Connecticut Audbon Society
Sanctuaries

Sanctuaries

White-crowned Sparrow photographed at Smith Richardson, by Patrick Comins.

H. Smith Richardson Wildlife Sanctuary & Christmas Tree Farm

Sasco Creek Road, Westport

Our sanctuaries are open daily year-round, dawn to dusk.

On this page:
Acreage
Trails

What’s interesting
Birds
Facilities
More information
Video  (“The Great Work of Volunteers Brings the Smith Richardson Preserve in Westport Back to Life”)

Size
74 acres in three locations:

  • 36 acres at the south end of the road;
  • a 24-acre Christmas tree farm less than a mile north;
  • a 14-acre field habitat across the road from the Christmas tree farm.


Pollinator meadows, grasslands, shrub-lands, young forest, and conifers.

Level terrain.

Trails
Broad, easy-to-walk trails wind through the 34-acre section. There are no formal trails at the Christmas tree farm but visitors are welcome to walk among the conifers; the same is true for the grassland across the road, although care needs to be taken to avoid ticks and remove ticks.

The trails at Smith Richardson are kept in good shape and the habitat maintenance is carried out by the Friends of Larsen volunteer group, overseen by Connecticut Audubon staff. The become involved, contact Charlie Stebbins at charles.e.stebbins@gmail.com.

What’s interesting
The 34-acre section is one of the few places in Connecticut where visitors can see a significant habitat restoration project while it is in progress.

Until roughly 2016, this section of Smith Richardson was a thicket of weeds and invasive shrubs and vines such as barberry and Asiatic bittersweet.

Connecticut Audubon envisioned an ecological overhaul that would transform it into a rich, coastal forest and shrubland.

Many acres of invasive plants and vines with little value to birds and insects were removed. Volunteers and staff replaced them with more than 3,000 native trees and shrubs that provide seeds, fruit, and nectar year-round for birds, butterflies, bees and other wildlife. Two new two-acre pollinator meadows buzz with insects. Small plots of seed-producing grasses ripen in fall, in time for songbird migration.

For anyone familiar with the sanctuary in its “before” stage, the results are a stark improvement. The impenetrable tangle of weedy plants is gone, replaced by a mixture of meadows, shrubs, thickets, conifers, and open woods.

Birds
All three sections of the Smith Richardson sanctuary offer interesting and excellent birding.

Christmas tree farm
in early spring, visitors can hear and see American Woodcock as they perform their courtship flight. In winter, look for Brown Creeper, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and rarities such as White-winged and Red Crossbills.

Tree Swallows, Eastern Kingbird, and Eastern Bluebird are among the species that nest in the section of the sanctuary across the road.

36-acre section
Spring migration brings in birds of many habitats: Black-and-white Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Field Sparrow, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Song Sparrow, Prairie Warbler, Indigo Bunting, Gray Catbird, House Wren, Cedar Waxwing, Orchard and Baltimore Orioles among them.

Sparrows arrive in fall — Song, Field, Savannah, White-throated, White-crowned, Swamp, and perhaps even a rare Clay-colored or Grasshopper Sparrow, as well as warblers such Yellow-rumped, American Redstart, and Palm. Eastern Towhee and Dark-eyed Junco might stay through the winter. Other sightings often include Blue-headed Vireo, Eastern Phoebe, Winter Wren, Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets, and Blue Grosbeak.

Gulls fly over from nearby Long Island Sound. Red-tailed Hawks hunt in the preserve year-round.

Eagle Scout Gus Bory, third from left, with his team and one of the benches he created for the Smith Richardson preserve.

eBird Hotspot for the 36-acre section

eBird Hotspot for the Christmas tree farm

Facilities
There is a small parking area at the 36-acre section and the Christmas tree farm, but no bathroom or other facilities.

More information
Major funding for the restoration was provided grant from the Long Island Sound Futures Fund.

Much of the work has been carried out by the Friends of Smith Larsen, a volunteer group led by two former Connecticut Audubon Board members, Charles Stebbins and Jerid O’Connell.

The Staples High School’s Service League of Boys (SLOBS) and the Builders Beyond Borders organization from Norwalk pitched in with teams of young workers during several volunteer work days. Two Eagle Scout projects have also improved the sanctuary. Westport resident Gus Bory built and then led a team that installed three hand-hewn benches in the 36-acre section; and Owen Weber of Southport worked with a team to build and install 450 feet of split rail fence along the road at the 14-acre section.

Video
For an in-depth look at the restoration of Smith Richardson, watch this video produced by Fairfield resident Misty Beyer:

More about Smith Richardson

Major Federal grant

November 2018
A time to plant: Volunteer work day at Smith Richardson

October 2018
Migratory songbirds in abundance at Smith Richardson

August 2018
A paradise for birds and bugs

May 2018
Volunteers plant 450 trees

April 2018
Native plant sale

Volunteer work day

October 2016
Progress report

September 2016
Jerid O’Connell on why Smith Richardson is important

July 2016
A neighborhood sanctuary

 

 

 

Our sanctuaries are open daily year-round, dawn to dusk. 

The following are not permitted:
  • Dumping or littering
  • Fishing, hunting, trapping or collecting
  • Camping or fires
  • Biking or other vehicles
  • Dogs
  • Drones
  • Alcohol
  • Commercial uses, vending, and events without a permit
Dial 911 in emergencies.
For non-emergencies, call us at 844-waxwing (844-929-9464)
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