Chapter Media Releases

Expansion of Cape Charles Natural Area Preserve provides a boost for migratory bird habitat on Virginia’s Eastern Shore
The preserve reopened in November 2020.

RICHMOND — A land conservation project that nearly doubles the size of Cape Charles Natural Area Preserve is complete. 

The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation has acquired 20.7 acres adjacent to the existing preserve, which is located on the Chesapeake Bay side of Virginia’s Eastern Shore. 

Established in 1997, the preserve protects shoreline, dune and maritime forest habitats, the species that depend on them — including migratory birds and the federally endangered northeastern beach tiger beetle — and three ConserveVirginia land conservation priorities.

The addition expands the preserve to 50 acres. About 20% of the acquisition funds came from the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation, and 80% from the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program, led by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality through a grant from NOAA.

“This project to nearly double the size of Cape Charles Natural Area Preserve would not have been possible without the critical support of Virginia’s Coastal Zone Management Program, the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation and DCR’s Natural Heritage Program,” Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler said. “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.” 

Governor Ralph Northam’s ConserveVirginia land conservation initiative identified the addition as a high conservation priority for Natural Habitat & Ecosystem Diversity, Flooding & Floodplain Resilience and Protected Landscapes Resilience.

“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 Natural Heritage Program Director Jason Bulluck said, “Land acquisition, permanent protection and habitat restoration are the best tools we have to ensure that high-quality habitat is available for these species.”

Staff with DCR’s Natural Heritage Program will continue to manage the preserve for the benefit of migratory birds and the other natural heritage resources it supports. This will include forest habitat management activities, such as control of non-native species that, over time, can decrease bird habitat values by changing forest structure and species assemblages.

“The Cape Charles Natural Area Preserve is part of an internationally important site for migratory birds,” Virginia CZM Director Laura McKay said. “Both DCR and CZM have had a long-standing interest in expanding the preserve to support both conservation and compatible recreational use. This addition includes non-tidal wetlands, which provide a source of freshwater for migratory birds and pollinators, and another boardwalk that were created through a previous CZM grant to Northampton County.”

Public access
The preserve reopened to the public in early November. A wheelchair-accessible boardwalk, also funded by the Virginia CZM Program, provides access through the maritime forest to a viewpoint of the Chesapeake Bay. 

The preserve closed in late July because of repeated trespassing and unauthorized use that damaged the boardwalk, which has since been repaired. Visitors are reminded to follow all rules at the preserve and respect the natural environment.

“Cape Charles Natural Area Preserve has always been a favorite of local birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts,” DCR Eastern Shore Region Steward Dot Field said. “This coastal forest has long provided much needed resting and foraging habitat for migratory songbirds, as well as breeding habitat for resident birds. The additional forested acreage will help maintain the resilience of the natural communities the preserve protects.”

There is no public beach access at the preserve.

About the Virginia Natural Area Preserve System
Cape Charles Natural Area Preserve is part of the Virginia Natural Area Preserve System, established in 1989 to protect the state’s rare plants, animals and natural communities. The system is made up of 65 preserves covering 58,548 acres. DCR owns most of the preserves, but several are owned by The Nature Conservancy, other nonprofits, universities or private individuals. Staff with the Virginia Natural Heritage Program at DCR manage these lands primarily for rare species habitat and unique natural communities, but also to provide education, research and, at some preserves, low-impact recreational opportunities. 

Limited funds are available to support the Virginia Natural Area Preserve System, and contributions from individuals can help greatly. Checks can be made to “Natural Area Preservation Fund” and mailed to: Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Natural Heritage Program, 600 E.  Main St., 24th Floor, Richmond, VA 23219.

Dot Field Named Master Naturalist Chapter Advisor of the Year For Virginia

The Eastern Shore’s Dot Field was honored recently as Chapter Advisor of the Year by the State of Virginia Master Naturalist Program.

Field founded the Easter Shore Chapter in 2006 and has been the dedicated chapter advisor ever since. She works tirelessly to ensure that the Eastern Shore volunteers have the knowledge and tools needed to be educators, citizen scientists and stewards helping to conserve and manage natural resources and public lands.

The Eastern Shore Chapter has more than 100 members participating in 60 active projects. Field is a wealth of knowledge and has a way of making each volunteer feel appreciated. Her knowledge of the Eastern Shore and especially the native plants, shows in the many training programs and field excursions that she leads with joy and enthusiasm.

In addition to dedicating many hours to the Master Naturalist Program, she is the Eastern Shore region steward of the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Eastern Shore Master Naturalists Participate in Second Annual Butterfly Count

As seen in the Eastern Shore Post, August 23, 2019

Carolyn McGavock, of Parksley, recently let a total of 22 Eastern Shore Master Naturalist volunteers in the second annual butterfly count.  Counts were taken at the four Natural Area Preserves (NAP) managed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.  Organized into small groups, each with butterfly expert, a recorder, and several spotters, counts were taken at the Magothy Bay NAP, Cape Charles NAP, Savage Neck Dunes NAP, and Mutton Hunk Fen NAP, all located on the Virginia Eastern Shore.

