At a Glance

Hours: Open for birding only on Sundays from September through January (main hunting season) and from mid-April through May (spring turkey hunting season). Open 24/7 from February through mid-April and from June through August.

Cost: Free.

Tips: Wear boots or sturdy hiking shoes. The trails and fields may or may not be mown. The woodland trail is likely to be overgrown, at least in part. ◾ Avondale WMA is an active hunting area. Open for birding only on Sundays during deer season and spring turkey season. Be aware of hunting seasons and plan your visit accordingly. ◾ No restrooms.

Best Seasons: The birds are great year-round, but access is restricted to Sundays during hunting seasons (see hours above).

Breeding Bird Atlas Block: New Windsor CE

Local MOS Chapter: Carroll County Bird Club

Avondale Wildlife Management Area

711 Windy Hill Drive, Westminster, MD 21157
410-356-9272

Avondale Wildlife Management Area is located in Carroll County, just outside Westminster. The area is popular with hunters but relatively unknown to birders, despite the extensive grasslands and rich woodlands that it offers. The MD Department of Natural Resources (DNR) acquired the 180-acre tract as a bequest from Mildred M. Tarkington in 2005 and DNR manages it as a wildlife conservation area. This WMA provides habitat for upland and forest wildlife species including white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, and songbirds, especially grassland species.

The WMA sits on top of a rolling hill with views of Wakefield Valley to the west and the Spring Mills and Middle Brooke areas to the east. Twenty acres of fallow fields are planted in native grasses and pollinator plants and are mowed annually to manage for wildlife cover and pollinators. The remainder of the property is forested; most of it is deciduous woodland, but there is a 2.5-acre conifer plantation near the north end of the large woodlot, and scattered conifers elsewhere. The woodland is remarkable for its intact understory and shrub layer, something you just don’t see anymore, and this attests to the power of a robust deer hunting program. The WMA is perfect for an early morning walk and will reward the birder with a day list filled with woodland and field species. And with its location high on a hill, with wide-open skies, this would be an excellent location for a hawk watch.

Avondale WMA lies off of Old New Windsor Pike, and is accessed via Windy Hill Drive, which also serves a number of private residences. A small gravel parking lot is located beyond the last house (owned by DNR) at #711. From the parking area, two or three mown trails provide access to the field areas. The fields have a scattering of nest boxes for bluebirds and tree swallows, and there is a bat box on a tall pole. DNR provides a good trail map for Avondale WMA (see link at left); note that the trail map is geolocator-enabled, meaning that you can load it into a smartphone GPS app (such as the free Avenza app) and within the app, the map will show your actual location as you move along the trails.

Even at the parking area, in spring and early summer the air will be filled with bird song: Chipping Sparrows, Field Sparrows, Eastern Bluebirds, Eastern Meadowlarks, Orchard Orioles, Brown Thrashers, House Wrens, and more. A walk into the woods will reward the birder with Wood Thrushes, Acadian Flycatchers, Eastern Wood-Pewees, and a selection of warblers. Wintertime brings kinglets and other cold-season specialties.

At the edge of a field southwest of the parking area, an old dirt road enters the woodland and continues southwest down a gentle slope toward Little Pipe Creek. On the DNR trail map at the link at left, this old road is shown as a double broken line extending along the safety zone boundary on the west side of the property. The woodland road is not regularly maintained and there may be fallen trees and sections that are rough, overgrown, or steep, but the first 0.4 miles of the old road are in good shape and easy to walk. The good section of the road peters out before reaching Little Pipe Creek, so turn around and return to the field area.

Little Pipe Creek runs east-west through the property, adjacent to a freight rail line, and separates the main body of the WMA from a long narrow panhandle that extends south, lying between two residential areas. That south tail of the property is difficult to access, with some steep slopes and no regular trails.

The DNR trail map shows a second old road (double broken line) going into the woodland just north of Little Pipe Creek near the southeast corner of the main part of the WMA, but that section has not been explored on foot and we are waiting for field reports before advising on accessing that road.

When in the area of Avondale WMA, you may also wish to bird at Wakefield Valley Park, which you can see to the west from the top of the hill at the WMA; at Morgan Run Natural Environmental Area, just a short distance south on Route 97; or at Krimgold Park, a short distance to the southwest via Route 97 and Route 26/Liberty Road.

Birdlife:

The Avondale WMA eBird hotspot was newly established in summer 2021, with only 2 checklists and 51 species. There are a few scattered pre-existing eBird reports from the vicinity, adding another handful of species. No doubt the bird list will grow as birders start to discover this WMA and add checklists from other times of year.

