Fairmount Wildlife Management Area
Fairmount Road, Westover, MD 21871
Call the Wellington WMA Office at (410) 543-8223
Consisting mostly of marshlands, Fairmount Wildlife Management Area typifies the habitats found along the rivers of the Eastern Shore and the Chesapeake Bay. Fairmount WMA is a state-owned hunting area covering 5,224 acres, almost the entirety of a neck of land between the Manokin and Annemessex Rivers in Somerset County. The marshes at Fairmount and other sites in Somerset, Dorchester, and Wicomico Counties, constitute one of the largest remaining complexes of saltmarsh on the East Coast.
Forested wetlands occupy portions of the WMA. Two man-made ponds, or impoundments, totaling 300 acres, are managed to provide habitat for waterfowl, wading birds, and aquatic mammals. The lush wetland plants, including wigeongrass, horned pondweed, and saltmarsh bulrush, along with a dense population of invertebrates, make the impoundments at Fairmount attractive to many species of waterfowl and wading birds.
In the winter, waterfowl fill the impoundments and the open waters of the nearby rivers. American Black Ducks, Northern Pintails, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Blue- and Green-winged Teal, and many other species of waterfowl spread across the water, resting and searching for food. In the spring and fall, migrating shorebirds and waders, including Glossy Ibis and Black-Necked Stilts, use the marshes to rest and feed. Visitors often see Wood Duck hens and their ducklings in and around the water after they have left the many nest boxes placed for them by wildlife biologists. Herons and egrets abound, while nesting Willets fill the marshes in summertime.
Fairmount is outstanding in offering birders excellent access by foot and by boat. Parking areas are located off Fairmount Road, Lower Hill Road, and Ford Wharf Road. From the parking areas, it is easy to access a grid of trails covering the WMA and circling the impoundments (see trail map at link at left). The trails are maintained and suitable for walking and mountain biking, but are not marked with signs or blazed. No motorized vehicles are allowed. The trails may be wet and muddy and are not wheelchair accessible.
It is also possible to explore the impoundments by small jon boat, canoe, kayak, or even wearing chest waders. Larger boats can be launched at public boat ramps located nearby in Rumbley, Coulbourne Creek, or the Raccoon Point Recreation Area.
You should also continue farther west, past the impoundments, following MD Route 361/Rumbley Road and then turning south along Frenchtown Road, which makes a broad arc through the marshes and then eventually turns to head northwest to the tiny community of Frenchtown, ending at private property that occupies Prickly Point. Frenchtown Road provides outstanding views of the marsh and the birding on this little traveled road can be good from the car, making this an option for those who are mobility-impaired. Much of the land along Frenchtown Road is privately owned, so stay on the public roadway and be respectful of the local residents. Also note that Frenchtown Road may be flooded and impassable at high tide or during stormy or windy weather.
Another good place to check is the tiny town of Rumbley, located on the western edge of Fairmount WMA, and covered separately in this Birder’s Guide.
Fishing and crabbing (license required) are allowed on the WMA. Public hunting and trapping are also allowed; be aware of hunting seasons and plan your visit accordingly.
A total of more than 186 species have been reported from the four eBird hotspots that cover Fairmount WMA:
For a bar chart showing the combined results from these four hotspots, click here.
Waterfowl are abundant and include dabblers as well as divers, with 26 species represented. Breeding species include Canada Goose, Wood Duck, Mallard, and American Black Duck. Three grebes may be found: Pied-billed (possible breeder), Horned (late fall through spring), and Eared (rare in winter). Both Red-throated and Common Loons may be found in winter, but Common are more likely.
Wild Turkey and Northern Bobwhite were confirmed or possible breeders during the first and second Breeding Bird Atlas projects; it remains to be seen if they will still be present for the third atlas data collection period (2020-2024).
Fairmount is a great spot to try for rails: King is possible; Clapper and Virginia are common breeders; Sora migrate through in fall and spring; Common Gallinule is a possible breeder; American Coot overwinters. Black Rail was found to be a probable or possible breeder during the first and second Breeding Bird Atlas projects.
There is an interesting assortment of shorebirds with 22 species reported, mostly during the warm months, and some present only during very brief periods of the year (consult the eBird bar charts). Probably or confirmed breeders include Black-necked Stilt, American Oystercatcher, Killdeer, and Willet.
The usual gulls are present: a few Bonaparte’s in winter; Laughing in summer; Ring-billed, Herring, and Great Black-backed from fall through spring. One or two Lesser Black-backed Gulls might be found; the best time to look for them is in February. A Black-headed Gull was present for a short time in February of 2011. Forster’s Tern is regular from March through November and is a confirmed breeder; Common Tern may occur in small numbers (another confirmed breeder); Royal passes through in April and again in August; Black Skimmer may also be present in spring.
Northern Gannets can be seen as fly-bys in winter and spring. Double-crested Cormorants are numerous from spring through fall. Brown Pelicans are occasional in the warm months
The entire set of Maryland wading birds may be found at Fairmount , although not on a single visit unless one is very lucky: American Bittern; Least Bittern; Great Blue Heron (year-round); Great Egret; Snowy Egret; Little Blue Heron; Tricolored Heron (a specialty of the southern Eastern Shore); Cattle Egret (rare in summer); Green Heron (confirmed breeder); Black-crowned Night-Heron (overwinters); and Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (rare in summer); Glossy Ibis; and White-faced Ibis (rare in spring).
