At a Glance
Hours: 9 am – 5 pm
Cost: Grounds are free; donations and paid memberships appreciated. Fees for education programs.
Tips: Bring a scope. ◾ Mosquitoes and biting flies can be plentiful during the warmer months. ◾ Restrooms available at the Education Center building.
Best Seasons: Year-round.
Breeding Bird Atlas Block: Queenstown CW
Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center – Horsehead
600 Discovery Lane, Grasonville, MD 21638
The Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center (CBEC, formerly known as the Wildfowl Trust’s Horsehead Sanctuary) is a 510-acre property under conservation easement with a mission to promote stewardship and sustainability through environmental education and habitat restoration. This large preserve covers a wide diversity of habitats and is a critical stopover site for shorebirds, herons, and over-wintering waterfowl. CBEC is the best shorebird spot in Queen Anne’s County and home to several breeding bird species and migrants otherwise hard to find in the county.
The entrance road winds through deciduous and coniferous woods and then dramatically opens up to a large marsh. The road continues through the marsh, through a pine hummock, and then into a pine-tree-lined parking area. A freshwater pond is west of the parking area, immediately behind the pavilion. A short walk along the pond edge takes you through pine woods to the mouth of Marshy Creek. For a longer walk, head south around the pond through Northern Bayberry thickets and past a saltwater marsh to an elevated platform overlooking Prospect Bay. Additional trails take you through meadows, old fields, and second-growth deciduous thickets (see trail map and trail descriptions at the links at left; note that the trail map is oriented with north to the right, not to the top as usual).
There is a new Visitor Center Building with restrooms and a gift shop/nature store. A plaque outside the Visitor Center memorializes the late John Wanuga, a member of the Talbot Bird Club and MOS. When John passed away in 1990, he left a sizable bequest to the Talbot Bird Club and MOS, and expressed the wish that the funds be used to purchase a sanctuary. In 1998, MOS gave the bequest money to the then-named Horsehead Sanctuary to purchase 195 acres adjoining the original part of the sanctuary; this land is now known as the Wanuga Tract in honor of John Wanuga, and Wanuga Lane leads into it. So when you bird at the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center, remember John and his generosity and his love of nature.
Over 240 species have been reported on eBird from CBEC. The site is best known for its wintering waterfowl — 30 species or more — including diving ducks in the Chesapeake Bay, visible from a viewing platform. Breeding birds include Wood Duck, Wild Turkey, Virginia Rail, Bald Eagle, Osprey, Great Horned Owl, Marsh Wren, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Seaside Sparrow, Yellow-throated Warbler, Yellow Warbler, and Pine Warbler. In late summer, large numbers of waders can be present including Little Blue Heron and Tri-colored Heron. Terns and swallows are present in the warm months. Depending on the water level in the pond, shorebirds can be numerous during both spring and fall migration. In winter, a walk to the floating dock on the north side of the preserve provides good views of Marshy Creek, where there can be large rafts of ducks including Redheads, Canvasbacks, Ruddy Ducks, Tundra Swans and sometimes Eurasian Wigeon. Red-breasted Nuthatch and Brown Creeper are reliable in winter.
Free; large gravel lot. Do not park on grass.
CBEC is a not-for-profit membership organization. Donations and paid memberships are appreciated; funds are used to support programming and for grounds maintenance. ◾ CBEC offers a wide range of environmental education programs for all ages and is a site for Maryland Master Naturalist training. ◾ Kayak rentals are available from May 1 through November 1. CBEC members may launch their own canoes or kayaks at no cost. ◾ Dogs are allowed, on leash, but only with a “dog membership”. ◾ There is an outdoor exhibit featuring four birds of prey that were injured and are non-releasable: a Great-horned Owl, a Barred Owl, an Eastern Screech-Owl, and a Red-tailed Hawk. These birds are used in education programs. A map of the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center Water Trails is available at the Visitor Center. The waterproof / tear-proof guide highlights three separate water trails which range from 1 mile to 2.8 miles along Marshy Creek, Prospect Bay, and Cabin Creek. ◾ The Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center is a part of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network of the National Park Service. ◾ There is no chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society centered in Queen Anne’s County, so local birders may be members of chapters in adjoining counties: the Kent County Bird Club, the Caroline County Bird Club, or the Talbot Bird Club, all of which offer field trips and meetings with informative presentations, all free and open to the public.
From US Route 50 westbound: Take Exit 44A to go north on VFW Avenue. In 0.3 miles, make a left at the stop sign onto Chester River Beach Road; stay on Chester River Beach Road for 0.5 miles, crossing over US Route 50. At the next stop sign, make a left to go east on Main Street/MD Route 18. After just 1000 feet, make a right after the Fire Station to go south on Perry’s Corner Road for 0.5 miles. Turn right by a large CBEC welcome sign onto Discovery Lane, which is the CBEC entrance road. The parking lot will be ahead in 0.9 miles.
From US Route 50 eastbound: Take Exit 43A and at the stop sign, make a left to go east on MD Route 18 for 0.75 miles. Turn right after the Fire Station to go south on Perry’s Corner Road for 0.5 miles. Turn right by a large CBEC welcome sign onto Discovery Lane, which is the CBEC entrance road. The parking lot will be ahead in 0.9 miles.
Queen Anne’s County: Conquest Preserve ◾ Ferry Point Park ◾ Matapeake Clubhouse & Beach / Matapeake Fishing Pier & Boat Ramp ◾ Terrapin Nature Park ◾ Tuckahoe State Park (Queen Anne’s County) ◾ Wye Island Natural Resources Management Area
Kent County: Buckingham Public Landing & Morgnec Road Public Landing ◾ Chesapeake Farms & St. Paul’s Millpond ◾ Chestertown: Wilmer Park, Wayne Gilchrest Trail, & Chestertown WWTP ◾ Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge ◾ Millington Wildlife Management Area ◾ Sassafras Natural Resources Management Area & Turner’s Creek Park
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)
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
Bottomland DeciduousConifersHedgerows Lawn, Ballfields, Golf Course Hay Meadows, Pasture, Grass FieldOld Fields, Shrubby Meadows Forested SwampFreshwater Pond, Lake, or ReservoirJetties & SeawallsMud Flats (Tidal or Non-Tidal)Open Ocean, Bay, or EstuaryRivers & StreamsSalt or Brackish Marsh
Features:BeginnersBicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)Bird Feeding StationBoardwalkBoat or Canoe/Kayak LaunchFree - No Entry Fee at Any TimeGift Shop or BookstoreHabitat Restoration ProjectHiking/Walking TrailsNative Plant Garden or Meadow/Pollinator PlantsNature Education ProgramsObservation Platform or TowerParkingPicnic AreaRestroomsVisitor Center, Interpretive Displays, ExhibitsWater ViewWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families
Type:Chesapeake Bay Eastern ShoreChesapeake Bay Gateways NetworkPrivate Sanctuaries and PreservesWater Trails