At a Glance
Hours: Daylight hours year-round.
Cost: Free. Donations to the MOS Sanctuary Fund are always appreciated.
Tips: There is no hunting allowed on the sanctuary but there may be hunting on adjoining private lands. Be aware of hunting seasons and plan your visit accordingly. ◾ No restrooms.
Best Seasons: Fall through early summer.
Local MOS Chapter: Caroline County Bird Club
Pelot MOS Sanctuary
Drapers Mill Road, Greensboro, MD 21639
Contact MOS Sanctuary Chair: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Myrtle Simons Pelot MOS Sanctuary protects part of the stream valley of Gravelly Branch, a tributary of the Choptank River, which is just a half-mile west. MOS calls it Pelot Sanctuary for short; Pelot is pronounced “pea-low.” The sanctuary, with approximately 60 acres of forested land, is long and narrow, with the long axis running approximately east-west, with Gravelly Branch running through its heart. The western boundary of the sanctuary lies along Drapers Mill Road. The sanctuary boundaries are quite irregular, being reminiscent of the outline of a Chinese dragon with twists and coils.
Pelot Sanctuary is located in the Red Bridges area of the Choptank River, an area that local birders have enjoyed for years. This sanctuary is an oasis for native plants in the midst of a predominantly agricultural area. It also is a good place to search for dragonflies and damselflies.
The sanctuary is named for Myrtle Simons Pelot, an active member of the Caroline Bird Club. When Mrs. Pelot passed away at the age of 91 in 1971, she left her house in the town of Ridgely to the Caroline County chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society. As there were no restrictions on the gift, MOS and the Caroline County Bird Club decided to sell the house and use the proceeds to purchase land suitable for use as a wildlife sanctuary. The land for Pelot Sanctuary was purchased in 1973 and has been maintained by members of the Caroline County Bird Club.
At one time, the sanctuary land was the site of a mill property. A mill pond was formed by damming Gravelly Branch, with the pond located immediately to the east of Drapers Mill Road, which ran over the dam. The area of the pond can still be seen as a slight depression in the landscape. The dam washed out in 1937, and the rich pond sediments now support a thriving wetland.
The part of the sanctuary that lies north of Gravelly Branch used to have a foot-trail that ran along the boundary line, but this area is now quite grown over and it is difficult to find traces of the old trail. The north side of the sanctuary consists predominantly of floodplain deciduous forest with a rich understory of shrubs and groundcover.
On the south side of Gravelly Branch, apart from the aforementioned wetland at the mill pond site, the sanctuary is covered with an open deciduous forest that is more upland in nature. Here, the woodland is dominated by beech and oak with a few scattered conifers. Near the southwest corner of the sanctuary, a sign marks the entrance to a trail that heads east, roughly paralleling Gravelly Branch (see trail map at link at left). Along the trail, there are some low spots that remain wet much of the year, supporting populations of frogs and other amphibia. There is a small open area with a circle of white concrete benches approximately 200 yards in on the left side of the trail. Near the benches are a couple of large stones placed by the Caroline Bird Club in memory of Jerry and Roberta Fletcher and Marvin Hewitt, who were instrumental in the MOS acquisition of the property.
The trail on the south side is an out-and-back trail: the trail peters out after about a half-mile, where you should turn around to return to Draper’s Mill Road. Or feel free to bushwhack as far as you like to explore more of the sanctuary. The forest on the south side of Gravelly Branch is mostly open and it is easy to walk through, even past the end of the trail.
On the opposite side of the Choptank River, two local parks, Greensboro Christian Park and North County Regional Park, provide additional birding opportunities, but although these parks are a mere half-mile from the sanctuary as the crow flies, there is a longish detour to get there, as the Choptank River bridge on nearby Red Bridges Road has been removed. To reach these parks, drive north on Drapers Mill Road; then north on Jarrell Road; west on MD Route 287/Sandtown Road; then in the town of Goldsboro, go south on MD Route 313/Greensboro Road. Turn east on Red Bridges Road to access the Greensboro Christian Park. North County Regional Park is immediately south of Red Bridges Road on the east side of Route 313. (Side note: Greensboro Christian Park is named after a local family who donated the land. This park is also called “Red Bridges Park” by locals.)
The eBird hotspot for Pelot MOS Sanctuary lists 95 species of birds as of February 2022, but only 40 eBird checklists have been submitted. With more visitation and submission of additional checklists, we will gain a more complete picture of the birds using the sanctuary, and we encourage you to visit and submit your checklist to eBird at https://ebird.org/hotspot/L1111044.
Canada Geese, Snow Geese, and Tundra Swans may occur as flyovers during the winter. Mallards may also be seen flying over or dabbling in Gravelly Branch near the bridge. Wild Turkeys are in the woods and probably breed here or nearby. Mourning Doves are abundant at the sanctuary and the nearby farm fields, as are Killdeer. Yellow-billed Cuckoos breed locally. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are easy to find in late spring and summer.
