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Birding in Virginia’s Great Dismal Swamp

Program Number: 18503RJ
Start and End Dates:
4/14/2013 - 4/19/2013;
Duration: 5 nights
Location: Suffolk, Virginia
Price starting at: $898.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Birding; Natural History
Meals: 15; 5 Breakfasts, 5 Lunches, 5 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian; Kosher    

Discover the wonders of birding in the Great Dismal Swamp, a national wildlife refuge covering more than 111,000 acres of forested wetlands in eastern Virginia and North Carolina. Search for the more than 200 bird and 50 butterfly species found in the varied habitats of the refuge. Discover firsthand the complexities of migration during the spring songbird season as you count migratory species, take sunset walks and venture out on nocturnal “owl prowls.”




Highlights

• Observe a diversity of species including warblers, woodpeckers, waterfowl, wading birds and birds of prey.
• Visit nearby preserves encompassing other habitats with different bird populations.
• Trace the footsteps of 13,000 years of human presence: Native Americans, George Washington, escaped slaves and 20th-century loggers.



Activity Particulars

Walking up to two miles, generally flat terrain on gravel, boardwalk, forest paths.



So you can get the most out of your experience, all of our birding programs have a maximum participant-to-instructor ratio of 14:1.

Please note that bird species and viewing may vary depending on weather patterns.




Date Specific Information

4-14-2013

Enjoy the latest in hearing technology — listening devices — on this date.



Coordinated by Road Scholar.




Suffolk

This thriving city in the heart of southeastern Virginia is home to the Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge and 8,000 acres of lakes and rivers in which to swim, scuba dive, kayak or fish. The Suffolk Peanut Festival, Taste of Suffolk Downtown Street Festival and Great Dismal Birding Festival are among the family-friendly events the city hosts.



Accommodations
Hotel and conference center with fitness center, indoor pool and spa overlooking the Nansemond River.
Meals and Lodgings
   Hilton Garden Inn and Suffolk Conference Center
  Suffolk, VA 5 nights
 Hilton Garden Inn and Suffolk Conference Center
Type: Full Service Hotel
  Description: Full service hotel and conference center nestled in a six-acre park overlooking the Nansemond River . Conveniently located near the downtown area and local attractions. Centrally located just 15-30 minutes from Portsmouth, Norfolk, or Smithfield and an easy 45 minute drive to Virginia Beach.
  Contact info: 100 East Constance Road
Suffolk, VA 23435 USA
phone: 757-925-1300
  Room amenities: Rooms includes refrigerator, microwave, complimentary in-room coffee, high-speed Internet access, 2 phones w/ voice mail, spacious work area, iron, ironing board, hair dryer. Hotel also offers cable TV with pay-per-view options and Nintendo games.
  Facility amenities: Hotel includes a full service restaurant and bar, outdoor patio for dining, 24-hour business center, full fitness center, indoor pool and spa, complimentary wireless Internet in lobby. An ATM is available, along with a coin laundry, laundry/valet service, and safety deposit box.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: $90+ Call for Road Scholar rates.
  Check in time: 3:00 PM
  Additional nights after: $90+ Call for Road Scholar rates.
  Check out time: 11:00 AM


Travel Details
  Start of Program:
4:00 p.m. You will be staying at Hilton Garden Inn and Suffolk Conference Center that night.
  End of Program:
11:00 a.m. You will be staying at Hilton Garden Inn and Suffolk Conference Center the night before.
  Required documents:
The Road Scholar Health & Safety Form is required. Road Scholar Health & Safety Information
  Parking availability:
Free parking at hotel
Transportation
To Start of Program
  Location:  Suffolk, VA
  Nearest highway: I-64, I-264, and I-664
  Nearest airport:  Norfolk International
  From End of Program
  Location: Suffolk, VA
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
Travel Details
 

Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport

 

 
 

Service:

 

Car Rentals

 

Travel Time:

 

47 minutes 

 

Distance:

 

39.5 miles

   

From airport, follow signs to I-64 East. Take I-64 East to I-664 South. From I-664, take exit 13A onto Route 58 West. Take the Wilroy Rd. exit toward VA-642 and turn right onto Wilroy Rd. Follow Wilroy about 2 miles to E. Constance Rd. Turn right on E. Constance. Hotel is a short distance down on the right.

