Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art and Schumaker Pond
Ward Museum: 909 S Schumaker Dr, Salisbury, MD 21804; telephone (410) 742-4988
Schumaker Park: 1019 S Schumaker Dr, Salisbury, MD 21804; telephone (410) 548-4900
Dr. Ron Gutberlet, Professor of Biology at Salisbury University, was the primary author of this description of the Ward Museum and Schumaker Pond. Ron passed away in November of 2015. He is fondly remembered by his birding friends in MOS.
The Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art is adjacent to Schumaker Pond in Salisbury, MD. Birders, if you have never visited the museum, you don’t know what you’re missing. The museum preserves the high art of the Chesapeake Bay tradition of waterfowl decoy carving, as exemplified by the late Lem and Steve Ward of Crisfield, MD. The museum holds the world’s largest public collection of decorative and antique decoys. As a birder, you may be thinking “So what? I’d rather see living birds.” But don’t dismiss the Museum so quickly. The collections will take you on a deep dive into the waterfowl hunting culture and traditions of the Eastern Shore to show the role that waterfowl and hunting played in people’s daily lives. Moreover, the museum will enable you to learn about the natural history of the birds portrayed in the art, and to see details of plumage and form that you may have never noticed before.
The forerunner of the museum was the Ward Foundation, established as a private non-profit in 1968 to preserve the art of the Ward Brothers; the museum was originally set up in a building at Salisbury State College (later renamed Salisbury University). Currently the museum is housed in a modern building, completed in 1992, and nestled on the shore of Schumaker Pond. The stunningly beautiful building is a Green Center, with 100% of its electricity from renewable resources, sustainable purchasing practices, and thoughtful storm-water management.
The nucleus of the museum is a set of permanent exhibits featuring antique and contemporary waterfowl carvings: the Ward Brothers Workshop, the Decoy in Time Gallery, the Decoy Study Gallery, and the World Championship Gallery. There are also two galleries with regularly changing exhibits — roughly eight different exhibitions each year. Annually, the museum sponsors the Ward World Championship, the largest bird carving competition in the world.
The museum hosts a bird walk on the grounds most Tuesdays starting in the lobby at 9 am. An eBird kiosk just off the lobby provides visitors with easy on-the-spot entry of eBird data.
To the southeast of the museum’s 4.2 acres is the 11 -acre Schumaker Park, owned by Wicomico County, both are located on the south shore of Schumaker Pond. The pond was formed by damming Beaverdam Creek, a tributary of the Wicomico River. The park is mostly wooded and includes its own parking area, a picnic pavilion, additional picnic tables scattered through the park, a playground, a beach, and a fishing pier. Paddling is permitted, and kayaks and canoes can be launched from the beach.
There is a very short nature trail on the shore of the pond behind the museum, with interpretive signage, an observation scope, and a waterfowl viewing blind. Schumaker Park does not really have a trail system to speak of, but the area around the pond is open and can easily be walked.
Schumaker Pond and its immediate environs provide good birding at times. In fall and winter the pond can host large numbers of ducks of various species. Migrant land birds can occasionally be encountered in the trees around the pond in spring and fall, but this is not a major destination for land birds. The upper end of the pond (to the southeast) gives way to bottomlands along the Beaverdam Creek; this is a nice area to explore in a kayak.
To the northwest of the Ward Museum is the large (95 acres) Salisbury City Park, which stretches along Beaverdam Creek and the south prong of the Wicomico River. The southern part of City Park, near the Ward Museum, is wooded and has a network of mountain biking trails that can provide good birding in the early morning, before the bike riders arrive. The north end of City Park includes the Salisbury Zoo, a large picnic area, and other recreational facilities. Salisbury City Park is the core of a greenway that extends for 2.8 miles through the heart of Salisbury, connecting Schumaker Park to the Riverwalk Amphitheatre, Canal Walk Park, and the Salisbury Marina, the latter three located on the Wicomico River. See our printable area map.
There is one eBird hotspot covering Schumaker Pond and the Ward Museum, with over 145 species reported.
Waterbirds are the stars of the show. This little pond has hosted 25 species of ducks and geese over the years; regulars include Snow Geese, Canada Geese, Tundra Swans, Wood Ducks (local breeder), Northern Shovelers, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Mallards, Ring-necked Ducks, Lesser Scaup, Buffleheads, Common Goldeneyes, Hooded Mergansers, and Ruddy Ducks. In Fall 2007, a Brant and White-winged Scoter turned up here. Other regulars include Pied-billed Grebe and American Coot, along with an occasional Red-necked Grebe in springtime.
