Robbins MOS Sanctuary at Red Run
Between Guthrie Lane and Meyersdale Road north of Old Route 40, Grantsville, MD 21536
MOS Voice Mail: 301-588-4250
A sunlit montane bog surrounded by a dense forest of towering hardwoods and hemlocks – what’s not to like? Though situated close to a major highway, this sanctuary’s ancient montane bog habitat will instantly transport you to a time many centuries ago. The Chandler and Eleanor Robbins MOS Sanctuary at Red Run was a gift to MOS from the Robbins sons and daughters following the death of Chan in 2017. (Read about Chan and Eleanor Robbins in the dedication of this Birder’s Guide website.) The property had been purchased by Chan and Eleanor in 1967 with the goal of preserving its ecologically-valuable wetland and forest.
At the time that the Robbins family donated the land to MOS, Jane Robbins, the daughter of Chan and Eleanor, wrote: “Our parents saw the beauty of this acreage through their keen awareness of habitat impact on both breeding populations and migration success. Resolved to preserve a portion of this heritage, Chandler and Eleanor Robbins researched and purchased this 45.38 acre tract on the northern end of Wolf Swamp in March of 1967, visiting it periodically while birding in Garrett County, or in transit to West Virginia. Both of them would be thrilled to know the land will continue hosting its richly-varied flora and fauna, as well as delighting, with its treasures, birders new and seasoned.” (Jane Robbins, personal communication).
The Robbins Sanctuary at Red Run is in Garrett County just a short distance north of US Route 40 and I-68, near the community of Piney Grove. The town of Grantsville is just 4.5 miles to the west, and the Pennsylvania state line is only 2.4 miles to the north. The sanctuary lies on the eastern slope of Meadow Mountain, in a valley at an altitude of approximately 2,600 feet. This far western section of Maryland is in the Mississippi River drainage area and is not part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The Robbins Sanctuary and the nearby Caroline W. Wilson Sanctuary are the only two MOS properties outside the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem.
Chan and Eleanor Robbins were interested in protecting this property because of its close ecological associati0n with Wolf Swamp, just a mile to the south. The two properties – Wolf Swamp and the Robbins Sanctuary – are connected by the stream called Red Run, which has its headwaters in Wolf Swamp, flowing north through the Robbins Sanctuary and beyond into Pennsylvania, to drain into the Casselman River and eventually into the Mississippi River.
Wolf Swamp is a former Nature Conservancy property that has since been transferred to the State of Maryland and is now treated by the State as an “Ecologically Significant Area” within Savage River State Forest (see the Sustainable Forest Management Plan for Savage River State Forest). The Nature Conservancy states that “Wolf Swamp, like many of western Maryland’s peatlands, harbors plants and animals typically found further north in the United States and Canada . . . The swamp was formed, like Maryland’s other mountain peatlands, during the last Ice Age 15,000 years ago; and because of its colder microclirnate, relict cold weather plants and animals have been able to persist despite a general warming of Maryland’s climate.” [Excerpt from Mountains to Marshes: The Nature Conservancy Preserves in Maryland, published by the Maryland Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, 1991]
The same characteristics are true of the Robbins Sanctuary. A broad expanse of open bog borders Red Run on both sides, giving way to woodlands on the slopes of the stream valley. Eastern Hemlock and White Pines are the dominant tree species and ferns and shrubs cover much of the ground within the forested portion of the sanctuary. There are several small spring-fed tributary streams, filled with sparking water, that flow through the sanctuary into Red Run. The wetland itself contains a variety of sedges, rushes, ferns, mosses and herbaceous plants. For a full description of this type of rare habitat, see the section on Montane Bog and Fen within Chapter 4 of the State Wildlife Action Plan, which also provides a lengthy list of birds of greatest conservation need associated with this habitat (see pages 4-58-4-59). Of the birds listed in the plan, Acadian Flycatcher, Alder Flycatcher, Wood Thrush, Dark-eyed Junco, Ovenbird, Hooded Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, and Scarlet Tanager have all been reported at the sanctuary during breeding season.