 

Norfolk International Airport

 

 
 

Service:

 

Car Rentals

 

Travel Time:

 

about 25 minutes 

 

Distance:

 

30 miles

   

Exit airport and take I-64 East. Merge onto 664 North. Take exit 13A off 664 North onto Route 58 West. Exit onto 58 Business (Suffolk). Hotel will on your right about 10 minutes up.

 

Richmond International Airport

 

 
 

Service:

 

Car Rentals

 

Travel Time:

 

1.5 hours 

 

Distance:

 

81 miles

   

From the airport, follow signs to I-64 East (crossing over US Rt. 60). Go east on I-64 to the I-295 interchange and take I-295 South. Take Exit 3A to merge onto US 460 East. Follow US 460 for about 51 miles to Route 460 Business East (Pruden Blvd.). Stay on Pruden for about a mile, where it turns into North Main Street. Continue for another 1.5 miles to E. Constance Rd/US 58 Business. Turn left and hotel will be on left.

 
Driving Directions
  North of the James River Take I-64 East to I-664 South. From 1-664, take exit 13A onto Route 58 West. Take the Wilroy Rd. Exit toward VA-642 and turn right onto Wilroy Rd. Follow Wilroy about 2 miles to E. Constance Rd (Rt. 58 Business). Turn right on E. Constance. Hotel is a short distance down on the right.
  South of the James River Take Route 460 East from I-95 North/I-295 North. Continue straight at the Route 58 interchange onto Route 460 Business East (Pruden Blvd.). Stay on Pruden for about a mile, where it turns into North Main Street. Continue for another 1.5 miles to E. Constance Rd/US 58 Business. Turn left and hotel will be on left.
Equipment Requirements: Binoculars recommended but not required.
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.


Daily Schedule

Day 1: Arrival & Check-in, Introductions & Getting To Know You, Orientation & Program Overview
(Sunday, April 14)
   
 Afternoon: Hotel check-in is after 3:00pm. After getting your room, please pick up your program materials. Orientation will begin at 4:00pm when you'll meet the program staff and your fellow participants. We'll review the schedule and note any updates along with an overview of the experience ahead.
 Dinner: The hotel restaurant, Constant's Wharf Grill, has elegant waterfront views of the park, Nansemond River and Marina. The restaurant serves impeccable cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner in a spacious indoor dining room or out on the waterfront porch. All hotel meals will take place in this venue.
 Evening: Class: "The Great Dismal Swamp: Wildlife and Ecology" This marvelous 111,200 acre wetland forest contains some of the most important wildlife habitat in the Mid-Atlantic region. In this introductory presentation, learn about the variety of vegetation types, rare plants, and the more than 200 bird species that have been identified in the refuge. Birds typically present during this season include a wide variety of warblers, woodpeckers, and numerous wading species.
   
Accommodations: Hilton Garden Inn and Suffolk Conference Center
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Birding Field Trip, Nature Photography Workshop
(Monday, April 15)

Note: Extended walk on forest paths and boardwalks, continuously on feet



   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel in the Constant's Wharf Grill.
 Morning: Field Trip: "Washington Ditch" This morning we have an early start and short drive to the refuge . There, join a birding expert to explore the northern end of the refuge. We’ll hike along this trail cutting diagonally into the heart of the swamp, a primitive area that is a favorite of birding enthusiasts. This 2-hour walk will wind through one of the most popular birding areas of the refuge and provide plenty of opportunities to spy warblers and other migrating species. Hands-On: "Nature Photography Workshop" We transfer to the Visitors Center for an introduction to effective techniques for capturing your bird sightings with your camera. Led by a refuge expert, the workshop will begin with an overview indoors and proceed onto trails near the Center so that you can practice and polish your skills.
 Lunch: Lunch at the hotel in Constant's Wharf Grill.
 Afternoon: Personal Time: Following the example of the birds, take a brief break in the heat of the day to refresh and relax. Class: "How Did We Get a Great Dismal Swamp?: The Geology Beneath the Muck" Investigate the historical boundaries and the natural forces which produced the Great Dismal Swamp, which may once have been 10 times its present size. Trace the impact of humans on the ecosystem from its uses by early Indian inhabitants through its exploitation by colonial Americans including George Washington. Consider the impact of humans on the swamp's vegetation, water flow, and ultimately on the wildlife that inhabits its forests. Class: "Cultural Ecology of the Algonquian Chesapeake" With a Native American expert, explore the interactions of early native peoples with the Great Dismal Swamp environment. Learn how the Indians both adapted to and were changed by the plants, animals, and landforms of the region.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
 Evening: FREE EVENING It's been a busy start to the week, so take the evening to rest and record your observations from the day.
   
