Connecticut Audbon Society


Ecological Expeditions Monthly Program Descriptions

Welcome to Ecological Expeditions!
This unique program combines in-depth environmental science with insightful explorations and hands-on experiences in some of the most special protected areas in southeastern Connecticut.

Vernal Pool Ecology
Saturday, April 11; 9-11:30 a.m.
The Preserve, Old Saybrook
Optional indoor presentation on Wednesday, April 8, 7-8 p.m. at RTP Estuary Center

Long before the trees leaf out and the tropical birds arrive, life is already bustling beneath the water’s surface of vernal pools. These woodland wetlands are breeding habitat for Spotted Salamanders and Wood Frogs as well as a surprising diversity of invertebrates. With the aid of a net and magnification devices, we’ll get a glimpse of the rich variety of vernal pool life. The Preserve provides the perfect backdrop, as the 38 vernal pools were key to the successful protection of this 1,000-acre forest. Terrain is gentle, but trails are muddy in spots; waterproof footwear is recommended.

To register for this month click here

Spring Bird Migration
Saturday, May 23; 9-11:30 a.m.
Watch Rock Preserve, Old Lyme
Optional indoor presentation on Wednesday, May 20; 7-8 p.m at RTP Estuary Center

The easily overlooked 25-acre Watch Rock Preserve may be small, but it packs in a diverse variety of habitats including tidal marsh, meadow and rocky shoreline. That in combination with its location near the mouth of the Connecticut River make it an ideal location to search and listen for birds that are passing through on migration or setting up territories to raise a family. We will also be on the lookout for spring wildflowers like Painted Trillium and Trout Lily. Binoculars and spotting scopes will be available, plus we’ll review some of the popular field guides, birding apps, and tools for birding by ear. Terrain is very gentle.

To register for this month click here

Summer Solstice Evening Hike
Saturday, June 20; 6-8:30 p.m. *Please note time*
Selden Creek Preserve, Lyme
Optional indoor presentation on Wednesday, June 17; 7-8 p.m at RTP Estuary Center

It has long been known that “to everything there is a season,” but why? Changing day length drives many seasonal patterns in nature, and this marks the day when we turn the corner from day lengths getting longer to shorter. Celebrate the solstice at the spectacular Selden Creek Preserve, where we’ll watch the sun set from a cliff overlooking the largest island in the Connecticut. Along the way, we’ll see examples of how the passage of the season affects plants, wildlife, and ecosystems such as upland forest and forested wetlands. Terrain is gentle-to-moderate.

To register for this month click here

Tidal Freshwater Ecology Paddle
Saturday, July 11; 9-11:30 a.m.
Whalebone Cove, Hadlyme
Optional indoor presentation on Wednesday, July 8; 7-8 p.m at RTP Estuary Center

The tidal freshwater marshes flanking the lower Connecticut River are among the most interesting environments to explore, and for this outing, we’ll launch kayaks and canoes from the Hadlyme Ferry Landing on the Connecticut River. The maze-like channels of this picturesque cove provide habitat for beaver, waterfowl, and turtles, and more obscure life forms like bryozoans and freshwater mussels lurk beneath the water’s surface. Underpinning much of this ecological productivity is the hidden and unsung hero, submerged aquatic vegetation! More than just “seaweed,” different species have different value as food for waterfowl or cover for tiny fish, which we’ll discover as we collect and identify specimens. Must bring your own canoe or kayak, paddle, and personal flotation device.

To register for this month click here

Forest Ecosystem Hike
Saturday, August 22; 9-11:30 a.m.
Canfield-Meadow Woods, Essex
Optional indoor presentation on Wednesday, August 19; 7-8 p.m at RTP Estuary Center

We all know what it means to be a healthy person, but how can you tell if you are in a healthy forest? A forester, an ecologist, and a hiker will likely give different answers based on their perspectives. This is an important question for land owners to consider because it will guide choices in how they make manage decisions. We’ll consider how factors like land-use history and insect pest outbreaks shape the forests around us, and use a variety of tools with which scientists measure different attributes of the forest in the same way your doctor collects different kinds of information about you during a physical. Terrain is gentle-to-moderate.

                                                                          To register for this month click here

River Health Investigation
Saturday, September 5; 9-11:30 a.m.

Banningwood Preserve, Lyme
Optional indoor presentation on Wednesday, September 2; 7-8 p.m at RTP Estuary Center

America’s rivers have greatly improved since the Clean Water Act was passed “to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation’s waters.” Using Roaring Brook and its intact floodplain as an example, we’ll use a variety of instruments to give meaning to this much investigated and debated definition of integrity. We’ll discover how the rich and abundant diversity of invertebrates living on and within the stream bottom can provide exacting information about water and habitat quality, and why a beaver dam is good but a mill dam is not. You will never look at a stream in the same way again! Terrain is gentle.

To register for this month click here

Low Tide Exploration
Saturday, October 10; 9-11:30 a.m.
Griswold Point, Old Lyme
Optional indoor presentation on Wednesday, October 7; 7-8 p.m at RTP Estuary Center

This spit of land in the utmost corner of Old Lyme is accessible by foot during low tide, the same time that the shorebirds congregate to feed in the mudflats. On warm October days, countless Monarch Butterflies can be spotted taking in one last sip of nectar from the brilliant yellow Seaside Goldenrod blooms before venturing across Long Island Sound on their southern migration to Mexico. In addition to exploring the dynamic coastline and its hardy plants, we’ll seine for fish in the salt water. Terrain is gentle; recommended footwear is sandals or another choice that you don’t mind getting wet.

                                                                        To register for this month click here

Autumn Forest Ecology
Saturday, November 14; 9-11:30 a.m.
Oswegatchie Hills, Niantic
Optional indoor presentation on Wednesday, November 11; 7-8 p.m at RTP Estuary Center

Our last outing of the year will explore the undulating hills and boggy hollows of this 457-acre preserve. Many of the hilltops are dominated by dwarf Pitch Pines (also known as Candlewood) and scrub Bear Oaks, a declining ecosystem in the state. The trees will have lost their leaves, but abundant cover remains in the form of thick undergrowth of Mountain Laurel throughout the forest. We’ll explore the ways animals prepare for the winter season ahead, and discuss ways that people might responsibly assist them. Terrain is moderate.

To register for this month click here


The RTPEC frequently uses open space and land trust properties that are open to the public without fee.  The land trusts permit our use of these properties and receives no part of any fee collected by the RTPEC






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