Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Summer Field Trips

Topsmead State Forest (IBA)
Sunday July 13, 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Back by popular demand! Formerly the summer estate of Miss Edith Chase of Waterbury, Topsmead State Forest consists of acres of meadows, wooded lanes, woodlands, wetlands, and maintained gardens. There are many walking trails, picnic areas and viewing blinds, and the park is a great place to see nesting Bobolinks, Meadowlarks, sparrows, hawks and other birds in summer. Beginning birders welcome!

We will spend the morning birding and walking the park’s trails, and will conclude with an optional picnic lunch and guided tour of Miss Chase’s summer house (now maintained by DEEP).
Please bring binoculars, at least 1 water bottle, and a picnic lunch/snack. Field guides, cameras and insect repellent are recommended. There are rustic bathroom facilities within the park, and bathrooms with running water/water fountains at the house. There are no admission fees for entry into the park or the mansion.
Meet the leader at 9:00 am at the commuter parking lot at exit 42 off Route 8 in Litchfield/Burlington, CT. 
Optional carpools can be set up by registering or contacting the trip leader.
For questions or to register for this trip, email You can also register online at

Bird Walk at
New Haven Land Trust’s Quinnipiac Meadows/Eugene B. Fargeorge Preserve
New Haven
Sunday July 27, 9:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m
Menunkatuck, Audubon Connecticut, and the New Haven Land Trust are cosponsoring a one-hour bird walk through the Quinnipiac Meadows/Eugene B. Fargeorge Preserve.
Located on the Quinnipiac River, this 35-acre preserve includes tidal wetlands, coastal forest and coastal grasslands. There are two loop trails on the preserve and a bird blind overlooking the salt marsh and river.

Since the walk is during the start of fall shorebird migration, we have the potential for a good amount of bird activity.
The walk will be led by Corrie Folsom-O’Keefe, Audubon Connecticut’s IBA Coordinator and Katie Blake, Audubon Connecticut’s Bird Friendly Communities Coordinator.
Following the walk there will be live raptor show with birds from the Sharon Audubon Center.
Bring binoculars and water. Field guides, cameras and insect repellent are recommended. 
From Route 80 take Quinnipiac Avenue (Route 103) south and take a right on a dirt road just after going under the railroad bridge. 

Bird Watching at Bent of River Sanctuary (IBA)
Saturday August 16, 8:30 a.m.- Noon
Bent of River is an approximately 700-acre Audubon sanctuary which offers 15 miles of trails and a variety of habitats such as sandy riverbanks, meadows, wetlands, vernal pools, early successional scrublands and upland forests. The sanctuary is an excellent place to observe birds, butterflies, plants, and wildlife, and to simply enjoy nature. Join Nina Levenduski for a morning of birdwatching and walking to explore the variety of this preserve. Beginning birders and nature lovers welcome! Bring binoculars, hand lens, camera, and field guides (birds & whatever else interests you), and a picnic lunch and water bottle. Insect repellent is also recommended.

Meet at 8:30 am at the parking area just inside the entrance to the sanctuary. Directions to the sanctuary: Take I-84 to exit 14, then proceed north on Route 172 for 1 mile into the village of South Britain. At the General Store, make a left onto East Flat Hill Road. The entrance to the park is 0.4 miles along on the left at the green mailbox. 
Optional carpools can be set up by registering or contacting the trip leader. 

For questions or to register for this trip, email You can also register online at

Bird Migration Film Epic Journeys Will Start 2014-2015 Programs

Each year millions of shorebirds make an amazing round-trip journey between the Northern and Southern hemisphere. Join us on September 10 when filmmaker Shawn Carey presents his documentary Epic Journeys which looks at three shorebird species — Red Knot, Piping Plover and Semipalmated Sandpiper—and the challenges these species face during each of their monumental annual treks.

Shawn Carney
The film asks burning questions: What is being done to help protect these shorebirds and their habitat? How can the public help with their conservation? And where can one go to best see each of these species en-route to their destinations?
Shawn Carey is a resident of Boston, MA and has been photographing birds and other wildlife for about 20 years. He’s been teaching wildlife photography for Mass Audubon for over 12 years.

Taped entirely in Connecticut, Connecticut Reptiles takes viewers on a video adventure that shows the remarkable variety of the state’s native snakes, turtles, and lizard, and the natural places they inhabit. On October 8, naturalist Brian Kleinman will present his film with incredible insights into each animal’s unique adaptations, lifestyles and place in local landscapes. He will also bring some live reptiles.

