[CT Birds] A day to remind me what it's all about (fairly long)

kmueller at ntplx.net kmueller at ntplx.net
Sat Oct 26 18:50:37 EDT 2013

That's FANTASTIC News Patrick!! I really appreciate all your hard work  
behind the scenes on our behalf making sure that the Wildlife we enjoy  
so much have these prime areas protected. This is a great  
accomplishment and you should be very proud! Thank You so very much  
for your foresight and your endless hard work!!

Keith Mueller

Quoting "Comins, Patrick" <PCOMINS at audubon.org>:

> Yesterday I had one of those days that reminded me why I work so  
> hard  at this job to conserve birds and their habitats.   I had the  
> honor of attending the celebration of the protection of the 155-acre  
> Sciongay property in Westbrook, CT.  The Connecticut DEEP, who had  
> help form other partners including the Trust for Public Land,  
> celebrated the permanent protection of this property in the tidal  
> headwaters of the Menunketesuck River.  This means that more than  
> one mile on both sides of the river is now permanently protected,  
> due also to an earlier project to protect the Chapman Millpond  
> property in Clinton.     This acquisition creates a vital buffer to  
> the important tidal headwaters of the river that runs through the  
> Salt Meadow Unit of Stewart B. McKinney NWR and empties to Long  
> Island Sound at Duck Island Roads/Pilot's Point.   This was  
> especially important because the Town of Clinton has been seeking a  
> property on which to dispose of treated sewerage discharge through a  
> community septic system of sorts.   The property has an area of sand  
> dune habitat, which is a nesting area for eastern box turtle and the  
> globally endangered wood turtle that would also be perfect for such  
> a system from an engineering viewpoint.
> Why is this project so important?  Many years ago, I worked for the  
> Connecticut Audubon Society and then the US Fish and Wildlife  
> Service and was based at Salt Meadow Unit.   At times I would need  
> to be at work very early for bird surveys.  I found that there was  
> an amazing variety and abundance of warblers and other migrant birds  
> that used the Refuge in fall migration.  An early morning there  
> after the passage of a cold front can be an amazing experience!   I  
> started thinking about why so many migrants might find themselves on  
> this property in fall migration and noticed that there were very few  
> roads to the north of the property.   I then noticed that there is a  
> very dark (at night), relatively undeveloped forested corridor that  
> stretches from Salt Meadow Unit northwards to the Connecticut River  
> in Middletown and beyond.  This corridor can even be seen from space  
> at night and likely is a highway for our nocturnal migrant  
> landbirds.  It can be seen in this photo as the dark corridor just  
> to the east of the I-91 ribbon of light:  
> http://cdn.theatlantic.com/static/mt/assets/science/620615main_iss1600_946-710.jpg
> I started compiling maps and other images in an attempt to get the  
> word out about this potentially important flyway and even gave a  
> talk several years ago at the COA Annual Meeting that featured this  
> feature prominently.   I eventually started talking a bit less about  
> it, but a few years ago learned that perhaps some seeds were planted  
> after all.  Local municipalities, under the leadership of the Lower  
> Connecticut River Valley Council of Governments (I believe they were  
> the lead) had made a successful push to officially  recognize a  
> portion of this corridor as the Menunketesuck Greenway, with a goal  
> of protecting land between the Refuge and the Cockaponsit State  
> Forest to the north.  To make a very long story short, a parcel that  
> I thought was absolutely key to protecting this flyway was the area  
> directly to the north of the Refuge across I-95, i.e. this very  
> property, along with the the parcels on the east side of the river.   
>    Now both sides of the river are protected, which will hopefully  
> spur on additional protection efforts to make the entire greenway a  
> reality as a protected corridor.
> I'm not trying to play up my personal role in the actual  
> acquisition, those kudos go to Dave Kozak and the Connecticut  
> Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the Trust for  
> Public Land, funding from the US Environmental Protection Agency,  
> the Sciongay family who sold it for much less than market value, the  
> Town of Westbrook and other partners I'm sure.  Though I am  
> privileged to have helped a little by helping to make the case for  
> that funding (funding that Audubon also plays a key role in securing  
> for all of the partners to access through our Long Island Sound  
> program).   My point is to never get discouraged, sometimes  
> conservation action takes decades and sometimes small seeds you help  
> to plant can bear great fruit when others see the vision and have  
> the means to implement it.
> The story gets even better though, later in the day I traveled to  
> Norwalk for the announcement of this year's Long Island Sound  
> Futures Fund awards, where a grant was announced to restore fish  
> passage past the dam that is on the property.  This will allow river  
> herring, blueback herring and and alewife to access over 3 miles of  
> spawning habitat north of the dam.  I'm told (by DEEP fisheries  
> biologist Steve Gephard, who also played a major role in this  
> effort) that the name Menunketesuck means "the river of small  
> silvery and bony fish", apparently the river historically ran silver  
> with these fish that are so critical to the health of Long Island  
> Sound and are now so endangered.
> What does this have to do with birds you might say?  If you have  
> ever kayaked the Menunketesuck River, you may wonder why people  
> think Little Blue Herons are a rare sighting.  That marsh is a real  
> hot spot for them and just off the mouth of the river sits Duck  
> Island, a critical heron rookery and probably the most important  
> nesting area in the state for Little Blues.  Also, the Menunketesuck  
> flats are a prime staging area for terns in the late summer and  
> fall, including the federally endangered Roseate Tern.    Think of  
> how much better that bird habitat would be with oodles of small fish  
> to forage on?
> Buffer, for a beautiful marsh, more fish for birds to eat and a  
> keystone parcel protected on the flight path to a key migration  
> stopover, what could be better than that?   And partners who did the  
> legwork to make the deal happen to top it off.  Kudos to the  
> Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Trust for Public  
> Land, US EPA and all  of the partners who made this a reality...I'm  
> proud to have played my small role to help you do your great work!
> For more info on this great conservation victory:
> http://www.theday.com/article/20131024/NWS01/131029854/-1/rssharbornews
> http://www.nhregister.com/general-news/20131023/deep-buys-property-clinton-had-eyed-for-wastewater-treatment
> And a photo of the property:
> https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151803613384480&set=pcb.10151803616719480&type=1&relevant_count=2
> Sincerely,
> Patrick
> Patrick M. Comins
> Director of Bird Conservation
> Audubon Connecticut
> 185 East Flat Hill Road
> Southbury, CT 06488
> Phone: (203)264-5098 x308
> Fax: (203)264-6332
> pcomins at audubon.org
> http://iba.audubon.org/iba/viewState.do?state=US-CT
> Audubon Connecticut is on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AudubonCT
> Friends of Conte is on Facebook:  
> http://www.facebook.com/pages/Friends-of-the-Silvio-O-Conte-National-Fish-and-Wildlife-Refuge/121976791147545?v=wall
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