At a Glance
Hours: Dawn to dusk.
Cost: Free to visit; fees for boat launch and rental slips. Canoes and kayaks can be launched free. Parking at the marina is limited to slip holders; you will be ticketed if you park there without a permit. Free parking, no permit needed, is located about a block away at 2706 Choptank Road.
Tips: Bring a scope. ◾ Bring waterproof footwear if planning to walk Poplar Neck Road. ◾ Restrooms are at the marina but might be closed in winter.
Best Seasons: Year-round, but the marina is likely to be very busy during the warm months.
Breeding Bird Atlas Block: Preston CW
Local MOS Chapter: Caroline Bird Club
21843 Water Street, Preston, MD 21655
Parking at 2706 Choptank Road, Preston, MD 21655
The Choptank Marina, owned by Caroline County, is located on the Choptank River in the historic town of Choptank near the Dorchester County line. (The marina is not in Preston, despite the Preston mailing address assigned by the Post Office). The marina is well situated for birding, with a good view of the open waters of the Choptank River. Several major tributaries feed into the river nearby: Marsh Creek and Little Marsh Creek a short distance upriver (northwest); Fox Creek and Hunting Creek downriver (southeast); and on the other side of the river in Talbot County, Muskeeta Creek. These geographic features provide a rich set of habitats that attracts numerous species of birds to the vicinity of the marina. The marina occupies just ¼ acre, yet boasts a species list of about 150 species of birds.
The extensive Poplar Neck Marsh is located just west of the marina, at Poplar Point where Marsh Creek and Little Marsh Creek enter the Choptank River. See Directions below for driving tips.
A wetland area is in the middle of the town, associated with a creek that flows under Maryland Avenue and Water Street and out to the Choptank at the east-most corner of the marina slips. To view the wetland, you can walk down Water Street, turning right on leaving the marina. For a view of the north end of this wetland, go around the block: continue on foot to the corner of Water Street and Choptank Main Street, and turn left to go north on Choptank Main Street for one block, turning left again at Blades Road. In a short distance you will cross the upper end of the wetland. If you continue walking west on Blades Road, you’ll reach Choptank Road, and turning left will bring you back to your car at the parking area.
Fox Creek provides additional opportunity for wetland viewing. Fox Creek is on the east edge of the town of Choptank, flowing south along the west side of Hunting Creek Road, and then under Blades Road to enter the Choptank between Choptank Main Street and Gannon Road. Fox Creek flows through a rich set of wetlands and farther north along Hunting Creek Road, flows through woodlands that support forest interior dwelling species of birds. The Fox Creek woodlands are the largest wooded tract near the marina. See Directions below for driving tips.
A little farther east-southeast, Hunting Creek, on the border between Caroline and Dorchester Counties, supports a fine marsh that lies within its many twists and turns. Blades Road crosses Hunting Creek near its mouth. At the west end of the bridge over Hunting Creek, there is a sand-surface boat ramp with space for about two cars to park on the shoulder of the east-bound side of the road. This is a good spot to stop and look for birds in the Hunting Creek marshes.
The roads approaching the town of Choptank pass through agricultural fields, marshes, and scattered woodlands, and can supply excellent birding. Much of the surrounding land, though privately owned, is protected through the MD Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation or the MD Environmental Trust. Check out the roadside birding on Poplar Neck Road, Choptank Road, Hunting Creek Road, and Blades Road, including the bridge over Hunting Creek. Remember that the fields and woodlots are privately owned and should not be entered; stay on the public roadway.
Tip: A good scope view of the Poplar Neck Marsh can be obtained from across the Choptank River in Talbot County, at Windy Hill Landing, where a long pier extends out into the river. There is an eBird hotspot named “Windy Hill Landing (Caroline Co.)” for birds that are in Caroline County but viewed from this landing in Talbot County.
The Choptank Marina includes a public boat ramp, mooring slips, restroom facilities, a sandy beach that doubles as a soft-launch area for paddlers, and picnic tables. Free parking about a block away provides ample space for birders and other non-boating visitors (parking at the marina is reserved for slip holders – do not park there as you will be ticketed). The marina is on the site of a boat landing dating back to colonial times, and is included as a stop on the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway. Tubman’s parents worked on a plantation on Poplar Neck, and the nearby landing was a site where enslaved people might board a small boat as they escaped to freedom, with the help of Tubman or other agents of the Underground Railroad.