Brian Kleinman
On November 12 naturalists and photographers Barbara and Peter Rzasa will present Iceland’s Birds, Flowers and Wildlife, a slide show of several Icelandic flora and fauna that can be found while traveling Iceland’s 832-mile long Ring Road.

Peter Rzasa
Iceland is often called “The Land of Fire and Ice” because of the many volcanoes, glaciers and spectacular waterfalls that populate the country. The country is also a noted birder’s paradise famous for its population of Atlantic puffins, ptarmigan, arctic terns and other arctic birds found along Iceland’s 3,700 miles of coast. Reindeer, arctic fox, humpback whales and seals can frequently be seen while Icelandic horses can be found roaming the farmlands.  

Programs run from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm at the Blackstone Memorial Library in Branford (map).

Bio Bits - The Secret Code Of Fireflies

We have all enjoyed the spectacle of fireflies flashing on a warm summer evening. A dark woodland edge or open meadow full of hundreds of tiny flashing lights is a magical sight indeed. But you have to wonder -what are these insects up to? 
First, fireflies are not flies at all, but soft-bodied beetles in the family Lampyridae. Most of the over 100 species found in North America are luminescent, producing a chemical light that is so efficient it wastes no energy in the form of heat. One, two or three segments near the tip of the abdomen give off the light; when they are not lit they appear paler than other abdominal segments. 

The luminescent fireflies are nocturnal and are active mainly around dusk. Each species inhabits a particular habitat and is active at a certain time of night. And - this is the cool part - it has its own distinctive series of flashes. 

This series of flashes is like a secret code that the male fireflies use to signal the females of their species, enabling the males and females to find each other to mate. Typically, a male flashes his signal while in flight to attract a response from a female on the ground. When she signals back, the male flies to her. There are females of some species, however, that will answer the signals of other species’ males. Their mimicry entices these males to fly in for a closer look, whereupon the female captures and eats the unsuspecting male. 
Firefly eggs are laid in moist soil or rotting wood and hatch in about a month. The larvae are nocturnal carnivores, eating small insects and snails. When the weather cools they burrow underground to spend the winter, emerging again in the spring. If you happen upon a firefly larva (or even an egg) you will know it since they are luminescent as well. Look for these glowworms in the evening on the ground in damp, marshy areas.

Submitted by Cindi Kobak

Images: Wikipedia

(From the July 2014 Newsletter.)

The Atlantic Flyway

Saving Important Bird Areas
Audubon’s Important Bird Areas (IBA) Program is a global effort to identify and protect habitat that will protect sustainable populations of birds. The IBA Program is built around an adaptable, science-based blueprint that allows Audubon and other conservation partners to make sound conservation decisions in the face of considerable uncertainty from the changing climate, the economy, and gaps in our knowledge of the abundance and distribution of our highest priority species.

Breeding roseate terns are the principal reason for Falkner Island’s IBA status. (Patrick Comins)
Connecticut’s IBA Program strives to complement the conservation programs of our state, federal, and non-profit partners. By connecting people with nature, working with land stewards to develop conservation strategies, and supporting implementation of these plans at a local level, the IBA Program fills an important niche in statewide conservation efforts by working to protect areas that aren’t easily protected under other conservation programs.

Connecticut currently has 27 publicly announced IBAs and is working to announce additional sites in the future. IBAs in the Menunkatuck Chapter area are East Rock Park, New Haven; Falkner Island Unit of McKinney NWR, Guilford; Hammonasset Beach State Park, Madison; Lighthouse Point Park, New Haven; Quinnipiac River Tidal Marsh, North Haven, New Haven, Hamden; and Sandy Point, West Haven. Several other sites are under review as additional IBAs.

(From the July 2014 Newsletter.)

