From the Field

Birding at Susquehanna State Park


Near the end of the Susquehanna River, just north of downtown Havre De Grace, MD, sits a pristine, 2639-acre park. Within this park, a wide variety of habitat as well as the funneling effect the river causes to bird migration, makes this spot an incredible location for one of America’s favorite hobbies, birding. Susquehanna State Park offers a wide variety of birding opportunities to a beginner, as well as the experienced birdwatcher, looking for that one rare species.

A pair of binoculars and a field guide are sufficient supplies for any beginner looking to break into the hobby. You can generally purchase binoculars at most sporting goods stores as well as online, with the majority of bookstores carrying at least one field guide. You can bird this location at any time of the year, however it’s the best for migrating species in early to mid-May and early to mid-September.

When reaching one of the main parking lots, near the historical Rock Run Gristmill, you can look around the parking area to find a wide variety of warblers and other songbirds during peak migration, such as the Baltimore oriole, northern parula, and eastern phoebe. A short 30 foot walk to the water and you are likely to see yellow and prothonatary warblers darting around in the brush along the river’s edge, as well as blue herons, bald eagles, osprey, Caspian terns, and sometimes hundreds of double-crested cormorants during peak migration in or above the powerful Susquehanna.

At this point you can either continue to travel on the partially eroded railroad tracks north or backtrack to Stafford road and travel a paved area parallel to the railroad tracks. Following both of these routes you can expect to find water thrush, flycatchers, blackpoll warblers, black and white warblers, and possibly the endangered and vibrant cerulean warbler, identified by its bright blue coloring and its rising ZEE ZEE ZEE ZI ZI ZI zeet song, singing high in the trees.

You can continue to bird for hours on end at such a wonderful location, and with over 15 miles of trails, the opportunity to discover something incredible never ends. I recommend this spot to anyone who has a passion for the wonderful hobby of birding, and wishes to be at this extraordinary location that will keep you entertained for hours on end.

Chris Barry

Chris Barry is a local high school student and avid birder. He formally volunteered as an intern with the Chesapeake Conservancy, helping with their multiple wildlife webcams.

July 24, 2017

Main image: A Northern Parula from Susquehanna State Park (Image courtesy: Peter Turcik)
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