Tag Archives: Connecticut Audubon Society

Protect Longshore’s Plover

Alert — and environmentally conscious — “06880” reader Maureen Choe and her 7-year-old daughter had a magical morning walk with their dog Cookie this morning.

Around 8:15 a.m., Mirabelle discovered a perfect intact nest with a nervous squeaking mother bird nearby.

Maureen and Mirabelle think is a piping plover’s nest. They spotted beautiful eggs out in the open, at risk for dogs, other animals or curious people.

They went home, made a sign and put it up, warning folks to stay away.

They made calls to several local organizations. They finally reached Becky Newman, naturalist at Earthplace. She agreed that the public should remain far from the nest.

Becky also provided contacts at the Audubon Society in Milford, which holds special training programs on piping plovers.

It may not be a piping plover, Maureen notes. She’s unsure if it’s protected by the state or not.

Still, she says, it’s a vulnerable bird’s nest, out in the open near the Longshore pool. She hopes people give the bird — shown here sitting on her nest — and her eggs their space.

(Photos/Maureen Choe)

Osprey Nest: Sunday Morning Report

In the wake of yesterday’s removal of the osprey nest between Terrain and Fresh Market, several readers wondered if there was a photo of the actual act.

Staples High School freshman Jaden Mueller took this shot. His parents, Adrian Merri, sent it to “06880.” They said it had no business name on the side.

(Photo/Jaden Mueller)

Meanwhile, “06880” reader (and Connecticut Audubon Society board member) Charlie Stebbins directed me to Miley Bull, Connecticut Audubon Society’s senior director of science and conservation.

I called Miley this morning. He said that on Friday afternoon, the contractor for property owner Terrain — he’s not sure of the contractor’s name — called. He said they’d be taking down the nest the next day, as part of a parking lot project. The contractor said they wanted to remove the nest before the ospreys laid eggs, because then it would be an “active” nest. If the ospreys abandoned the nest then, the contractor might be liable under Connecticut law, the contractor knew.

Miley told the contractor that the adults were already back. He told me, “I have no control over private property.” But he called Brian Hess, wildlife biologist for the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

Miley said he told Brian, “I’m not sure of the best thing to do. I told the contractor that there’s a lot of activity there already. The birds might be habituated to noise, and not affected by construction.” He told me there are ospreys living on poles near stadiums, with all that activity.

Miley said, “Brian called the contractor. I don’t know what he told them.”

Ospreys in 2016. (Photo/Jo Ann Davidson)

However, Miley said, “When the workers were there yesterday, and people got all upset, the workers ducked and hid. They said ‘the Audubon Society said it was okay.’ That’s bullshit. I don’t have control over that.”

I told Miley that — according to several “06880” readers — the ospreys are apparently covered not only by state statute, but the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. And that the law refers not just to nests with eggs or chicks in it, but to any “active” nest. With birds living in it, readers say, this was an active nest.

Miley said of the state DEEP, “They know the statutes and laws.”

That’s the latest information.

Reader Charlie Stebbins also noted last night:

The key issue now is, where do the osprey alight and build a new nest? Before Terrain, they built on a utility pole that caught fire and killed the chicks. Hence the new pole at Terrain.

With that pole now removed, Audubon is using its nest monitors (aka Tina Green and other expert Westport birders) to track where the osprey relocate. They will pick a new local site in the next week or two. When they do, we will know if it’s safe or not…and act accordingly.

Osprey Nest: The Latest Update

This afternoon’s “0688o” story on the removal of the osprey nest between Fresh Market and Terrain struck a nerve. We’ve already received over 50 comments. They range from distressed and sad to furious and vindictive.

While there are no clear answers yet as to who removed the nest, it is clear that:

  • The Audubon Society yesterday received a call asking about removing the nest. They emphatically said no, for many reasons.
  • This morning, someone claiming to be from the Audubon Society told Terrain they were removing the nest because of upcoming construction — and then did so. Terrain apparently was duped.
  • Fresh Market had nothing to do with the removal either. Store personnel are very upset about what happened.
  • The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is involved. So are the Westport police.

The comments on the previous story are compelling reading. Click here to see them all. Listed below are some highlights, including emails sent directly to me:

Tina Green: I just heard from Patrick Comins, executive director of the Connecticut Audubon Society, And they had nothing to do with the removal of the nest. The landlords should not have removed the nest and platform!

