This protected area in Cape Charles is important habitat for migratory birds and includes public access. Photo: Dot Field, Virginia DCR.

Cape Charles Nature Preserve Addition Protects Migratory Birds

There’s good news for the birds who like to vacation on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. The Cape Charles Natural Area Preserve is nearly doubling in size, with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s (DCR) acquisition of 20.7 acres adjacent to the preserve.

The preserve, established in 1997, protects shoreline, dune and maritime forest habitats on the Chesapeake Bay side of ESVA. Migratory birds and the federal endangered northeastern beach tiger beetle are among the species that depend on those habitats.

The expansion brings the preserve to 50 acres in size. Its majority is funded by the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program courtesy of a NOAA grant. It also covers three high-priority areas included in the Commonwealth’s ConserveVirginia program.

“Not only does the project support town efforts toward a network of walkable trails and public spaces, but it also permanently protects land identified by our cutting-edge ConserveVirginia model as a top-tier conservation priority,” says Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler.

ConserveVirginia targets areas for “Natural Habitat & Ecosystem Diversity, Flooding & Floodplain Resilience and Protected Landscapes Resilience.”

Now, this important area in ESVA will be protected from future development.

“This project continues the efforts of numerous partners to address the loss of migratory songbird stopover habitat on Virginia’s Eastern Shore,” DCR Director Clyde E. Cristman said. “The conversion of habitat to residential and commercial development is a real threat to wildlife.”

DCR’s Natural Heritage Program will continue to manage the preserve for the benefit of migratory birds, focusing on controlling invasive species and protecting non-tidal wetlands, a source of freshwater for birds and pollinators.

Public access to the expanded nature preserve will include repairs to its boardwalk and a new, wheelchair-accessible boardwalk leading through the maritime forest to a Chesapeake Bay view.

The preserve just reopened in November after being closed since July due to repeated trespassing and unauthorized use. DCR leaders ask everyone to respect the Natural Area Preserve’s regulations.

-Meg Walburn Viviano