Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge
7319 Remington Drive, Chestertown, MD 21620
Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge is one of the premier sites for waterfowl viewing on the Eastern Shore. Established in 1962 as a sanctuary for migratory birds, the Refuge is managed as part of the Chesapeake Marshlands NWR complex. Most of the 2,285-acre refuge is located on an island along the shores of the Chester River and Chesapeake Bay, and is composed of tidal marsh, upland forest, and grasslands. Upland areas provide good habitat for passerines, and birding can be particularly productive during spring and fall migration. Seven different trails and several vehicle pull-offs provide expansive views of the Chester River and Chesapeake Bay. A pollinator garden overlooking the Bay provides good butterfly viewing opportunities. The strategic location and outstanding habitat diversity combine to make Eastern Neck NWR the #1 eBird hotspot in Kent County.
Over 260 species have been reported on eBird from Eastern Neck and the official checklist of Eastern Neck NWR includes 273 species. It is a major feeding and resting place for migrating and wintering waterfowl. Refuge staff have documented peak numbers of more than 50,000 waterfowl of 33 different species on and near the refuge. The most common species include Canada Goose, Tundra Swan, Lesser Scaup, and Mallard. Other waterfowl species include American Black Duck, Canvasback, Bufflehead, Northern Pintail, Green- and Blue-winged Teal, all three mergansers, American Wigeon, Ruddy Duck, Long-tailed Duck, and scoters. Loons and grebes can be viewed on the Chester River. Tundra Swans visit the refuge starting in late November before migrating about 4,000 miles northward in March. Bald Eagles, present year-round, commence nest-building in January and American Woodcocks perform courtship displays in February and March.
Although known for its wintering waterfowl, Eastern Neck is also interesting in spring and summer, when it hosts herons and egrets, rails, shorebirds, terns, and swallows. Great Blue Herons, Green Herons, and Great and Snowy Egrets occur in the tidal flats and marshes of the refuge along with Virginia and, rarely now, Black Rails. Numerous shorebirds including Killdeer, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Least, Spotted, and Semipalmated Sandpipers can be observed at various times throughout the year.
Songbird migration peaks in late April/early May and the earliest waterfowl migrants arrive from the north in August/September, with southbound songbird migration peaking in late September to October.
Free. Gravel lots located throughout. See trail map at link at left for locations.
For those who are mobility-impaired, Eastern Neck offers good birding from the car or near the car, using the road network within the Refuge. There is good barrier-free viewing at Bogle’s Wharf Landing and several other locations. The Tundra Swan Boardwalk, the Tubby Cove Boardwalk, and parts of the Bayview Butterfly Trail are wheelchair-accessible, as are the Visitor Center and restrooms. ◾ The Bayview Butterfly Garden is located on a knoll looking out over the Bay, and is lushly landscaped with native plants. ◾ A map of the Eastern Neck Island Water Trail is available at the Visitor Center. The 10-mile long water trail starts at Bogle’s Wharf and circles the entire Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge and connects scenic, historic and wetland restoration sites located around the island. ◾ Eastern Neck NWR is a part of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network of the National Park Service. ◾ Eastern Neck NWR is the focal point of the Eastern Neck Important Bird Area, as designated by the National Audubon Society. ◾ The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Kent County Bird Club, which offers field trips and meeting programs that are open to the public, free of charge.
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.
From Chestertown in Kent County: Follow MD Route 20 west and then south into Rock Hall. Turn left (south) at flashing light onto Main Street/MD Route 445. Go south 8 miles to the bridge over the Chester River and cross the bridge to enter the refuge. There is a pull-off near the bridge where waterfowl can be viewed in winter and terns and shorebirds in spring/summer. See trail map at link at left for other viewing locations.
Kent County: Chesapeake Farms & St. Paul’s Millpond, Millington Wildlife Management Area, Sassafras Natural Resources Management Area and Turner’s Creek Park
Caroline County: Adkins Arboretum, Idylwild Wildlife Management Area, Martinak State Park, Tuckahoe State Park (Caroline County)
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, Pickering Creek Audubon Center, Black Walnut Point Natural Resources Management Area, Poplar Island
Bottomland DeciduousConifersHedgerows Hay Meadows, Pasture, Grass FieldOld Fields, Shrubby Meadows Forested SwampFreshwater Marsh or FloodplainJetties & SeawallsMud Flats (Tidal or Non-Tidal)Open Ocean, Bay, or EstuaryRivers & StreamsSalt or Brackish Marsh
BeginnersBicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)Bird Feeding StationBirding By CarBoardwalkBoat or Canoe/Kayak LaunchFishingFree - No Entry FeeGift Shop or BookstoreHiking/Walking TrailsHuntingNative Plant Garden or Meadow/Pollinator PlantsNature Education ProgramsObservation Platform or TowerParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaRestroomsVisitor Center, Interpretive Displays, ExhibitsWater ViewWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families
#1 Hotspot in County or CityAudubon Important Bird AreasChesapeake Bay Eastern ShoreChesapeake Bay Gateways NetworkDriving Tours (Birding By Car)Hiker-Biker Trails (Paved)National Wildlife RefugesThe Rivers of the Eastern ShoreWater Trails