April 28, 2017

CT Audubon Offers Estuary Explorations Saturday Mornings Starting May 6

Osprey in flight. Photo by Brock Graham.

AREAWIDE — The Connecticut Audubon Society’s Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center is offering a new program of Saturday morning field trips to natural areas along the lower Connecticut River starting May 6.

Estuary Explorations will be led by PhD ecologist Paul Spitzer, a protégé of internationally recognized naturalist and painter, Roger Tory Peterson. Each exploration will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., with the possibility of extending the field tripinto the afternoon, depending on the participants’ interest.

The fee for each field trip is $30 per person ($25 per student) and registration is required. To register, visit this link.

Estuary Explorations will give participants a chance to learn about the Lower Connecticut River Estuary’s ecosystems and wildlife as the year progresses from the peak bird migratory season of May, through high summer, and into the late fall.

Paul Spitzer. Photo courtesy of Paul Spitzer.

Spitzer has designed the programs to follow in the footsteps of one of the 20th century’s most famous naturalists, field guide author and illustrator Roger Tory Peterson, who spent his adult life painting in his studio in Old Lyme and examining the flora and fauna of the Connecticut River Estuary and the world.

Spitzer will showcase some of Peterson’s favorite natural sites and share his extensive knowledge of the ecology of the region. Spitzer plans to lead these explorations at a “Thoreauvian saunter,” moving slowly to appreciate many of the birds, plants, and insects that Peterson once enjoyed.

While Old Lyme tends to be recognized for its scenic views and historic artist colony and arts culture, it is also situated at an important ecological hub in New England — the meeting of the waters. In this species-rich estuary, the fresh water of the vast Connecticut River and Long Island Sound mix, resulting in a wealth of natural life.

Spitzer learned his natural history while growing up in the Connecticut River Valley. He is a graduate of Old Lyme High School and continued up the river to attend Wesleyan University. He later earned his PhD in ecological sciences from Cornell University.

More recently, he has studied the now substantial Connecticut River Estuary Osprey colony as a “biomonitor” of migratory menhaden abundance, the Osprey’s preferred food source. Spitzer advocates for sustainable management practices of this keystone fish for its ecosystem, economic, and societal functions.

Working alongside Spitzer will be Old Saybrook native, Jim Arrigoni. Arrigoni has worked as a fisheries biologist in Washington State and developed protocols to evaluate stream water quality in Hong Kong. Most recently, he has taught cultural and aquatic ecology classes at Goodwin College, and he is currently completing a PhD on the conservation value of restored wetlands.

Spitzer has studied Ospreys for 50 years, his research beginning here in the Connecticut River Estuary. By the 1970’s, the impact of DDT in the ecosystem whittled the local Osprey colony down to one active nest. Spitzer was instrumental in the recovery of this important keystone species to these waters.

“The Connecticut River Ospreys are our iconic story of revival from the brink,” said Spitzer. “These guided and educational field trips will open a world of discovery about nature’s profusion in this extraordinary bioregion.”

“Migrant and resident species of the estuary watershed are particularly exciting to observe in May. I will provide up-close and expansive views of the natural world from salt marshes to Yellow Warblers in particularly beautiful places.”

After meeting at the Old Lyme I-95 Park and Ride (Exit 70), participants will enjoy three hours of ecological exploration followed by a brown bag lunch and guided discussion in the field.  Spitzer is also willing to offer optional afternoon sessions gauged by the stamina and interest of the participants.

Beyond the four Saturdays in May, the field trips will occur monthly through November.

photos: Paul Spitzer, courtesy of Paul Spitzer; Osprey, photo by Brock Graham

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Essex May Market, an Essex Garden Club Extravaganza, Scheduled for May 13

Plants galore for sale at May Market.

ESSEX — You’re in for a treat on Saturday, May 13, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., rain or shine, when the Essex Garden Club will have a one-day extravaganza in the Town Park on Main Street. 

Just in time for Mother’s Day, there will be herbs and herbal gift creations as well as the Garden Club’s ‘world famous’ garlic salt, made from a closely-guarded secret recipe since 1953.

Always the star of Essex May Market are the ever-popular Members Plants.  People have been coming to Essex on May Market day for years from all over New England to take advantage of the healthy plants dug and nurtured by the Garden Club members.  These plants include perennials, ground covers, grasses and shrubs dug and potted from the garden club members. 

An early sell out in the Members Plants area each year are the many varieties of tomato plants grown from seed and cultivated carefully.  There will be 300 tomato plants, including many heirloom varieties guaranteed to grow in our climate. People start lining up at 8 a.m. to get the finest specimens. 

On the other side of the park, the Annuals Tent will be stocked with the healthiest hanging baskets, and blooming annuals. Knowledgeable Garden Club members will be available to help with any questions on caring for the plants. 

Back by popular demand this year is the all-natural compost available for sale.

Sales of Essex Garden Club’s ‘World Famous’ Garlic Salt are always brisk.

The “Treasures” section is a great place to find gently used pieces of jewelry, garden pieces, planters, books, cnildren’s items, gardening tools and a mix of odds and ends. There will be lots of interesting finds for all ages.

The Silent Auction will have an incredible array of goods and services donated from many generous merchants. And back again this year is the Jewelry Tree.  Here you will find an extensive and superb collection of vintage bangles, earrings, necklaces and pins.

The May Market Café offers donuts and coffee starting in the morning and light lunch fare at midday. Local Connecticut breads and honey will be for sale and make great gifts

May Market is the Garden Club’s only annual fundraising event.  Proceeds support civic improvement projects, such as beautifying town parks and traffic islands in Essex, Centerbrook and Ivoryton.  Plantings are also purchased for the Essex Town hall, Town Park and for public schools serving Essex students. 

Funds also provide scholarships for high school seniors and college students, summer camper-ships for young students, and educational programs for Essex Elementary school and John Winthrop Middle school

May Market is truly a gardener’s dream.  Come early and you will definitely find something beautiful for your garden or a special gift to take home. It is, after all, the quintessential Essex Event!

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30 Plunge Into Frigid Sound to Help Save Plum Island

Plunging for Plovers: these brave souls charged into the freezing waters of Long Island Sound last Saturday to raise awareness of efforts to save Plum Island from sale and preserve the island’s outstanding flora and fauna. Photo by Judy Preston.

OLD SAYBROOK -– A long-planned “polar plunge”-style fundraiser at Old Saybrook Town Beach got a shot of drama from unexpectedly cold temperatures, strong winds, and high waves this weekend.

CFE/Save the Sound’s Chris Cryder, in seal costume, speaks at the press conference. Photo by Laura McMillan.

Students from Old Saybrook High School, area officials, and representatives of a regional environmental organization—some in costumes—packed into a heated school bus for a press conference last Saturday morning, March 11, before running into a frigid Long Island Sound to raise awareness and support for protecting Plum Island.

The “Plum Island Plunge for Plovers” has raised $3,700 for Connecticut Fund for the Environment and its bi-state program Save the Sound’s multi-year battle to save Plum Island from sale and private development. Donations are still coming in.

“I’ve met thousands of folks all around the Sound who want Plum Island preserved, but this is something else,” said Chris Cryder, special project coordinator for CFE/Save the Sound, decked out as one of the harbor seals that rest on Plum Island’s rocky shore. “To see dozens of people voluntarily turn out in weather like this to make a statement about the island’s importance is inspiring.”

Rosie Rothman, co-president of Old Saybrook High School’s Interact Club, speaks at the press conference prior to ‘The Plunge.’ Photo by Judy Preston.

Rosie Rothman, co-president of Old Saybrook High School’s Interact Club, explained that the plunge was a perfect fit for the Interact Club’s mission of community service and the Ecology Club’s mission of environmental protection.

“Afterwards, we couldn’t feel our toes for a while, but we still had fun,” she said. “With a windchill in the single digits, it was definitely a challenge, but our members still showed up. I think that speaks to our dedication to the cause. It is our hope that our legislators take decisive federal action to protect Plum Island from development that would be detrimental to the wildlife that depends on it, including 111 species of conservation concern.”

“I was very proud to see so many Old Saybrook High School students participate in the polar plunge, on a freezing March day, to support efforts to preserve Plum Island,” said Rep. Devin Carney (Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, Westbrook). “Plum Island is an important natural resource for the Connecticut shoreline and Long Island Sound. By preserving it, these students, and many others, will be able to enjoy its natural beauty for many years to come.”

And they’re off! The plungers enter the bitterly cold water at Old Saybrook Town Beach. (Photo by Judy Preston)

Carl P. Fortuna, Jr., first selectman for the Town of Old Saybrook, joined the hardy souls jumping into the Sound. Addressing the assembled attendees, he reminded them of the region’s land conversation victory in saving The Preserve, and said, “The Town of Old Saybrook fully supports the conservation of Plum Island and its rightful place in the public domain upon the decommissioning of scientific activities. The importance of Plum Island as a flora and fauna host has been amply demonstrated. It is now time for our legislative and executive branches to swiftly put an end to any speculation that this resource will be privately developed. I applaud the bipartisan efforts to conserve Plum Island.”

These were some of the supporters, who braved the cold to cheer on the plungers. (Photo by Judy Preston.)

Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy sent letters in support of the effort.

Plum Island, an 840-acre, federally-owned island in the eastern end of Long Island Sound, is home to threatened and endangered birds like the piping plover and roseate tern, as well as other rare species. Seventy Connecticut and New York organizations work together as the Preserve Plum Island Coalition, partnering with grassroots activists and champions in Congress to halt sale of the island. CFE/Save the Sound has also brought an action in federal court claiming that the government’s decision to sell the island violates numerous federal environmental laws.

Fundraising will remain open through the end of the month. Members of the public may donate to support CFE/Save the Sound’s work at www.bit.ly/plum-plunge.

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RiverQuest Offers Osprey/Eagle Cruises on Connecticut River From Haddam

An osprey on its nest is an imposing sight.

Late March into early April is when the Osprey returns to Connecticut from its southern wintering grounds. It is a wonderful sign that spring is finally here.

The Osprey is a large bird of prey with a 4’6” to 6’ wingspan that eats only fish, hence, it is sometimes referred to as the Fish Hawk. Ospreys migrate south for the winter months to areas where their food supply will not be affected by frozen rivers and lakes. They settle down in the southern US, Central America, South America, and have been seen as far south as Argentina. Ospreys of breeding age are returning north now, to start a new nest or to re-establish a nest they may have used in previous years.

There are many Osprey nests along the lower Connecticut River, from the mouth of the river in Old Lyme/Old Saybrook up river as far north as Middletown. There will be activity on the many man-made nesting platforms at the Roger Tory Peterson Preserve in Old Lyme and on other platforms located along the Connecticut River, in “natural” tree settings and on the top of each of the large navigation aids that mark the river channel.

A great way to see this nesting activity is by boat.

RiverQuest, an eco-tour vessel located at Eagle Landing State Park in the Tylerville section of Haddam is offering several cruises to the general public throughout the month of April to view and learn about the Osprey and other wildlife that may be spotted, including hawks and another famous raptor, the Bald Eagle.

After disappearing from Connecticut in 1948, the Bald Eagle has made a return and there are several active eagle nests on the river. Two of these nests will be visible from RiverQuest and we will most likely see one or more of our resident Bald Eagles.

Other areas of interest that will be seen on our cruise include the Goodspeed Opera House, Gillette Castle and the Chester/Hadlyme Ferry. The cruises are approximately 2.5 hours in length and cost $40 per passenger (no children under 10-years-old.) There are binoculars on board for loan during the cruise and complimentary coffee and tea. To learn more about these informative cruises and to reserve your spot with our easy on-line booking, please visit: ctriverquest.com or call the RiverQuest  phone: 860-662-0577.

Osprey/Eagle Cruise Dates:

Saturday, April 1: 1:30pm

Saturday, April 8: 10:00am

Saturday, April 15: 4:00pm

Thursday, April 20: 1:30pm

Sunday, April 23: 1:30pm

Saturday, April 29: 4:00pm

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Join the ‘Common Good Gardens’ to Discover the Benefits of Volunteering; Orientation Meeting Today

OLD SAYBROOK — Each year, the Common Good Gardens in Old Saybrook raise nearly four tons of fresh vegetables and fruit, and then then donates them to the Shoreline Soup Kitchens and Pantries  And they do it entirely with volunteers – volunteers who have kept it going and improved it for 15 years.

You’re probably thinking, “How unselfish … doing all that work to benefit other people,” and they are for sure.  But, according to new research, volunteers are also on the receiving end of some amazing benefits; and most likely, they don’t even know it.  They just know that they feel better when they leave the garden.

Never too young … all ages can volunteer at the Common Good Garden.

Solid data on the benefits of volunteering has appeared in a variety of current publications, ranging from the Mayo Clinic and Harvard Health Letters, to a review from the Corporation for National & Community Service, which states,

On average, volunteering 40 to 100 hours per year increases personal satisfaction and happiness, decreases depression, improves functional capacity; and results in fewer illnesses and a longer life span.

Similar articles from the Huffington Post, Atlantic Monthly as well as research released by Johns Hopkins, The London School of Economics and University of Exeter Medical School have all told a similar story.

Greatest Gains for Seniors

Volunteering has health benefits — especially for seniors!

While there are potential gains to be had for high-schoolers and middle-aged persons, the greatest gains related to volunteering are for those 65 and older.  Some researchers suggest this greater gain for seniors may be because they start out lower before volunteering. Their health may not be as good as that of younger people or they may have lower self-esteem and more social isolation due to retirement.  Even if that proves true, starting to volunteer at an earlier adult stage seems to correlate with fewer health issues later in life.

Regarding functional capacity, the Hopkins study showed improved brain function associated with activities that get you moving and thinking at the same time.  As for happiness, though some of the happiness data is based on self-reporting alone, other data show hormone levels and brain scan activity consistent with physiologic changes associated with happiness.

Studies in UK

In addition to the improvements shown above, a large review of nearly 25,000 articles in the UK notes increased coping ability, better parenting skills and richer personal relationships.

Impact on Chronic Illness and Longevity

Several studies examined in particular the impact for those with chronic illness. They found that these volunteers reported decreased pain and depression. People with a prior heart attack also had lower incidences of depression after volunteering.

