At a Glance
Hours: Daylight hours, February 1 through August 31. Closed September 1 through January 31 for deer management.
Cost: Free. Donations to the MOS Sanctuary Fund are always appreciated.
Tips: MOS conducts a managed deer hunt at Mill Creek Sanctuary, and for this reason the sanctuary is closed annually from September 1 through January 31. There is also hunting on adjacent private lands, so at any time, be aware of hunting seasons and plan your visit accordingly. ◾ No restrooms.
Best Seasons: February through August.
Local MOS Chapter: Talbot Bird Club
Mill Creek MOS Sanctuary
Old Wye Mills Rd (Rte. 662), Queen Anne, MD 21657
Contact: MOS Sanctuary Chair firstname.lastname@example.org
Mill Creek MOS Sanctuary consists of 156 acres about two miles south of the village of Wye Mills in Talbot County. The sanctuary is divided by MD Route 662/Old Wye Mills Road, which runs east-west through the sanctuary. The eponymous Mill Creek flows south near the western border of the sanctuary, and joins Skipton Creek a short distance to the south; Skipton Creek is a tributary of the Wye River, which flows into the Chesapeake Bay.
[Note: There is a large wildlife sanctuary also named Mill Creek in Ohio. If searching the internet for more information on Mill Creek MOS Sanctuary, take care to ensure that you are looking at information for the correct place.]
The Main Tract of the sanctuary lies south of Route 662, consisting of 125 acres purchased by MOS in 1964 and 1965. The Spring Memorial Tract lies north of Route 662 and is composed of 30 acres donated by Mrs. Royce Spring in 1965, plus an additional 1.3 acre parcel purchased by MOS in 1971. The northern and western boundary of the Spring Memorial Tract follows the streambed of Mill Creek, while the southeastern border is jagged and is marked by the transition from MOS’s wooded lands to open farm fields in private ownership. The east-most area of the Spring Memorial Tract abuts a power line cut that runs north-south, parallel to US Route 50/Ocean Gateway. Along the north side of Route 662 just east of Mill Creek is a stone marker with an inlaid plaque commemorating the 1965 Spring Memorial Tract gift.
The topography of the upland areas of the sanctuary is marked by several east-west stream branches and deep ravines where differences in elevation of over 40 feet can occur. The flood plain of Mill Creek is characterized by swampy, scrub-shrub, non-tidal wetlands, and herbaceous tidal wetlands. There are also wetlands associated with some of the smaller tributary streams on the sanctuary. Apart from the floodplain and wetlands, there are some scattered stands of conifers, but the majority of the sanctuary is covered by a deciduous forest dominated by Tulip Poplar, various oaks and hickories, American Beech, American Sycamore, Red Maple, Tupelo, and Black Cherry, with some individual trees exceeding 30 inches in diameter at breast height. These large specimen trees escaped logging in the years before the sanctuary was established because of the rugged topography within portions of the sanctuary. Over 400 different plant species have been identified on the sanctuary grounds.
In the Spring Memorial Tract, a foot-trail heads north from the stone marker, generally paralleling Mill Creek. A good view of the Creek’s floodplain can be found where an old earthen dam runs east-west; this dam is thought to be the remnants of a mill pond dating back to colonial times. Parking for the Spring Tract trailhead is along the shoulder of Route 662 near the bridge over Mill Creek, with room for about four cars. However, it is not recommended to leave your car on the roadside for a long visit, as there may be theft or vandalism.
We recommend that most visitors park at MOS’s gravel parking area, set into the woodland on the higher ground up hull from Mill Creek. The lot, located just east of a brick house at #13138 Old Wye Mills Road, on the south side of Route 662, has parking for about eight cars; an inconspicuous metal gate that leads into the lot is kept closed but not locked. There are benches and a weather-proof bulletin board in the parking area. From the parking area, a trail heads south down a slope, crossing a stream and wetland and then turning west toward Mill Creek. The trail makes a loop in the northwest quadrant of the Main Tract, providing views of Mill Creek here and there. A shelter with a fireplace and picnic table is located along this trail. Another trail, this one an out-and-back, branches to the southeast, approaching the eastern border of the main tract. The trails in the Main Tract are marked with orange trail markers and reflective buttons placed at eye-level on tree trunks.
