Irish Grove MOS Sanctuary
4110 Rumbly Point Road, Marion Station, MD 21838
Irish Grove MOS Sanctuary in Somerset County is considered by many to be the “jewel in the crown” of the MOS Sanctuary System, and is by far the largest of the ten MOS sanctuaries. Irish Grove Sanctuary occupies the Rumbly Point peninsula in southern Somerset County. The sanctuary now consists of 2,285 acres, the majority being tidal marshes, with some higher ground in pine forests. There are breathtaking, wide-open vistas of the tidal marshland. Most of the property is less than five feet above sea level. There are several fresh and salt water ponds surrounded by Loblolly Pine woods. Irish Grove is the #1 eBird hotspot in Somerset County in terms of number of species reported.
Irish Grove Sanctuary began with a purchase by MOS of 1,409 acres in 1968. MOS engaged in a massive fundraising campaign to enable this purchase, and donations were received from many community organizations and school groups, as well as MOS members. Additional parcels were added over the years, both by purchase and by donation through the Eastern Shore Land Trust. In fall 2017, MOS purchased an additional 32-acre parcel and named it the Chandler and Eleanor Robbins Tract, in honor of these two late members of MOS who did so much to support MOS and its sanctuaries, and in particular, Irish Grove. Now MOS is celebrating the recent (November 2019) addition of several tracts totaling 675 acres, a generous gift from Mr. Beverly M. DuBose, a local landowner and outdoorsman. Mr. DuBose and his associates in the Quindocqua Partnership have been good friends to MOS and the Irish Grove Sanctuary. The DuBose addition includes the spectacular Richardson Marsh covering most of the south end of the peninsula.
The sanctuary features a farm house and outbuildings, surrounded by about 20 acres of fields and yard, and this is where visits should start. There are foot trails that start from the house area, as well as a couple of lanes (Dotty Lane, Canal Road, Robbins Way, and Round Pond Road) that can be driven by car during dry weather; see trail map at the link at left.
Every visit should include a walk or drive down Rumbly Point Road past Richardson Marsh to the road’s end at Rumbly Point on the Pocomoke Sound. The road provides excellent views of the adjacent marsh, a good place to look for waders, shorebirds, terns and gulls, and marshland sparrows and wrens. There is so little traffic that it is possible to simply stop on the road to look at birds. But be aware that the road may not be passable during high tides or after recent storms or high winds. Note that the hunting lodge on the water at the south end of Rumbly Point Road is privately owned and is not part of the MOS Sanctuary, so please avoid trespassing there.
[Do not confuse Rumbly Point Road and the Rumbly Point marsh, described here, with the town of Rumbley, the Rumbley Boat Ramp, and Rumbley Road (MD Route 361), which are farther north in Somerset County. See the separate description in this Birder’s Guide.]
Irish Grove is very large, and most of the sanctuary’s marshlands, with miles of shoreline and tidal creeks, are not visible from the road or the foot-trails, so you might enjoy exploring by kayak or canoe (bring your own; none on site). These can be launched in a man-made canal at the end of the sanctuary’s fittingly-named Canal Road, about 0.6 miles past the house. The canal connects to East Creek and thus provides access to much of the marsh. There may not be enough water to float even a kayak at some low tides, so be aware of the tides. If you decide to paddle, consult a tide chart and use a handheld GPS or a GPS app on your smartphone to avoid getting misplaced in the meandering creeks of the marsh.
Note that the public boat ramp that used to be on the west side of the road just above Rumbly Point is no longer there – it was removed by the county in May 2020. At this time, the closest public boat ramp is at Shelltown on the Pocomoke River; see the Somerset County Boat Ramp webpage for details.
June through September are great months for insects at this sanctuary. There are deer flies, green heads, mosquitoes, ticks, and punkies by the thousands. It is advised that visitors during the summer and early fall wear head nets, long sleeve shirts, long pants, closed-toe shoes, and use repellents. Often the insects are worse in the upland areas; once out on the marsh, the breeze may keep them away. Weather is typically mild year-round due to persistent breezes and the proximity to Pocomoke Sound.
The house at Irish Grove is available for overnight stays by MOS members; see https://mdbirds.org/conservation/refuges-sanctuaries/irish-grove/#toggle-id-3 for fees, regulations, and making reservations (required for overnight stays). The house has four bedrooms (mix of single and double beds), living room, museum/library room, dining room, kitchen with basic cooking and eating utensils, bath and screened porch. Bring your own bed linens and towels. The plumbing in the house is winterized from November 1 to April 1; winter visitors must bring their own water and refrain from using the drains in the sinks. The grounds also include a screened picnic shelter capable of seating a large group; tool and storage sheds; and an outhouse and outdoor water faucet. Tent camping is permitted near the house. Reservations are required for overnight stays, including camping.
