The Weather

Local weather plays a major part in our ability to get outdoors and observe birds. It is vital to keep up to date with what weather patterns are affecting areas one hopes to go birding in. During periods of rain, often times birders might not wish to be as adventurous, staying closer to a vehicle in case of a storm, or simply birding from the vehicle. Winds can also play a heavy factor in what birds might be seen during an outing. When seawatching, onshore winds tend to bring birds closer to us, allowing for better looks at the price of being buffeted with the winds head on. Offshore winds tend to keep the winds off of birders, but at the cost of also pushing birds further out from the coastline. Heat & humidity can have negative affects on optical aids, decreasing their usefulness at extreme distances. The location of the sun during an outing, and proper trail direction planning are also of concern. But, for starters, here are a few websites that provide local forecasts and can help get the ball rolling to any birding adventure:

Weather Underground / The Weather Channel

WAVY TV Weather

WVEC TV Weather

Influence of the Tides

In addition to the weather as a whole, since we all live in coastal environments, the oceanic tides are also of critical importance when viewing wildlife. Often times (Pleasure House Point Natural Area is a prime example) the elevation of the water levels will greatly aid in determining what birds one can expect to see. At low tide, mud flats along the shorelines & sandbars offshore will become visible, providing feeding grounds for species of Shorebirds like American Oystercatchers, Willet, Dunlin, Yellowlegs, Killdeer, and Semipalmated Plover. When the tide begins to rise, the shortest birds will be forced to flee, and will find new feeding grounds elsewhere. As the high tide comes in, even the longer-legged shorebirds will be forced away, and soon, wading birds like Egrets & Herons will begin to dominate the shoreline, since their long legs are perfect for wading in the now-deeper water. At high tide, the shoreline marshes will become inundated with water, decreasing the volume of hiding room for birds like Seaside, Nelson's & Saltmarsh Sparrows, making them easier to observe as a result. Because of the influence of the tides on birdlife, here are some charts worth checking before any outing. Each of these is provided by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the foremost authority on tides. Any other tide charts available online are simply materials derived from these charts:

Coastal Virginia Tides (All Locations Selectable)

Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel Tide Levels (Actual & Projected)

Lynnhaven Inlet (Projected)

Lynnhaven Bay - Bayville (Projected)

Lynnhaven Bay - Buchanan Creek Entrance (Projected)

Lynnhaven Bay - Brown Cove (Projected)

Lynnhaven Bay - Broad Bay Canal (Projected)

Lynnhaven Bay - Long Creek (Projected)

Cape Henry Tides (Projected)

Resort Area / Oceanfront (Projected)

Rudee Inlet Entrance (Projected)

Rudee Inlet Interior (Projected)

Rudee Heights, Lake Wesley (Projected)

Lake Rudee South End (Projected)

Sandbridge Beach (Projected)

Extreme Weather Patterns

In addition to typical weather and the tides, birds are also greatly influenced by Extreme Weather. By 'extreme weather' I am referring primarily to large-scale low pressure systems, namely Hurricanes & Nor'easters. These major coastal storms have the potential to impact our region at any time during the year. Some notable examples of these in recent years were Isabel (2003), Nor'Ida (2009), Hurricane Irene (2011), Hurricane Sandy (2012), and Hurricane Arthur (2014). When these massive storms move from the sea onto land, or scrape the coastline, they displace huge numbers of birds out of their path, at times entraining these birds within their wind fields and causing bird "fallouts" along the impacted areas of the coastline. These storms can send birds far from their usual range & habitat as a result & savvy birders will try to plan out the best location where birds might be found after a storm, and the dangers associated with, have passed. For more information prior to, or during times of extreme weather, here is a list of some useful websites:

The National Hurricane Center

Weather Underground: Tropical Weather Hurricane Central

Extra-Tropical Storm Surge Prediction Center

ESTOFS Storm Surge Model Guidance

Great Lakes Ice Cover