Christine Cummings: I am an assistant manager at The Fresh Market and I want to assure you, we had nothing to do with the removal of the Osprey nest. We are as distressed. We have called the landlord and are trying to get an answer.

One osprey flying over the removed nest this morning. (Photo from video by Sam Levenson)

Debbie Zager: This was done illegally – I went to walk around to see if Nest had been moved and found Betsy, a Wildlife Rehab person who had called in the DEP. The DEP is investigating – we looked everywhere and cannot find the platform. The Ospre’s are stressed and she is very concerned that this will be completely deleterious to the pair. Nobody had permission to move the nest and she said it was the worst time of year to even consider doing so. Calls to landlord went unanswered. Is there any video footage of the people who moved it on someone’s security camera? This is illegal – birds are protected by Federal Government. Contact Christine Peyreigne : christinescrittersinc@gmail.com a Wildlife Rehabilitator with info or to Report if you see an Osprey so distressed and tired that they are in the ground.

Carolyn Doan: I was so upset reading about the Osprey that I called the Audubon Society and this is their exact response:

“Thank you for reaching out to ct Audubon. We did not remove the nest. And would not have recommended to do so. Please call Brian Hess at DEEP (860) 424-3208 Brian.hess@ct.gov to report the removal. Thx.”

Pete Reid: Hi, Dan. Managers at Terrain claim that the nest was removed by the Audubon Society with the approval of CT DEP. This surprised us, and I have reached out to Audubon and DEP to try to confirm this. It would be a violation of Federal law to destroy a working osprey nest, and this sounds like a working nest. I would say this is a story worth looking into. WASA has been very helpful in getting the word out on this. Regards, Pete Reid, Wildlife in Crisis, Weston.

The nest, 4 days ago. (Photo/Tracy Porosoff)

Betsy Peyreigne: After numerous phone calls from people concerned for the osprey, I went down to check out what was going on. I spoke to Audubon in Fairfield who made calls and confirmed that it was NOT Audubon who removed the nest this morning. They received a phone call yesterday asking their opinion on removing it and they firmly stated that it should NOT be touched or removed. The DEEP is investigating.

I met with the officer at the site and relayed all information that I could to him. Searching the entire area for the platform and the nest was not successful. This is in the right hands with the DEEP and I hope that we can get a good resolution soon for this situation. We rehab birds of prey, so if anyone sees either of the osprey grounded for any reason please do not hesitate to contact us. Thank you all for your concern about these magnificent birds

Leslie Riback: I just called Terrain again and spoke to manager Maureen. She told me that the police dept and DEP are now involved. She admits that they were misinforming the public by telling them it was removed by the Audobon Society. She says the men who came and took it down told them they were “biologists”. Our phone call was cut short as she said the DEP was calling on the other line.
I guess this is now in the hands of the DEP. Can this get rectified quickly enough? I wish there was more I could do….

Alissa Harrison: I can confirm the CT Audubon Society’s Director of conservation was contacted just yesterday by the construction company involved and the official recommendation was to leave the platform as the osprey pair that nests there are habituated to all of the human activity and would not be negatively effected by the construction. The Audubon immediately contacted the DEEP biologist in charge of monitoring osprey. An Audubon employee was not in any way involved in the removal this morning, it was done solely by the construction company going against the official recommendation of the CT Audubon. I’m happy to hear DEEP is investigating the matter further and hopefully the platform can be put back in place ASAP. It is my understanding that a nest can be removed as long as there are no eggs but that certainly doesn’t mean it should be especially in this situation. Thank you Betsy for your continued work to get to the bottom of this!

Former Eversource employee: Pole is Eversource property…they only allow their own crews or contractors they hire, to install or remove anything on their poles…this is clearly a violation of their rules which all municipalities support and take action against any violators – suggest getting Town of Westport involved. This violates NatIonal Electric Safety Code – thus coming under municipal jurisdiction for enforcement!

