Swan Harbor Farm and Tydings Park (Oakington)
401 Oakington Road, Havre de Grace, MD 21078
Swan Harbor Farm, located on the banks of the Chesapeake Bay just south of the town of Havre de Grace, is a 530-acre working farm and special event venue operated by the Harford County Department of Parks and Recreation. The varied habitats of the farm offer good birding and it has become known as a rarity magnet for Harford County. The grounds offer multiple types of habitat including frontage along the Chesapeake Bay, open farm fields, a small freshwater marsh, man-made water impoundments, some small woodlots, and a forested stream valley. The diverse habitats have pulled in more than 260 species of birds, making Swan Harbor the #1 eBird hotspot in Harford County.
A nature trail runs through the woods along the bayfront, and behind the mansion house, a wooden platform with gazebo provides an overlook of the bay (may be in use if a wedding or other event is in progress). A lane leads down a slope to the edge of the bay, where the original boat launch for the farm was located. Today it provides a soft launch site for canoes and kayaks. A fishing pier is located nearby. On the south side of the entrance drive, a short trail leads through an open field to provide access to a viewing platform that looks out over the impoundments. Another short trail on the north side of the entrance drive leads to the freshwater marsh; there is a viewing blind at the southeast corner of the marsh. Additional trails thread through the stream valley near the beginning of the entrance drive.
Swan Harbor is home to the Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation, which has its offices in a converted barn adjacent to the parking area. Swan Harbor’s stately mansion house, with adjoining gardens and tented area, is a popular venue for weddings and special events.
Just south of Swan Harbor Farm is the relatively new 312-acre Eleanor and Millard Tydings Park, known among local birders simply as “Oakington,” for the name of the former Tydings estate. See trail map at link at left for the location of this park. Oakington was recently acquired by Harford County, and does not as yet contain any developed walking trails. One may drive in along Tydings Lane, and park where the entrance lane ends just past a row of farm buildings. From here, you can walk along the field edges or scan with binoculars. The list of bird species occurring at this location is still building, and we encourage you to submit an eBird checklist if you visit this spot.
In September 2020, Harford County announced the acquisition of yet another property: Belle Vue Farm, containing approximately 350 acres between Swan Harbor Farm and Oakington. Belle Vue Farm will become another county park. Belle Vue Farm is noted for having over a mile of undeveloped shoreline on the Chesapeake Bay. More details on Belle Vue Farm will be added as they become available.
Over 260 species have been observed at Swan Harbor Farm Park. There is a separate eBird hotspot for nearby Oakington (https://ebird.org/hotspot/L1155272), showing 165 bird species reported. Since Oakington is relatively new, this description applies mostly to Swan Harbor, but similar species might be expected at Oakington.
At Swan Harbor Farm, the fresh water marsh is a prime draw for migrating ducks, herons, and shorebirds. Several types of rails are seen on a regular basis.The open fields in winter are good for Snow Buntings, Horned Larks, American Pipits, and sparrows.
Year-round residents include Canada Goose; Mallard; Pied-billed Grebe; Double-crested Cormorant; Great Blue Heron; Black and Turkey Vultures; Bald Eagle; Cooper’s Hawk; Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks; Killdeer; Ring-billed and Great Black-backed Gulls; Mourning Dove; Eastern Screech; Great Horned and Barred Owls (though elusive as all owls are); Belted Kingfisher; woodpeckers including Red-bellied, Downy, Hairy, Pileated, and 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; House Finch; American Goldfinch; and House Sparrow. Chipping Sparrows are present almost year-round.
Birds of the warm months include Wood Duck; Least Bittern; Great Egret; Little Blue Heron; Green Heron; Black-crowned Night-Heron; Osprey (numerous); Yellow-billed Cuckoo; Chimney Swift; Ruby-throated Hummingbird; a selection of flycatchers including Acadian, Willow and Great Crested; Eastern Wood-Pewee; Eastern Phoebe; and Eastern Kingbird; House Wren; Blue-gray Gnatcatcher; Wood Thrush; Gray Catbird; Brown Thrasher; Cedar Waxwing; Field and Chipping Sparrows; Scarlet Tanager; Indigo Bunting; Blue Grosbeak; both orioles; and a variety of vireos, swallows, and breeding warblers such as Ovenbird, Common Yellowthroat, Northern Parula, and Yellow Warbler.
