At a Glance

Hours: Sunrise to sunset. This small preserve is embedded in a residential neighborhood and birders are asked to be respectful of the residents’ privacy.

Cost: Free.

Tips: Early morning is best. ◾ Some trails are natural surface and can be muddy; wear waterproof hiking boots. ◾ No restrooms on-site. Closest restrooms are located in businesses such as grocery stores on MD Route 3 north of the intersection with MD Route 424.

Best Seasons: Fall, winter, spring.

Breeding Bird Atlas Block: Odenton CW

Local MOS Chapter: Anne Arundel Bird Club

Piney Orchard Nature Preserve

8797 Piney Orchard Parkway, Odenton, MD 21113
(410) 672-4273

The Piney Orchard Nature Preserve is a little gem of a natural area in northwestern Anne Arundel County, located within the Piney Orchard residential community. The land here is owned in part by the management of the residential community and in part by Anne Arundel County. Situated in the floodplain of the Little Patuxent River, the area has over 300 acres of wetlands, woodlands, open grassy areas, sandy dry stream beds, and freshwater ponds. The Piney Orchard Nature Preserve and the adjoining county lands are bounded by the Little Patuxent River to the south, the WB&A Hiker-Biker Trail to the east, Patuxent Road to the west, and the Piney Orchard residential neighborhoods to the north.

A number of rare, threatened, and endangered species of plants have been identified within the Preserve. Approximately 5 miles of walking trails and paved bike trails provide access to the Preserve and connect with the many paved paths within the residential community of Piney Orchard. Interpretive signs and a boardwalk with observation platforms enhance the Preserve.

The Preserve is the site of a former sand and gravel mining operation, and the many small ponds that dot the property are remnants of that mining. Wetland restoration efforts  began in 1987 at what is now the Preserve, and the Preserve was opened to the public in 1996.

Eventually, the adjacent WB&A Trail that runs past the Preserve will connect to a portion of the WB&A trail in Prince George’s County, and will be part of the American Discovery Trail, stretching from the Atlantic Ocean at Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware, to the Pacific Ocean at Point Reyes National Seashore near San Francisco, CA.

Another aspect of note is that Piney Orchard Nature Preserve is situated quite close to the Patuxent Research Refuge (see North Tract and South Tract in this Birder’s Guide): the Refuge is just west of the Piney Orchard Preserve, on the other side of the Amtrak railroad line. No doubt the Preserve benefits from spillover of birds from the Refuge’s 12,000+ acres.

Because the core of the Preserve is privately owned, birders visiting here should consider themselves guests and should be on their best behavior, respecting the privacy of area residents. There is no official website that describes the Preserve, but the trail maps at the link at left have been provided by community residents.

Birdlife:

About 165 species have been reported on eBird from the Piney Orchard Nature Preserve. Although relatively small, the Preserve benefits from its good habitat and from its proximity to the much larger Patuxent Research Refuge.

Breeding Season Species: Wood Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Chimney Swift, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Killdeer, Great Egret, Little Blue Heron, Green Heron, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Osprey, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Acadian Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Kingbird, Great Crested Flycatcher, White-eyed and Red-eyed Vireos, swallows, Wood Thrush, Brown Thrasher, Chipping Sparrow, orioles, Summer and Scarlet Tanagers, Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting.

Spring and Fall Migration: Blue-winged Teal, American Wigeon, Hooded Merganser, Green-winged Teal, Ring-necked Duck, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Black-billed Cuckoo, Least Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, occasional gulls (Laughing, Ring-billed, Herring, Great Black-backed), Caspian Tern, American Bittern, Northern Harrier, flycatchers, vireos, thrushes, Rusty Blackbird, 27 species of warblers.

Winter:  Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Brown Creeper, Winter Wren, Hermit Thrush, kinglets, Fox Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow.

Year-round: Great Blue Heron, Black and Turkey Vultures, Bald Eagle, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Barred Owl, Belted Kingfisher, woodpeckers, jays and crows, small woodland songbirds such as wrens, chickadees and titmice, Cedar Waxwing.

Parking:

There is a small paved parking lot on Sandy Walk Way. If attempting to find on-street parking, be careful not to park in spaces reserved for residents.

