Delaware Birding Trail

Piedmont Hills & Valley Region



Most of Delaware is quite flat, but a crescent of very different terrain caps our northwestern edge. Rolling hills, lushly vegetated stream valleys, and towering deciduous forests dominate the landscape here, along with the cities of Wilmington and Newark. Birding highlights include migrant, breeding, and wintering songbirds, as well as southbound raptors.

White Clay Creek State Park


2 miles north of Newark
Managed by: Delaware State Parks
Web site: www.destateparks.com/park/white-clay-creek/

White Clay Creek State Park features one of Delaware's finest birding walks, linking Hopkins Bridge and the Wedgewood Road Footbridge. Well worth visiting year-round, it is especially rewarding from April - November. Uncommon breeding birds found here include American Redstart, Veery, Blue-winged Warbler, and Warbling Vireo. The park is the only known Delaware breeding site for Cerulean Warblers, but their numbers have seriously declined and their future is uncertain. Please refrain from playing recorded calls to attract Cerulean Warblers here.

The trail circuit can be accessed from either the Chambers House Nature Center, Hopkins Bridge, or the Wedgewood Road Footbridge area. To find the trail from the nature center, walk south (downstream) from the parking lot across Hopkins Road, and proceed down a gated segment of Creek Road (called "Tweeds Mill Road" on some maps). About one mile from the nature center, you will arrive at the Wedgewood Road Footbridge parking area. The trail turns left and crosses the creek on the footbridge, then immediately leads left, continuing back to the north on the east bank of the creek. You will emerge from the woods back at Hopkins Road, where you can turn left, cross Hopkins Bridge and then turn right (N) up Creek Road to return to the nature center. The total distance is about 2.5 miles.

If you have limited time, or just want a shorter walk, park at the Wedgewood Road Footbridge parking area and cross the footbridge. Turn left (N) and walk until you reach the far end of a small pond on the right (E). You can then retrace your steps to the parking area, for a total of less than a mile of easy walking.

Directions to Chambers House Nature Center:
Take DE 896 (New London Road) north from Newark. Turn right (E) on Hopkins Road. After 1 mile, turn left (N) on Creek Road. The parking lot is on the left (W) in 0.2 mile. The nature center is in the historic house beyond the lot. Note: The gated parking lot for the nature center may not be open until 8 am. Those wanting an earlier start may find parking along Hopkins Road, to the east of the bridge. Please observe posted parking restrictions.

Directions to Wedgewood Road Footbridge area:
Take DE 896 (New London Road) north from Newark. Turn right (E) on Wedgewood Road. After 1 mile, Wedgewood ends at Creek Road. Turn left (N) into the small parking lot. The bridge crosses the main creek channel just east of the intersection. Please observe posted parking restrictions.

Middle Run Valley Natural Area


3 miles northeast of Newark
Managed by: Delaware Nature Society/New Castle County
Web site: www.delawarenaturesociety.org/MiddleRunValleyNaturalArea

Middle Run Valley Natural Area is an 860-acre county park adjoining White Clay Creek State Park. Managed by the Delaware Nature Society, the park features some of the state's best birding. The Middle Run Birding Trail is a one-mile loop through several diverse habitats, including meadow, scrub-thicket, and forest. More than 170 species of birds have been observed along the trail, including Indigo Bunting, Orchard and Baltimore Oriole, and Blue-winged and Prairie Warbler.

Before visiting, download the excellent trail guide (click here).

Directions to Middle Run Natural Area:
Take Route 72 north from downtown Newark. Continue on Route 72 by turning left onto Possum Park Road. After 1.7 miles, turn right onto Possum Hollow Road. After 0.4 mile, turn left to enter the Natural Area (gravel road). The road ends at the parking lot.

Ashland Nature Center


2 miles east of Hockessin
Managed by: Delaware Nature Society
Web site: www.delawarenaturesociety.org/AshlandNatureCenter

Headquarters of one of Delaware's leading conservation and environmental education groups, the Delaware Nature Society, the Ashland Nature Center is an excellent spot for a morning or afternoon hike in search of typical woodland and field species. There are four self-guided nature trails on 130 acres of forest, meadow, and freshwater marsh. The nature center maintains a very active bird feeding station. A daily fall raptor migration count was begun here in 2007; visitors are welcome. Follow the signs from the nature center or the parking lot to the hawk watch, which is atop the hill above the Overnight Lodge.

Directions to the Ashland Nature Center:
Take Route 41 south from Hockessin. Turn left (E) at the traffic light onto Brackenville Road. In about 2 miles, Brackenville Road dead-ends at Barley Mill Road at a stop sign. Turn left (N) onto Barley Mill, then immediately left again (W) into Ashland Nature Center parking area.

Brandywine Creek State Park


4.5 miles northwest of Wilmington
Managed by: Delaware State Parks
Web site: www.destateparks.com/park/brandywine-creek/

A diverse assemblage of forests, thickets, fields, and meadows bordering the Brandywine River, Brandywine Creek State Park features excellent walking and woodland birding at any time of year. The most direct way to access the park's riverside forest, where one typically encounters the best numbers of migrant songbirds, is from the east side of the river at Thompson's Bridge.

On the west side of the Brandywine, the main entrance to the park offers open hillside habitats and some lovely scenic vistas. The entrance road winds past brushy fields where a few pairs of Grasshopper Sparrows and Eastern Meadowlarks breed. Park at the Brandywine Creek Nature Center and check the excellent bird-feeding station; inquire also about any naturalist-led activities that may be available.

