occasional bird. They have few predators themselves, except humans.

If you see a snapping turtle at the refuge just remember, you are too big to be food and this turtle is likely scared of your towering size. Take a step back and let the turtle retreat to the safety of the marsh.

For our final edition of #springhassprung2020 we wanted to highlight the beautiful blooming of plants that herald warmer...
03/25/2020

For our final edition of #springhassprung2020 we wanted to highlight the beautiful blooming of plants that herald warmer weather. You may have noticed a tree along the refuge entrance road and trails covered in five-petaled white flowers.

Serviceberry is one of the first trees to flower in the spring. The flowers emerge even before the leaves, giving us a early splash of spring. Pollinators will take advantage of these early flowers and by June birds will feast on the tree's ripe purplish black fruits.

03/23/2020

Watching a great blue heron can be like watching a movie in slow motion. These large birds slowly stalk through the water and then freeze so their prey will become accustomed to their presence.

Their patience is admirable! If you can match that patience and wait until they catch a meal you are in for a treat. Often great blue herons will catch small fish but sometimes they find a large meal. To swallow larger prey they snap their necks straight up and swallow the fish whole.

Turtles, turtles everywhere! During the last week turtles have been super active, trying to catch some rays and warm the...
03/22/2020

Turtles, turtles everywhere! During the last week turtles have been super active, trying to catch some rays and warm their ectothermic bodies!

Like all reptiles turtles are cold-blooded (ectotherms) and cannot regulate their own body temperature. They rely on external sources, such as the sun or a warm rock or gravel surface, to gain body heat.

#springhassprung2020

When spring is in the air who doesn't think of baby animals? This killdeer has just laid a nest! The eggs in this nest s...
03/21/2020

When spring is in the air who doesn't think of baby animals? This killdeer has just laid a nest! The eggs in this nest should hatch late next month. Look closely at this photo to see the egg under the killdeer's body.

Killdeer often lay eggs on gravel, where the speckled eggs can easily blend in with their surroundings. If you come across one of these birds exhibiting a "broken-wing display," where the birds will flap around to draw attention away from the eggs, be sure to back up and give the animals lots of space.

#springhassprung2020

Another image of #springhassprung2020 at Back Bay NWR. We have seen this doe twice this week. Remember to keep voices do...
03/20/2020

Another image of #springhassprung2020 at Back Bay NWR. We have seen this doe twice this week. Remember to keep voices down and your eyes open to have the best chance to see wildlife while you visit the refuge!

Publicly-accessible lands at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge are open to the public. The Visitor Center is currently c...
03/20/2020

Publicly-accessible lands at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge are open to the public. The Visitor Center is currently closed.

The health and safety of our visitors and staff are our highest priorities. The Service’s Office of Public Health and the US Public Health Service are closely monitoring the situation related to COVID-19. We encourage all visitors to follow CDC guidance to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. These measures include following routine precautions like washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and most importantly, staying at home if you feel sick. Additional information on the Service’s response to COVID-19 can be found at https://www.fws.gov/home/public-health-update.html

Osprey return to the nest on the refuge entrance road every year during the first week of March. It's amazing that you c...
03/18/2020

Osprey return to the nest on the refuge entrance road every year during the first week of March. It's amazing that you can mark your calendars with the arrival of these raptors. We will keep an eye on this nesting pair as the season progresses!

#WildlifeWednesday #springhassprung2020

This March we will share some signs that #springhassprung2020 at the refuge. To kick us off what better than a look at #...
03/17/2020

This March we will share some signs that #springhassprung2020 at the refuge. To kick us off what better than a look at #WhyBirdsMatter. After all, Back Bay NWR works to protect and provide habitat for birds.

We love birds for so many reasons. Their beauty, their grace, their tie to clean drinking water...

