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Birding Sites in the Finger Lakes


Dorothy McIlroy Bird Sanctuary

Coordinates: 42.671°N 76.293°W


Habitat: Owned by the Finger Lakes Land Trust, the McIlroy Bird Sanctuary is a 156-acrea parcel at the southern end of Lake Como through which runs the lake's outlet, the headwater of Fall Creek, a major tributary of Cayuga Lake.


From the creek the habitat turns into a sedge swamp, then a shrub fen, then a hemlock/peat woods, and finally an old field.

Parking is on the edge of the field. From there you follow a marked trail about 400 ft./122 m. to a kiosk with trail maps and other brochures. Continuing on the circular trail, you enter the hemlock/yellow birch woods. The trees here are tall and dense. In the summer when the leaves are on the trees, only small amounts of light enter the cool, damp woods. For this reason, it's best to come on a day with plenty of sunlight, as the woods would be quite dark on an overcast day.


A short spur trail takes you to the edge of the fen. Although there's much more light here, the vegetation is very dense and not navigable. Birding is religated to those that fly over and those that flit from bush to bush.


Back on the main trail you continue through the woods to a short spur that takes you to a viewing platform at the edge of the swamp. Look for herons (they may sometimes be perching in the willows), ducks, red-winged blackbirds, northern waterthrush, swamp sparrows, and hawks. If you can backpack in a spotting scope, this area will be much more enjoyable as some of the birds are far off.


There are two benches on the platform, which offer a lovely place to have lunch. Dragonflies and damselflies frequent this sunny spot and, if you're still, some will come right up to you.


Back on the main trail, you continue through the woods back to the kiosk.


Season: The preserve is interesting any season as it has a wide variety of year 'round residents like woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, juncos, brown creepers, grouse, and other forest birds. However, the preseve is especially good in spring and summer as it is a popular stop-off and breeding site for many warbler, vireo, and thrush species.


The preserve has a wealth of native plants, many of which bloom in the spring, and a good variety of fungi. (Collecting is not permitted but photography is.)


Access: The entrance to the preserve is on Lake Como Road in the Town of Summer Hill. Look for a large A that marks the fire line. Turn in there. The parking area is marked.


Notes: This is a very rural area. There is a small store/eatery at the northeast end of the lake called the Lake Como Inn, but you shouldn't count on it to be open. There are no other services in the area of any kind. You should bring you own food and water.


Nearby sites:

Lake Como

Summer Hill State Forest

Fillmore Glen State Park


Updated 9 July 2010








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