Connecticut Audbon Society
Center at Fairfield

Coastal Center at Milford Point

News & Visitor Information at the Coastal Center at Milford Point

To Protect Beach Birds, the Coastal Center Parking Lot Will Be Closed for the Fourth of July Weekend

Baby Piping Plovers, like this one photographed at the Coastal Center in early June, are vulnerable to the crowds and noise on Fourth of July weekend. Photo by Patrick Comins.

July 1, 2020 — Life for Connecticut’s beach-nesting birds gets a lot tougher over Fourth of July weekend.

Beaches tend to be gathering places for fireworks users and bigger crowds than usual on holidays. The noise and the crowds are incredibly disruptive to adult birds and their chicks.

We’re going to try to minimize the harm where we can — by closing the parking lot at the Milford Point Coastal Center for the weekend.

Milford Point is of course a nature preserve and not appropriate for typical beach recreational activities.

The gates will be locked from 4 p.m. Thursday, July 2, until 9 a.m. Monday, July 6.

You may remember that we’ve done this in previous years. We know it might be an inconvenience — thank you for understanding.

Piping Plovers are a federally-threatened species. Least Terns and American Oystercatchers are threatened in the state, and Common Terns are a species of special concern. All of those nest at Milford Point and as it is 2020 is already a tough year for them.

Concerns for the safety of staff and volunteers has meant that the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds has spent less time on the beach erecting the fencing that helps keep animal predators away and warns birders and other visitors to keep their distance.

After several years when near-record numbers of threatened Piping Plovers hatched, this year might not be as successful.

Keeping people off the beach for the Fourth of July weekend will help those birds survive.

Because of concerns about COVID-19, the Center building is closed and all indoor programs are cancelled until further notice. In-person summer camp has been cancelled. For our summer camp alternative, click here. Connecticut Audubon sanctuaries are open for hiking. Please keep a distance of at least 6 feet from other hikers and birders. We will be continually re-evaluating the situation and make decisions accordingly. 


Connecticut Audubon Adventures: The “Not So Bummer” Summer

Weekly Sessions Available
Monday, June 15 through Friday, August 21
9 a.m. – Noon

To view all the details, including descriptions of weekly topics, a program FAQ and how to register, click here.

We’re going virtual this year with Connecticut Audubon Adventures: The “Not So Bummer” Summer! This unique camp alternative offers interactive, live, nature-themed explorations and activities for ages 6 through 10. The program of online and outdoor adventures, designed and run by Connecticut Audubon’s highly experienced team of summer camp directors and educators, is a great way for kids to have fun at home this summer while connecting with the natural world.

The time-tested camp programs, adapted for online and backyards, will spark curiosity and sharpen thinking skills through experimentation, exploration, art and citizen science. There will be many opportunities throughout to share findings and socialize with others.

Different themes each week keep the program fresh and appealing to many interests. Past Connecticut Audubon favorites such as Fantastic Flyers and Wacky Water Wonders are offered along with new ones like Nosy Neighbors and Digging In. For all subjects, a good balance of engaging hands-on activities, combined with investigative STEAM learning, ensure it will be the solution to a “not so bummer” summer experience that exercises minds while having fun.

For ages 6 – 10. Members $150 per week, Non-members $175 per week. Discounted pricing available for additional sibling(s) or if registering for five weeks, or all season.

To view all the details, including descriptions of weekly topics, a program FAQ and how to register, click here.

Registrations will be accepted up until Sunday at noon, the day before the session begins.

If you have additional questions please email


Adopt a Purple Martin Gourd

Martins perching on June 26, 2020. Photo © Frank Mantlik

July 29, 2020 — Play a direct roles in conservation by adopting a Purple Martin gourd!

Your adoption will help maintain the structures and support the staff effort to monitor and clean the nests each week — essential tasks for protecting Purple Martins.

Supporting the colony also makes a great gift for members of your family or friends!

The cost is only $60 per gourd. Click here to adopt your gourd today!

Here’s what supporters of the project are saying:




” Thank you! It is wonderful to see the terrific report and photos. Really appreciate all your hard work!
Carol D.”

Purple Martins have declined in many areas nationwide, including Connecticut and New England. According to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, competition with invasive House Sparrows and Starlings for nesting space, and pesticides poisoning their food supply, are contributors to their decline. They are considered a Threatened Species in Connecticut.

The team at work checking, cleaning and keeping records at the colony. Photo © Frank Mantlik


Purple Martins are completely dependent on human-made structures, either boxes or gourds, for their survival. Our colony is the third largest in Connecticut, and last year we had the most successful year with 170 chicks fledging!

When you adopt a gourd, a numbered gourd will be assigned to you. A paper gourd with your name (or a name you indicate on the registration) will be hung in the windows at the Coastal Center.

Purple Martin supporters receive weekly updates about the gourds, the status of the nests being built in them and a copy of the end-of-season report.


What to do with “abandoned” or “orphaned” birds

The best advice is to leave baby birds, like this Purple Martin, when you found them. Photo by Stephanie Galea/The Connecticut Audubon Society

The CT DEEP has excellent advice for what to do if you find an “orphaned” bird. Click this link. Photo by Stephanie Galea/The Connecticut Audubon Society

May 6, 2020 — Have you found an abandoned bird?

Birds and other wildlife that seem to be abandoned or orphaned at this time of year often are not actually abandoned orphaned.

The Connecticut DEEP has advice about what to do if you find a bird that you think is abandoned. There are several alternatives.

Click here to learn about them.

Please do not bring injured or orphaned animals to any Connecticut Audubon Society facility. Connecticut Audubon is not authorized to accept injured or abandoned animals.

But if it is obviously injured, it may need help. The CT DEEP has more information here about dealing with distressed wildlife.


Mobile App

Explore our centers and sanctuaries on your mobile device

Soar through our centers and sanctuaries with this free app, which highlights unique and interesting features at each stop. Take one of our tours while you’re onsite or plan ahead with detailed directions and maps to your nearest Connecticut Audubon location.

Features include:

  • Tours of our Centers and Sanctuaries
  • Bird IDs with photos and descriptions
  • Tips on how to create a native garden for birds and pollinators
  • Interactive maps



For Android and other non-Apple devices, visit the web-based app. Software platform © Cuseum, Inc.


This App was made possible by Planet Fuel Charitable Fund.

At the Coastal Center, the Purple Martins are thriving thanks to diligent management

Frank Mantlik, Markus Bergvind, and Milan Bull preparing to remove baby Purple Martins from their nests. Connecticut Audubon photo by Patrick Comins.

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.

CT DEEP staff weighing, ageing, and banding baby Purple Martins. Photo by Frank Mantlik.

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.”

A Purple Martin about to eat a dragonfly. Connecticut Audubon photo by Patrick Comins.

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.

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

Photos by Lori Romick

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. 


General Information

The boardwalk leading to the Sound. Photo courtesy of Anthony Donofrio.

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.





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