Hartford 2013: Some Good Results, Some Not So Good
The 2013 legislative session in Hartford started full of promise, particularly on the issue of pesticide regulations, but ended in early June with mixed results.
Two bills supported by Connecticut Audubon Society passed the General Assembly, and four we supported died. But three bills that we opposed died as well, making for a year of some good and some disappointing outcomes for our agenda.
Our attention was largely focused on legislation to restrict the use of pesticides. Our Connecticut state of the Birds 2013 report, “The Seventh Habitat and the Decline of Our Aerial Insectivores,” released in February, suggested that pesticides might be one of the reasons that the population of aerial insectivores has fallen so dramatically since the 1960s. Aerial insectivores are birds that eat only bugs they catch on the wing.
One pesticide bill we supported passed but three others went nowhere because of an attempt by legislators to compromise with the pro-pesticide lobby (a compromise that also fell flat).
The pesticide bill that passed restricts the use of two mosquito poisons, methoprene and resmethrin, in the coastal area (House Bill 6441). We supported the bill because we believe there are safer alternatives for controlling mosquitoes.
The pesticide bills that failed would have restricted the use of lawn pesticides in parks and schools (Senate Bill 914, HB 981); and would have given local governments the authority to enact stricter pesticide regulations than the existing state regulations (HB 6440).
Early in the session, legislators who support stronger pesticide regulations were convinced that pro-pesticide groups were amassing the votes to overturn an existing ban on lawn pesticides on school grounds. To head that off, a compromise was reached to pass a bill forming a task force to study the pesticide issue. But the task force bill failed as well.
We expect to continue to work in 2014 to pass bills that restrict pesticide use.
Habitat Improvement: Clean Water, Deer, Open Space
We supported an act that authorizes $997.4 million over the next two years for the state’s Clean Water Fund, which provides money for wastewater treatment upgrades, among other things. Cleaning up Long Island Sound and the state’s rivers provides many obvious benefits, including improving habitat for birds, fish and other wildlife.
A bill we suported that would have allowed deer hunting with bow and arrow on Sunday did not make it out of the Environment Committee. Deer are causing significant damage to wildlife habitat by over-browsing the forest understory needed by many birds, including Ovenbird, Eastern Towhee and Ruffed Grouse. We supported the bow hunting bill as a way to reduce the state’s deer herd, thereby giving the forest a chance to re-generate.
We opposed a provision of an education bill that would have earmarked money in the Community Investment Act for a new “healthy foods” initiative for school children. The initiative may have been worthwhile but paying for it with Community Investment Act money was a bad idea.
The Community Investment Act provides funding for open space, historic preservation, affordable housing and brownfields remediation. Skimming $4 million a year from it for the healthy foods initiative would have meant that much less money for those other needs. The education bill passed but without the healthy foods section, which we consider a good outcome..
Finally, we opposed two bills that would have made it easier to build structures such as sea walls on the coast without a permit. Poorly planned sea walls in bad locations can cause significant beach and coastal erosion. We manage two important coastal habitat areas that would certainly be damaged by nearby seawalls, but more broadly we are in favor of protecting natural habitat along the shore.
With Summer Approaching, the Audubon Alliance Asks You to Share the Beach with Piping Plovers, Least Terns and Other Birds
May 2013 – A team of volunteers will be heading to Connecticut’s beaches starting Memorial Day weekend to monitor nest sites of vulnerable birds and help educate beach-goers about how they can help keep the birds safe.
The volunteers are working with the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds to protect Piping Plovers, Least Terns, Common Terns, American Oystercatchers and other species that nest along the heavily-used beaches and islands of Long Island Sound.
The volunteers will be keeping their eyes on known nest sites, telling visitors why it’s important that they and their dogs stay clear of the nesting areas, and explaining the federal laws designed to protect the birds.
Among other places, the beach monitors will be at Connecticut Audubon Society’s Milford Point Coastal Center, Long Beach in Stratford, Sandy and Morse points in West Haven, Griswold Point in Old Lyme, and Bluff Point State Park in Groton.
Piping Plovers are listed as threatened species under both the federal and Connecticut Endangered Species Acts; Least Terns are threatened in Connecticut. Their nesting success in Connecticut has fluctuated over the years, but even in good years they are not abundant.
The Audubon Alliance is a partnership between Audubon Connecticut (the state office of the National Audubon Society) and Connecticut Audubon Society.
Both Audubon organizations have worked extensively to conserve and improve wildlife habitats on Long Island Sound. The Alliance project supports and expands habitat protection efforts by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Coastal Program. The Connecticut DEEP publishes a complete report on the state’s beach-nesting birds, called “From the Shore,” which you can read here.
