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Mutton Hunk Fen Natural Area Preserve


This preserve protects a globally rare sea-level fen – one of only four in Virginia. Sea-level fens are open, freshwater wetlands located between uplands and wide, Oceanside tidal marshes. Natural springs at the upland edge provide fresh groundwater that sustain the freshwater wetland vegetation. In addition to the fen, the preserve contains 350 acres of migratory songbird habitat, 220 acres of which were restored from former farm fields.

Although visitors may not access the fen itself, due to the sensitivity of the habitat, the preserve offers visitors two walking trails through its restored migratory songbird habitat. One trail leads straight from the parking lot to an extensive saltmarsh overlooking Gargathy Bay with views of Metompkin and Wallops Islands. While at the marsh watch for shorebirds and winter waterfowl. Along the way are the former farm fields, planted in native shrubs and oaks to provide migratory songbird habitat, as well as breeding habitat for resident birds.

The other trail loops along White’s Creek and back to the parking lot, with an option to turn left towards the marsh. The creek provides abundant foraging habitat for wading birds.

Some of the commonly observed bird species at the Natural Area Preserve include northern bobwhite, greater yellowlegs, various gulls, great blue heron, great egret, northern harrier, bald eagle, red-tailed hawk, belted kingfisher, northern flicker, various sparrows, and eastern bluebird. Winter waterfowl include snow goose, American black duck, bufflehead, and hooded merganser.


  • There are no facilities on site.
  • The Preserve may be periodically closed Nov – Dec–call first if planning to visit during this timeframe.
  • There is no public access to the fen itself due to the sensitivity of the habitat.


28587 Baker Rd., Parksley, VA 23421

From US-13 in Onley, head north on US-13 for 8 miles. Turn right (east) onto State Rt 679/ Metompkin Rd. Travel 1.4 miles. Turn right onto State Rt. 742/ Baker Rd. The Preserve will be on the right in 1.2 miles.

Location & Directions

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Site Information

  • Site Contact: Virginia Department of Conservation & Recreation, Eastern Shore Region Steward: : 757-787-5989,
  • Website
  • Access: Open daily, Free

Birds Recently Seen at Mutton Hunk Fen Natural Area Preserve (as reported to eBird)

  • Northern Bobwhite
  • Mourning Dove
  • Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  • Killdeer
  • Whimbrel
  • Lesser Yellowlegs
  • Willet
  • Least Sandpiper
  • Laughing Gull
  • Herring Gull

Seasonal Bird Observations


  • Hiking Trails
  • Parking