Given the proximity of the Choptank River, it’s not unusual to see flyover gulls: Herring and Ring-billed in winter and Laughing in summer. Great Blue Herons are often found in Gravelly Branch or commuting overhead. Although Green Herons are not on the eBird list for the sanctuary, keep an eye open for them, because they were found as possible breeders in this atlas block during the Second Breeding Bird Atlas project.
Black and Turkey Vultures are often overhead. Ospreys are commonly seen during the summer, and Bald Eagles are around for most of the year; the eagles may breed in the area. Red-shouldered Hawks are easy to find, and although Red-tailed Hawks are not the sanctuary’s eBird list, they are known to nest in the area. You may be lucky enough to turn up an Eastern Screech-Owl or a Barred Owl. Watch for American Kestrels on wires along the road or on the edges of adjacent farm fields.
Belted Kingfishers fly up and down Gravelly Branch. The woods harbor Northern Flickers and Red-bellied, Downy, Hairy, and Pileated Woodpeckers, as well as overwintering Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers.
In the summer, the woods are full of the songs of Acadian and Great Crested Flycatchers, Eastern Phoebes and Eastern Wood-Pewees. Also keep an eye out for Eastern Kingbird, more likely on the edges or in the dense vegetation north of Gravelly Branch. White-eyed, Red-eyed, and Yellow-throated Vireos are easy to find. Swallows are represented by Purple Martins, Tree, and Barn; listen for their distinctive calls and then look up or over the water if you’re near the stream.
Blue Jays, American Crows, and Fish Crows are abundant, as are Carolina Chickadees and Tufted Titmice. Other small woodland birds include White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper (winter), Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Winter Wren (winter), and Carolina Wren. Gray Catbirds, Brown Thrashers, and Northern Mockingbirds all breed in the area.
The woods south of Gravelly Branch are good for thrushes: Eastern Bluebird and American Robin (all year); Wood Thrush (spring and summer); Hermit Thrush (winter); and Veery and possibly other migrants in spring and fall. Also expect Cedar Waxwings, particularly near trees and shrubs with berries.
House Sparrows and House Finches are present on the edges near houses. American Goldfinches can be anywhere, anytime.
With no fields or meadows on the sanctuary, the only sparrows are the woodland kinds: Chipping, Dark-eyed Junco, White-throated, and Song. Also watch for Eastern Towhee. European Starlings, Red-winged Blackbirds, Brown-headed Cowbirds, and Common Grackles are common. Rusty Blackbirds are not on the sanctuary’s list but they have been found fairly close by along the Choptank, so it’s worth looking for them in the winter, as the sanctuary has the wet woods that they like.
Pelot Sanctuary is a fairly good spot to look for warblers, with 19 species reported. Species that breed here or nearby include Ovenbird, Louisiana Waterthrush, Black-and-white Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart, Northern Parula, and Pine Warbler. Additional species can be found during migration, and Yellow-rumped Warblers overwinter.
The bird list for Pelot Sanctuary concludes with Summer and Scarlet Tanagers, Northern Cardinal, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Blue Grosbeak, and Indigo Bunting. All but the Rose-breasted Grosbeak breed locally.
The trail in Pelot Sanctuary is not wheelchair-accessible. It is possible to do some birding from or near the car parked on the road shoulder near the bridge.
Pets are allowed but must be kept on a leash at all times and you must pick up after your pet.
Special Designations and Conservation Value:
The entire Pelot Sanctuary lies within an area classified by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) as a Targeted Ecological Area. Targeted Ecological Areas 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 the DNR information sheet “GreenPrint Lands Are Important.”
Pelot Sanctuary is located in an area classified by MD DNR as Tier 1 – Critically Significant for Biodiversity Conservation under their Bionet – Biological Diversity Conservation Network initiative.
MD DNR also offers a Parcel Evaluation Tool that provides an analysis of conservation benefits for a particular parcel of land. Using this tool, Pelot Sanctuary receives
- 5 stars out of 5 for providing “Habitat Connectivity.”
- 5 stars out of 5 for providing “Rare Species and Wildlife Habitat.”
- 3 stars out of 5 for “Support of Aquatic Life.”
- 3 stars out of 5 for “Forests Important for Water Quality Protection.”
- 4 stars out of 5 for “Proximity to Other Protected Land,” presenting conservation opportunities that contribute to landscape scale protection which is key for conserving healthy aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.
Gravelly Branch near the Pelot Sanctuary is a popular local fishing spot; a nontidal/freshwater fishing license is required. ◾ There is a kayak/canoe launch on the Choptank at nearby Greensboro Christian Park; from there, it might be possible to paddle up Gravelly Branch into the sanctuary, but the stream is not maintained for paddling and if you try it, you should expect to encounter downed trees and other obstructions. Caroline County warns not to attempt paddling on the upper Choptank if the USGS water gage at the park is showing height levels higher than 2.95. Heights less than 1.9 during the summer months will likely require more portage around fallen tree obstructions. Access USGS gage height data at this link.
Pelot Sanctuary and Gravelly Run are is part of a water-temperature monitoring project being carried out by the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center;the project is focusing on identifying stream temperatures in the Choptank watershed that may be supportive of migratory fish species. You may notice monitoring equipment placed in the water; please do not disturb the equipment.
