Like the local nine that takes their name, the Baltimore orioles have completed their season here—most already on their way to warmer climates (along with many of the ballplayers, we presume). But the fall remains a great time of the year to get outside and catch a glimpse of some of our other avian friends on the move.
Bird watching, which may surprise folks, is considered the fastest growing outdoor activity in the U.S., with an estimated 51 million amateur birders, according to a survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. All that’s required is a pair of binoculars and a little curiosity—nature will take care of the rest.
Conowingo Dam: The bald eagles of Conowingo are famous across the eastern half of the U.S. Starting this month, and through the beginning of the year, America’s symbolic birds are plentiful at the dam, which conveniently sits adjacent to Susquehanna State Park. Must-see.
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge: Another absolute top fall/winter nesting destinations on the East Coast for bald eagles. The best bet is to register for one of Harry Armistead’s renowned walking tours of the Cambridge refuge—upcoming dates include Oct. 25, Nov. 29 and Dec. 6. Check the Friends of Blackwater calendar for more info.
Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge: A gorgeous 2,285 acre island near Rock Hall, Eastern Neck provides marsh habitat for thousands of wintering waterfowl, including the tundra swan (see below), which arrive around Thanksgiving and stay until March.
Elk Neck State Park: Organized by the Cecil Bird Club, Turkey Point Hawk Watch at Elk Neck State Park sits at the head of the Chesapeake Bay on a peninsular between the Elk and Northeast Rivers. The triangular peninsula, which points south, serves to funnel migratory birds, often hesitant to cross large swaths of the bay’s water. Perfect day trip.
Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary: This suggestion comes courtesy of David Curson, director of bird conservation at Audubon Maryland-DC. The sanctuary, with more than 15 miles of hiking trails and boardwalks, is located in southern Anne Arundel County, in Lothian, MD, approximately 20 miles east of D.C. and 18 miles south of Annapolis. The sanctuary’s observation deck is accessible by wheel chairs and strollers.
Patterson Park Audubon Center: The East Baltimore park’s Audubon Center and their “bird ambassadors” earned a shout out last year from NPR for their work helping migratory birds in the city. More than 200 species of birds visit Patterson Park and more than 50 species are considered park residents. Walks take place the second Friday and last Saturday of every month—and the park will even loan binoculars if you call or email ahead.
Lake Roland and Cromwell Valley Park: Okay, so eight bird watching suggestions, but who’s counting? Lake Roland—the popular recreational destination for running, dog walking, kayaking and nature activities—is also a popular spot for the members of the Baltimore Bird Club. Check out the guided bird walk around Lake Roland this Sunday. Or, head to Cromwell Valley Park, another popular destination for Baltimore Bird Clubbers, for the Hawks Festival this Saturday.