Accommodations: Hilton Garden Inn and Suffolk Conference Center
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Merchant's Millpond State Park, 2008 Burn, Lake Drummond, Sunset Birding Walk
(Tuesday, April 16)

Note: Similar walking conditions to Day Two



   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel
 Morning: Field Trip: "Merchants Millpond State Park" An "enchanted forest," primitive species of fish relatively unchanged over millions of years, towering bald cypress trees with massive trunks, luxuriant growths of Spanish moss? This is Merchants Millpond State Park. Here, coastal pond and southern swamp forest mingle, creating one of North Carolina's rarest ecological communities. Together with upland forests, these environments create a haven for wildlife and humanity alike. The 760-acre millpond is more than 190 years old and has developed into complex, mature ecosystems. More than 200 species of birds, ranging from graceful egrets to turkeys and owls, have been recorded in the park. Spring brings migrations of swamp warblers, parulas, prothonotaries and yellow-throated warblers. Pileated woodpeckers, barred owls, and red-shouldered hawks also enjoy the swamplands. Class: "The Great Fire of 2008" In the late spring of 2008, a devastating fire destroyed a large section of the refuge as it burned above and below ground for several months. Refuge staff will describe the extensive damage to the ecosystem that could take hundreds of years to recover. The talk will also explain the impact on birds and other wildlife and will be illustrated with many photographs. Field Trip: "The Burned Area and Lake Drummond" After the presentation, proceed down the trail to Lake Drummond to see the effects of the fire first hand. This outing will provide additional birding opportunities along the trail and on a boardwalk out over the swamp.
 Lunch: Lunch at hotel
 Afternoon: Personal Time: Take a short break to relax, swim, or record observations. Class: "Woodpeckers and Songbirds" Learn about the great variety of species of these two groups in the refuge. At least six species of woodpeckers are known to nest in the swamp, and the variety of songbirds, particularly warblers, is significant. Field Trip: "Sunset Birding Walk on Pines Trail: Woodpecker Focus" Having been oriented to the species most likely to be observed, return to the refuge as the sun is setting to look for woodpeckers and other birds. Park rangers report that large groups of Pileated Woodpeckers have been seen to congregate right outside the Visitor Center.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
 Evening: FREE EVENING. Tonight is again free to spend as you wish, and you’ll be given information about activities you can do on your own if you would like to explore the area.
   
Accommodations: Hilton Garden Inn and Suffolk Conference Center
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Portsmouth's Hoffler Creek Preserve, Butterflies, Bird Habitat & Conservation
(Wednesday, April 17)

Note: As on previous days



   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at Hotel
 Morning: Field Trip: "Hoffler Creek Preserve" We leave the swamp this morning to explore a private preserve along a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay near Portsmouth, VA. This field trip will provide opportunities to make observations in a diverse ecosystem that includes a man-made lake, tidewater shoreline, and riparian forest that will expand the potential number of species that might be identified. Possibilities include ospreys, widgeons, buffleheads, and kingfishers.
 Lunch: Lunch at hotel
 Afternoon: Class: "Butterflies of the Great Dismal Swamp" Discover a completely different group of winged creatures in this presentation by an expert in the local fauna. There are at least 57 species of butterflies and 49 species of skippers to be found in the swamp. The diversity has attracted butterfly enthusiasts from around the world. Free Afternoon: You may choose to explore some of the other trails in the refuge on your own, such as those on the east side or one of the longer trails near Suffolk. Or just relax, catch up on your record keeping, or simply enjoy the beauty of nature.
 Dinner: Dinner at hotel
 Evening: Class: "Native Plant Life: Bird Habitat and Conservation" Join well-known local author and wild plant expert Vickie Shufer, whom you met earlier in the day, for a discussion of the variety and significance of plant species found in the park. Learn about the importance of the vegetation to the diversity of bird species and efforts to conserve the habitat.
   