The variety of wintering waterfowl is outstanding, including Snow Goose; Tundra Swan; Gadwall; American Wigeon; American Black Duck; Northern Pintail; Green-winged Teal; Canvasback; Redhead; Ring-necked Duck; both scaup; Bufflehead; Common Goldeneye; Hooded Merganser; Common Merganser; and Ruddy Duck. Other winter birds include Northern Harrier; Sharp-shinned Hawk; Yellow-bellied Sapsucker; Brown Creeper; Winter Wren; both kinglets; Hermit Thrush; Yellow-rumped Warbler; sparrows including American Tree, Fox, White-throated, Savannah, and Swamp; and Dark-eyed Junco.
A large variety of shorebirds regularly comes through Swan Harbor Farm during migration, including Semipalmated Plover; Dunlin; Stilt, Least, White-rumped, Pectoral, Semipalmated, Spotted, and Solitary Sandpipers; both yellowlegs; Wilson’s Snipe; and American Woodcock. Other migrants include Bobolink, Rusty Blackbird, and a variety of vireos, thrushes, and warblers.
Free, in gravel lot near the Senator William H. Amoss Agricultural Center.
Some of the foot-trails at Swan Harbor Farm are gravel or paved (see trail map at link below), and these foot-trails may be suitable for wheelchairs, but might be too soft after rain. The natural surface foot-trails are not wheelchair-accessible. ◾ Swan Harbor Farm provides a canoe and kayak launch and fishing and is a popular venue for weddings and other events. ◾ 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.
From I-95 north of Baltimore: Take Exit 85 for Md Route 22 southbound toward Aberdeen and US Route 40. Proceed on Route 22 south and then follow the signs to loop around on the ramp to US Route 40 east. In 1.5 miles, turn right (south) onto Oakington Road. After crossing the bridge, immediately bear to the left (there is a sign for Swan Harbor Farm -and be sure to yield to oncoming traffic!) and continue south on Oakington Road for 0.9 miles until you reach the Swan Harbor entrance on the left. The farm entrance is marked with a wooden sign; the farm driveway may show up as Timber Lane on some maps or GPS units. Follow the driveway first through woods and then, after a curve to the right, through open farm fields. Continue straight ahead to the cluster of buildings and look for the parking lot on the left.
To reach the Eleanor & Millard Tydings Park (Oakington) from Swan Harbor Farm: Turn left out of the Swan Harbor Driveway onto Oakington Road, which will bend sharply to the right, turning due south. In half-a-mile, bear left onto Tydings Lane, still going south. Tydings Lane will soon make a 90-degree curve to the left, to head east, and will bring you to an entrance, straight ahead, for a private facility called Ashley. Just before the Ashley grounds, watch for a lane on the right, leading south, and turn right here, to enter the park. Continue straight ahead, past a row of farm buildings, and park where the entrance road ends in a farm field. Walk the field edges or scan the fields and treetops from near your car.
Harford County: Anita C. Leight Estuary Center – Otter Point Creek ◾ Bradenbaugh Flats & Upper Deer Creek Valley ◾ Conowingo Dam / Fisherman’s Park (Harford County Side) ◾ Eden Mill Nature Center ◾ Harford Glen Environmental Education Center ◾ Havre De Grace Marina | Tydings Memorial Park ◾ Perryman Park & Forest Greens Park Area (Perryman Peninsula) ◾ Rocks State Park ◾ Susquehanna State Park ◾ Swan Harbor Farm and Tydings Park (Oakington)
Bottomland DeciduousHedgerowsUpland Deciduous Garden or ArboretumLawn, Ballfields, Golf Course Agricultural Crop Fields or Fallow FieldsOld Fields, Shrubby Meadows Freshwater Pond, Lake, or ReservoirMud Flats (Tidal or Non-Tidal)Open Ocean, Bay, or EstuaryRivers & Streams
BeginnersBoardwalkBoat or Canoe/Kayak LaunchFishingFree - No Entry FeeHabitat Restoration ProjectHiking/Walking TrailsHistorical FeaturesNative Plant Garden or Meadow/Pollinator PlantsObservation Platform or TowerParkingPets AllowedRestroomsWater ViewWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families
#1 Hotspot in County or CityChesapeake Bay Western ShoreThe Rivers of the Western Shore