The Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center

Birding Basics

Willet, photo by Amelia Graham

Join teacher-naturalist Amelia Graham for a guided bird walk at Hammonasset State Park on September 23.  Learn how to use binoculars, differentiate between raptors, and identify local bird species. Meet at 9 a.m. in the Meig’s Point parking lot.

A Celebration of Swallows

Barn Swallows by Roger Tory Peterson

To celebrate the success of our first year, the Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center invites you to join us in watching a natural marvel on our spectacular estuary.

Every fall, swallows from all over the state will come together at the Connecticut River in a murmuration, where they will fly together in enormous arcs across the sky before settling in the marshes for the night.

We will be hosting a cocktail party at a private residence overlooking Goose Island, where you can watch the swallows, tour our naturalist niche, and engage with our dedicated staff and board. We hope you will consider joining us in celebrating.

We are thrilled to announce that we have met our goal and our fundraising event is full! Thank you for your support.

Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center 

The Connecticut Audubon Society’s Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center is dedicated to the conservation and preservation of the Connecticut River Estuary ecosystem and watershed, through science-based research, education and advocacy. The Connecticut River Estuary, where the Connecticut River meets Long Island Sound, is a showcase for biodiversity, serving as a fisheries nursery and an important nesting and migratory stopover for numerous birds.

The RTPEC, named for internationally and locally renowned artist, scientific illustrator, environmental educator and conservation advocate Roger Tory Peterson, is working to establish a physical presence in the area through the creation of an environmental education center. The center will be dedicated to facilitating scientific research, establish high-quality environmental education for children, teens and adults, and promote outreach and advocacy to preserve, protect and conserve the estuary and its beauty for generations.

Events at The Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center

Education Programs

News and Announcements

Camp Claire: The Naturalist Niche

Looking for the RTPEC this summer? You’ll find us at Camp Claire, in our Naturalist Niche!

Thanks to the Petit Family Foundation, we have created a new and exciting science program within Camp Claire’s versatile schedule.  

Every day, campers will have the opportunity to explore Hamburg Cove, run experiments, dissect organisms, and more. They’ll also have the chance to make some nature crafts, like bird feeders and crabbing lines.

Read more about Camp Claire on its website, and check back for updates about our summer programs!

RTPEC Accepts Petit Family Foundation Grant Award for Environmental Education

RTPEC Director Eleanor Robinson with Dr. William Petit.

Eleanor Robinson accepted a $5000 check from Dr. William A. Petit, President of the Petit Family Foundation on behalf of Connecticut Audubon Society’s Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center. The grant award will be used to help fund a pilot program that will embed an outdoor, environmental education program with a full-time teacher-naturalist in Camp Claire on Hamburg Cove in Lyme, CT for the summer of 2017. 

“We are thrilled that the funding is now in place to launch an enriching environmental education program that will have a lasting impact on hundreds of children who spend a part of their summer at Camp Claire”, said Eleanor Robinson, Director of The Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center. “Total immersion, outdoor experiences combined with fun, yet informative natural science education can be transformative for children.”

Based out of a tent platform, and accessing the rich biodiversity of the estuary watershed, the RTPEC teacher-naturalist will unveil the  myteries of the natural world and the interconnectedness and complexity of the plant and animal life that surround this iconic camp.

RTPEC Environmental Education Year 1

A student from Mile Creek examines a tree.


During the Spring of 2017, RTPEC educators were busy nearly everyday taking regional school children outdoors to explore their natural surrounding and to learn about environmental science. Our school program reach tripled as we added schools in East Lyme and New London to our roster of participating schools beyond Essex, Lyme and Old Lyme.

“I used to be afraid of nature and now I love it” -a 2nd grader from East Lyme

The RTPEC has offered Connecticut Audubon’s Science in Nature program to over 800 school children in Southeastern Connecticut during the 2016/17 academic year. By the end of the season, every 3-5th grader in Lyme and Old Lyme will have experienced one or two 4-hour Science in Nature programs. RTPEC educators have connected children to their local land trust properties and the natural areas near their schools. Using specially designed science journals, children use drawings, writings, data collection and hands-on discovery to document aquatic and forest ecology in our estuary ecosystem. This spring, students have observed peepers, warblers, crayfish, dragonfly larvae, salamanders, and lichen. Teachers are particularly grateful that RTPEC educators implement Next Generation Science Standards in each session, as these curriculum standards will be introduced for Connecticut Schools in the 2018 school year.

Local Land Trust Thank You!

The RTPEC would like to thank the local land trusts for permitting the usage of their properties for regional school children participating our Science in Nature programs. To date, we have walked the trails and explored rotting logs, geologic outcrops, tree fall forest gaps, vernal pools and stream meanders in Lyme, Old Lyme and Essex Land Trust properties. We are also grateful to Olsen Sanitation and Sanitary Solutions companies for the donations and delivery of port a potties to the sites.

RTPEC “Meet the Scientist” Introduces One Cool Fish to Local 5th Graders

The RTPEC welcomed NOAA Sturgeon Scientist, Dr. Kimberly Damon-Randall as a speaker for our Spring 2017 Connecticut River Lecture Series, and as a “Meet the Scientist “ guest at the Lyme Consolidated School.

“Each semester we connect nationally and internationally recognized scientists to 5th grade school children in the region”, said Eleanor Robinson, RTPEC Director. “The students are able to imagine careers beyond school when a scientist is there in person to explain what may seem to be a distant and improbable future in environmental science. The excitement of the students is thrilling to witness”.

Dr. Kimberly Dammon-Randall explains the Atlantic sturgeon to 5th graders

Damon-Randall explained the oddities and wonders of the life of this prehistoric fish, the sturgeon, and its plight in Connecticut River waters. She brought along a 9- foot long, life-sized, inflatable sturgeon and engaging science discovery activities for the entire grade.

