Point Lookout State Park
11175 Point Lookout Road, Scotland, MD 20687
Point Lookout State Park is one of the premiere birding locations in Maryland – in fact it is the #2 spot in Maryland in terms of the number of bird species reported on eBird. Point Lookout is also the #1 eBird hotspot in St. Mary’s County. Located at the confluence of the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay, it is a migrant trap and has a long list of rarities to its credit. Habitats include sandy beaches, rock jetties and seawalls, Loblolly Pine woods, deciduous woods, grassy open areas, and scrub-shrub.
There are a number of good birding spots within the park, each with its own merits. The Point/Lighthouse area is often a good spot to watch raptor migration or to scope for diving ducks, gulls, terns, loons, Brown Pelicans, and Great Cormorants in the winter. From the picnic area north to the historic fort, there is much scrubby habitat that provides excellent birding year-round, but particularly during migration. The campground and the adjacent Civil War Museum are where you are most likely to find Brown-headed Nuthatches. Red-headed Woodpeckers may be found along the Periwinkle Trail behind the museum. The Fishing Pier juts out 710 feet into the Bay and provides excellent views of waterfowl in winter. Similarly, the Causeway, with deep water close to the road, offers close views of waterfowl on the Bay side.
On the north side of the park is Jacob’s Farm, accessed off of Cornfield Harbor Road. Although primarily a dedicated hunting area, the fields there host an abundance of sparrows. The marshes along Cornfield Harbor Drive, just outside of the park boundary, are a well-known location to find Sedge Wren in winter, although these birds are rare. Additionally, the ferry to Smith Island departs from the Point Lookout Marina and provides an opportunity to see pelagic species such as Wilson’s Storm-Petrel in July when this species sometimes ventures into the lower Chesapeake Bay.
The park provides many visitor amenities: boat launch, canoe rental, camp fire programs, camp sites (both tent and RVs), cabins, park store, dump station, fishing, flat water canoeing and kayaking, hiking trails, hunting, points of historic interest, pet trail, picnic area, playground, swimming, Civil War Museum/Marshland Nature Center, and picnic pavilion.
Over 290 species have been reported on eBird for the park as a whole. There are separate eBird hotspots within the park:
Specialty breeding species include Red-headed Woodpecker, Yellow-throated Warbler, and Brown-headed Nuthatch.
The park is known in winter for the wide variety of waterfowl seen from the many vantage points looking over the water, 33 species in all. The offshore waters are good for Pied-billed, Horned, Red-necked, and even Eared Grebes, from October through May. Clapper Rail, Virginia Rail, and Sora might be heard in fall and spring; Common Gallinule has been spotted in spring (rare); and American Coots are common October through May. Sandhill Cranes sometimes make an appearance during fall migration. Red-throated and Common Loons are regular from early fall through spring.
This is a fairly good spot for shorebirds: although they do not appear in large numbers, the diversity is good, with 30 species reported. Be sure to check the jetties and rip-rap on the shores for Purple Sandpipers. Any shallow bit of water, especially with mudflats, can hold other shorebirds.
On rare occasions, fall migration has brought views of Pomarine or Parasitic Jaeger zipping by. The regular gull species are Bonaparte’s (October through April); Laughing (March through November); Ring-billed, Herring and Great Black-backed (year-round). Lesser Black-backed is possible in spring and again in fall, while there have been rare reports of Black-headed Gull. The regular terns include Least (May-Spetember); Caspian (April-October); Black (August-September); Common (April-early November); Forster’s (almost year-round, but not in February); Royal (April-November); and even Sandwich (July-September). Rare terns that may turn up after a storm include Sooty and Bridled. Black Skimmers are not reliable but might be found in the fall. Very occasionally, a Wilson’s Storm-Petrel might come into vie during early July.
Northern Gannets are regular visitors from fall through spring. Double-crested Cormorants are present year-round, and Great Cormorants, while not numerous, are present from October through April and sporadically at other times. Brown Pelicans are easily seen year-round, often visible on or near the offshore pound nets used for fishing. American White Pelicans might put in a rare appearance in fall or spring.
American and Least Bitterns are present in small numbers. Other waders include Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, and Green Heron, which are common and easily seen, while Little Blue Heron comes through on spring and fall, along with the occasional Tricolored. Cattle Egrets are sporadic throughout the warm months. Black-crowned and Yellow-crowned Herons might be found in June through early August or in late July through August, respectively. Glossy Ibis can be found in marshes from April through early October, and White Ibis, once a great rarity, are turning up more frequently, as this species appears to be expanding its range northward.
