Fleetwood Hill Battlefield: Hot Spot for Birds and History

Fleetwood Hill Battlefield is a magnet for birds and Civil War buffs. During the American Civil War, The Battle of Brandy Station took place on June 9, 1863 when Union Calvary Major General Alfred Pleasanton launched a surprise attack against Major General J.E.B. Stuart’s Confederate calvary.

Years ago, local citizens came together to save the battlefield from development. The National Park Service mapped the historic area and recommended preserving four separate areas. Fleetwood Hill Battlefield is one of the four that is preserved from development. American Battlefield Trust is the main organization behind the preservation.

American Battlefield owns this beautiful spot located in Culpeper County between the small towns of Elkwood and Brandy Station. The Trust purchased 61 acres area at Fleetwood Hill in 2013. Here you will find a free parking area that overlooks one of the most scenic views in the county. In one direction, is the grasslands of the battlefield that hosts a variety of grasslands birds. In the other direction, is a beautiful private farm with a pond popular with waterfowl in the winter.

Fleetwood Battlefield is a great year-round destination for birding. Trips to the battlefield in the winter surprise the visitor with unexpected visitors such as Tundra Swans. On December 18, 2017, I stopped by the battlefield to see what was in the Beauregard Farm pond. To my surprise, when I got out of my car, I flushed four Greater White-fronted Geese from the field across from the parking lot. They had been foraging for grain in the field. It was the first time I had spotted geese in the field directly across from the parking area. On the pond, I saw two Cackling Geese among around 50 Canada Geese, 12 Hooded Mergansers, three Tundra Swans, about 30 American Black Ducks and about 60 Mallards. It was a lucky day as some winter days the pond is deserted.

When Spring arrives, my attention shifts from the Beauregard pond to the battlefield. The field fills with thistle and other plants that provide food and cover for grassland birds. Soon Grasshopper Sparrows, Red-winged Blackbirds, European Meadowlarks, and American Goldfinches make the battlefield home for the breeding season. I just spotted a Dickcissel yesterday who was singing vigorously from a tree-top. Native trees in the field provide home to other species such as Orchard Orioles. The battlefield is quite a “birdy”place.

Fleetwood Hill Battlefield is also a great place to look for butterflies, dragonflies, and damselflies.

Kudos to The American Battlefield Trust for doing a great job maintaining the battlefield, while providing breeding areas for grassland birds. Moreover, they have installed new interpretative signs in the battlefield providing the visitor with a wealth of information about the Civil War battlefield. The Grasshopper Sparrows like to come out and perch on the interpretative signs!

American Battlefield recently put in a stationary telescope that allows visitors to get a closer look at the area for free. I look forward to being able to use this scope during winter to look at the birds on the farm pond across the road! You can also see the mountains of the Shenandoah National Park from this spot.

Fleetwood Hill Battlefield happens to be located in a priority block for the Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas 2 (2016-2020). The atlas is a project to map breeding birds throughout Virginia to inform conservation strategies. The priority block is known as Brandy Station SE. For more atlas information, I cover atlasing of this block in a separate blog post: Brandy Station SE (Priority Block) – VA Breeding Bird Atlas 2.

American Battlefield is seeking to make Fleetwood Hill Battlefield and other historic areas into Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain State Park. They have been acquiring land in the Brandy Station area for this effort. You can learn more about the American Civil War sites in Culpepper and other battlefields from The American Battlefield Trust; the only national level organization working to save America’s historic battlefields. Consider making a donation to American Battlefield on this site. Battlefields are great for preserving our nations’ history while providing open space, which in turn provides wildlife habitat. A win-win!


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