In addition to actively protecting nest sites, the Alliance works to let people know that there is room on Connecticut’s beaches for both people and birds. The goal is to make visitors aware of the presence of the vulnerable birds and to take care not to disturb them.
That’s an important message because not only do plovers and terns nest right on the beach, their nests are difficult to see and therefore easy to step on accidentally.
Piping Plover nests, for example, are little more than depressions scraped into the sand; the eggs look like beach stones. Most known Piping Plover nests are fenced off and marked by signs. But as people, dogs or predators like raccoons approach, incubating adult birds flee the nest to draw attention from it; if they are away for too long, eggs can become too cool or too hot and therefore not viable.
Once young birds leave the nest they range widely. But because they are small, they are vulnerable to being stepped on, killed by dogs, or separated for too long from their parents. Predators can also easily eat recently-fledged young.
Least Terns nest in colonies in remote areas of beaches and sandbars, and like Piping Plovers they are protected by federal and state laws.
It is illegal to kill, injure, harass or otherwise interfere with Piping Plovers, Least Terns and other birds listed as endangered or threatened. Even accidentally stepping on one, or on a nest, requires an investigation and possible legal action by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Audubon Alliance monitors are obligated to report potential offenses to the authorities.
This year, Piping Plovers are nesting at Sandy Point/Morse Point in West Haven, Milford Point, Bluff Point, and Griswold Point in Old Lyme.
In 2012, 51 pairs of Piping Plovers fledged 60 young in Connecticut. In 2011, 52 pairs of Piping Plovers fledged 71 young in Connecticut. The 52 nests were the highest in the last 22 years but the 71 young represented a drop from 102, 74 and 82 during the three previous years.
In 2012, 350 pairs of Least Terns fledged 165 young.
In 2011, 359 pairs of Least Terns fledged 124 young (high tides associated with storms washed away a number of nests in both years). Overall, the number of Least Tern nests is down from well over 600 two decades ago.
Let the Birdies Fly 2013 Golf Tournament
Let the Birdies Fly!
Save the Date for
Connecticut Audubon Society’s
10th Annual Golf Tournament
Monday, September 23, 2013
TPC River Highlands
Join us for a great event to support Connecticut Audubon Society’s mission of conserving Connecticut’s environment through science-based education and advocacy focused on birds and their habitats.
For tickets and sponsorship opportunities, click here.
Or for more information, please email Irene Kiszkurno at email@example.com.
Click here for the 2013 Let the Birdies Fly brochure.
Connecticut’s Best Nature Sanctuaries, Chosen by Yankee Magazine: Bafflin & Trail Wood
Like good parents, we don’t make judgments about which of our 19 sanctuaries are better than the others. We love them all. But that doesn’t mean others can’t render a judgment.
The editors of Yankee Magazine have done just that, choosing Trail Wood and the Bafflin Sanctuary, in northeast Connecticut, as the Best Nature Sanctuaries in the state, in Yankee’s May-June 2013 “Best of New England” issue.
There is no better time to visit these beautiful sanctuaries. Breeding birds are setting up territories and filling the air with song. Wildflowers are in bloom. And the miles of trails are in great shape and ready for hikers.
The Bafflin Sanctuary, which surrounds our Grassland Bird Conservation Center at Pomfret, covers 702 acres and has 10 miles of walking trails, so you can wander for a while. Bafflin is known for its meadow and early successional habitat, and for the increasingly hard-to-find birds that rely on it, including Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark and American Kestrel.
Trail Wood, in Hampton, is the former home of writer-naturalist Edwin Way Teale, whose 31 books includes A Naturalist Buys an Old Farm, the story of how Teale and his wife Nellie found and bought Trail Wood. The sanctuary covers 168 acres.
Go on your own or consider coming for one of the many guided bird walks and follow it with a Lori McKenna concert on Friday June 7 or the Center at Pomfret’s 14th Annual Owl Garden Party on Thursday, June 13, at 6 p.m. (lots of fantastic local food and wine).
Yankee Magazine is on newstands, or click here for a digital copy.
The male showed up on March 22, his usual arrival time, and just after we repaired the platform and camera damage caused by the fall and winter storms. Oddly, the female didn’t show up until a week later, on March 29, more than five days after her usual arrival time.
You can view the Ospreys live throughout the nesting season by clicking here. A recent upgrade now allows you to view the Osprey Cam on your tablet, phone or other device.