The open areas of the WMA are good for field and hedgerow birds, including Mourning Dove, White-eyed Vireo, Tree Swallow, Barn Swallow, House Wren, Carolina Wren, Brown Thrasher, Northern Mockingbird, Gray Catbird, Eastern Bluebird, American Goldfinch, House Finch, Chipping Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Eastern Towhee, Yellow-breasted Chat, Eastern Meadowlark, Orchard Oriole, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Northern Cardinal; Blue Grosbeak, and Indigo Bunting.

The woodlands hold Yellow-billed Cuckoo; Red-tailed Hawk; Red-headed, Red-bellied, Downy, Hairy, and Pileated Woodpecker and Northern Flicker; Eastern Wood-Pewee; Acadian Flycatcher; Eastern Phoebe; Red-eyed and Warbling Vireos; Carolina Chickadee; Tufted Titmouse; Blue-gray Gnatcatcher; Wood Thrush; American Robin; Ovenbird; Northern Parula; and Scarlet Tanager.

Common flyovers include both Turkey and Black Vultures; Blue Jays; American and Fish Crows; and Common Ravens.

It will be interesting to see the warblers and other neotropical migrants as well as wintering birds that will be added to the Avondale WMA checklist in coming seasons. Based on the results from the first two Breeding Bird Atlases, some breeding birds to watch for include: Great Horned and Barred Owls; Belted Kingfisher; American Kestrel; Yellow-throated Vireo; Horned Lark; Purple Martin; Northern rough-winged Swallow; Veery; Grasshopper Sparrow; Kentucky Warbler; American redstart; Common Yellowthroat; and Yellow Warbler.

Wheelchair Access:

The trails at Avondale WMA are natural surface and are not wheelchair-accessible.

Pet Policy:

Pets are allowed on leash; be prepared to pick up after your pet.

Special Features:

The WMA contains a bat box on a tall pole, nest boxes for bluebirds and tree swallows, and there are pollinator plants, such as milkweed, scattered through the fields of native grasses.◾ The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Carroll County Bird Club, offering field trips and meetings with informative programs, all free and open to the public. https://carrollcountybirdclub.wordpress.com

Parking:

Gravel lot just beyond the last house on the right (#711 Windy Hill Drive).

Directions:

Avondale WMA is located on the outskirts of Westminster, just southwest of the town.

From the Baltimore Beltway/I-695: Take Exit 18 to go west on MD Route 26/Liberty Road. Liberty Road will take you across the dam at the south end of Liberty Reservoir. Continue going west on Liberty Road through Eldersburg. At Dorsey Crossroads, make a right onto a ramp to go north on MD Route 97/Old Washington Road. Follow Route 97 north for 6.6 miles, then turn left to go north on MD Route 32/Sykesville Road/Old Washington Road. In 1.1 miles, turn left to go west on Kate Wagner Road. Follow Kate Wagner Road (becomes Chapel Road) for approximately 2.6 miles; then turn right to go north on Stone Chapel Road. Follow Stone Chapel Road north for 1.8 miles; it will veer right and become Old New Windsor Pike, running northeast immediately parallel to New Windsor Road. Turn right onto Windy Hill Drive, marked by a white street sign and a large, double-decker cluster of mailboxes. Windy Hill Drive is the access road for the WMA and also serves a number of private residences. In just 300 feet, the gravel road will split; turn right at a cluster of signs for #673, #671, #669, and at the bottom, perhaps obscured by vegetation, there is a sign for the WMA at #711. Follow the gravel drive uphill and around a bend to the left, passing private homes on the right. The woods on the left are part of the WMA. The last house on the right is #711, owned by DNR, and you’ll see an Avondale WMA sign on the right as you approach the house. Drive past the house to the obvious gravel parking area.

From Western Maryland: Use I-70 eastbound toward Baltimore. Take Exit 68 for Mount Airy, following northbound MD Route 27/Ridge Road. Travel north on Route 27 for approximately 15.6 miles, then turn left onto Chapel Road. In 1.3 miles, turn right to go north on Stone Chapel Road. Follow Stone Chapel Road north for 1.8 miles; it will veer right and become Old New Windsor Pike, running northeast immediately parallel to New Windsor Road. Turn right onto Windy Hill Drive, marked by a white street sign and a large, double-decker cluster of mailboxes. Windy Hill Drive is the access road for the WMA and also serves a number of private residences. In just 300 feet, the gravel road will split; turn right at a cluster of signs for #673, #671, #669, and at the bottom, perhaps obscured by vegetation, there is a sign for the WMA at #711. Follow the gravel drive uphill and around a bend to the left, passing private homes on the right. The woods on the left are part of the WMA. The last house on the right is #711, owned by DNR, and you’ll see an Avondale WMA sign on the right as you approach the house. Drive past the house to the obvious gravel parking area.