A United Health Group survey showed these striking figures:

  • 25% reported volunteering helped them live better with chronic illness
  • 76% reported feeling healthier
  • 78% reported lowered stress levels
  • 94% reported improved mood
  • 96% reported an enriched sense of purpose

Finally U.S. census data confirms that those states with high volunteer rates show greater longevity and lower rates of heart disease.

Come Join the Common Good Gardens

There’s always room for an extra pair of hands …

Come join us at the Common Good Gardens.  Whatever your age, level of health, or skill set, there’s a way for you to contribute while benefiting from volunteering.

Yes, gardeners are needed to plant, weed and harvest, and beginners are always welcome. But also needed are people with computer skills, carpentry skills, writing and speaking skills;   people who can drive a car to deliver produce; leaders to organize small groups and work with public schools; people who love nature or are excited about nutrition, and folk who want to help experiment with natural ways to deter pests or make soil richer.

Common Good Gardens by the numbers

  • 14: Number of years garden has been in existence (2002-2016)
  • July 7, 2011: Date the garden incorporated and received non-profit 501(c)3  status
  • 10: Number of Board members
  • 220,000: Total pounds of produce grown, collected and delivered 2004-2016 through garden volunteer efforts
  • 50: Number of core active volunteers (gardeners, drivers, other)
  • 3,000: Number of volunteer hours donated annually
  • 1/2 acre: Size of garden located at rear of Grace Episcopal Church, 336 Main Street, Old Saybrook
  • 22: Number of different varieties of fruits and vegetablesgrown at the garden during 2016
  • 6,900: Pounds of produce grown at the garden in 2016 season
  • $17,200: Dollar value of produce grown at the garden in 2016 season
  • 7: Number of farm stands that donate excess produce to garden for distribution to pantries in 2013.

Many hands make light work at the Common Good Gardens.

Current volunteers at the Common Good Gardens encourage you to get involved so that together, a healthy future for the garden, ourselves, and our shoreline community can be created.

If interested, contact Common Good Gardens at PO Box 1224, Old Saybrook, CT 06475 or call Barbara Standke at 860-575-8645 with questions, or to sign up for the annual new volunteer orientation on March 11.

Editor’s Note: The authors of this piece, Kate Wessling and Barbara Standke, are respectively Common Good Gardens President and Common Good Gardens Volunteer Coordinator.

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Update From Essex Tree Warden on Gypsy Moths 2017

Gypsy moth caterpillars – photo by Peter Trenchard, CAES

AREAWIDE — The 2016 report on the gypsy moth from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES) indicates the extent of the 2016 gypsy moth outbreak.  The heaviest outbreaks were concentrated in 4 eastern counties: Middlesex, New London, Windham and Tolland Counties.  CAES has published both a map and an updated fact sheet on their website at this link.

Those areas that suffered extensive defoliation in 2016 should expect a large hatch of caterpillars in 2017.  The egg masses in these areas are numerous and widespread.

As the caterpillars age and move into the later instars, they will defoliate the trees and shrubs, particularly oak trees, but also apple, birch, poplar and willow.  However, if there is enough rain this spring (May-June), the E. maimaiga fungus may be activated and provide complete control of the caterpillars. If the NPV virus spreads throughout the caterpillar population, the caterpillars may be killed as they become crowded.

The visible egg masses can be removed from accessible locations, drowned in a container of soapy water and disposed of safely.

Augie Pampel, Essex Tree Warden,  advises residents to stay vigilant, remove eggs masses if possible  and contact  local arborists to discuss alternative treatments as caterpillars reappear.

Pampel is also available for questions/concerns at: augiepampel@att.net.

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Siegrist Requests Changes to House Bill to Allow Chester to Receive Funds to Combat Invasive Species

Rep. Bob Siegrist testifies during a Public Hearing about invasive species.

HARTFORD – State Rep. Bob Siegrist (R-36) recently testified during a public hearing regarding a proposal that he co-sponsored, namely House Bill 5503, An Act Concerning Lake Authorities and Combating Invasive Plant and Animal Species. Siegrist asked that the legislation be amended to assist local towns like Chester.

Under current law, 25 percent of Community Investment Account funds within the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection can be used for municipal open space grants. House Bill 5503 would provide grants to lake authorities for the control of invasive species.

Rep. Siegrist is in full support of House Bill 5503, but suggests that the bill be amended to allow municipalities access to the grants to combat invasive species.

“Current law states that two or more towns that have a body of water of state water within their territory can establish a lake authority. Cedar Lake in Chester is wholly within the Town of Chester. The problem in Cedar Lake is similar to what many lakes are dealing with — invasive species,” Siegrist said.

“Mitigation of this problem can be very expensive and requires ongoing maintenance, approximately every two years depending on the aggressive nature of the species. Cedar Lake is a 70-acre-lake fully owned by Chester, whose residents enjoy it for passive and active recreation. This legislation as it is currently written, would not allow such towns to have access to this grant. It is my hope the legislature’s Environment Committee would consider my language to make it fair for those towns like Chester.”

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Niko’s Snow Blankets the Region

A winter wonderland. Photo by Jerome Wilson.

AREAWIDE — Winter Storm Niko pounded the Tri-Town region yesterday dropping some 12 inches of heavy, wet snow, thus creating some challenging snow-clearing.  It also created some picture-perfect snow scenes like the one captured above.

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Winter Wildlife Eagle Boat Cruises Depart Weekend Days from CT River Museum

RiverQuest start Wildlife Eagle Boat Cruises Saturday, Feb. 4.

ESSEX  – Connecticut River Expeditions of Haddam offers cruises on the lower Connecticut River this February and March for the 14th year of Winter Wildlife Eagle Boat Cruises. This year they have teamed up with the Connecticut River Museum and will be departing from the Museum’s dock in Essex. With this partnership, passengers enjoy both the river and its wildlife from the water and also the entire Museum including their special “Eagles of Essex” exhibit.

A magnificent Bald Eagle.

As the river, lakes and ponds to our north freeze, eagles and other wildlife make their way to the lower Connecticut River for their favorite food – fish. Eagles have made a major comeback over the past few decades and more eagles are being sighted in this area. On past cruises, up to 41 Bald Eagles, three types of grebe and swan and merganser, golden eagle, many different gull and hawk species, loons, coyote, fox, deer, three types of seal, and even a bobcat have been spotted.
“Winter is such a special time on the river, it is serene and scenic and there is a sense of tranquility. With no leaves on the trees, the river’s edge offers a much different view, making it easier to find and see our winter wildlife.  On this cruise we will search for the majestic Bald Eagle and other winter species,”notes Mindy, Captain Mark’s wife, crew and co-owner of RiverQuest, pointing out, “Each cruise is different and you never know what we will find.”

Winter Wildlife Eagle Boat Cruises include more than just big birds. Passengers often site beautiful winter ducks and even harbor seals. Photo by: Bill Yule.

RiverQuest has a heated cabin, but it is suggested that you dress in warm layers since the best views will be from the open decks. Bring your own camera and binoculars, but if you forget –or don’t have — them, there are plenty on board to borrow during the cruise. 

“We are excited to be working with the Connecticut River Museum. We feel that our mutual interest in the river is a perfect match,” comments Captain Mark of the eco-tour vessel, adding, “RiverQuest is already docked in Essex at the Museum and we are ready to go. We are hopeful that relocating RiverQuest from her home berth in Haddam further south this winter will increase our chances of running every trip.”
 
“There are few places as breathtaking or as tranquil as the Connecticut River in winter. We look forward to working with RiverQuest and sharing this experience with visitors,” says Chris Dobbs, Executive Director of the Connecticut River Museum.
In the Museum you can brush up on your Bald Eagle facts and field identification. With life size comparisons of local raptors you will get a close up idea of how large these birds really are. You can also try your nest building skills and enjoy all the other exhibits the Connecticut River Museum has to offer.   Additional eagle related public programs will be offered at the Museum during the Winter Wildlife Cruise season.

Cruises will be Feb. 4 through March 19. Departures on Fridays are at 10am and 12:30pm. Departures on Saturday and Sunday at 9am, 11:30am and 2pm.  Cost is $40 per person.

For more information visit www.ctriverquest.com  or www.ctrivermuseum.org
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Chester Garden Club Hosts Presentation on Night Singing Insects, March 14

John Himmelman

On Tuesday, March 14, at 7 p.m., the Chester Garden Club will host a presentation by author, John Himmelman from Killingworth, Conn., on “Singing Leaves, The Songs & Stories of the Night Singing Insects” at the United Church of Chester, 29 West Main Street, Chester, CT.

Members of the Chester Garden Club and the public are invited to attend.  The cost for guests will be $5.

For additional information, contact Chester Garden Club Co-President Brenda Johnson at (860) 526-2998.

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More Than Eight Inches of Snow Falls in Local Area

A view of the snowfall in Essex taken yesterday, Friday, Jan. 6, 2017 by Jerome Wilson.

AREAWIDE — On Friday, Mother Nature gave us a foretaste of her plans for the weekend.  A scant couple of inches fell over the Tri-Town area, but sufficient to turn everything white and offer some wonderful winter photography opportunities, as the beautiful photo above demonstrates.

View of today’s snow-covered landscape in Essex. Photo by Jerome Wilson.

Yesterday (Saturday, Jan. 7) the weather was a different story.  Winter Storm Helena arrived bringing with her steadily falling snow from around 10 a.m.  and when she was done, more than eight inches had settled, causing slippery conditions and slow-moving traffic.

It is light, fluffy snow so when you step outside to shovel, it should not be too back-breaking … but nevertheless, please take care!

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Essex Land Trust Hosts Cross Lots Preserve Autumn Clean-up Today

Ready for action! Volunteers gather before they start work on the Autumn clean-up.

Ready for action! Volunteers gather before they start work on the Autumn clean-up.

ESSEX — Help put this Land Trust’s Cross Lots Preserve at 40 West Ave. to bed for the winter, get a mild workout, and connect with your neighbors in a beautiful setting. All this offered on Saturday, Nov. 19 starting at 9 a.m.

Refreshments will be served. Please bring rakes, blowers, etc. Families, dogs welcome.

Rain date is Saturday, Nov. 26 at 9 am.

Park on West Avenue or at Essex Town Hall.

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Deadline Extended: Become a UConn Extension Master Gardener

AREAWIDE — UConn Extension is accepting applications for the 2017 Master Gardener Program. Master Gardener interns receive horticultural training from UConn, and then share knowledge with the public through community volunteering and outreach efforts. Enrollment in the UConn Extension Master Gardener program is limited and competitive.

“Gardening and the study of it is something we can do our whole lives,” says Karen Linder, a 2015 graduate of the UConn Extension Master Gardener Program at the Bartlett Arboretum in Stamford. “There is always something new to learn – we can get deeper into a subject. Our instructors truly brought subjects to life that I thought could not be made exciting. Who knew soil had so much going on? It has truly changed the way I think and observe the world around me. That is pretty amazing!”

The program is broad-based, intensive, and consists of 16 class sessions (one full day per week) beginning Jan. 9, 2017. The Master Gardener program includes over 100 hours of classroom training and 60 hours of volunteer service. Individuals successfully completing the program will receive UConn Extension Master Gardener certification. The program fee is $425.00, and includes the training manual. Partial scholarships may be available, based on demonstrated financial need.

“Working at the Courthouse Garden signature project in Hartford gave me the opportunity to use my gardening skills to help feed and educate others,” says John Vecchitto, a 2015 graduate from Hartford County. “We’re teaching others, many of whom have never gardened, to enjoy the gardening experience. People expressed their satisfaction when they heard the produce we grew would go to a shelter to help hungry people. We fed those who needed good food, and we fed the spirits of our participants with a taste of kindness. It was empowering.”

Classes will be held in Haddam, West Hartford, Bethel, Brooklyn, and Stamford. The postmark deadline for applications has been extended to Friday, Nov. 18, 2016.

For more information or an application, call UConn Extension at 860-486-9228 or visit the UConn Extension Master Gardener website at: mastergardener.uconn.edu.

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Essex Harbor Management Commission Seeks Bids for Annual Servicing of Anchorage Markers, Dock Floats

All bids submitted to the Essex Harbor Management Commission for consideration must include the following:

  1. A Certificate of Insurance must be attached to the bid;
  2. The location where the items of property will be stored must be identified and if not the property of the applicant that the relationship be disclosed (the cost of the storage, if any, must be included in the bid);
  3. The type of the equipment, boat, float and capacity must be included;
  4. The response bid must include a provision that a representative of the HMC may be present at the time of installation.

The Commission hereby notifies all response bidders that payment is made one-half after pulling and one-half after the reinstallation.

Payment will be made within 30 days of receipt of the invoice.

SCOPE OF WORK

The bid is to remove, store and re-set and to provide an inspection report with needed repairs and estimate of cost to implement those repairs:

Markers: 

9 markers (A-J, excluding C) from the main anchorage;

2 markers (A & B) from the Meadows anchorage;

Rock obstruction markers.

Floats:

The float connected to the Main Street Dock;

The float and ramp from the Town Park site in Middle Cove;

The float and ramp from the Mack Lane site in Middle Cove;

Removal of markers and floats to be accomplished after November 15, 2016.  Re-setting must be accomplished prior to April 15, 2017, but not earlier than March 15, 2017.  Dates to be adjusted in concert with the HMC and the Harbor Master.  Marker position in accordance with GPS points maintained by HMC.

All bids are due to HMC no later than 4:00 p.m. on September 22, 2016 at the First Selectman’s office.

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Latest Beautification Phase of Bushnell St. Access Point Now Complete

View of the tree plantings.

View of the tree plantings at Bushnell Street Access Point.

ESSEX — The Essex Harbor Management Commission recently completed its latest phase for the beautification of the Bushnell Street Access Point.  The current project removed an older, overgrown hedge row and replaced it with Arborvitae plantings. The old hedge proved to be problematic aesthetically and hindered keeping the area properly manicured.

The Commission wishes to thank the Town’s Tree Warden Augie Pampel, the Town’s Maintenance Department, and Acer Gardens for their assistance.

