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Stauffer’s Marsh Nature Preserve (Sp,S,F,W)
General description. Stauffer’s Marsh is owned and managed by the Potomac Valley Audubon Society (PVAS). Encompassing 45 acres of wetlands and field-like habitats, Stauffer’s Marsh attracts an impressive variety of birds to this Berkeley County locale. Natural springs feed the impoundments that were created by the USDA as part of a wetland restoration project initiated by the owner of the land prior to Dr. Stauffer Miller’s purchase. In the early years of the project, vast cattail marshes grew along the north edge of the main lake. Hundreds of wood ducks used this emergent wetland habitat for a staging area during fall migration. The ensuing years have seen a rise in the number of beaver and muskrats using the area and a decline in the emergent vegetation in the wetlands and trees and shrubs on the uplands and dikes. With this decline comes a benefit to birders, you can see much more of the marsh than ever before. PVAS leads numerous birding and nature related field trips to the marsh throughout the year. Spring and fall migration as well as the winter staging of waterfowl are wonderful at the marsh. Additionally, there are numerous opportunities to watch butterflies and insects and to see wildflowers in and around the marsh. The preserve is open year round for birders and naturalists and there are no fees. Please stay on the developing trail system and look for interpretive signs along the way. Click here for an in-depth web page about Stauffer's Marsh.
Seasonal Variation in Birding. A long list of bird species (157) has been observed at Stauffer’s Marsh over the years. Virginia rail can be found nearly year-round and are presumed to be breeding here. During spring migration, numerous warblers, flycatchers, and sparrows can be found in the woods and fields of the marsh complex and the field habitats of the north section of the preserve. Osprey and Bald Eagles have been seen hunting for fish in the spring. Swamp Sparrows use the marsh on their way north and south and during the winter, but do not appear to stay to breed every year. Several shorebird species stage here on their way north for a short period in late April and early May. During late spring and summer listen for both Oriole species in the large Sycamore at the parking lot and along the wooded margin of the stream bordering the north end of the wetland area. Willow Flycatcher is a breeding species here and can be found in the scattered trees to the south of the larger impoundment as well as in the wooded copse between the main path and the north edge of the water. These habitats also attract Yellow Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Brown Thrasher, Catbird, Mockingbird, Cardinal, Field Sparrow, Song Sparrow and Red-winged Blackbird. Belted Kingfisher is a common breeder and can be often seen and heard hunting for food in the western margin of the wetlands along Back Creek Valley Road. Fall migration can be a wonderful experience at Stauffer’s Marsh. The highlight of a late winter or fall trip would be finding Rusty Blackbirds in the wooded margin of the north stream. Late summer into fall is a great time to watch for an amazing variety of shorebirds to migrate through using the preserve as a staging area. Baird’s, White-rumped, Least, Semipalmated, Stilt, and Solitaire Sandpipers, Dunlin, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Semipalmated Plover and Killdeer, Dowitchers and Wilson’s Snipe can all be seen at the appropriate time. Winter can be a very “slow” birding experience at Stauffer’s Marsh. There are a few duck species that can be found resting here including Green-winged Teal, Wood Duck, Mallard and an occasional Pintail or American Wigeon. The fields of the northern section may hold small flocks of American Tree Sparrow. A Northern Shrike was seen here in 2008.
Directions: From the intersection of Interstate 81 and route 9 at exit 16W near Martinsburg, travel west on route 9 for 6.2 miles and turn left onto Back Creek Valley Road. Continue south for 11 miles. The preserve is on the left and the main parking area is at the north end of the wetlands.
From south of Martinsburg, take exit 5 and continue west on route 51 across the top of North Mountain and down to the small town of Shanghai. At Back Creek Valley road turn left and continue south about a mile. The preserve will be on your left.
The lands surrounding Stauffer’s Marsh are privately owned. Please do not trespass without getting permission from the landowner.
Caution: There can be large numbers of ticks at this preserve. Please dress appropriately and use insect repellent on your pant legs, shoes, and socks to deter the ticks from attaching to your clothing. Wearing knee-high rubber boots works very well in keeping the ticks at bay. Most of the ticks found here are the larger dog ticks but deer ticks are a distinct possibility. Be sure to check for ticks once you return home.