At a Glance
Hours: March – October: 6 am – 9 pm; November – February: 6 am – 6 pm.
Tips: A scope can be helpful at Howard Pond, Hatchery Pond, and the marsh adjacent to West Meadow Park. ◾ The ballfields at the parks can be very busy during the spring, summer, and fall. Go early in the morning during sports seasons. ◾ The parks may be partially or fully closed because of flooding after rains; call the town to ask if the parks are open. ◾ Restrooms are located in West Meadow Park.
Best Seasons: Year-round.
Breeding Bird Atlas Blocks: Elkton NW, Elkton NE
Local MOS Chapter: Cecil Bird Club
Elkton – Meadow Park, Eder Park, Hatchery Park, & Howard’s Pond
West Meadow Park – 230 Delaware Avenue, Elkton, MD 21921
NOTE: These parks in Elkton are subject to flooding and some or all may be closed after heavy rains. Call before visiting to ask if the parks are open.
East and West Meadow Parks (aka John P. Stanley Park), Eder Park, Hatchery Park, and Howard’s Pond Recreation Area are adjoining parks owned and managed by the Town of Elkton in northeastern Cecil County. The parks, constituting over 250 acres in all, lie in the floodplain of the Big Elk Creek, and contain prime habitat for a large variety of waterfowl, waders, shorebirds, and passerines. The parkland is a remarkable natural area right in the heart of the historic town of Elkton, founded in 1694.
West Meadow Park, on the southwest side of Delaware Avenue, contains ball fields surrounded by hardwood and coniferous woodlands. It is bordered on the north and west by Big Elk Creek. A one-way road follows a rectangular route around the ball fields, and goes past good habitat along Big Elk Creek. Near the corner where the road turns to the southeast, you will notice a footbridge in the woods to the right; the footbridge crosses Big Elk Creek, carrying a trail that leads into Eder Park (see below). A section of the loop road goes past a woodland and some picnic pavilions. At thesouth corner of West Meadow Park is an extensive freshwater marsh, visible from one of the picnic pavilions; it is worth stopping to take a good look at the marsh in any season.
East Meadow Park, on the northeast side of Delaware Avenue, has a front section with a sports field. A small gravel parking area is near some pine trees and a small pond. A blue-blazed foot-trail — part of the 199-mile Mason-Dixon Trail — follows the edge of the pond and shortly reaches a nice wooded section along Big Elk Creek. Prothonotary Warblers have nested here.
Hatchery Park can be reached on foot via the Mason-Dixon Trail from East Meadow Park. This park was formerly a fish hatchery, operated by the state until about 1990. Ten rectangular fish-rearing ponds are still present (see satellite image at the map link below); nowadays the water levels may vary from empty to full. The Mason-Dixon Trail passes the ponds before entering the woods on the east edge of the park. Check each pond during the warm months for herons, egrets, and shorebirds, and in the cold months for waterfowl. This area also hosts a good selection of swallows in the spring and early summer. Near the north-east corner of the hatchery area, a trail goes up a hill into the woods, to emerge at an old reservoir that used to feed the hatchery ponds. Barred Owls and Red-shouldered Hawks nest nearby. There are also a couple of small, round ponds at the south end of Hatchery Park; the surrounding vegetation is a good place to check for passerines in migration. The ponds are adjacent to another access point for Hatchery Park: a small lane called Normira Street (may show as Glen Mary Road on some maps) goes north off Delaware Avenue and ends at a parking area near the south-most ponds of Hatchery Park. Note that Normira Street looks like a private drive, in that it goes past a couple of private residences before reaching the town-owned parcel that is a southward-extension of Hatchery Park.
Howard Pond Recreation Area (aka Cow Pond) is on Main Street, north of Big Elk Creek, and adjacent to East Meadow Park and Hatchery Pond. Howard Pond cannot be reached on foot from either of these areas since there is no foot-bridge over Big Elk Creek. The open waters of the pond are good for waterfowl in winter; and swallows and swifts hunt over the pond in summer. There is a reforested area and old field adjacent to the pond. Herons and egrets like to hang out here as well.
Finally, we come to Eder Park, which is on Howard Street southwest of the intersection with Delaware Avenue. This little park is mostly occupied by ball fields, but the back section along Big Elk Creek is wooded, and is good for warblers and other passerines in migration. This is the section of Eder Park that connects to West Meadow Park via the foot-bridge over the Big Elk Creek, as mentioned above.
Over 130 species have been reported on eBird from West Meadow Park and the adjacent parklands. Howard’s Pond has its own eBird hotspot (https://ebird.org/hotspot/L4005496).
Rusty Blackbirds may be seen in damp woodlands at the south end of West Meadow Park from late fall into the winter months. Waterfowl use West Meadow Park‘s freshwater marsh during the winter and during migration. The marsh is a good spot to check for Wood Duck and for Blue-winged Teal, which sometimes linger through April. In spring and summer, West Meadow Park usually hosts nesting Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, Warbling Vireo, and Acadian Flycatcher, all of which nest in the park. The freshwater marsh holds a variety of herons and egrets during the summer months. Osprey nest on the light posts at the ball fields. In 2010, a Sandhill Crane showed up at the ball fields in July, and stayed for a couple of weeks. If the ball fields or grassy areas have any puddles, check carefully for shorebirds.
