At a Glance

Hours: Dawn to dusk.

Cost: Free.

Tips: Bring a scope. ◾ Waterproof boots are advisable if you want to walk in the wooded area.◾ No restrooms.

Best Seasons: Year-round.

Breeding Bird Atlas Block: Berlin NW

Local MOS Chapters: Tri-County Bird Club

Heron Park (formerly Berlin Falls Park)

10009 Old Ocean City Boulevard, Berlin, MD, 21811
410-641-4314

Heron Park (formerly known as Berlin Falls Park) is a 62-acre park on the north edge of the town of Berlin (traditionally pronounced Burr-lin with the emphasis on the first syllable, but this may be fading out). The park, with three ponds and a small strip of woodland, attracts wintering waterfowl, shorebirds and waders in summer, and passerines all year-round. Many of the same waterfowl species can be seen at other spots in and around Ocean City, but the primary reason for birders to visit Heron Park is that the ponds are small enough, and the water calm enough, that viewing is close-up and easy.   This is a good place to practice your ducks identification skills.

Heron Park had an inauspicious beginning as the site of a chicken processing plant. What are now wildlife ponds were once containment ponds for waste products from the chicken processing plant. The land was acquired by the town in 2016 and at present, the town considers Heron Park to be a passive recreation park, with no visitor amenities on site. Some of the original industrial buildings are still present but will eventually be demolished or converted. The ponds have been brought to life and water quality improved through the introduction of many thousands of native plants. The park seems to be most enjoyed by walkers and birders.

The park has a paved and gravel lot accessed from Old Ocean City Boulevard. Upon entering the lot, you might feel like you’re in the wrong place, because of the industrial buildings. that loom on the left. Drive past the buildings toward the back of the lot and park. You’ll see a gravel lane that leads up a grassy knoll; follow that lane, and the ponds will soon come into view ahead and to the right. The gravel lane provides easy viewing access to the ponds. There is also a network of natural surface, dirt and grass foot-paths on the dikes around the ponds, enabling closer approach. Each pond has its own micro-environment and tends to attract different sets of birds, so you should be sure to closely examine all of them. Carefully check the pond edges and surrounding vegetation for any hidden birds.

As you walk along the lane, on the left there is a deciduous woodland that is bisected by a railroad track that runs roughly north-south, and is bisected in the other direction by a power line cut. These wet woods and brushy areas of the power line cut are attractive to all sorts of songbirds, and even in winter you might be able to find an Eastern Phoebe or a Gray Catbird. There are no maintained trails in the woods, but there are some casual trails with natural surface. The footing can be quite wet or muddy in places, so boots are advisable. At the very tip of the park’s north end, Kitts Branch, a tributary of Trappe Creek, flows through the woods, and the area of the stream can be a very birdy spot.

A good plan might be to check the ponds first, working your way to Kitts Branch, and then return to your car by walking back to your car through the woods or along the edge.

In addition to birds, the park also supports thriving populations of turtles, frogs and toads, dragonflies and damselflies, and mammals including River Otter, Eastern Coyote, and Red Fox. Interpretative signage illustrates some of the key residents of the park.

Birdlife:

The eBird hotspot for Heron Park lists 190 species as of Fall 2020, a remarkable accumulation of sightings since the park opened in late 2016.

Wintering waterfowl are the stars of the show, with 26 species reported, even rarities such as Ross’s Goose, Greater White-fronted Goose, and Cackling Goose. Do not, however, expect the sea-going species such as scoters, eiders, Long-tailed or Harlequin. Canada Geese, Wood Ducks, and Mallards breed here. This is a good place to study the different waterfowl up close, especially females, to get practice in separating them.

Pied-billed Grebes can be found at Heron Park for much of the year. Horned Grebes may drop in during migration. Even Red-throated and Common Loons sometimes turn up. Three rallids have occurred: Sora, Common Gallinule, and American Coot; the first two are rare at this location but the coots are reliable from fall through spring. Double-crested Cormorants are almost always here, in numbers.

Mourning Doves and Rock Pigeons are always around. Given all the historic buildings (and chimneys) in town, it’s not surprising that Chimney Swifts are abundant in the warm months.

Heron Park is building a reputation as a shorebird spot. As of Fall 2020, 20 species have been reported, with the most reliable being Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Least Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Wilson’s Snipe, Spotted Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, and Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs.

