From the rich woodlands of Elk Neck Peninsula to the fish-filled waters of upper Chesapeake Bay, northeastern Maryland is a migrating bird’s paradise. Its location along the Atlantic Flyaway, a migration corridor that spans the Eastern Seaboard, provides the perfect place for birds to stop, rest, and refuel. This fall birding trail in Maryland takes you on a not-quite 2-hour-long road trip to seven hotspots in Harford and Cecil Counties. Grab your binoculars and hit the road!
Located about five miles south of the Pennsylvania border on the Susquehanna River, Conowingo Dam is a world-famous birdwatching location and one of the best places east of the Mississippi River to photograph Bald Eagles.
It is not unusual to see more than 200 Bald Eagles a day in the peak month of November! Public access to the dam is available through the 100-acre Fisherman’s Park in Darlington on the Harford County side of the river.
Birders flock here in the fall, so go early in the morning to get a spot along the river or on the 160-foot wharf at the dam end.
Susquehanna State Park
Susquehanna State Park is south of Conowingo Dam on the banks of the Susquehanna River. The woodlands in this 2,600-acre park support some of the state’s rarest and most imperiled songbirds, including the globally threatened Cerulean Warbler. More than 30 warbler species have been documented in Susquehanna State Park in the fall. Many terns, eagles, herons, and gulls also fly through this area. Susquehanna State Park contains 15 miles of trails worth exploring.
The best fall birding hotspots include the Wildflower Trail, the Rock Run Historic Area, and the Deer Creek Picnic Area.
Concord Point Park
Concord Point Park is a waterfront park on the banks of the Susquehanna Flats in Havre de Grace in Harford County. It overlooks where the Susquehanna River enters the northern end of Chesapeake Bay, making it an excellent place to see ducks, geese, herons, terns, gulls, and every other bird that likes water.
Other notable attractions include Birds of the Chesapeake, a collection of 10 carved wood sculptures on the pier near the Concord Point Lighthouse, and the Havre de Grace Decoy Museum, a neighboring attraction with an impressive array of Chesapeake Bay waterfowl decoys.
Millard Tydings Memorial Park
Don’t get back in your car—follow the waterfront promenade for a half-mile walk to your next destination: Millard Tydings Memorial Park.
This waterfront park is the place to come if you want to see migrating shorebirds. Approximately 30 shorebird species have been documented here in the fall. The birds are attracted to the mudflats exposed during low tide.
The best mudflat viewing areas are near the marina— an excellent place to see wading birds, waterfowl, and other water-loving birds.
Perryville Community Park
Perryville Community Park is about five miles east of Millard Tydings Memorial Park. This 168.5-acre park has a fantastic water view, making it one of Cecil County’s prime duck-watching locations. You can even bird from your car! Hotspots in the fall include the Susquehanna Flats, where you can find terns, herons, egrets, and ducks, and the tree-lined shores, where you can find warblers, vireos, and tanagers.
Elk Neck State Forest
Elk Neck State Forest is on the Elk Neck Peninsula in Cecil County, about 12 miles from Perryville Community Park. This funnel-shaped peninsula, formed by the Elk River on the east and the Chesapeake Bay on the west, creates a “migrant trap” (a spot where birds congregate). The native shrubs, hardwoods, and evergreens dotting the 3,500-acre Elk Neck State Forest are especially attractive to migrating woodland birds, including thrushes, woodpeckers, warblers, and flycatchers.
Hotspots to visit include the 500-acre main tract, which contains the Plum Creek Natural Area and can be accessed via old logging roads and birded from the car or near the car, and the Arboretum Hiking Trail. This 0.5-mile path takes you past more than 50 trees and bushes native to Maryland. The Pete Bond Scenic Overlook, located about 0.3 miles from the entrance, is the best place to see the treetops and the vibrant fall foliage.
Elk Neck State Park
Elk Neck State Park is located 12 miles southwest of Elk Neck State Forest. Birdwatching is one of the most popular activities at this Cecil County park. Turkey Point, the southernmost point of the Elk Neck Peninsula, is the biggest gathering spot for southbound migrating birds (and birders) in the fall. For many years, Turkey Point was the site of a fall hawk watch staffed by volunteers. In 2021, the Maryland Biodiversity Project began collecting fall migration data. They count every bird species passing by between August 1 and November 30. Elk Neck State Park is one of the best places in Maryland to see migrating hawks. It is also an excellent place to see migrating waterfowl, wading birds, and passerines (perching birds) like swallows, swifts, tanagers, and orioles.
While You’re in the Area
Fun fact: you can check out two lighthouses while following this fall birding trail! Take a break from birding to explore Havre de Grace and take a peek at this family-friendly Harford County itinerary for more ideas on what to do nearby.
Lead Photo: Anna Champagne
Caption: A Snowy Egret at Elk Neck State Park in Maryland
About the Author
Anna Champagne is an outdoor writer, photographer, and traveler. She can often be found gardening and birdwatching in her backyard and exploring creeks, trails, marshes, and parks with her husband. Anna lives in Frederick County, Maryland. You can learn more about her on her website www.champagneoutdoors.com.