Ragged Mountain Natural Area is first and foremost a wildlife sanctuary. The 980-acre preserve is almost entirely forested and relatively unspoiled.
Many rare and unusual wildlife species utilize the lakes and woods of the Ragged Mountain Natural Area for nesting, feeding, and migration stop-overs.
Sixty-five acres of surface water attract waterfowl, such as Wood Duck, Hooded Merganser, American Coot, Black Duck, Ruddy Duck, and Pied-billed Grebe. Spotted and Solitary Sandpipers are attracted to the mud flats at the southern end of the reservoir. To date, 135 bird species have been observed at Ragged Mountain Natural Area, making it a popular destination for bird watchers.
In addition 600+ acres of unfragmented forest of mature hardwoods - especially oak - offer excellent habitat for nesting neotropical migrants. Twenty species of migratory songbirds have been observed including Prothontary and Cerulean warblers. One spring morning, 12 species of wood warblers were observed near Round Top, including Cerulean, Black-throated Blue, Parula, and Blackburnian. That same morning, three singing woodland thrush species were also recorded: Wood Thrush, Swainson’s Thrush, and Veery.
Forest songbirds have been in serious decline for several decades. In the summer of 2002, Dr. Matthew Etterson of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center conducted a research project on the effects of forest fragmentation on nesting success of Wood Thrush at several sites in the Piedmont, including Fernbrook, Humpback Rocks, Betsy Bell, Fortune's Cove, Natural Chimneys, Paul State Forest and Ragged Mountain Natural Area. He found that among all these sites, Ragged Mountain Natural Area proved to be not only the most productive, with a total of 64 nests, but also the site of greatest nesting success. Etterson attributed that success to the maturity of the forest and the protective topography of the land.
In the 2006 Albemarle County Biodiversity Report, the Ragged Mountains and Reservoir were cited as significant for unusual habitat that support species scarce in our area such as River Otter, Prothontary Warbler, and Wood Frog.