Photo credit: Jack Bartholmai
Camden Yards isn't the only place you'll find impressive birds this time of year. Grab a a pair of of binoculars, a camera, and some comfortable shoes, then head outside to watch Maryland's fine-feathered friends take wing. Here is a sampling of wonderful perches around the state:
Antietam National Battlefield :The site offers birders the opportunity to combine bird watching with touring a historic Civil War battlefield. Included on the site is a visitor’s center and national cemetery. Nature trails are situated both off of the well traveled parts of the battlefield and on the outskirts. At least 77 different bird species have been identified at the site. There is an active bluebird program with fledging counts and easily observed nest/boxes. Bird watchers have the opportunity to see a variety of sparrows including the vesper sparrow and grasshopper sparrow. A Parula warbler was seen at the battlefield by the Hagerstown Pike. Bird watching is particularly productive on the Snaverly Trail.
Cranesville Subarctic Swamp: This was one of the first National Natural Landmarks designated by the National Park Service. It has been described as a “small piece of forest and bog that remained behind after the Ice Age.” Formed nearly 15,000 years ago, the swamp is now home to species of plants and animals generally found only in the northern reaches of the United States and Canada. A boardwalk crosses the 850-acre swamp, and six trails wind through it.
Sideling Hill Wildlife Management Area: This 3,100-acre forest is home to a variety of wildlife, including turkey gobblers, grouse and the occasional black bear. A nearby rest area walkway showcases the area’s geology in the deepest road cut east of the Mississippi River.
Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary: Thousands of Canada geese arrive for the winter; summer days bring ospreys, hummingbirds, finches and purple martins.
Patuxent Research Refuge: A state-of-the-art visitors’ center welcomes you to this year-round refuge for waterfowl, wading birds and wildlife. Free public programs and a seasonal tram ride are offered, under the auspices of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Conowingo Dam: Situated along the Susquehanna Flyway, Conowingo Dam annually attracts millions of birds as they migrate overhead or stop to feed on the abundance of fish. A 14-mile long lake above the dam and hiking trails below the dam provide excellent birding opportunities over a large area. Conowingo Dam is one of the premier winter gull watching sites in the mid-Atlantic region.
Numerous Bald Eagles year-round attract birders of all skill levels. In addition to a nice assortment of breeding songbirds in the lush forested escarpments along the river’s edge, annual visitors to Conowingo include Peregrine Falcon, Great Cormorant, and Black Tern. Rarities in recent years such as Sabine’s Gull, American White Pelican and Pacific Loon make this site especially exciting.
Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary: More than 1,500 acres of tidal freshwater wetlands, forests, meadows and fields create the perfect environment for diverse aquatic plants, as well as a variety of birds, fish, mammals and reptiles.
Battle Creek Cypress Swamp Sanctuary: A board-walk trail is shaded by 100-foot bald cypress trees.
Flag Ponds Nature Park: Three miles of trails lead to observation platforms, a boardwalk, a fishing pier and a visitors center within a 500-acre park. Forested uplands, wetlands and beach habitats provide natural diversity.
Blackwater and Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuges: A major stop on the Atlantic flyway, both refuges offer boardwalks and observation areas to see waterfowl and nesting bald eagles. Blackwater NWR is one of the oldest refuges in the Northeast, and was originally established for migratory waterfowl. It protects one of the largest blocks of tidal marshlands in the Chesapeake Bay, and is a historically significant resting, feeding, and wintering ground for geese, ducks, and swans. It is also home to the largest concentration of nesting bald eagles on the East Coast, outside of Florida.
Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area:
Very large site with a variety of habitat. Grassy fields to deep old woods. It has many walking trails and nice drive areas as well. Bird specialties of the site: Breeding Bobolinks, Veery’s, Warbling Vireo, Acadian Flycatchers, Kentucky Warblers, Bluewinged Warblers, among many other warblers, Grasshopper Sparrows, Eastern Meadowlarks.
Pickering Creek Audubon Center: A 400-acre farm illustrating sustainable agricultural practices is home to forests, wetlands and a tidal creek.
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