From the Washington, DC area: There are many options to travel north from the DC Beltway and the best route will depend on traffic and on your exact starting point. The shortest route from the north side of the DC Beltway/I-695 is to take Exit 31 for MD Route 97/Georgia Avenue northbound. Follow Route 97 north for about 37.8 miles. Then turn left to go north on MD Route 32/Sykesville Road/Old Washington Road. In 1.1 miles, turn left to go west on Kate Wagner Road. Follow Kate Wagner Road (becomes Chapel Road) for approximately 2.6 miles; then turn right to go north on Stone Chapel Road. Follow Stone Chapel Road north for 1.8 miles; it will veer right and become Old New Windsor Pike, running northeast immediately parallel to New Windsor Road. Turn right onto Windy Hill Drive, marked by a white street sign and a large, double-decker cluster of mailboxes. Windy Hill Drive is the access road for the WMA and also serves a number of private residences. In just 300 feet, the gravel road will split; turn right at a cluster of signs for #673, #671, #669, and at the bottom, perhaps obscured by vegetation, there is a sign for the WMA at #711. Follow the gravel drive uphill and around a bend to the left, passing private homes on the right. The woods on the left are part of the WMA. The last house on the right is #711, owned by DNR, and you’ll see an Avondale WMA sign on the right as you approach the house. Drive past the house to the obvious gravel parking area.

  • Variations on the route from DC are possible: for example, take Exit 28 for MD Route 650/New Hampshire Avenue northbound, following Route 650 to its intersection with Route 97, then continuing as above to Route 32 and then Kate Wagner Road. Or use Exit 33 for MD Route 185/Connecticut Avenue northbound, following Route 185 to its intersection with Route 97, then continuing as above to Route 32 and then Kate Wagner Road.

From the Eastern Shore or from the Annapolis area: From the Eastern Shore, use US Route 50 to cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and continue west on US Route 50 toward Annapolis. From US Route 50, take Exit 21 for I-97 northbound. (Note that I-97 is not the same road as MD Route 97, which comes up later in the route). Follow 1-97 north to the exit for MD Route 32 West. Follow MD 32 West to Route 70 westbound. From Route 70, take Exit 76 for northbound MD Route 97/Hoods Mills Road, which soon becomes Old Washington Road, the New Washington Road. Travel north on Route 97 for approximately 15.3 miles, then turn left to go north on MD Route 32/Sykesville Road/Old Washington Road. In 1.1 miles, turn left to go west on Kate Wagner Road. Follow Kate Wagner Road (becomes Chapel Road) for approximately 2.6 miles; then turn right to go north on Stone Chapel Road. Follow Stone Chapel Road north for 1.8 miles; it will veer right and become Old New Windsor Pike, running northeast immediately parallel to New Windsor Road. Turn right onto Windy Hill Drive, marked by a white street sign and a large, double-decker cluster of mailboxes. Windy Hill Drive is the access road for the WMA and also serves a number of private residences. In just 300 feet, the gravel road will split; turn right at a cluster of signs for #673, #671, #669, and at the bottom, perhaps obscured by vegetation, there is a sign for the WMA at #711. Follow the gravel drive uphill and around a bend to the left, passing private homes on the right. The woods on the left are part of the WMA. The last house on the right is #711, owned by DNR, and you’ll see an Avondale WMA sign on the right as you approach the house. Drive past the house to the obvious gravel parking area. From Southern Maryland: Either use Route 5 to approach the DC Beltway, and follow directions above for Washington, DC, OR use US Route 301 or MD Route 2 to access US Route 50, and proceed as give above for access from the Eastern Shore and Annapolis.

Nearby Sites:

Carroll County: Hashawha Environmental Center / Bear Branch Nature CenterKrimgold Park ◾ Liberty Reservoir Cooperative Wildlife Management Area – Bollinger Mill Road ◾ Morgan Run Natural Environmental Area ◾ Piney Run Park & Nature CenterWakefield Valley Park

Habitats:

Bottomland DeciduousConifersHedgerowsUpland Deciduous Hay Meadows, Pasture, Grass FieldOld Fields, Shrubby Meadows Rivers & Streams

Features and Amenities:

Free - No Entry Fee at Any TimeHiking/Walking TrailsHuntingNative Plant Garden or Meadow/Pollinator PlantsParkingPets Allowed

Type:

Hunting Areas