About 150 species of birds have been reported on eBird from the Choptank Marina. In addition, there are three other eBird hotspots in the immediate vicinity:
- Poplar Neck Marsh – 140+ species
- Hunting Creek – 85+ species
- Windy Hill Landing (Caroline Co.) for birds in Caroline County but viewed from Windy Hill Landing on the Talbot County side of the Choptank – 71+ species
Wintering waterfowl are a prime reason to visit Choptank Marina, with 23 species reported. Mallards are the only confirmed local breeder, but American Black Duck, Wood Duck, and Canada Goose are considered possible or probable. Three grebe species sometimes show up: Pied-billed Grebe (December through March); Horned Grebe (February through March); and Red-necked Grebe (March). Red-throated Loon (spring) and Common Loon (fall through spring) may also be present. Double-crested Cormorants are abundant almost year-round.
Virginia Rail and King Rail occur nearby in the Poplar Neck Marsh, and Virginia Rail is easy to hear at the marsh from late February through early December. King Rail was a confirmed breeder during the First Breeding Bird Atlas project, and is a species of special interest for the third Atlas; Virginia Rail was considered a probable or possible breeder during the First and Second Atlas projects. Sora might also be present on rare occasions.
Killdeer nest locally and are present for much of the year. Other shorebirds might be found during migration, if water levels reveal mudflats. These include Semipalmated Sandpiper; Wilson’s Snipe; Spotted Sandpiper; and Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs.
The marina is a good spot to look for gulls. Laughing Gulls are around from March through December – look in fields outside of town as well as in the air and on the water. Most of the year, with the exception of May and June, expect numerous Ring-billed, Herring, and Great Black-backed Gulls. The marina has a good track record for producing Lesser Black-backed Gulls as well; these are more or less reliable from November through March. Bonaparte’s Gulls appear in March and April. Rarities have included Iceland and Glaucous Gulls. There is a good selection of terns from spring through fall, including Least, Caspian, Common, Forster’s, and Royal.
Great Blue Herons are prevalent year-round. There may be a few Great Egrets but only in spring and again in late summer. Green Herons can be found in late summer; they might breed locally. Cattle Egrets could be around – check the fields outside of town or scope the Poplar Neck Marsh. Both American Bittern and Least Bittern may be heard in the marshes; keep your ears tuned.
Black and Turkey Vultures are abundant, with the Turkeys outnumbering the Blacks. Ospreys are an abundant local breeder and you’ll find nests on every available post, pole, buoy, or platform. Bald Eagles are also present in numbers and breed locally. In the winter, look for Northern Harriers and Sharp-shinned Hawks. Cooper’s Hawks are seen sporadically throughout the year. Red-tailed Hawks probably breed in the area, but Red-shouldered Hawks are seen only in late winter. American Kestrels should be easy to find in the outlying farm areas or as flybys at the marina.
The expected local owls include Eastern Screech and Great Horned. Barred Owls occur in this Atlas block only on the Talbot County side of the Choptank River; they are not found in the vicinity of the marina. A Short-eared Owl could be a good find in winter or early spring – keep your eyes peeled toward the Poplar Neck Marsh. Barn Owl was confirmed breeding during the First Breeding Bird Atlas project and perhaps one or two might still be about – be alert in the outlying farm areas at dusk or dawn.
Belted Kingfishers are easily found from fall through spring. Local woodpeckers include Red-bellied, Downy, Hairy, Pileated, and Northern Flicker. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers have been only sparsely reported.
Flycatchers to watch and listen for near the marina include Eastern Wood-Pewee, Eastern Phoebe, Great Crested Flycatcher, and Eastern Kingbird. You can expect White-eyed Vireos near the marshy and shrubby areas. Blue Jays, American Crows, and Fish Crows are abundant. Carolina Chickadees and Tufted Titmice are around (watch for bird feeders in yard in town).
The fields outside the town of Choptank may yield a Northern Bobwhite, which was a confirmed breeder in the past and might still be present in small numbers. Also be alert for Horned Larks, which can turn up at any time of year, and for American Pipits in late winter/early spring.
Chimney Swifts are abundant from April through August. Swallows include Purple Martins and Northern Rough-winged, Tree, Bank, and Barn. Watch for them over the water, the marshlands, and the fields adjacent to town.
Small patches of trees near the marina may have both Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets in winter and maybe Red-breasted Nuthatches. There are scattered reports of White-breasted and even Brown-headed Nuthatches near the marina throughout the year, but there are not enough woodlands to support breeding immediately adjacent to the marina. There is a good opportunity for Marsh Wrens, which breed in the area, and of course Carolina and House Wrens. Winter Wrens can be found near the creeks and marshes; December is a good time to try for them.