During the late 1980s-early 1990s, the Natural Heritage Program within the MD Department of Natural Resources conducted a biological inventory of Garrett County wetlands, including the wetland area on the Robbins property. Referred to as Red Run Swamp, the wetland’s ecological value was considered “highly significant.” Two rare species, Two-spotted Skipper (Euphyes bimacula, State Endangered) and White-fruited Mountainrice (Oryzopsis asperifolia, State Threatened), have been documented in portions of the wetland just to the south and north of what is now the Robbins sanctuary. However, the Two-spotted Skipper, one of Maryland’s rarest butterflies, has not been found in the area in many years, so it is not known if it’s still present. It is quite possible that, with additional field surveys, it will be found that Red Run Swamp, including the portion now comprising the Robbins Sanctuary, supports other rare, threatened and endangered species (personal communication from James M. McCann, Zoologist, Wildlife & Heritage Service, MD Department of Natural Resources).
The sanctuary is entirely surrounded by private lands. It is reached from Guthrie Lane (also known as Spiker Road), a private road to which MOS has deeded access (good to know in case anyone questions you). There are no maintained trails in the sanctuary, but at least two trails that were apparently created by ATVs and/or deer hunters penetrate into the sanctuary from Guthrie Lane (see Trail Map at link at left). Trail #1 starts about 100-200 feet north of the parking area on Guthrie Lane; look for the obvious wide, two-track trail on the right, leading east and into the woods. Follow this trail downhill into the heart of the sanctuary, where the bog is located. The bog itself is too wet to be penetrated on foot, and we ask that visitors refrain from entering so that fragile plants are not damaged. There is no loop trail, so retrace your steps to Guthrie Lane and turn right to walk north on the lane. Trail #2, located near the north end of the property (see Trail Mao) is another wide two-track. Following this trail, very muddy and rutted in places, will take you to a spot with a good view of the wetland. There is also a power line cut near the north end of the property that can be used to access the sanctuary’s interior, and the power line cut itself has scrubby habitat, good for sparrows.
The sanctuary’s east side has frontage on Meyersdale Road but there is no available parking or foot access from that side. Please be respectful of all neighbors and seek permission prior to parking anywhere but the designated parking space on Guthrie Lane.
The Robbins Sanctuary is near the Carey Run MOS Sanctuary and Caroline W. Wilson MOS Sanctuary, and this trio of MOS properties makes for a good weekend birding trip. Although located fairly close together, the three properties have different habitats. Also nearby are Finzel Swamp, Deep Creek Lake, Piney Reservoir, and Savage River State Forest.
As of February 2021, the eBird hotspot for the Chandler and Eleanor Robbins MOS Sanctuary at Red Run lists 62 species from 16 checklists submitted since the sanctuary was donated to MOS in 2017. Almost all the visits have occurred between the months of May and July. With the small number of submitted checklists and restricted season of coverage, our description of the sanctuary’s birdlife is necessarily preliminary. The sanctuary is under-birded and our understanding of birdlife at the sanctuary would be improved by submission of additional eBird checklists throughout the year, although care must be taken if visiting during deer season or during the winter when Guthrie Lane may be inaccessible. We are especially encouraging birders to visit and to submit checklists with breeding codes to the MD Breeding Bird Atlas portal on eBird.
Mourning Doves are found throughout the woodland area. Yellow-billed Cuckoos are present and are likely breeders. Chimney Swifts and Barn Swallows can be seen flying over the bog in the summertime.
Raptors include Turkey Vultures, Bald Eagles, Red-shouldered Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, and Red-tailed Hawk. No owls or falcons have been observed to date.
Woodpeckers include Reed-bellied, Downy, Hairy, Pileated, and Northern Flicker. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are likely present during the winter but have not yet been reported. Red-headed Woodpeckers are a possibility; in 2020, they were confirmed breeding at Little Meadows Lake, less than 2 miles away.
