News & Information at the Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center
Who We Are
At the Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center, we dedicate ourselves to future generations through experiential education and conservation of our land, waters, and the species that inhabit them.
The future for the RTP Estuary Center is bright and strong! As we move forward, we will implement the strategies we have learned, invest in our team and communities and continue to advocate for and protect our environment.
We believe that learning should be joyful. We are always focusing on innovating and believe in the programs we provide. We have high-quality standards and that will continue. We hope to launch new research programs based around the NERR, further expand our reach and develop meaningful partnerships as collaboration is a cornerstone of RTP Estuary Center. We have big goals and dreams and are grateful for your continued support!
The RTP Estuary Center is named for internationally and locally renowned artist, scientific illustrator, environmental educator, and conservation advocate Roger Tory Peterson.
Click here to read about our education team.
Join the RTP Estuary Center team!
Looking for high school students (ages 16-18) for Summer Camp counselor positions!
For more information contact Heather Kordula, Education Program Manager at email@example.com or call 860-598-4218.
A Tribute to Eleanor P. Robinson, Co-Founder of RTP Estuary Center
It is with sadness and a deep sense of loss that we bring news that our friend, board colleague, and co-founder of the Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center, Eleanor Robinson, died on January 2nd at her home in Old Lyme.
Eleanor Perkins Robinson arrived in Old Lyme with an understanding and affection for this place on the banks of the Connecticut River Estuary. She constantly reminded us of the uniqueness of the estuary and its role in the nature, culture, commerce, and history of the region we call southeastern Connecticut. She had a sense of purpose to create an environmental center which would provide science-based environmental education for our children, expand the environmental literacy of our adult population, and promote research and stewardship all designed to encourage conservation of our resources. She called the estuary “Connecticut’s Crown Jewel” for its nearly unspoiled attributes as nursery, habitat, feeding and breeding grounds for innumerable varieties of fish, birds and other wildlife. This treasure, she insisted, must be preserved.
Joining with another former Old Lyme resident, Dr. Theodore Van Itallie, they formed a group of concerned citizens and soon founded the Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center as a part of the Connecticut Audubon Society. It was founded literally out of the trunk of Eleanor’s car, in the living rooms of fellow board members, and the halls of local libraries as well as coffee shops.
With an initial grant from the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut, Eleanor and our teachers adapted a science-based school curriculum to include more about our local environment and traveled to local public schools to begin educating students, not in the classroom, but outdoors, in a living laboratory. Just over six years ago, the first group of 35 students in third grade in the Essex elementary school were taught. This past year, the RTPEC reached over 3,500 in regional public schools!
In December 2020, the RTPEC purchased the site at 100 Lyme Street to create the environmental center that she and Ted envisioned. It will offer a variety of programs and include a hands-on science lab for children to learn the fundamentals of scientific research.
Eleanor was our first Center Director and she and Ted established a high standard for our programs. She had the vision, enthusiasm, and energy to kick-start the organization. She brought tenacity and a profound commitment to environmental conservation and conservation research. Ted established the scientific advisory board and worked to ensure that research would continue as a high priority. They both shared a belief that through the Center, we could promote understanding and stewardship and learning. It was Ted who once said: “I’m not interested in doing anything ordinary.” Together, they did create something extraordinary.
Eleanor Robinson had the determination, courage, and energy to see her center created. It was this courage and tenacity which served her through a long and terrible illness. It was her humor, passion for life, and friendship which saw us through.
In the end, while the physical Center itself will endure, it is the generations of young scientists, environmentalists, and stewards which will be her everlasting legacy. This the challenge that she has left to us.
Birds We Saw in May
This month we saw 67 species!
Canada Goose • Mute Swan • Mallard • Double-crested Cormorant • Herring Gull • Great Egret • Great Blue Heron • Black Vulture • Turkey Vulture • Osprey • Sharp-shinned Hawk • Bald Eagle • Red-shouldered Hawk • Red-tailed Hawk • Peregrine Falcon • Ruby-throated Hummingbird • Chimney Swift • Northern Rough-winged Swallow • Tree Swallow • Barn Swallow • Mourning Dove • Downy Woodpecker • Northern Flicker • Red-bellied Woodpecker • American Crow • Fish Crow • Common Raven • Blue Jay • Willow Flycatcher • Great-crested Flycatcher • Eastern Kingbird • Gray Catbird • Cedar Waxwing • Black-capped Chickadee • Tufted Titmouse • White-breasted Nuthatch • House Wren • Marsh Wren • Carolina Wren • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher • Ruby-crowned Kinglet • Warbling Vireo • European Starling • Eastern Bluebird • American Robin • Northern Waterthrush • Black-and-white Warbler • Common Yellowthroat • American Redstart • Northern Parula • Yellow Warbler • Blac-throated Blue Warbler • Yellow-rumped Warbler • Prairie Warbler • American Goldfinch • House Finch • Chipping Sparrow • White-throated Sparrow • Savannah Sparrow • Song Sparrow • Swamp Sparrow • House Sparrow • Red-winged Blackbird • Brown-headed Cowbird • Baltimore Oriole • Common Grackle • Northern Cardinal
Check out our eBird Hotspot to see a full list of species seen at the center for every month!
