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Hotspots Near You

294. Ocean City Inlet, Worcester County, Maryland

A site for gulls, terns, pelicans, shorebirds — and rarities — on the Maryland coast.

I’ve been visiting Ocean City since I was a child, but it wasn’t until I became a birder that my eyes were opened to the species richness found here. A vagrant trap, this location is great year-round, especially for rarities. It’s one of the few places I’m familiar with in Maryland that a birder has the chance, as I did, to list a Snowy Owl and a Dovekie on the same day.

The inlet is sandwiched between an adjacent parking lot and Assateague Island. A stone jetty runs along the island side, and a scope is necessary for viewing the Purple Sandpipers, Ruddy Turnstones, Great and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, and Great Cormorants that can be found on it. Because of the inlet’s layout and the island’s proximity to the parking lot, very close views of shorebirds, seabirds, sea ducks, and raptors on their way to Skimmer Island are plentiful. If you’re a photographer, bring your big lens.

Skimmer Island is just a short drive away and a must to visit on your way to Assateague. In the summer, pelicans gather en masse on Skimmer Island and interesting terns always turn up. Ocean City, Maryland, is a mecca for birders who want to capitalize on an experience rich in diversity without getting on a boat or driving around all day. 

294. Ocean City Inlet, Worcester County, Maryland

Directions

The Ocean City Inlet lies at the southernmost end of Ocean City. Take Rte. 50E./Ocean Gateway across the bridge into the city and turn right onto S. Philadelphia Ave. At S. 1st St., turn left then go right onto S. Baltimore Ave. Turn left onto S. 2nd St. and follow it until it ends at the Hugh T. Cropper Inlet Parking Lot. The inlet is on the right.

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At a Glance

Click on the coordinates below to view location:
38°19’30.22″N 75°5’15.97″W

Habitat

Marine and coastal habitats.

Terrain

Flat. Wheelchair-accessible.

Birds

More than 200 species. Winter: Brant, Northern Pintail, King and Common Eiders, Harlequin Duck, Black and White-winged Scoters, Long-tailed Duck, Common Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Red-throated and Common Loons, Red-necked Grebe, Great Cormorant, Ruddy Turnstone, Boat-tailed Grackle. Summer: American Oystercatcher, Piping Plover, Red Knot, Purple Sandpiper, Northern Gannet, Great Black-backed Gull, Least, Black, Royal, Common, and Forster’s Terns, Peregrine Falcon. Rarities: Snowy Owl, Dovekie, Thick-billed Murre, Razorbill, Black Guillemot, Black-legged Kittiwake, Glaucous Gull, Parasitic Jaeger, Wilson’s Storm-Petrel.

When to go

Year-round.

Amenities

No facilities. Shops are driving distance. Beach is at the edge of the parking lot, walkway located along the inlet.

Access

City park. Open 24 hours a day. Parking available. Parking: $3 per hour, first 30 minutes are free.

Tips

Expect windy conditions year-round. Wear a hat and apply sunblock in summer. Binoculars and spotting scope are a must. Bring photography equipment for a rarity because one is bound to show up.

For more info

Ocean City Inlet Park
Tri-County Bird Club
Maryland Ornithological Society
Trusted local bird guide Anthony VanSchoor

Sites nearby

Skimmer Island
Less than a mile from inlet. Turn right onto S. Baltimore Ave. from the parking lot and turn left onto 3rd St. Parking on the right. Dense flocks of pelicans, terns, gulls, and other birds.

Assateague Island
Ten miles from the Inlet. Great views of Cattle Egrets on the backs of wild ponies. Piping Plover also possible. Snowy Owl possible in winter.

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Orietta C. Estrada

Orietta C. Estrada is the editor of The Maryland Yellowthroat, a bimonthly publication of the Maryland Ornithological Society, and a wildlife columnist. She is also a master naturalist and vice president of the Frederick Bird Club.

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