Did you know that protecting bird habitat also helps protect the water we rely on for drinking, bathing and cooking? Check out https://www.3billionbirds.org/why-birds-matter for more on #WhyBirdsMatter

📸 Juvenile little blue heron contemplating its reflection in water by Bill Buchanan/USFWS

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and our partner, the City of Chesapeake, are looking for candidates for this summer's ...
03/15/2020

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and our partner, the City of Chesapeake, are looking for candidates for this summer's Youth Conservation Corps (YCC). Positions for four crew members, an Assistant Leader and a Leader are open.

The YCC completes many projects at the refuge during the summer months, most in the maintenance field, including but not limited to trail construction, vegetation clearing, painting, bench building or refinishing, etc. The work schedule is Monday - Thursday for crew members and Monday - Friday for leaders, 7:30am-4:00pm for an eight week period. Applicants must be local, as no housing is available.

Applicants interested in this #summerjob should contact Mary Russo Riley, Community Programs Administrator for the City of Chesapeake Department of Human Services, at [email protected].

Happy Birthday to the USFWS National Wildlife Refuge System! Did you know that the symbol of national wildlife refuges i...
03/14/2020

Happy Birthday to the USFWS National Wildlife Refuge System! Did you know that the symbol of national wildlife refuges is a blue goose. J.N. "Ding" Darling, chief of the U.S. Biological Survey (precursor to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) in the 1930's, designed this symbol. It has been used as the symbol for your national wildlife refuges for over 80 years!

The blue goose symbol looks remarkably like a Canada goose but the name blue goose describes the dark morph of the lesser snow goose. Snow geese migrate to our area during the winter months. Thank you Reese Lukei for sharing this photo of this blue goose, seen in Pungo!

Several species of snakes have been spotted today on the refuge trails. They are all enjoying the warm weather, even if ...
03/13/2020

Several species of snakes have been spotted today on the refuge trails. They are all enjoying the warm weather, even if the sun was not out today!

Today's sightings have included cottonmouths (water moccasins, brown watersnakes, northern brown snakes and black racers). The pictures below show a brown watersnake on a limb overhanging the water and a small northern brown snake which was crossing the trail by the Visitor Center.

Happy Leap Day everyone! We hope you are enjoying this extra day of February.
02/29/2020

Happy Leap Day everyone! We hope you are enjoying this extra day of February.

Did someone say Leap Day?

📸 Rabbit in mid-leap and another on ground below by Mark Wolfman Messmore

We have had a great week of field trips with Princess Anne Middle School! We saw brown watersnakes Wednesday, Thursday a...
02/28/2020

We have had a great week of field trips with Princess Anne Middle School! We saw brown watersnakes Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, even with the windy conditions the last two days.

We look forward to having these same students out to the refuge again in April!

02/26/2020

Long Island is lost in the mist this morning. We hope things will clear up before this morning's field trip from Princess Anne Middle School!

North winds have created a very low bay today, thanks to Back Bay's wind tide! How low will it go?
02/21/2020

North winds have created a very low bay today, thanks to Back Bay's wind tide! How low will it go?

Peregrine falcons are amazingly fast flyers, reaching speeds of 200 miles per hour when diving towards prey. These rapto...
02/17/2020
Virginia peregrines produce big in 2019 - The Center for Conservation Biology

Peregrine falcons are amazingly fast flyers, reaching speeds of 200 miles per hour when diving towards prey. These raptors capture the imagination and fascinate people of all ages. Thanks to dedicated folks who monitor Peregrine falcon nests and band young birds we have a great information on the population of Peregrines in Virginia. Check out The Center for Conservation Biology's recent update on the 2019 season. Spoiler alert - Fifty-nine of 63 hatched chicks survived to an age where they could be fitted with bands for future tracking!

https://ccbbirds.org/2020/01/21/virginia-peregrines-produce-big-in-2019/

By Bryan Watts 1/21/2020 By any standard 2019 was a good year for peregrine falcons in Virginia.  The breeding season was the most productive in the […]

02/14/2020
Love American Style: Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day! Our nation's public lands are special places for so many people. This video shares a few of the beautiful stories that take place on federal lands every year.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wc7yEizs6fM

America’s public lands offer a romantic setting for any love story. Every year thousands get engaged, married, or simply enjoy our national parks, wildlife r...