The MOS official checklist for Irish Grove includes 248 species that have been observed there; over 230 species are recorded for Irish Grove on eBird. There is a separate eBird hotspot for Rumbly Point with 206+ species. Irish Grove is the #1 eBird hotspot for Somerset County.
The avifauna is typical of salt marshes and adjacent uplands. The marshes have rails, ducks, shorebirds, Marsh Wrens, marsh sparrows, and other species that would be expected in salt marshes. The uplands have breeding species typical of southern pine forests and forest edges: for example, Chuck-Wills-Widow, Pine Warbler, Blue Grosbeak, Summer Tanager, Brown-Headed Nuthatch. Breeding birds in the marshes include Saltmarsh and Seaside Sparrows, Willets, and rails. Also found in the marshes are migrating Yellow Rail (rare) and shorebirds; wintering Sedge Wrens, Short-Eared Owls, sparrows, ducks, and shorebirds.
Pet on leash are permitted in the sanctuary grounds.
The house and trails at Irish Grove are not wheelchair accessible. However, as noted on the trail map at the link at left, some of the trails at Irish Grove can be driven in a car, offering those who are mobility-impaired an opportunity to bird from the car. Rumbly Point Road beyond the house also offers great birding from the car, at least when at low tide – the road may become impassable at high tide or during high winds or storms. The same applies to the trails within Irish Grove.
The Richardson Marsh area of the sanctuary is considered by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to be a reference site for Maryland’s shrubland tidal communities on the Eastern Shore. DNR states that “Richardson Marsh contains high quality occurrences and one of Maryland’s best examples of the Iva frutescens / Spartina patens tidal shrubland.” (See https://dnr.maryland.gov/wildlife/Documents/natcommstidal.pdf, pages 83 – 86). ◾ Irish Grove MOS Sanctuary is included in the larger Somerset-Wicomico Marshes Important Bird Area as designated by the National Audubon Society.
The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Tri-County Bird Club, serving Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester Counties. The club hosts field trips in the region as well as meetings with informative presentations, all free and open to the public. ◾ The Tri-County Bird Club and MOS host annual working weekends at Irish Grove, when routine maintenance and improvements are accomplished at the property. All are welcome to come out and give a hand.
A short video “Irish Grove Work Weekend” celebrates the work of the more than 30 dedicated volunteers who gathered for the annual Irish Grove work weekend in the fall of 2017. The footage provides a view of some of the habitats and facilities at Irish Grove, as well as the camaraderie and hard work of the sanctuary volunteers.
Parking on grassy area on left side of driveway, adjacent to house.
See Location and Local Roads map set at the link at left.
From US Route 13 near Princess Anne: Take US Route 13 southbound, and bear slightly right to take MD Route 413 south towards Crisfield. Turn left (southeast) at Marion Station onto Tulls Corner Road. In 2.1 miles, turn left (northeast) onto LQ Powell Road. In 0.3 miles, turn right (southeast) onto Quindocqua Road. Drive 1 mile to Rumbly Point Road and turn right (south). Be sure to stay on Rumbly Point Road, keeping right at the fork with Wilson Road. From Quindocqua Road, it is 1.2 miles to the Irish Grove gate and driveway on right. The gate is tied closed with rope. Secure the gate after passing through and when leaving.
Somerset County: Deal Island Wildlife Management Area, Fairmount Wildlife Management Area, Janes Island State Park, Rumbley Boat Ramp
Dorchester County: Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Elliott Island Road / Fishing Bay Wildlife Management Area (Eastern Section), Hooper’s Island, Taylor’s Island
Wicomico County: Cedar Hill Marina & Park, Ellis Bay Wildlife Management Area, Nanticoke River Wildlife Management Area – Nutter’s Neck, Pemberton Historical Park, Roaring Point & Nanticoke Harbor, Tyaskin Park & Wetipquin Park
Worcester County: Pocomoke State Forest – Hickory Point Cypress Swamp Natural Area
Bottomland DeciduousConifersHedgerows Hay Meadows, Pasture, Grass FieldOld Fields, Shrubby Meadows Forested SwampFreshwater Pond, Lake, or ReservoirMud Flats (Tidal or Non-Tidal)Open Ocean, Bay, or EstuaryRivers & StreamsSalt or Brackish Marsh
Bird Feeding StationBoardwalkBoat or Canoe/Kayak LaunchCampingFishingFree - No Entry FeeHabitat Restoration ProjectHiking/Walking TrailsNative Plant Garden or Meadow/Pollinator PlantsObservation Platform or TowerOvernight Lodging or CabinsParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaRestroomsWater View
#1 Hotspot in County or CityAudubon Important Bird AreasChesapeake Bay Eastern ShoreMOS SanctuariesThe Rivers of the Eastern Shore