E.A. Vaughn Wildlife Management Area
6550 Taylor Landing Rd, Girdletree, MD 21829
E.A. Vaughn Wildlife Management Area encompasses 2,769 acres of prime land in southern Worcester County. Managed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, it is a showcase for habitats that used to dominate the bayside areas of Worcester County. The WMA is divided into three main tracts (North, Central, and South) with different access points; see map at trail guide link below. From the 1940s to the 1960s, E.A. Vaughn WMA was a game farm where a number of pheasant species were raised and released. It was also an area where wildlife biologists experimented with plants and planting arrangements that would most benefit wildlife.
The rich habitats at E.A. Vaughn include agricultural fields that are actively planted with crops to provide habitat and winter food for upland wildlife species; impoundments that were created and are managed to provide habitat for waterfowl, wading birds, and aquatic mammals; riparian areas that have been planted with trees and grasses to create riparian buffers for water quality and wildlife habitat benefits; fields that have been planted with native warm season grasses or cool season grasses; other fields that have been left fallow to provide habitat for ground nesting wildlife species; and extensive saltwater and brackish marshes bordering the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay.
See the trail map at the link at left for access points and parking areas. Each tract has extensive dirt roads and trails that enable the birder to explore on foot. Note that with sea level rise, it is becoming more difficult to access some of the marsh areas. For example, at Central Tract, it used to be possible to walk far out into the marsh at the eastern end of the property; however, that trail is now under water even at low tide, and has been infiltrated by phragmites.
Paddlers can explore the marshlands using the E.A. Vaughn Kayak and Canoe Trail, which was developed in 2005 through a partnership between Delmarva Low Impact Tourism Experiences (DLITE), Maryland DNR, The Coastal Bays Program, and Worcester County. Three paddling routes which range in length from 3 to 6 miles can be accessed from either Taylor’s Landing or George Island Landing. A primitive camping area is also available for overnight stays. For additional information, contact the MD DNR’s Wellington Wildlife Office at (410) 543-8223. Copies of the Kayak and Canoe Trail map can be obtained by calling 1-800-852-0335 or 410-213-2297. The trail route is also indicated on the interactive map of the Maryland Public Water Access Atlas.
Over 225 species have been reported on eBird for E.A. Vaughn WMA. There are three separate eBird hotspots that represent the main tracts of the WMA:
All of the tracts have diverse habitat and host many of the same species. Winter brings 22 species of waterfowl, including Snow Geese, Tundra Swans, and other waterfowl that use the marshes and open water in and around the area. Swamp Sparrows over-winter, and spring and fall migration can bring Grasshopper, Lincoln’s, and Nelson’s Sparrows. Migrating hawks can be seen in the fall as they travel down the East Coast. Occasional rarities have included LeConte’s, Clay-colored, and Harris’s Sparrows, as well as Golden Eagle. White Ibis, which have been extending their breeding range northward, are being found more often, particularly in fall when young are dispersing from breeding colonies in the Virginia portion of the Delmarva peninsula.
Warm weather brings terns; Summer Tanager; Blue Grosbeak; and Ovenbird, Pine, Yellow-throated and Prairie Warblers. Breeding species in the marshes include Marsh Wren, Seaside Sparrow, and Saltmarsh Sparrow. In the marshes, Great Blue, Green and Little Blue Herons, as well as Common and Snowy Egrets, hunt for fish. Field birds include the aforementioned sparrows as well as pipits, Horned Larks, and Eastern Meadowlarks.
Woodland birds, including Brown-headed Nuthatch, are plentiful all year. American Woodcock, Hairy, Downy and Pileated Woodpeckers, and several species of warblers inhabit the extensive forests. Wood Ducks are especially attracted to areas of forest deliberately flooded in the fall when the trees are dormant. This habitat is called a “greentree reservoir” and is also home to frogs and toads, turtles, and snakes. Endangered Delmarva Fox Squirrels were released on the WMA and have been thriving here for a decade. Because of their preference for open woodlands and wood edges, these squirrels may sometimes be observed from cars driving along the woods.
North Tract specialties include Northern Bobwhite, Wild Turkey, and Yellow-breasted Chat. Central Tract specialties include Virginia and Clapper Rail. The South area is less frequently birded but deserves more attention. The South Tract is adjacent to George Island Landing; see the Birding Guide entry for Truitts Landing and Other Bayside Landings.
Gravel lots. See trail maps at links at left.
