SAVAGE NECK DUNES NATURAL AREA PRESERVE

IN BRIEF: Covering 298 acres of prime ancient sand dunes and maritime forest, the preserve’s habitat alone is worth the visit. Try September and October for a first visit, especially after a cold front.

 ACCESS: Day use year-round. No restroom facilities.

 

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BIRDING SAVAGE NECK DUNES NATURAL AREA PRESERVE

Savage Neck Dunes Natural Area Preserve, Photo by Liz Watson Photography

Savage Neck Dunes Natural Area Preserve, Photo by Liz Watson Photography

One of the prettiest spots in Northampton County, Savage Neck Dunes Natural Area Preserve (est. 1992) protects sand dunes rising over 50 feet above Chesapeake Bay, among the highest elevations in the county. The dunes nearer the bay are half that size, with typical mixes of beach grasses and smaller trees, but the more ancient line of dunes just east of them, formed during the Holocene, after the last ice age, hosts maritime forests of great botanical interest, with small populations of Southern Bladderwort (Utricularia juncea), Engelmann’s Umbrella-Sedge (Cyperus engelmanni), and Dwarf Burhead (Echinodorus tenellus). Some of the Eastern Shore’s largest Loblolly Pines are here as well.

Wood Duck, Photo by Robert W. Schamerhorn

Wood Duck, Photo by Robert W. Schamerhorn

Brown Creeper, Photo by Robert W. Schamerhorn

Brown Creeper, Photo by Robert W. Schamerhorn

Great Horned Owl, Photo by Robert W. Schamerhorn

Great Horned Owl, Photo by Robert W. Schamerhorn

For birders, this is yet another bayside location with maritime forest that can hold a great variety of Neotropical migrants in autumn and to a lesser degree in spring. A well-marked trail of 0.75 miles extends from the small parking lot to the bay. The thickets of Common Greenbrier, Poison Ivy, and various other fruiting plants are especially productive for retiring warblers like Blue-winged and Worm-eating, but just about any other species is possible (see accounts for Kiptopeke and Cape Charles area). Birders looking for Catharus thrushes, Connecticut Warbler, and perhaps even a rare migrant Eastern Whip-poor-will should put this seldom-visited, quiet preserve on the list to visit, as there are few comparable tracts of interior mature maritime forest accessible to the public. A few fancy reptiles (Eastern Kingsnake being the prize here) are possible along the walk, but be sure to take abundant precautions against tick and other insect bites: small “seed” ticks, chiggers, mosquitoes, deer flies and other natural inhabitants can be in plague proportions here, even in early October.