Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Special Collaboration to Celebrate Earth Week

Last Saturday, April 27, a very special group of people gathered to combine their skills and passions for the environment: specifically the environment at the Knox Preserve in Stonington.
For the last several months several of us, as representatives from Avalonia Land Conservancy, have been working with a group of students and professors, from Connecticutt College. They are working on a pilot program for an Environmental Certificate from the Goodwin- Niering Center at the College. These 11 students chose projects that would either enhance the habitats at Knox or assist with community outreach and PR for Avalonia as a whole.
Photo by Beth Sullivan.

Photo by Beth Sullivan.
Some studied the small pond and its salinity, plant life, and elevations to better establish a management plan. Others studied the bird life on the preserve to determine what was needed to establish a successful Purple Martin colony on the site. Another team investigated the native and non-native flora of the fields to better assist with restoration there. Yet another team worked on a presentation for the Avalonia website to describe and map the preserve and its history, ecology, and special features. The last group is working on better ways to reach out to the public for membership and involvement.
In the same time period we made a connection with a group of wonderful home schooled students from Stonington. With guidance from dedicated parents, and lumber donated by UBS in Westerly, they constructed 12 perfect Bluebird houses for placement on the Knox preserve fields.

Add in a dedicated group of Avalonia volunteers for guidance, and the total came to 30 people: from elementary age, to college age, to parents, and grandparents, all working side by side for the day. That collaboration in itself was an amazing opportunity and learning experience. Together we logged over 144 hours on site that day! The birdhouses are up and look beautiful, each decorated with a hand painted bluebird. We now have a Purple Martin housing system awaiting tenants. (A recent check indicates that the Martins have already discovered the new houses.)
Invasive vines were beaten and pulled and cut providing great opportunities for “venting”! Evergreens and fruit trees were freed up and are ready to bloom. Phragmities were cut at the pond. Brush piles were removed to the dump; paths were raked, trash was picked up. Stewardship is an ongoing process; we will continue to try and eradicate the invasives along the walls and around the pond. We will monitor the birdhouses and keep records.

Take the time to visit the preserve. We ask that the fields be left undisturbed now, since breeding season is beginning. Please use the established trails and bring your binoculars to observe nesting behavior at the houses. Please leash your dogs. This is a very vulnerable time for small mammals and birds that are establishing homes and families both in the shrubs and on the ground. Dogs with their enthusiastic curiosity create a terrible hazard for them. Check out what “kids” of all ages were able to accomplish in a very special collaboration on Earth Week.

Thank you to all!

Photos by Beth Sullivan.

Written by Beth Sullivan.

Learn more about the Eastern Bluebird and the Purple Martin at the  Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Learn about invasive Phragmities in Connecticut.

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