At a Glance
Hours: Beach, Boardwalk, and Wetlands Overlook Park open dawn to dusk.
Cost: The birding spots mentioned are free. There is a beach use fee for out-of-town residents during the summer.
Tips: Bring a scope. ◾ You will sometimes encounter curious passers-by. They usually appreciate a comment on what you’re looking for/at, and a view through your scope. Residents are usually quite friendly. ◾ Restrooms are at the Wetlands Overlook Park Visitor Center and the Welcome Center at the Boardwalk, which is open dawn to dusk year-round.
Best Seasons: Winter for water birds on the Bay; spring and fall migration at the marsh. Summer is difficult because of the crowds.
Breeding Bird Atlas Blocks: North Beach NE, North Beach CE
9023 Bay Avenue, North Beach, MD 20714
North Beach is a century-old resort town of modest homes, restaurants, civic pride, and a mile-long frontage on the Chesapeake Bay in Calvert County. There are several spots in North Beach that make this a go-to birding spot for Chesapeake Bay birding, especially in winter. Most birding spots are reached from MD Route 261/Bay Avenue or Chesapeake Avenue, which run north-south as the main thoroughfares through town.
At the Sally Donaldson Welcome Center (on Bay Avenue just south of 5th Street), a boardwalk runs along the beach and a sturdy fishing pier extends 150 yards into the Bay, with nearby sandy beaches and rocky breakwaters; this is a good place to scan for waterfowl, grebes, loons, and gulls in winter. Park near the fishing pier (on-street parking and paved lots on Chesapeake Avenue) and walk out on the pier; also one can walk along the boardwalk for different perspectives. Just north of the pier, the beach juts out on a triangle, and here, Atlantic Avenue provides a good viewing spot to scan the water in winter. Turn right on 7th Street or 9th Street and then right (north) on Atlantic Avenue, which dead-ends north of 9th Street. Parking here is for residents only, so stand near your car at all times, or park further back and walk up.
Another must-stop for birders is the town-owned Wetlands Overlook Park (aka North Beach Marsh), at 4030 11th Street. This is a small nature park that includes a short boardwalk and two gazebos for viewing the extensive wetlands. This little spot boasts a long list of rarities that have dropped in from time to time, and has the largest eBird list in North Beach, and in fact is the #1 eBird hotspot in Calvert County. To reach Wetlands Overlook Park, from MD Route 261/Bay Avenue, turn west onto 9th Street and then right (north) onto Dayton Avenue, which ends at the park. Park outside the chain link fence and walk in. Restrooms are located in the tiny Visitor Center, on the left as you enter the fenced area. Wetlands Overlook Park is open year-round from dawn to dusk.
Another excellent viewing opportunity is nearby at Walton Beach Nature Preserve, another town-owned facility located at 9371 Bay Avenue (on the right as you head north). This tiny park – less than 3 acres – has a sandy beach planted with native grasses and a rock-edged shoreline. The sheltered waters and old posts in the water are a favored resting spot for waterfowl and gulls. There is a sandy lane, blocked with a chain, that leads into the park, with space to park one or two cars next to the chain (parallel to the roadway, not head-in). If that space is occupied, you can turn around and go a little south on Bay Avenue to park at a power company utility area on the west side of the road, at about 9314 Bay Avenue. Although marked “No Entry,” it is permissible to walk into Walton Beach Nature Preserve on the sandy lane. No pets, please. Note that the boundary line between Calvert and Anne Arundel Counties runs on a diagonal across Bay Avenue just north of Walton Beach, where Beach Avenue intersects Bay Avenue.
The town of Chesapeake Beach immediately to the south of North Beach (the two are known collectively as the “Twin Beaches”) also provides excellent birding, so check that entry on this Birder’s Guide and be sure to stop in.
As of April 2020, 246 species have been reported at the Wetlands Overlook Park/North Beach marsh, representing the habitat diversity and the strategic location of this little resort town. The North Beach Marsh is the #1 eBird hotspot in Calvert County in terms of number of species. There are a number of separate eBird hotspots covering North Beach:
- North Beach– Marsh – 246+ species
- North Beach–fishing pier – 108+ species
- North Beach–Anne Arundel waters (as viewed from Atlantic Avenue looking north-northeast) – 93+ species
- North Beach–Calvert waters (as viewed from Atlantic Avenue or elsewhere, looking due east or south) – 120+ species
The town is best known as a winter spot for loons, grebes, scoters, scaup, Common Golden-eye, Long-tailed Duck, and bay ducks in general. Northern Gannets sometimes are off-shore in winter.
Breeding species include Bald Eagle, Osprey, Wood Duck, and Marsh Wren. In summer, look for Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, egrets, and terns, including Common Tern.
There may be some surprise shorebirds in migration, most likely at the Wetlands Overlook Park but possible just about anywhere. Wetlands Overlook Park/North Beach Marsh is good for sparrows in migration. Rails are possible at any time in any of the wetlands. The North Beach Marsh and Walton Beach Nature Preserve became famous when they hosted a Roseate Spoonbill for a few weeks in early summer of 2018.
