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/
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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.

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.

Uncommon visitors to the Virginia coast are American white pelicans. We see these birds occasionally at this of year, so...
01/27/2020

Uncommon visitors to the Virginia coast are American white pelicans. We see these birds occasionally at this of year, soaring overhead. White pelicans are very large, bigger than the common brown pelican, with a long orange bill, black wingtips and otherwise white plumage.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Snyder

Double-crested cormorants galore! Did you know cormorants were one of the many bird species that suffered population dec...
01/23/2020
Counting Cormorants - The Center for Conservation Biology

Double-crested cormorants galore! Did you know cormorants were one of the many bird species that suffered population declines due to exploitation and habitat loss in the early 1900s and pesticides, including DDT, in the mid-1900s?

Cormorants are one of the conservation success stories - their populations have rebounded so much that they have even expanded beyond their historic ranges. This article from The Center for Conservation Biology gives a glimpse of the large numbers found on Ocracoke Island in the Outer Banks during a recent survey.

https://ccbbirds.org/2020/01/23/counting-cormorants/

By Bryan Watts 1/23/2020 The Center for Conservation Biology has joined forces with the North Carolina Wildlife Commission to estimate the number of cormorants that spend […]

Cold weather makes for beautiful wildlife sightings. When the light is right you can even see the yellow spots at the ba...
01/21/2020

Cold weather makes for beautiful wildlife sightings. When the light is right you can even see the yellow spots at the base of a tundra swan's bill!

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region
01/20/2020

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region

Monday is a fee-free day at all national wildlife refuges and other public lands! While visiting some of the country's most beautiful places, stop by and inquire about how you can give back through volunteering. Together we can make the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service last year-round!

Have you seen the newly surfaced trail at the refuge?! Thanks to a volunteer group from Agronomic Lawn Management (ALM) ...
01/20/2020

Have you seen the newly surfaced trail at the refuge?! Thanks to a volunteer group from Agronomic Lawn Management (ALM) the stonedust gravel trail to the dock and Visitor Center has re-surfaced and widened. Additionally this group planted 3,000 dune grasses on the beach for dune restoration.

A big thank you to all volunteers to make our USFWS National Wildlife Refuge System a better place for wildlife and people.

The Virginia Beach Winter Wildlife Festival is this weekend! Did you know there is a Nature Art for Kids event at this y...
01/19/2020

The Virginia Beach Winter Wildlife Festival is this weekend! Did you know there is a Nature Art for Kids event at this year's festival? The same artist who led Back Bay NWR's 2019 Art Workshops will guide children in painting a great blue heron at the Winter Wildlife Festival. Find more details at the Sunday Schedule section of the festival website.

www.vbgov.com/winterwildlife

Thank you volunteers, including a crew from Back Bay Restoration Foundation, for braving the cold and wind today to plan...
01/17/2020

Thank you volunteers, including a crew from Back Bay Restoration Foundation, for braving the cold and wind today to plant 1,000 beach grass plants!

Just because we don't see an animal doesn't mean it isn't here. Be on the lookout for signs of wildlife by observing tra...
01/14/2020

Just because we don't see an animal doesn't mean it isn't here. Be on the lookout for signs of wildlife by observing tracks and scat. These deer tracks were found on the Raptor Trail this month.

A great blue heron is a fixture in D and E Pools. These are the two impoundments (or water pools) closest to the parking...
01/13/2020

A great blue heron is a fixture in D and E Pools. These are the two impoundments (or water pools) closest to the parking lot of the wildlife refuge. Do you see this heron when you visit?

When looking at a group of small bufflehead ducks you can distinguish males and females by the white patch on their head...
01/12/2020

When looking at a group of small bufflehead ducks you can distinguish males and females by the white patch on their heads. The flying birds pictured in the first photograph all have small white, teardrop shaped patches behind their eyes, identifying themselves as females. Contrast this marking with the male in the second picture, of a male bufflehead whose white patch extends all the way around the back of the head.

Photo Credit: Barry Kurzer (flying bufflehead females)

The Raptor Trail always holds a treat for those that walk it. Even in windy weather some wildlife or wildlife presence c...
01/11/2020

The Raptor Trail always holds a treat for those that walk it. Even in windy weather some wildlife or wildlife presence can be noted. You might see footprints, scat or animals themselves. Northern cardinals are one of the birds we see throughout the winter.

As in many bird species, the males are bright and beautiful while the female's colors are muted, so that they may protect the eggs and young birds on the nest during breeding season.

Have you looked at eBird lately? Thank you Steve Keith for logging two photos with your wood stork sighting on Wednesday...
01/10/2020
Wood Stork Range Map, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Have you looked at eBird lately? Thank you Steve Keith for logging two photos with your wood stork sighting on Wednesday!

Wood storks are an unusual bird to see in our area as their range is primarily the Caribbean and coastal Mexico, with migrations up into coastal South Carolina.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Wood_Stork/maps-range

Large, white Wood Storks wade through southeastern swamps and wetlands. Although this stork doesn't bring babies, it is a good flier, soaring on thermals with neck and legs outstretched. This bald-headed wading bird stands just over 3 feet tall, towering above almost all other wetland birds. It slow...