Debra Zager: Does Terrain know the name of the landlord because the cherry picker construction device in the back parking lot of Fresh Market (and where Terrain is busting through building) has the keys still in it and it is the machine used to remove the nest. Someone told a worker at Fresh Market that they were relocating the nest for safety due to the upcoming construction … Ridiculous! Does Terrain have Security Cameras or Fresh Market ? If so- perhaps they can identify who did this early this morning?

Fiona Boughton: I am one of two Terrain employees who ran to the scene to demand an explanation from the team of 3 men involved. Two of the men work for Regency Centers https://www.regencycenters.com/office/WPT/New-YorkConnecticut-Office & the other stated that he was employed by All Points Technology http://allpointstech.com and was there to investigate whether the nest was active or not. He told me that because there were no eggs in the nest, he deemed it as inactive BUT we, at Terrain, have been seeing nesting activity over the past week where osprey are in the process of adding sticks to the nest & also sleeping in the nest. I was told by the Regency Centers that I was in the way & to leave the scene. I immediately reported this to the management team of Terrain who acted on reporting it immediately to the EPA https://www.epa.gov

An officer from DEEP came to Terrain & I shared my entire story with him. He assured us that he would get to the root of this. Terrain management kept this as a priority throughout the day & into this evening. & is active in doing everything possible to see that the Osprey are protected & that the nest is replaced as soon as possible. It has been a most heartbreaking day for all of us at Terrain.

Lauren Aber: I’m the store manager at Terrain. We are as upset as everyone about the removal of the Osprey nest. Although the nest does not sit on our property, the birds are very important to us and we look forward to their return every year. We have contacted the EPA, who sent on officer out to the store. They are conducting an investigation and I will update this post with their findings.

Scott Smith Discovers Westport’s Hidden Gems

Scott Smith is an alert “06880” reader, a longtime Westporter and an ardent outdoorsman. He writes:

If you ask Westporters to comment on our community’s natural charms, chances are most would cite the dazzling string of beaches and coastal places: Compo Beach, Sherwood Mill Pond, Gray’s Creek and Burying Hill. If pressed, they might claims Sherwood Island too.

Others would tout the Saugatuck River, from the fly fishing shallows along Ford Road to the impoundment of Lees Pond, and the tidal stretch through town leading to the mouth at Longshore and Cedar Point. Cockenoe Island gets a shout-out, too, especially from those with the nautical means to visit it.

Fishing off Ford Road (Photo/Richard Wiese)

But plenty of other places across Westport beguile with bucolic beauty. Many of these underappreciated open spaces are in the midst of a welcome renaissance, sparked by renovation efforts from those who love and tend them.

I’m talking about the town parks, preserves, land trusts and wildlife sanctuaries that constitute our remaining inland open spaces. Over the past year or two, I’ve visited quite a few. I always come away thinking how fortunate we are to be able to trod upon them.

“06880” has covered these developments over time, noting singular efforts and improvements. But if you step back and tally them all up, it’s quite an impressive list, covering virtually every part of town.

Over in Old Hill there’s the Lillian Wadsworth Arboretum. I toured it a couple of seasons ago with its caretakers, including Lou Mall and tree warden Bruce Lindsay. They’re spearheading its transformation from an untended patch of blow-downs and invasive vines to a fetching enhancement to the adjacent Earthplace facility.

Dead creepers line a Wadswworth Arboretum trail.

Coleytown has the Newman Poses Preserve, which affords a wonderful walk through meadows along the Saugatuck stream and through upland woods. Having the memory of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward and their family as you traipse along is a nice bonus. Their neighbors — and the Aspetuck Land Trust — get credit for giving us that open space.

Right near downtown there’s the blossoming of long-neglected Baron’s South, another town-led reclamation project with even brighter prospects in store as a nature-driven arts campus.

A path in Baron’s South. (Photo/Judy James)

And just down Compo, off Greenacre Road, is the hidden gem of the Haskins Preserve, my longtime favorite place for a weekend stroll.

Haskins Preserve’s dogwoods and daffodils — a lovely combination.

I have “06680” to thank for cluing me in to my newest place to take a hike: the Smith Richardson Preserve in Greens Farms. I’ve long known about the 2 parcels north of I-95. The Christmas tree farm off Sasco Creek Road is where I chop down a tree every year. I consider it in part my annual donation to the Connecticut Audubon Society, which manages the farm and the open space across the road.

