Montezuma Birding (and Nature) Trail

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Birding in the Montezuma Wetlands Complex of Central New York

Montezuma Wetlands Complex maps & description links

MAPS:  There is a map of the core wetlands complex, along with birding hotspots, on a drop-down menu under Locations in the navigation bar above.  If you scroll down on that Map page there is a second map showing the Montezuma Christmas Bird Count circle.  [A separate drop-down link under Locations leads to a description of the Northern Montezuma Wetlands in the Town of Savannah plus a suggested birding tour route.]  The largest unit in the Northern Montezuma W.M.A. is Howland's Island in Cayuga County.  There are two maps on the Friends' website.  Click on each map for a larger version.  (Note that Howland's Island is mostly closed to vehicles; access to the dirt roads is by foot or bicycle after crossing the new bridge over the Seneca River and driving a short distance to a gate.  Howland's Island perimeter can be accessed by canoe or shallow-draft boat [spring through fall].  There is a canoe/kayak launch at the Carncross Road bridge.)

DESCRIPTION:  The greater Montezuma Wetlands Complex* encompasses an area of 36,000 acres in southeastern Wayne, west-central Cayuga and northeastern Seneca Counties.  Arbitrarily starting at the south end in Cayuga, NY (Route 90) the boundary follows the Cayuga Turnpike east-northeast, turns north on Route 34 through Weedsport to Cato, then follows Route 370 west and north through Victory to Route 104, then west past Wolcott and drops down on several back roads to North Rose where it goes south on Route 414 through Clyde, crosses the Thruway and goes east on Route 318 to Route 89 south and ends at Cayuga Lake WMA.  An imaginary line jumps Cayuga Lake to the starting point.  A low-res map* is found on the MNWR site.  (*Click your refresh button if it doesn't open on the first try.)

The Montezuma Audubon Center sometimes organizes monthly guided van tours to various sets of birding locations in the Complex.  To get a sense of one of these trips, and to see photos of some of the locations in the Complex, see Doug Cameron's blog posts for July 7, 2010 and July 28, 2010.


PUDDLER'S MARSH: best viewed from the east end of Towpath Rd. "...part of the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge in Seneca County, Town of Tyre, located north of I-90 [the Thruway] and the Clyde River and the Erie Canal, and east of NYS-89..., and south of NYS-31 and the mucklands.  Puddler's is immediately east of the impoundment known as Knox-Marsellus, which is at the east base of East Rd. [see directions below]

"If traveling from the end of the Montezuma NWR Wildlife Drive, go north on NYS-89 [crossing] over I-90, past Tschache Pool & tower on the left, past May's Point Pool and South May's Point Rd. on the right, over the bridge crossing the Clyde River and the Erie Canal, and take the next right turn to go east on North May's Point Rd.  Cross East Rd. (which going left/north would lead to the Knox-Marsellus Marsh overlook and eventually back to the east-west portion of NYS-89).  After North May's Point Rd. passes between two houses and bends right/south, turn left/east on an unmarked, narrow, straight dirt road known as Towpath Rd.  This can be very muddy and deeply potholed, but lately has been pretty good due to dry weather and recent regrading.  [Note that Towpath is technically private property owned by National Grid.]  Continue on Towpath Rd. for the better part of a mile, with scrub and [National Grid] powerlines on the right and Knox-Marsellus Marsh on the left often obscured by weeds, shrubs, and small trees.  Eventually you will get to a dike on the left going north, perpendicular to Towpath Rd.  This dike divides Knox-Marsellus Marsh on the west and another impoundment on the east called Puddler's Marsh.  Although this dike is off limits to the public, Towpath Rd. next to the south end of the dike affords scope views of both impoundments.  Continue on Towpath Rd. for more places to look between trees and shrubs and over the roadside weeds to the mud and shallow water of Puddler's, where lately shorebirds have been closer to legal viewing points than at Knox-Marsellus."  -- Dave Nutter [from Cayugabirds, 7/17/11]