Over the past five years, the Commission has managed numerous improvements to the Bushnell Street Access Point, including the removal of older, diseased trees, strategic plantings to provide added privacy for its neighbors, the removal of abandoned small boats, an observation deck, and storage racks for the highly successful Small Vessel Storage Program.

These improvements have been made possible through Grants and Permits Fees from the Small Vessel Storage Program.

The Bushnell Street facility has become a popular launching area for kayakers and canoeists who utilize the protected waters of North Cove.  The Access Point is available for all to use and provides ample parking.

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House Approves Courtney-Sponsored Amendment Restricting Sale of Plum Island

Representative Joe Courtney

Representative Joe Courtney

Local Congressional Representative Joe Courtney (CT-02) announced yesterday, Thursday, July 7, that a bipartisan amendment he had led, along with Representatives Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), Lee Zeldin (R-NY) and Peter King (R-NY), to prohibit the sale of Plum Island was passed by the House of Representatives.

The amendment, which will prohibit the General Services Administration (GSA) from using any of its operational funding to process or complete a sale of Plum Island, was made to the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act of 2017..

In a joint statement, the Representatives said, “Our amendment passed today is a big step toward permanently protecting Plum Island as a natural area. Plum Island is a scenic and biological treasure located right in the middle of Long Island Sound. It is home to a rich assortment of rare plant and animal species that need to be walled off from human interference.”

The statement continued, “Nearly everyone involved in this issue agrees that it should be preserved as a natural sanctuary – not sold off to the highest bidder for development.”  Presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump had shown interest in the property at one time.

plum_is_01a

In 2008, the federal government announced plans to close the research facility on Plum Island and relocate to Manhattan, Kansas. Current law states that Plum Island must be sold publicly to help finance the new research facility.

Aerial view of Plum Island.

Aerial view of Plum Island.

The lawmakers  joint statement explained, “The amendment will prevent the federal agency in charge of the island from moving forward with a sale by prohibiting it from using any of its operational funding provided by Congress for that purpose,” concluding, ” This will not be the end of the fight to preserve Plum Island, but this will provide us with more time to find a permanent solution for protecting the Island for generations to come.”

For several years, members from both sides of Long Island Sound have been working in a bipartisan manner to delay and, ultimately, repeal the mandated sale of this ecological treasure. Earlier this year, the representatives, along with the whole Connecticut delegation, cosponsored legislation that passed the House unanimously to delay the sale of Plum Island.

 

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Local Golfers Play in Nancy Lehr Benefit Tournament, Two of Winners From Essex

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Nancy Lehr Benefit participants

On June 2, the Old Lyme Country Club held the annual Nancy Lehr Benefit Tournament to support Junior Girls Golf in Connecticut through the CWGA/PME Foundation. The tournament raised $500 for this worthwhile organization.

The winners of this year’s tournament were Esther Boyle (Essex), Karen Danielson (Old Saybrook), Carol Gordon (Essex) and Hyla Cohen (Old Lyme).

 

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Still Irritated by Those Gypsy Moth Caterpillars? Advice from Essex Tree Warden

Gypsy moth caterpillars - photo by Peter Trenchard, CAES

Gypsy moth caterpillars – photo by Peter Trenchard, CAES

AREAWIDE – The potential for gypsy moth outbreak exists every year in our area.  For this reason, Essex Tree Warden Augie Pampel sent in this release, encouraging Essex residents to keep a vigil for the gypsy moth caterpillar, which can defoliate many trees, thus impacting the trees’ ability to thrive. But Valley News Now wants to spread this warning to the entire area, as the gypsy moth is in all our towns.

Dr. Kirby Stafford III, head of the Department of Entomology at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, has written a fact sheet on the gypsy moth available on the CAES website (click here).  The following information is from this fact sheet.

The gypsy moth, Lymantria dispar, was introduced into the US (Massachusetts) by Etienne Leopold Trouvelot in about 1860.  The escaped larvae led to small outbreaks in the area in 1882, increasing rapidly.  It was first detected in Connecticut in 1905.  By 1952, it had spread to 169 towns.  In 1981, 1.5 million acres were defoliated in Connecticut.  During the outbreak of 1989, CAES scientists discovered that an entomopathogenic fungus, Entomophaga maimaiga, was killing the caterpillars.  Since then the fungus has been the most important agent suppressing gypsy moth activity.

The fungus, however, cannot prevent all outbreaks and hotspots have been reported in some areas, in 2005-06 and again in 2015.

The life cycle of the gypsy moth is one generation a year.  Caterpillars hatch from buff-colored egg masses in late April to early May.  An egg mass may contain 100 to more than 1000 eggs and are laid in several layers.  The caterpillars (larvae) hatch a few days later and ascend the host trees and begin to feed on new leaves.  The young caterpillars, buff to black-colored, lay down silk safety lines as they crawl and, as they drop from branches on these threads, they may be picked up on the wind and spread.

There are 4 or 5 larval stages (instars) each lasting 4-10 days.  Instars 1-3 remain in the trees.  The fourth instar caterpillars, with distinctive double rows of blue and red spots, crawl up and down the tree trunks feeding mainly at night.  They seek cool, shaded protective sites during the day, often on the ground.  If the outbreak is dense, caterpillars may feed continuously and crawl at any time.

With the feeding completed late June to early July, caterpillars seek a protected place to pupate and transform into a moth in about 10-14 days.  Male moths are brown and fly.  Female moths are white and cannot fly despite having wings.  They do not feed and live for only 6-10 days.  After mating, the female will lay a single egg mass and die.  The egg masses can be laid anywhere: trees, fence posts, brick/rock walls, outdoor furniture, cars, recreational vehicles, firewood.  The egg masses are hard.  The eggs will survive the winter and larvae hatch the following spring during late April through early May.

The impact of the gypsy moth can be extensive since the caterpillar will feed on a wide diversity of trees and shrubs.  Oak trees are their preferred food.  Other favored tree species include apple, birch, poplar and willow.  If the infestation is heavy, they will also attack certain conifers and other less favored species.  The feeding causes extensive defoliation.

Healthy trees can generally withstand one or two partial to one complete defoliation.  Trees will regrow leaves before the end of the summer.  Nonetheless, there can be die-back of branches.  Older trees may become more vulnerable to stress after defoliation.  Weakened trees can also be attacked by other organisms or lack energy reserves for winter dormancy and growth during the following spring.  Three years of heavy defoliation may result in high oak mortality.

The gypsy moth caterpillars drop leaf fragments and frass (droppings) while feeding creating a mess for decks, patios, outdoor furniture, cars and driveways.  Crawling caterpillars can be a nuisance and their hairs irritating.  The egg masses can be transported by vehicles to areas where the moth is not yet established.  Under state quarantine laws, the CAES inspects certain plant shipments destined to areas free of the gypsy moth, particularly for egg masses.

There are several ways to manage the gypsy moth: biological, physical and chemical.

Biologically, the major gypsy moth control agent has been the fungus E. maimaiga.  This fungus can provide complete control of the gypsy moth but is dependent on early season moisture from rains in May and June to achieve effective infection rates and propagation of the fungus to other caterpillars.  The dry spring of 2015 resulted in little or no apparent fungal inoculation or spread until it killed late-stage caterpillars in some areas of the state, after most defoliation.

Infected caterpillars hang vertically from the tree trunk, head down.  Some die in an upside down “V” position, a characteristic of caterpillars killed by the less common gypsy moth nucleopolyhedrosis virus (NPV).  This was not detected in caterpillars examined in 2015.

Physical controls include removing and destroying egg masses, which can be drowned in a soapy water and disposed of.  Another method is to use burlap refuge/barrier bands wrapped around tree trunks so that migrating caterpillars will crawl into or under the folded burlap or be trapped by the sticky band.

There are a number of crop protection chemicals labeled for the control of gypsy moth on ornamental trees and shrubs. There are treatments for egg masses, larvae and adult moths.  Detailed information about these chemical treatments is available in the CAES factsheet.

For complete information about the gypsy moth and its management, please go to the CAES website (www.ct.gov/caes) and look for the fact sheet on gypsy moth.  You may also contact Augie Pampel by email: augiepampel@att.net with questions and concerns.

 

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Small Vessel Permits for 2016 at Bushnell Access Have Reached Maximum Capacity

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ESSEX — Bushnell Access maximum storage capacity of 75 small vessels has been reached. Applications received from this point forward will be placed on a wait list and checks will be returned to the applicants.

Bushnell Access is still open to use for those who wish to bring their craft for the day and take it away at the end of the day.  Should it be determined that additional vessels can be accommodated at some point during the season, which runs from April 1 to Nov. 30, additional permits may be issued.

Direct any inquiries to the Harbor Management Commission email address at HarborManagementCommission@EssexCT.gov.

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CT Legislators Support Study to Preserve Plum Island From Commercial Development

Aerial voew of Plum Island lighthouse. (From Preserve Plum Island website)

Aerial view of Plum Island lighthouse. (From Preserve Plum Island website)

OLD SAYBROOK — Last Thursday, March 24, at a press conference in Old Saybrook, a triumvirate of Congressional legislators from Connecticut, State Senator Richard Blumenthal and US Representatives Joe Courtney (D-2nd District) and Rosa DeLauro (D-3rd District) confirmed their support for a study to determine the future of Plum Island located in Long Island Sound.

Members of the Plum Island Coalition — which has some 65 member organizations all dedicated to preserving the island — were in attendance to hear the good news.

The island still houses a high-security, federal animal disease research facility, but the decision has already been taken to move the facility to a new location in Kansas with an opening slated for 2022. The current facility takes up only a small percentage of the land on the island and significantly for environmentalists, the remainder of the island has for years been left to nature in the wild.

In supporting a federal study on the future of Plum Island, Sen. Blumenthal said, “This study is a step towards saving a precious, irreplaceable national treasure from developers and polluters. It will provide the science and fact-based evidence to make our case for stopping the current Congressional plan to sell Plum Island to the highest bidder.”

He continued, “The stark truth is the sale of Plum Island is no longer necessary to build a new bioresearch facility because Congress has fully appropriated the funds. There is no need for this sale – and in fact, Congress needs to rescind the sale.”

Congress, however, still has a law on the books that authorizes the sale of Plum Island land to the highest bidder. Therefore, opponents of the sale will have the burden of convincing Congress to change a law that is currently in place.

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Inaugural Meeting of ‘Friends of Whalebone Cove’ Set for Today, Group Plans to Protect Famous Tidal Wetland

The newly formed friends of Whalebone Cove are working to prevent this sort of activity in the waterways.

The newly formed ‘Friends of Whalebone Cove’ are working to preserve and protect the Cove’s fragile ecosystem.

A new community conservation group to protect Whalebone Cove, a freshwater tidal marsh along the Connecticut river in Hadlyme recognized internationally for its wildlife habitat, will hold its first organizational meeting this coming Sunday, March 6.

Calling the group “Friends of Whalebone Cove” (FOWC), the organizers say their purpose is to “create a proactive, community-based constituency whose mission is to preserve and protect the habitat and fragile eco-systems of Whalebone Cove.”

Much of Whalebone Cove is a nature preserve that is part of the Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge (www.fws.gov/refuge/silvio_o_conte) under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFW). The Refuge owns and manages 116 acres of marshland in Whalebone Cove and upland along its shores.

Prior to being taken over by USFW, the Whalebone Cove preserve was under the protection of The Nature Conservancy.

As part of the Connecticut River estuary, the Cove is listed in the Ramsar Convention on International Wetlands (www.ramsar.org) as tidal marshlands on the Connecticut River that constitute a “wetlands complex of international importance.”

The Ramsar citation specifically notes that Whalebone Cove has one of the largest stands of wild rice in the state. Except at high tide, most of the Cove is open marshland covered by wild rice stands with relatively narrow channels where Whalebone Creek winds its way through the Cove to the main stem of the Connecticut River.

Brian Slater, one of the group’s leaders who is filing the incorporation documents creating FOWC, said the creation of the organization was conceived by many of those living around the Cove and others in the Hadlyme area because of increased speeding motor boat and jet ski traffic in the Cove in recent years, damaging wetland plants and disrupting birds and other wildlife that make the Cove their home.

Slater said “Our goal is to develop a master plan for protection of the Cove through a collaborative effort involving all those who have a stake in Whalebone Cove – homeowners along its shores and those living nearby, the Silvio O. Conte Refuge, the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP), hunters, fishing enthusiasts, canoeing and kayaking groups, Audubon groups, the Towns of Lyme and East Haddam, The Nature Conservancy, the Connecticut River Watershed Council, the Lyme Land Conservation Trust, the Connecticut River Gateway Commission, and others who want to protect the Cove.”

“Such a plan”, said Slater, “should carefully evaluate the habitat, plants, wildlife and eco-systems of the Cove and the surrounding uplands and watershed and propose an environmental management plan that can be both implemented and enforced by those entrusted with stewarding the Cove and its fragile ecosystems for the public trust.”

FOWC has written a letter to Connecticut DEEP Commissioner Rob Klee asking that he appoint a blue ribbon commission to conduct the research and develop the management plan. FOWC also asked that Commissioner Klee either deny or defer approval on any applications for new docks in the Cove until the management plan can be developed and implemented. Currently there are no docks in the Cove.

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“We are very concerned that the installation of docks permitted for motor boat use will greatly increase the amount of motorized watercraft in the Cove,” said Slater. “There’s already too much jet ski and speeding motorboat traffic in the Cove. Those living on the Cove have even seen boats towing water skiers crisscrossing the wild rice plants at high tide. Something has to be done to protect the birds and marine life that give birth and raise their young in the Cove.”

Slater urged all those “who treasure Whalebone Cove and the many species of birds, turtles, fish, reptiles, amphibians, beaver, and rare flora and fauna that make their home in it to attend the meeting, whether they live in the Hadlyme area or beyond.”

Expected to be at the meeting will be representatives from USFW, DEEP, the Connecticut River Watershed Council, and several other conservation organizations.

The meeting will be at 4 p.m., Sunday, March 6, at Hadlyme Public Hall, 1 Day Hill Rd., in Lyme, which is at the intersection of Ferry Rd. (Rte. 148), Joshuatown Rd., and Day Hill Rd. Representatives from the Silvio O. Conte Refuge will make a short presentation on the history and mission of the Conte Refuge system, which includes nature preserves throughout the Connecticut River Valley in four states.

