Birding Howard County, Maryland

West Friendship Park Detailed Information

This park was originally called Pheffercorn Natural Environmental Area, acquired along with several other parcels when Howard County intended to dam the streams on these parcels so that they had a reliable source of water for fire fighting. By the time it was leased to Howard County Antique Farm Machinery Club and the Howard County Living Farm Heritage Museum was created, the park gained its current name.

GPS: N39.298716° W76.970811°

Parking: There are two convenient parking lots within the park prior to the main gate. The first is the Hebb House parking lot that is located 500 feet down the entrance road. This parking area is bordered by a wooden fence with 12 sign posts featuring park information and interesting nature questions. The second is the amphitheater parking lot that is located a half mile farther south along the entrance road and is easily recognized by the five silver antique harvesters parked there. The main gate is a short distance south along the road, adjacent to a one-story house. The gate is usually locked. All trails can be accessed from these two parking lots.

Habitat: Mature mixed deciduous woods cover a large portion of the park as they line the four streams and the Middle Patuxent River. Agricultural lands make up another large portion of the park and provide excellent skywatching opportunities year-round. These agricultural lands also help attract and feed winter wildlife. Eastern Redcedar and Osage Orange trees dot the property. The two small ponds can hold some surprises with ducks in winter and herons and shorebirds in spring. The wetlands area is filled with cattails, wet pools, and willows.

Layout: West Friendship Park is unique among Howard County Parks as it is a park that doesn't have a sign identifying it as such. Instead it has a sign for the Howard County Living Farm Heritage Museum. It does, however, have distinct boundaries that are identified by Howard County Park boundary markers and the park is regularly patrolled by Howard County Park Rangers. To contact a Park Ranger call: 410-245-1410.

While some of the park is dedicated to the Living Farm Heritage Museum the majority of the park is agricultural land, deciduous woods, fields, fence hedgerows, wetlands and floodplain habitat. The Middle Patuxent River flows for a mile through the southern portion of the park. These diverse areas and habitats are all accessible using the three trails maintained by Howard County Antique Farm Machinery Club volunteers.

Birding: There have been 180+ species of birds observed on or over the park. A good time to bird here is during spring and fall migration, yet winter can bring some exciting sparrows. Many rarities have been found in the park and the potential exists for something special to show up anytime. West Friendship Park is an eBird hotspot.

Mowed Trail (Blue): This trail is accessible from the amphitheater parking lot only and is a loop. From the parking lot enter the Mowed Trail by walking north along the entrance road approximately 50 feet. The trail is to the east and is mowed grass between a fence line and an agricultural field. This trail is good anytime but is probably best in late fall and winter. Sparrows are abundant then and can be observed busily feeding along the entire length of the trail. Most winters a few American Tree Sparrows can be found among the many Field and White-throated Sparrows. This edge habitat provides excellent skywatching opportunities with wide open views of low flying passerines and soaring raptors. You'll see many Eastern Bluebirds and their nest boxes along this trail thanks to a bluebird nest box program monitored by a Howard County Bird Club volunteer. Eventually a change in habitat occurs as the trail leads to the Middle Patuxent River floodplain, the first of two ponds, and a wetlands. In summer this area has Willow Flycatchers, Eastern Kingbirds, and Red-winged Blackbirds all vocalizing as they attend to breeding activities. Wild Turkeys are sometimes seen along the river in winter, and Rusty Blackbirds stop by in spring and fall. You'll see plenty of winter sparrows in the wetlands as well. Leaving the wetlands brings one to the second pond which often hosts Wood Duck, Great Blue Heron, and once even an American Bittern. Follow the trail uphill to connect with the entrance road and follow it north to the amphitheater parking lot.

Crop Edge Trail (Yellow): This trail is accessible from the amphitheater parking lot, the Woodland Trails, or from several paved pulloffs along the entrance road. Please be respectful of crops and stay out of planted fields. This is the shortest trail in the park yet it provides excellent opportunities for skywatching and for grassland birds. In winter Savannah Sparrows and White-crowned Sparrows are found here, while summer brings breeding Grasshopper Sparrows. Eastern Meadowlark, Horned Lark, American Pipit and Bobolinks are seen yearly. Keep an eye on the fence and pole lines that parallel the entrance road as they can provide excellent views of perched Eastern Bluebirds, Northern Mockingbirds, and sometimes American Kestrel.

Woodland Trails (Red): To fully enjoy the Living Farm Heritage Museum Nature Trail or the Woodland Trails, start at the Hebb House parking lot and follow the gravel and mowed trail. This trail is not a loop! In the beginning, the trail follows a small stream that flows into a large pond on private property adjacent to the park. In winter, waterfowl can be observed on that pond, flying about, or in the park's agricultural fields. Both Ross's and Snow Goose have visited the pond along with Cackling Goose and Ring-necked Duck. During your walk you will come across all or some of the 14 sign posts that dot the trail. Each sign post has information about the natural features of the park and wildlife residents you might encounter. Stop eight has information on woodland animals while stop nine describes "Vernal Pools." The first part of this trail is mostly wooded edge, but eventually it leads into a dense woods with a beautiful stream bottom where the trail turns from grass to packed dirt. Expect a variety of warblers and sparrows in spring and fall along this trail. The mixed deciduous woods include Black Walnut, Tulip Poplar, Red Maple and Black Cherry trees to name a few. In the forest Wood Thrushes and Hermit Thrushes can be found in season and occasionally a vocalizing Barred Owl will delight the ears. The trail prior to entering the deeper woods has two paths that lead to the Yellow Trail for a different habitat and nature experience while returning to the parking area. Continuing along the woodlands trail will take you through a mature deciduous forest with multiple offshoot paths that lead to the Yellow Trail. Following the portion of the woodlands trail to its completion will bring one to the amphitheater parking lot. From there, follow the entrance road north.

Deer Hunts: The park is closed when controlled deer hunts are held in fall and winter. Scheduled dates are posted along the entrance road prior to hunt days. On hunt days, Park Rangers close the entrance road and remain on location until the hunt is over.

Highlights: The antique farm equipment and refurbished buildings add to the character and experience when visiting this park. A Maryland historic National Road marker is located behind the Hebb House commemorating the The Road that Built the Nation. Well kept trails, varied habitat, and abundant wildlife combine to make this park a worthwhile stop for any nature enthusiast. West Friendship Park was the scene of a one-day Bioblitz on April 26, 2014; pictures taken at the Bioblitz are HERE. West Friendship Park is a wonderful place to enjoy a peaceful, natural environment; however it can be a busy location. The Howard County Fairgrounds entrance lies across the road from the park and when major attractions are scheduled traffic increases substantially. Additionally, the Howard County Antique Farm Machinery Club holds a few yearly fund-raising events that often bring large crowds to the park. The following events produce traffic that can range from heavy to gridlock.

Howard County Fairgrounds
  • Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival - First weekend in May
  • Howard County Fair - First rwo weekends in August (Saturday through Saturday)
Farm Heritage museum
  • Summer Festival - Last weekend in June
  • Fall Festival - Last weekend in September and first weekend of October
  • Holiday Open House - First two weekends in December

© 2017