Citizen Science: Firefly Watch

Are fireflies disappearing?
Spotting fireflies is a special part of warm summer nights, but lately, they seem to be disappearing from our landscape. The Museum of Science, Boston, has teamed up with researchers from Tufts University and Fitchburg State College to set up Firefly Watch to track the fate of the amazing insects. With your help, they hope to learn about the geographic distribution of fireflies and their activity during the summer season. Fireflies also may be affected by human-made light and pesticides in lawns, so they hope to also learn more about those effects.
It’s easy to participate in Firefly Watch. Basically, they want to know if you have fireflies in your backyard this summer (or in a nearby field if you don’t have a backyard). Even if you don’t see fireflies, your data is valuable.
You will join a network of volunteers to observe fireflies in your own backyard. Tracking your progress online and interacting with fellow Citizen Scientists, you will help scientists map fireflies found in New England and beyond. You do not need specific scientific training and participating in Firefly Watch requires just a fraction of your time. 
To participate you should be able to spend ten minutes checking your backyard for fireflies, one evening a week throughout the summer. However, the researchers realize that you lead a busy life and may not be able to collect data every week. Any information you can send in is valuable, as long as you fill out the observations form, and upload the results.
There is much that we still don’t know about what ecological and human-made factors affect firefly populations. The data you collect for Firefly Watch can help the researchers gain a better understanding of how the following elements influence the fireflies in your neighborhood.
To be most useful, a habitat site should be fairly small and cohesive. It should be no larger than the area you can see easily while standing in one spot. A backyard that includes shrubs and trees can be considered one habitat, but a pasture bordering that yard would be considered a different habitat.

Researchers are interested in several environmental factors that may affect fireflies. 
Mowing - During the day, fireflies can spend a lot of time on the ground and may be susceptible to frequent mowing.
Fertilizer - Researchers don’t know what effect fertilizers have on fireflies. Many fertilizers contain both weed killers and pesticides.
Weed killers - The effect weed killers (herbicides) have on fireflies is not known.
Pesticides - People apply pesticides to control insect pests, but pesticides also kill many non-pest insects. Firefly larvae — young fireflies — are not pests, but they are grubs that live in the soil and will come in contact with lawn pesticides, which target grubs.
Adult fireflies may come in contact with sprayed pesticides, some of which are used on localized problem areas like trees. Others, like those targeting mosquitoes, are sprayed over a large area. Although it may seem reasonable to assume that pesticides have an adverse effect on firefly populations, we need data to prove or disprove this assumption.
House or Building Lights - Most fireflies find a mate by flashing. They must be able to see the flash of a prospective mate and return the flash. We don’t know to what degree outside lights affect a firefly’s ability to locate a mate.
Streetlights - Streetlights produce a type of light different from house lights, and we’d like to determine if one type of light is more detrimental than the other.

Nearby Water Sources - Firefly larvae live in the soil, and they need a certain amount of moisture to survive. In some areas, rainfall and shade may be enough to keep the soil moist. In others, the moisture may come from standing water, but we don’t know how important standing water is to fireflies’ survival, nor do we know how different types of water affect them.

For more information visit the Firefly Watch website at

(From the July 2014 Newsletter.)

Menunkatuck Facilitates Repair of Osprey Platform, Initiates Inspection Program

On Thursday, May 8, 2014, Menunkatuck learned that one of the osprey platforms in the East River salt marsh in Guilford collapsed after three days of high winds. Terry Shaw went to the Guilford boat launch to assess the situation and found the osprey pair standing on the fallen nest. Later reports were that the ospreys were mating.

After determining that the platform was on Guilford Land Conservation Trust property and getting the OK from them to repair it, Terry contacted Guilford dock master Rod McLennan and made plans to go out and attempt to make repairs.

Friday morning Terry, Rod, and Town marina employee Rick Anderson took the dock master boat to the site of the platform with all the materials needed to repair the platform. When they got to the platform and the damage was closely inspected, it was clear that although the hardware that had held one of the support braces to its ground post looked good at the ends, it had rusted through in the middle and broken. Without the support braces the platform leaned so far in the wind that the pole snapped at ground level. They also discovered that the ospreys’ three eggs had broken.

Using a new 12’ pole, four new brace posts in the ground, and all new bottom boards, everything was through bolted with 1/2” galvanized bolts. The new base was sistered to the original post with the nest still in good shape.

The 12-foot 4X4 post, eight 8-foot 2X4s, and rust-resistent ½-inch bolts, washers, and nuts to repair the platform cost $160. Your donations to Menunkatuck help us pay for unforeseen expenses like this.

During the weekend the ospreys were seen carrying sticks to remake the nest and later were observed mating.