MOS asks all visitors to stay on the trails in order to avoid damage to the vegetation. Also note that Mill Creek Sanctuary is closed from September 1 through January 31 of every year for deer management. MOS decided to implement deer management because of severe browsing damage caused by deer to the understory trees, shrubs and the groundcover layer. The damage to the vegetation has had a negative impact on nesting birds, and MOS hopes that with time, the vegetation will recover and be more conducive to nesting. Mill Creek MOS Sanctuary is home to several species of forest interior dwelling birds, including Parula and Kentucky Warblers, Louisiana Waterthrush, Acadian Flycatcher, and Wood Thrush.
Three publications provide additional details about Mill Creek Sanctuary:
- “Know your Sanctuaries – Mill Creek,” an article by Dickson J. Preston in the March 1971 issue of Maryland Birdlife.
- MOS Mill Creek Preserve, Talbot County: Resources, Preservation, Management (1985), by Jan Reese, Paul Noell, Laurel Brown, and Jeff Effinger; this is a comprehensive 82-page report that details a biological inventory based on biweekly visits conducted over a 14-month period. The report includes lists of the sanctuary’s fungi, vascular plants, and animals, as well as material on soils, geology and hydrology, and the history of the property back to colonial times. The report concludes with recommendations for protecting the property as well as for promoting its use for education, scientific research, and passive recreation. Though much has changed at the sanctuary since 1984, the report provides an important baseline and deep pool of information upon which MOS can formulate present and future management plans.
- A report titled “Sanctuary Habitat Survey and Management Recommendations” was produced by the Maryland Partners in Flight (PIF) Habitat Management Committee on behalf of MOS. The report, which covers Mill Creek and four other MOS sanctuaries, was authored by Frederick Fallon, Jane Hill, the late Wanda Cole, Jane Fallon, and D. Daniel Boone. The PIF team visited Mill Creek to compare its condition to the earlier study by Reese et al. The report noted that the sanctuary was suffering from an onslaught of invasive plants; suggested that the sanctuary might be subject to damage as surrounding parcels became developed; and noted the presence of obvious deer damage to the vegetation.
The eBird hotspot for Mill Creek MOS Sanctuary includes 130+ species. The bird list compiled by Jan Reese as part of his biological inventory published in 1985 includes 116 species and is quite similar to the eBird list. We invite you to contribute to the knowledge of bird life on the sanctuary by submitting an eBird checklist whenever you visit.
Waterfowl can be found as flyovers or in the waters of Mill Creek, or occasionally in the larger wetlands of the Main Tract. Canada Geese, Mallards, and Wood Ducks are the most commonly observed species. Northern Bobwhite used to occur on the edges of the surrounding agricultural fields, but have not been observed since 1990. Wild Turkey are still abundant and are thought to breed in the sanctuary. Mourning Doves, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are also local breeders.
Shorebirds are represented only by Killdeer and American Woodcock, with maybe a Greater Yellowlegs or two during migration. Gulls are present as flyovers, commuting from large nearby bodies of water: these include Laughing, Ring-billed, and Herring.
Great Blue Herons are commonly seen. An MOS field trip in the spring of 2019 found an active Great Blue Heron rookery along the banks of Mill Creek in the Main Tract. Great Egrets and Green Herons may also be present.
The most conspicuous raptors include Black and Turkey Vultures, Ospreys, Bald Eagles, and Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks. Barred Owls breed at the sanctuary and may be relatively easy to find. American Kestrels may be seen, especially in or near the Spring Memorial Tract – look on power lines or in trees along the woods edges bordering the farm fields.
Belted Kingfishers can be heard and seen flying and hunting along Mill Creek. Also near the creek you might see Northern Rough-winged, Tree, and Barn Swallows or Purple Martins.
The woodlands hold a good set of woodpeckers, including Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers (winter), Red-bellied, Downy, Hairy, Pileated, and Northern Flicker.
Breeding flycatchers include Eastern Wood-Pewee, Acadian, Eastern Phoebe, Great Crested, and Eastern Kingbird. Both White-eyed and Red-eyed Vireos also breed at the sanctuary, and Warbling, Yellow-throated, and Blue-headed might be found during migration.
Blue Jays and American Crows are noisily apparent; Fish Crows come by occasionally. Small woodland birds include abundant Caroline Chickadees and Tufted Titmice; Ruby-crowned and Golden-Crowned Kinglets (winter); White-breasted Nuthatches, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and Brown Creepers (the latter two in winter), and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers.
Carolina Wrens are local breeders. House Wrens are surprisingly uncommon, but Winter Wrens are easy to find from late October through March. Gray Catbirds, Northern Mockingbirds, and Brown Thrashers all breed locally.