Gray Catbirds, Brown Thrashers, and Northern Mockingbirds all breed locally, and the Mockingbirds are present year-round. Eastern Bluebirds and American Robins are also plentiful year-round residents and breeders. There might be a Hermit Thrush in winter, but you should look for Wood Thrush only in larger woodlots outside town. Cedar Waxwings are seen sporadically throughout the year.
House Sparrows are prevalent, given the small-town environment, and House Finches and American Goldfinches are also abundant. There might be Pine Siskins in winter, particularly if there are active bird feeders in town.
The regular sparrows include Chipping (local breeder), Field (probable breeder), Fox (winter), Dark-eyed Junco (winter), White-crowned (winter), White-throated (winter), Song (local breeder), Swamp (winter), and Eastern Towhee (probable breeder).
Orchard Orioles breed in the vicinity. Red-winged Blackbirds, Brown-headed Cowbirds, and Common Grackles also breed and are numerous.
The small groups of trees in the immediate vicinity of the marina are not sufficient to attract much in the way of warblers, so expect only Common Yellowthroat in the spring and summer and Yellow-rumped in winter, along with a stray Palm or Pine. Northern Cardinals, Blue Grosbeaks, and Indigo Buntings all breed locally and should be easy to find, but only the Cardinals are present year-round.
Pets are permitted on leash. Do not allow dogs to bark and disturb the neighbors.
The parking lot at the marina is paved and good for wheelchairs or walkers, but since parking at the marina is limited to slip holders, you would have to park at the free public lot (gravel surface) a block away and then get over to the boat ramp, unless someone drops you off. The restrooms at the marina are wheelchair-accessible but the piers at the boat slips are not. There is good roadside birding from or near the car on the roads leading into the town of Choptank.
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. ◾ Choptank Landing, the historical predecessor of the Choptank Marina, is one of the sites on the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway. The Byway’s driving tour can offer a historical perspective for this landscape that we know for its birding opportunities. ◾ The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Caroline Bird Club, which offers field trips and meetings with informative programs, all free and open to the public.
Ample free parking at a gravel lot a block from the marina, at 2706 Choptank Road, Preston, MD 21655. Do not park at the paved lot at the marina or the roadside parking area there, as those spaces are reserved for slipholders and require a permit. You will be ticketed if you park at the marina itself.
From points north on the Eastern Shore (e.g., Elkton or Chestertown): Use US Route 301 Southbound toward Centreville. At the junction with MD Route 213, follow signs to go south toward US Route 50. At the US Route 50 junction, follow signs to go east on US Route 50/Ocean Gateway. In 13 miles, turn left to go east on MD Route 331/Dover Road for 10.0 miles to Preston, crossing the Choptank River at Tanyard. In Preston, turn right to go south on Maple Avenue; in a couple of blocks, the name of the road will change to Choptank Road, which will bring you directly to the marina in 3.3 miles. The free gravel parking area will be on your right just before you reach Maryland Avenue, one block from the waterfront and the marina.
From points south and east on the Eastern Shore (e;g., Ocean City or Salisbury): Use US Route 50 westbound toward Cambridge. After passing Vienna, go another 7.5 miles to Linkwood and turn right to go north on Linkwood Road. Follow Linkwood Road north for about 3.5 miles to the town of East New Market. Continue straight ahead, crossing MD Route 392/East New Market Bypass; the name of the road you are on will change to Main Street/MD Route 16. Continue north on Route 16 for 7.7 miles. Along the way, the name of the road will change to East New Market-Ellwood Road and MD Route 331 will merge in from the right, and the road you are on will become combined Route 16/331. Don’t let that worry you, just follow the signs to stay north on Route 16. When you reach the outskirts of Preston, turn left to go northwest on combined MD Route 16/MD Route 318/Preston Road. In 1.2 miles, turn left to go south on Maple Avenue/MD Route 324; in a couple of blocks, the name of the road will change to Choptank Road, which will bring you directly to the marina in 3.3 miles. The free gravel parking area will be on your right just before you reach Maryland Avenue, one block from the waterfront and the marina.