This is the third platform that has collapsed in the last three years. In June, 2011, one along the Branford Trolley Trail fell when the hardware holding its supports rusted through. The nest was swept away in the tide and the two chicks were lost. In January, 2012, another platform in the Neck River marsh in Madison had so much nest material on its platform that it became top heavy and was close to falling. We were able to remove most of it and get the pole upright once again. Later in 2012 another platform fell because of rusted hardware. There are two platforms near the mouth of the West River in Guilford that from a distance appear to be fragile.
These osprey platforms were installed in the late 1980s and early 1990s when the osprey population started to recover from the devastation that DDT had caused. Now after 20 years or more, the hardware is rusting through and the platforms are no longer stable.
To be proactive rather than reacting to collapsed platforms, Menunkatuck is undertaking an inspection and repair program for the platforms in our Chapter area, the towns from West Haven to Madison. We know where many osprey platforms are located, but not all. So as to have as complete an inventory as possible we have prepared an online survey that you can use to tell us about platforms that you are aware of. 
We also need volunteers to work on the inspections and repairs. We will train you as to what to look for and how to retrofit the platforms with new braces and upgraded hardware.
Inspections and repairs will be done after the ospreys have left in August and September. Our goal is to have all of the then completed before the ospreys return from South America next March. 

The online survey can be found at

The osprey chicks were doing well when the osprey platform along  the Trolley Trail in Branford collapsed and the nest was swept away. 

This platform in Guilford’s Chittenden Park has only two braces; it should have four.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Field Trips

Central Park Migrants and Audubon’s Aviary at the New York Historical Society
New York City
Saturday May 3, 6:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Join Menunkatuck, and Audubon Greenwich at Central Park for a morning walk with “Birding Bob” DeCandido looking for spring migrants. The Park is a major attraction for neotropical migrants, and our walk through the Rambles is sure to feature great views of many warblers as well as tanagers, orioles, and thrushes.

Following lunch, we will go to the New York Historical Society for a guided tour of Audubon watercolors. The trilogy Audubon’s Aviary: The Complete Flock is a once-in-a-lifetime series that will explore the evolution of Audubon’s dazzling watercolors in the order in which they were engraved. Over three years (2013–2015) Audubon’s Aviary will feature all 474 stunning avian watercolors by Audubon in the collection. Engaging state-of-the-art media installations will provide a deeper understanding of the connection between art and nature.

We will be taking the Metro North 6:46 a.m. train from New Haven, arrive at Grand Central at 8:41, and take a bus or the subway to Central Park, arriving around 9:30. We will bird for about three hours, have lunch at the Boathouse, and then go to the NYHS. The return time to New Haven is open. Cost for the bird walk is $10. Train fare, lunch, admission to the NYHS, and any other personal expenses are additional.
Pre-registration is required. To register for this trip, please email, visit the Field Trips registration form on the calendar page of our website at

Various Locations
Saturday, May 10,
6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Join us at Sandy Point in West Haven for beach nesting birds and gulls and terns, East Rock Park in New Haven and the Supply Ponds in Branford for migrating warblers and other neotropical birds, at Hammonasset Beach State Park for more migrants and water birds, and at other local birding spots for our annual all-day birding extravaganza.
The last few years we’ve averaged between 100 and 120 species during Birdathon. Join us for the entire day or at as many hot spots as suits your schedule.

Approximate Schedule
Sandy Point, 6:00 a.m.
East Rock Park, 8:00 a.m.
Supply Ponds, 11:00 a.m.
Shoreline drive, 2:00 p.m.
Hammonasset, 5:00 p.m.
Follow our progress and keep up with our sightings throughout the day by checking our Facebook page,

In the Works for July

There are several possible trips in the planning stages for July. One is a boat trip to Outer Island in the Thimble Islands off Stony Creek. Outer Island is a unit of the Stewart B. McKinney Wildlife Refuge. There are fabulous photographic opportunities on the island with wave-smoothed pink granite outcroppings and erratic boulders, numerous tidal pools, and common and roseate terns, nesting green herons, and other shorebirds. A picnic lunch is likely on the schedule.
Also being considered is a multi-Chapter kayak/canoe paddle at a lake or pond that is most convenient to the Chapters participating.
Topsmead State Forest in Litchfield is another possible destination. The trails at Topsmead pass through large meadows with nesting bobolinks and through small wooded areas with forest birds more common to northern Connecticut. Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy on the patio of the Chase summer house before we tour the home.
Another trip being planned for September is a sunset cruise on the Connecticut River to view the tree swallows returning to Goose Island for their overnight roost. Each evening from late August through early October hundreds of thousands of tree swallows gather in a swirling cloud and in an instant they drop into the marsh for the night.

Details on summer trips will be in the July newsletter.