23014 Claiborne Landing Rd, Claiborne, MD 21624
A lot of birders might overlook Claiborne Landing – it’s not very large, it’s a bit remote, and it’s just one of many boat ramps and public launch sites that offer a view of the waters around the Chesapeake Bay. But Claiborne Landing is worthy of your attention. It’s one of the top birding sites in Talbot County, for good reason.
Claiborne Landing is located on a neck of land north of the historic town of Saint Michael’s. The landing faces west, overlooking the mouth of Eastern Bay, which offers a large sheltered haven for waterfowl and other birds, as well as fish and other wildlife. Eastern Bay is bounded by Kent Island on the north and east, the mainland of Queen Anne’s County on the east, and part of Talbot County, including the Claiborne area, on the south. Poplar Island is just south of the mouth of Eastern Bay. The Miles and the Wye Rivers are major tributaries emptying into Eastern Bay. Thus Claiborne Landing lies at a crossroads for the birds that use these rich habitats for breeding, migration, or wintering.
Claiborne Landing is a county-owned site, just over 9 acres, with ample paved parking. The landing was once the docking site for the Claiborne – Annapolis Ferry, which ceased operations once the Chesapeake Bay Bridge opened in 1958. A wooden pier is a popular spot for fishing and crabbing, and there is a soft launch for canoes and kayaks on the sandy beach adjacent to the pier and boat ramp. The property includes a marsh to the south of the boat ramp, and the beach that borders the marsh. A series of rock groins lie along the edge of the beach, and these provide good resting spots for gulls and terns and sometimes shorebirds. When birding Claiborne Landing, be sure to scope the offshore waters as well as the long rock jetty to the north and the rocky groins along the sandy beach. Don’t forget to check the beach itself as well as the marsh.
To the north of Claiborne Landing is a long rock jetty and the remnants of old wharf. The old Claiborne Jetty is public property and offers additional viewing over waters to the north. A sandy beach is located at the base of the jetty. Exercise caution around the jetty as the rocks are often slippery. The address of the jetty is 10500 Bayside Drive, but there is no parking at the jetty. You have to leave your car at the boat ramp and walk over to the old Claiborne Jetty, a distance of 1/3 of a mile one-way.
Note that the property adjacent to the jetty and Claiborne Landing is all privately owned. Be careful not to trespass on private property; in particular, be aware that you can’t walk directly between Claiborne Landing and the jetty, because the land in between is privately owned. The jetty can be reached only via Bayside Drive; see the area map at the link at left.
A nearby spot that you might want to visit is the Tilghman Creek Public Landing, at the end of Cockey Road (see area map at link at left). The address is 23400 Cockey Road. Tilghman Creek Landing has a pier for fishing and crabbing as well as a soft launch for canoes and kayaks. The pier will provide you with a good view of the sheltered waters of the creek.
Over 175 species have been reported on eBird from Claiborne Landing to date. There is a separate eBird hotspot for Tilghman Creek Landing with a subset of the species that you can see at Claiborne Landing.
Claiborne Landing has a good representation of waterfowl, with 25 species reported, including both diving ducks and dabblers. Wood Ducks breed locally, and American Black Duck is a probable breeder. Pied-billed Grebe, Horned Grebe, and Red-necked Grebe can all be found in appropriate seasons, with Horned Grebe being easy to see from December through June. Common Loons are from October through mid-May, and there are occasional sightings of Red-throated Loons. Northern Gannets can be seen during spring migration; Double-crested Cormorants are around most of the year; and Brown Pelicans come through during post-breeding dispersal in late summer.
This is a good place to look for gulls: Bonaparte’s in winter; Laughing from late spring through fall; Ring-Billed and Herring year-round; and Great Black-backed any month except May or June. It may be even better for terns: Least, Caspian, Forster’s, Common, and Royal all are easy to see.The marsh and sandy beach sometimes pull in a few shorebirds, including Ruddy Turnstone, Spotted Sandpiper, both Yellowlegs, and Willet. Waders include Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Cattle Egret, and Green Heron. Black-crowned Night-Herons are sometimes seen in September.
Ospreys and Bald Eagles breed locally, and the eagles are present year-round. Northern Harriers can be found during fall and winter; Red-tailed Hawks are present year-round, and Red-shouldered Hawks are found in late winter. American Kestrels are prevalent during fall migration, and Merlins may be present in winter.
Belted Kingfishers are easy to find from August through April. The local woodpeckers include Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers (winter); Red-bellied, Downy, Pileated, and Northern Flicker (year-round); and occasional Hairy Woodpeckers. Most of the flycatchers come through on migration only, but Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, and Eastern Kingbird are local breeders. White-eyed and Red-eyed Vireos are breed in the area. Blue Jays, American Crows, and Fish Crows are noisy and conspicuous. Carolina Chickadees and Tufted Titmice also are numerous.
