Cambridge – Sailwinds Park & Visitor Center
2 Rose Hill Place, Cambridge, MD
Located on the south side of the Choptank River, Cambridge is one of the Eastern Shore’s largest and oldest towns, with abundant lodging and restaurants as well as many sites of historical interest (small museums, old churches, the Annie Oakley House). With its prime location on the Choptank, Cambridge is known for its winter waterfowl assemblage. A good place to start your exploration of Cambridge’s birding spots is Sailwinds Park and Visitor Center, located on the west side of the foot of the bridge that carries US Route 50 across the Choptank. The park and Visitor Center, with its signature giant sail, afford a good vantage point for waterfowl from October through March.
Sailwinds Park and Visitor Center offer plentiful parking, a paved one-mile path along the shore west of the bridge, a playground for children, restrooms, and access to the south side of the adjacent Bill Burton Fishing Pier State Park. The waterfront here is wheelchair-accessible. The helpful staff at the Visitor Center can supply you with maps and directions to other sites in Dorchester County, along with abundant tourist information. Say “Hi” to the almost life-sized photo of well-known local birder Harry Armistead, who authored most of the Dorchester County entries in this Birder’s Guide.
Over 105 bird species have been reported on eBird for the Sailwinds Park and Visitor Center. Note that this site shares an eBird hotspot with the Bill Burton Fishing Pier under the name “Choptank River–Rte. 50 Bridge (Dorchester Co.) and Cambridge Visitor Center.”
Regularly occurring winter waterfowl include Long-tailed Duck; Common Goldeneye; Bufflehead; Lesser Scaup; occasionally Greater Scaup; and Surf and Black Scoters; along with Horned Grebe, Pied-bill Grebe; and Common Loon.
Over the years, rare birds seen in this area have included Harlequin Duck; King Eider; Tufted Duck; Barrow’s Goldeneye; Eurasian Wigeon; Great Cormorant; Snowy Owl; Iceland Gull; and Lesser Black-backed Gull; plus there was once an Ipswich Sparrow (endangered subspecies of Savannah Sparrow) sighted between the two bridge spans.
Double-Crested Cormorants roost by the bridge. Peregrine Falcons sometimes roost on the bridge, too, and they may nest there; Sailwinds Park provides the best vantage point to scan the bridge for Peregrines. Several pairs of Ospreys nest on the bridge structures or on buoys. Most of the water birds, except possibly for some gulls and terns, are likely to be on the downstream (west) side of the new bridge (the one that carries traffic). Song Sparrows, House Finches, and House Wrens, absent from much of Dorchester County, breed in Cambridge in small numbers.
Paved lot at Visitor Center. Be careful parking on public streets as some parking spots are restricted to residents.
The waterfront here is wheelchair-accessible. • Check out the “Birding in the Heart of Chesapeake Country” brochure produced by the Dorchester County Tourism Office and MD DNR. You can also pick up a printed copy at the Visitor Center. The brochure outlines five birding/driving tours through Dorchester County, and also has an overview of birds and habitats in the county. • Governors Hall, located on the west end of Sailwind Park off of Franklin Street, is a venue for large events and hosts a farmers’ market in season. ◾ There is a public boat launch ramp at the north end of Franklin Street. ◾ The Visitor Center is a part of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network of the National Park Service. ◾ The Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network and the Maryland Historic Trust have produced a series of water trail maps for the Choptank River and Tuckahoe Creek, available as a free download. ◾ There is no local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society centered in Dorchester County, so many local birders are members of the Talbot Bird Club, which offers field trips and meetings with informative presentations, all free and open to the public.
A Voice for the Rivers is a special episode of Outdoors Maryland from Maryland Public Television that focuses on the work of the riverkeepers in safeguarding and working to improve the health of the major rivers of the Upper Eastern Shore: the Sassafras, the Wye, the Miles, the Chester, and the Choptank. There is beautiful footage of the open waters, marshlands, and shoreline forests, as well as discussion of the challenges of pollution and sea level rise.
Cambridge has many one-way streets, so follow these directions carefully.
From the Chesapeake Bay Bridge: Take US Route 50 south and east toward Cambridge. Just after crossing the Choptank River Bridge and upon entering the town of Cambridge, turn right (west) onto Byrn Street. Go one block and turn right (north) onto Rose Hill Drive, which ends at the parking lot for the Visitor Center.
From points north on the Eastern Shore: Take US Route 301 south to MD Route 213, then follow Route 213 south to its intersection with US Route 50. Take US Route 50 south toward Cambridge. Just after crossing the Choptank River Bridge and upon entering the town of Cambridge, turn right (west) onto Byrn Street. Go one block and turn right (north) onto Rose Hill Drive, which ends at the parking lot for the Visitor Center.
From Vienna and points south: Take US Route 50 north and west toward Cambridge. After passing a Popeye’s on the left at Henry Street, go one more block and turn left (west) at the traffic signal onto Maryland Avenue. Go one block and turn right (north) onto Dorchester Avenue. Go two blocks north and the road will end at the curving parking area for the Visitor Center, on the right.
Dorchester County: Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge ◾ Cambridge – Bill Burton Fishing Pier State Park (Dorchester County Side) ◾ Cambridge – Great Marsh Park ◾ Cambridge – Oakley Street ◾ Chesapeake Forest – North Tara Road ◾ Elliott Island Road / Fishing Bay Wildlife Management Area (Eastern Section) ◾ Hooper’s Island ◾ Taylor’s Island
Caroline County: Adkins Arboretum ◾ Choptank Marina ◾ Daniel Crouse Memorial Park ◾ Idylwild Wildlife Management Area ◾ Martinak State Park ◾ Skeleton Creek Road & Bethlehem Road ◾ Tuckahoe State Park (Caroline County)
Somerset County: Deal Island Wildlife Management Area ◾ Fairmount Wildlife Management Area ◾ Irish Grove MOS Sanctuary ◾ Janes Island State Park ◾ Rumbley Boat Ramp ◾ Smith Island
Talbot County: Bill Burton Fishing Pier State Park (Talbot County Side) ◾ Black Walnut Point Natural Resources Management Area ◾ Claiborne Landing ◾ Mill Creek MOS Sanctuary ◾ Pickering Creek Audubon Center ◾ Poplar Island
Wicomico County: Cedar Hill Marina & Park ◾ Ellis Bay Wildlife Management Area ◾ Nanticoke River Wildlife Management Area – Nutter’s Neck ◾ Pemberton Historical Park ◾ Roaring Point & Nanticoke Harbor ◾ Tyaskin Park & Wetipquin Park ◾ Ward Museum & Schumaker Pond
Urban or Small Town Landscape Jetties & SeawallsMud Flats (Tidal or Non-Tidal)Rivers & Streams
BeginnersBicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)BoardwalkBoat or Canoe/Kayak LaunchFishingFree - No Entry FeeObservation Platform or TowerParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaPlaygroundRestroomsVisitor Center, Interpretive Displays, ExhibitsWater ViewWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families
Chesapeake Bay Eastern ShoreChesapeake Bay Gateways NetworkCommunity and Urban ParksThe Rivers of the Eastern ShoreWater Trails