Whale-watching is among the popular activities at the Winter Wildlife Festival. Photo: Kendall Osborne

Winter Wildlife Festival Reveals Hampton Roads’ Cold-Weather Visitors

Just when you thought there wasn’t much to do in January and February, the Hampton Roads area has a great opportunity to get up close with Bay wildlife.

Coastal Virginia hosts a variety of visiting animals each winter. In addition to migratory birds, there are visits from whales, seals, and more. Beginning on Jan. 28, the Winter Wildlife Festival will offer opportunities to experience and learn about these winter visitors. There will be a variety of activities, both indoors and outside.  

On Jan. 28, there will be exhibits and workshops indoors at the Princess Anne Recreation Center in Virginia Beach. 50 different exhibitors will be there to interact with, including wildlife exhibits and children’s activities. This event is free and open to the public.  

On Jan. 29, award-winning literary naturalists J. Drew Lanham, PhD, and Jamie K. Reaser, PhD, will speak at the Goode Center at Virginia Wesleyan University. Lanham’s passion is birds. He has won numerous awards for his works and currently resides in South Carolina. Reaser is also a bird lover and  author of numerous award-winning titles. The two of them will read from works in their upcoming anthology, Dawn Songs: A Birdwatcher’s Field Guide to the Poetics of Migration,” another free event.

Outside in Virginia Beach, there will be Birding Tram Tours, a trip through False Cape after dark, a watch at Owl Creek by the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Museum, and of course whale watching.  There will be a birding challenge, where teams try to observe as many different species of birds as possible in a single day.    

There will be activities outside of Virginia Beach as well. At Fort Monroe, there will be a bird and history tour on Feb. 2.  On Jan. 28 and Feb. 4, there will be a boat tour of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel—a good trip if you want to see seals. There will be tours on the Eastern Shore, including a trip into the marshes inside the seaside barrier islands. This trip will be loaded with birds, and there might be some seals there as well.  

According to Katie Webb, the event coordinator for Virginia Beach, “This is the 13th year of the festival.  There will be 50-plus trips, which people love.” She notes that the photo contest is popular. People really enjoy the People’s Choice category, where the winner is chosen by the most number of likes on Facebook. She also notes that the festival is great for both beginning and experienced birders.   

Supporters of the festival include the Audubon Society, Lynnhaven River Now, The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Virginia Division of Wildlife Resources, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Virginia Aquarium, Virginia Beach libraries, and the Virginia Beach Department of Parks and Recreation.   

Remember, it can be chilly, especially on the water, this time of year. If you take an outside trip, wear more layers than you think you need. Also check age limits for certain excursions. You can find festival details at

-Kendall Osborne