Mill Creek Sanctuary provides outstanding habitat for thrushes. Breeders include Eastern Bluebird, American Robin, and Wood Thrush. Hermit Thrushes overwinter, and Veeries and Swainson’s Thrushes may be found during migration.
Cedar Waxwings can be seen bouncing though the treetops as well as in the wetlands where fruit-bearing shrubs grow. House Sparrows are almost absent. House Finches are present in small numbers, but American Goldfinches are abundant. Purple Finches and Pine Siskins might be found in winter during irruption years.
The sparrow assortment includes Chipping (spring-summer), Fox (migration), Dark-eyed Junco (winter), White-throated (winter), Song (winter-spring), Swamp (winter, and Eastern Towhee (winter-spring-summer).
Orchard Orioles and Baltimore Orioles both breed locally. The power lines near the Spring Memorial Tract are almost always overflowing with European Starlings. Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, and Brown-headed Cowbirds are all abundant in the nearby fields and in the wetlands.
The warbler list includes 21 species, including these confirmed and possible breeders: Ovenbird, Louisiana Waterthrush, Kentucky, Common Yellowthroat, Northern Parula, American Redstart, and Pine. Yellow-rumped Warblers are easy to find in the winter.
Scarlet Tanagers are common in late spring and summer and if you’re lucky, you might come across a Summer Tanager. Northern Cardinals, Blue Grosbeaks, and Indigo Buntings all breed in the area. Rose-breasted Grosbeaks can be relatively easy to find during migration.
All pets must be kept on a leash and you must pick up after your pet.
The trails in the sanctuary are not wheelchair-accessible. There is relatively good birding from or near the car at the parking area or from the road shoulder near the Route 662 bridge over Mill Creek.
The entire Mill Creek Sanctuary lies within an area classified by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) as a Targeted Ecological Area. Targeted Ecological Areas (TEAs) are lands and watersheds identified by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources as the most ecologically valuable areas in the State; they are considered the “Best of the Best” and receive priority for conservation by the State. For more information on how DNR prioritizes land for conservation, see https://dnr.maryland.gov/land/Documents/GreenPrint-lands-are-important.pdf.
Mill Creek Sanctuary is classified by MD DNR as Tier 2 – Extremely Significant for Biodiversity Conservation under their Bionet – Biological Diversity Conservation Network initiative.
The wetlands adjacent to Mill Creek and some of the tributaries within the sanctuary have been designated by the State of Maryland as “Wetlands of Special State Concern.” Such wetlands, with rare, threatened, or endangered species or unique habitat, receive special attention and protection under Maryland law.
The entire sanctuary lies with an area identified by DNR as important for Forest Interior Dwelling Species. Additionally, the sanctuary is in a Sensitive Species Project Review Area, meaning that any planned development or disruption of the habitat undergoes extra scrutiny by the state.
MD DNR also offers a Parcel Evaluation Tool that provides an analysis of conservation benefits. Using this tool, Mill Creek Sanctuary receives
- 5 stars out of 5 for providing “Habitat Connectivity.”
- 5 stars out of 5 for providing “Rare Species and Wildlife Habitat.”
- 5 stars out of 5 as “Future Wetland Habitat,” areas important for inland wetland migration resulting from sea level rise.
Jim Brighton of the Maryland Biodiversity Project conducted a one-night Nocturnal Insect Survey on May 22, 2021, and documented 133 species of insects and other arthropods. The results provide a window into the overall diversity of the sanctuary; we hope that additional surveys can be undertaken at different times of year, times of day, and in the various habitats.
The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Talbot Bird Club, which offers field trips and meetings with informative programs, all free and open to the public. The Talbot Bird Club members have done much to sustain and manage Mill Creek Sanctuary, holding periodic work days as well as field trips and biological surveys.
MOS has a brief YouTube video that provides a virtual visit to Mill Creek Sanctuary.
MOS has a small gravel parking area for about eight cars on the south side of Route 662/Old Wye Mills Road, just east of the brick house at #13138. The gate to the parking area is kept closed but not locked. Be sure to close the gate after pulling your car into the lot and again when you leave. Be aware that there are roadside ditches to either side of the driveway through the gate – don’t get stuck in a ditch! There is also space to park several cars on the road shoulders near the Route 662 bridge over Mill Creek. However, it is not recommended to leave your car on the roadside for a long visit, as there may be theft or vandalism.
Mill Creek MOS Sanctuary is located on the Eastern Shore, south of the town of Wye Mills, and is reached via MD Route 662 off of US Route 50.