Two free paved public parked lots: 7th St. & Bay Avenue, and 5th St. & Chesapeake Ave. Also on-street parking, but watch for “Residents Only” restrictions and time limits.
Several sites within North Beach offer wheelchair-accessible viewing, such as the boardwalk and Fishing Pier, Wetlands Overlook Park, and Atlantic Avenue. ◾ North Beach is a charming small town with friendly residents who are interested in nature. There are lots of restaurants and shopping, making this an ideal location for families or for birding couple dates. ◾ Kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and bicycles can be rented by the hour or by the day at the Welcome Center. See https://www.northbeachmd.org/welcome-center/pages/beach and scroll to the bottom of the page for rental fees. ◾ The Beach Towns Water Trail runs along the Bay shoreline and connects the towns of North Beach and Chesapeake Beach. There is also a water trail along Fishing Creek in Chesapeake Beach. These water trails are described in the Calvert County Water Trails brochure. ◾ There is no chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society in Calvert County, but many birders participate in MOS through the Anne Arundel Bird Club or the Patuxent Bird Club; both of these MOS chapters offer field trips and meetings with informative programs, all free and open to the public. ◾ In addition, the Southern MD Audubon Society serves birders in Charles, Calvert, St. Mary’s, and Prince George’s Counties.
From the Chesapeake Bay Bridge or the Annapolis area: From US Route 50, take Exit 23 at Parole and go south on MD Route 2/Solomons Island Road. At MD Route 260/Chesapeake Beach Road, turn left (east). MD Route 260 will end at a T-intersection at MD Route 261/Bayside Road. This intersection lies within the town of Chesapeake Beach, most of which lies to the right (south). To go to North Beach, turn left and head north less than a mile. North Beach starts at 1st Street. Proceed north to 3rd Street and turn right (east), then left in one block to go north on Bay Avenue. The Sally Donaldson Welcome Center and the fishing pier and boardwalk will be ahead on the right.
From the south in Calvert County: Take MD Route 2 to MD Route 261/Plum Point Road and go east. Route 261 will turn north near the Chesapeake Bay and will take you through the town of Chesapeake Beach. Continue north on Route 261/Bayside Avenue through Chesapeake Beach. North Beach starts at 1st Street and Route 261. Proceed north on Route 261 to 3rd Street and turn right (east), then left in one block to go north on Bay Avenue. The Sally Donaldson Welcome Center and the fishing pier and boardwalk will be ahead on the right.
From the south in Charles County: Take US Route 301 north to Upper Marlboro. At Upper Marlboro, take MD Route 4 south and remain on Route 4 for 6 miles, then take the exit for MD Route 260/Chesapeake Beach Road eastbound. MD Route 260 will end at a T-intersection at MD Route 261/Bayside Road. This intersection lies within the town of Chesapeake Beach, most of which lies to the right (south). To go to North Beach, turn left and head north less than a mile. North Beach starts at 1st Street. Proceed north to 3rd Street and turn right (east), then left in one block to go north on Bay Avenue. The Sally Donaldson Welcome Center and the fishing pier and boardwalk will be ahead on the right.
From points north and west in Prince George’s County: Take US Route 301 to Upper Marlboro. At Upper Marlboro, take MD Route 4 south and remain on Route 4 for 6 miles, then take the exit for MD Route 260/Chesapeake Beach Road eastbound. MD Route 260 will end at a T-intersection at MD Route 261/Bayside Road. This intersection lies within the town of Chesapeake Beach, most of which lies to the right (south). To go to North Beach, turn left and head north less than a mile. North Beach starts at 1st Street. Proceed north to 3rd Street and turn right (east), then left in one block to go north on Bay Avenue. The Sally Donaldson Welcome Center and the fishing pier and boardwalk will be ahead on the right.
Calvert County: American Chestnut Land Trust – Parkers Creek Preserve, Battle Creek Cypress Swamp Sanctuary / Gatewood Preserve / Biscoe Gray Heritage Farm, Calvert Cliffs State Park, Chesapeake Beach, Flag Ponds Nature Park, Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum, Kings Landing Park & Huntingtown Natural Resources Management Area, Solomons Island
Bottomland DeciduousConifers Urban or Small Town Landscape Old Fields, Shrubby MeadowsSandy Beach or Dunes Forested SwampFreshwater Marsh or FloodplainFreshwater Pond, Lake, or ReservoirJetties & SeawallsMud Flats (Tidal or Non-Tidal)Open Ocean, Bay, or EstuaryRivers & StreamsSalt or Brackish Marsh
Features:BeginnersBoardwalkFishingFree - No Entry Fee at Any TimeHabitat Restoration ProjectHiking/Walking TrailsNative Plant Garden or Meadow/Pollinator PlantsNature Education ProgramsObservation Platform or TowerOvernight Lodging or CabinsParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaPlaygroundRestroomsSnack Bar, Camp Store, Food ConcessionsWater ViewWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families
Type:#1 Hotspot in County or CityChesapeake Bay Western ShoreDriving Tours (Birding By Car)Water Trails