News & Visitor Information at the Coastal Center at Milford Point
Register Today for Summer Camp
Monday, June 10 – Friday, August 16
Capacity is limited and popular weeks sell out early, so reserve your sessions(s) now! Click here for complete information.
At the Coastal Center, the Purple Martins are thriving thanks to diligent management
July 10, 2019 – Five years after they were removed from the state’s list of threatened species, Purple Martins continue to thrive at Connecticut Audubon’s Coastal Center at Milford Point, with the number of hatchlings having essentially doubled since 2016.
Purple Martins – North America’s largest swallow – continue to be listed as a “special concern” species in Connecticut. But the dramatic increase shows that population gains are achievable with the kind of careful, diligent management work being undertaken at the Coastal Center and several other important locations in the state.
State wildlife biologists, Connecticut Audubon staff, and a handful of volunteers met at the Coastal Center on Tuesday, July 9, to attach tiny identifying bands to the legs of newly-hatched martins. The color-coded bands will eventually provide information about how the birds move throughout the region and occupy other martin colonies in future years.
Over three hours of work under a canopy on one of the Coastal Center’s observation platforms, the team banded 154 of the 159 birds that have hatched this year (five chicks were too young to band).
In 2015 through 2018, the numbers banded at the site were 79, 93, 107, and 128. In other words, from 2015 through this year, the number of young Purple Martins banded at the center has just about doubled.
The martins nest in a colony of man-made gourds at the edge of the Wheeler tidal marsh, near the Coastal Center’s parking lot. Michael Aurelia, a Connecticut Audubon Board member, works with Frank Mantlik, a member of the Coastal Center regional board, and Markus Bergvind, the Important Bird Area Coastal Ranger at Milford Point, to monitor and maintain the nests each week. This year, Purple Martins nested in 40 of the 71 gourds.
To watch a live stream of the birds nesting inside one of the gourds, click here.
With help from grants from the Connecticut Ornithological Association, Connecticut Audubon has added new gourds at the Milford Point colony in recent years. Patrick Comins, Connecticut Audubon’s executive director, said the extra nesting space probably helped attract new, younger birds from other colonies. As those birds grow older, they get better at hunting and raising chicks, which leads to more nestlings.
The bird-banding session was led by three wildlife biologists from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection – Laurie Fortin, Brian Hess, and Shannon Kearney. They weigh each baby bird (weights typically range from the mid 20s to the 50s, in milligrams), attempt to determine how old each bird is (about seven to 14 days, usually), and afix the identifying tags (orange indicates that the bird was banded at the Coastal Center).
Martins banded at the Coastal Center in previous years have been seen in New York and throughout much of New England.
The Milford Point colony is one the three most important of about 30 throughout the state. In eastern North America, Purple Martins rely almost completely on man-made nests. They need large, open areas to hunt the insects that make up their diet.
Until 2015, Purple Martins were listed as threatened in Connecticut. But the success of colonies throughout the state, and the discovery of colonies unknown to officials, prompted an improvement in its status to “special concern” – meaning that its population is still low, and its range and habitat are restricted, and that it still requires special efforts to maintain populations.
Connecticut Audubon focused on Purple Martins and other birds that hunt insects while flying in its 2013 Connecticut State of the Birds report, “The Seventh Habitat and the Decline of Our Aerial Insectivores.”
In an article in the report, John Tauntin, executive director of the Purple Martin Conservation Association, noted that continent-wide the martin population has been stable for the last half-century. But the population in the states and Canadian provinces bordering the Great Lakes, and in New England, has declined significantly, for reasons that aren’t clear.
“Regardless of the reasons for the declines,” he wrote, “recruiting more people to provide high-quality, well-managed housing is key to restoring Purple Martin housing.”
Among the other successful colonies in Connecticut are those at Sherwood Island and Hammonasset Beach state parks. Connecticut Audubon erected martin gourds last year at its Deer Pond Farm preserve in Sherman and although martins have visited none have nested there yet.
Press Release – Fairfield Resident Joins Connecticut Audubon Society as Director in Milford Point and Fairfield
October 1, 2018 – The Connecticut Audubon Society has named Shari Greenblatt as its new Southwest Regional Director, responsible for leading two of its busiest centers in Fairfield and Milford, as well as the historic Birdcraft Museum and Sanctuary in Fairfield.
For each center, Greenblatt will oversee operations and year-round staff, as well as seasonal naturalist educators. With their adjoining wildlife sanctuaries, the centers in Fairfield and Milford are key locations for Connecticut Audubon’s award-winning Science in Nature outdoor education programs, as well as for busy summer day camps, bird walks, lectures and other activities.
