Irish Grove Sanctuary (Somerset County)
The original property for this sanctuary was purchased in 1968. In 1971, 2008 and 2017, additional parcels were purchased or donated. At 1,610 acres, Irish Grove is MOS’s largest sanctuary.
Birding is best in spring, fall and winter. Some of the breeding birds include: herons, Glossy Ibis, American Black Duck, Osprey, rails, Willet, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Marsh Wren, Pine Warbler, Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow, Seaside Sparrow, and Boat-tailed Grackle. Eighty to ninety species are known to winter there, including waterfowl, sparrows, hawks and owls. Approximately 250 species have been recorded in the sanctuary.
Reptiles and amphibians such as salamanders, frogs, toads, snakes, and turtles are plentiful and there is a good variety of typical mammals, including red fox, one of which has a den not far from the buildings.
Insects abound during the months of June through September. There are deer flies, green heads, mosquitoes, ticks, chiggers, and punkies by the thousands. Visitors during the summer and early fall are advised to take head nets, long-sleeved tops, long pants and several cans of repellents and salves.
Buildings include a house with four bedrooms, living room, museum/library room, dining room, kitchen, bath and screened porch; tool and storage sheds; a pole barn with one half screened in for an outdoor dining area; and a double latrine. The plumbing in the house is winterized from November to April. Winter visitors must bring their own water and refrain from using the drains in the sinks.
Birding is usually done by foot on “dry” and marsh trails. The “dry” trails follow roads and dikes near the house. Please note that the “dry” trails often have wet spots of standing water. Marsh trails are marked by poles in the marsh that show a relatively safe route across the marsh. Knee-high waterproof boots are recommended on the marsh trails. There are three observation towers – one on Round Pond, one on Canal Road and one in the marsh on the shore of East Creek. Birding is good along Rumbly Point Road all the way to the boat launch at the end. Good tidal canoeing is possible. Visitors need to bring their own canoes, which at high tide only may be launched in the canal that that goes into East Creek at the end of Canal Road. At other times the boat launch at the end of Rumbly Point Road may be used.
With abundant on-site parking available, Irish Grove can host large gatherings. This is especially important for the work weekends held at the Sanctuary each spring and fall. If you wish to participate, please contact Sanctuary Committee Chair Dominic Nucifora.