2015 Grassland Birds


I had been looking forward to this trip for years. Unfortunately, for one reason or another, I never seemed to be able to make it. Not this time!

When I pulled up into the Park and Ride on Route 32, just south of Eldersburg, Tom Miller was already waiting there with a young man from his church who was a beginning birder. A couple from the Baltimore County Chapter soon joined us. Bill Ellis and Bob Ringler arrived a short time later. CJ McAuliffe was the last to show. Her yellow Mustang was unmistakable.

As we were about to leave the parking lot, a Cooper’s Hawk flew overhead. I rode with Bob and Bill. The others followed in their own vehicles. Driving west on Route 26, we watched as a Great Blue Heron appeared to be chased by a crow. Or, it may have been that the two were just traveling in the same direction. We never did decide. Turning onto Route 75, we added some new species to our list, including Barn Swallow, Brown-headed Cowbird, European Starling, Mourning Dove, Common Grackle, and Chipping Sparrow.

Making a left onto Keymar Road, we saw or heard Indigo Bunting, Blue Jay, Eastern Bluebird, American Robin, Carolina Wren, Northern Cardinal, Northern Mockingbird, and American Crow. Another left onto Good Intent Road took us through some nice grassland. We stopped the cars to look at a Savannah Sparrow. Bob heard it singing first. Someone also heard a Grasshopper Sparrow off in the distance. An American Kestrel sat on a wire up ahead of us. We saw Eastern Meadowlarks here too. Other species included Red-tailed Hawk, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Red-bellied Woodpecker, and Eastern Bluebird. Continuing through a wooded area, we could hear a Wood Thrush singing.


2015 grasshopper sparrow
Grasshopper Sparrow


Before joining with Woodsboro Pike, the road went under an impressive railroad trestle that seemed to be made more of rust than of metal. Turning right, we drove through Keymar before turning left onto Keysville Bruceville Road. American Goldfinch, Eastern Wood-Peewee, Brown-headed Cowbird, Common Yellowthroat, and Carolina Wren appeared from time to time.

A left onto Sixes Bridge Road took us through some prime nesting territory. After spotting Rock Pigeon, Indigo Bunting, and Black Vulture, Bob heard a Dicksissel calling. It appeared to be coming from somewhere around a farm at the intersection of Naylors Mill Road. Passing the farm, we parked the vehicles along the road and got out to walk. Nodding thistle and Moth Mullein were blooming in a field on our left. A Song Sparrow sat on a post up ahead. A Grasshopper Sparrow was singing. Other birds nearby included Eastern Kingbird, Indigo Bunting, Eastern Bluebird, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Chimney Swift, Cooper’s Hawk, Eastern Meadowlark, and Turkey Vulture.

Getting back in the cars again, we soon added more Dicksissels, Savannah Sparrows, and Grasshopper Sparrows as well a two Horned Larks. We had good views of the Horned Larks. In a field near Keysville Road, we spotted a Grasshopper Sparrow with food in its bill. We also heard Vesper Sparrow, but never saw it. Some chimney swifts soared overhead. Other birds heard or seen here included House Wren, Eastern Kingbird, Red-winged Blackbird, and Red-headed Woodpecker. The Red-headed Woodpecker calls came from a copse of trees along Keysville Road. As we turned right onto the road, we slowed down enough to allow us to scan the trees there. We never did find the bird though.


2015 grassland birders
Grassland Birders in Action


Another wooded area appropriately produced a Wood Thrush along with Blue Jay, Song Sparrow, Eastern Wood-Peewee, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Mockingbird, Eastern Towhee, and American Robin.

Turning right onto Keysville Bruceville Road, we continued to a spot along the left side of the road that Bob said was once good for Bobolinks. The field had been cut, however, and he didn’t think we would find any. Fortunately, the Bobolinks didn’t share Bob’s
opinion of their chances there. Two were heard to be singing, although we only actually saw one of the birds. However, this beautiful male put on quite a show for us as it flew back and forth, just above the vegetation. A Dicksissel was singing as well. An Eastern Meadowlark flew by carrying nesting material. Not to be outdone, a male Baltimore Oriole came barreling across the field in our direction.

We heard a Scarlet Tanager singing just before turning right onto Sixes Bridge Road. We were effectively making a circle. We stopped at the farm where we had heard the Dicksissel before. It was still there, but refused to show itself.

Turning left onto Middleburg Road, we drove though Detour and then Keymar, crossing Route 194 before making a left onto Crouse Mill Road. We then turned right onto Hapes Mill Road. Bob remembered seeing a Vesper Sparrow here a week ago. We got out and had a look, but nothing materialized.

Continuing straight onto Stovers Road, we then turned right at John Shirk. Here we had a Red-headed Woodpecker, a pair of Brown Thrashers, some Cedar Waxwings, and a very loud Grasshopper Sparrow. Then, it was left onto Otterdale and another left onto Trevanion. This purpose of this convoluted cross-country jaunt was to eventually bring us out in Taneytown so we could eat lunch. Bob had a place in mind. It was the Country Kitchen. The food, service, and prices were great!

Resisting the temptation to nap after lunch, we all piled into the vehicles again and set off backtracking along Trevanion. Then, it was left onto Uniontown Road. After passing through Uniontown, we made a right onto Jasontown Road. Here the paved road would give way to gravel. We could hear Horned Larks singing and saw some as well.

Pulling up to Springdale Road, Bob was proceeding to tell us (with a certain amount of sadness in his voice) that this had once been a good place for Vesper Sparrows. At least one of the sparrows must have heard him, because it proceeded to sit on a nearby power line and sing for us. We all had pretty good views of the bird in the binoculars, but it took off before we could get a scope on it.

That sparrow was pretty much the last grassland bird we saw. Heading back to the Park and Ride, we all basked in the warmth of a successful day in the field.


2015 Grassland Vesper Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow



Carroll County Chapter of Maryland Ornithological Society

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