At a Glance

Hours: Grounds open to the public daily year-round, 24 hours a day. House is winterized November 1 through April 1, when water is turned off. NOTE: Currently Irish Grove is accepting only a limited number of overnight visitors in the house or for campouts because of the COVID-19 situation. The grounds are open for day visits

Cost: Free for day-visits to grounds. Fee for overnight stays; overnights limited to MOS members. Donations to the MOS Sanctuary Fund are always appreciated.

Tips: Bring a scope. ◾ Pets must be leashed. ◾ Knee-high rubber boots are needed on foot-trails through the marsh. ◾ Biting insects are abundant. ◾ At high tide, parts of Rumbly Point Road may be under water – use at your own risk. ◾ Water in the house is turned off approximately from November 1 through April 1. ◾ Limited hunting takes place by special agreement with one of the donors of Irish Grove land. Be aware of hunting seasons and visit accordingly. ◾ Restroom in the house and an outhouse on the grounds.

Best Seasons: Fall, winter, spring. Insects are ferocious in summer.

Breeding Bird Atlas Blocks: Marion SE, Kingston SW, Crisfield NE, Saxis NW (Click on Atlas Block name for list of breeding birds from 1st and 2nd Atlases). Read about the MD & DC Breeding Bird Atlases.

Local MOS Chapter: Tri-County Bird Club

Irish Grove MOS Sanctuary

4110 Rumbly Point Road, Marion Station, MD 21838
Contact: MOS Sanctuary Chair

NOTE: Currently Irish Grove is accepting only a limited number of overnight visitors in the house or for campouts because of the COVID-19 situation. The grounds are open for day visits.

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 2,326 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 #2 eBird hotspot in Somerset County in terms of number of species reported, just behind Deal Island Wildlife Management Area, which is about six times larger.

Irish Grove Sanctuary began with a purchase by MOS of 1,410 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 over 715 acres, a generous gift from Mr. Beverly M. DuBose, a local landowner and outdoorsman. Mr. DuBose and the Keating family, 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 to Irish Grove 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. Also be aware of the soft shoulders; do not drive too close to the edges as you may get stuck in the mud. 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.

May through October 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 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 approximately from November 1 to April 1; winter visitors must bring their own water and refrain from using the drains in the sinks or the indoor toilet. The grounds also include a screened picnic shelter capable of seating a large group; tool and storage sheds; and an outhouse, outdoor shower, and outdoor water faucet. Tent camping is permitted near the house. Advance reservations are required for overnight stays, including camping.

More about the Irish Grove Marshes

The vast marshes at Irish Grove provide the birder with a good opportunity to study the various marsh plants and the birds that occupy the different habitat zones. The following description of Irish Grove’s marsh zones, vegetation, and birds is adapted from text that accompanied a circa-1980s trail map of Irish Grove. We believe that the vintage trail map was drawn by Danny Bystrak and the text written by Paul Bystrak; as young men, the Bystrak brothers accompanied Chan Robbins on visits to Irish Grove and helped to develop the trail system there.

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There are basically two kinds of marsh: High Marsh and Low Marsh. The modifiers are the reverse of the average wetness. The former is at a higher elevation and generally above the daily tide level; its primary source of water is from the sky, with an occasional influx from monthly spring tides and storm tides. Low Marsh is influenced by the two daily tides and is the “Salt” Marsh. Both of these have wetter and drier areas, which may be easily recognized by the general vegetation: Dry Marsh has short plants, Wet Marsh has tall plants.

High “Dry” Marsh is dominated by Seashore Saltgrass (Distichlis spicata) and Saltmeadow Cordgrass (Spartina patens). Both of these are generally about 6 inches high and form mats. This is the nesting area of Eastern Meadowlark, Saltmarsh Sparrow, Willet, and Black Rail; it is the hunting area for Short-eared Owl and Harrier. In summer it is often dry and hard: wear canvas sneakers and your socks will not get wet.

High “Wet” Marsh is dominated by Needlerush (Juncus roemerianus). This species forms clumps of 2 foot tall “soda straw” leaves with sharp points. This is the habitat of Virginia Rail, Seaside Sparrow, and Sedge Wren. This is an area of persistent shallow pools, with water usually 4 inches deep most of the year. It can be muddy bottomed with occasional deep holes. Wear calf-high boots.

Low “Dry” Marsh is flushed by daily tides. Dominated by Saltmarsh Cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) away from channels and ditches, but with shrubs of Marsh Elder (Iva frutescens) and Eastern False Willow (Baccharis halimifolia) and Tall Cordgrass (Spartina cynosuroides) along the edges of channels and ditches. This is nesting habitat for Marsh Wren, Clapper Rail, and Seaside Sparrows. The walking is usually muddy and slippery, with the likelihood of holes; it is wet at high tide and sometimes low tide. Wear calf-high boots and take your chances with the holes.

Low “Wet” Marsh is usually unvegetated or with clumps of Saltmarsh Cordgrass. At low tide these are the mudflats for shorebirds. Use a canoe.

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Apart from showing the old trail system at Irish Grove, the vintage trail map is useful because it displays the old place names for the various hummocks (high ground, often wooded) and guts (tidal creeks that cut through the marsh). These old place names no longer appear on most modern maps. Apart from the hummocks and guts, which are natural features, the marsh at Irish Grove is permeated by manmade ditches, dikes, and impoundments; these features were created by early settlers as they laid out roads and lanes, and attempted to control water levels to preserve arable land for farming and to set aside freshwater pools.

