At a Glance
Hours: Mid-March to Mid-November: 8:30 am to dark; off-season: 8:30 am to 8 pm
Tips: Trails may be wet or muddy. Wear sturdy waterproof hiking boots or shoes. ◾ Permanent restrooms are being constructed. Portable restrooms (not handicapped-accessible) are located at the northwest corner of the large parking lot for the sports fields.
Best Seasons: Fall and spring for migrants; early summer for breeding birds.
Breeding Bird Atlas Block: Lower Marlboro NE
Ward Farm Recreation and Nature Park
10455 Ward Road, Dunkirk, MD 20754
(410) 535-1600 (business hours)
(410) 474-0888 (after hours or weekends/holidays)
Don’t let the extensive sports fields and large paved parking area discourage you from exploring Ward Farm Recreation and Nature Park, Calvert County’s newest park, opened in March 2022. The park’s 209 acres feature over 100 acres of deciduous woodland, including upland woods and bottomland in the stream valley of Hall Creek, which runs through the southern part of the park. The riparian areas include non-tidal freshwater wetlands, small tributary streams, and three freshwater ponds, named Muskrat Pond, Island Pond, and Fox Den Pond. There is a fishing pier at Island Pond. Open grassy fields lie adjacent to the original farmhouse and its outbuildings; the park’s office is located in the farmhouse.
There is already an extensive trail system that provides easy exploration of most of the park, and newly installed trail signs help in navigating the park. A paved sidewalk encircles the parking lots and sports fields, and this could be useful for some edge birding by those who are mobility-impaired. In the future, boardwalks and connector trails will skirt the edges of Muskrat, Island, and Fox Den Ponds, located near the park’s southern boundary along Hall Creek, but this part of the trail system is incomplete at this time.
Other aspects of the park’s infrastructure are still being built out. When complete, the park will include a nature center and educational facilities to be located in existing barns that will be renovated for that purpose. There are also plans for native plant gardens to be located near the nature center. Modern restrooms will be built at the visitor areas. Currently there are temporary restrooms at the northwest corner of the parking lot near the sports fields; these restrooms are not handicapped accessible.
Later phases of development will provide an open-air amphitheater, picnic pavilions, gazebos, and other shelters as well as overlooks and observation platforms. In the future there will be another developed area of sports fields and a dog park on the north side of Ward Road, directly across the road from the main part of the park on the south side of Ward Road.
There is a new eBird hotspot for Ward Farm Park, established in March 2022, and the hotspot currently (May 2022) shows a total of 106 species, primarily based on checklists posted by volunteers conducting bird survey work in the years before the park opened to the public.
The Calvert County Natural Resource Division, with assistance from the Calvert Nature Society, has been running a MAPS (Monitoring Avian Production and Survivorship) bird banding station at Ward Farm since 2017, under the direction of Joanna Lutmerding and Gene Groshon. To date, they have banded 39 species of birds and observed a total of 73 species during breeding season.
Other projects have also provided baseline data about the birdlife of the park, including Wood Duck and Eastern Bluebird nest box monitoring courtesy of Alan Christian; Prothonotary Warbler nest box monitoring conducted by Karen Anderson, Jessy Oberright, and Maggie Silverman; Christmas Bird Counts (part of th Jug Bay Christmas Bird County circle); annual spring counts; and youth nature programs. Karen Anderson, a Calvert Steward volunteer at Ward Farm Park, has developed a printable official bird list with 132 species, based on these sources.
Note: in the narrative below, single asterisks indicate species that are winter residents; the double asterisks are species found in migration or post-breeding dispersal; all the rest (no asterisks) are potential breeding species at Ward Farm Park.
Wetland species are present in the park, such as Canada Goose, Wood Duck, Mallard, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Green Heron, American Woodcock, and Belted Kingfisher. A set of Wood Duck boxes is in active use. Other wetland-associated birds include swallows, such as Tree, Barn and Purple Martin. There are two notable reports of White Ibis, both documented with photos: a flyover from July 2019 and the other a bird perched near one of the ponds in July 2018.