In the summer months, swallows include Purple Martin, Tree, Bank, and Barn. In the winter, both Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets are easy to find, along with Red- and White-breasted Nuthatches. Brown-headed Nuthatches breed locally; listen for their squeaky calls in conifers along the road to the jetty. House Wrens and Carolina Wrens breed in the area, but don’t expect Marsh Wrens. Winter Wrens sometimes can be found from fall through spring.
All three mimids are common: Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, and Brown Thrasher. Eastern Bluebirds are numerous at any time of year, as are American Robins and Cedar Waxwings. Expect House Finches and American Goldfinches, but Purple Finches are not regular. Breeding sparrows include Eastern Towhee, Chipping, and Song. Other sparrows found overwintering or in migration are Field, Savannah, White-crowned, White-throated, Swamp and Dark-eyed Junco. Both Orchard and Baltimore Orioles breed in the area. Red-winged Blackbirds, Brown-headed Cowbirds, and Common Grackles are abundant year-round. Eastern Meadowlarks also breed in the area but may require some looking in inland areas.
Nineteen species of warblers have been reported, but with the absence of significant forested tracts in the area, most of these are confined to fall and spring migration. Exceptions are Ovenbird, Worm-eating Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Northern Parula, Yellow Warbler, Pine Warbler, and Yellow-throated Warblers, which are confirmed or probable breeders in the area.
The list of locally breeding bird is rounded out by Northern Cardinal, Blue Grosbeak, and Indigo Bunting.
Pets should be kept leashed. This is a residential area and you should be prepared to clean up after your pet.
The paved boat ramp area at Claiborne Landing offers good views of the water and marsh from the car or a wheelchair. The soft launch and the beach are not wheel-chair accessible. The old jetty to the north is not wheelchair-accessible.
You may notice that on some maps, the waters off Claiborne Landing are labelled as “Eastern Bay Sanctuary.” This area is one of several oyster sanctuaries established by the State of Maryland. The waters here are maintained as an oyster nursery in an attempt to restore oyster numbers in the Chesapeake Bay, and taking of oysters is not permitted.
Fishing and crabbing are popular activities at Claiborne Landing, the Claiborne jetty, and Tilghman Creek Landing. ◾ The Eastern Bay and Tilghman Point Water Trail follows the shoreline between Wade’s Point, Claiborne Landing, and Tilghman Creek Landing, rounding Tilghman Point at the north end of Rich Neck. This is just one of a set of four water trails in the area. The Talbot County Tourism Office provides a free downloadable map for the Tilghman Island and Bay Hundred Water Trails, as well as for additional water trails near the town of Saint Michael’s. Both of these brochures contain much interesting information about the area and it natural history. See the tourism website for other brochures and maps. ◾ Talbot County was the birthplace and boyhood home of Frederick Douglass, the abolitionist and civil rights reformer, who served in slavery on several plantations in the county. A set of driving tours traces the life of Frederick Douglass and can give you a new perspective on our familiar birding spots. ◾ The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Talbot Bird Club, which offers field trips and meetings with informative programs, all free and open to the public.
Paved parking lot at Claiborne Landing. No parking at the old jetty to the north. You have to leave your car at the boat ramp and walk over to the old jetty, a distance of 1/3 of a mile one-way. No designated parking at Tilghman Creek Landing; be careful not to block driveways or park on private property.
Claiborne Landing is located north of the town of St. Michael’s in Talbot County
From US Route 50 near Easton: Take MD Route 322 westbound for approximately 2 miles, then turn right to go west on MD Route 33. Follow Route 33 for about 13 miles and bear right to go north on North Claiborne Road. In 1.6 miles, turn left onto Claiborne Landing Road and drive to the landing at the end of the street.
- To reach the old jetty from Claiborne Landing: Leave your car at the boat ramp and WALK back the way you came in on Claiborne Landing Road, but before reaching North Claiborne Road, turn left to walk north on Bayside Drive. Follow Bayside Drive as it makes a long curve to the left, passing through a residential neighborhood. Bayside Drive will end at the jetty. It’s about 1/3 of a mile one-way from the boat ramp. Don’t forget to take your scope with you.
- To reach Tilghman Creek Landing from the Claiborne Landing boat ramp: In your car, return to North Claiborne Drive and turn right to go south. In about two blocks, turn left onto Cockey Road. Tilghman Creek Landing is at the end of Cockey Road.
Talbot County: Bill Burton Fishing Pier State Park (Talbot County Side) ◾ Black Walnut Point Natural Resources Management Area ◾ Mill Creek MOS Sanctuary ◾ Pickering Creek Audubon Center ◾ Poplar 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)
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
ConifersHedgerows Urban or Small Town Landscape Sandy Beach or Dunes Freshwater Marsh or FloodplainJetties & SeawallsMud Flats (Tidal or Non-Tidal)Open Ocean, Bay, or EstuarySalt or Brackish Marsh
Features and Amenities:
BeginnersBoat or Canoe/Kayak LaunchFishingFree - No Entry FeeHuntingParkingPets AllowedRestroomsWater ViewWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families
Chesapeake Bay Eastern ShoreCommunity and Urban ParksCounty ParksThe Rivers of the Eastern ShoreWater Trails