By doing annual butterfly counts, the Eastern Short Master Naturalists will monitor changes in the butterfly species and study the effects of weather and habitat changes on Eastern Shore butterflies. This year, volunteers saw 27 different butterfly species ad a total of 276 individual butterflies. These numbers were up from the 2018 base count.  The annual counts are taken in August when the hot weather encourages maximum butterfly activity.  Most butterflies need sunny days with temperatures of at least 80 degrees in order to fly.  To learn more about butterflies and other natural wonders of the Eastern Shore, visit and become a Master Naturalist. t

Master Naturalist volunteers, led by Carolyn McGavock, participated in the butterfly count at Magothy Bay Natural Area Preserve.

Article Tribute to Bob Toner

Eastern Shore Chapter Virginia Master Naturalists

News Release

March 1, 2019

For Immediate Release

Press Contact: Karen Lasley,

Master Naturalists on the Eastern Shore were busy during 2018 identifying butterfly species, helping maintain four Natural Area Preserves and educating children and adults about the area’s wildlife and native plants. The 75 active members of the Eastern Shore Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists volunteered over 8,000 hours during 2018 toward conserving and managing the natural resources of the Virginia Eastern Shore.

Special recognition goes to Bob Toner of Exmore who is a top contributor with the Eastern Shore Master Naturalists program. Originally from Queens, New York, Bob moved to the Eastern Shore in 2006.  He completed the course work to become a Master Naturalist in 2010 after learning of the organization from a neighbor and has been a dedicated volunteer ever since. The State Master Naturalist Program honored Bob in 2017 for having the most volunteer hours of any member in the entire state. He gave 1,158 hours of volunteer time to the program that year; an average of over 22 hours a week.

 Although Bob’s favorite volunteer job is working at the Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge’s Visitor Center, he does a wide variety of naturalist work in both Northampton and Accomack Counties. He has a passion for the Barrier Islands and volunteers with the Barrier Island Stewardship Program, teaching boaters to protect nesting birds and posting signs restricting access to nesting areas. From April through August, you can find Bob checking Bluebird boxes at the Nature Conservancy’s Brownsville Preserve. He also works regularly at the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge monitoring wildlife and assisting with maintenance. Twice a month Bob is in the Chincoteague area doing water quality testing at the Chincoteague Bay Field Station. Bob especially enjoys working with the summer camps and school groups who visit the Eastern Shore Wildlife Refuge and helping with Nature Day at Kiptopeke State Park.  From October through February, Bob also leads Saturday morning tours of Fisherman Island.

Besides volunteering with the Master Naturalists, Bob Toner is an Officer of the Election at the Nassawadox Polling Station where he aids voters in casting ballots. Striving to help get all eligible citizens registered to vote, Bob can be found at voter registration tables at many Eastern Shore festivals. He also recently assisted at Shore High School Voter Registration Events.

Bob Toner contributes much to the quality of life on the Virginia Eastern Shore. He is a people person who loves sharing his knowledge of Eastern Shore nature and history with others. It shows in his smile. Go visit him on Thursdays at the National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center.

More information on the Eastern Shore Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists is available at

Magothy Bay Addition

New Trees Planted Near Magothy Bay NAP

February 24, 2019 by Wayne Creed Cape Charles Mirror

DCR recently acquired a 55 acre field off Latimer Siding as an addition to the Magothy Bay Preserve, as you are likely aware. Today I was part of a group of about 20 people who did a large scale planing in that field to provide increased habitat for migrating songbirds, among other things. This morning a truck loaded with 1100 wax myrtle shrubs in 3 gallon containers arrived at the site. We unloaded them onto DCR trailers and a group spent the entire day planing them. While there are still some that remain to be planted, we managed to plant approximately 700 wax myrtles, just today!! That’s 10 rows of plants spaced on 40 foot centers for a distance of 0.6 miles. Essentially, rows of wax myrtles for nearly as far as the eye can see. As these shrubs grow and mature, and other plants are added by the bird droppings of neotropicals and other birds using these wax myrtles, this is going to be a fantastic addition to the habitat down near the southern tip of the peninsula. There are also going to be some willow, white pin and scarlet oaks planted there as well.

The planting area is in a 55 acre field that is bounded to the west by Route 13, to the south by Latimer Siding and to the east by Seaside Road. The full-length rows are about 6 tenths of a mile long and there is a wax myrtle planted every 40 feet, with an occasional oak thrown in for good measure.

About 700 of the wax myrtles were planted this past Tuesday and there are another 400 still to plant for a total of 1100 wax myrtles. Not nearly as many oaks, maybe a hundred of two will be planted, but they will be substantially bigger.

New Addition to Magothy Bay NAP