At a Glance

Hours: Open daily year round, 24 hours a day.

Cost: Free.

Tips: Bring a scope. ◾ Be prepared for biting insects. ◾ Ellis Bay WMA is an active hunting area. ◾ Be aware of hunting seasons and plan your visit accordingly. ◾ No restrooms.

Best Seasons: Fall, winter, spring.

Breeding Bird Atlas Blocks: Wetipquin SW, Nanticoke SE, Deal Island NE, Monie NW

Local MOS Chapter: Tri-County Bird Club

Ellis Bay Wildlife Management Area

22635 Muddy Hole Rd, Tyaskin, MD 21865
(410) 651-2320

Ellis Bay Wildlife Management Area is a hunting area owned by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and is located southwest of Salisbury on a point of land between the Nanticoke and Wicomico Rivers. The 3,200-acre WMA has two disjunct sections. The main section, with parking areas and a boat launch ramp accessed from Muddy Hole Road, is located between the villages of Nanticoke to the west and Whitehaven to the east. A smaller section without designated parking is located on the tip of the point of land south of the villages of Nanticoke and Waterview, at the end of MD Route 349.

Birders often refer to another nearby area accessed from Nutter Road as if it were part of Ellis Bay WMA, but the Nutter Road site is actually part of the separate Chesapeake Forest Lands – Fair Meadow Complex. And do not confuse the Nutter Road site with the Nutter’s Neck area of Nanticoke River Wildlife Management Area, which is farther to the north within Wicomico County.

Ellis Bay WMA offers a glimpse into an extensive tidal marsh ecosystem, with perfect habitat for waterfowl and for wading birds such as herons, egrets, ibis and bitterns. It is also a great spot for rails and for marsh sparrows. There are upland areas that hold American Woodcock and Chuck-will’s-widows. Nest boxes for Barn Owls have been erected to supplement natural tree cavities for nesting.

A few trails near the parking areas off Muddy Hole Road are maintained and suitable for birding, but are not actively marked. The majority of Ellis Bay WMA is best seen by boat. Boat ramps, including one located on the property and others located nearby, provide convenient access; see the MD Water Access Interactive Map. The many creeks that dissect the marsh offer views into the lives of the marshland wildlife. Be aware of strong currents in the area.

Birdlife:

About 150 species have been reported for Ellis Bay WMA on eBird. The main part is denoted by the Ellis Bay WMA eBird hotspot. Additional hotspots are for  Muddy Hole Road and for Ellis Bay WMA–Clara Road. The eBird hotspot labelled Ellis Bay WMA–Nutter Road is actually located on a section of the Chesapeake Forest Lands; this area is technically not part of Ellis Bay WMA but is adjacent.

The primary attraction at Ellis Bay WMA are water- and marsh-related species. American Black Duck and Wood Duck breed here. Both King and Clapper Rails have been reported, with Clapper Raid easily found year-round. Other rails include Virginia Rail, Sora, and Common Gallinule (infrequent). Regularly-occurring long-legged waders include Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Cattle Egret, Green Heron, American Bittern, Least Bittern, Black-crowned Night-Heron, and Glossy Ibis. Shorebirds include Wilson’s Snipe and American Woodcock.  Osprey, Bald Eagle, and Northern Harrier are easy to see. DNR has put up nest boxes for Barn Owls; other owls include Great Horned, Barred, Short-eared, and Eastern Screech-Owl.

The upland portions of Ellis Bay WMA also hold a good assortment of birds.  A specialty is the Chuck-will’s-widow, which can be heard singing from late April through early June. Red-headed Woodpeckers nest in the forested areas at Ellis Bay, as do Red-bellied, Pileated, Hairy, and Downy Woodpeckers, and Northern Flicker. Warm-season Flycatchers include Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Eastern Kingbird, Acadian Flycatcher, and Great Crested Flycatcher.  Both White- and Red-eyed Vireos are common from May through August. Swallows are abundant in summer, with Purple Martin and Tree, Bank, and Barn Swallows.  Brown-headed Nuthatch is abundant year-round.

Five species of wrens occur: House (May-September), Carolina (year-round), Marsh (April-August), Sedge (infrequent in winter), and Winter (October-March).  Eastern Bluebirds are abundant year-round; there are also wintering Hermit Thrush and American Robin, and Swainson’s Thrush passes through on migration. Sparrows include Chipping, Fox, White-throated, White-crowned, Seaside, Swamp, and Song, as well as Dark-eyed Junco and Eastern Towhee.  Yellow-breasted Chat and Orchard Oriole breed here. Boat-tailed Grackles can be found April through June, along with Common Grackles year-round. Eighteen species of warblers have been reported, including breeding Ovenbird, Worm-eating, Prothonotary, Common Yellowthroat, Pine, and Prairie.  Over-wintering Yellow-rumped Warblers are abundant fall through spring. Both Summer and Scarlet Tanager breed here, as well as Blue Grosbeak and Indigo Bunting.