Refreshments will be served.

For more information, call 860-322-4021 or email fowchadlyme@gmail.com

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RiverQuest Offers Osprey/Eagle Cruises During April

An osprey, returned from his winter spent in the southern hemisphere, feeds his young on the nest.

An osprey, returned from his winter spent in the southern hemisphere, feeds his young on the nest.

AREAWIDE – Late March into early April is when the Osprey returns to Connecticut from its southern wintering grounds. It is a wonderful sign that spring is finally here!

The Osprey, a large bird of prey with a 4’6” to 6’ wingspan, eats only fish, so it is sometimes referred to as the Fish Hawk. Ospreys migrate south for the winter to areas where their food supply will not be affected by frozen rivers and lakes. They settle down in the southern US, Central America, South America, and have been seen as far south as Argentina. Ospreys of breeding age are returning north now, to start a new nest or to re-establish a nest they may have used in previous years.

There are many Osprey nests along the lower Connecticut River, from the mouth of the river in Old Lyme/Old Saybrook to as far north as Middletown. There will be activity on the many man-made nesting platforms at the Roger Tory Peterson Preserve in Old Lyme and on other platforms located along the Connecticut River, in “natural” tree settings and on the top of each of the large navigation aids that mark the river channel.

A great way to see this nesting activity is by boat.

During the month of April, RiverQuest, an eco-tour vessel located at Eagle Landing State Park in the Tylerville section of Haddam, is offering several cruises to the general public to view and learn about the Osprey and other wildlife, including hawks and another famous raptor, the Bald Eagle, which may be spotted.

After disappearing from Connecticut in 1948, the Bald Eagle has made a return and there are several active eagle nests on the river. Two of these nests will be visible from RiverQuest and we will most likely see one or more of our resident Bald Eagles.

Other areas of interest that will be seen on our cruise include the Goodspeed Opera House, Gillette Castle and the Chester/Hadlyme Ferry. The cruises are approximately 2.5 hours in length and cost $40 per passenger (no children under 10 years old please). There are binoculars on board for loan during the cruise and complimentary coffee and tea. To learn more about these informative cruises or to reserve your spot, please visit ctriverquest.com or call (860) 662-0577.

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Search for Vernal Pools and Emerging Life in the Preserve, April 9

#4-SalamanderESSEX – On Saturday, April 9, at 9 a.m., join ecologist and Ivoryton resident Bob Russo on a hike in the Preserve in search for salamanders, frogs and plants emerging from the long winter. He will guide you to a few of the Preserve’s vernal pools and describe the biological and geological features that make these areas so unique and bountiful.

Bob Russo is a soil scientist, wetland scientist and ecologist who frequently played in swamps while growing up. He works for a small engineering company and is also the chair of the Essex Park and Recreation Commission.

Meet at the Preserve East Entrance parking lot, off Ingham Hill Road in Essex. The hike is 1 1/2 hours duration on easy to moderate terrain.  Bring boots.  Open to all ages. Bad weather cancels.

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Chester Land Trust Erects New Signs on Its Properties

Richard Harrall, Chester Land Trust president (left) and Bill Meyers, Trustee, installed new Land Trust signs. Photo by Vivian Beyda

Richard Harrall, Chester Land
Trust president (left) and Bill Meyers, Trustee, installed new Land Trust signs. Photo by Vivian Beyda

CHESTER –  The Chester Land Trust, an all-volunteer non-profit organization in Chester, provides stewardship for 10 preserves and three easements. These properties are protected for open space in perpetuity.

Recently, new Land Trust signs have been installed on Rte. 154 by the bridge and along  Water Street for the Chester Creek preserve (46 acres in three  parcels). Another sign was placed on the south side of Rte. 148 near Camp Hazen for the Duck Pond Preserve (6.1 acres).

More information about the organization is at chesterlandtrust.org.

 

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CT River Museum Begins EagleWatch, Winter Wildlife Boat Tours

Connecticut River Museum environmental educator Bill Yule leads the boat tours and helps participants spot Bald Eagles, wintering hawks and waterfowl and other wildlife from the deck of EnviroLab III. Photo: Connecticut River Museum

Connecticut River Museum environmental educator Bill Yule helps visitors spot Bald Eagles, wintering hawks and waterfowl and other wildlife from the deck of EnviroLab III. Photo: Connecticut River Museum

AREAWIDE – The Connecticut River Museum, in partnership with Project Oceanology, will begin its annual EagleWatch and Winter Wildlife boat tours aboard the EnviroLab III on Friday, Jan. 29.

Winter is the best time for seeing Bald Eagles in Connecticut, and the best place to see them is from a boat on the Connecticut River. Connecticut has more than 80 year-round resident breeding eagles, but in winter the number can swell to 150 as rivers and lakes freeze farther north.

Eagles are not the only attraction for winter wildlife viewing, as other raptors like marsh hawks, Peregrine falcons and snowy owls can be spotted from the river. Ducks, loons, harbor seals and other wildlife all become more visible in the austere beauty of the winter riverfront landscape.

From Jan. 29 through March 13, boat tours will be offered on Fridays at 1 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Each tour on the EnviroLab III is 90 minutes long. You can stand out on the deck looking for wildlife or relax in the heated cabin with complimentary coffee and watch the river through the windows. Naturalists will narrate the trip and help you spot the eagles and other wildlife.

For more information or to make reservations, visit www.ctrivermuseum.org or call 860-767-8269. The Connecticut River Museum is located on the Essex waterfront at 67 Main Street and is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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RiverQuest Now Booking Annual Winter Wonderland/Eagle Boat Cruises

EagleAREAWIDE – Connecticut River Expeditions is ready to cruise on the lower Connecticut River this February and March for their 13th Annual Winter Wonderland/Eagle Boat Cruises. These perennially popular winter cruises will depart from Eagle Landing State Park in the Tylerville section of Haddam, Conn.

Cruises will start on Saturday, Feb. 13, and run through March 20.

These cruises are very popular; it is suggested you book early to reserve your spots.

“We are really looking forward to offering this unique cruise during the 2016 winter season. After last year’s horrific ice conditions on the river, we can’t wait to make it work this year!” Capt. Mark of the quiet, friendly eco-tour vessel RiverQuest says. “On this very special cruise, our goal is to search for and learn about resident and visiting Bald Eagles and other wildlife we will find on our journey. We feel very fortunate that we are able to bring people out on the river during this quiet season to experience these magnificent raptors and one of our greatest natural resources, the Connecticut River.”

Without the summer boat traffic, there is a sense of tranquility on the river and with no leaves on the trees, the river’s edge offers a much different view, making it easier to find and see winter wildlife. In past years, bird sightings have included from one to forty-one Bald Eagles, along with numerous hawk and duck varieties, falcons, cormorants and more. On occasion, fox, coyote, deer, bobcat and even seals have been seen!

Winter and early spring are also a great time of year to explore and experience the entire lower Connecticut River Valley. Come out, enjoy and support local businesses. There are shops and restaurants in Haddam, East Haddam and neighboring towns; stop by and visit one before or after your cruise. Although Gillette Castle, a mere 4.5 miles away from RiverQuest is closed, the park grounds are open for daytime visitors.

So take a trip and beat winter cabin fever! Take your camera and binoculars. If you have no binoculars, no worry, there are extras available on RiverQuest for your use during the cruise. There will be complimentary coffee and tea on board.

Weekend and weekday times are available for these 2+ hour cruises. Cost is $40pp.

It is requested that no children under 10 travel. For more information, departure times and easy on-line reservations visit RiverQuest at ctriverquest.com. 860-662-0577. Private Charters and Gift Certificates are also available.

 

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Malloy, Blumenthal Join Celebrations Marking 15-Year Effort Culminating in Protection of ‘The Preserve’

Governor Dannel Malloy and Sen. Richard Blumenthal cut the ribbon. (L to R: Carl Fortuna, Old Saybrook First Selectman, Alicia Sullivan, CT State Director of the Trust for Public Land, State Representative Brendan Sharkey, Speaker of the House, Gov. Dannel Malloy, Will Rogers, President and CEO of The Trust for Public Land, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, State Representative Phil Miller).

Governor Dannel Malloy (third from left) and US Sen. Richard Blumenthal (second from right) cut the celebratory ribbon at yesterday’s event.  Also pictured from left to right are Old Saybrook First Selectman Carl Fortuna, CT State Director of the Trust for Public Land (TPL) Alicia Sullivan, State Representative Brendan Sharkey (D-88) who is also Speaker of the House, TPL President & CEO Will Rogers and State Representative Phil Miller (D-36.)  All photos by Nigel Logan.

OLD SAYBROOK — Governor Dannel P. Malloy and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal joined over 200 state and local officials, and local residents at a reception and ribbon-cutting ceremony in Old Saybrook on Thursday to celebrate the permanent protection of “The Preserve,” the 1,000 acre coastal woodland recently acquired primarily by the state and the Town of Old Saybrook. The Essex Land Trust also owns some 70 acres in Essex.

Hosted by the Trust for Public Land (TPL), the celebration was held at the Great Cedars (West) Conservation Area on Ingham Hill Rd. in Old Saybrook where a large tent was erected to provide seating, a refreshment area and space for a band. All guests other than VIPs were ferried on school buses from the M & J Bus Depot on Ingham Hill Rd. to the site.

Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy addresses the large audience.

Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy addresses the large audience.

Old Saybrook First Selectman Carl Fortuna spoke briefly followed by Governor Dannel Malloy. “The Preserve is no longer the largest unprotected coastal forest between New York City and Boston, because it’s now protected,” said Malloy, stating emphatically, “This is a monument to Connecticut and who we are and what we are … part of history is now permanently preserved.”

US Senator Richard Blumenthal speaks.

US Senator Richard Blumenthal speaks.

Blumenthal enthused, “There is no way to describe in words the stunning beauty of this land,” continuing, “It will now be enjoyed by our children and our children’s children.” Prompting ripples of laughter, he also apologized with tongue in cheek to, “… all the golfers who will never have the benefit of playing on the golf courses,” that were once planned for the area.

State Representative Phil Miller

State Representative Phil Miller (D-36) has been deeply involved in the project to protect ‘The Preserve.’

Also sharing the celebration and offering thanks to the many thousands of individuals and organizations who helped make saving “The Preserve” possible were Connecticut State TPL Director Alicia Sullivan; Speaker of the House and State Representative Brendan Sharkey (D-88); State Representative Phil Miller (D-36); DEEP Policy Director Jessie Stratton; and TPL President and CEO Will Rogers.

Crowds gather to celebrate the successful conservation of 'The Preserve' at Great Cedars, Old Saybrook

Crowds gather to celebrate the successful conservation of ‘The Preserve’ at Great Cedars, Old Saybrook.

Refreshments, speeches and award presentations were followed by a ceremonial ribbon-cutting by Governor Malloy and Senator Blumenthal against the striking back-drop of the green trees of “The Preserve” and a brilliant blue sky.

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (left) chats with State Representative Phil Miller after the ribbon-cutting.

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (left) chats with State Representative Phil Miller after the ribbon-cutting.

The celebration marks the culmination of 15 years of hard work, fund-raising and collaboration by an enormous number of individuals, local, state and federal organizations and public figures. Blumenthal remarked that he was reminded of a favorite quote from Margaret Mead, “Never doubt the ability of a small group of intelligent, committed people to change the world – it is the only thing that ever has.”

Rounding off the official part of the ceremony, Rogers noted, “The Trust for Public Land has always referred to ‘The Preserve’ project as the Holy Grail,” adding with a broad smile, “We have now found the Holy Grail.”

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Nature Conservancy, East Haddam Preserve 133 Acres of Priority Lower CT River Lands

LogoEAST HADDAM — A project providing a key addition to a 10-mile conservation corridor has been successfully completed by The Nature Conservancy.  Protection of more than 130 acres of forest will connect two popular conservation and outdoor recreation areas, while safeguarding three-quarters of a mile of streams and wetlands that feed into one of New England’s most important natural resources: the Connecticut River.

“Protecting the forests and wetlands that border Connecticut River tributaries benefits the health of the entire lower Connecticut River, as well as everything—and everyone—that relies on it,” said Sarah Pellegrino, land protection and strategies manager for The Nature Conservancy in Connecticut.

“In this case, the newly protected land will help preserve water quality for brook trout, migratory fish and mussels; provide habitat for migratory birds and other animals and secure beautiful outdoor spots where current and future generations can hike, birdwatch and simply get out in the woods,” Pellegrino said.

Located within the basin of the Eightmile River, a Connecticut River tributary, the acreage includes two separate acquisitions on which the town of East Haddam and The Nature Conservancy in Connecticut collaborated. Both acquisitions were awarded Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition grants from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). Both areas will be open to the public for passive recreation.

The acquisitions are adjacent to the Conservancy’s Burnham Brook Preserve, which was the first land protected by the Conservancy in the entire Connecticut River watershed, starting in 1960.

Conservation of one of these properties—the 113-acre Lefebvre property—accomplished a long-standing Conservancy goal of connecting Devil’s Hopyard State Park and Burnham Brook Preserve. It adds to a roughly 10-mile conservation corridor that extends to the confluence of the Eightmile and Connecticut rivers.

This project was awarded a DEEP open space grant of $263,700 towards the total purchase price. The property will be jointly owned and managed between the Conservancy and the town.

The second acquisition—the 20-acre Zeleznicky property—is a 20-acre parcel that supports mixed hardwoods and contains over 1,000 feet of Burnham Brook. To protect this land, the Conservancy and East Haddam jointly applied for a DEEP open space grant and were awarded $78,000 towards the purchase price.  The town will own and manage the property.

“These acquisitions were possible only because of the patience and commitment of willing land owners and of the conservation partners who played a role,” Pellegrino said “We’re extremely pleased both of these properties will remain as natural areas.”

Editor’s Note: The Nature Conservancy is the leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people.  To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 18 million acres in the United States and have helped preserve more than 117 million acres in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org/connecticut.

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Essex Corinthian YC Explores “Teaching Life Lessons & Character Through Sailing,”

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ESSEX — For more than 100 years, the United States Coast Guard Academy (CGA) has consistently developed exceptional leaders of character who are Semper Paratus (Always Ready) to perform courageously in any conditions of the maritime environment.

Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Zeke Lyons, one of the Officers in Charge in the Coast Guard Academy’s Coastal Sailing Program, will visit the Essex Corinthian Yacht Club on Sunday, May 31, at 4 p.m. to reflect on three years of adventure and guiding experiential learning with CGA cadet crews during summer cruises throughout New England on board the Academy’s fleet of eight custom designed Leadership 44 sloops.

Lt. Cmdr Lyons is completing a three year assignment as a Company Officer on the Academy’s staff.  In addition to sailing each summer as part of the Coastal Sailing Program, he was also an Instructor of Organizational Behavior and Leadership in the Management Department.

Prior to his assignment at the Coast Guard Academy, he graduated from the Eisenhower Leadership Development Program at the United States Military Academy at West Point in conjunction with Columbia Teacher’s College in New York City.

Lt. Cmdr Lyons will combine humor and insights about the CGA experience to shed light on how the Academy develops leaders of character and his talk will highlight why, as Vice Admiral James Pine said, “The sea has, though the ages, been of all schools, the best for bringing out the qualities of leadership.”

This talk is open to the public but space is limited.   Contact the club’s office at 860-767-3239 or ecyc@essexcorithian.orgto reserve space.  There will be an informal reception following the talk.

The Essex Corinthian Yacht Club is located at 9 Novelty Lane in Essex.   For more information about the Club, visitwww.essexcorinthian.org

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RiverQuest Teams up with Old Saybrook Boy Scout Troop for Selden Island Clean-up

With the backdrop of the Goodspeed Opera House, the Old Saybrook Scouts gather for a photo to display the fruist of their labors after their trash pick-up efforts on Selden Island.

With the backdrop of the Goodspeed Opera House, the Old Saybrook Scouts gather for a photo to display the fruist of their labors after their trash pick-up efforts on Selden Island.

HADDAM/OLD SAYBROOK — It was a sunny, warm day with a little breeze.  The Connecticut River was inviting as always in the eyes of Captain Mark and Mindy Yuknat, the owners of the eco-tourism vessel RiverQuest.

On Saturday, May 2, they invited Boy Scout Troop 51 from Old Saybrook to help with what they hope to become an annual event called, “The 1st Annual Selden Island Clean-up.”

For years Captain Mark has been navigating the Connecticut River.  RiverQuest offers guided tours throughout the year, educating the public about the river and its rich history, wildlife (eagles and ospreys), flora and fauna.  On this day RiverQuest was bringing the Scouts, leaders and volunteers out to Selden Island for a clean-up and a campout.

These Boy Scouts are hard at work on Selden Island.

These Boy Scouts are hard at work on Selden Island.

With the help of the CT DEEP staff located at Gillette Castle, they acquired a camping permit and plenty of trash bags.  Phil Yuris, the park maintainer, was excited to help.  He was very grateful for all the work that was done by the group and hopes that more groups will get involved in the future. As he had hoped, it was a very positive experience for all.

Scoutmaster Dan Sullivan had originally presented the “clean-up” idea to the boys and they were very enthusiastic.

“What a great experience this was, not only for the 16 Scouts, but, also for the four accompanying adults as well. “ Sullivan said, “This was a very different trip for us and all the boys walked away with a very positive experience.  I believe every one of them will take away a new appreciation of the motto “Leave No Trace” and leave everything better than they found it.”

He continued, “We were also able to have all the boys work on earning two merit badges over the weekend, Bird Study and Nature, thanks to  John Ogren from the Old Saybrook Land Trust.  These lessons along with the Clean-up effort hopefully will foster a lifelong appreciation of our environment.”

On Sunday, with about enough trash to fill a pickup truck, they headed back to RiverQuest’s berth at Eagle Landing State Park.  Mindy Yuknat stated, “The Connecticut River starts in a beaver pond in New Hampshire near the Canadian border.  It is cleaner than it ever has been, but there is always room for improvement.  It is amazing how much debris and trash is deposited on the river banks. “

Captain Mark said, “It was a fun weekend and we are already talking about another trip this year.  We hope to get more Scout troops and other groups involved and we hope to get better equipment to help us remove and transport larger items like tires.”

For more information about Selden Neck State Park, visit http://www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?a=2716&q=435364&deepNav_GID=1650.

For more information about Old Saybrook BSA Troop 51, visit http://www.ostroop51.org

For more information about RiverQuest, visit http://ctriverquest.com/

For more information about Mark Yuknat, visit captainmark@ctriverquest.com or call 860-662-0577.

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RiverQuest Offers Osprey/Eagle Cruises in April

An osprey, returned from his winter spent in the southern hemisphere, feeds his young on the nest.

An osprey, returned from his winter spent in the southern hemisphere, feeds his young in the nest.

HADDAM — Late March into early April is when the Osprey returns to Connecticut from its southern wintering grounds. It is a wonderful sign that spring is here …

The Osprey is a large bird of prey (raptor) with a wingspan up to 6’ that eats fish, hence, it is sometimes referred to as the fish hawk. Connecticut Ospreys migrate south in late August through late September to areas where their food supply will not be affected by frozen rivers and lakes, sometimes as far south as Argentina. Ospreys of breeding age, at least three-years-old, are returning north now to start a new nest or to re-establish and re-build a nest they may have used in previous years.

Ospreys nest along the edges of the lower Connecticut River, from the mouth of the river in Old Lyme/Old Saybrook up river as far as Middletown. There will be activity on the many man-made nesting platforms at the Roger Tory Peterson Preserve near the mouth of the river in Old Lyme and on several other nesting platforms on the river, in “natural” tree settings and on the top of each of the navigational day markers that indicate the river channel. It is also hoped there will be Ospreys nesting on the new Osprey platform placed on the 101-year-old East Haddam Swing Bridge.

A great way to see this nesting activity is by boat. RiverQuest, an eco-tour vessel located at Eagle Landing State Park in the Tylerville section of Haddam is offering several cruises to the general public throughout April to view and learn about the Osprey and other wildlife that may be spotted, including hawks and another famous raptor, the American Bald Eagle.

After disappearing from Connecticut in 1948, the Bald Eagle has made a return and there are several active eagle nests on the river. It will be possible to view two of these nests from RiverQuest and very possibly, see one or more of the local resident Bald Eagles.

Other areas of interest that will be seen on the cruise include the Goodspeed Opera House, Gillette Castle and the Chester/Hadlyme Ferry. The cruises are about 2.5 hours in length and cost $40 per passenger (no children under 10-years-old.) There will be complimentary coffee and tea and a limited supply of binoculars on loan for the cruise.

To learn more about these informative cruises and/or reserve your spot with the easy on-line booking system, visit ctriverquest.com or phone 860-662-0577.

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CT River Museum Offers Canoe, Kayak Paddle Program Partly Funded by Cabela’s

Connecticut River Museum Expands On-water Experiences with the Development of a Canoe and Kayak Paddle Program. Photo credit: Joan Meek.

Connecticut River Museum Expands On-water Experiences with the Development of a Canoe and Kayak Paddle Program. Photo credit: Joan Meek.

ESSEX — The Connecticut River Museum (CRM) will launch a canoe and kayak paddle program on the museum campus in Essex, CT this summer as a major expansion of its environmental outreach.  The Cabela’s Outdoor Fund, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the promotion, conservation and improvement of wildlife and wildlife habitat, hunting, fishing, camping and other outdoor sporting and recreational activities, has made a generous contribution to CRM that will fund the purchase of 10 boats as well as assorted equipment that will make this important educational program possible.

According to the museum’s director, Chris Dobbs, “The Connecticut River Paddle Explorations Program is an exciting expansion of our ongoing environmental education activities and will allow more members and visitors to get out on the water.  We are thankful to the Cabela’s Outdoor Fund for making this possible.”

“Cabela’s Outdoor Fund is proud to support the Connecticut River Museum and its efforts in educating and exposing the community to the great outdoors,” said Jeremy Wonch, vice president of Cabela’s Outdoor Fund. “The Connecticut River Paddle Explorations Program will be great for both the community and the conservation efforts on the Connecticut River.”

Between June and September, CRM will offer canoes and kayaks at a nominal fee as a member benefit and to the public.  The program will allow visitors to explore the local marshes and tributaries around CRM, a great way for adults and families to access the River.

Dobbs commented, “Through the generosity of the Cabela’s Outdoor Fund, the museum will be able to use these boats for a variety of education programs.”  He said that this would include “guided paddles, exploration of nature preserves along the River, and places further afield.”  As part of the expanded vision for the museum, Dobbs would like the paddle program to partner with land trusts, historical societies, and other organizations up and down the River as a way to build appreciation for this “magnificent cultural and environmental resource.”

For more information about this program, to volunteer with the paddle program or to provide additional support, contact the Connecticut River Museum at 860.767.8269 or via email at crm@ctrivermuseum.org.

The Connecticut River Museum is located at 67 Main Street, Essex and is open daily from 10 AM – 5 PM and closed on Mondays until Memorial Day. Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors, $5 for children age 6-12, free for children under 6.

For more information, call 860-767-8269 or go to www.ctrivermuseum.org.

 

Photo Credit: Support from Cabela’s Outdoor Fund will allow the Connecticut River Museum to expand its paddle programs and provide more people with wonderful experiences like the annual swallow migration. Photo courtesy of Joan Meek.

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Oh, What a Winter … and More on the Way!

Old Saybrook Town beach

Old Saybrook Town Beach.  All photos by Adina Ripkin.

After a snowless first half of winter, the weather finally seemed to catch up with itself as recent snow storms have swept through the northeast.

Piles of cleared snow at the junction of Main Street and Pennywise Lane in Old Saybrook

Piles of cleared snow at the junction of Main Street and Pennywise Lane in Old Saybrook

Storms on Jan. 26 and 27 and then again during the first weekend in February have left snow accumulated throughout Connecticut, especially along the shoreline.

A snowy scene in Saybrook

A snowy scene in Saybrook

Although we dodged the most recent storm, which hit much harder in inland Connecticut and neighboring Massachusetts, bitterly cold weather is just around the corner according to the weather forecasters.

Footsteps_to_the_church_OSIt may seem to have been an endless winter, but no records have been broken here to date — unlike in Boston, Mass., where snowfall accumulation totaled well over 70 inches in January alone!

With more snow and freezing temperatures expected over the next couple of weeks, Shoreline residents are bracing themselves once again for more shoveling, hot chocolate, and picturesque drives!

Stay safe … and warm … and enjoy!

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Winter Storm Juno Set to Arrive Today, Two Feet of Snow Possible

Snowfall forecast for the state of Connecticut.

Snowfall forecast for the state of Connecticut.

AREAWIDE – This is the map issued by the state’s Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (DEMHS) showing predicted snowfall totals for Winter Storm Juno. It looks like there’s little chance we’ll dodge the snow this time, in contrast to last week when we were let off pretty lightly.

The National Weather Service has declared a Winter Storm Watch for all of Connecticut from Monday evening through Tuesday night. Early predictions include heavy snow with considerable blowing and drifting snow with accumulations of 12-24 inches. Anticipated winds of 10 to 20 mph with gusts up to 45 mph are also expected.

Based on these predictions, Essex, Chester, Deep River and Old Saybrook residents should plan for hazardous road and travel conditions along with the potential for loss of power.

Local Emergency Management teams recommends that residents begin to prepare for this upcoming event. Reach out to family members to discuss family plans and remember to care for pets, animals and livestock during this event.

The Emergency Management teams will continue to monitor this storm and post further information as needed.

Here’s a link to track the storm and another to view how to prepare for the storm.

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CT River Watershed Council Partners Receive $10M to Improve Long Island Sound 

The Connecticut River Watershed Council (CRWC) is one of seven partners receiving a $10 million federal grant funded through USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program. This new project brings together seven partners to improve the health of Long Island Sound. The funding will be matched dollar for dollar by other local, state, and private funding sources.

Excess nutrients have been identified as the primary driver of hypoxic conditions (lack of oxygen) in Long Island Sound and are also impacting upland water resources within the watershed, which encompasses areas of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

The project will develop a comprehensive, whole-farm management certainty program for farmers in the area. It will use both working lands and easement programs to improve soil health and nutrient management, establish community resiliency areas with a focus on enhancing riparian areas, and institute a land protection program to agricultural and forestry areas.

The Council is very pleased to be one of the many partners on this important project to improve the health of both the Connecticut River basin and Long Island Sound,” says CRWC Executive Director Andrew Fisk.  “Funding will allow CRWC to continue working with landowners on restoration projects on their land that will improve our rivers and protect their investment in productive farm and forest land.”

The Connecticut River contributes over 70 percent of the freshwater to Long Island Sound and plays an important role in the health of the Sound.  “We are proud to be working with landowners to help them do their part to restore and protect the public’s water,” notes Fisk.  “Many individuals working together across the entire watershed will have a great impact to improve the health of our rivers and Long Island Sound.”

The CRWC works to protect the watershed from source to sea. As stewards of this heritage, the organization celebrates its four-state treasure and collaborates, educates, organizes, restores and intervenes to preserve its health for generations to come. The  work of the CRWC informs the communal vision of economic and ecological abundance.

To learn more about CRWC, visit www.ctriver.org.

This project is one of more than 110 high-impact projects across all 50 states that will receive a portion of $370+ million as part of this new effort.

More information on the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program and other awards is available at: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs/farmbill/rcpp/

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Local Legislators Applaud $2 Million Bond Issue to Help Purchase The Preserve

From left to right, Rep. Jesse MacLachlan, Essex resident Suellen McCuin, Chris Cryder of Save the Sound, Kate Brown of The Trust for Public Land, Sen. Paul Formica, Rep. Phil Miller, Sen. Art Linares, Rep. Devin Carney,  Rep. Terrie Wood, Jim Millard of The Trust for Public Land and Lori Fernand of The Trust for Public Land.

From left to right, Rep. Jesse MacLachlan, Essex resident Suellen McCuin, Chris Cryder of Save the Sound, Kate Brown of The Trust for Public Land, Sen. Paul Formica, Rep. Phil Miller, Sen. Art Linares, Rep. Devin Carney, Rep. Terrie Wood, Jim Millard of The Trust for Public Land and Lori Fernand of The Trust for Public Land.