News Release: Connecticut Audubon Agrees to Buy a Former Inn in Old Lyme as Headquarters for its Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center
November 2, 2020 — The Connecticut Audubon Society and its Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center will soon have a great new facility in Old Lyme to continue to carry out the regional conservation, science research and education work that began five years when the RTPEC was established.
The organization has reached an agreement to buy the former Bee and Thistle Inn, at 100 Lyme Street. The plan is to create an environmental education center for people of all ages. It will become the estuary center’s new headquarters and will include a room for public talks and workshops, a location for summer day camp, and a staging area for research on the ecology of the estuary.
The RTPEC offices, which are currently at 90 Halls Road, will move to the new facility as well.
The 5.25-acre site is on the Lieutenant River, a tributary of the Connecticut River. It includes a wetland area and offers river access to the local 56-acre section of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge.
The Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center has developed a strong reputation in its five years based on a string of successful programs. The Center currently reaches 5,000 young people and adults across the region through environmental education programs at schools, online and in the field.
“The RTPEC is one of our jewels, and this new facility is in a perfect location for a nature center that focuses on the estuarine environment,” said Connecticut Audubon Executive Director Patrick Comins. “We can’t wait to introduce people to its birds and wildlife, and to use it as a launching area for more great outings. The volunteers who had the vision to establish the center in 2015 and then to keep building on its success deserve all the credit for this.”
Connecticut Audubon is planning a comprehensive campaign to cover the purchase price to renovate the building for visitors, and to preserve this landmark for the community.. The goal is to open the new facility within 12 to 18 months.
Claudia Weicker, chair of the Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center Regional Board, said that the new facility’s location, next to the Florence Griswold Museum, was particularly appropriate.
“Our commitment to conservation of the Connecticut River estuary and of Long Island Sound is as strong as ever,” she said. “We focus on the environment and education, in particular, and, in doing so, we relate the importance of nature to the history and culture of our area. This location, next to the home of Miss Florence Griswold, revives the synergy that existed between America’s great art colony and the beauty of the natural world.”
The Center is named after Roger Tory Peterson, the artist, writer, teacher, and conservationist who lived and worked in Old Lyme. Peterson’s field guides to birds and nature were well known and iconic in the 20th century.
Two of the center’s most successful programs will continue to take place elsewhere. Its spring and fall lecture series regularly draws overflow crowds to local auditoriums to hear nationally-known experts on birds, estuary science and other conservation topics.
The Science in Nature outdoor education program will continue to be taught at area schools, natural areas within walking distance of schools, and through distance learning.
Those two off-site programs will complement the offerings at the new center, said Alisha Milardo, the director of the RTPEC.
“The residents of southeastern Connecticut have an abiding interest and enthusiasm for environmental conservation programs,” she said. “Our education, science research and advocacy programs have received great support and we’re confident that at this new location we will be able to expand our offerings for the community.”
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.
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.
- 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.
A Word to Our Sponsors
Thank you from the entire RTPEC team!
As the recent pandemic has moved across our state and region, our first thoughts have been of family, friends and our supporters. We realize that no one has been unaffected by the health and economic hardship that has been inflicted on our communities.
You have stood by the Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center and we want you to know how your support has affected our programs in this difficult and uncertain period of time. For many, this has been difficult on many levels as the disease has known no boundaries and has affected everyone in some way or another.
Even as we have sheltered in place, many have found solace and comfort in the natural rhythms of nature and have discovered the renewal of the natural world as a healing balm, a distraction from concern, and an alternative to the four walls of home and home schooling. Our parks, trails, and land trust properties have never been so appreciated.
With our schools closed indefinitely, RTPEC teachers turned to the internet to continue instruction and we provided webinars on everything from backyard birding to pollinator gardens to our living shoreline. We have reached beyond our region, across the state, and to residents even in other states with instructive material on how to live, understand and cherish the outdoor world.
I am pleased to tell you that because of your support, we were able to be nimble and adapt quickly to the challenge of long distance and virtual learning for people of all ages. Webinars, offered by our center, are interactive and have as many as 100 participants who are able to ask questions. These now form the basis of a library of education programs that can be made available to schools, libraries, and community organizations.
These last few weeks have been difficult for many of our friends and sponsors of the Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center. We want you to know that we have not forgotten you and, just as you, have been there to assist us, we here for you. Over the days to come, we will be featuring our sponsors on our website in order to remind our followers of those in their community who have been supportive of our environmental education and community programs. We realize this is a small gesture but, as the state prepares to once again resume economic activity, we hope this thank you to our friends will help in your recovery.
Again, we are grateful for your help when we needed it.
Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center
For more information about our sponsors, click here