The Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center

Birding Basics

Are you interested in learning how to use binoculars? Or a field guide? Do you want to practice identifying local birds? Join the Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center for Birding Basics, our free program for adults. Each month, we’ll meet in a different location to focus on different birds.

Some participants on our Jan 14 walk!

Starting at 9 a.m., we will walk the area for about an hour, identifying birds using field guides. We’ll also talk about how climate change is affecting birds in our area and how we can help to mitigate its effects.

Email to RSVP or with questions.

Our next walk will be at 9 a.m. on February 25 at Rocky Neck State Park. See you there!


An Afternoon with Owls

Join the Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center on February 18 from 2-4 for an afternoon with owls at Acton Public Library! Our educators will be presenting Cookie, the barred owl, while we learn about owl anatomy and examine real feathers from other species. Then, participate in an owl pellet dissection and identify mammal bones. The program is geared toward teens, adults and families, and is free to the public. The library is requesting registration, however, which can be done on their website.


The Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center offers environmental education programs with the support of the Rockfall Foundation.

Sea-level-rise Scientist from Woods Hole Enthralls Local Adults and Students

Dr. Thieler at a "Meet the Scientist" session in Old Lyme.

Dr. Thieler at a “Meet the Scientist” session in Old Lyme.

October 28, 2016 – This fall the Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center welcomed renowned sea-level researcher Robert Thieler to Old Lyme. Although based in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, as a research geologist for the U.S. Geological Survey, Dr. Thieler uses beaches around the world as his living laboratory.

To an audience of 85 at Old Lyme Town Hall on September 29, he outlined a range of responses that Connecticut’s coastal areas and their habitats are likely to show in the face of sea-level rise—resiliency, transformation, and inland migration.

He also discussed practical steps that all of us can take to safeguard the health and sustainability of our coastlines. His presentation, sponsored jointly with the Lower Connecticut River Council of Governments, was the first in the RTPEC’s fall 2016 lecture series.

Earlier that day Dr. Thieler met with 55 fifth grade students at Old Lyme’s Mile Creek School in a session for our “Meet the Scientist” program.

On distributing vials of beach sand, he described the tools he employs for his research: remotely operated underwater vehicles, jet skis, quadrotor helicopters, waterproof and shock-proof cameras, and an app that he designed and built to monitor the habits of the threatened Piping Plover.

His slide presentations included photos of beaches from Spain to Hawaii to Cape Cod, as well as topics like “Animals use beaches, too,”  “Using drones to study beaches,” and “What’s under the sea?”

He also responded to the students’ questions (including “What’s the weirdest natural thing you’ve observed on a beach?”—Answer: “Traffic-cone-orange ghost crabs on the coastline of Colombia”) and, for the first time in his career, was asked for his autograph; see photo below.

Finally, he encouraged the students to create their own sand collections from Long Island Sound and the estuary, thus engaging and exciting the next generation of marine and estuarine scientists—starting right here at home.

RTPEC Board Member Donates Book Tour Proceeds to Center

Throughout September, Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center Board Member Sydney Williams has conducted a regional book tour of his new book, Notes from Old Lyme, Life on the Marsh and Other Essays. The book is a collection of essays, many of which touch on observations of the natural world, having lived near the estuary waters for 25 years. Williams donated proceeds of the book sales to the Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center and other groups.

He lived for 25 years on Smith’s Neck in Old Lyme, which abuts the lower marshes of the Connecticut River about a mile above Long Island Sound. It is a place where the waters meet, and the ospreys flourish. It is, he observed, an “eat or be eaten world,” filled with the “symbiotic life” of the New England salt marsh. A former Wall Street executive, from his tranquil perch at the tidal flux he grew to better understand the synergy in how it all works.  He noted the “100 shades of green” from a kayak and from his back yard.

William’s book is available on Amazon Books. 

Dock Proposed for Whalebone Cove Would Threaten Wildlife Habitat

Egret_on_CtRiverThe coves and marshes of the lower Connecticut River estuary are among the most valuable areas for wildlife in North America. The Connecticut Audubon Society opposes a plan to install a new dock in one of those coves, Whalebone Cove, in the Town of Lyme. Below is our letter, signed by Eleanor Robinson, the director of our Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center, in Old Lyme.

