[CT Birds] Nehantic SF info Pt1 - Long!

David F Provencher david.f.provencher at dom.com
Mon May 14 13:30:29 EDT 2012

I've recently been asked by quite a number of people on the list for info about birding Nehantic State Forest in Lyme. Rather than respond to all separately, I'm posting this to the list. There are a few of us who know the forest pretty well birding-wise. I have turned up a few good birds in the forest over the years, as have others, and this is due to its proximity to the CT River and to the advantage of having a decent ear for birdsong. The point is, the forest is not an unusually birdy place, it is no more birdy than many other southern CT forest tracts. When I bird the forest I tend to spend a lot of time covering much ground on foot ("If I could not walk far and fast, I think I should just explode and perish" - Dickens). Still, the forest road itself can be pretty productive. I'm going to give info relevant to May/June birding only.

The forest road (Keeny):

The forest road can be entered either from Keeny Road off Beaver Brook Road (which intersects CT Rte 156 about 1.5 to 2 miles) south of Rte 82, or directly from Rte 156 about 3 or 4 miles south of the Rte 156/Beaver Brook Road intersection. The following is a brief (believe it or not) discussion based on entering directly from Rte 156:

The forest road (really the forest road is Keeny Road all the way through the forest) quickly takes you into forest interior habitat. I have often had north bound migrant Warblers in the first hundred to two hundred meters of the road. Hooded Warbler used to breed along this stretch and may again. You will soon come to an old planned burn area on the north side of the road. This area used to have a Brewster's Warbler for a few years. If you walk the burn area to the low northern edge you should hear Northern Waterthrush and an occasional migrant Canada Warbler. A little further along the road you will cross a forest stream. Hear you will hear many typical species, as well as an occasional Mourning Warbler. Swamp Sparrows breed here. As you progress you should listen for Louisiana Waterthrush at any small watercourse.

A right hand fork will take you (south side) to Uncas Pond boat ramp. This road is skirted by swamp and migrants are often lurking here, such as Wilson's Warbler. I have always thought this would be a superb spot to find a Swainson's Warbler! Pine Warbler can be heard in the large Pines here. I once found a roving female Prothonotary right at the boat ramp in early July. For dragonfly aficionados, the rare Blue Corporal and Little Bluets can often be found right at the boat ramp.

Heading further along the forest road (you WILL find Worm-eating Warblers along the road. Very common in this forest) takes you to the Norwich Pond boat ramp road. This access road quickly drops down in elevation. At the boat ramp there is a little swampy area that can have Wilson's Warbler or Canada Warbler. Migrant Parulas seem to like this area. As you drive the forest road you should stop and listen frequently. I have turned up two Summer Tanagers here over the years. Ovenbirds will be heard everywhere. There is currently a Cerulean on territory along the middle stretch of the road, best found by listening for its song.

Past the Norwich Pond road you will come to a small swamp on the north side of the road. Louisiana Waterthrush can usually be heard along the back side of the pond. Along this stretch of the road Northern Waterthrush can be heard, though distantly, at low lying areas.  More Pine Warblers may be found in the White Pine stands.

At one point, as you have driven through most of the forest, you will find a clear cut area on your right, cut about two or three years ago. This reverting area now holds Prairie Warbler and Indigo Bunting, as well as a Yellow-breasted Chat very recently (See Danny Williams recent post). It should attract White-eyed Vireo in a year or two. Just after this cut area you will drop down to an open swamp/pond on both sides of the road. Prothonotary Warbler has been found here a number of times and Bluebirds and Tree Swallows should be in evidence. Yellow-throated Vireos (fairly common in the forest) can usually be heard here.

As you leave the swamp/pond area you will come to a yellow gate on the left. This area was cut about 10 to 15 years ago and is now grown too high for Prairie Warbler (which used to be here) but it marks the area along the forest road that harbors Whippoorwills. Acadian Flycatcher was here for a couple of years and if you walk the path through the gate and the Pines you should turn up Louisiana Waterthrush. Cerulean Warbler can sometimes be found at the crest of the hill above the reverting area but you will have to bushwack to get there. For herp lovers, I have found Earthworm Snake at this location as well.

As you leave this spot you will immediately enter more pines with Pine Warblers. Just after that you will come to the gravel parking area which is just in the forest from the Beaver Brook Road/Keeny Road intersection (east) side. At this parking area a forest tract and Blue blazed trails head into the forest. This is where I usually start hiking. Whippoorwills can be heard from this parking area and a few years ago a Chuckwillswidow was here, one of only two I have ever seen in CT. I will discuss the forest tract and trails in part 2.

As you leave the forest the road turns from gravel to pavement at a residence. There will be a beaver pond on your right shortly, and the outflow flows under the road. I have found Prothonotary here as well. But only once. You are now out of the forest. There are many species you will find along the road that I did not mention of course.

David Provencher

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