The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Caroline County Bird Club, which offers field trips and meetings with informative programs, all free and open to the public. The Caroline County Bird Club hosts an annual clean-up at the sanctuary; check their Facebook page for dates and join them for a little light work and birding.
MOS has a brief YouTube video that offers an introduction to Pelot Sanctuary.
There is parking for two or three cars along the shoulder of Drapers Mill Road near the bridge over Gravelly Branch. From the bridge, walk south along Draper’s Mill Road to reach the trailhead for the south side of the sanctuary, opposite a cluster of mailboxes marking private lanes at #14088 – 14100. The trail and sanctuary sign is just south of a yellow “School Bus Stop Ahead” sign.
Pelot Sanctuary is located in northeastern Caroline County, northeast of Greensboro and southeast of Goldsboro.
From points south and east on the Eastern Shore (including Easton and Salisbury): Use US Route 50 north and then turn right (east) on MD Route 404. Go approximately 7.0 miles to the intersection with MD Route 480/Ridgely Road. Turn left to go northeast on Ridgely Road for 8.1 miles. When you reach the town of Greensboro, bear right onto Park Avenue for one block and then turn right to go east on MD Route 314/Whiteleysburg Road. In 0.6 miles, turn left to go north on Wothers Road, and in just 800 feet, turn right to continue north on Boyce Mill Road. In 0.7 miles, turn left to go north on Drapers Mill Road. In just under a mile, you’ll reach the bridge over Gravelly Branch, with the sanctuary on your right (east side of the road). Park on the broad road shoulder near the bridge and walk back south along the road to reach the trailhead at the southwest corner of the sanctuary, opposite a cluster of mailboxes marking private lanes at #14088 – 14100. The trail and sanctuary sign is just south of a yellow “School Bus Stop Ahead” sign.
From points north on the Eastern Shore: Take US Route 301 south, then MD Route 213 south; then take US Route 50 south. Turn left (east) on MD Route 404. Go approximately 7.0 miles to the intersection with MD Route 480/Ridgely Road. Turn left to go northeast on Ridgely Road for 8.1 miles. When you reach the town of Greensboro, bear right onto Park Avenue for one block and then turn right to go east on MD Route 314/Whiteleysburg Road. In 0.6 miles, turn left to go north on Wothers Road, and in just 800 feet, turn right to continue north on Boyce Mill Road. In 0.7 miles, turn left to go north on Drapers Mill Road. In just under a mile, you’ll reach the bridge over Gravelly Branch, with the sanctuary on your right (east side of the road). Park on the broad road shoulder near the bridge and walk back south along the road to reach the trailhead at the southwest corner of the sanctuary, opposite a cluster of mailboxes marking private lanes at #14088 – 14100. The trail and sanctuary sign is just south of a yellow “School Bus Stop Ahead” sign.
From the Western Shore via the Chesapeake Bay Bridge: Travel east on US Route 50. At the split for US Route 50 and US Route 301, bear to the right to stay on US Route 50. In approximately 6.9 miles, make a left to go east on MD Route 404. Go approximately 7.0 miles to the intersection with MD Route 480/Ridgely Road. Turn left to go northeast on Ridgely Road for 8.1 miles. When you reach the town of Greensboro, bear right onto Park Avenue for one block and then turn right to go east on MD Route 314/Whiteleysburg Road. In 0.6 miles, turn left to go north on Wothers Road, and in just 800 feet, turn right to continue north on Boyce Mill Road. In 0.7 miles, turn left to go north on Drapers Mill Road. In just under a mile, you’ll reach the bridge over Gravelly Branch, with the sanctuary on your right (east side of the road). Park on the broad road shoulder near the bridge and walk back south along the road to reach the trailhead at the southwest corner of the sanctuary, opposite a cluster of mailboxes marking private lanes at #14088 – 14100. The trail and sanctuary sign is just south of a yellow “School Bus Stop Ahead” sign.
Caroline County: Adkins Arboretum ◾ Choptank Marina ◾ Daniel Crouse Memorial Park ◾ Idylwild Wildlife Management Area ◾ Martinak State Park ◾ Skeleton Creek Road & Bethlehem Road ◾ Tuckahoe State Park (Caroline County)
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
Queen Anne’s County: Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center – Horsehead ◾ Conquest Preserve ◾ Ferry Point Park ◾ Matapeake Clubhouse & Beach / Matapeake Fishing Pier & Boat Ramp ◾ Terrapin Nature Park ◾ Tuckahoe State Park (Queen Anne’s County) ◾ Wye Island Natural Resources Management Area
Talbot County: Bill Burton Fishing Pier State Park (Talbot County Side) ◾ Black Walnut Point Natural Resources Management Area ◾ Claiborne Landing ◾ Marengo Woods MOS Sanctuary ◾ Mill Creek MOS Sanctuary ◾ Pickering Creek Audubon Center ◾ Poplar Island
Features and Amenities:BeginnersFree - No Entry Fee at Any TimeHiking/Walking TrailsParkingPets Allowed