But I had no idea of the separate property just across 95, a 36-acre parcel stretching from Sasco Creek all the way to the playing fields behind Greens Farms Academy off Beachside Avenue.

I walked it the other day, taking advantage of frozen ground to course through fields that are in the midst of being cleared of smothering vines and other invasive species.

It’s an impressive project, even if the space is hard by the highway and Metro-North rails. Hemmed in by neighboring houses big and small, and what looks to be a refuse depot managed by the railroad or state, the area has the look of a pocket-size Central Park in the making, with Olmstedian trails that wind through woods, and alongside meadows and ponds. I can’t wait to see how the property develops, with its ambitious new plantings and clearings, and whether the caretaking crews can keep the tick-haven invasives at bay.

Smith Richardson Preserve (Photo/Scott Smith)

These public/private corners of our community are all discovered places, at least for me. When I visit them, either with my dog or solo, I’m often the only one around. I like the solitude, and question why I’d even want to spread the word about them. Parking is often a pinch, and I’m not even sure about the proper access to the new Smith Richardson preserve behind GFA’s sprawling athletic fields.

But these largely hidden local natural spaces deserve recognition, and our support for the groups that manage them — the town, Aspetuck Land Trust, and the Connecticut Audubon Society — whether by check or volunteer hand.

Separately and together, they all make Westport a wonderful place to live and to explore.

Preserving Nature, With Help From Friends

The H. Smith Richardson Wildlife Preserve is a Greens Farms gem.

Straddling the Southport border, it’s actually 3 parcels: a 24-acre Christmas tree farm at the top of Sasco Creek; a 14-acre field habitat across the way, and a 36-acre evergreen plantation by Hedley Farms Road, behind Greens Farms Academy.

It’s a gem because it’s open, and teeming with nature. But for a “preserve,” it wasn’t always well preserved.

Several years ago when Charles Stebbins joined the Connecticut Audubon Society board, the organization surveyed all 19 sanctuaries they managed. The one most in need of restoration: Smith Richardson.

Smith Richardson Preserve, before restoration.

For 3 years, volunteer days in November have drawn dozens of neighbors, friends and board members, plus Staples High School League of Boys and Builders Beyond Borders teenagers. Slowly but methodically they cut vines, cleared brush and cleaned the 14-acre habitat.

With the help of Oliver Nurseries, they planted 100 trees and shrubs — oaks, cedars, pawpaw, black gum, dogwoods, blueberries and holly. They seeded 4 acres with native pollinator flowers and grasses, and built a stone bench.

Regular users — hikers, dog walkers, cross country skiers — helped fund the project.

A few of the many volunteers.

Early last year, the Long Island Sound Futures Fund — which combines money from the US Environmental Protection Agency, and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation — awarded $145,780 to the Smith Richardson preserve.

The goal is to restore a coastal forest habitat. Stebbins calls the Greens Farms property one of the few remaining forests along Connecticut’s 100 miles of coastline.

A year from now, the area will be cleared of deadwood and invasive plants. Fields and meadows will be restored — exploding in bloom — and 1,200 trees planted. Professionals are doing much of the work.

One of the many trees being planted at the preserve.

The grant is contingent on $134,047 in matching funds. Neighbors and friends have already contributed generously.

“It’s heartening,” Stebbins says. “Greens Farms and Southport are so built up. To be able to restore this property is a great gift.”

Smith Richardson Preserve is a neighborhood gem.

But this is nature at its best. Everyone is welcome.

Photo Challenge #140

Every Westporter has his or her favorite town park.

And nearly every one was guessed, in last week’s photo challenge.

The correct answer to Seth Schachter’s image was H. Smith Richardson Wildlife Preserve. That’s the 74-acre Connecticut Audubon Society gem tucked away near Southport.

The photo (click here) was taken on a path leading to the back — the northeast corner of Greens Farms Academy.

Only Alexandra Wiberg and John Hartwell correctly identified the park as H. Smith Richardson — not Winslow, Grace Salmon, Paul Newman, Edna Haskins, Hilla von Rebay or the Nature Center.

Of course, they’re all worth visiting.

Now it’s on to this week’s photo challenge. If you recognize it, click “Comments” below. As always, back stories and/or more info is always welcome.