Raptors regularly seen include Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Bald Eagle, Red-shouldered Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk (flyover), Red-tailed Hawk, and Barred Owl.
The forested areas support a good population of woodpeckers (Yellow-bellied Sapsucker*, Red-bellied, Downy, Hairy, Northern Flicker, and Pileated); flycatchers (Great Crested, Eastern Kingbird, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Acadian, Willow**, Least**, and Eastern Phoebe); vireos (White-eyed, Yellow-throated, Red-eyed); kinglets (Ruby-crowned* and Golden Crowned*); nuthatches (Red-breasted*, White-breasted); Brown Creeper*?; Blue-gray Gnatcatcher; thrushes (Eastern Bluebird, Veery**, Gray-cheeked**, Swainson’s**, Hermit*, Wood, and American Robin); and tanagers (Summer and Scarlet).
The woods really shine when it comes to warblers, with 24 species reported so far (March 2022). The likely breeding species are Ovenbird, Louisiana Waterthrush, maybe Black-and-white, Prothonotary, Common Yellowthroat, Hooded, maybe American Redstart, Northern Parula, Yellow, Pine, and Yellow-throated. Prairie Warblers previously bred on the property but now are probably limited to migration.
There is also the usual assortment of corvids (Blue Jay, American Crow, Fish Crow); Paridae (Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Tirmouse); wrens (House, Carolina, Winter*); mimids (Gray Catbird, Brown Thrasher, Northern Mockingbird); Cedar Waxwings; House Sparrows; and finches (House, Purple*, American Goldfinch);
The fields and edges host resident and migrating sparrows such as Grasshopper**, Chipping, Field, Fox*, American Tree**, Dark-eyed Junco*, White-throated*, Savannah**, Song, Swamp**, and Eastern Towhee. Other field and scrub birds include Yellow-breasted Chat, Orchard Oriole, Baltimore Oriole**, Red-winged Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, Common Grackle, Northern Cardinal, Blue Grosbeak, and Indigo Bunting.
The paved loop path around the parking area is wheelchair-accessible and provides some ability to bird the edges of the woods. Trails through the woods are not wheelchair-accessible, and the fishing pier at Island Pond is also not accessible (steps at the pier, no access via a trail). The temporary restrooms currently in use are not accessible (steps, small stalls). Permanent restrooms will be built in the future.
Pets are allowed on leash; pick up after your pet.
The Calvert Stewards Volunteer Program supports Calvert County’s nature parks and natural spaces. There are numerous volunteer opportunities at Ward Farm Park and other parks. Please visit the Calvert Stewards website to learn about volunteer opportunities at Ward Farm Park as well as other parks throughout Calvert County.
Education programs, including a kids’ birding camp in summer, are offered through the Calvert Nature Society. ◾ Facilities at Ward Farm Park include a fishing pier, numerous sports fields currently being completed, and a small picnic area (two tables near the farmhouse). ◾ More facilities will be added in the future, including a nature center and picnic pavilions. ◾ A trail along Ward Road will eventually connect Ward Farm Park to the nearby Dunkirk District Park.
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.
Calvert Nature Society has a short video, created by Naturalist Kimberly Curran, on their YouTube channel about the MAPS (Monitoring Avian Production and Survivorship) Bird Banding Project at Ward Farm Recreation & Nature Park. The video features naturalists Gene Groshon and Shannon Steel along with Joanne Lutmerding, who directs the banding project, and Karen Anderson, one of the banding volunteers. The video also features excellent footage of some of the captured birds, live in the hand.
Paved lots near the sports fields on the south side of Ward Road. Trailheads are near the parking area. See trail map at link at left.
Ward Farm Recreation & Nature Park is located in Dunkirk, just east of MD Route 4 in northern Calvert County.