Flycatchers include Eastern Wood-Pewee, Acadian, Alder, and Eastern Phoebe. Four vireos occur at the sanctuary: Yellow-throated, Blue-headed, Warbling, and Red-eyed. Other forest birds include Blue Jays, American Crows, Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, White-breasted Nuthatches, and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers. Common Ravens have not yet been reported from the sanctuary but are common in the area. The edge of the woods near the bog and the shrubby power line cut at the north end hold House Wrens, Caroline Wrens, Gray Catbirds, Brown Thrashers, and Northern Mockingbirds.
Thrushes reported so far include Eastern Bluebird, Hermit Thrush, Wood Thrush and American Robin. Cedar Waxwings have also been found during breeding season. Purple Finches and American Goldfinches are both present.
Sparrows present during breeding season include Chipping, Field, Dark-eyed Junco, White-throated, Song, and Eastern Towhee. Especially noteworthy is a colony of Swamp Sparrows in the bog. Icterids include Baltimore Orioles, Red-winged Blackbirds, and Common Grackles.
There is a nice community of warblers in the woodlands and the fringes of the bog. These include Ovenbird, Common Yellowthroat, Hooded, Magnolia, Blackburnian, Chestnut-sided, Yellow-rumped, and Black-throated Green. No doubt additional warbler species will be reported over the coming years; a good species to be alert for is Canada Warbler, which breeds in Wolf Swamp and the Savage River State Forest.
A number of Scarlet Tanagers use the woodland, along with Northern Cardinals and Indigo Buntings. Rose-breasted Grosbeaks have not yet been reported but are likely, as they have been confirmed breeding nearby.
Based on the available habitat and the results of the First and Second Breeding Bird Atlases as well as partial data from the Third Atlas, some other birds to look for during breeding season include Wood Duck, Mallard, Ruffed Grouse, Wild Turkey, Rock Pigeon (check the neighboring farmlets), Black-billed Cuckoo, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Killdeer, Green Heron, Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks, Great Horned and Barred Owls, Belted Kingfisher,, American Kestrel, Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Willow Flycatcher, Least Flycatcher, Purple Martin, Tree Swallow, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Swainson’s Thrush, Veery, House Finch, Savannah Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow, Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, Louisiana and Northern Waterthrushes, Golden-winged Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Nashville Warbler, American Redstart, Yellow Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Prairie Warbler, and Canada Warbler.
Pets are allowed on leash; be prepared to pick up after your pet. Please do not let pets to run loose and especially do not allow them to run into the bog. They could well become mired in the bog, requiring a rescue, which would be hard on the pet and on you. We also want to avoid damage to the vegetation.
The trails at Robbins Sanctuary are not wheelchair accessible. However, good birding is possible from the car along Guthrie Lane.
Special Designations and Conservation Value:
Although the Robbins Sanctuary is not part of an Important Bird Area as designated by the National Audubon Society, the Wolf Swamp Important Bird Area (IBA) is less than 2 miles to the south, and the southern boundary of the huge Allegheny Front IBA is just 2.4 miles to the north, at the Pennsylvania State line. The latter covers over 475,000 acres in six Pennsylvania counties, extending all the way up the mountain ridgeline to the State College, PA, area.
The Robbins MOS Sanctuary at Red Run 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 DNR 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.”
The sanctuary is in an area categorized by DNR as a Green Infrastructure Wildlife Hub. DNR has identified some gaps in the sanctuary’s Green Infrastructure near the southern boundary, where the habitat has been disturbed. Green Infrastructure identifies the State’s remaining large blocks of forest and wetlands (hubs) and the habitat pathways (corridors) that connect them. For more information on how DNR prioritizes land for conservation, see the DNR information sheet “GreenPrint Lands Are Important.”
The entire sanctuary lies with an area identified by DNR as important for Forest Interior Dwelling Species. 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.
The entirety of the Robbins MOS Sanctuary at Red Run is located in an area classified by MD DNR as Tier 4 – Moderately Significant for Biodiversity Conservation under their Bionet – Biological Diversity Conservation Network initiative.