E.A. Vaughan WMA is contained within the much larger Maryland Coastal Bays Important Bird Area, as designated by the National Audubon Society. The MD Coastal Bays IBA adjoins the Assateague Island Important Bird Area to the east. ◾ Primitive camping is permitted in the Central Tract. ◾ Biking is allowed; a sturdy bike with off-road tires is needed. ◾ The Tri-county Bird Club is the local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society, serving Wicomico, Worcester, and Somerset Counties; the club offers field trips to local birding areas and meetings with informative presentations, all free and open to the public.
From US Route 50 west of Ocean City: Go south on US Route 13 for 18.0 miles to the town of Snow Hill, taking the bypass around the east edge of town. Then turn left to take MD Route 12/Snow Hill Road south.
To access the North Tract of E.A. Vaughn WMA: Stay on MD Route 12 southbound for 4.6 miles, then turn left (east) onto Box Iron Road. In just over 0.3 miles, turn right (east) onto Taylor Landing Road. In about 0.9 miles, look for a small parking area on the right (south) side of the road, just past some residences and near a hedgerow. The main North Tract parking area is located farther down Taylor Landing Road; go another half-mile and watch for a lane on the right that goes back to an area with a cluster of barns and other farm buildings. Park near the barns. The street address for navigation purposes is approximately at 6550 Taylor Landing Road, Girdletree, MD. To reach Taylor Landing itself, continue down the road to its end at the waterfront.
To access the Central Tract: Return to MD Route 12 and turn left to go south. The entrance to the Central Tract is at a dirt-and-gravel lane on the left (east) side of Route 12, with a well-marked sign for E.A. Vaughn WMA. The entrance lane may be called Scarborough Lane on some maps, and is approximately 0.7 miles south of the junction between Taylor Landing Road and Route 12. Turn onto the lane and follow it through a forested area (listen for Brown-headed Nuthatches!) to a gravel parking area. The lane continues past a gate and goes east all the way to a marsh on the shore of Chincoteague Bay. It used to be possible to walk out into the marsh on an embanked lane, but sea-level rise now makes it impossible to go very far. Also explore side trails into the woodland areas and along the shore of the large creek visible to the north of the main lane; this is Scarborough Creek.
To access the South Tract Pikes Creek area: Return to Route 12 and turn left to go south. In approximately 1.5 miles, watch for a gravel-and-dirt lane near a grassy spot on the left side of the road, which is otherwise lined with trees. Turn in here and go a short distance to a gravel parking area along a hedgerow. From here, you can walk dirt lanes through extensive fields and along wooded areas and hedgerows. Pikes Creek lies to the north, beyond some woods, and due east along the main lane, you will come to a large marshy area.
To access the George Island Landing area of the South Tract: Return to Route 12 and turn left to go south. In 0.75 miles, turn left (east) onto George Island Landing Road. There are two parking areas for E.A. Vaughn WMA, both located on the left (north) side of the road. The first is located just under 1.1 miles from the Route 12 junction; look for a small lane that goes north, adjacent to some houses. This lane may be called Portersville Road on some maps. This first parking area is located about a quarter-mile north of George Island Landing Road, adjacent to an agricultural field and before a gate across the lane. The second parking area is located about 0.6 miles east of Portersville Road, and is just a cleared dirt area adjacent to the farm field on the north side of George Island Road, immediately past the last house in the little group that starts at Portersville Road.
George Island Landing itself is at the east end of George Island Landing Road.
Assateague Island National Seashore & Assateague State Park, Ocean City Inlet, Castaways RV Resort & Campgrounds, Pocomoke State Forest – Hickory Point Cypress Swamp Natural Area, Truitts Landing and Other Bayside Landings, West Ocean City Pond, Ellis Bay Wildlife Management Area, Nanticoke River Wildlife Management Area – Nutter’s Neck, Pemberton Historical Park
Bottomland DeciduousConifersHedgerowsUpland Deciduous Agricultural Crop Fields or Fallow FieldsHay Meadows, Pasture, Grass FieldOld Fields, Shrubby Meadows Forested SwampFreshwater Marsh or FloodplainFreshwater Pond, Lake, or ReservoirMud Flats (Tidal or Non-Tidal)Open Ocean, Bay, or EstuaryRivers & StreamsSalt or Brackish Marsh
Bicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)Boat or Canoe/Kayak LaunchCampingFishingFree - No Entry FeeHiking/Walking TrailsHuntingNative Plant Garden or Meadow/Pollinator PlantsParkingPets AllowedWater View
Atlantic Ocean and Intercoastal WaterwaysAudubon Important Bird AreasHunting AreasWater Trails