Perryman Park & Forest Greens Park Area (Perryman Peninsula)
Perryman Park – 101 Ford’s Lane, Aberdeen, MD 21001
Forest Greens Park – 2050 Clubhouse Road, Aberdeen, MD 21001
Located on the coastal plain in southern Harford County, the Perryman peninsula lies between the Chesapeake Bay and the Bush River. The majority of the peninsula is occupied by the U.S. Military’s Aberdeen Proving Grounds (restricted – no public access), but a small residential area at the northwest corner of the peninsula on the east shore of the Bush River holds three small community parks that are birding gems: Perryman Park (88 acres) and the nearby Forest Greens Park (110 acres) and Perryman Forest (31 acres). Perryman Park and Forest Greens Park are managed by the Harford County Parks and Recreation Department, while Perryman Forest is owned by the private Harford Land Trust. The land near the parks is a mix of suburban residential development, farms, and forests. Locations in this area offer access to view the open water of the Bush River as well as the smaller Church Creek. Habitats include tidal marshland, ponds and impoundments, farm fields, and forest.
Perryman Park consists of gently-rolling hills, undeveloped woodland, brushy area, and wetlands, with a flat, ½ mile walking trail that circles a man-made wetland (an old dredged material containment facility). In addition, there is access to the waterfront along Church Creek, a tributary of the Bush River. There is a small gravel parking area at the entrance at 101 Ford’s Lane. The majority of Perryman Park is undeveloped at this time.
The nearby Forest Greens Park, at 2050 Clubhouse Road, contains substantial woodlands and a tidal inlet and associated marshes. The man-made “flatwood” lake contains a year-round supply of wild celery, wild rice, duck weed, and elodea, all of which serve as food for waterfowl. The Forest Greens tract is managed by the County in partnership with the Harford Land Trust. The tract features a 1.5 mile natural surface nature trail through the forest conservation area. In addition, local residents have arranged with Harford County to close off Gulf Drive to vehicular traffic; the road, which runs south of the lake, is open to hikers, pedestrians, and cyclists.
Perryman Forest, located at the intersection of Forest Greens Road and Mitchell Drive and adjacent to Forests Greens Park, is a wooded tract with natural surface, unmarked foot-trails. The tidal and non-tidal wetlands on the site are hydrologically connected to the Bush River and subsequently to the Chesapeake Bay. Perryman Forest was acquired by the Harford Land Trust in 2018 after a campaign to raise the purchase price of almost $1 million dollars, most of which was contributed by Aberdeen Proving Grounds, and the remainder by members of the community. In fact, the preservation of Perryman Forest had long been a dream of the surrounding community, which had been working toward its preservation for many years. Perryman Forest is characterized by upland forest and wetlands, also known as “tree swamps,” and vernal pools. This type of ecosystem is only found in the Coastal Plain portion of Harford County, and is of limited occurrence.
In addition to birding the parks, it is also worth doing some birding along the roadsides in the area. For example, fields along MD Route 159 (Perryman Road) may hold Horned Larks and American Woodcock, along with migrating plovers and shorebirds, especially when wet weather has produced puddles. Canning House Road is also a good place to check. Early summer and spring have produced rare vagrants (e.g., Ruff) in wet fields and impoundments on the peninsula.
Another good nearby spot for shorebirds and waders are the stormwater retention ponds in the Eastgate industrial park on Woodley Road (see Directions below). The industrial park is still under construction, and the location and topography of the accompanying stormwater ponds may change over time. Currently, there are three or four ponds located on the northwest side of Woodley Road (left side as you drive north). Be extremely cautious here because of heavy construction equipment as well as tractor trailers coming to the businesses. The Woodley Road ponds were a hotspot of shorebird activity in the summer of 2019, when a couple of rarities turned up.
There are five eBird hotspots that cover this area:
The birds found on the Perryman peninsula are in general representative of the coastal plain habitat, including open water, marshlands, deciduous forest, farm fields, and suburban yards. The varied habitat presents an opportunity to find some birds that are less common in central Maryland, notably shorebirds.
