News & Visitor Information at the Center at Fairfield
Winter Bird Feeding
Movement. Color, drama and song…see it all at your backyard bird feeder! During the winter months the lush, berry-laden vegetation of summer and fall has become less abundant, and insects have either died or become dormant. Birds may find it especially challenging to find food on days of extreme cold temperatures. To survive, nonmigratory songbirds shift their diets to fruits and seeds. This is the time when it is particularly important to fill feeders and keep them filled. Most birds that stay in the area during the winter are seed eaters. To maximize the number of species that visit your feeders, you’ll want to offer a variety of seed. Specific feeders are designed for specific seeds so be sure you have the correct seed for your feeders.
Bird Seed Choices
Birds need extra energy and fat reserves to keep warm and sustain life during the winter’s cold and food-scarce conditions. During the day, birds spend their time eating continuously so they will have enough calories to burn to keep them warm during the night. While most people don’t want a lot of fat in their diet, fat provides an excellent source of energy for birds. Suet and seeds high in fat such as sunflower seeds and nut blends are excellent choices to offer at your feeder. The seeds that attract the greatest number of species are black-oil sunflower. These seeds have a high meat-to shell ratio, they are nutritious and high in fat, and their small size and thin shells make them easy for small birds to handle and crack. Safflower seeds are another good choice, and an added bonus is that squirrels and grackles, blue jays and starlings don’t like it! Or choose a mixed seed like Lyric Supreme which is a premium, all-around bird seed mix to attract the greatest variety of birds including cardinals, finches, woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, juncos, and pine siskins.
In the winter it is particularly difficult for birds to find unfrozen water. Birds need water not only to drink but also to bathe in – clean feathers provide the best insulation. Providing a dependable supply of fresh water will even attract birds to your yard that wouldn’t ordinarily come to your feeders. If you want to keep your bird bath free of ice, you can buy a bird bath heater or heated bird bath that you plug in. Another option is to paint the inside of your bird bath flat black (with a toxic-free/food-safe paint) and place it in a sunny place out of the wind. You’ll be surprised how long it stays ice free!
Where to Place Your Feeder
The best place to put your feeder for the winter is anywhere that has some shield from gusty winter winds. Feeders should be placed in a sunny area about 8 – 10 feet from shrubs or evergreens where birds can find shelter from inclement weather and easily see predators. Birds have distinct preferences for heights and types of feeders, so place your feeders in different locations around your yard to reduce overcrowding. If all your feeders are in one area, a dominant species will keep the others away. When starting up a feeding program, be patient. It may take as long as several weeks before the birds discover your feeders.
Parents Recognize Connecticut Audubon as One of the Top 20 Places to Take Kids
Once again, Connecticut Audubon made the list of favorite destinations in the state for children and families. In this year’s 2023 KidsOutAndAbout.com annual readers’ survey — out of dozens of choices — The Connecticut Audubon Society came in at #9 by parents voting in Fairfield County!
This recognition shows how Connecticut Audubon’s environmental education activities and programs are valued for the fun, engaging ways they teach all ages about the natural world, and for building an appreciation and awareness of preserving the environment for future generations.
Thank you to all who voted and support us in educating over 100,000 children and adults annually at our centers, as well as our management of 22 wildlife sanctuaries encompassing over 3,400 acres of open space in Connecticut.
Center at Fairfield is Thankful for Lobby Refresh
“Even castles in the sky can do with a fresh coat of paint” -Haruki Murakami
If you’ve stopped by our Center at Fairfield recently, you might have noticed things are looking a little spiffier. Thanks to the generous donation from the Ring’s End Paint Center earlier this year, we were able to transform our front lobby, main room and library with a fresh coat of neutral color.
We were lucky to hire Ryan SanAngelo as our painter. Ryan also happens to be a beloved local musician and children’s book author, and his dedication and attention to detail were greatly appreciated – especially in managing the high ceilings in our great room!
Built in the 1960s, the Center at Fairfield has been the hub of our region’s educational programs ever since. Each year we average over 10,000 visitors who come to hike the Larsen Sanctuary, see the Birds of Prey Aviary or participate in one of our programs. Many also stop in the Nature Store and stroll through the lobby to visit our resident animals.
Thanks to Ryan and Ring’s End, our Center looks bright and beautiful. We hope you’ll stop by soon for a visit!
Spring Gala Raises Awareness and Support for Connecticut Audubon’s Fairfield Region
In its 125 years, Connecticut Audubon has had many achievements and special moments to commemorate, and this year’s Spring Gala was no exception. With more than 170 in attendance, this special anniversary celebration of Connecticut Audubon’s commitment to education, conservation and advocacy in the Fairfield Region was a resounding success.