Gulls using the ponds or present as flyovers include Laughing, Ring-billed, Herring, and Great Black-backed. It is even possible to spot Bonaparte’s Gulls during both spring and fall migration. Rarities include Lesser Black-backed and Iceland. Least Terns occur during spring and summer, and Forster’s are present sporadically through the fall. Even Black Terns have appeared during late summer dispersal.

The park is good for waders. The usuals are Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Green Heron, and Glossy Ibis. There have been occasional sightings of American Bittern, Tricolored Heron, Cattle Egret, Black-crowned Night-Heron, and White-faced Ibis (rare for Maryland as a whole).

Black and Turkey Vultures are almost always overhead or perched about on trees and posts. Ospreys are commonly seen in the spring and summer, and may linger into November. Bald Eagles are commonly seen, and probably breed in the area. Other commonly seen raptors include Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks and Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks. A Northern Harrier be around in winter. All three regularly occurring Maryland owls have been reported – Barred, Eastern Screech and Great Horned. Falcons might streak through during migration or in winter: American Kestrel, Merlin, and Peregine Falcon have all been reported.

Belted Kingfishers are easy to see and hear. Woodpeckers include Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers in winter and year-round Red-bellied, Downy, Hairy, Pileated, and Northern Flicker.

There’s a good selection of flycatchers during breeding season: Eastern Wood-Pewee, Acadian, Great Crested, and Eastern Kingbird. White-eyed and Red-eyed Vireos breed here, and Blue-headed and Warbling Vireos may come through during migration. Other summer residents include Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Orchard Orioles, Brown-headed Cowbirds, Blue Grosbeaks, and Indigo Buntings. The swallow assortment includes Purple Martins and Tree, Bank, and Barn Swallows. Cave Swallows have been sighted during fall migration.

Some birds that likely breed in the area seem easier to find in winter than in breeding season: these include Eastern Phoebes, House Wrens, and Brown Thrashers.

Common year-round (or nearly year-round) birds include Blue Jays, American and Fish Crows, Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, Carolina Wrens, Gray Catbirds, Northern Mockingbirds, Eastern Bluebirds, American Robins, Cedar Waxwings, House Sparrows, House Finches, American Goldfinches, Chipping Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, and Northern Cardinals.

In the winter, look for Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Red-breasted or White-breasted Nuthatch, maybe a Brown-headed Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Winter Wren, Hermit Thrush, Purple Finch, Pine Siskin, Rusty Blackbird. Rarities that have turned up in winter include both Marsh and Sedge Wrens. Wintering sparrows include Field, Fox, Dark-eyed Junco, White-throated, Savannah, Swamp, and Eastern Towhee. Be on the alert for possible Brewer’s Blackbird in blackbird flocks in late fall or early winter. Don’t ignore the grassy areas: there may be Horned Larks or American Pipits.

The warbler selection is good, with 16 species reported as of Fall 2020. Breeders include Common Yellowthroat and probably Pine Warbler. American Redstarts linger over a long period in fall migration. Palm Warblers can be found from October through early January. Yellow-Rumped warblers are numerous and easy to find from October through April.

Pet Policy:

Pets are allowed on leash; be prepared to pick up after your pet.

Wheelchair Access:

The parking lot is level and easily maneuverable in a wheelchair. The gravel lane that runs the length of the park is mostly on level ground and could be negotiated by a wheelchair; however, there is a short slope between the parking lot and the area containing the ponds and most people in a wheelchair might need help with that slope. The gravel lane that runs the length of the park can be very soft and wet following rains. The trails through the woods are not wheelchair-accessible.

Special Features:

Berlin is a charming historic town with many attractive shops and good restaurants, making Heron Park an excellent choice for a family visit or a birding date. ◾ The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Tri-County Bird Club, which serves Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester Counties, offering field trips and meetings with informative programs, all free and open to the public.

Multimedia:

The Worcester County Tourism department has posted a brief YouTube video about Heron Park (under the former name of Berlin Falls Park) and some of the business and arts features of the town of Berlin. The first minute or so is focused on the park. The video is hosted by Jim Rapp from Conservation Community Consulting.

Parking:

Paved lot off Old Ocean City Boulevard.

Directions:

Heron Park is located on the north edge of the town of Berlin, about 7 miles west of Ocean City. It is easily accessed from US Route 50 or from US Route 113.

From the south end of Ocean City (such as the Ocean City Inlet area): Take US Route 50/Ocean Gateway west out of town. In 6.4 miles, turn left onto MD Route 346/Old Ocean City Boulevard. (*See note below). Proceed southwest on Old Ocean City Boulevard and the park will be on your right in 1.2 miles, past some small local businesses. Remember that it looks like an industrial site. There is no noticeable sign at the entrance from the street but you’ll see a sign after you enter the parking lot. If you reach the intersection with Main Street, you’ve gone past the park and will need to turn around.