News Release: Connecticut State of the Birds 2013 – Long-term Population Decline is Decimating Aerial Insectivores
Fairfield, Ct., Feb. 22, 2013 – Concerned with the dramatic decline of 17 species of birds that nest in Connecticut and eat only insects caught while flying, Connecticut Audubon Society today called for a multi-agency program of research and assessment along with immediate remedies such as cuts in pesticide use and the creation of man-made nesting sites.
The recommendations and action plan are contained in the Connecticut State of the Birds 2013 report, “The Seventh Habitat and the Decline of Our Aerial Insectivores.” Released annually since 2006 by Connecticut Audubon Society, Connecticut State of the Birds has become the leading research-based assessment of conservation conditions in the state.
Read the rest of the news release here… You will also find a link to the report, links to news coverage, and a video of the news conference.
Register Now for Summer Camp
Connecticut Audubon Society camps provide outdoor adventure and hands-on nature activities that encourage children ages 3- 15 to develop a respect for the natural world.
Center at Fairfield or Birdcraft Sanctuary:
To register click here.
Milford Point Coastal Center:
To register click here.
Center at Pomfret:
To register, download the camp brochure here.
3M Eco Grant Enables Connecticut Audubon Society To Teach Outdoor Conservation Education to 650 Meriden Public School Students
MERIDEN, CT., January 14, 2013 – Connecticut Audubon Society has been awarded a $49,000 3M Eco Grant to bring its innovative Science In Nature outdoor education program to approximately 650 Meriden public school students.
The program will be conducted at Connecticut Audubon’s Center at Glastonbury, where the Meriden students will spend 8 hours in the field over two days, participating in hands-on outdoor learning about geology and weather and climate. The school district’s 4th graders will participate this spring; the program will carry over to the fall, when this year’s 4th graders are in 5th grade.
Science In Nature is Connecticut Audubon Society’s flagship education program and the prime vehicle for carrying out the organization’s mission of providing science-based conservation education. Using state and national standards for science, math and literacy, it was inaugurated in 2012 and has served students in public and private schools in Bridgeport, Fairfield and Trumbull.
The Meriden students will use cutting-edge scientific technology to collect data such as air and soil temperature, wind speed, and soil moisture. They will study soil types and the rock cycle, observe how erosion shapes landscapes, and how plants and animals respond to changes in weather and climate.
To read more, click here…
The John Patrick Flanagan Trail Blazers Program Brings Kids to the Woods
Exploring in the woods is fun, exciting and provides endless opportunities to learn. The John Patrick Flanagan Trail Blazers program incorporates the best of adventure while meeting required state science standards. The Bridgeport Public School students participating in this unique program are largely from Title 1 schools where the majority of students qualify for free lunch. If this program did not exist, likely these students would only see nature through digital and printed media.
The Trail Blazers program brings students from the Bridgeport schools to the Society’s Center at Fairfield with the goal of provide them a safe and educational experience in nature. With 155 acres to explore at the Center at Fairfield, nature becomes more than a wooded lot; it becomes an experience. Children meet the inhabitants, like turtles, frogs, chipmunks and the occasional barred owl while participating in a hands-on science learning experience. Over 1,000 children from Bridgeport’s schools have participated in this program since its inception in 2010.
The State of Connecticut requires science teachers to meet certain Core Curriculum Standards. The John Patrick Flanagan Trail Blazers program not only brings children from the city to explore nature, but it also helps these science teachers meet state science standards.
The John Patrick Flanagan Trail Blazers Program is sponsored by the John Patrick Flanagan Foundation (JPFF). The John Patrick Flanagan Foundation helps vulnerable children and families by supporting charities that provide the direction, education and healthy environment that children and families need to have the opportunity to reach their full potential. Please visit www.jpff.org to learn more about the John Patrick Flanagan Foundation.
Hurricane Sandy “Rapid Assessment” Study Finds Significant Habitat Damage from Virginia to Massachusetts, Including Connecticut
Participating Conservation Scientists from Connecticut Audubon Society Reviewed Six Critical Habitats Along the State’s Coast and Found Major Erosion that Could Hinder Vulnerable Coastal Breeding Birds
January 10, 2013 – In the days after Hurricane Sandy hit the coast, Connecticut Audubon Society’s conservation staff made field visits to six important habitats in the state and assessed the damage to the nesting areas of vulnerable birds such as Piping Plovers and Least Terns.
Conducted in conjunction with the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbird Conservation initiative, the work was included in a report issued today by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, titled “Hurricane Sandy Rapid Assessment.”
Read more here…