Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary Service Road
(Hilly: Prairie, succession fields, wetland, forest, pond, mature forest. Total out and back distance of over 4 miles, make sure to carry water)
The service road is a continuation of the lane that visitors enter the MGBS. The lane leaves adjacent to the main parking lot and is used by visitors wishing to casually stroll side by side rather than walk in single file through the other trails. It is also the main lane used by residents and volunteers during work efforts. The Service Road rises from the parking area and passes several trailheads which are a part of the Memorial Trail System. It then continues up to the hilltop where signs of past occupants are visible. The large locust trees and grassy south facing slope provide a good viewing area that overlooks the prairie that is maintained for habitat. This is a great spot to look for field species, edge species and migrants during the spring and fall.
At the top of this hill, the Beech Trailhead is found next to the old barn, and the Prairie trails go around the prairie edge as well as cross the prairie itself. As the lane is followed down the hill and east of the prairie, the walker will find an opening through an old fence line that lowers into a field that is mowed on a biannual basis during the winter months. This field provides nesting areas for bird species that prefer succession environments.
The lane then crosses a creek-bed after being joined by the Wetland Trail. After crossing the creek, Tulip Poplar Trail branches to the left as the service road continues up a fairly steep hill that is often very slippery in wet and/or wintery conditions. At the top of this rise, the Wetland Trail slips off to the south (left). The field to the south is also mowed biannually in an effort to provide a habitat for wetland species. The Service Road then enters the forest.
After a short walk, the Woodland Loop trail breaks off to the right. Continuing up the hill, remnants of a Christmas tree planting is off to the left. At the top of the hill, the road splits to the left as the old service road leads into the forest. The left branch goes up and down several hills that are have significant muddy portions in wet conditions. Eventually this old power right-of-way rejoins the original road at the edge of an opening of old-field successional growth. This brushy area has sporadic trees poking through the brush providing roosts for many species. The 6-10 foot brush also provides unique field habitat. The lane ascends to the crest of the hill where the fire lane that transects the property is found. This fire lane is grassy as it is mowed twice a year. Descending from the fire lane, the road is surrounded by red cedars and eventually empties onto the bank of the fourth pond which is the largest pond at the sanctuary. The pond is found on the right, and the clearing of the high tension power lines is on the left and “over” the pond. This provides a diverse habitat for many species. This pond is about the half-way point for this trek. It is approximately 1.3 miles from the parking lot. If a visitor is tired at this point, it may be time to turn around and return to their starting place. If you decide to return to the parking lot, stay on this lane as the connecting trails may seduce you and new visitors can become disoriented with the trails and thus delay their return to their starting point.
Leaving the pond takes the hiker through an aging pine forest and then walks along the opening created by the power lines. A brief passage through the forest brings you to a split in the road. To the left, the road leads to the former Girl Scout Camp, Delawana. To the right, the road travels through some young woods, crosses the power lines again, and then enters one of the most mature forest sections that are a part of Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary. After walking in the woods, the road comes to a loop indicating that it is time to follow your footsteps back to the main area. This means that you have slightly more than 2 miles walking to return to the main area.