Winter Tram Tours are a great way to get outdoors and explore both the wildlife of Back Bay NWR and the history of False...
01/09/2020
Winter Tram Tours 2019-2020 - Back Bay - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Winter Tram Tours are a great way to get outdoors and explore both the wildlife of Back Bay NWR and the history of False Cape State Park. Check the refuge or state park website's for dates and call (757)426-7128 to sign up. Seats fill up quickly for these events so call early.

https://www.fws.gov/nwrs/threecolumn.aspx?id=2147512186

Join staff from Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park for a scenic ride while observing wintering waterfowl and other native wildlife while learning about the history of the area. Tours travel through Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, into False Cape State Park and include a o...

01/08/2020

Happy #WildlifeWednesday! Our favorite sighting from last week were these two pintail ducks feeding in front of the Wildlife Viewing Window. You can also see an American black duck dabbling in the background.

Once the wind calms down we will have the opportunity to see these birds again! In high winds birds find sheltered areas and are not usually seen out in the open like the birds in this video.

A big thank you to Paul Goodman for sharing this lovely photo of sunrise at the refuge. If you have not visited the Dune...
01/06/2020

A big thank you to Paul Goodman for sharing this lovely photo of sunrise at the refuge. If you have not visited the Dune Trail lately put that on your list for your next visit.

The Dune Trail is located a quarter to a third of a mile south of the parking area. This walkway takes you from the marsh over to the dunes. The viewing platform in the middle gives you a view off the ocean through a break in the dunes to the east and the wetlands of Back Bay to the west.

There are still a few days left in the application period for Back Bay NWR's Junior Wildlife Biology Intern. If you are ...
01/05/2020
Summer 2020 Biology Internship Positions - Back Bay - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

There are still a few days left in the application period for Back Bay NWR's Junior Wildlife Biology Intern. If you are looking for a summer internship, take a look at the description for Internship Opportunity 2 in the attached link and email a resume, cover letter and contact information (including email addresses) for three references to [email protected]. Incomplete applications will not be accepted.

https://fws.gov/refuge/back_bay/summer2020internships.aspx

Do you want to join the team at a beautiful coastal refuge? Back Bay NWR's Wildlife Biologist is seeking two interns for the summer of 2020.

Can you see the wildlife trail in this photo? On your next walk keep an eye out for the trails animals have made through...
01/04/2020

Can you see the wildlife trail in this photo? On your next walk keep an eye out for the trails animals have made through the marsh. Don't leave the trail yourself - leave these for the deer, raccoons, otters and others who have made them.

The Winter Waterfowl Walk for tomorrow, January 4th, has been cancelled due to the forecast of rain and winds. Our next ...
01/03/2020

The Winter Waterfowl Walk for tomorrow, January 4th, has been cancelled due to the forecast of rain and winds. Our next walk is scheduled for next Saturday, January 11 at 9:00am. Give us a call at (757)301-7329 ext.3106 to sign up.

01/01/2020

We can't say it better than the tundra swans - Happy New Year!

On this last day of the 2019 we want to thank all of our visitors and our wildlife for a wonderful year! Among so many h...
12/31/2019

On this last day of the 2019 we want to thank all of our visitors and our wildlife for a wonderful year! Among so many highlights of the year we welcomed over 2,500 students and community members to our educational and outreach programs, started a Junior Refuge Ranger program, managed habitat for waterfowl and other birds and protected hundreds of sea turtle hatchlings. Thank you for your support and love of the wildlife who call Back Bay NWR home.

Yellow-rumped warblers often steal the show at this time of year but other small songbirds are present too. This pair of...
12/30/2019

Yellow-rumped warblers often steal the show at this time of year but other small songbirds are present too. This pair of cardinals was hopping along the Raptor Trail this past week, adding a bright splash of color to the browns, grays and greens of the season.

Winter isn't just for waterfowl! On warm winter days reptiles will emerge from their winter hideouts to catch the sun's ...
12/29/2019

Winter isn't just for waterfowl! On warm winter days reptiles will emerge from their winter hideouts to catch the sun's rays. This weekend we have seen yellow-bellied sliders, a ribbon snake and a cottonmouth. Remember to remain on the trail at all times and look for these refuge residents.

We wanted to share some highlights of this week's two Winter Waterfowl Walks. The two most popular sightings among our p...
12/28/2019

We wanted to share some highlights of this week's two Winter Waterfowl Walks. The two most popular sightings among our participants were not even waterfowl!

On Friday a double-crested cormorant sat on a rock, posing for pictures most of the day. (The white color of the rock is a testament to how long he lingered in that one spot)

A pair of bald eagles graced us with their presence on both Friday and Saturday mornings. Maybe one day a pair will build a nest on one of Long Island's many tall pine trees.

Our next walk will be next Saturday at 9:00am. Give us a call at (757)301-7329 ext.3106 and let us know you will join.

A chilly but beautiful morning at the refuge...
12/27/2019

A chilly but beautiful morning at the refuge...