Directly behind the center is the lovely Tulip Tree Woods. Beyond that, several trails continue toward the river. Open fields near the nature center parking lot, especially the aptly-named "Hawk Watch" parking lot, reached by turning right (E) ¼ mile prior to the center itself, are good places to watch for southbound raptors in September and October.

Directions to Thompson's Bridge: From the intersection of Routes 202 and 92, north of Wilmington, go west on Route 92 (Beaver Valley Road). After 0.3 mile, follow 92 as it bears left (S) and becomes Thompson's Bridge Road. Route 92 descends toward the Brandywine River, reaching it in another 1.4 miles at Thompson's Bridge. Turn left (S) into the parking area immediately before crossing the bridge. From there, one can follow a section of the Northern Delaware Greenway either north or south, then backtrack to the parking area. About a mile north of Thompson's Bridge, the greenway intersects with Ramsey Road. This area is a favorite spot for many local briders during spring and fall migration. Going south from Thompson's Bridge, the greenway leaves the park in about 1.5 miles at Rockland Road.

Directions to Brandywine Creek Nature Center: From Thompson's Bridge, follow Route 92 1.4 miles to a 4-way stop sign at Adams Dam Road. Go left (SE) on Adams Dam Road 0.3 mile; the park entrance is on the left (N); the nature center is 0.7 mile up the entrance road.

Wilmington State Parks - Brandywine Park


Wilmington
Managed by: Delaware State Parks
Web site: www.destateparks.com/park/wilmington/brandywine-park/

The Brandywine River winds through the City of Wilmington, bordered by wooded uplands that boast excellent birding during songbird migration periods and provide a welcome respite for urban residents and visitors year-round. Brandywine Park is convenient to downtown hotels and businesses.

Brandywine Park offers walking access along both banks of the river with opportunities for forest and streamside birding. The park is also home to the Brandywine Zoo, the only zoo in the state.

Directions to Brandywine Park: By foot, the park is easily reached from downtown via the North Market Street bridge over the Brandywine River. One can follow the streamside path a mile or more north up the river's west bank. For motorists, the most convenient parking is near the Brandywine Zoo. From I-95 in Wilmington, take Route 52 North (Pennsylvania Avenue) 0.1 mile and turn right (NE) onto North Van Buren Street. After 0.4 mile, turn left at the bottom of the hill (S) onto North Park Drive. The zoo entrance is to the left. A nice birding walk may be had by crossing the river by foot on North Van Buren Street and following the foot path north a half-mile or so up the west bank of the river.

Alapocas Run State Park


Wilmington
Managed by: Delaware State Parks
Web site: www.destateparks.com/park/alapocas-run/

Alapocas Run has undergone a major expansion and improvement of trail facilities in recent years. Trails wind along the rim of the river valley and offer eye-level viewing into the tall forest canopy, a relief to the necks of warbler watchers. The Alapocas Woods trail offers varying terrain over packed earth and rocky surfaces. Follow the side trails to explore more of Alapocas woods or take the Northern Delaware Greenway Trail for a longer hike.

The 10.4 mile Northern Delaware Greenway Trail spans northeast New Castle County with portions traversing several state and county parks. Through Alapocas Run State Park, the trail is mostly paved with a portion through Alapocas Woods consisting of crushed stone. An additional section of trail connects Alapocas Run State Park with Brandywine Park. In Alapocas Run State Park, the Northern Delaware Greenway Trail is accessible from the Blue Ball Barn parking lot and from parking lots off East Park Drive.

Directions to Alapocas Woods Trailhead: From the intersection of Route 202 (Concord Pike) & Route 141 in Wilmington, take 141 west 1.3 miles to Alapocas Drive. Turn left (S) on Alapocas, pass the DuPont Experimental Station entrance, and take the next right (SW), a total of only 0.2 mile from Route 141. In another 0.2 mile, park in the baseball field parking lot. The Alapocas Woods trail leads east from the east corner of the lot.

Peterson Urban Wildlife Refuge


Wilmington Riverfront
Managed by: Delaware Nature Society
Web site: www.delawarenaturesociety.org/DuPontEnvironmentalEducationCenter

Image: Statue of Russell Peterson at the refuge

This urban wildlife refuge, opened in 2009, was named after Russell W. Peterson (1916-2011). An avid birder and environmentalist, Russell Peterson served as Delaware's governor from 1969-1973, and as president of the National Audubon Society from 1979-1985.

The 212-acre refuge is a unique area where the city meets a freshwater, tidal marsh along the Christina River. At the edge of the refuge, the four-story DuPont Environmental Education Center provides panoramic views. The site features a quarter-mile pond loop trail that extends into the marsh, as well as a 10-acre ornamental garden.

Directions to the Peterson Urban Wildlife Refuge: From I-95 North, take the Martin Luther King Blvd exit (Exit 6) onto Maryland Avenue. Turn right on Martin Luther King Boulevard, then turn right on Justison Street into Wilmington's Riverfront area. Just past Joe's Crab Shack and Iron Hill Brewery restaurants, bear right onto Shipyard Drive. (Shipyard Drive later merges with Delmarva Lane.) Stay straight until reaching the DuPont Environmental Education Center.

Next Sites: Delaware River Coast Region - Click to continue.



The Delaware Birding Trail is a joint project of the following:

  • Delaware Audubon Society
  • Delmarva Ornithological Society, dosbirds.org
  • Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control,
    Division of Fish & Wildlife, dnrec.delaware.gov

This project was funded, in part, through the Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife with funding from the Wildlife Conservation and Restoration Program, Division of Federal Assistance, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Original Text by Jeffrey A. Gordon (Additional text added by Delaware Audubon.)

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