MD DNR offers a Parcel Evaluation Tool that provides an analysis of conservation benefits for a particular parcel of land. Using this tool, the Robbins MOS Sanctuary at Red Run scores
- 5 stars out of 5 for providing “Habitat Connectivity.”
- 3 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.”
- 5 stars out of 5 for “Proximity to Other Protected Lands,” presenting conservation opportunities that contribute to landscape scale protection which is key for conserving healthy aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.
The parcel evaluation tool shows that the ecosystem services provided by the Robbins MOS Sanctuary at Red Run are valued at $1,911.28 per acre per year, or $86,580.98 for the entire 45+ acre tract.
The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Allegany-Garrett Bird Club, offering field trips and meetings with informative programs, all free and open to the public.
The Allegany-Garrett Bird Club members are doing much to sustain and manage the Robbins Sanctuary, and will be holding periodic work days as well as field trips and biological surveys. If you are interested in helping at the sanctuary, please contact the MOS Sanctuary Committee Chair at email@example.com.
To access the sanctuary, drive north on Guthrie Lane. Parking for 1 or 2 cars (depending on the extent of mud) is available at a pull-off on the east side of the lane; GPS coordinates for the parking area are 39.68966, -79.07429. This spot is less than 0.2 miles north of the last house on the right (#150) on the paved portion of Guthrie Lane. Also see the Trail Map and Location Map at links at left.
The Robbins MOS Sanctuary at Red Run is located east of Grantsville and adjacent to the community of Piney Grove. The sanctuary is a short distance north of I-68/US 40 and the National Pike, between Meyersdale Road on the east and Guthrie Lane on the west. Access to the sanctuary is from Guthrie Lane. Guthrie Lane is private, but as a landowner, MOS has the right to use the lane (good to know in case anyone questions you).
[If using a navigation system, set for 160 Guthrie Lane, Frostburg, MD 21536 or enter GPS Coordinates 39.68966, -79.07429.]
- From I-48/US Route 40, take Exit 24 and go north on Avilton-Lonaconing Road a short distance (about 300 feet).
- Turn left to go west on National Pike/Old US Route 40 (aka US Route 40 Alt).
- In just 0.2 miles, bear right at a slight fork onto the foot of Guthrie Lane. (Guthrie Lane may be labelled Spiker Road on some older maps.)
- Make a hard right in 450 feet onto the main part of Guthrie Lane. You will be heading north.
- There will be houses on the left and right. The sanctuary property starts just past the house at #150 Guthrie Lane, on the right, where the woods start. The paved road surface ends near here and the lane continues as a dirt and gravel road.
- Drive north for about 840 feet (less than 0.2 miles) and look for a pull-off on the right. There is space to park one or two cars. Do not block the road as there are more private residences farther up Guthrie Lane. Be sure to lock your car.
- Walk farther up Guthrie Lane for another 100 feet and look for an obvious wide trail on the right, leading east. Follow this trail into the heart of the sanctuary, where the wetland is located.
Note: The sanctuary has frontage on both Guthrie Lane and Meyersdale Road, but there is no parking or foot access from Meyersdale Road. Also note that Guthrie Lane can be impassable for normal cars in the winter and early spring or after heavy rains. It may be muddy and deeply rutted.
Garrett County: Broadford Lake ◾ Carey Run MOS Sanctuary ◾ Caroline W. Wilson MOS Sanctuary ◾ Cunningham Swamp Wildlife Management Area ◾ Finzel Swamp Preserve ◾ Herrington Manor State Park ◾ Loch Lynn Heights Wetland Trail ◾ Mt. Nebo Wildlife Management Area ◾ Piney Reservoir ◾ Swallow Falls State Park ◾ Youghiogheny River Reservoir
Bottomland DeciduousConifersUpland Deciduous Forested SwampFreshwater Marsh or FloodplainRivers & Streams
Features and Amenities:
Free - No Entry FeeHiking/Walking TrailsParkingPets Allowed