Dorothy McIlroy Bird Sanctuary

August 19, 2012 at 1:30 am Leave a comment

Finger Lakes Summer

Dorothy McIlroy Bird Sanctuary

Small footprint — big impact. That’s what you could say about Dorothy McIlroy’s life and the 198 acres of land purchased by the Finger Lakes Land Trust, in her name, at the southern end of Lake Como. Dorothy McIlroy was a professional birder, playing a significant role in the early days of the Cornell Ornithology Lab. Her children wanted to create a bird sanctuary in her memory. When I visited I could see that there is a LOT more than just birds enjoying sanctuary.

Finger Lakes Summer

Trail is well-marked. When visiting in spring and fall, boots might be in order.

This was my opportunity to hike a “fen.” I have  bogged and swamped, and marshed, but can’t say that I have had the opportunity to explore a fen — until now.

Finger Lakes Summer

It’s only fenny ’til someone gets hurt

So what is a fen?  — according to Squidoo, “Similar to bogs, but not the same ecosystem.

  • Fens are freshwater cold region wetlands that receive their water from rivers, streams, and springs as well as rain.
  • Fens vary from mildly acidic to alkaline.
  • Fens are often found alongside bogs, but have more diverse flora and fauna.”
Finger Lakes Summer

beaver biography

That definition is clear as mud — which you’ll tramp through a lot of — regardless. According to the Finger Lakes Land Trust, “The most unusual aspect of this preserve is the variety of plant life. Rich shrub fen, peat swamp and forest thrive on either side of Falls Creek. The limestone bedrock of the creek favors fen development — the surrounding northern-type peat swamp forest makes this site exceptional. A number of plants that are uncommon or rare in our region are found at the preserve. Many species are on the State protected list.”

Finger Lakes Summer

This guy was hiking the same path as me.

How do you find this precious gem? The easiest way is to look at the map of protected lands on the FLLT web site. I drove south on 41A, past Bear Swamp, until I could take Lake Como Rd. The Lake is VERY small, so it’s easy to miss Fire Lane A with the tiny sign, as soon as you run out of lake. The Fire Lane can get very muddy, so you may want to park on the lake road and hike in to the sanctuary entrance.

Finger Lakes Summer

Why you should stay on the trail

Because there are so many varieties of plants and animals its best to stay on the trails —otherwise someone might give you the snake eye!

Dorothy McIlroy Bird Sanctuary

Trail Map

Beware:  The McIlroy Bird Sanctuary will be closed to the public during early and late bow (archery) deer season.

The Finger Lakes Land Trust has since added 86 acres of wetlands and uplands to the Dorothy McIlroy Bird Sanctuary, expanding the Summerhill haven to span 250 total acres.

The Ithaca-based conservation organization said the additional land — acquired as part of the state’s Open Space Plan using funds from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s North American Wetland Conservation Act grant program —  joins two existing portions of the McIlroy sanctuary and stretches the borders to include land along Lake Como and Peth roads.


Entry filed under: Bird watching, Bog, Finger Lakes, Finger Lakes Land Trust, Hiking, Lake Como, New York, Skaneateles Lake. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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