The large mammal inhabitants of the refuge are often some of the most elusive. Winter is the best time of year to catch ...
02/12/2020

The large mammal inhabitants of the refuge are often some of the most elusive. Winter is the best time of year to catch a glimpse of a coyote or bobcat at Back Bay NWR. They are usually well hidden during the busiest months of the year as they do not want to be close to people.

This coyote was seen just a couple weeks ago by two refuge visitors as they walked the trails, looking for birds. As with most wildlife, visits early in the morning and near sunset provide the best conditions for viewing wildlife.

Photo Credit: June McDaniels

Thousands of snow geese migrate to eastern Virginia and eastern North Carolina every winter. These birds are most often ...
02/10/2020

Thousands of snow geese migrate to eastern Virginia and eastern North Carolina every winter. These birds are most often seen in the fields of southern Virginia Beach and at Mackay Island NWR. We always keep our eyes on the sky, though! Recently we saw this large group of snow geese flying over the bay.

It is difficult to see in this photo but when looking a group of large white birds flying overhead look for black wingtips to distinguish snow geese from tundra swans.

Thank you to all who joined us for this season's Winter Waterfowl Walks! We enjoyed the morning walks and all of ducks, ...
02/08/2020

Thank you to all who joined us for this season's Winter Waterfowl Walks! We enjoyed the morning walks and all of ducks, swans, eagles and other wildlife we saw along the way.

Oh deer! White-tailed deer are common throughout the state of Virginia. Usually they run as soon as they sense a threat,...
02/06/2020

Oh deer! White-tailed deer are common throughout the state of Virginia. Usually they run as soon as they sense a threat, such as a human, or in the case of this photo, a large 24-passenger tram. This was a lucky day, however! The deer froze for a few photos before running out of sight into some tree cover.

"There's an otter!" This statement will bring excitement from any group, even if the goal of the trip is to see birds. R...
02/05/2020

"There's an otter!" This statement will bring excitement from any group, even if the goal of the trip is to see birds. River otters often leave scat on the boardwalks, especially the Sunset Point Overlook Loop and the Educational Pond platform, near the Visitor Center. But the days they swim by with an audience are the best. #WildlifeWednesday

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge is hiring! An opening for our seasonal Fee Collector position has just been announced ...
02/04/2020
USAJOBS - The Federal Government's official employment site

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge is hiring! An opening for our seasonal Fee Collector position has just been announced on USAjobs.gov. This position runs from April through the end of October. Duties include staffing the Fee Booth at the entrance to the wildlife refuge, selling passes and providing information to visitors. Weekend and holiday work is required.

For more details and to apply visit https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/558635300

Search and apply for federal jobs. Learn about unique hiring paths for veterans, students and graduates, individuals with a disability, and more.

02/04/2020

Diving ducks are fun to watch feed as they go up and down, up and down along the bay. Bufflehead ducks feed in this way, searching for small invertebrates and seeds.

The two ducks in this video are females. Look for the small white cheek patches on each side of their face when identifying these ducks.

Let's take a walk on the Sunset Point Overlook Loop and Raptor Trail. Along the way we might see a double-crested cormor...
02/02/2020

Let's take a walk on the Sunset Point Overlook Loop and Raptor Trail. Along the way we might see a double-crested cormorant sitting on a rock, a great blue heron perched on the rail, a cottonmouth trying to get some sun and tundra swans in the bay.

Tracks and scat are two great ways to figure out what wildlife live in an area. Deer and raccoon tracks have been seen q...
02/01/2020

Tracks and scat are two great ways to figure out what wildlife live in an area. Deer and raccoon tracks have been seen quite a bit recently on the trails near the parking area, giving us clues to the inhabitants that stay out of view during the day.