If you are lucky, you may hear Northern Bobwhite calling from the scrubby areas in May, and Wild Turkey may be spotted almost any time of year.
Osprey are numerous and obvious from early March through October, while Bald Eagles are abundant year-round. Northern Harriers, Sharp-shinned Hawks, and Cooper’s Hawks are found from fall through spring, as are Red-shouldereds, but the latter might be seen sporadically through the summer. Red-tailed Hawks are here year-round. The regular owls are Eastern Screech, Great Horned, and Barred; Short-eared Owls might come through in spring, and a Snowy Owl might turn up in winter. Among falcons, American Kestrel, Merlin, and Peregines are present and most easily seen from late summer through late spring.
Six species of woodpeckers breed in the park and are present year-round: Red-headed, Red-bellied, Downy, Hairy, Pileated, and Northern Flicker, while Yellow-beilled Sapsuckers overwinter in good numbers. The woods hold the expected breeding flycatchers (Eastern Wood-Pewee, Acadian, Eastern Phoebe, Great Crested, and Eastern Kingbird); Willow, Least, and Yellow-bellied Flycatcher might be found during fall migration.
The locally breeding vireos are White-eyed and Red-eyed, while Yellow-throated, Blue-headed, Philadelphia, and Warbling are migrants. At this place, Fish Crows are almost as likely as American Crows. Five species of swallow (Tree, Barn, Northern Rough-winged, Bank, and Purple Martin) are common in summer, and Cave Swallows might be foudn on fall migration – November is the best month to try.
White-breasted and Brown-headed Nuthatches both breed here and are found year-round, while Red-breasted can be fond most years from fall through spring. Marsh Wrens bred here, and Winter Wrens are easy to find during winter. Carolina Wrens are found year-round, and House Wrens are also breeders, but usually retreat in winter. Sedge Wrens, alas, are not found regularly. With the southerly climate in the park, both Gray Catbirds and Brown Thrashers are easily found year-round, though numbers decline a little in winter.
Among thrushes, Eastern Bluebird and American Robin are abundant year-round; Wood Thrushes breed and are found from April through June and then during fall migration, and Hermit Thrushes overwinter in good numbers.
Horned Larks, American Pipits, and Snow Buntings might be in the fields or grassy areas in fall through spring. The park is a good place to look for Purple Finches in winter: check the berry-laden trees near the picnic area and old fort. During irruption years, check for Common Redpoll and Red and White-winged Crossbills. Pine Siskins are fairly regular in winter.
The park has a great selection of sparrows, with 21 species reported (not including the aforementioned Snow Buntings). Year-round species include Eastern Towhee, Song, and Chipping. Field Sparrows are probably here year-round but become difficult to find during the summer when they are feeding young and become secretive. Winter residents include Dark-eyed Junco, Fox, White-crowned, White-throated, Savannah, and Swamp. Migrants, usually in small numbers, include Vesper, Seaside, Saltmarsh, Nelson’s and Lincoln’s.
Yellow-breasted Chats are noisy and obvious from May through October. Bobolinks bounce through, mostly in fall. Eastern Meadowlarks are almost year-round, and both Orchard and Baltimore Orioles are breeders. Rusty Blackbirds turn up in spring and again in fall, usually in good numbers; check the edges of wet woods.
Thirty-four species of warblers have been reported. Most are migrants, but breeders include Northern Parula, Pine, Yellow-throated, Common Yellowthroat, Prairie, and maybe Yellow and Black-and-white. Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers are abundant in winter.
Blue Grosbeaks and Indigo Buntings both breed in good numbers and are easy to find. Red-breasted Grosbeaks are common fall and spring migrants, and Dickcissels turn up sporadically in fall.
Paved lots at Lighthouse, Park Office, Park Store, Fishing Pier, Beach/Picnic Area, Nature Center/Museum. Roadside parking at the Causeway in marked spaces. Some other pull-offs as signed.