Planning and Zoning Commission
Town of Lyme
480 Hamburg Road
Lyme, CT 06371

The Connecticut Audubon Society, the state’s original and still independent Audubon organization, operates six conservation centers and 19 wildlife sanctuaries covering over 2,600 acres within the state. Among these is the newly-created Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center, in Old Lyme, named after the pioneering ornithologist and artist, who made his home in Old Lyme.

Connecticut Audubon works throughout the state to protect Connecticut’s birds and their habitats. We therefore join with the Friends of Whalebone Cove and others in opposing the application to build a new dock in Whalebone Cove.

The reasons are self-evident:

  • much of Whalebone Cove is part of the Silvio Conte National Wildlife Refuge; in fact, 26 acres on the Cove were added to the Refuge as recently as three years ago.
  • Whalebone Cove contains an extensive freshwater wild-rice tidal marsh, a rare and undisturbed habitat in Connecticut and absolutely crucial for migrating and breeding birds.
  • Whalebone Cove is a key part of the Lower Connecticut River Estuary, recognized by The Nature Conservancy as one of the “last great places” on earth, and identified as a wetland of international importance by the Ramsar International Convention on Wetlands.

Any significant additional development, such as the proposed dock, risks undermining the protections already afforded to the Cove while opening the door to further incursions.

We appreciate your attention and concern for this important aquatic habitat for birds and other wildlife, and understand that ultimately, what is needed is a coordinated inter-agency master plan for the long-term conservation of Whalebone Cove.


Eleanor Robinson
Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center

Citizen Scientists Find Thriving Osprey Population

Ospreys in Fairfield. Photo courtesy of Anastasia Zinkerman

Ospreys in Fairfield. Photo courtesy of Anastasia Zinkerman

March 8, 2016 – Connecticut’s Osprey population, which numbers at least 250 active nests, is thriving and healthy, and in all likelihood indicates that local rivers, lakes and Long Island Sound are clean enough to support ample fish for Ospreys to feed on.

In addition, the fish seem to be free of toxins that would harm Ospreys and reduce their breeding success, as happened in the middle of the 20th century because of DDT.

Those are the key conclusions of the Connecticut Audubon Society’s Osprey Nation report for 2015, which the organization released today to mark the start of the citizen science monitoring program’s 2016 season, its third.

Click to read the rest …

General Information

The Estuary

The Connecticut River estuary – where the Connecticut River meets Long Island Sound – is a showcase for biodiversity, serving as a fisheries nursery and an important nesting and migratory stopover for numerous birds. This bioregion is also renowned internationally for its history, arts, and recreational opportunities. Yet despite this recognition, this estuarine ecosystem lacks a major facility with a mission to focus on science, conservation, environmental education, and the arts. Connecticut Audubon Society’s recently created regional board aims to do precisely that.

The Center

The Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center will be dedicated to the following goals:

  • To study, monitor, and promote the health and sustainability of the estuary, its habitats, and the species that live there
  • To help young children, teenagers, and adults better understand the estuary and the ways they can connect to, and protect, this valuable yet fragile ecosystem
  • To demonstrate stewardship models for preserving specific habitats in the estuary—its grasslands, inland wetlands, woodlands, marshlands, and shoreline
  • To promote an understanding of the beauty of the estuary and its cultural heritage.

The Connecticut Audubon Society plans to create a center near the mouth of the river named for internationally renowned artist, scientific illustrator, environmental educator, and conservation advocate Roger Tory Peterson, who lived and worked in Old Lyme.

The Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center will:

  • Include a state-of-the-art field station for researching the dynamics of the estuary, its watershed, and its feeder tributaries
  • Forge partnerships with regional academic institutions and offer scientists access to the Connecticut River and the new field station
  • Implement science-based environmental curricula in local schools, through which accredited teachers will present a curriculum covering such topics as soils, sediment, and water; the watershed and its biodiversity; and migration and adaptation
  • Supplement classroom learning by offering children opportunities to carry out field and laboratory research
  • Include a nature center that will foster visitors’ appreciation of the estuary’s inherent value to human health and our quality of life
  • Hold forums and workshops at which scientists, representatives of local governments and organizations, and the general public can advocate for the preservation of the estuary
  • Provide residencies that explore the interrelationship of natural science, art, literature, technical writing, and photography.

“Roger Tory Peterson” is a registered trademark and its use is pursuant to license.


PO Box 62
Old Lyme, CT 06371

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