From the Western Shore: Cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge on US Route 50/US Route 301 eastbound. At Queenstown, Routes 50 and 301 will split; stay in the right lanes to continue east on Route 50 to Easton in 19 miles. Turn left to go east on MD Route 331/Dover Road for 10.0 miles to Preston, crossing the Choptank River at Tanyard. In Preston, turn right to go south on Maple Avenue; in a couple of blocks, the name of the road will change to Choptank Road, which will bring you directly to the marina in 3.3 miles. The free gravel parking area will be on your right just before you reach Maryland Avenue, one block from the waterfront and the marina.
While visiting Choptank Marina, you may as well visit some other good spots nearby:
- Poplar Neck Marsh: [Warning: After heavy rains, high tides, or winds, Poplar Neck Road may be largely under water and un-drivable. Exercise caution and do not enter standing water; also take care to avoid getting stuck in washed-over sand or mud.] To reach Poplar Neck Marsh, exit the marina parking area and turn right to go south on Choptank Road for 120 feet; then turn right to go west on Poplar Neck Road. You will immediately see marsh on your left (south side of the road) and wet fields containing a diked impoundment on your right; drive slowly with the windows down and stop if there is no traffic. The road is little more than a track past fields and marsh. In 0.4 miles, you will reach a bridge over Marsh Creek. Continue driving on Poplar Neck Road, now heading northwest, for another 0.2 miles. At a point where a couple of hedgerows come in from the left toward the road, you be able to pull over on the left shoulder to stop to scan for birds. This will be dependent on traffic and road conditions. Note that you could also walk out in the marsh from the Choptank Marina, but be wary of traffic as there is no shoulder. You can continue straight ahead on Poplar Neck Road, in which case you will reach Skeleton Creek Road in about 2.0 miles, if you wish to bird that area.
- Fox Creek and Hunting Creek: Exit the marina parking area and turn right to go south on Choptank Road for 120 feet; then turn left to go east on Maryland Avenue. When Maryland Avenue reaches Choptank Main Street, turn left to go north. After one long block, turn right to go east on Blades Road. A small cemetery on the north side of Blades Road provides a convenient place to leave your car while you view Fox Creek on foot from the bridge on Blades Road. Return to your car and continue heading east on Blades Road. Just a half-mile east of the cemetery, you will come to the bridge over Hunting Creek. Before crossing the bridge, pull over on the right shoulder and park at the boat ramp access for an opportunity to scan the marshes of Hunting Creek, both north and south of the bridge.
- Hunting Creek Road: You may also wish to bird along Hunting Creek Road, which branches off Blades Road near the Fox Creek bridge. Fox Creek flows through a wooded section along the west side of Hunting Creek Road and offers a chance for some forest interior dwelling species. There are agricultural fields on the east side of the road that also provide some birding possibilities. All the land here is private, so it’s only roadside birding. Be sure to stay on the public roadway.
Caroline County: Adkins Arboretum ◾ Daniel Crouse Memorial Park ◾ Idylwild Wildlife Management Area ◾ Martinak State Park ◾ Pelot MOS Sanctuary ◾ Skeleton Creek Road & Bethlehem Road ◾ Tuckahoe State Park (Caroline County)
Dorchester County: Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge ◾ Cambridge – Bill Burton Fishing Pier State Park (Dorchester County Side) ◾ Cambridge – Great Marsh Park ◾ Cambridge – Oakley Street ◾ Cambridge – Sailwinds Park & Visitor Center ◾ Chesapeake Forest – North Tara Road ◾ Elliott Island Road / Fishing Bay Wildlife Management Area (Eastern Section) ◾ Hooper’s Island ◾ Taylor’s Island
Queen Anne’s County: Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center – Horsehead ◾ 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
Talbot County: Bill Burton Fishing Pier State Park (Talbot County Side) ◾ Black Walnut Point Natural Resources Management Area ◾ Claiborne Landing ◾ Marengo Woods MOS Sanctuary ◾ Mill Creek MOS Sanctuary ◾ Pickering Creek Audubon Center ◾ Poplar Island
Bottomland DeciduousConifersHedgerows Urban or Small Town Landscape Agricultural Crop Fields or Fallow FieldsOld Fields, Shrubby MeadowsSandy Beach or Dunes Freshwater Marsh or FloodplainMud Flats (Tidal or Non-Tidal)Open Ocean, Bay, or EstuaryRivers & StreamsSalt or Brackish Marsh
Features and Amenities:BeginnersBirding By CarBoat or Canoe/Kayak LaunchFishingFree - No Entry Fee at Any TimeParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaRestroomsWater ViewWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families
Type:County ParksDriving Tours (Birding By Car)The Rivers of the Eastern ShoreWater Trails