Because much of the park can be birded from or near the car, this is a great spot for those who are mobility-impaired. The trails are not wheelchair-accessible, however. ◾ For a fun day trip, take the ferry from the Point Lookout Marina to Smith Island in the lower Chesapeake Bay. ◾ Point Lookout State Park is the site of historic Fort Lincoln, which housed Confederate prisoners during the Civil War. Not much remains of the original fort but some areas have been rebuilt and there are interpretive signs throughout the park. There is also a historic lighthouse at the Point. A Civil War Museum and Marshland Nature Center are located within the campground area and are open to the general public, day visitors as well as campers. The Museum and Nature Center are open seasonally, closed during the winter; they offer educational programs in nature and Civil War history. Open May through October, Saturday and Sunday 9 am to 5 pm. ◾ Three water trails wind around and through Point Lookout State Park; pick up a printed water trail guide and map at the Park Office. The trails average about 3 miles each with a variety of paddling experiences that range from an hour or two to all-day excursions with overnight camping options. The trails are also depicted on the interactive map for Maryland’s Public Water Access Atlas. ◾ Point Lookout State Park is a part of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network of the National Park Service. ◾ 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.
Episode 2802 of Outdoors Maryland from Maryland Public Television includes the segment “Where the Waters Meet” about Point Lookout State Park. The video footage covers the park’s natural resources, visitor amenities, and history. Additional segments in this episode include “Sifting for History,” about an archaeological dig in Crownsville (Anne Arundel County) that uncovers slave quarters at a historic plantation, and “Relief for Pitchers,” about the carnivorous pitcher plants of Nassawango Creek Preserve in Worcester County.
From the Baltimore-Washington area: Follow US Route 301 south to MD Route 4 south near Upper Marlboro. Follow MD Route 4 south through Anne Arundel and Calvert Counties, all the way across the Solomons Island Bridge over the Patuxent River. After the Solomons Island Bridge, the first traffic light will be at MD Route 235/Three Notch Road. Turn left onto Route 235 southbound. Follow Route 235 south into the town of Ridge. Turn left onto MD Route 5/Point Lookout Road south. Route 5 south goes directly to Point Lookout State Park. Be aware that Route 5 makes a sharp right turn at the Confederate Memorial. Consult the park map for various locations within the park.
From the Chesapeake Bay Bridge: Take US Route 50 west to Exit 23 and then take MD Route 2 south for about 25 miles to its junction with MD Route 4. Continue south on the combined MD Route 4/2 for another 37 miles. On the way, you will cross the high bridge over the Patuxent River at the border of St. Mary’s County. From the bridge, continue south on Route 4 to the intersection with MD Route 5, and turn left to go south on Route 5/Point Lookout Road. Route 5 south goes directly to Point Lookout State Park. Be aware that Route 5 makes a sharp right turn at the Confederate Memorial. Consult the park map for various locations within the park.
To reach the Jacob’s Farm hunting area and the Cornfield Harbor area: Return to the Confederate Memorial at the sharp bend in Rooute 5/Point Lookout Road by going north from the park. Continue on Point Lookout Road for another 0.8 miles past the Confederate Memorial, and turn left to go south on Cornfield Harbor Road (the next left after the Memorial). The entrance to the Jacob’s Farm area will be on the left (east) side of Cornfield Harbor Road in a little more than 0.6 miles. A dirt road leads straight in. To reach the Cornfield Harbor marsh area, return to Cornfield Harbor Road and turn left to go south. In o.2 miles, bear left onto Cornfield Harbor Drive (the road straight ahead is Cornfield Harbor Road) and continue southeast for another 0.4 to 0.6 miles and slightly beyond, where the marsh will be visible to the left and right. The land here is privately owned so stay on the public road.
Sotterley Plantation; Greenwell State Park; Beauvue Ponds and Abell’s Wharf.
Bottomland DeciduousConifersHedgerowsUpland Deciduous Lawn, Ballfields, Golf Course Old Fields, Shrubby MeadowsSandy Beach or Dunes Forested SwampFreshwater Marsh or FloodplainJetties & SeawallsMud Flats (Tidal or Non-Tidal)Open Ocean, Bay, or EstuaryRivers & StreamsSalt or Brackish Marsh
BeginnersBicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)Boat or Canoe/Kayak LaunchBoat RentalsCampingFishingHiking/Walking TrailsHistorical FeaturesHuntingNature Education ProgramsObservation Platform or TowerOvernight Lodging or CabinsParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaPlaygroundRestroomsSnack Bar, Camp Store, Food ConcessionsSwimmingWater ViewWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families
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