Special Features:

Most of the site is not wheelchair accessible, but it is possible to bird from the car, or near it, at the four designated parking areas along Muddy Hole Road, as well as from the parking area at the boat launch ramp, which presents a vast view of the marsh. It is also possible to bird Ellis Bay (in fact, preferable) from a boat. ◾ Parts of Ellis Bay WMA are within the Nanticoke Important Bird Area, as designated by the National Audubon Society. ◾ Ellis Bay WMA offers hunting, trapping, fishing, crabbing, and boating. ◾ 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 meeting with informative presentations.

Parking:

Four designated lots off Muddy Hole Road, plus a small lot at the boat launch ramp south of Muddy Hole Road. There is also a parking area for the adjacent Chesapeake Forest Lands – Fair Meadow Complext on Nutter Road. See trail maps at links at left.

Directions:

From the Western Shore: Take US Route 50/US Route 301 to the Bay Bridge and continue south and then east on US Route 50 toward (but not all the way to) Salisbury. Just after Mardela Springs, turn right to go south on MD Route 347/Quantico Road. In about 3 miles, at an intersection with Old Athol Road, turn left to stay south on Quantico Road for another 1.5 miles. Then turn right to go west on MD Route 349/Nanticoke Road. Stay on Nanticoke Road for 7.5 miles, then turn left to go south on MD Route 351/Capitola Road (aka the Blue Crab Scenic Byway). In 1.3 miles, turn right to go south on Trinity Church Road. In about 0.7 miles, Trinity Church will come to a T-intersection at Muddy Hole Road. Turn left onto Muddy Hole Road, and then an almost immediate right into the parking area for the WMA. From this parking area, a dirt road leads almost due south to the boat launch ramp, where there is another parking lot. If you return to Muddy Hole Road and go west from Trinity Church Road, three additional marked parking areas are located along the south side of Muddy Hole Road (left side of road as you go west).

From points north on the Eastern Shore: Use US Route 301 or MD Route 213 to reach US Route 50 southbound. Then follow directions above.

From points east of Salisbury, including the Ocean City area: Take US Route 50 west toward Salisbury. Take US Route 50 Business through Salisbury, or take the US Route 50 Bypass around the north side of Salisbury. On the west side of Salisbury, turn left to go south on MD Route 349/Nanticoke Road. Stay on Nanticoke Road for 15 miles, then turn left to go south on MD Route 351/Capitola Road (aka the Blue Crab Scenic Byway). In 1.3 miles, turn right to go south on Trinity Church Road. In about 0.7 miles, Trinity Church will come to a T-intersection at Muddy Hole Road. Turn left onto Muddy Hole Road, and then an almost immediate right into the parking area for the WMA. From this parking area, a dirt road leads almost due south to the boat launch ramp, where there is another parking lot. If you return to Muddy Hole Road and go west from Trinity Church Road, three additional marked parking areas are located along the south side of Muddy Hole Road (left side of road as you go west).

To reach the Nutter Road area from Muddy Hole Road, via state routes: Go north on Trinity Church Road to MD Route 351/Capitola Road (aka the Blue Crab Scenic Byway) and turn left to go west. In 1.3 miles, turn left to go west on MD Route 349/Nanticoke Road. Continue west and then south on Nanticoke Road for 5.2 miles to the town of Nanticoke, then turn left to go southeast on Bank Road for 0.3 miles. Then turn left again to go north and then east on Nutter Road, which ends at the parking area for the Fair Meadow Complex of the Chesapeake Forest Lands. See Nutter Road trail map at link at left.

To reach the Nutter Road area from Muddy Hole Road, via a shorter route on back roads: From the intersection of Trinity Church Road and Muddy Hole Road, go west on Muddy Hole Road for 2.6 miles, to a T-intersection with Jesterville Road. Turn left to go south on Jesterville Road for 1.1 miles. Then turn left to go south on Hickman Lane for 0.7 miles. Turn left again to go east on Nutter Road. The parking area for the Fair Meadow Complex of the Chesapeake Forest Landswill be ahead in about 0.7 miles. See Nutter Road trail map at link at left.

Nearby Sites:

Wicomico County: Cedar Hill Marina & Park, Nanticoke River Wildlife Management Area – Nutter’s Neck, Pemberton Historical Park, Roaring Point & Nanticoke Harbor, Tyaskin Park & Wetipquin Park, Ward Museum & Schumaker Pond

Dorchester County: Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Chesapeake Forest – North Tara Road, Elliott Island Road / Fishing Bay Wildlife Management Area (Eastern Section)

Somerset County: Deal Island Wildlife Management Area, Fairmount Wildlife Management Area, Irish Grove MOS Sanctuary, Janes Island State Park, Rumbley Boat Ramp

Worcester County: Pocomoke State Forest – Hickory Point Cypress Swamp Natural Area

Habitats:

Conifers Old Fields, Shrubby Meadows Forested SwampMud Flats (Tidal or Non-Tidal)Open Ocean, Bay, or EstuaryRivers & StreamsSalt or Brackish Marsh

Features:

Birding By CarBoat or Canoe/Kayak LaunchFishingFree - No Entry FeeHiking/Walking TrailsHuntingParkingPets AllowedWater View

Type:

Audubon Important Bird AreasChesapeake Bay Eastern ShoreDriving Tours (Birding By Car)Hunting AreasThe Rivers of the Eastern Shore