Damon-Randall explained that our local estuary is particularly important as it serves as a “Critical Habitat” for this federally endangered species, as designated by the National Marine Fisheries Service. Benthic invertebrates like worms and clams inhabit the sediment-filled river bottom and are favorite food items of sturgeon. Sturgeon migrate through the estuary and return to feed on the diversity and abundance of nutritious food located in this habitat.


Advocating for the Estuary

Identifying Environmental Impacts of High Speed Rail Tunnel/Bypass

Co-chairman of the RTPEC board, Claudia Weicker, speaks at Town Hall.

On December 16, 2016, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) released its Preferred Alternative for improving passenger rail travel along the Northeast Corridor. This proposal would create a new 50-mile segment bypassing coastal southeastern Connecticut via an inland route between Old Saybrook and Kenyon, Rhode Island. The FRA proposal calls for a multi-billion dollar tunnel under the environmentally sensitive Connecticut River Estuary, the Lieutenant River, and the Historic District of the Town of Old Lyme. Additionally, the new rail line would require the acquisition and/or condemnation of hundreds of acres of undeveloped land and conversion to transportation use.  Two members of the RTPEC Board worked on the Old Lyme Selectwoman’s strategy team crafting an 82-page response to the FRA in January of 2017. (more…)

Federal railroad decision is a victory for conservation in southeastern Connecticut

July 12, 2017 

Statement on the decision by the FRA, from Claudia Weicker, chair of the Connecticut Audubon Society’s Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center

The decision by the Federal Railroad Administration to abandon the proposed Connecticut-Rhode Island bypass of its Northeast Corridor project in favor of having state officials study an alternative route is a considerable victory for conservation and environmental protection in southeastern Connecticut.
In comments opposing this proposal, the Connecticut Audubon Society pointed out that the FRA’s Preferred Alternative ignored the impact on four endangered or threatened species: Atlantic sturgeon, shortnose sturgeon, Roseate Terns, and Piping Plover.

Based on that flaw, Connecticut Audubon called for further study of the route through southeastern Connecticut, and for greater involvement by local officials and residents. 

The Hartford Courant, CT Mirror, and New Haven Register included excerpts of our statement in their breaking news stories about the decision.
The decision has taken into account the opposition of residents of the area and the concerns of the Town of Old Lyme, which issued an 82-page report on the proposal that included an environmental assessment prepared by the Connecticut Audubon Society’s Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center.

Old Lyme’s First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder deserves credit for her dogged work and foresight in putting together a strategy team to assess this issue.

The Tier 1 Final Environmental Impact Statement was flawed in that it failed to recognize the impact on historic, cultural and environmental resources that would have been adversely affected by the construction of a tunnel under the ecologically sensitive Connecticut River Estuary and the Town of Old Lyme.

It was our conclusion that the infrastructure project posed a substantial threat to the estuary and would have created displacement and destruction of habitats as well as reduced the estuary’s ability to defend from storm surges.

We are gratified that the FRA took our concerns seriously and has placed the decision as to the best route in the hands of state authorities. We expect that further study will continue to receive local input and input from environmental organizations.

Read Connecticut Audubon’s news release and letter to the FRA, from February 2017, here.

RTPEC Lecture Series Speaker and Meet the Scientist Presenter: Dr. Robert Thieler

Dr. Thieler at a "Meet the Scientist" session in Old Lyme.

Dr. Thieler at a “Meet the Scientist” session in Old Lyme’s Mile Creek School

The Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center (RTPEC) welcomed renowned, sea-level rise researcher, Robert Thieler, to Old Lyme as one of three featured speakers for the RTPEC Fall Lecture Series. Thieler is based out of Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and works as a research geologist for the U.S. Geological Survey, yet beaches of the planet serve as his living laboratory.

Earlier in the afternoon, fifty-five fifth graders of Old Lyme’s Mile Creek School were fortunate to have an up close and personal session with Dr. Thieler at the RTPEC’s first “Meet the Scientist” session for school children. 


RTPEC Board Member Donates Book Tour Proceeds to Center

Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center (RTPEC) Board Member, Sydney Williams,  conducted a regional book tour of his new book, Notes from Old Lyme, Life on the Marsh and Other Essays. The book is a collection of essays, many of which touch on observations of the natural world, having lived near the estuary waters for 25 years. Williams donated proceeds of the book sales to the Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center and other groups.



Dock Proposed for Whalebone Cove Would Threaten Wildlife Habitat

Egret_on_CtRiverThe coves and marshes of the lower Connecticut River estuary are among the most valuable areas for wildlife in North America. The Connecticut Audubon Society’s Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center (RTPEC) opposes a plan to install a new dock in one of those coves, Whalebone Cove, in the Town of Lyme. Below is our letter, signed by Eleanor Robinson, the director of our Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center, in Old Lyme. (more…)

Citizen Scientists Find Thriving Osprey Population

Ospreys in Fairfield. Photo courtesy of Anastasia Zinkerman

Ospreys in Fairfield. Photo courtesy of Anastasia Zinkerman

March 8, 2016 – Connecticut’s Osprey population, which numbers at least 250 active nests, is thriving and healthy, and in all likelihood indicates that local rivers, lakes and Long Island Sound are clean enough to support ample fish for Ospreys to feed on.

In addition, the fish seem to be free of toxins that would harm Ospreys and reduce their breeding success, as happened in the middle of the 20th century because of DDT.

Those are the key conclusions of the Connecticut Audubon Society’s Osprey Nation report for 2015, which the organization released today to mark the start of the citizen science monitoring program’s 2016 season, its third.

Click to read the rest …


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Old Lyme, CT 06371

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