Conservation Note: Sea Level Rise, Marsh Migration, and Black Rails

The old 1980s trail map of Irish Grove is no longer useful for navigating around the sanctuary, but it provides insight into how much the marsh has changed in the last 40 or 50 years. Because of climate change and accompanying sea level rise, the old “wet” trails that led through the marsh (shown as dotted lines on the map) have necessarily been abandoned; the “wet” trails are now, for the most part, underwater and not safe to traverse. In response to sea level rise, vegetation zones have shifted in a process known as marsh migration, in which the Low Marsh starts to occupy areas formerly held by High Marsh. Another consequence of marsh migration are “ghost forests,” areas of standing dead trees that have been killed by rising water levels. Bird populations have changed as well, and the endangered Black Rail, formerly a reliable breeder at Irish Grove, has now vanished as a breeder, although individual birds might still be found during migration by the lucky birder. For more information about the status of the Black Rail, see a report from the Center for Conservation Biology at the College of William and Mary as well as a report from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.


The MOS official checklist for Irish Grove includes 248 species that have been observed there; over 230 species are recorded for the main part of Irish Grove on eBird. There is a separate eBird hotspot for Rumbly Point with 206+ species; the aggregated species count for Irish Grove and Rumbly Point is 256+ species. Irish Grove is the #2 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.

Note to Atlasers: Submissions of eBird checklists for the Third MD-DC Breeding Bird Atlas are especially welcome. Be aware that Irish Grove Sanctuary is spread over four Atlas blocks: Marion SE, Kingston SW, Crisfield NE, Saxis NW (click on Atlas Block name for list of breeding birds from 1st and 2nd Atlases). The two established eBird hotspots (Irish Grove MOS Sanctuary and Rumbly Point) are both located within the Saxis NW block. If you visit portions of Irish Grove that are located in any of the other three blocks, your Atlas checklist should be submitted using a personal location, as there are no established eBird hotspots in the other blocks. Be sure to check your actual location carefully using the “tracks” map available through the eBird Mobile app to confirm which block you are in.

Wheelchair Access:

The house and trails at Irish Grove have sandy and/or dirt surfaces, often with a pine needle layer, and 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 also offers great birding from the car. Be aware that beyond the house, sand-surfaced the road may become impassable because of flooding at high tide or during high winds or storms. Be extremely cautious if pulling to the side of the road – the shoulders are soft and it is easy to get stuck. The same applies to the trails within Irish Grove.

Pet Policy:

Pets on leash are permitted in the sanctuary grounds. Pick up after your pet.

Special Designations:

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 the 2003 DNR report “Shrubland Tidal Wetland Communities of Maryland’s Eastern Shore: Identification, Assessment and Monitoring,” pp. 83 – 86.

Irish Grove is one of 32 Natural Heritage Areas designated within the State of Maryland’s Threatened and Endangered Species regulations (COMAR 08.03.08). The State’s Natural Heritage Areas meet the following criteria: 1) Contain one or more threatened or endangered species or wildlife species in need of conservation; (2) Be a unique blend of geological, hydrological, climatalogical or biological features; and (3) Be considered to be among the best Statewide examples of its kind. Irish Grove’s inclusion as a State Natural Heritage Area is a unique honor because most of the other designated area are state-owned.

Irish Grove MOS Sanctuary is included in the larger Somerset-Wicomico Marshes Important Bird Area as designated by the National Audubon Society.

Special Features:

As mentioned above, there is good kayaking and canoeing at Irish Grove, but you must bring your own boat. You should be aware of the tides; a tide chart for Rumbly Point is available here.

With so much wetland habitat, Irish Grove is a great place to look for herps. A preliminary list of reptiles and amphibia found at Irish Grove is included in a 1973 Maryland Birdlife article by David S. Lee; this article also includes a mammal list and is exceptional for its notes on plants and habitat. A more contemporary list of herps can be found in the results of The Maryland Amphibian and Reptile Atlas, summarized here for the atlas blocks occupied by Irish Grove.

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, the Talbot County Bird Club, and the MOS Sanctuary Committee host fall and spring 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. If interested in participating in a workday, please send an email to the MOS Sanctuary Committee Chair (


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 kept closed with a chain, but unlocked. Secure the gate after passing through and when leaving. If you have used the house, be sure to close and lock all windows and doors and lock the main door with the provided padlock.

Nearby Sites:

Somerset County: Deal Island Wildlife Management Area ◾ Fairmount Wildlife Management AreaJanes Island State Park ◾ Rumbley Boat Ramp ◾ Smith Island

Dorchester County: Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge ◾ Cambridge – Bill Burton Fishing Pier State Park (Dorchester County Side) ◾ Cambridge – Great Marsh Park ◾ Cambridge – Oakley Street ◾ Cambridge – Sailwinds Park & Visitor Center ◾ Chesapeake Forest – North Tara Road ◾ 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 ◾ Ward Museum & Schumaker Pond

Worcester County: Assateague Island National Seashore & Assateague Island State Park ◾ Castaways RV Resort & Campgrounds ◾ E.A. Vaughn Wildlife Management Area ◾ Ocean City Inlet ◾ Pocomoke State Forest – Hickory Point Cypress Swamp Natural Area ◾ Truitts Landing & Other Bayside Landings ◾ West Ocean City Pond


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 Fee at Any TimeHabitat Restoration ProjectHiking/Walking TrailsNative Plant Garden or Meadow/Pollinator PlantsObservation Platform or TowerOvernight Lodging or CabinsParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaRestroomsWater View


Audubon Important Bird AreasChesapeake Bay Eastern ShoreMOS SanctuariesThe Rivers of the Eastern Shore