Greenblatt is a seasoned non-profit professional with more than 20 years of experience in fundraising and project management. She comes to Connecticut Audubon from the Special Projects Department of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), one of the country’s leading international environmental organizations. (more…)
Return of the Osprey Fundraiser Supports Long Island Sound Conservation & Honors Dedicated Community Partners
Local rite of spring honored Milford resident Carol Dunn and Wakefern Food Corp./Shoprite/Garafalo Markets for their contributions to local environmental sustainability
Against a backdrop of the sun setting over the 840-acre Charles Wheeler Wildlife Management Area, the Connecticut Audubon Society’s Coastal Center in Milford hosted its annual Return of the Osprey event, Saturday, April 13. The sold-out gathering is the largest yearly fundraising event at the Center. It supports the Center’s work to promote awareness and preservation of Long Island Sound’s ecosystem, and the conservation and environmental education programs and activities offered throughout the year.
After a warm welcome from Connecticut Audubon’s Southwest Regional Director Shari Greenblatt, a highlight of the evening was the recognition of key community contributors to the Center’s efforts. Connecticut Audubon Executive Director Patrick Comins presented the Volunteer Appreciation Award to Carol Dunn who has been actively involved with the organization for 22 years. Dunn serves on the Milford Regional Board, is a docent, and since 1994 has been monitoring 20+ Osprey nests for Connecticut’s DEEP. She is also responsible for the installation and monitoring of monofilament collection bins, including one at the Center. “Carol is one of the biggest supporters and protectors of Osprey, and a truly dedicated citizen scientist,” stated Comins.
The Corporate Recognition Award was presented to Harry Garafalo of Wakefern Food Corp./Shoprite/Garafalo Markets. Wakefern/Shoprite and Harry Garafalo have been supportive of the Center and the Return of the Osprey event for many years. “In addition to ShopRite’s sponsorship of this event, we are grateful to their employees who come every year for a volunteer workday at the Center,” said Comins. “Their commitment to sustainability makes them valuable environmental partners in this community. And their leadership and support inspires many others to share that awareness of, and dedication to, environmental stewardship and conservation.”
Volunteers Refresh Coastal Center Gardens and Trails
Volunteers transformed the grounds of the Coastal Center during a Sunday outdoor community service day. An energetic Milford ShopRite Team Green and volunteers from Apple Inc.’s Trumbull office, tackled a wide variety of projects to clear and refresh the gardens and trails, with results that will benefit resident wildlife and seasonal visitors of all kinds.
In just one day they:
• created a milkweed garden for our “Help the Monarchs” program
• weeded, edged, and mulched the pollinator garden
• created a new raised bed flower garden at the kiosk area
• cleared and replanted the front entrance flower garden
• raked horse chestnuts and composted leaves
• cleared and rotated the compost bin
• cleared trails and pruned hedges
• trimmed low-lying branches near parking area and building
• removed large invasive shrubs and small trees in areas
• built new brush piles to create protective habitats for small critters
• cleaned windows
Thanks to their time and efforts, so much was accomplished.
Many Reasons to Visit the Coastal Center at Milford Point!
The Connecticut Audubon Society’s Coastal Center at Milford Point has much to offer for both members and the general public. Whether you come for a specific event, educational program, or just stop by to visit the sanctuary, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views and a wealth of information about birds and habitat of Long Island Sound’s ecosystem.
This video was taken at last year’s Sunset Sips member event at the Coastal Center. We invite you to become a member and join us there! (Video made by Joelle Schrock.)
For other ways to support the conservation of Connecticut’s environment through science-based education and advocacy, click here.
Connecticut Audubon Society’s Coastal Center at Milford Point is located on an 8.4-acre barrier beach, next to the 840-acre Charles Wheeler Salt Marsh and Wildlife Management Area at the mouth of the Housatonic River.
The Coastal Center promotes the awareness and preservation of Long Island Sound’s ecosystem, and the birds and habitats it supports. Visitors to the center have access to the Sound and to tidal salt marshes, barrier beaches, tide pools, and coastal dunes.
The Coastal Center is a bird-watcher’s paradise – 315 species have been seen here, including many rarities.
We offer a full range of educational programs and events for families, children, and adults.
The Coastal Center provides educational exhibits, a tide pool demonstration tank, a salt-marsh laboratory, and program and meeting rooms.
The Coastal Center’s grounds encompass the 8-acre Smith-Hubbell Wildlife Refuge and Bird Sanctuary, a boardwalk and three other observation platforms, including a 70-foot covered tower for panoramic vistas.
Viewers from around the world watch the Center’s seasonal Osprey Cam, operated from our 18-foot tall nesting platform.