Although we are just nearing the end of 2019, college students are already planning their summer internship positions. B...
12/17/2019

Although we are just nearing the end of 2019, college students are already planning their summer internship positions. Back Bay NWR will host two biology interns during the 2020 field season. Both the Junior and Senior Wildlife Biology Interns will work full-time at the wildlife refuge on a variety of projects, For more details and how to apply visit the refuge website at https://fws.gov/refuge/back_bay/summer2020internships.aspx.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is looking for help in combating White-Nose Syndrome in Bats. You may have an innovat...
12/13/2019
Novel ideas could win big in a fight to save bats

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is looking for help in combating White-Nose Syndrome in Bats. You may have an innovative idea that could help in the fight against white-nose syndrome, or WNS. Submissions will be accepted until December 31, 2019 with awards of up to $20,000 for winning ideas.

Biologists are fighting to reverse one of the most devastating population declines to afflict North America’s wildlife, and you just might…

This time of year is great for viewing birds and sunsets! Sometimes the clouds obscure the colors but it is always a lov...
12/12/2019

This time of year is great for viewing birds and sunsets! Sometimes the clouds obscure the colors but it is always a lovely sight.

Have you planned your trips and itinerary for the 2020 Winter Wildlife Festival? Check the schedule now and sign up soon...
12/07/2019

Have you planned your trips and itinerary for the 2020 Winter Wildlife Festival? Check the schedule now and sign up soon! You don't want to miss the keynote on Friday night. Sharon ‘Birdchick’ Stiteler will present for the 10th anniversary of the festival at the The Zeiders American Dream Theater.

www.vbgov.com/winterwildlife

The season of Winter Waterfowl Walks is almost upon us. Check back next week for this season's dates and times. Winter W...
12/04/2019

The season of Winter Waterfowl Walks is almost upon us. Check back next week for this season's dates and times.

Winter Waterfowl Walks are a one mile hike along the refuge's Raptor (Bay) Trail. We look for ducks, geese and swans visiting the refuge for the winter migration but will also talk about other wildlife we see along the way.

You never know who will be wandering along the entrance road! Don't forget to keep your eyes peeled for great blue heron...
12/01/2019

You never know who will be wandering along the entrance road! Don't forget to keep your eyes peeled for great blue herons and other wildlife while driving in to the refuge.

When is the last time you took a stroll on the Charles Kuralt Trail? The Kuralt Trail at Back Bay NWR is one of twelve s...
11/21/2019

When is the last time you took a stroll on the Charles Kuralt Trail? The Kuralt Trail at Back Bay NWR is one of twelve such trails and scenic overlooks in the southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina region. Charles Kuralt was a radio and television personality who hosted a show called “On the Refuge Road.” Through this show, he introduced Americans to their national wildlife refuges. On the Kuralt Trail at Back Bay NWR you can enjoy a short walk from the parking lot to a viewing platform overlooking a small cove. This trail does not take long so it is always worth the time to see what you can find. Some days you may not see anything; others you may see raccoon tracks, coyote scat or even a bobcat! The recommended time of day to walk this trail is early in the morning or in the evening, close to sunset.

Bobcat Photo Credit: MC Miguez

Today is the day - Winter Wildlife Festival registration is open. Check  out the trip schedule and descriptions of the w...
11/15/2019

Today is the day - Winter Wildlife Festival registration is open. Check out the trip schedule and descriptions of the walk-up workshops on the Festival website. Register early as some trips fill up very quickly.

There are several new and different excursions and opportunities this year to celebrate the 10th year of this festival. Don't forget to register for the keynote event on Friday, January 24! To celebrate this 10th Anniversary the keynote event will include light refreshments, a cash bar and a silent auction.

www.vbgov.com/winterwildlife

It has been a while since our last #WildlifeWednesday post! Ask any regular visitor and they will tell you that Back Bay...
11/13/2019

It has been a while since our last #WildlifeWednesday post! Ask any regular visitor and they will tell you that Back Bay NWR is a great place to view and photograph snakes. Cottonmouths, or water moccasins, usually steal the show but there are other types of snakes found here too. The northern watersnake (first picture) is a shy snake that can be found along the edges of the bay. They spook easily and don’t usually stick around for a photo opp. Take a look at the banding on this snake. The dark body is punctuated by light colored, sometimes reddish, bands. Rough green snakes are another sighting you may enjoy. These lime green snakes may be seen in trees, where they eat spiders and insects, or along the ground. They camouflage extremely well so you must be very observant to spot them. Both the northern watersnake and the green snake have long thin bodies and small heads, which contrast the cottonmouth’s large body and triangular head.

CREDIT: Fred Devan (rough green snake photo)

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

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.
Sad sight on the beach at Back Bay today...
Can anyone update as to whether the Visitors center is back open or not? The last report was on Sept 6th..and just wondering ETA to reopen. Thank you.
I love walking along the various trails and locations of the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge south of Sandbridge!🙂🙂
There is a deceased dolphin washed up on the beach between the two access trails. Sizeable chunk taken out of the neck and underside. Just in case it is of park interest.
Ruddy Turnstone!! First one I have ever seen !
Right place right time after the storm this evening Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Mother Nature sure was showing off!