NEARBY:  Several nearby birding locations, although technically not in the Complex are worth mentioning.  The new Seneca Meadows Wetland Preserve on Black Brook Road, south of Rt. 318 toward Seneca Falls and opposite King Road, has many noteworthy birds including Least and American Bitterns and Grasshopper Sparrows.  Here's a July 10 report from Leona Lauster:  "Seneca Meadows is a great location but requires a lot of walking with almost no shade, so start early or pick a day that won't be too hot. With Bob, Lyn and Lynn, we all had great close looks at 3 Least Bittern that I called in, 2 Grasshopper Sparrows, and the Virginia Rail.  We found a flock of Bobolinks by the bench at the end of the woodchip trail and heard many Marsh Wrens calling from several locations but only saw one.  Savannah Sparrows are everywhere but we only found one Swamp Sparrow.  We were puzzled for awhile about an odd call and after some study decided it might be an American Golden-Plover which called repeatedly from near the parking area by Black Brook Road.  Species: Wood Duck 3, American Black Duck 2, Mallard 6, Blue-winged Teal 1, Pied-billed Grebe 2, Least Bittern 3, Great Blue Heron 1, Turkey Vulture 1, Northern Harrier 1, Red-tailed Hawk 1, Virginia Rail 2, Common Moorhen 2, American Golden-Plover?? 1, Killdeer 1, Spotted Sandpiper 3, Mourning Dove 4, Chimney Swift 2, Red-bellied Woodpecker 1, Downy Woodpecker 1, Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) 1, Eastern Wood-Pewee 1, Eastern Kingbird 1, Warbling Vireo 1, Blue Jay 2, American Crow 2, Northern Rough-winged Swallow 10, Tree Swallow 70, Bank Swallow 10, Barn Swallow 30, Black-capped Chickadee 1, Marsh Wren 12, Wood Thrush 1, American Robin 4, Northern Mockingbird 2, European Starling 30, Common Yellowthroat 2, Savannah Sparrow 20, Grasshopper Sparrow 2, Song Sparrow 4, Swamp Sparrow 1, Northern Cardinal 2, Rose-breasted Grosbeak 1, Indigo Bunting 1, Bobolink 70, Red-winged Blackbird 50, Eastern Meadowlark 8, Common Grackle 4, Brown-headed Cowbird 2, House Sparrow 2."  This report was generated automatically by eBird v2 ( -- Leona Lauster, Eaton Birding Society

eBird location names ("hotspots") in and near the Wetlands Complex - under review and subject to revision

Armitage Rd fields/impoundments (Seneca Co.)

Armitage Rd fields/impoundments (Wayne Co.)

Armitage Rd. (Seneca Co. forested area)

Armitage Rd. (Wayne Co. forested area)

Cayuga Lock

Cayuga Marina and River Rd

Montezuma Albano-Torry Marsh (NMWMA) 

Montezuma Audubon Center

Montezuma Carncross Rd. (NMWMA)

Montezuma Carncross Salt Pond Preserve (NMWMA)

Montezuma Cayuga Lake Unit (NMWMA)

Montezuma Colvin Marsh (NMWMA)

Montezuma Deep Muck and Mitigation Marsh (NMWMA)

Montezuma Frost Hill Marsh (NMWMA)

Montezuma Giancarelli Field (NMWMA)

Montezuma Helmer Marsh (NMWMA)

Montezuma Howland Island (NMWMA)

Montezuma Howland Island--Breeder Pond (NMWMA)

Montezuma Howland Island--Coot Pond (NMWMA)

Montezuma Howland Island--East (NMWMA)

Montezuma Howland Island--HQ Pond (NMWMA)

Montezuma Howland Island--Northwest (NMWMA)

Montezuma Howland Island--West (NMWMA)

Montezuma Howland Island--Wetlands Complex (NMWMA)

Montezuma Loop Road Unit (NMWMA)

Montezuma Malone Marsh (NMWMA)

Montezuma Martens Tract (NMWMA)

Montezuma Morgan Road Marshes (NMWMA)

Montezuma Muckrace Flats (NMWMA)

Montezuma NWR

Montezuma NWR Benning Marsh

Montezuma NWR East Road

Montezuma NWR Esker Brook Trails

Montezuma NWR Knox-Marsellus Marsh

Montezuma NWR Knox-Marsellus & Puddler Marshes

Montezuma NWR Lesser Yellowlegs Unit

Montezuma NWR Main Pool

Montezuma NWR Main Pool West Side Overlook

Montezuma NWR Mays Point Pool

Montezuma NWR Millennium Marsh

Montezuma NWR North Spring Pool

Montezuma NWR Oxbow Trail

Montezuma NWR Puddler Marsh

Montezuma NWR Seneca Trail

Montezuma NWR Shorebird Flats

Montezuma NWR South Spring Pool

Montezuma NWR Towpath Rd.

Montezuma NWR Tschache Pool

Montezuma NWR Visitor Center

Montezuma NWR Wildlife Drive

Montezuma NWR Wilgoose Field

Montezuma NWR--South Spring Pool Trail Link

Montezuma Railroad Road Marshes (NMWMA)

Montezuma Sandhill Crane Unit (NMWMA)

Montezuma South Butler Unit (NMWMA)

Montezuma Turtle Pond (NMWMA)

Montezuma Van Dyne Spoor Road (NMWMA)

Montezuma Wetland Complex--Black Creek Marsh

Savannah Mucklands (Seneca Co)

Savannah Mucklands (Wayne Co)

Savannah Spring Lake Rd--Carncross to Martens Tract

Seneca Meadows Environmental Education Center [the education building on Rt. 414] - to be added soon

Seneca Meadows Wetland Preserve

(bar charts with species and annual frequencies for each available at under Explore data)