At a Glance
Hours: 7 am to dusk (or as posted). May be open later when games are played under the lights.
Tips: Smoking is not allowed in any Howard County park. ◾ Avoid the park on weekends and summer evenings because of athletic games that cause noise. It’s best to visit on weekdays in early morning.
Best Seasons: Fall, winter, spring.
Breeding Bird Atlas Blocks: Clarksville CW, Clarksville SW
Schooley Mill Park
12975 Hall Shop Road, Highland, MD 20777
Schooley Mill Park is a 192-acre county park located in southern Howard County. Schooley Mill Park offers a wide variety of habitats including wetlands, woodlands, and meadows. The park has extensive areas that are maintained in a natural state, providing food, cover, and nest sites for birds and other wildlife.
Wooded stream valleys form most of the outer boundary of the park. The central section is primarily open fields; those between the athletic fields and the entrance are grass, but the areas beyond the soccer and baseball fields are brushy open fields with an abundance of goldenrod, spreading dogbane, milkweed, and some warm-season grasses, providing excellent habitat for birds and for butterflies. Shrubby areas and honeysuckle/multiflora rose thickets are scattered along the edge of the woods. A sediment pond is on the right just past the riding ring; two other small ponds (both on private property)—one in the woods below the campfire area and one close to the riding ring—are visible from the park in the winter. A beaver pond has added wetland habitat, first appearing in the mid-90s.
Trails wind through the woods along the streams bordering the park. There are three major entrances to the main trail through the woods if you want to circle the park from within. Or you can just walk along the edge of the woods until you find a trail leading in. Secondary trails lead off the main trails; these either loop back, dead-end at private property, or lead you to the open fields in the center of the park. Although the woodland trails are mulched, there may be some muddy areas after heavy rains. In addition to the wooded trails, wide mowed paths border the perimeter of the woods and crisscross the fields. These provide access to extensive edge and open field habitat.
Schooley Mill Park has extensive athletic facilities and other visitor amenities; see the park website at the link at left for more information.
Over 185 species have been reported on eBird from Schooley Mill Park. Breeding birds include Pileated Woodpecker, Acadian Flycatcher, Wood Thrush, Red-eyed Vireo, Hooded and Kentucky Warblers, Louisiana Waterthrush, and Ovenbird. Migrant warblers, vireos, and thrushes could include almost any regularly-occurring county species. The three county-breeding owls (Great Horned, Barred, Eastern Screech) have all occurred here, and Great Horned Owls have nested, although all the owls have become less predictable in recent years.
The unmown interior fields can be very productive—here you can find field birds and edge birds, and it’s a great place to watch for flyovers of all sorts (one of the county’s major Broad-winged Hawk flights was caught here). Breeding birds include Eastern Bluebird, Willow Flycatcher, White-eyed Vireo, Prairie Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Blue Grosbeak, and Orchard Oriole. Northern Bobwhite used to be regular but the species has disappeared from Schooley Mill, echoing the decline of this species throughout Howard County and much of the region. Migrating Lincoln’s Sparrows and wintering sparrows are most commonly found in this area of the park. Rarities have included Clay-colored Sparrow, Northern Shrike, Rough-legged Hawk, Golden Eagle, Alder Flycatcher, and Summer Tanager. Migrants can include Least Flycatcher, Blue-winged Warbler, and Lincoln’s Sparrow.
Paved parking areas; see trail map at link at left.
For those who are mobility-impaired, there are limited viewing opportunities. There are ramps from the parking lots up to the paved sidewalks that provide access to the buildings, playground, and sports fields. But there are no paved trails through the woods or fields. Some birding from the car is possible, viewing the fields along the entrance road. ◾ There are several large clumps of violet wood sorrel (Oxalis violacea) and other interesting native plants along the trails. Although wood sorrel may be in bloom the entire month of May, the peak period is usually mid- to late-May. ◾ In addition to the usual types of athletic fields, the park has Howard County’s only playing fields for the game of cricket. Schooley Mill also has equestrian facilities (bring your own horse). ◾ A seasonal list of birds, butterflies, dragonflies, mammals, and herps at Schooley Mill Park is available at https://howardbirds.website/birding/birding-howard-county-md/site-guides/schooley-mill-park/schooley-mill-park-species-lists/, courtesy of the Howard County Bird Club. ◾ The Howard County Bird Club, a chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society, holds bird walks at Schooley Mill Park and at other sites in the county; such walks are free and open to the public. See the Howard County Bird Club’s calendar for more information. ◾ The Howard County Bird Club has a detailed online guide, “Birding Howard County,” on their website at https://www.howardbirds.org/birdinghowardcounty/birding_howard_county.htm. Edited by Joanne Solem, the online guide replaces an older printed guide, now out-of-print. The website is up-to-date and extremely detailed. Check it out!
From points south or from Baltimore: Take I-95 or I-295 to MD Route 32 and go north on Route 32 toward (and past) Columbia. From Route 32, take Exit 20 onto MD Route 108/Clarksville Pike and go south for about 2.9 miles. Turn left to go east on Hall Shop Road. Proceed about 0.3 miles to the park entrance on the right (south side of the road). on right.
From points west: Take I-70 east to Exit 80 to go south on MD Route 32 south toward Clarksville. Go 8.6 miles and take Exit 20 to go south on MD Route 108/Clarksville Pike. Follow Route 108 for 2.8 miles, then turn left to go east on Hall Shop Road. Proceed about 0.3 miles to the park entrance on the right (south side of the road). on right.
Centennial Lake; David Force NRA; Lake Elkhorn; Middle Patuxent Environmental Area; Mount Pleasant Farm (Howard County Conservancy); Patapsco Valley SP – Daniels Area; Patapsco Valley SP – Henryton; Rockburn Branch Park; Wilde Lake.
Bottomland DeciduousHedgerows Garden or ArboretumLawn, Ballfields, Golf CourseStormwater Retention PondSuburban Neighborhood Old Fields, Shrubby Meadows Freshwater Marsh or FloodplainFreshwater Pond, Lake, or ReservoirRivers & Streams
Features:Ball Fields or Other SportsBeginnersBicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)Free - No Entry Fee at Any TimeHiking/Walking TrailsHorseback RidingNative Plant Garden or Meadow/Pollinator PlantsParkingPets AllowedPlaygroundRestroomsWater ViewYoung People / Families