chesapeake bay birding


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Thanks to the variety of habitats, which make up the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Dorchester County, home of Ransome's Chesapeake Retreats, is an excellent place for birding. Dorchester is built upon a maze of waterways and marshes, bordered by deciduous woods and loblolly pines - topped with the enormous stick nests of bald eagles. In fact, the region boasts one of the largest concentrations of bald eagles in the lower forty-eight, particularly during the fall and winter. The cold months of the year are also home to a collection of waterfowl which descend upon the marshes, bays and inlets of the region. It was for this reason that Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge was created in 1933.

Ransome's Retreat sits just nine miles from the center of the Blackwater Refuge and sections of the Refuge surround one of the Ransome's properties. Blackwater offers a collection of tidal marsh ponds, and forest, which can be viewed by walking the trails, driving the bordering road or Wildlife Drive, or by slipping a canoe into the water to paddle with the birds. Over 290 species grace Blackwater's checklist, including most species of waterfowl, and a collection of waders, shorebirds, and warblers, which makes it a birding paradise! It is a good indicator of what can be found in the county and on the Ransome Retreat.

Several species of note reach the northernmost edge of their range in the area, including Kentucky and yellow-throated warblers, summer tanagers, and brown-headed nuthatches - birds more common in the south. Migrants, too, pass through, and can arrive in large numbers. Migrating songbirds are best found during the fall migration, particularly on Hooper's Island, south of the Refuge, while the autumn hawk migration is best observed from Swan Harbor Road, located just south of Ransome's Retreat. Shorebirds stopover as they pass through the region, as well, visiting plowed-over farm fields, the Hurlock Wastewater Treatment Plant, and the flats along the Wildlife Drive in Blackwater as they do. Ransome's Retreat is your ideal location for birding.

During the summer, the grasses in the Refuge harbor both king and black rails, which nest in isolated places on the Refuge, as they do elsewhere in the county. King rails are found in the large fresh or fresh-brackish marshes, throughout the county, like Shorter's Marsh and Gum Swamp, while black rails are best found in the area of Elliot Island, which sits a few minutes southeast of the Refuge. Much of that region is protected within Fishing Bay Wildlife Management Area, which joins the east side of Blackwater. Just don't disturb the rails when looking, as their numbers seem to have dropped a bit in recent years.

The inlets and coves along the coast of Fishing Bay are also good for bay ducks, such as redheads or scoters during the winter. Hooper's Island and the Honga River also provide shelter for ducks - and, therefore, excitement for birders - as does the Choptank River in Cambridge.

birding pic

In fact, many places along the bay are great for seeing rafts of seaducks floating out the winter, or for watching a growing population of brown pelicans dive into the surf during the summer. And that is just where Ransome's Retreat sits. Why stay at some place in town, when you can step out your door and scope goldeneye or buffleheads on the bay, or where a short walk along the marsh will find you noting egrets and brown-headed nuthatches? Make Ransome's Retreat your next birding vacation.

Besides offering the best in birding, it is an optimum location for anyone interested in exploring and staying away from the bustle and noise of cars and buildings. On the Ransome's property, there are many elevated platforms to view the wildlife; On site are enclosed glass structures to provide a warm and cozy environment, free from the cold wind and insects. The 3rd floor widow's lookout perch offers a 360o view of the farm as well as up and down the Bay. You can also travel the trails and pathways, over dykes and through the woods (to Grandma's house, we go….). At the Retreat, the only thing waking you will be the sound of the clapper rails or barred owls calling as you doze in the hot-tub overlooking the fresh water pond, salt marsh and 1 mile of private Chesapeake Bay coastline.

For bicycle and kayak rentals, please click here to view the Blackwater Paddle & Pedal Adventures.  If you mention Percy Ransome's name, you will receive a free rental offer for a limited time. Please call Percy at 888-726-7662 for additional details.

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   For reservations or further information, please contact Marie & Percy:
           888-726-7863  (Toll Fee)            856-981-6612  (Marie's cell)
           609-975-8127  (Work)            215-350-1165  (Percy's cell)
           609-257-3719  (Work Fax)            856-231-8873  (Home Fax)