Just south of the famed eagle- and gull-watching site at Conowingo Dam, Susquehanna State Park is the premier spot in the region to observe Cerulean Warblers. Also look for orioles, wrens, hawks, herons, and terns.
By William Jobes | Published: 6/19/2009
I first discovered the richness of Susquehanna State Park by accident a few years ago, while on one of my frequent Bald Eagle quests to the Conowingo Dam in northeastern Maryland. Conowingo offers easy and accessible eagle watching and photography, especially in late fall and winter. The dam also happens to be near the northern boundary of the park, which is a fantastic birding spot year-round.
The park is the premier spot in the region to observe Cerulean Warblers. Its dense woodlands are on the eastern edge of the Cerulean’s range, and in spring, the birds may be seen throughout the park. Not surprisingly, Susquehanna has become a popular draw for birders. One of the best places to see Ceruleans, which spend a lot of time at the tops of tall deciduous trees, is on the bluffs on the river’s west side, south of the dam.
An ideal place to start your birding visit is in the Rock Run Historic Area, where you can pick up the Ridge Trail and follow it through the woods to Stafford Road, which heads down to the river. — William Jobes
William Jobes is a print and broadcast journalist. He also wrote the article David vs. Goliath, about mobbing, and about Barnegat Lighthouse State Park, Barnegat Light, New Jersey, Hotspot Near You No. 77; Middle Creek WMA, Kleinfeltersville, Pennsylvania, No. 126; and Mercer Meadows, Lawrence Township, New Jersey, No. 178.
At a Glance
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Mature deciduous and low floodplain forests, river, and islands.
Flat and level to moderately hilly on some sections of the ridge. Wooded trails.
Cerulean Warbler in spring and summer. Along hiking trail south of dam: Yellow-throated, Worm-eating (on the leafy hillsides), Kentucky, and Prothonotary Warblers, Louisiana Waterthrush, Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, and Warbling Vireo. Fall along the Susquehanna: terns and gulls in vast numbers, and as fall edges toward winter, a steady influx of Bald Eagles. Migrants in September include warblers, Chipping Sparrow, thrushes, and flycatchers. Woodpeckers, Ovenbird, Eastern Wood-Peewee, Carolina Wren, Indigo Bunting, Red-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireos, Red-tailed Hawk, night-herons, and Great Blue Heron.
When to go
Late March through May and August through October for migrants. Late summer for breeding warblers and vireos. Fall and winter for Bald Eagles and gulls near the dam.
Restrooms throughout park. Camp sites and cabins available, as well as picnic and playground areas. Bed and breakfasts in Havre de Grace and Darlington, motel in Perryville.
State park. Daily entrance fee $2 for Maryland residents, $3 for non-residents, collected at the Rock Run parking lot. Parking free at dam.
Summer days, especially weekends, bring crowds of visitors to the park and river, but trails remain quiet. Bring a spotting scope for scanning the river’s far banks and islands.