Almost everyone who lives, works or plays in the Annapolis area knows the three tall radio towers at Greenbury Point across from the Naval Academy.
The towers are visible from miles away on the Chesapeake Bay and can even be seen while crossing the Bay Bridge.
But the Greenbury Point property is not just a site for old, decommissioned radio towers – it’s a popular spot for jogging and dog-walking and an unparalleled place to go bird-watching.
“Because it’s Naval Academy property, not many people come here,” said Pat Tate, past president of the Anne Arundel Bird Club.
Members of the bird club led The Capital on a two-hour walk at Greenbury last weekend, pointing out a red-eyed virio, killdeer, a Cooper’s hawk, ospreys, indigo buntings and blue jays.
Greenbury Point is a 231-acre peninsula that juts out into the Chesapeake Bay between Mill Creek and Carr Creek. It’s across the Severn River from the main Naval Academy campus.
To get there, visitors must veer from main roads and drive past the Naval Academy golf course, tennis complex and composting facility.
Despite all the Navy facilities in the area, Greenbury Point itself is open to the public.
There’s a small nature center, though it’s rarely open. There are miles of trails, with varying surfaces and levels of maintenance.
One, called the poet’s trail, features signs with inspirational quotes. Other trails are unmarked.
Greenbury Point has a long and varied history.
It’s the site of Providence, a Puritan settlement of the 1600s that county archaeologists have studied.
In the first decade of the 20th century, the Navy bought the land to create a dairy farm; the farm was moved to Gambrills a few years later.
Starting in 1918, Greenbury Point was used for communications. At its peak, the site had 19 radio towers that were the primary communication link to Navy ships and submarines.
As radio technology became obsolete, the military marked the transmitting facility at Greenbury Point for closure in the early 1990s. The towers were shut off in the mid-1990s and all but three were dismantled and demolished later in the decade.
In 2000, the Navy opened the one-story nature center building at Greenbury Point.
In the past few years, state Del. Ron George, R-Arnold, has been pushing to use the Greenbury site for a wind power farm. A meter at the site collects data to see if the winds are strong enough to make such a facility work.
It’s not the amenities, or lack thereof, that draw birders to Greenbury Point – it’s the location.
Greenbury Point is in a unique spot on the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Flyway.
“It’s a bottleneck for migrants,” explained Colin Rees, past president of the bird club. “There’s always something coming or going.”
As birds head north or south at different times of the year, many stop at or fly over Greenbury Point along the way.
That means that the makeup of the birding population changes, depending on the time of year.
“A cast of characters lives here,” said Dan Haas, who frequently goes birding at Greenbury.
And even if the birding isn’t going well, there’s plenty more to look at and enjoy at Greenbury.
On the weekend walk, the hot temperatures kept many birds in the shade. And perhaps some were spooked by the booming gunshots from midshipmen practicing at a nearby firing range.
But there were plenty of butterflies, dragonflies, damselflies, a praying mantis and critter tracks in the mud to check out.
Joked Kathie Lambert, the bird club’s field trip coordinator: “Bored birders will look at anything with wings.”
And then there are the radio towers. A wide, old dirt road that serves as the main trail goes right up to the three red-and-white radio towers, affording an up-close look.
The trails also skirt the waterfront, giving a view across to the Naval Academy on one side and the Bay Bridge on the other.
“It’s very quiet and peaceful,” Rees said.
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