Special Features:

The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Anne Arundel Bird Club, which offers field trips and meetings with informative programs, all free and open to the public.

Directions:

From the Annapolis area and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge: From US Route 50, take Exit 16 for MD Route 424/Davidsonville Road. Go north on Davidsonville Road, staying straight at the intersection with MD Route 3, where MD Route 424 ends and the name of the road changes to Conway Road. Stay on Conway Road, heading northwest, and in 1.2 miles from the MD Route 3 intersection, turn right (north) onto Patuxent Road. Follow Patuxent Road generally north and northwest; it will wind a bit. In about 2.4 miles, the road curves right to turn northeast, and at that point becomes Piney Orchard Parkway. The entrance to the Preserve will be on your right at Sandy Walk Way; turn right onto Sandy Walk Way and then right into a small paved parking area. To reach the trailhead, walk south a short distance on Sandy Walk Way and cross the street to the trailhead for the Lone Wolf Trail. See the trail maps at the link at left.

From the Baltimore area: At the south end of the Baltimore Beltway/I-695, take Exit 4 for I-97 South. Stay on I-97 for 9.9 miles and take Exit 7 for MD Route 3 south. Follow MD Route 3 south for 5.2 miles and then turn right onto Conway Road (the road to the left at this intersection will be MD Route 424/Davidsonville Road). Stay on Conway Road, heading northwest, and in 1.2 miles from the MD Route 3 intersection, turn right (north) onto Patuxent Road. Follow Patuxent Road generally north and northwest; it will wind a bit. In about 2.4 miles, the road curves right to turn northeast, and at that point becomes Piney Orchard Parkway. The entrance to the Preserve will be on your right at Sandy Walk Way; turn right onto Sandy Walk Way and then right into a small paved parking area. To reach the trailhead, walk south a short distance on Sandy Walk Way and cross the street to the trailhead for the Lone Wolf Trail. See the trail maps at the link at left.

From Bowie and points south, such as Upper Marlboro or Waldorf: Take MD Route 301 (Crain Highway) north; upon reaching the interchange with US Route 50, continue straight, passing under Route 50, and continuing north on what is now MD Route 3. Follow MD Route 3 for 4.7 miles to the intersection with MD Route 424/Davidsonville Road. The road to the left (west) is Conway Road; turn left onto Conway Road. Stay on Conway Road, heading northwest, and in 1.2 miles from the MD Route 3 intersection, turn right (north) onto Patuxent Road. Follow Patuxent Road generally north and northwest; it will wind a bit. In about 2.4 miles, the road curves right to turn northeast, and at that point becomes Piney Orchard Parkway. The entrance to the Preserve will be on your right at Sandy Walk Way; turn right onto Sandy Walk Way and then right into a small paved parking area. To reach the trailhead, walk south a short distance on Sandy Walk Way and cross the street to the trailhead for the Lone Wolf Trail. See the trail maps at the link at left.

Nearby Sites:

Anne Arundel County: Davidsonville Park, Fort Smallwood Park, Greenbury Point, Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary, Kinder Farm Park, Lake Waterford Park, Oxbow Natural Area, Patuxent Research Refuge – North Tract, Quiet Waters Park, Swan Creek Wetlands | Cox Creek Dredged Material Containment Facility

Prince George’s County: Fran Uhler Natural Area, Governor Bridge Natural Area, Greenbelt (National) Park, Greenbelt Lake Municipal Park (Buddy Attick Lake Park), Lake Artemesia Natural Area, Patuxent Research Refuge – South Tract (National Wildlife Visitor Center), Patuxent River Park – Jug Bay Natural Area, Patuxent River Park – Mount Calvert Historical & Archaeological Park, Schoolhouse Pond

Habitats:

Bottomland DeciduousConifers Suburban Neighborhood Forested SwampFreshwater Marsh or FloodplainFreshwater Pond, Lake, or ReservoirRivers & Streams

Features:

BeginnersBoardwalkFree - No Entry FeeHiking/Walking TrailsObservation Platform or TowerParkingPets AllowedWater ViewYoung People / Families

Type:

Community and Urban ParksPrivate Sanctuaries and Preserves