The Winter Wildlife Festival 10th Anniversary was a success. Thank you Sharon, aka Birdchick, for joining our Sunday mor...
01/31/2020

The Winter Wildlife Festival 10th Anniversary was a success. Thank you Sharon, aka Birdchick, for joining our Sunday morning Back Bay NWR - False Cape State Park tram tour. We hope you enjoyed the weekend as much as we did!

01/30/2020
NorthernShoveler_preening.mp4

Northern shovelers are one of our wintering waterfowl. This male took advantage of an exposed rock last week during a low tide on the bay. It sat for over 30 minutes preening while buffleheads swam by and tundra swans called in the distance.

There are populations of Canada geese that stay in our area all year. However, many Canada geese still migrate north in ...
01/29/2020

There are populations of Canada geese that stay in our area all year. However, many Canada geese still migrate north in the spring to breeding grounds in Canada.

Did you know the oldest Canada goose on record was 33 years old!? Happy #WildlifeWednesday fun fact!

We are so happy to participate each year in the Virginia Beach Winter Wildlife Festival. This year's 10th Anniversary ce...
01/28/2020

We are so happy to participate each year in the Virginia Beach Winter Wildlife Festival. This year's 10th Anniversary celebration was a special event. Congratulations to Mary Reid Barrow as the first recipient of the Wildlife Advocate Award. You will not find a more dedicated and inspirational supporter of wildlife in our area. Thank you!

🦅 🦆 🦉 🐢 🐍 🐟 🦀 🌳 🌻 Congrats are in order! On Friday, we kicked off the 10th anniversary Winter Wildlife Festival and were so excited to announce the first Wildlife Advocate Award given to Mary Reid Barrow and named in her honor. The festival, held each January and headquartered at the Princess Anne Recreation Center, is a weekend-long celebration that brings together local professionals, wildlife advocates, and budding nature enthusiasts for a common goal of engaging in local wildlife recreational opportunities. The award emerged as a way to honor people who not only make the festival successful, but who also make Virginia Beach a great place for nature every day.

Mary Reid Barrow captivated and educated Virginian-Pilot readers for over 40 years with her columns on nature, sustainability, and healthy living. When the Winter Wildlife Festival began 10 years ago, she became one of its biggest champions and helped it grow to what it is now. She was unanimously chosen by the Winter Wildlife Festival planning committee as the first honoree and namesake. As Walter Camp from the Virginia Beach Parks & Recreation Foundation put it, “Without her, most of us would know nothing about our local wildlife; she helps those of us who are just curious become people who are in the know.”

The award was presented at the keynote event Friday evening at the Zeiders American Dream Theater accompanied by a proclamation by City of Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer. The award will now be given annually to someone who exemplifies the model of stewardship and conservation in Virginia Beach and works to educate citizens and encourage more sustainable and eco-conscious practices that aid the preservation and appreciation of all wildlife and all natural areas.

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

Alerts

Be the first to know and let us send you an email when Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge posts news and promotions. Your email address will not be used for any other purpose, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Videos

Nearby government services


Other Government Organizations in Virginia Beach

Show All

Comments

Spotted the eagles today!
Thank you for opening the West Dike! I saw my first Coot.
Seems everyone is waking up!
Saw this handsome character along the main road this morning ... American Bittern ... :0)
Can anyone identify this creature that I saw washed up on the refuge beach recently?
Yesterday, Monday 2/3, was a beautiful day at the Refuge! Well, actually, every day is a beautiful day at BBNWR, but yesterday was my first visit in several weeks. In an hour and a half, I saw six Moccasins and one Brown Water Snake. Attached are a couple of the Moccasin pictures.
A couple wildlife sightings!
I love hiking at Back Bay in the winter! Yesterday I spotted these 2 Northern pintails and a cottonmouth snake
Are annual passes available for purchase today (Jan 2, 2020)?
Why do you allow this to happen. Beggars Bridge!
Do you know what the cause of death was for this turtle? Saw it on the beach on Sunday.