Five state legislators, State Senators Art Linares and Paul Formica, and State Representatives Phillip Miller, Devin Carney and Jesse MacLachan have applauded the Jan. 12, approval of a $2 million state bond issue to assist in the acquisition of the Preserve. The Preserve property consists of 1,000 acres along the shore of Long Island Sound that is presently open space.

“This is terrific news,” said Sen. Art Linares, who represents Essex, Old Saybrook and Westbrook. “Permanently protecting this forest and wetland is critical, not only for the animal and plant species whose survival greatly depends upon it, but also for the local communities whose water supplies and recreational enjoyment of Long Island Sound and the Connecticut River could be irreparably damaged if development were to occur.  This news is the result of the determination of the many environmental champions in our region, like Rep. Phil Miller and former Rep. Marilyn Giuliano.  We also thank Gov. Malloy for his commitment to this effort.”

“I am delighted to see this vast expanse of land will be protected for future generations. Residents in southeastern Connecticut care deeply for the environment and enjoy hiking and bird watching in The Preserve, among other recreational activities.  This wise purchase by the state will ensure that future generations will be able to continue the stewardship of this land,” said Sen. Paul Formica, who represents Old Saybrook and is a member of the Energy and Technology Committee.  “I thank Rep. Phil Miller, former Rep. Marilyn Giuliano, The Trust for Public Land and the many environmental advocates from our region who have worked so hard for this funding.”

“The approval today by the Bond Commission of $2 million in funding to ensure the purchase of The Preserve shoreline property represents an important landmark decision that is certainly welcomed.” said Rep. Philip Miller (D – Essex/Chester/ Deep River/Haddam). “This will enable us to protect and preserve open space property that will benefit not only people who live in the region, but all of Connecticut’s citizens, for generations to come.”

“The funding for the Preserve will allow generations to come the opportunity to enjoy some breathtaking landscape in its unencumbered state, right here in Connecticut” said Rep. Devin Carney (R), representing Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook and Westbrook. “Many people in Old Saybrook and along the shoreline will be thrilled by the finalization of these funds. For many, it has been a long time coming – I am happy to see that all of their passion and hard work has paid off.”

“The citizens of Connecticut value the abundance of beauty within our state and want it to be protected in perpetuity,” said Rep. Jesse MacLachlan (R), representing Clinton, Westbrook and Killingworth.  “It’s wonderful to see that we are making it a top priority to preserve the natural beauty and rural character of towns along the shoreline. Only through initiatives like these can our state’s rural areas obtain the true protection they need for years to come. I’d also like to express my sincere gratitude to all parties involved in seeing this come to fruition.”

Other Facts about The Preserve

Voters in Old Saybrook authorized the town to provide $3 million in funding to purchase a portion of The Preserve located in Old Saybrook and a small piece in Westbrook. The Trust for Public has also raised an estimated $1.2 million to cover the final portion of funding for the purchase, and the Essex Land Trust has agreed to purchase 70 acres of land in Essex that is a portion of The Preserve with the help of a $471,250 open space grant from DEEP.

One of the numerous vernal pools found in The Preserve.  Photo by Jerome Wilson.

One of the numerous vernal pools found in The Preserve. Photo by Jerome Wilson.

The Preserve consists of approximately 1,000 acres of land along Long Island Sound in three towns: 926 acres in Old Saybrook; 71 acres in Essex; and four acres in Westbrook. The Preserve includes 38 vernal pools, 114 acres of wetlands, more than 3,100 linear feet of watercourses, high quality coastal forest, and an Atlantic White Cedar swamp.

The dense canopy of forest and the Pequot Swamp Pond act as a critical refueling stop for many migratory birds, and the many freshwater seeps on the property are home to amphibian species such as the northern dusky salamander, spotted turtles, and box turtles. In all, more than 100 species of amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds thrive on this property, some of which are state-listed species of special concern and others of which are declining in other areas of the state.

In addition to its recreational and habitat resources, The Preserve provides important water quality benefits to residents.  Surface waters on the property drain to three different watersheds: the Oyster River, Mud River and Trout Brook, as they make their way to Long Island Sound.  The protection of The Preserve will ensure that storm water on the site is recharged to local aquifers.  An aquifer protection area is located just east of the Preserve and supplies an average of 200,000 gallons per day of drinking water to Old Saybrook and surrounding communities.

The Preserve also offers benefits for coastal resiliency in the face of climate change, and conservation of it will ensure lessened storm water impacts from hurricanes and other intense storms. The Preserve acts act as a sponge for storm water, releasing it slowly into the tributaries and rivers that lead to the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound, protecting downstream property owners from flooding.

Editor’s Note: This article was prepared directly from a press release issued by the House Republican Office.

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Land Purchase and Donation Expand Conserved Areas and Wildlife Refuge

LYME — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently partnered with The Nature Conservancy to add 66 acres of tidal marsh and coastal lands along Whalebone Cove in Lyme to the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge.

Announced today, this expansion of the refuge includes the purchase of 26 acres from a private landowner, along with a donation of four previously conserved properties totaling 40 acres, from the Conservancy to the Service. Together, these parcels establish the new Whalebone Cove Division of the refuge.

The Nature Conservancy negotiated the new 26-acre property purchase on behalf of the Service and made option payments over 2 ½ years to allow time for the Service to secure funding for the purchase.

The newly protected property contains approximately 2,000 feet of Connecticut River frontage and forms the southern entrance to Whalebone Cove. It features extensive high and low tidal marsh communities; steep, wooded slopes; an upland kettle-hole wetland complex; floodplain forest; upland meadows; and mature forest. Whalebone Cove features exemplary tidal marshes that host one of the largest stands of wild rice in Connecticut. It is an important wintering area for bald eagles and black ducks and a significant feeding area for migratory waterfowl.

Just south of Gillette Castle State Park in Lyme, Whalebone Cove is one of the most undisturbed and biologically significant freshwater tidal marshes on the Connecticut River. The Cove has been a longtime conservation priority of The Nature Conservancy as well as a “special focus area” for the Conte Refuge. The donated acreage was originally conserved by The Nature Conservancy more than a decade ago.

“Today, we celebrate the permanent protection from development of these precious natural areas,” said Nathan Frohling, the Conservancy’s director of Connecticut coastal and marine initiatives.

“The new acquisition, combined with the parcels the Conservancy is now donating, will build on a legacy of conservation here and in the Lower Connecticut River. The Conte Refuge represents an important new and trusted partner in achieving a larger conservation vision for Whalebone Cove. The Service’s role was key to making the purchase possible, and with it 80 percent of this freshwater tidal marsh site is now protected,” Frohling said.

“This acquisition would not have been possible without the Service’s close partnership with The Nature Conservancy and the continued support from the Congressional Delegation and the Administration,” said Andrew French, project leader at the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge. “Now, we look forward to collaborating with local residents and our partners in being good stewards of this land and good neighbors with those who live in the area.”

Connecticut leaders this week expressed their support for the refuge.

“I commend the Nature Conservancy for their longstanding commitment to preserving vital natural habitats in Connecticut and nationwide. This partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to preserve 26 acres of beautiful and environmentally-precious land deserves to be applauded and replicated,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal. “I will continue to work alongside advocates to ensure that our valuable habitats are protected and treasured for generations to come.”

“This project is a testament to the incredible power of the Land and Water Conservation Fund when it comes to completing high-value conservation acquisitions,” said Senator Chis Murphy. “Unspoiled tidal lands are a rarity in heavily-developed states like ours, and this parcel will be a valuable addition to the Silvio O. Conte Fish and Wildlife Refuge.”

“The Connecticut River is an ecological treasure, and this project will help to protect it for generations to come,” said Representative Joe Courtney, of Connecticut’s 2nd District, which includes Lyme. “I applaud the Nature Conservancy for their work to secure this parcel of undeveloped land, and their commitment to protecting our state’s natural landscape.”

Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge was established to conserve native plants, animals and their habitats in the 7.2 million acre Connecticut River watershed that stretches across four states. It is the only refuge in the country dedicated to a river’s entire watershed. The refuge works to protect land, form partnerships with citizens to foster conservation efforts, educate the public, and pass on the importance of the watershed to future generations.

The Nature Conservancy is the leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 18 million acres in the United States and have helped preserve more than 117 million acres in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org/connecticut.

 

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Work Helps Control Damaging Invasive Plant Along Lower Connecticut River

phragmites australis

Phragmites australis

In order to help restore and sustain the tidal wetlands along the lower Connecticut River, The Nature Conservancy last year undertook invasive phragmites control work at 12 locations on more than 215 acres.

Paid for by funding provided by the Ecosystem Management and Habitat Restoration grants administered by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), the state-permitted and safe herbicide treatments are necessary to help sustain the gains made by DEEP, The Nature Conservancy and others against phragmites.

Initial post-treatment monitoring concluded in June 2013, and the DEEP grant-funded work completed last year by the Conservancy helps ensure that gains made from previous phragmites control efforts are sustained.

In addition to sustaining gains made against phragmites, the project provides more experience and know-how for partners to better analyze best management practices, ensuring future decisions remain well informed.

The treatments took place at sites in East Haddam, Lyme, Old Lyme, Essex and Old Saybrook. Observation of conditions in treated areas will be ongoing.

“The Conservancy is grateful for the DEEP’s leadership on this issue,” said David Gumbart, assistant director of land management for The Nature Conservancy in Connecticut. “We’re also grateful to the many private landowners who granted permission for work on their lands and appreciative of the many supportive local land trusts and towns.”

In the 1990s, a study documenting the invasion of phragmites along the lower Connecticut River showed that the outstanding native biodiversity for which these marshes are famous was disappearing at an alarming rate. In some locations, over 40 percent of the native plant communities had been converted to phragmites in less than 30 years.

Subsequently, the Conservancy, DEEP and others began work to stop these losses and rein in phragmites in the tidal marsh system using conventional herbicide and mulching treatments. Over time, an approximately 80 percent reduction of the plant has been achieved in the tidal marshes of the lower Connecticut River. These efforts also helped regain additional habitat that will see colonization by native species.

More about phragmites and the Lower Connecticut River

Invasive European strains of Phragmites australis were introduced to the United States in the 1880s, possibly through ships’ ballast, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Invasive Species Information Center.

Since then, phragmites has become one of the biggest threats to the lower Connecticut River’s exemplary tidal marsh system. This is because it overruns the native plant communities that are a primary feature in the system’s health and productivity.

Although common birds and wildlife can utilize stands of phragmites, the biodiversity and overall ecological integrity of a marsh system is severely compromised by the invasive plant.

Sustaining the tidal marsh habitats through efforts such as phragmites control sustains rare plant species, as well as the migratory, shore and wading birds that thrive in these habitats. Among the other beneficiaries are fish, including the Atlantic silverside, that utilize the marshes at high tide. Such work also helps sustain the quality of the Long Island Sound.

The Nature Conservancy is the leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy at www.nature.org/connecticut

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Pettipaug Yacht Club Excels in Small Boat Sailing Programs for Young Sailors

A shoreline view of the high school racing teams on the water

A shoreline view of the high school racing teams on the water

The Pettipaug Yacht Club will offer a truly impressive roster of small boat, sailing programs for young people during the soon-to-be-upon-us summer sailing season. The club is located in Essex off River Road, directly on the Connecticut River, making it an ideal small sailing boat location. Among the club’s sailing programs for young sailors this summer are those at the club’s prestigious Pettipaug Sailing Academy.

The guiding spirit behind the Pettipaug Sailing Academy is retired Electric Boat engineer and club Board member, Paul Risseew. Risseew not only directs the Sailing Academy, he runs virtually all of the sailing and boating programs at the Pettipaug Yacht Club.

Learning to Sail at the Pettipaug Sailing Academy

The aim of the Pettipaug Sailing Academy, which was founded in 1950, is to teach young sailors in Risseew’s words, “the pleasure of sailing in small boats and also the racing in small sailboats.”

Six rigged sailboats are ready for the afternoon races

Six rigged sailboats are ready for the afternoon races

155 young sailors have enrolled this coming summer for the sailing classes at the Academy. Courses at the Academy are divided into two sessions. The first session begins on July 1 and ends July 23, and the second session begins on July 25 and ends on August 16. Some students take both sessions for seven full weeks. Others opt for a single session of three and a half weeks.

Rolling sailboats into the water; a stiff winds await them

Rolling sailboats into the water; a stiff winds awaits them

Academy days are also broken up into morning classes and afternoon classes.  Morning classes, which are for children, ages 8 to 11, are held from nine o’clock until noon. Afternoon classes, which are for students, ages 12 to 16, are held from one o’clock until four o’clock.

Sailboats ready for winds gusting to 20 knots

Sailboats ready for winds gusting to 20 knots

The curriculum of the Pettipaug Sailing Academy includes lessons in teamwork, rigging, capsize recovery, tacking, gibing, reaching, running, sailing to windward and tying knots. Upon their graduation from the Sailing Academy, students are givens ranks that reflect their respective sailing skills. The rank of progressions as they are called are; Seaman, Seaman First Class, Second Mate, First Mate, Boatswain, Skipper, and Racing Skipper.

With the wind blowing hard a sailboat sets sail from the dock

With the wind blowing hard a sailboat sets sail from the dock

This year the enrollment at the Pettipaug Sailing Academy was completely filled by March 30. However, sometimes there are drop outs, just before classes begin. When this happens, new students are taken off the waiting list. The tuition at the Academy for both sessions is $700 and $400 for a single session.

A Sailboat “Race Clinic” to Precede Academy Classes

 Prior to the instructional sailing classes of the Pettipaug Sailing Academy, the club will hold an intensive, five-day “Race Clinic” for small boat, racing sailors. Classes for the clinic will be held from Monday, June 24, to Friday, June 28. The “Race Clinic” is designed to teach students how to win sailboat races, and it is expected to attract some 25 students, ages 12 to 15.

All eight fulltime sailing instructors at the club will serve on the faculty of “Race Clinic.” The clinic’s curriculum will include; in getting a good start in a race, reading the wind to attain the fastest speed, as well as learning what are sometimes not so nice, but permitted, racing tactics. Tuition for the intense, five day “Race Clinic” is $200.

