"Sometimes when they lift off, they'll blot out the moon," he says. "It chills you. It's like stepping back in time."

When I drive onto Chincoteague, the tollbooths are empty, the National Wildlife Refuge's $5 entry fee is waived, and no one waits by the signs along the road that say, "Refuge Bird Walk Meets Here." I have a kayak with me, and I put it in at Tom's Cove. The water is milky gray and silky smooth. I close my eyes and I hear the sound of birds lifting off the water, their rapid wings beating like the snapping of riffled cards.
EASTERN SHORE ESSENTIALS
GREAT SEAFOOD:
Etta's Channel Side Restaurant
Chincoteague
(757) 336-5644

Exmore Diner
Exmore, (757) 442-2313

Island House Restaurant
Wachapreague
(757) 787-4242

Landmark Crab House
Chincoteague
(757) 336-5552

Sting Ray's
Capeville
(757) 331-2505

PLACES TO STAY:
Cape Charles House B&B
Cape Charles
(757) 331-4920

Chesapeake Charm
Cape Charles
(800) 546-9215

Garrison House B&B
Quinby
(757) 442-9446

Island Manor House
Chincoteague
(800) 852-1505

Watson House and Inn
Chincoteague
(800) 336-6787

THINGS TO DO:
Take a guided trip to the islands through

Broadwater Bay Ecotours
Exmore
(757) 442-4363
www.BroadwaterBayEcotours.com, or

Southeast Expeditions