For a curious observer, birding is a fun, exciting and mindful activity. If you are new to birding, it is defined as “the observation of birds in their natural habitats as a hobby.” You don’t have to be an expert birder like Noah Stryer, who set the record for seeing the most birds (6,042) to date in one year, in 2015. Or even an avid adventure seeker, hiking steep trails and crossing paths previously untouched. Birding is for anyone and everyone who enjoys wildlife and slowing down to take in the natural world. Here are a few of the best places to go birding in Connecticut.
Shepaug Eagle Observation Area, Southbury, Connecticut
The chance to see a bald eagle is what attracts bird watchers to this location. Despite the bitter cold morning when I went, I was accompanied by several other bundled-up birders eager for a turn at the onsite telescope at the Shepaug Eagle Observation Area. It was an extra good sighting day and we began to hear of the numerous sightings before even parking, as each volunteer at their post told the news as they pointed the way to the designated parking. Visitors were lucky to also hear from a rehab bird specialist visiting with a golden eagle and bald eagle so eagle viewing was up close and personal. However, the buzz in the tiny warm viewing hut was the highlight when, at one point, impressive bald eagles, juvenile and mature, were suddenly spotted one after another in full flight.
Connecticut Audubon Society Coastal Center, Milford, Connecticut
The Audubon Society is a great resource for beginner birders or enthusiasts. The Coastal Center, located on Milford Point, offers wide views of shorebirds in their habitat. During my visit, various gulls, geese and songbirds were out and about. However, looking in the log by a grand sweep of observation windows showed the diverse collection of birds that had been stopping by, including migrating snow buntings from the Arctic! Winter is the only time to be lucky to catch one of these small birds as by February they are already heading back to the Arctic tundra. The center also features a two story outdoor deck for viewing, short coastal trails and an information center where you can learn more about the wildlife in the surrounding area.
Not far from UConn is another location of the Connecticut Audubon Society at Trail Wood. Trail Wood, now a nature preserve, was once the home of writer-naturalist Edwin Way Teale. The center also offers private and group bird watching experiences, including owl walks and a “snow bound” walk with readings from Edwin’s collection “Snow Bound.”
Tree Swallow River Cruise, Haddam, Connecticut
The Tree Swallow River Cruise on the Connecticut River is a unique and unforgettable experience. After a 45 minute ride down the river to a particular marshy spot, passengers strain their eyes and wait as the sun begins to set. This is the moment tree swallows come from all different directions and many miles away to hunker down for the night in their reed roosts. At first, swallows arrived in small groups, dipping close to the water, then rising like a wave above the sea. Then the sky becomes dense with the tiny winged figures twirling in unison. As a grand finale, they form a tornado, spinning and dipping wildly towards the reeds before “raining” down; leaving the sky still and bare. It is a magnificent show of thousands of birds in sync with one another and the boat riders among us, let out cheers and applause at the finish.
Afloat the Riverquest on the Connecticut River at sunset, you will get to witness this spectacle of hundreds of thousands of tree swallows returning home. The special boat trip books up quickly, so I suggest you reserve your spot this year early for this late summer and early fall season spectacle.
These unique nature spots are worth the trip, however, you don’t have to travel far to go birding. Pour a cup of tea, zip up a jacket and step outside in your own backyard. You might be surprised by the feathered neighbors you may meet.
Kate Luongo is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.