Year-round residents include Canada Goose; Mallard; Great Blue Heron; Black and Turkey Vultures; Bald Eagle; Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks; Killdeer; Ring-billed Gull; Great Horned and Barred Owls; Mourning Dove; Belted Kingfisher; Red-bellied, Downy, Hairy, and Pileated Woodpeckers; Northern Flicker; Blue Jay; American and Fish Crows; Carolina Chickadee; Tufted Titmouse; White-breasted Nuthatch; Carolina Wren; Eastern Bluebird; American Robin; Northern Mockingbird; European Starling; Song Sparrow; Eastern Towhee; Northern Cardinal; Red-winged Blackbird; Common Grackle; Brown-headed Cowbird; and American Goldfinch.
Notable birds in the warm months include Wood Duck; Green Heron; Osprey; Yellow-billed Cuckoo; Chimney Swift; Ruby-throated Hummingbird; House Wren; Blue-gray Gnatcatcher; Cedar Waxwing; Common Yellowthroat; Chipping Sparrow; Field Sparrow; Scarlet Tanager; Indigo Bunting; Blue Grosbeak; both orioles; and a variety of flycatchers, vireos, and swallows.
Wintering species may include Gadwall; American Wigeon; American Black Duck; Northern Shoveler; Green-winged Teal; Ring-necked Duck; both scaup; Hooded Merganser; Yellow-bellied Sapsucker; Horned Lark; Brown Creeper; both kinglets; Hermit Thrush; Yellow-rumped Warbler; White-throated and Swamp Sparrows; Dark-eyed Junco; and Rusty Blackbird.
Birds that have been found in migration include Tundra Swan; Blue-winged Teal; Pied-billed Grebe; Double-crested Cormorant; American Coot; Rusty Blackbird; and a variety of vireos, thrushes, and warblers. The wet fields, impoundments and stormwater retention ponds on the peninsula are especially good for migrating shorebirds, including Black-bellied and Semipalmated Plovers; Sanderling; Stilt, Baird’s, Least, Pectoral, Semipalmated, Western, Spotted, and Solitary Sandpipers; both yellowlegs; Dunlin; Wilson’s Snipe; and Red-necked Phalarope.
At Forest Greens Park, at Perryman Park, or at your risk along roadsides. See trail map at link at left for parking locations at the parks. Be cautious if parking along the road.
The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Harford Bird Club, which offers field trips and meetings with informative programs, all free and open to the public.
To Perryman Park from I-95: Take Exit 80 for MD Route 543/Riverside Parkway South. Continue south on MD Route 543 to its end at US Route 40; follow the signs to loop around and merge onto Route 40 Eastbound. Follow Route 40 East and at the intersection with MD Route 7/Old Philadelphia Road, turn right (east). In a short distance, make another right (south) onto MD Route 159/Perryman Road. Follow Perryman Road to Fords Lane and make a right (west). Perryman Park is located near the end of Fords Lane; parking will be on the right.
To reach Forest Greens Park from Perryman Park: use Fords Lane to return to MD Route 159/Perryman Road and turn right (south). Follow MD Route 150 to the intersection with Clubhouse Drive and turn right (north). In just a tenth of a mile, there is a small pull-off on the right where Clubhouse Drive intersects with Gulf Drive. You can park there and explore Gulf Drive and the adjacent nature trail on foot, or continue in your car another 0.1 mile, crossing the wetland on a causeway, to where Clubhouse Drive makes a sharp turn to the left. There is a small paved parking area tucked into the curve of the road and a trail-head across the road from the parking area.
There is also a small pull-off where MD Route 159 ends at the Bush River, and where the railroad bridge goes across. This is a good spot to scan the water for waterfowl, gulls, loons, and so on.
Also take the time explore along Canning House Road, located on the west side of MD Route 159, about halfway between Fords Lane and Clubhouse Road. Scan the fields on both sides of the road for field birds. Do not leave the public roadway as all the land here is privately owned.
To reach the Woodley Road retention ponds, from MD Route 159/Perryman Road, turn east onto Chelsea Road, which will bring you into a large industrial park. Consult a good map, as Chelsea Road has been split into several sections by the construction of the industrial park. Continue on Chelsea Road in a southward direction to the intersection with Woodley Road. Turn left to go north on Woodley Road. Watch for the retention ponds on the west (left) side of the road, behind a chain link fence. There is no access to this private property behind the fence so be sure to stay on the public road. Park carefully on the east shoulder of the road, cross the road, and observe the pond through the fence. There are several ponds along Woodley Road, so be sure to drive all the way to the north end of the road to check them all. Be alert for trucks and heavy machinery along the road.