Osprey, Bald Eagle, Red-shouldered Hawk, and Red-tailed Hawk are breeding species. Northern Harriers are easy to see from fall through spring and is a possible breeder. Short-eared Owls are present in winter and early spring. Great Horned Owl is a confirmed breeder and Eastern Screech-Owl is a possible breeder.
Brown-headed Nuthatches are plentiful breeders in the forested patches. Red-breasted Nuthatches may be present in winter. Marsh, Carolina, and House Wrens are breeders. Sedge Wrens occur but breeding has not been observed.
Fairmount contains an interesting assemblage of sparrows, including populations of Chipping, Field, Seaside, Saltmarsh, and Grasshopper – these are confirmed or probable breeders. Yellow-breasted Chat is another confirmed breeder. Eastern Meadowlarks, Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, and Boat-tailed Grackles are abundant. Orchard Orioles, but not Baltimore, also breed here.
Fairmount hosts only a modest number of warbler species, most as migrants, but has breeding populations of Ovenbird, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow Warbler, Pine Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, and Prairie Warbler.
Pets on leash are permitted.
The trails are not wheelchair-accessible. Some birding might be possible from the parking areas and the roads adjacent to the WMA, but beware of soft shoulders and ditches. There is good birding from the car along Frenchtown Road at the west end of Fairmount WMA, and also at the Rumbley Boat Ramp.
Fairmount WMA is part of the Somerset-Wicomico Marshes Important Bird Area, as designated by the National Audubon Society.
There is no boat launch within Fairmount WMA itself, but there are public boat launches at Rumbley, Coulbourne Creek, and the Raccoon Point Recreation Area. See MD DNR’s Public Water Access Guide. It may be possible to carry a canoe or kayak from the parking area to the East or West Impoundment and put in there. ◾ The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Tri-County Club, serving Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester Counties. The Tri-County Bird Club offers field trips and meetings with presentations by guest speakers, free and open to the public.
Local news station WBOC has a brief video clip showing overhead footage of the marshland habitat at Fairmount WBA.
Three designated parking areas off Fairmount Road, Lower Hill Road, and Ford Wharf Road.
Fairmount WMA is located southwest of Salisbury and Princess Anne.
From Salisbury: Take US Route 13 south from Salisbury. Watch for the junction with MD Route 413, about 4.7 miles south of Princess Anne; bear slightly right to take MD Route 413 south towards Crisfield. In 1.2 miles, turn right to go west on MD Route 361/Fairmount Road.
There are three marked parking areas for Fairmount WMA:
- The first parking area, at Upper Fairmount, will be on the left (south) side of Fairmount Road in 4.5 miles after turning off Route 413, just past the intersection with Jones Factory Road on the right. Note that Jones Factory Road is a horseshoe and there is a second intersection with Jones Factory Road farther along on Fairmount Road; the entrance to the WMA parking is between these two intersections, and is almost directly opposite a white house on the north side of Fairmount Road at #27860. From the parking area, a trail leads south into a forested tract, with branches that go west and east, in about 0.6 and 0.7 miles respectively. These are out-and-back trails; retrace your steps to return to your car.
- To reach the second parking area, which provides access to the East Impoundment, turn left out of the parking area and continue west on Fairmount Road for another 1.9 miles. Turn left to go south on Lower Hill Road for 0.4 miles. At the intersection with Davy Lane on the left, Lower Hill Road will continue straight ahead and there will be a dirt lane branching to the right. Bear right onto the dirt lane, which will take you into a forested area. In 0.14 miles, there will be a lane on the right that heads due west; turn right here and the parking area will be immediately on your left. From the parking area, use either the dirt road that heads south or the one that heads west to circle the impoundment on foot.
- To reach the third parking area, which provides access to the West Impoundment, go north on Lower Hill Road to return to Fairmount Road. At Fairmount Road, turn left to go west for 0.9 miles. Note that MD Route 361 turns right and jogs north to follow Rumbley Road here. DO NOT TURN RIGHT. Instead, continue straight ahead onto Ford Wharf Road for 0.3 miles. The road will end at the parking area for Fairmount WMA. From the parking area, walk past the gate and continue south on the dirt road to circle the West Impoundment in a counter-clockwise direction. Consult the trail map at the link at left and notice that there is also a grid of trails east of the parking area, including the lane that leads to the East Impoundment parking area and the wooded area in between the two impoundments.
Somerset County: Deal Island Wildlife Management Area ◾ Irish Grove MOS Sanctuary ◾ Janes Island State Park ◾ Rumbley Boat Ramp ◾ Smith Island
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
Wicomico County: Cedar Hill Marina & Park ◾ Ellis Bay Wildlife Management Area ◾ Nanticoke River Wildlife Management Area – Nutter’s Neck ◾ Pemberton Historical Park ◾ Roaring Point & Nanticoke Harbor ◾ Tyaskin Park & Wetipquin Park ◾ Ward Museum & Schumaker Pond
Worcester County: Assateague Island National Seashore & Assateague Island State Park ◾ Castaways RV Resort & Campgrounds ◾ E.A. Vaughn Wildlife Management Area ◾ Ocean City Inlet ◾ Pocomoke State Forest – Hickory Point Cypress Swamp Natural Area ◾ Truitts Landing & Other Bayside Landings ◾ West Ocean City Pond
Bottomland DeciduousConifersHedgerows Forested SwampMud 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 LaunchFishingFree - No Entry FeeHiking/Walking TrailsHuntingParkingPets AllowedWater View
Audubon Important Bird AreasChesapeake Bay Eastern ShoreHunting AreasPonds, Lakes, and ReservoirsThe Rivers of the Eastern Shore