Estuary Exploration Locations
Saturday, April 6: The Preserve, Old Saybrook
We will kick off the 2019 Estuary Explorations field trip program at this newly protected 1,000-acre patchwork of forest and wetland. This gentle 3-mile hike will lead you through the heart of this uniquely large coastal forest and around the edges of Pequot Swamp Pond. The Preserve’s abundant vernal pools will be at their seasonal peak and full amphibian eggs such as Wood Frogs and Spotted Salamanders, and the first of the early spring ephemeral wildflowers will be poking up from the forest floor. After the conclusion of the walk, join us for a bite to eat at the rustic Scotch Plains Tavern.
Saturday, May 4: Banningwood Preserve, Lyme
Venture up the Connecticut River Valley and discover a rich variety of habitats on a gentle 2.5 –mile walk through the Lyme Land Conservation Trust’s 102-acre Banningwood Preserve in Lyme. The idyllic Roaring Brook (a tributary of Whalebone Cove) and its floodplain forest will be showcased, but upland fields and forested habitats will also be explored. In addition, natural and human history are interwoven at the Banningwood Preserve, as quarries used for the construction of Gillette’s Castle, now seasonally flooded, provide breeding habitat for Spotted Salamanders. Notable birds to expect include newly arrived migrants such as Louisiana Waterthrush, Worm-eating Warbler, Blue-winged Warbler, and Scarlet Tanager.
Thursday, June 20: Selden Creek, Lyme
Join us on a gentle 2-mile ecology hike through The Nature Conservancy’s Selden Creek Preserve in Lyme. Undulating gradually between mossy wetlands and dry oak and pine ridges, an unusually diverse variety of habitats will be encountered encountered while being serenaded by the flute-like songs of Wood Thrushes. This diverse mix provides vital habitats for a variety of plant life, as well as songbirds and shorebirds. Stone walls built in among the rock outcrops bear witness to the toil of Yankee farmers long ago. Bring a snack or drink to enjoy when we reach the highlight of the hike: a cliff-top clearing with a birds-eye view of the vast and intricate marshes of Selden Creek and the near-solstice sun setting behind Selden Island.
Saturday, July 20: Whalebone Cove, Hadlyme
Explore the maze of channels in Whalebone Cove by canoe or kayak on a three hour guided tour. This tidal, freshwater marsh is home to foraging ospreys, egrets, herons and marsh wrens. If the conditions are right, we may catch sight of Painted Turtles basking in the morning sun or a Snapping Turtle paddling below the yellow blooms of the Spatterdock lilies. Please provide your own canoe or kayak. Life jackets are required, and binoculars are strongly recommended.
Friday, August 23, 9 a.m. – noon
Hamburg Cove, Lyme
Scenic Hamburg Cove is the outlet of the Eightmile River, which is a federally designated Wild and Scenic River. After putting in at Reynolds’ Marina, we’ll explore upstream to the Joshuatown Road bridge, and then back down to the confluence with the Connecticut River. The abundant fish and aquatic wildlife will be the highlight, but the thickly forested shorelines also hold points of interest such as basking reptiles and perching birds. Please provide your own canoe or kayak. Life jackets are required, and binoculars are strongly recommended. After the paddle, bring a lunch or snack to enjoy while overlooking the cove from the terrace of Reynolds’ Subaru, and we’ll recap the morning’s discoveries.
Friday, September 6, 9 a.m. – noon,
Chatfield Hollow, Killingworth
This popular state park is known for its Native American and early settlement-period historical importance, but a more modern feature allows access to a rich but difficult-to-appreciate habitat: a wide and winding boardwalk through an extensive shrub swamp makes for a unique walk in the park, with opportunities to glimpse a Northern Waterthrush or Swamp Sparrow. Beyond the edge of the swamp, mature hardwood forest and striking topography of rock outcrops, cliffs, and caves makes every step of a moderately strenuous 2-mile hike unique.
Saturday, October 12, 9 a.m. – noon,
Oswegatchie Hills Nature Preserve, Niantic
Fall foliage will be on display in this moderately strenuous hike at this coastal forest that spans rocky ridge tops with stunted Pitch Pines and Bear Oaks to deep, rich soils hosting tall specimens of many species of Oaks, Hickories, Maples and Birch. In addition to forest types, this preserve boasts a diversity of wetland types, including red maple swamps, shrub swamps, and open water vernal pools, all of which support unique plants and animals. Depending on conditions, south-bound migrating birds may be on display.
Saturday, November 2, 9 a.m. – noon
Mt. Pisgah, Durham
Journey up the river to the south easterly-most headwaters of the Connecticut River to the Pitch Pine and Bear Oak-clad summit of Mt. Pisgah. Perched at 644 feet, this rocky summit offers fine views through the crisp mountain air to Durham Meadows and the Metacomet Ridge to the west. Various species of hawks, vultures and Common Ravens are easy to spot from this high vantage. Conservation biologist Jim Arrigoni will lead this moderately strenuous hike on the New England Trail through the Chalker Brook ravine and recount the history of charcoal production on this landscape that now supports hardwoods and the occasional Hemlock tree with Mountain Laurel and blooming Witch Hazel in the understory.