Spotted Sandpipers are regular from April through early September. The pond attracts Laughing Gulls in spring and summer and Ring-billed and Herring Gulls in winter and spring. Double-crested Cormorants may also be found in winter. Waders include Great Blue Heron, Great Egret and Green Heron. Belted Kingfishers are readily seen.
Ospreys and Bald Eagles are commonly seen; the eagles are present almost year-round, while the Ospreys are absent in the winter. Red-tailed Hawks also are easy to see.
The wooded areas around the pond support Northern Flicker and Red-bellied, Downy, Pileated Woodpeckers, as well as overwintering Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. Expected flycatchers include Eastern Wood-Pewee, Eastern Phoebe, Great Crested, and Eastern Kingbird. There are not quite enough woods to support vireos, but some pass through during migration. Wintering birds include Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and Brown Creepers. White-breasted and Brown-headed Nuthatches breed locally and are present year-round, as are Carolina Wrens. House Wrens also nest locally but are absent in winter. Winter Wrens move through in November and December but area seldom found after New Year’s Day.
Blue Jays and American and Fish Crows are numerous, as are Carolina Chickadees and Tufted Titmice. Chimney Swifts, Barn Swallows, and Tree Swallows can be found over the pond from spring through early fall.
Gray Catbirds, Northern Mockingbirds, and Brown Thrashers are all common, but only the mockingbirds persist through the winter. American Robins are found year-round, Hermit Thrushes overwinter, and Eastern Bluebirds are sporadic in spring and fall. Cedar Waxwings can be found almost any time of year, feeding on the berries and small fruits in the trees and shrubs around the pond.
House Finches, House Sparrows, American Goldfinches, and Northern Cardinals are all numerous permanent residents. Sparrows include breeding populations of Chipping and Song and wintering populations of Dark-eyed Junco, White-throated, and maybe a few Swamp Sparrows. Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles are abundant.
Again, the forested areas are not sufficient to support much of a breeding warbler population, but 19 species have been reported, mostly during spring and fall migration. Pine Warblers are a confirmed breeder in the area, and Yellow-rumped Warblers are reliable in winter.
Pets on leash are allowed in the outdoor areas. Be prepared to clean up after your pet.
The museum has reserved handicapped parking spaces in its paved lot, and an accessible building entrance and accessible restroom in the building. Most trails around the pond are hard-packed dirt.
The Ward Museum is a certified Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education (MAEOE) Green Center.
The museum regularly shows films in its Habitat Theater; see the museum events calendar for details. ◾ The museum offers an extensive set of educational programs for children, adult, and whole families, and also offers programs for schools and materials for virtual learning. The emphasis is on the connection between lower Eastern Shore culture and the natural environment.
Kayaking and fishing are permitted on Schumaker Pond. Access is from the county-owned Schumaker Park adjacent to the Ward Museum. ◾ The park also has a picnic pavilion, picnic tables, a playground, and a Frisbee golf course. ◾ The adjoining Salisbury City Park, immediately to the northwest of the Ward Museum, houses the Salisbury Zoo and numerous other attractions. ◾ A greenway extends for 2.8 miles from Schumaker Park to the Riverwalk Amphitheatre, Canal Walk Park, and the Salisbury Marina on the Wicomico River. The Marina has a floating canoe-kayak launch open to the public.
The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Tri-County Bird Club, serving Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester Counties. Tri-County Bird Club offers field trips and meetings with presentations by guest speakers, free and open to the public.
- The Ward Museum has its own YouTube Channel, including a playlist of videos covering the various permanent exhibits.
- We highly recommend the brief general overview of the museum, which will give you a sense of the beauty and depth of the exhibits.
- Don’t miss the video “Nature’s Counterfeiters: Lem and Steve Ward” which covers the life of the brothers, including their many accolades and awards.
- The Nature Trails at the Ward Museum are featured in one of the short videos, and this will give you a good idea of the setting for birding the grounds. The video features photos of birds and other wildlife you might expect to see.