From the Bay Bridge: Go east on US Route 50 about 20 miles to the split for US Route 301 and US Route 50. Bear right to continue on Route 50 and start watching the highway Mile Marker signs. At Mile Marker 51, turn right to go south on MD Route 662/Old Wye Mills Road*. In 3.6 miles, the road will make a sharp bend to the left, turning to the east, and immediately ahead will be a bridge over Mill Creek. The Spring Tract trailhead is on the left (north) side of the road shortly after the bridge. If you plan to walk the trail into the Spring Tract of Mill Creek Sanctuary, pull over and park on the wide shoulder after the bridge. To reach the MOS parking area for the Main Tract, from the bridge, drive east on Route 662 for another quarter-mile. The parking area is in the woods just beyond the brick house on the right at #13138. Open the gate and drive in, then close the gate behind your car. Be aware that there are roadside ditches to either side of the driveway through the gate – don’t get stuck in a ditch!
*If you miss the turn for Route 662 at Mile Marker 51, don’t worry – Route 662 is a U-shape and comes back out onto Route 50 halfway between Mile Markers 55 and 56. Turn right onto this lower part of Route 662 and the gate leading to the MOS parking area will be on the left (south) side of the road in about a quarter-mile, just before the brick house.
From points north on the Eastern Shore: Use US Route 301 southbound and follow signs for MD Route 213 south. After merging onto Route 213, go south for 4.3 miles, where you will arrive at the intersection with US Route 50. Go straight across this intersection to continue south on College Drive, passing Chesapeake College on the right. In 0.8 miles, College Drive will end at a T-intersection with MD Route 662/Old Wye Mills Road; turn left to go south on Route 662. In 2.25 miles, Route 662 will make a sharp bend to the left, turning to the east, and immediately ahead will be a bridge over Mill Creek. The Spring Tract trailhead is on the left (north) side of the road shortly after the bridge. If you plan to walk the trail into the Spring Tract of Mill Creek Sanctuary, pull over and park on the wide shoulder after the bridge. To reach the MOS parking area for the Main Tract, from the bridge, drive east on Route 662 for another quarter-mile. The parking area is in the woods just beyond the brick house on the right at #13138. Open the gate and drive in, then close the gate behind your car. Be aware that there are roadside ditches to either side of the driveway through the gate – don’t get stuck in a ditch!
From points south on the Eastern Shore: Use US Route 50/Ocean Gateway northbound. After passing Easton, start watching the highway Mile Marker signs and be alert. You will be turning left (west) onto MD Route 662 at an intersection that is halfway between Mile Markers 56 and 55. However, be aware that Route 662 crosses Route 50 several times; make sure you turn onto the piece of Route 662 that is just beyond Mile Marker 56*. Turn left to go west on Route 662 and the gate leading to the MOS parking area for the Main Tract will be on the left (south) side of the road in about a quarter-mile, just before the brick house. Be aware that there are roadside ditches to either side of the driveway through the gate – don’t get stuck in a ditch! To reach the trailhead for the trail into the Spring Tract of Mill Creek Sanctuary, continue east on Route 662 another quarter-mile and park on the shoulder of the road near the bridge over Mill Creek. The trailhead is on the right (north) side of the road.
*If you miss the turn for Route 662 between Mile Markers 56-55, don’t worry. Simply proceed north on Route 50 to the traffic light at the intersection with MD Route 213 to the right and College Drive to the left. Turn left to go south on College Drive, passing Chesapeake College on the right. In 0.8 miles, College Drive will end at a T-intersection with MD Route 662/Old Wye Mills Road; turn left to go south on Route 662. In 2.25 miles, Route 662 will make a sharp bend to the left, turning to the east, and immediately ahead will be a bridge over Mill Creek. The Spring Tract trailhead is on the left (north) side of the road shortly after the bridge. If you plan to walk the trail into the Spring Tract of Mill Creek Sanctuary, pull over and park on the wide shoulder after the bridge .To reach the MOS parking area for the Main Tract, from the bridge, drive east on Route 662 for another quarter-mile. The parking area is in the woods just beyond the brick house on the right at #13138. Open the gate and drive in, then close the gate behind your car. Be aware that there are roadside ditches to either side of the driveway through the gate – don’t get stuck in a ditch!
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Features and Amenities:BeginnersFishingFree - No Entry Fee at Any TimeHiking/Walking TrailsHuntingParkingPets AllowedPicnic Area