From points south in Anne Arundel and Calvert Counties: Take MD Route 4 north to Dunkirk. At the Ward Road traffic light (shopping centers both sides of Route 4), turn right to go east on Ward Road for just under a mile. After passing a cemetery, the entrance to the main part of the park will be at the traffic circle; bear right into the park.
From the Annapolis area: From US Route 50 or from MD Route 450/West Street at Parole, take MD Route 2/Solomons Island Road south for 13 miles. At the Lothian traffic circle, go ½ of the way around the circle and pick up MD Route 408/Mt. Zion Marlboro Road southbound. In 1.4 miles, turn left to go south on MD Route 259/Greenock Road. In 2.7 miles, follow signs for MD Route 4 southbound (the signs will direct you onto a short section of Wrighton Road before merging onto Route 4 southbound). Follow Route 4 south for 5.2 miles and then turn left to go east on Ward Road for just under a mile. After passing a cemetery, the entrance to the main part of the park will be at the traffic circle; bear right into the park.
From the Baltimore Beltway (I-695): At the south end of the Beltway, take Exit 4 for I-97 south. Stay on I-97 south for 11 miles, then take Exit 7 for MD Route 3/Crain Highway southbound. In about 9 miles, MD Route 3 will end as it crosses US Route 50; stay straight ahead to continue south on US Route 301 (still named Crain Highway) to Upper Marlboro in another 10 miles. Follow signs to take MD Route 4 eastbound. Go east/south on Route 4 for 9.7 miles, then turn left to go east on Ward Road for just under a mile. After passing a cemetery, the entrance to the main part of the park will be at the traffic circle; bear right into the park.
From the Washington DC area: Use the Capital Beltway I-495 and proceed to the east side of the Beltway. From the Beltway, take Exit 11 for MD Route 4/Pennsylvania Avenue eastbound. Follow Route 4 east/south for about 16.0 miles, then turn left to go east on Ward Road for just under a mile. After passing a cemetery, the entrance to the main part of the park will be at the traffic circle; bear right into the park.
From the Eastern Shore: Use US Route 50/US Route 301 to access the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. After crossing the bridge, continue west on Route 50/301 toward Annapolis. Then take Exit 23 for southbound MD Route 2/Solomons Island Road. Then follow directions from Annapolis above.
Calvert County: American Chestnut Land Trust – Parkers Creek Preserve ◾ Battle Creek Cypress Swamp Sanctuary / Gatewood Preserve / Biscoe Gray Heritage Farm ◾ Calvert Cliffs State Park ◾ Chesapeake Beach ◾Flag Ponds Nature Park ◾ Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum ◾ Kings Landing Park & Huntingtown Natural Resources Management Area ◾ North Beach ◾ Solomons Island
Anne Arundel County: Davidsonville Park ◾ Greenbury Point◾ Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary ◾ Sandy Point State Park ◾ Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
Charles County: ◾ Indian Creek Natural Resources Management Area ◾ Maxwell Hall Park
Prince George’s County: Merkle Natural Resources Management Area ◾ Milltown Landing Natural Resources Management Area ◾ Patuxent River Park – Jug Bay Natural Area ◾Patuxent River Park – Mount Calvert Historical & Archaeological Park ◾ Rosaryville State Park ◾ Schoolhouse Pond
Bottomland DeciduousConifersHedgerowsUpland Deciduous Lawn, Ballfields, Golf Course Hay Meadows, Pasture, Grass FieldOld Fields, Shrubby Meadows Forested SwampFreshwater Marsh or FloodplainFreshwater Pond, Lake, or ReservoirRivers & Streams
Features and Amenities:Ball Fields or Other SportsBeginnersBicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)BoardwalkFishingFree - No Entry Fee at Any TimeHiking/Walking TrailsNature Education ProgramsParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaRestroomsWater ViewYoung People / Families