- We also highly recommend “Voices from the Edge,” a series of four short videos produced by the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art in collaboration with the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum and principle producers David Harp and Tom Horton. The series uses stunning still photographs, videos, sound recordings of birds, and voice-over narration by Eastern Shore naturalists to explore the various edges where land meets water in the Chesapeake Bay region.
Paved lot at the Ward Museum. Smaller paved lots at the edge of Schumaker Park.
From the Chesapeake Bay Bridge or points northwest of Salisbury on the Eastern Shore: Follow US Route 50 east toward Salisbury, MD. At the Route 50 Business/Route 50 By-Pass Junction, take Route 50 Business into Salisbury. Follow Route 50 Business for 5.25 miles, then exit Route 50 Business by turning right to go south on Beaglin Park Drive. Follow Beaglin Park Drive for about 1.2 miles, passing through several traffic lights. Beaglin Park Drive will take you over the dam at the base of Schumaker Pond. At the next intersection, turn left onto South Schumaker Drive. The Ward Museum will be on your immediate left. To reach Schumaker Park, continue on South Schumaker Drive past the Ward Museum for another 0.3 miles and the two parking lots for the park will be on your left, in a wooded area.
From points south, such as Princess Anne or the Eastern Shore of Virginia: Take US Route 13 north to Fruitland, MD. At the Route 13 Business /Route 13 By-Pass Junction, follow signs to take Route 13 Business into Salisbury. Follow Route 13 Business northbound for 3.7 miles, (passing Wal-Mart and Salisbury University). Turn right to go east on East College Avenue. Follow for 1.6 miles and then turn right to go south on South Schumaker Drive. The Ward Museum will be on your immediate left. To reach Schumaker Park, continue on South Schumaker Drive past the Ward Museum for another 0.3 miles and the two parking lots for the park will be on your left, in a wooded area.
From Ocean City and other points east: Take US Route 50 west toward Salisbury, MD. At the Route 50 Business/Route 13/50 By-Pass Junction, take Route 50 Business into Salisbury. Follow Route 50 Business for 1.6 miles, then exit Route 50 Business by turning left to go south on Beaglin Park Drive. Follow Beaglin Park Drive for about 1.2 miles, passing through several traffic lights. Beaglin Park Drive will take you over the dam at the base of Schumaker Pond. At the next intersection, turn left onto South Schumaker Drive. The Ward Museum will be on your immediate left. To reach Schumaker Park, continue on South Schumaker Drive past the Ward Museum for another 0.3 miles and the two parking lots for the park will be on your left, in a wooded area.
From point north on the Eastern Shore, including Delaware: Follow US Route 13 South toward Salisbury, MD. At the Route 13 Business /Route 13 By-Pass Junction (immediately after Center at Salisbury Mall), follow signs to take Route 13 Business into Salisbury. Follow Route 13 Business for 4.0 miles, then turn left to go east on East College Avenue. Follow for 1.6 miles and then turn right to go south on South Schumaker Drive. The Ward Museum will be on your immediate left. To reach Schumaker Park, continue on South Schumaker Drive past the Ward Museum for another 0.3 miles and the two parking lots for the park will be on your left, in a wooded area.
Wicomico County: Cedar Hill Marina & Park, Ellis Bay Wildlife Management Area, Nanticoke River Wildlife Management Area – Nutter’s Neck, Pemberton Historical Park, Roaring Point & Nanticoke Harbor, Tyaskin Park & Wetipquin Park
Dorchester County: Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Chesapeake Forest – North Tara Road, Elliott Island Road / Fishing Bay Wildlife Management Area (Eastern Section)
Somerset County: Deal Island Wildlife Management Area, Fairmount Wildlife Management Area, Irish Grove MOS Sanctuary, Janes Island State Park, Rumbley Boat Ramp
Worcester County: Pocomoke State Forest – Hickory Point Cypress Swamp Natural Area
Bottomland DeciduousConifers Urban or Small Town Landscape Freshwater Pond, Lake, or ReservoirRivers & Streams
Features and Amenities:
BeginnersBicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)Bird Feeding StationBoat or Canoe/Kayak LaunchFishingFree - No Entry FeeGift Shop or BookstoreHiking/Walking TrailsNature Education ProgramsObservation Platform or TowerParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaPlaygroundRestroomsVisitor Center, Interpretive Displays, ExhibitsWater ViewWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families
Community and Urban ParksMAEOE Green CenterPonds, Lakes, and ReservoirsThe Rivers of the Eastern Shore