Nesting Pine Warblers, Black-and-white Warblers, and Chipping Sparrows can be found in the large pines near the parking area for East Meadow Park. Check the pond near the East Meadow parking area for passerines that associate with water, such as Belted Kingfisher and Common Yellowthroat. Prothonotary Warblers nest along the Big Elk Creek near the Mason-Dixon Trail that connects East Meadow and Hatchery Parks, and it is also a good spot for flycatchers and vireos in spring and summer, and Hermit Thrushes in winter.
At Hatchery Park, herons, egrets, and occasional shorebirds can be found in the former fish propagation ponds. Also found here are flycatchers, swallows, warblers, and vireos.
At Howard’s Pond, check the wetlands behind the large pond for roosting Black-Crowned Night-Herons. Howard’s Pond sometimes holds a good assortment of waterfowl in winter and early spring, and hosts swallows, Chimney Swifts, and herons and egrets in summer. Check the woods adjacent to Big Elk Creek for an assortment of passerines, including Warbling Vireo, in spring and summer. There may be herons, egrets, and shorebirds present near a small waterfall in the Creek, visible from the north side of Main Street across from Howard Pond’s parking area.
The woods along Big Elk Creek near the foot-trail between Eder Park and West Meadow Park are good for passerines during migration.
Paved or gravel lots at each park. “No Parking” areas are clearly signed.
The loop road in West Meadow Park makes this a good birding spot for those who are mobility-impaired, as it is possible to bird from or near the car. There is also good viewing from the car at Howard’s Pond. ◾ These parks are good for beginning birders and birders with families. The town has many nearby places to eat. ◾ There is a canoe/kayak launch site at nearby Marina Park (190 South Bridge Street), as well as tennis courts and a basketball court. Despite its name, there is no actual marina at Marina Park. The park is located at the site of the historic commercial docks that were active when Elkton was a bustling port town. ◾ The Mason-Dixon Trail, 199 miles long, goes through East Meadow Park. ◾ While in Elkton, take some time to admire the town’s colonial and Victorian architecture, including the Little Wedding Chapel on Main Street, the destination of many eloping couples in years gone by. ◾ The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Cecil Bird Club, which offers field trips and meetings with informative programs, all free and open to the public.
To reach West Meadow Park from I-95: Take Exit 109 for MD Route 279/Elkton-Newark Road south toward Elkton. In 2.1 miles, turn left (south) onto MD Route 268/North Street. In 0.9 miles, turn left (east) onto MD Route 7/Main Street. In 0.4 miles, turn right (southeast) onto MD Route 7/Delaware Avenue. West Meadow Park is about 0.3 miles ahead, on the right (southwest) side of the road.
The entrance for East Meadow Park is on the left (east) side of Delaware Avenue, just 100 feet or so past the entrance to West Meadow Park.
To reach the parking area for Hatchery Park: Continue southeast on MD Route 7/Delaware Avenue, past both West and East Meadow Parks, and look for Normira Avenue on your left, between Creswell Avenue (which is a horseshoe) and Park Towne Drive. Turn left onto Normira Avenue and proceed past the private residences to the parking area near a couple of small ponds on the right.
To reach Howard’s Pond: Go northeast on MD Route 7 to the intersection with Main Street. Turn right to go northeast on East Main Street. Howard’s Pond will be on the right, past the residences at 240 through 256 East Main Street. Turn into the gravel lot and park.
To reach Eder Park: Return to Main Street and turn left to go southeast. Turn left onto MD Route 7/Delaware Avenue; go one block and turn right onto Howard Street. Eder Park will be on the left just past the cemetery. If the head-in parking adjacent to Eder Park is full, there is ample parking across the street in a large public lot.
Fair Hill NRMA; Conowingo Dam?Fisherman’s Park (Harford County Side); Octoraro Creek Trail at Conowingo Park; Woodlawn Wildlife Area/New Beginnings; Elkton Marsh& Elk River Park; Elk Neck State Forest; Elk Neck State Park -Turkey Point; North East Community Park; Perryville Community Park.
Bottomland DeciduousConifersHedgerowsUpland Deciduous Garden or ArboretumLawn, Ballfields, Golf CourseUrban or Small Town Landscape Old Fields, Shrubby Meadows Forested SwampFreshwater Marsh or FloodplainFreshwater Pond, Lake, or ReservoirMud Flats (Tidal or Non-Tidal)Rivers & Streams
Features:Ball Fields or Other SportsBeginnersBicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)Boat or Canoe/Kayak LaunchFishingFree - No Entry Fee at Any TimeHiking/Walking TrailsParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaPlaygroundWater ViewWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families
Type:Community and Urban ParksDriving Tour (Roadside Birding)Ponds, Lakes, and Reservoirs