As the outdoor enthusiasts are returning to their favorite recreational spots, they are cheerfully greeted with the familiar sights and sounds of spring.
In Allegany County, there are countless opportunities for birdwatching, especially during spring migration. For those residents who put up bird feeders in their backyard, new songbird species have most likely trickled in over the last few weeks of April.
Aside from the popular feeder birds such as Northern Cardinals and Black-capped Chickadees, Allegany County offers an abundance of the more overlooked bird species such as warblers, vireos, raptors, and waterfowl.
There are several ideal birding “hotspots” within the county on public land. One of the best places for birding is anywhere along the C&O Canal Towpath. The level canal trail offers a variety of habitats from open water to shrub thickets and forested areas. The C&O Canal Towpath is an ideal spot to find birds such as Green Herons, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Rusty Blackbirds, Common Mergansers, and various hawk species.
Rocky Gap State Park is an excellent birding hotspot especially for waterfowl and shorebirds at the lake. If you venture into the wooded trails at this park, you are likely to find the noisy Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, White-throated Sparrows, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Brown Creepers, and several woodpecker species.
Bordering the Garrett County line is a lesser-known gem, the Finzel Swamp. The Finzel Swamp is home to uncommon bird species such as Virginia Rails, Soras, Ruffed Grouse, Barred Owls, and a few flycatcher species. The best chance of spotting these elusive birds is to arrive in the morning hours and listen for movement in the tall swamp grasses. If you are lucky, you may be startled by the loud outburst from a Virginia Rail calling nearby.
Dan's Rock, a popular overlook in the county, is perfect for witnessing raptor migration. If you spend an hour or two sitting at the overlook during peak migration, you can spot Broad-winged Hawks, Cooper’s Hawks, Black Vultures, and Common Ravens.
Green Ridge State Forest offers gorgeous hiking trails and approximately one hundred bird species throughout the year. Visitors may stumble across ground birds such as Wild Turkeys, American Woodcocks, Brown Thrashers, Wood Thrushes, Ovenbirds, and various sparrow species. Calling from the treetops are species such as Warbling Vireos, Eastern Phoebes, Black-and-white Warblers, Northern Parulas, and Yellow-billed Cuckoos.
Other noteworthy locations for birdwatching include Dans Mountain State Park, Frostburg State University Arboretum, the Great Allegheny Passage, Town Hill Overlook, and Warrior Mountain Wildlife Management Area.
Wherever you decide to adventure this spring, bring a pair of binoculars and a field guide along to learn more about the incredible diversity of birds in Allegany County. Happy Birdwatching!
Written by Jessica Lynn Klotz. Jessica Klotz is a local photographer, outdoor enthusiast, and avid birder. Photo credit: Jessica Klotz.