Accommodations: Hilton Garden Inn and Suffolk Conference Center
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Piney Grove Preserve, Sunset Birding, Owl Prowl
(Thursday, April 18)

Note: The ground is a lot drier at this preserve, but the paths are similar to the other days.



   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel
 Morning: Field Trip: "Nature Conservancy Piney Grove Preserve" We’ll take you on an extended drive inland beyond the historical boundaries of the Great Dismal Swamp to explore this preserve. Here, the Nature Conservancy is protecting an open pine forest and working to reintroduce the Red Cockaded Woodpecker to the area. The field trip will include both a presentation on the Conservancy's efforts and a birding walk through the preserve. In addition to the woodpeckers, you may be able to spot a variety of raptors, warblers, and other songbirds.
 Lunch: The Virginia Diner has been a refuge for folks who like down-home cooking ever since Mrs. D'Earcy Davis served hot biscuits and vegetable soup to hungry customers way back in 1929. In those days the little diner was a refurbished Sussex, Surry, and Southampton Railroad car. As business grew so did the restaurant with dining room after dining room added on. Today, The Virginia Diner has been replicated and the old railroad car has become a legend, but its quaint atmosphere has been faithfully preserved and still reflects throughout the restaurant. Antique peanut vendor roasters and buckets of free peanuts for munching continue to greet guests at the front door along with the irresistible aroma of freshly prepared dishes just like Grandma Galloway used to make.
 Afternoon: Class: "Creatures of the Evening: Owls, Frogs, and Bugs, Oh My!" In preparation for the Sunset Walk and Owl Prowl later in the day, learn about the numerous owl species in the refuge, including the Eastern Screech, Great Horned, and Barred Owls. Because there will be many other night sounds besides the owls, you will also be introduced to some of the other creatures of the night, such as numerous frogs and all manner of "singing" insects.
 Dinner: Dinner at hotel
 Evening: Field Trip: "Sunset Birding and Owl Prowl" We’ll have an early dinner, then return to the primitive trails along Jericho Ditch or another trail in or near the Swamp to look and listen for birds active right around sunset. You’ll be able to linger long enough to watch for owls on this 2-hour outing to the darkening swamp. The rest of the evening is free.
   
Accommodations: Hilton Garden Inn and Suffolk Conference Center
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Dismal Swamp State Park, Farewells, Program Concludes
(Friday, April 19)

Note: Field trip walk similar to other days



   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel. Please note that hotel check-out is by 11:00am.
 Morning: Field Trip: "Dismal Swamp State Park" The park protects 22 square miles of forested wetland on the eastern side of the Great Dismal Swamp. Atlantic White Cedar trees grow in deep peat soils common to the area. Black-throated green warblers may be found nesting among these conifers. Along the forest edge supple-jack, grape, and greenbrier create dense tangles of vines. Neotropical songbirds such as the American redstart and the black-and-white warbler find these conditions perfect for nesting. Yellow-throated warblers and white-eyed vireos are often heard among the vines, but can be difficult to see, as are Swainson's warblers. Prothonotary warblers and wood ducks can be spotted along the ditches that parallel the roadbeds. Seven species of woodpeckers are present in the park as are Red-shouldered hawks and barred owls .
 Lunch: Box lunch to take on your travel home. The program concludes with lunch. We hope you've had a great experience birding in the Great Dismal Swamp and will join us for other rewarding programs, including our "Fall Birding on the Eastern Shore: Making the Most of Migration", in association with the College of William & Mary. Best wishes for all your journeys!
   
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Free Time Opportunities
 
  Suffolk, VA Tidewater Area: Southside
When you come to our Road Scholar program, you'll find the schedule filled with classes and extracurricular activities; your free time will be limited to only a few hours a day. We spend much of our time on field trips to surrounding birding sites, yet there will be numerous trails in the refuge that we will not have time to investigate. Consider staying an extra day before or after the program to further explore the region. Virginia Beach with the Backbay National Wildlife Refuge and First Landing State Park is an easy drive away. Websites for other area cities including Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Chesapeake will have additional information. The Outer Banks of North Carolina are also fairly close and the Historic Triangle of Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown is just across the James River.
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.


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