Location: Unquowa Road, Fairfield
Directions: FROM I-95: Take Exit 21 – Mill Plain Rd. Head north on Mill Plain Rd., about ½ mile. At the first stop sign, take a right onto Unquowa Rd. and follow from * below.
FROM I-84: Take Routes 25, 8 or 91 South to Wilbur Cross/Merritt Parkway (Route 15) south and
FROM MERRITT PARKWAY (Route 15): 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 first stop sign. Take left onto Burr Street. Continue straight to stop sign at the bottom of hill. Continue straight onto Mill Plain Rd. to the 4th stop sign. Turn left onto Unquowa Rd. and follow * below.
* On Unquowa Rd., continue straight under the I-95 overpass, immediately take driveway on your left into the Birdcraft Museum parking lot.
Habitat: Upland deciduous forest with bush and shrub plantings including a small pond
Size: 6 acres
Description and species: Birdcraft was the first private songbird sanctuary in the United States when it was established in 1914 by conservationist and Connecticut Audubon Society founder Mabel Osgood Wright. It is adjacent to the Connecticut Audubon Society Birdcraft Museum. This historic sanctuary features several different trails through upland areas surrounding a one-acre pond. Instructional placards are in place on these trails, and are often used for everything from school field trips to our new cell phone scavenger hunt. Birdcraft is also situated along Interstate 95, a fact that helps to make it one of the best migrant traps in the state of Connecticut.
In spring and fall migration, Birdcraft serves as a green oasis in the midst of human development. Apart from the proximity to I-95, it sits in the middle of residential areas and not far from Long Island Sound. Passerines flying up and down the eastern seaboard often congregate along the Connecticut coastline, and Birdcraft funnels them into the large oak trees and damp habitat surrounding the pond. The entire sanctuary helps to provide a great deal of food for insectivores and features a variety of microhabitats that are tremendously useful for migrants. For example, despite the fact this is only a six-acre property, there is a small section of densely covered forest-like leaf litter. In the spring, it may bring in fatigued Ovenbirds, and in the fall, one can be lucky enough to find a rare Connecticut Warbler foraging there. Nearly every species of warbler, vireo, flycatcher, swallow, cuckoo, sparrow, and more can be found at Birdcraft in their respective seasons. The pond occasionally attracts several species of herons and ducks.
The design of the sanctuary, with its numerous hiding places for wildlife even in this small an area, allows birds to hide from view easily. Therefore walking the same path an hour later will often produce an entirely different selection of species. During spring and fall mornings, our migratory bird banding station, run by citizen scientists, is a big attraction. Nets are open throughout the sanctuary and visitors can observe the banding efforts in action, which creates wonderful opportunities to see our winged friends up close. The Connecticut Audubon Society Birdcraft Sanctuary has something to offer for anyone, birder or not, of any age.
All photographs © Twan Leenders