Location: Merwins Lane, Fairfield
Directions: FROM MERRITT PARKWAY: Take Exit 44.
From northbound: turn right off ramp onto Congress Street, From southbound: turn left at the first light, left at the second light, go under bridge and at next light, take right onto Congress St.
Proceed straight onto Congress Street to second stop sign. Proceed straight and take first left onto Cross Highway to the end. Take right onto Redding Road and after bridge, take a quick left onto Cross Highway. Take the second right onto Merwins Lane and proceed about 0.6 mile. Sign and small parking area for Connecticut Audubon Society sanctuary will be on left.
FROM I-95: Take Exit 21 – Mill Plain Rd.
Proceed north on Mill Plain Rd. to third stop sign. Continue straight up hill, onto Burr Street, to first stop sign. Take a left onto Congress Street, continue to next stop sign. Proceed straight and take first left onto Cross Highway to the end. Take right onto Redding Road and after bridge, take a quick left onto Cross Highway. Take the second right onto Merwins Lane and proceed about 0.6 mile. Sign and small parking area for Connecticut Audubon Society sanctuary will be on left.
Habitat: Upland deciduous forest, open pasture/field, wetlands, streams, shrub
Size: Approximately 60 acres
Description and species: Banks South Farm is one of the newest land gifts made to the Connecticut Audubon Society. A few established trails exist on the property which can be somewhat challenging to navigate during certain times of the year due to the steepness of the terrain and the water level in the site’s wetland habitat.
This sanctuary is still in the initial stages of habitat management. Baseline inventories of the area’s plants and animals have started but a primary focus for our sanctuary managers is the removal of the non-native invasive plants that make up a significant portion of the understory vegetation. Connecticut Audubon Society works closely with the Natural Resource Conservation Service of the USDA to manage this issue and has received a Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) grant to remove Japanese Barberry and other invasive plants and improve the habitat value of the sanctuary.
Information on the wildlife that inhabits Banks South Farm is still limited, but will be made available as surveys progress. Some of the notable species that have been found to occur in the sanctuary thus far include Pileated Woodpecker (a pair was observed going in and out of a nest hole during a Breeding Bird Survey in 2010) and Eastern Screech Owl. The latter species was discovered during an <amphibian survey> in the sanctuary’s wetland habitat. The dense, scrubby vegetation that makes up much of the understory is home to good numbers of breeding Eastern Towhee, Gray Catbird, and Veery. These scrub-inhabiting species appear to utilize the invasive Japanese Barberry plants and are carefully considered when habitat management takes place. Hopefully we will be able to encourage growth of native understory scrub in the near future so more species will benefit.
Other woodland birds such as Rose-breasted Grosbeak and several warbler species are present here in the spring and summer. But the true potential of this sanctuary will become clearer as time goes on and our habitat improvement and monitoring work continues. Certainly, Banks South Farm’s wetland and stream habitat could be attractive for species such as Winter Wren, American Woodcock, Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and Hermit Thrush during the harsh winter months. These same areas potentially harbor the rapidly declining Rusty Blackbird in spring and fall migration as well as during winter months.
Visitors to the sanctuary should keep an eye out for Great Horned Owl, Barred Owl and many species that could potentially be found in upland forest habitat and woodland openings during prime migration periods. Additional potential breeding species that could inhabit the sanctuary’s habitats include Wood Duck, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Yellow-throated Vireo, Empidonax flycatchers, Brown Thrasher, Louisiana Waterthrush, Hooded Warbler, and the rarely seen Kentucky Warbler.
All photographs on this page © Scott Kruitbosch.