After hearing from an artist friend and fellow bird lover what a great area Virginia Beach is for bird watching, I thought it would be worth checking out. I decided to take a day trip in my T-Bird to Virginia Beach, view the birdlife along the beach and visit with my friend Mimi.
After driving the strip, Atlantic Avenue, with the top down, I decided to park on the southern end and walk my way back north along the boardwalk. I was in search of Pelicans, Sanderlings, Sandpipers, Willets, and Seagulls. It was all new to me, after having many vacations and several birding outings to the beach in Duck, NC, but never Virginia Beach except as a little kid. The beach was very wide with a concrete boardwalk lined with hotels, restaurants, and shops.
The place was hopping. With all of the people and activity I was pretty sure there weren’t going to be too many birds to photograph.
As I was walking along the boardwalk, I saw some frenetic activity in the sky. A couple was throwing breadcrumbs off of their 10th floor balcony, feeding the seagulls. I was struck by the blueness of the sky, allowing the white in the gulls to really pop. It was a feeding frenzy, almost abstract in appearance.
Down quite away from where I stood, I spotted what looked like a fishing pier. I instantly thought of the Brown Pelicans cruising up and down the surf, and what a great vantage point the pier would be to photograph them. I booked it on down to the Virginia Beach Fishing Pier, paid my two dollars as an observer and couldn’t wait to get down to the end to see all of the pelicans fly by. I ended up doing a 40-yard dash to the end of the pier to photograph a single Brown Pelican flying low along the water. The pelican unfortunately swung wide of the pier, and the pics turned out so so. I waited another half-hour for the next one to come by. I’m sure there are many days when the pier is an ideal place to photograph flybys.
Next, it was on to Mimi and her husband Bob’s house to visit her Bluebirds and Green Herons. There were beautiful flower gardens, vegetable gardens, flowering bushes, and a variety of oriental trees. The first birding observation she pointed out was the Green Heron nest in the Japanese maple tree alongside the driveway. In a relatively small, flimsy nest were three baby Green Herons. Within a few days they had hatched and were already attempting to jump in and out of the nest.
I managed to get a few artsy shots at the fuzzy little herons. There was strong backlighting and they were in the shade, so it was a struggle to get a good image of them. It was the first time I have ever seen a Green Heron nest and its young.
Then Mimi, put a little bird food on her Bluebird feeder and instantly her Bluebirds descended on cue. She has watched them grow up and leave the nest. It was fun for me to observe them more closely than ever before.
After lunch, we observed two Osprey nests and an Eagle’s nest. In-between, the military was putting on an air show over the beach. The F22s were buzzing overhead along with stunt and vintage planes. The sky was filled with energy that day.
Then it was on to visit for the first time the Virginia Beach Aquarium/Aviary just 15 minutes away. The Aviary was large, and full of interesting birds. I spent all of my time at the Aviary cage. There is a Great Blue Heron with a damaged wing, who was active and interesting to watch. I observed closely Cattle Egrets, White Ibises, Night Herons, Turkeys, Ducks, Woodpeckers, Owls, Vultures, and a big Brown Pelican!
However, I spent most of my time observing the Brown Pelican whose name is Silver. He had been banded as a young bird and the band was silver in color. At first he was in the back corner and then he decided it was time to meander all around the enclosed area. He went over to visit Tom Turkey and his mate, spent some time bothering them, and then decided he would mount a wooden platform and pose for me. I took many pictures of the big boy and was able to observe all of his features very close-up. It was a fantastic research opportunity for me.
There were some beautiful ducks including a pair of Ruddy Ducks and a pair of Fulvous Whistling Ducks.
As it grew close to closing time for the museum, it was also time to hit the road. It was a full day of birding. It was so worth the trip, a day trip that took me to an entirely different environment only a little over an hour away. Thank you to my friends Mimi and Bob for inviting me down to visit them in Virginia Beach, known by the locals affectionately as “THE BEACH”!