Highlights of the evening included the premiere of an inspiring new video capturing the history, accomplishments and glimpses of Connecticut Audubon’s Fairfield naturalists, conservationists and educators in action. And in a touching, surprise moment, the Fairfield Region’s Assistant Director Tricia Kevalis was honored for her 20+ years of unequaled dedication and leadership to our award-winning programs that are recognized by area families and schools as among the best.
A warm welcome greeted attendees, guests enjoying the evening’s festivities, Assistant Director Tricia Kevalis was honored for her years of service, perusing an array of auction items.
We are grateful to all who put on their party clothes and dancing shoes to attend and join in the fun of the auction and paddle-raise activities. And we especially thank the many contributors who supported the evening’s fundraising efforts with their gift of time and donations, including our sponsors, local businesses, the event planning committee and many volunteers.
This wonderful community response is making it possible for the important work to continue and benefit the Greater Fairfield community for the next 125 years.
Spring Gala Sponsors
Amy Barnouw Named Director of the Fairfield Region
Please join us in welcoming Amy Barnouw as the new director of the Fairfield Region. She will lead the organization’s Center at Fairfield, as well as the Birdcraft Museum and Sanctuary.
Amy will be working with local groups and individuals to meet Connecticut Audubon’s conservation and education goals. She’ll also be responsible for raising the funds to meet those goals. As a member of The Connecticut Audubon Society’s senior team, she will assist with establishing and implementing conservation, development, research, education and communication strategies.
Amy brings a unique blend of expertise in marketing and business development for regional and national environmental conservation organizations in the for-profit and non-profit sectors.
A native of Connecticut, she started her career in the Pacific Northwest as regional director of LightHawk, creating innovative campaigns that addressed conservation efforts around deforestation and watershed health in Alaska, Washington and Oregon. She then served as the assistant director of The Wilderness Society’s Northwest Region based in Seattle before returning to the East Coast.
In 2010, Amy co-founded the Planet Fuel Beverage Company and its social impact arm, the Planet Fuel Charitable Fund. Through the Charitable Fund, she developed a high school advisory council which oversaw the environmental grant-making process and launched an environmental film series at the Fairfield Theatre Company to showcase award-winning documentaries.
Most recently, Amy was marketing director at Katabat where she led their global digital marketing campaigns. She has served on the boards of various conservation organizations, including the Connecticut Audubon Society from 2018 until 2022, and currently is a President’s Council Member of the Norma Pfriem Breast Center.
Sage Garver Earns Girl Scout Award for Sanctuary Project
In a recent ceremony at the Center, Sage Garver of Fairfield Girl Scout Troop 30133 was recognized for earning the prestigious Gold Award, the highest achievement in Girl Scouts.
Sage earned the Gold Award with her project to create a virtual tour of Connecticut Audubon’s Roy and Margot Larsen Wildlife Sanctuary. Highlighting the diversity of wildlife and natural points of interest along the Sanctuary’s trails, her tour can be seen via the free Connecticut Audubon Society app for mobile or web-based viewing.
Fairfield’s First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchik attended the event proclaiming September 17, 2022 as Sage Garver Day in Fairfield, and Sage was celebrated with the unveiling of a new outdoor bench in her honor at the Center.
The Gold Award is given to less than 6% of eligible Girl Scouts nationwide. It recognizes those who demonstrate extraordinary leadership and have a sustainable impact on their community and beyond.
Water Bottle Filling Station Promotes Environmental Awareness
Thanks to a 2021 grant from The Fairfield Rotary, a stainless steel drinking water and bottle-filling station is being installed inside the Center.
In addition to being a touchless alternative to a public drinking fountain, it counts and displays the number of disposable plastic water bottles it is saving from going into local landfills — a feature that promotes awareness for visitors, especially children, about the harmful waste of single-use plastics.
Fairfield Rotary grants are awarded to local non-profits in support of worthwhile community initiatives. Southwest Region Director Shari Greenfield accepted the grant check at the Fairfield Rotary Holiday Luncheon on Monday, November 29, 2021.
The Free Library Helps Build a Sense of Community
The Center at Fairfield extends its sincere thanks to Friends of Larsen volunteers, Mary Hogue and Guy Gleysteen, for creating and installing the new “Free Library” box across from the entrance to the Roy and Margot Larsen Wildlife Sanctuary.
As Mary notes, “Based on the Friends of Larsen concept of building community, Guy and I thought that by installing a Free Library near the Larsen Sanctuary would help to draw more people to the Sanctuary and help them appreciate the grounds and facility. We would like folks to feel that this place is a part of their world — to enjoy and protect — as much as we do.