  • *Note: Turning left onto Ocean City Boulevard from eastbound Route 50 involves turning across the divided highway and if traffic is heavy, may not be feasible. In that case, proceed another 0.9 miles to the interchange with US Route 113. Follow signs to merge onto Route 113 southbound. Then make the first right turn, in just 0.3 miles, to go west on MD Route 346/Old Ocean City Boulevard. The park will be on your right within the first block, in just 0.3 miles, past some small local businesses. Remember that it looks like an industrial site. There is no noticeable sign at the entrance from the street but you’ll see a sign after you enter the parking lot. If you reach the intersection with Main Street, you’ve gone past the park and will need to turn around.

From the north end of Ocean City: If you’re coming from anywhere above 50th Street in Ocean City and not planning to bird the Inlet area, it’s quickest to take MD Route 90/Ocean City Expressway west onto the mainland. About 7.6 miles west of Ocean City, at the interchange with US Route 113, follow signs to get on Route 113 southbound. In 2.5 miles, at the interchange for US Route 50, stay straight to continue on Route 113 southbound, but get in the right lane and be prepared to make the first right after the interchange, to go west on MD Route 346/Old Ocean City Boulevard. The park will be on your right within the first block, in just 0.3 miles, past some small local businesses. Remember that it looks like an industrial site. There is no noticeable sign at the entrance from the street but you’ll see a sign after you enter the parking lot. If you reach the intersection with Main Street, you’ve gone past the park and will need to turn around.

From points north, such as Delaware: Use US Route 113 southbound toward Berlin and Ocean City. Upon reaching the interchange for US Route 50, stay straight to continue on Route 113 southbound, but get in the right lane and be prepared to make the first right after the interchange, to go west on MD Route 346/Old Ocean City Boulevard. The park will be on your right within the first block, in just 0.3 miles, past some small local businesses. Remember that it looks like an industrial site. There is no noticeable sign at the entrance from the street but you’ll see a sign after you enter the parking lot. If you reach the intersection with Main Street, you’ve gone past the park and will need to turn around.

From points south, such as Virginia: Use US Route 113 northbound toward Berlin and Ocean City. At Berlin, turn left at the traffic light onto MD Route 346/Old Ocean City Boulevard. (The previous traffic light is at MD Route 367/Assateague Road.) The park will be on your right within the first block, in just 0.3 miles, past some small local businesses. Remember that it looks like an industrial site. There is no noticeable sign at the entrance from the street but you’ll see a sign after you enter the parking lot. If you reach the intersection with Main Street, you’ve gone past the park and will need to turn around.

From points west and north such as Salisbury, Easton, or the Western Shore: Use US Route 50/Ocean Gateway eastbound toward Ocean City. At the interchange with US Route 113 at Berlin, follow signs to get on Route 113 southbound and after merging onto Route 113 , stay in the right lane and be prepared to make the first right after the interchange, to go west on MD Route 346/Old Ocean City Boulevard. The park will be on your right within the first block, in just 0.3 miles, past some small local businesses. Remember that it looks like an industrial site. There is no noticeable sign at the entrance from the street but you’ll see a sign after you enter the parking lot. If you reach the intersection with Main Street, you’ve gone past the park and will need to turn around.

Nearby Sites:

Worcester County: Assateague Island National Seashore & Assateague Island State Park ◾ Castaways RV Resort & Campgrounds ◾ E.A. Vaughn Wildlife Management Area ◾ Ocean City Inlet & Sunset Park ◾ Pocomoke State Forest – Hickory Point Cypress Swamp Natural Area ◾ Truitts Landing & Other Bayside Landings ◾ West Ocean City Pond

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

Habitats:

Bottomland DeciduousHedgerows Reclaimed Industrial SiteUrban or Small Town Landscape Hay Meadows, Pasture, Grass Field Forested SwampFreshwater Marsh or FloodplainFreshwater Pond, Lake, or ReservoirMud Flats (Tidal or Non-Tidal)Rivers & Streams

Features and Amenities:

BeginnersBicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)Free - No Entry FeeHabitat Restoration ProjectHiking/Walking TrailsParkingPets AllowedWater ViewWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families

Type:

Community and Urban ParksPonds, Lakes, and Reservoirs