Other Summer Programs at the Pettipaug Yacht Club

Another program featured this summer at the Pettipaug Yacht Club will be Powerboat Courses designed by the U.S. Powerboating Association. There will be eleven, one day, Powerboat Courses held throughout the summer sailing season. The first course will be held on Sunday, April 28, and the other course dates will be posted on the club’s web site at www.pettipaug.com and on the club’s bulletin board.

The Powerboat Courses are for students of all ages, and the one-day course begins at 8:30 a.m. and end at 6:00 p.m. The tuition is $180. For further details contact Paul Risseew at 860-767-1995, or at PRisseew@aol.com .

Teaching Sailors to Teach the Art of Sailing

As if the above programs were not enough, there will also be two courses at the club on teaching sailors how to teach the art of sailing.  A Level 1 Instruction Course for would-be sailing teachers will be held over the two weekends of June 8-9 and June 15-16. A more advanced Level 2 Instruction Course for sailing teachers will be held over three consecutive days, June 17, 18 and 19.  The tuition for the Level 1 course is $350, and $300 for the Level 2 course.

In addition, there will be Windsurfing Courses, mostly for the young, throughout the summer, for which there could be a small charge.

Club’s Hosting of High School Racing Teams

Finally, during the months of March and April of this year, the club has been hosting sailboat races for three local, high school sailing teams. (Photos of a recent race of these teams are pictured with this article.) The teams are students from; Valley Regional High School, which has nine sailors; Xavier High School, which has 16 sailors; and Daniel Hand High School, which as 28 sailors.

Fifteen of the sailboats used in this pre-season sailing program are owned by the Pettipaug Yacht Club, and twelve are owned by Xavier High School. Although it is understood that all of the sailors participating in this program are members of the Pettipaug Yacht Club, there is no financial cost involved for the racing participants.

Paul Risseew’s Philosophy of Teaching Young Sailors to Sail 

 In teaching young sailors Risseew said, “Our priorities at Pettipaug are Safety, Fun and Learning, in that order.” He also noted, “If the students are not having fun, they won’t pay attention to the learning.”

Pettipaug Sailing Academy leader, Paul Risseew

Pettipaug Sailing Academy leader, Paul Risseew

“The majority of students return year after year, because they are spending the warm summer days with friends and playing on, and in, the water,” he continued. “Pettipaug is able to provide expert racing coaching to those who want to go in that direction. We send Optimist and 420 race teams to over a dozen regattas at other clubs in Connecticut.”

Putting it all in perspective, Risseew said, “As Rat said to Mole, in Wind in the Willows:  “‘There is nothing, absolutely nothing, half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” 

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Connecticut River System Highlights Role of People in Sustaining Nature

Dr. Frogard Ryan,  state director, The Nature Conservancy in Connecticut

Dr. Frogard Ryan, state director, The Nature Conservancy in Connecticut

A fishway around a dam on the Mattabesset River in East Berlin might not seem to have much to do with the towns along the lower Connecticut River.

But the fishway The Nature Conservancy is building on the property of StanChem, a polymer manufacturing company about 35 miles from my home in Old Lyme, is good news—here and there.

As the Conservancy’s state director, I have a vested interest in the project’s success. It’s no stretch, though, to say we all have an interest in this work.

The Mattabesset River is a tributary of the Connecticut River, and the elaborate U-shaped fishway being built near the StanChem complex will help improve the health of the river area residents know and love as a neighbor.

That’s just for starters, though.

As I toured the site recently with StanChem President Jack Waller and Conservancy Connecticut Director of Migratory Fish Projects Sally Harold, I was reminded of a fundamental truth:  Conservation is made possible by people, and if Connecticut’s natural resources are to be sustained into the future, it will be because people make it so.

River and stream connectivity is an important environmental issue and opportunity in our state. The vast majority of dams in Connecticut are relatively small and privately owned. Many of them no longer serve the purposes for which they were built; some are at risk of failures that could threaten public safety.

From an environmental perspective, dam removal can open access to upstream spawning habitats for migratory fish. It also can restore the natural, swift-moving flows that support some native species, and it can enhance water quality by improving nutrient and sediment transport.

Removal isn’t always an option, of course, and that was the case with this project, where the impoundment created by the dam provides water that would be crucial for StanChem in case of a fire. In such circumstances, a well-thought-out fishway is a great—if not always easy— alternative.

The fishway on the Mattabesset is designed so that American shad, alewife and blueback herring will be able to use it. Because the old dam has been a complete barrier, none of those species has been above it in maybe 100 years.  All told, about 50 miles of habitat—including tributaries to the Mattabesset—will become available to them, improving the overall health of the Connecticut River system.

An embedded tube for migrating American eels is part of the project, too, and the Connecticut Department Energy and Environmental Protection will gather information from an observation room there for its “No Fish Left Behind” reports about monitored fish runs across the state.

Equally important, though, is how this project has happened.

A $308,000 Connecticut DEEP Ecosystem Management & Habitat Restoration grant, a $10,000 contribution from the Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership through Northeast Utilities, and private donations to The Nature Conservancy are helping pay for this work. Of course, it also couldn’t happen without StanChem’s active buy-in.

With the state and the private and nonprofit sectors involved, the cooperation that characterizes this project is a model for conservation.

Still, it wouldn’t be possible without the commitment of individuals—people who want to make a difference. Mr. Waller, whose buoyant enthusiasm for the project is infectious, comes to mind, as does DEEP Supervising Fisheries Biologist Steve Gephard, a long-time champion of the project.

A great deal of work was done last year to improve the health of Connecticut’s rivers and streams. In East Berlin, Farmington, Stonington and elsewhere, there were real successes with dam removal and fish passage.

With so many of Connecticut’s dams privately owned, the future of this type of work depends greatly on individuals—including, I hope, some readers here—who see and cherish the opportunity to make a difference. There are so many dams out there where work of real ecological value could be done. Perhaps one of them is yours.

 

Dr. Ryan, who is the State Director of The Nature Conservancy in Connecticut, lives in Old Lyme; the Conservancy’s Connecticut Chapter is located at 55 Church Street, Floor 3; New Haven, Conn. 06510-3029.

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Enjoy an Exciting, Educational ‘Eagle Watch’ Cruise with CT River Museum

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The view east into Hamburg Cove from the Connecticut river

Last Friday was the perfect winter weather for a boat trip on the lower Connecticut River to view the wildlife and enjoy the experience of being one of the very few boats on the river during mid-February.  I was a guest aboard the 65 ft. Project Oceanology vessel Enviro-Lab III  for one of the “Eagle Watch” boat trips offered by Connecticut River Museum in partnership with Project Oceanology during February and March each year.  This is the fourth season the Connecticut River Museum has teamed up with the Groton-based marine science and environmental education organization, Project Oceanology, to provide a dynamic on-water experience.

The 65 ft Enviro-Lab III owned by Project Oceanology who have partnered with Connecticut River Museum to offer the Eagle Watch trips

The 65 ft Enviro-Lab III owned by Project Oceanology who have partnered with Connecticut River Museum to offer the Eagle Watch trips

Although visitors to the river in winter can see many interesting avian species, the bald eagle is the one most visitors hope to see.   Declared an endangered species in 1973 with the passage of the federal Endangered Species Act, populations began to recover following the ban on DDT, and by 2007,  the bald eagle populations had recovered to the extent that they have now been removed from the endangered species list.  They are, however, still protected on the federal level by the Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940 and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

Every winter a number of bald eagles migrate south looking for open water to feed as the lakes and rivers in Canada and northern New England  freeze.  Many of these birds stop in Connecticut and winter along major rivers and large reservoirs, and can been seen feeding and occasionally nesting on the banks of the Connecticut river.

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A juvenile bald eagle in flight over the Connecticut river

Although a sighting is not guaranteed, eagles are spotted on most trips.  On the first trip of the season, six adult eagles and eight juveniles were spotted.  On this trip, we were fortunate to spot our first young eagle soaring high above the boat minutes after casting off from the town dock as the boat headed north up river and then we saw several more eagles throughout the trip, some roosting in riverside trees and some gracefully circling above the river.

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A juvenile bald eagle perched on a tree along the river bank

Eagles nesting on Nott Island

One of the highlights of the trip was to observe, from a distance, the rare sight of an eagle on her nest on the eastern side on Nott island, just across the river from Essex harbor.  In the 1950s the bald eagle was no longer a nesting species in Connecticut but, according to the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, in 1992 the state documented its first successful nesting of bald eagles since the 1950s when a pair raised two young birds in Litchfield County.  Since then, the nesting population has increased gradually and, in 2010, 18 pairs of bald eagles made nesting attempts in the state.

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Female bald eagle on nest on Nott Island, CT

One such nesting pair is seen here on Nott Island.  The female was about to lay her eggs a week or so ago but was temporarily disrupted by Winter Storm Charlotte.  Hopefully, now that she is back on her nest, the eggs have been successfully produced.

“Let’s go out on the river and have some fun!”

The Eagle Watch boat trips are led by local expert naturalist and lecturer Bill Yule, who is an educator at the Connecticut River Museum.  He is not only an expert on most wildlife species found along the Connecticut River but also a renowned expert on local mushrooms and fungi.  Yule welcomed visitors aboard the trip with the invitation, “Let’s go out on the river and have some fun,” and throughout the trip he helped locate and identify birds, related historical stories about life along the river and made sure all the passengers were warm and comfortable with plenty of hot coffee.

Naturalist and lecturer Bill Yule provides interesting and informative information on all wildlife species seen along the river throughout the cruise

Naturalist and lecturer Bill Yule provides interesting and informative information on all wildlife species seen along the river throughout the cruise

Yule was accompanied by two educators from Project Oceanology, Chris Dodge and Danielle Banco, who cheerfully helped identify interesting birds and assisted the boat captain with docking and navigating up and down the river between the ice flows.

Bald eagles are certainly not the only avian species guests can enjoy on the trip and on this particular voyage, we enjoyed numerous sightings of  cormorants, black-backed gulls, red-tailed hawks and common merganser ducks.

We returned to the town dock some 90 minutes after departure excited by all the birds we had seen and moreover, educated about them, and, despite the cold, I am confident I am not the only traveler on that voyage who will be taking another trip later in the season.  All in all, it was an awesome experience!

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The common merganser duck in full flight along the river

February Vacation Week Programs

The Connecticut River Museum is also offering a week-long program of vacation week activity for the February school break starting tomorrow, Feb. 19.  In addition to an Eagle Watch adventure on Friday, Feb. 22, the program will also include a day exploring the many galleries in the museum, an outdoor exploration day including a nature hike and animal tracking, and an arts and crafts day building models boats, learning knot tying and other maritime arts.

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Avian wildlife exhibit in the Connecticut River Museum

To make reservations for the vacation week program or for more information about Connecticut River Museum educational programs or Eagle Watch Tours, visit www.ctrivermuseum.org or contact Jennifer White Dobbs in the Education Department at jwhitedobbs@ctrivermuseum.org or Bill Yule, also in the Education Department, at byule@ctrivermuseum.org.

Project Oceanology in Groton also offers Winter Seal Watch trips during weekends in February and March.  These two and a half hour trips travel out into Fishers Island Sound to view these playful creatures, which are abundant in this area.  The ticket price of $25 (adults) and $20 (children) also includes a 20-minute slide presentation.

 

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The Connecticut River, a National Treasure – Nov.15 Essex Library

Join Steve Gephard, Connecticut’s Department of Environmental Protection Supervising Fisheries Biologist for his review of significant past and ongoing Connecticut River conservation efforts on November 15 at 7.30 p.m. at the Essex Library.

The talk will provide updates on fish restoration programs but will go beyond that to highlight the many attributes of the Connecticut River.  Steve will share his knowledge of the river, natural history facts, and perspectives on the future.

Steve Gephard

Steve Gephard has been on the Connecticut River for over 50 years, beginning as a child swimming in the river at a time when no one really should have been swimming in the river.  He has spent the last 30 years working as a fisheries biologist for the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, where he currently supervises the Diadromous Fish Program within the Inland Fisheries Division.  Throughout his career, he has been involved with the program to restore Atlantic salmon to the river and enhance runs of shad, river herring, eels, and other species. He serves on many regional committees and is appointed as one of three U.S. Commissioners to the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization, which regulates harvest of salmon in international waters.  In addition to his fish-related duties, Steve is an ardent land conservationist, founder and past-president of the East Haddam Land Trust, and boater on the river.

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Frostbite Sailors Brave the Wind and Cold, “all for the love of sailing”

Snow on boats before launching (Photo courtesy of Bob Leary)

In a bright, bright sun, on a cold, cold day, with the wind gusting well over 20 knots, twenty-five hearty sailors raced last Sunday (Oct. 30) for the better part of an afternoon in Essex Harbor.

These Frostbiters, as they call themselves, didn’t seem to mind conditions such as these. For them the more blustery it is, the better. In fact, when it was learned that ten “frostbiting” sailboats had capsized while sailing this afternoon, it was taken as a point of pride, rather than  a demonstration of what some might consider pure foolishness.

Readying the boats in parking lot

There were four kinds of boats in the afternoon’s competition in the cold.  They were: (1) the graceful, 30 foot Etchells, (2) the JY-15’s, (3) the Ideal 18’s, and (4) the one person, single sail Lasers of 13 feet, 9 inches. Most of the boats that capsized during the afternoon races were Lasers, with a few JY-15’s as well.

Single-handed Lasers round a mark

Once a Laser capsizes there is only one person at hand, who can bring the boat back upright, and that is the one man crew. Regular dunking into the water is the primary reason why Laser skippers wear full-bodied wet suits. The wet suit, however, does not keep a capsized sailor’s head from getting wet, and there is always a bit of water leaking down into the wet suit, after the boat and sailor have gone into the drink.

Crew struggles with capsized boat in water (Photo courtesy of Bob Leary)

A Crash Boat, fully motorized, patrols the Frostbite races, manned by  Frostbite Yacht Club Commodore, Scott Baker. If Baker sees that a capsized Laser sailor is having a difficult time righting his vessel, he has the power to send the boat back to the dock, because of the sailor’s evident fatigue. “If they are having trouble, we send them back in,” Baker says.