“Hopefully, the Free Library will be one more way visitors could become part of the community that supports the Connecticut Audubon, whether by becoming members, participating in programs or volunteering with the Friends of Larsen. We’ve been lucky to live next door to the Larsen Sanctuary and have been able to join field trips, help with gardens and clean ups. By doing so, we’ve met so many fabulous people and have made long-lasting friendships thanks to our connection to the Connecticut Audubon. It’s our hope that the Free Library will be a catalyst to help others be able to do the same.”
Please stop by the Center at Fairfield and become a “patron” of our library by taking, or bringing, a book to share (nature-themed books encouraged). While you’re here, explore the Larsen Sanctuary, which also includes the mile-long Edna Chiboucas Special Use Trail. Your visit will not only enhance your reading list, but could also lead to building a greater sense of community, as well.
For information about the Friends of Larsen upcoming activities, please click here.
What to do with “abandoned” or “orphaned” birds
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 or 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.
Chiboucas Special Use Trail
Specifically designed to accommodate wheelchairs, the mile-long Edna Strube Chiboucas Special Use Trail is five-to-seven feet wide and paved with finely crushed stone.
The trail circles through the Larsen Sanctuary’s 155 acres, following an easy grade through the woods, along the edge of a meadow and over several streams and swamps. Interpretive signs stand at intervals along the way, and there are numerous benches available.
The Chiboucas Trail was the first project undertaken by the Wheels in the Woods Foundation. The trail opened in 1999 and was renovated in the spring of 2020 to provide an upgrade and repair damage caused by storms during the previous year.
The Center at Fairfield is a hub of environmental education activities and events throughout the year. The Center has live education animals, exhibit areas, and a Nature Store with a wide variety of birding and nature-related merchandise. The Center’s grounds feature a pollinator garden, live birds of prey compound and adjoins the 155-acre Roy and Margot Larsen Wildlife Sanctuary. The Sanctuary offers visitors seven miles of walking trails featuring streams, ponds, forest, and fields with diverse plant and animal communities, and also includes the mile-long Edna Strube Chiboucas Special Use Trail.
The Chiboucas Special Use Trail opened in 1999 and was refurbished in 2012. Designed for wheelchair use, the Trail was the first project undertaken by the Wheels in the Woods Foundation. It was renovated in the spring of 2020 to provide an upgrade and repair damage caused by last year’s storms. To accommodate wheelchairs, the trail is five-to-seven feet wide and paved with finely crushed rock. It circles through the sanctuary’s 155 acres, following an easy grade through the woods, along the edge of a meadow and over several streams and swamps. Interpretive signs stand at intervals along the way, and there are numerous benches available.
There is a nominal admission fee for non-members or non-residents of Fairfield. Trails are open year-round, seven days a week from dawn to dusk.
Dishwasher – gently used no larger than 23 wide by 24 deep.
If you would like to donate a dishwasher, please call 203-259-6305 ext. 109.
Animal Care requests (please call 203-259-6305 ext. 116):
- 75 gallon aquarium stand
- 100 foot garden hose
- Pump style hand sprayer
- Water dechlorinator 32 ounce
- Timothy hay
- Guinea Pig food (Supreme Selective diet)
- Carefresh paper small animal bedding
- Used bath towels
- Raptor rig – call for details
Visit Our Fairy Garden!
There’s a lot of activity in the green house… little voices chattering with delight as they search for fairies, tiny pigs and ponies in the Fairy Garden exhibit. This teeny garden of whimsy is a miniature landscape. Small-scale plants, foliage that looks like mini forest trees and teensy accessories give the illusion of tiny creatures living in the garden.
This charming garden was created by Master Gardeners Anne Mele, Mary Hogue and Kristine Scerbo with the assistance of green house volunteer Jessie Linderoth.
Fairy gardens are often located in small secluded areas in the garden, giving visitors the impression that they just happen to fall upon this magical place. So come, stumble upon our Fairy Garden, you’re sure to find magic here!
The Fairy Garden is located in the greenhouse at Center at Fairfield and is open Monday – Saturday from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
From I-95: Take Exit 21 Mill Plain Road. Go north on Mill Plain Road for 4.5 miles (Mill Plain Road becomes Burr Street). The Center is on the left.
From the Merritt Parkway: Take Exit 44 Route 58. Northbound: Turn right onto Congress Street at the end of the ramp. Proceed to the first stop sign. Turn right onto Burr Street. The Center is approximately 1 mile along on the left. Southbound: Turn left at the light at the bottom of the ramp, and turn left at the next light onto Route 58. Go under the bridge, and turn right at the light onto Congress Street. Proceed to the first stop sign. Turn right onto Burr Street. The Center is approximately 1 mile along on the left.
From I-84: Take Routes 8 or 25 or I-91 to the Merritt Parkway, and follow the directions, above.