On this afternoon the Commodore sent three exhausted Laser skippers back to the dock, because of fatigue. In fact, there was such a concern for capsizing Lasers that the crash boat began following them around their course.

The larger Etchells can suffer a variety of breakdowns, such a broken spinnaker pole or traveler, but they are rarely, if ever, ordered back to dock, because of skipper’s fatigue.

As for Sunday’s sailing competition, the Frostbite sailors spoke with real feeling. “It was an awesome, windy day,” said Toby Doyle, who took first place with his Etchells in the afternoon’s races. “We survived,” he added.

An Etchells close-hauled

Other winning skippers were Mathew Wilson, first place of the JY-15’s; Ed Birch, captain of the winning Ideal 18, who is frequently a winning skipper; and Chris Field, the first place Laser skipper, who had only himself to thank for his victory.

As for the weather conditions, Ed Birch said, “It was nasty out there, with big puffs coming up.” A one point Birch said, “We were getting killed out there.”

An Etchells with full spinnaker

For her part Charlotte Posey, who sails an Ideal 18 with her husband, Dennis Posey, she was shocked when her husband said he wanted to go sailing today. They first had to shovel the snow out of their driveway.

The Ideal 18 requires a crew of two, and Charlotte Posey says that she and her husband “are one of the few couples out there who can sail together.”

After the races a former Commodore of the Frostbiters, Rick Harrison, said simply while sipping some hot soup, “It was a day of survival.”

Frostbnite Commodore Scott Baker eating soup after the race

The ultimate arbiter, whenever there is a dispute, is the club’s   Principal Race Officer, Tom Carse. As for the winds this day he termed them, “Very difficult, very puffy.”

Commodore Baker officially termed the day’s weather conditions as, “challenging but not dangerous.” Do the Frostbiters sometimes sail in  “dangerous conditions?” The Commodore answered, “Yes.”

Of the 25 sailboats boats in the races, there were four Etchells, four JY-15’s, 8 Ideals 18’s, and 9 Lasers. After all the boats were pulled out of the water, and stored until next week’s race, beginning at 1:00 p.m. Sunday, November 6th, in Essex Harbor, the Frostbiters retired to a local yacht club and some hot soup. Sailing a boat is always a matter of moods, it seems. This past Sunday was one of just pure excitement.

Frostbiters' Race Committee Boat

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Pettipaug Yacht Club Still Showing Effects of Irene

Debris taken out of the water by club members

Hurricane Irene visited the Pettipaug Yacht Club in a big way on Sunday, August 28, and the club is still feeling the after effects. For one there is literally a parade of floating logs coming down the river, and clogging up with debris the club’s boat ramp to the river.

“We have to clear the boat ramp at least every two days,” says Paul Risseeuw, who is the Director of the club’s Sailing Academy and informal caretaker of the club.  A pile of the debris that has been collected by club members is kept next to the boat ramp. The sizes of some of the pieces taken out of the river by club members are impressive.

However, as Risseeuw admits, some of the whole trees that pull up at the club’s docks are simply too big to handle, Reluctantly, they have to be pushed back into the river to continue their journey towards the sound.

Paul Risseeuw points high water mark at club

When the Irene’s storm water reached its highest, it was up to the second step from the top of the stairs at the club house. The club house itself is on a platform some four feet above the ground, and no water touched the deck.  However, all the grounds of the club were completely submerged during the storm period.

When the water on the grounds reached a certain point although anchored in some fashion, the boats began to float. (All of the boat’s masts and been removed before the storm.) This meant that some 120 boats were floating around during flood periods. The boats afloat included: Blue Jays, 420s, Lasers, as well as several Boston Whalers.

Although anchored to the ground, because of the leeway in their painters, the floating boats began to sway, and a number of them banged into each other. A few boats were damaged in this fashion. Also, a storage shed, where wind surfers had been kept, was badly banged out by wind, water and swinging boats.

However, saved from banging boats on the flooded grounds, were the small Optimist sailboats. They had been stacked on the floor of the clubhouse and were unharmed.

The story was very different for one boat owner at the club, who decided to keep his boat in the water in spite of Irene. It was a big mistake. Early in the storm the boat was flipped over to its side, and a floating tree coming down the river dragged the capsized boat and mooring down the river, and eventually hung up on another mooring. The owner found his boat after a hunt only to learn that the boat’s mast had been broken into three pieces. The boat owner had to hire a floating crane to get his boat out of the water.

Some club grounds still a jumble

Meanwhile the club’s docks completely avoided any damage, although the poles that are driven into the river bottom to hold the docks in place now appear bent. If the poles themselves had failed, it would have meant the loss of the club’s docks.

With the exception of the single boat left in the water, and the only minor damage caused by the boats anchored on the club grounds banging around, the club got away pretty easily from the visit by Irene. As Risseeuw puts it bluntly, “We got away cheap.”

A second chapter to Irene

There was also a week or so later, a second chapter to Irene. Some are calling it, the “Vermont mud slide.” Because of the heavy rains during Irene, the Vermont shore of the Connecticut River, way up north, flushed an enormous amount of sediment, i.e. mud, into the river.

In fact, there was so much Vermont mud coming down the river, the waters out in front of the club turned brown for a number of days.

Also, according to Risseeuw, there was a layer of Vermont mud dumped on the grounds of Pettipaug. There was also a second surge of high water, but nothing on the scale of Irene.

With its grounds scarcely above high tide levels, it is inevitable that future hurricanes will again completely flood the grounds of the Pettipaug Yacht Club.

Entrance sign of the Pettipaug Yacht Club

Risseeuw says that before another hurricane hits, which is inevitable, the club has decided to order all boats off the club grounds, and moved to higher elevations. Whether that means storing them in private driveways, or even in well elevated marinas, it won’t make any difference. “The boats are not going be allowed to be left here,” Risseeuw says.

Also, there will be strict rule that all boats, when a hurricane threatens, must be hauled out of the water, no exceptions. Some sailors simply have to be saved from themselves.

 

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Vista’s 3rd Annual Tour de Shore Cycle Event

Vista’s 3rd Annual Tour de Shore Cycle Event will take place Sunday October 16, 2011 in Westbrook, CT!

Vista Vocational & Life Skills Center, Inc. is pleased to announce the 3rd Annual Tour de Shore Cycle Event taking place on Sunday, October 16. Proceeds from the Tour de Shore benefit the Endowment Fund of Vista Vocational & Life Skills Center.

This year’s cycling event features a fun ride and rides of 60, 40 and 25 miles.  All rides start and end in Westbrook Center behind the Westbrook firehouse.  Last year more than 200 riders participated in this fundraising event.

Of particular note to cyclists is that Steve Johnson, President of USA Cycling is participating in this year’s event and riding in the 60-mile ride!

All rides have routes with plenty of beautiful Connecticut back roads and shoreline views.  All participants receive cue sheets and route maps.  The event concludes in Westbrook with a barbecue, a raffle drawing and awards ceremony.

For more information, or to register for this year’s, event please visit www.vistatourdeshore.com or call Susan Bradley at 203-318-5240.

Vista Vocational & Life Skills Center, Inc. is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting adults with neurological disabilities to live independent and successful lives.  For more information about Vista, please visit www.vistavocational.org.

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Camp Hazen YMCA Summer Camp Open House Sunday, October 9

On Sunday, October 9, Camp Hazen YMCA will host an Open House from 2-4 p.m.   Families are encouraged to attend to learn more about summer opportunities for children.   Now is the time to plan for the summer of 2012 and research the right camp for your child.  Camp Director, Kath Davies, states “Attending an Open House provides a valuable opportunity for families to meet the Camp Directors and see the facilities to determine if Camp Hazen is the right choice for their family.”

Located on Cedar Lake in Chester, Camp Hazen YMCA offers one and two week session of both day and resident camp.  Camp Hazen provides children with a community of positive role models who nurture children to ensure that they are successful, have fun, make friends and develop life skills such as independence and leadership.   Campers may choose traditional camp activities like swimming, arts and crafts and campfires – along with more unique programs including a skate park, alpine tower, mountain biking and windsurfing.  All activities are designed to ensure that campers will not only have fun, but also learn how to get along with others, feel part of a community and become confident in trying new things both at camp and at home and school after camp.

When asked why she sent her child to Camp Hazen YMCA, a camper parent reported, “Generation “Pop Culture” kids today need a wholesome experience like one provided at Camp Hazen!!! No focus on mastering gadgets, instead, developing important life skills….socialization, coping, independence and confidence, to name a few. Terrific role models at Camp Hazen!!!”

Camp Hazen YMCA believes the summer camp experience is a vital part of a child’s development and offers a tier pricing program to make camp affordable for all.  For more information, contact Danita Ballantyne at 860-526-9529 or visit www.camphazenymca.org

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Schooner Mary E Returns to Steamboat Dock for Daily Cruises

Schooner Mary E sails the Connecticut River daily from Steamboat Dock at the Connecticut River Museumecticut River Museum.

Essex, CT – Now a familiar sight along the Connecticut River, the historic schooner Mary E has returned to her home port at the Connecticut River Museum and hoisted sail for public cruises and private charters for the 2011 season. The 75-foot gaff rigged schooner was built in 1906 in Bath, Maine and believed to be one of the last remaining of her kind.

Now through October 30, the general public can take a 1.5 hour afternoon sail at 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. or a 2 hour sunset sail at 6 p.m. and enjoy the natural beauty and cultural heritage of New England’s Great River.  Afternoon cruises which include admission to the museum’s exhibits and galleries are $26 per adult and $16 for children age 12 and under.  Sunset sails are $30 per person, all ages.  Public cruises are not offered on Wednesdays.  Group tours and private charters are also available.    For more information on schedules, fees, and reservations, call 860-767-8269 or go to www.ctrivermuseum.org.   The Connecticut River Museum, located at 67 Main Street, on the scenic Essex waterfront.

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CT Naturalist: Barred Owl vs. Blue Jay

Connecticut backyards never cease to provide amazing encounters with wildlife. This week we highlight an amazing interaction between a Barred Owl and a Blue Jay.

It’s rare enough to encounter an owl in your backyard, but the feud with the blue jay adds a whole new dimension to this sighting.

A Barred Owl perched above an open lawn at twilight, browsing the grass for small rodents and large insects. But this owl is not alone; there is still enough afternoon light for blue jays to remain active. And when a blue jay discovers an owl, it declares a major turf war.

This blue jay dive bombs, flanks, and screams at the quite Barred Owl.  Although, the owl appears harmless, Barred Owls have been known to feed on blue jays, if the jays are on the ground during the owls hunting hours.

Barred Owls are difficult to find in the wild because of their nocturnal behavior and camouflage plumage. However, of all the owl species, Barred Owls are the most likely to be active during daylight hours.

If pileated woodpeckers are present in the area, there is a good chance a Bard Owl may nest nearby, as owls often take residence in the woodpecker’s abandoned tree cavities.

A Barred Owl has a distinct call that has cadence that resembles the phrase, “Who..Cooks..for..you”.

Be on the lookout for Barred Owls in your community. They are one of Connecticut’s most amazing birds!

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Family Canoe & Kayak on Mill Pond

Naturalist Phil Miller will lead a canoe/kayak trip on Mill Pond, Sundat October 2, from 1 p.m.

The Essex Land Trust invites you to enjoy the beautiful fall colors that can be seen on this paddle, led by naturalist Phil Miller, along with a possible walk on Jean’s Island on Sunday October 2, beginning at 1 p.m.  Open to paddlers of all ages, but basic experience in paddling is required. This event is co-sponsored by the Town of Essex’ Park and Recreation Department and is part of its Essex Great Outdoors Pursuit Program. Park at the canoe/kayak landing on Falls River Drive in Ivoryton. Bad weather cancels.

Jean’s Island is a seven-acre preserve on Mill Pond in the Falls River. The wooded island has an easy, well-marked loop trail and a landing site. Similar to neighboring Falls River Preserve, Jean’s Island provides both a resting place for migrating birds and habitat for the local population, including songbirds and hawks. Swans, ducks and wading birds such as herons and egrets are also plentiful. The pond waters are home to bass, perch, sunfish and catfish.

The Essex Great Outdoor Pursuit has been created by the Essex Park and Recreation Department with the mission of bringing the families of Essex together through positive and healthy outdoor endeavors while increasing the presence and awareness of our local parks, open spaces and preserves to the community. The Essex Land Trust is pleased to be a co-sponsor of this program. For more information about the program, please visit the town website www.essexct.gov; click on “Park and Recreation”.

For more information about the event please contact Peggy Tuttle at 860-767-7916 or e-mail peggytuttle@gmail.com.

 

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Fourth Annual Antique & Classic Car Show Returns to Essex on September 24

This 1930 Packard Roadster owned by Jay Beveridge of Essex is just one of the many classic cars that will be on display at the Essex Automobile Club’s 4th Annual Classic & Antique Car Show on September 24 at Hubbard Field in Essex.

The Essex Automobile Club will host its 4th Annual Antique and Classic Car Show on Saturday, September 24, 2011.  The show has become a highlight of the early fall season here in the scenic Connecticut River Valley town of Essex.   Antique and classic cars from around the state and beyond will be on display at Hubbard Field located at 75 North Main Street.  The event begins at 10 a.m. and runs until 2 p.m.  Rain date is Sunday, September 25.

According to show co-chairman Terry Lomme, “This is our fourth annual show and every year it gets better. This year we are featuring a class of “woodies”, both foreign and domestic, which will add to the wonderful  antique, classic and exotic cars that we anticipate.”

Automobiles from several eras will be featured, including Brass Era Cars, War Era Cars, Baby Boomer Cars, and sports cars from America and Europe.  People’s Choice Awards will be given to the first and second place entries in multiple domestic and foreign car categories.

Admission is $5.00 per person with children under age 12 admitted free.  Proceeds from the show will benefit Child and Family Agency of Southeastern Connecticut.   For more information or to register as a show participant, go to www.essexautoclub.com or email tim@essexautoclub.com.  All exhibitors must be pre-registered. “Cruise-ins” are not permitted.

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