Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Dine out for Avalonia April 29

Don't miss tomorrow's Dine out event for  Avalonia Land Conservancy at Margaritas Mexican Restaurant, 12 Water St in Mystic.  From 4pm to closing time, Margaritas will donate 15% of pre-taxed food and beverage sales to Avalonia.
Have a great meal, and support Avalonia at the same time.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Spring Cleaning at Knox Preserve

By Marissa Gildea and Julia Serafin

On Sunday, April 12th, twelve members of the Connecticut College community volunteered at Knox Preserve in Stonington. Over the last couple of weeks we have been working to organize this work day and it was both exciting and rewarding to see that our efforts had fallen into place. One of the major worries of organizing this endeavor was finding the bodies needed to make the work day successful. Therefore, we reached out to members of Her Campus and the Women’s Rowing Team, and there we found our volunteers! This group was the perfect size to accomplish the task that Beth and Binti had in store for us.

Our wonderful volunteers.
At Knox, there were numerous brush piles that were already gathered on the sides of the trails. Working together, we moved these piles from the narrow paths to a more accessible area. This allowed truck access to take the brush away. Surprisingly, we finished this task quicker than we had anticipated. As a result, we went deeper through the trails and removed our own brush… especially making sure to avoid poison ivy! One of our volunteers, Natalie Calhoun GNCE Student ‘16, took on the role of removing and untangling the vines that were suffocating the trees. The site visit would not have been complete without exploration on our own. If you are familiar with Knox then you would probably know of the large rocks hidden in the paths. From this setting there was a breathtaking view out over the water. It was here that we even spotted an osprey nest! Overall, we really lucked out with the weather being on our side, and it was a great effort made by all!

Brush was piled high.

The Osprey nest at Knox Preserve.

Volunteers pull together

Arriving at the preserve, it was amazing to see that there was already a group of volunteers hard at work. As soon as we stepped onto the preserve, there was a clear sense of community that could not be ignored. Beth explained to us that a lot of the neighbors to the preserves dedicate their time and efforts there. Overall, the outcome of our work from just a short period of time at the preserve was unbelievable. Therefore, it is necessary that more members of the community reach out and set aside time to work with Avalonia, because as we saw this past day, a little can go a long way.

How many trips did that wheelbarrow make?

More happy volunteers.
This work day was the first time that we had the opportunity to actually visit one of Avalonia’s sites. Knox’s remote location near the water was a hidden gem that we were fortunate to find. This preserve is a great location to bring the kids and the dog or even to escape and take some time for yourself. If you have not already visited, then put Knox on your list of things to do. We definitely will be visiting Knox in the future!
Vines choking a tree.
Photographs by Avalonia volunteers.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment Takes on Third Year of Collaboration with Avalonia

By Julia Serafin and Marissa Gildea

We are excited to announce that this is the third year that the Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment from Connecticut College is working with Avalonia!  For these past couple of years, our center has been involved with a wide variety of projects that have ranged from hands on work at the preserves to others that have documented the history and expanded Avalonia’s social network. GNCE is one of five interdisciplinary certificate programs at Connecticut College that bring together both students and faculty fostering an environment of ecological discussion and research.  We are very fortunate to be able to develop individual projects alongside Avalonia’s staff, learn about project management in a real world setting, and ultimately work towards a common goal of bettering the environment.

2017 Class of Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment. Photograph by Glenn Dreyer. 

After learning about Avalonia and meeting with its staff in the classroom, these ten hardworking and passionate Goodwin-Niering sophomores are excited to visit the Avalonia preserves this month! Read on to discover the students and the projects which they are pursuing.

Meet the team of Sarah Spound, Mei Reffsin, and April Zhao! Sarah is an environmental studies major, art and math minor, Mei is an art major, and April is a double major in environmental studies and economics.  This group has immersed themselves these last couple of weeks in creating a personal brochure for Avalonia in hopes of reaching out to the people of southeastern Connecticut and tourists alike.  Be sure to keep and eye out for these brochures filled with photos, information, and more on Avalonia!

This is the dynamic duo of Moriah McKenna and Nako Kobayashi!  Moriah is double majoring in biology and anthropology with a concentration in archaeology.  Nako is also an anthropology major with environmental studies and French minors.  These two ladies have been taking on the role of documenting the history of certain preserves for Avalonia.  Specifically, they are interested in furthering their research on the Peqotsepos Brook Preserve in Stonington.  What did this preserve used to be and how did Avalonia gain this land?  Find out more on their write up of this historical and beautiful preserve!

Photograph by Julia Serafin.

Next up is the environmental studies major Nikki! Digitalizing Avalonia archives and compiling oral histories compose her plan to build something for Avalonia to pass down. Hopefully, with help from her book-making class, she will construct a bound book or journal for Avalonia with room for extra pages. Therefore, people can keep adding pages and information into the book/journal. Nikki’s stamp on Avalonia will last throughout future generations online and in person.

Say hello to Katie and Lana! A computer science and English double major with a philosophy minor and a theater major, these two are crafting an outreach project for younger children through art. They plan to take students in Pre-K to elementary school grades on a guided hike at one of Avalonia’s preserves. After collecting nature items on the hike, Katie and Lana will help youngsters assemble found items into an art piece. Hopefully, Avalonia can use this activity as a lesson plan geared toward involving a younger age group in the land preservation process and environmental issues.

Photograph by Kelsey Fischer.

Julia and Marissa are busy writing current and exciting blogs (like this one!). In addition to producing blog content, the students are creating an Instagram account for Avalonia in order for pristine preserve pictures to be shared on another social media platform. Be sure to check out the Instagram – AvaloniaLandConservancy. Finally, Julia, an economics major, and Marissa, a behavioral neuroscience major, organized a work day on Knox Preserve to help clean up the property and to show other Conn Coll students Avalonia. Overall, they hope to increase knowledge of Avalonia and the importance of land preservation. Stay tuned for future blog posts to follow the Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment’s and Avalonia’s collaboration!

Photographs by Marissa Gildea unless otherwise indicated.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Erisman Woodlands Dedication Saturday, April 18

Last August we wrote about the life and legacy of Adele Erisman who donated the 63 acres being dedicated Saturday. You can read that post here.

Please join us for the dedication of this lasting legacy, and a memorial walk through the woodlands, Saturday, April 18 at 10 am at Erisman Woodlands on Reuteman Rd. in North Stonington.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Checking off Spring things

By Beth Sullivan
Finally, I think we can believe that the back of winter is broken, and that we are on the way to spring. In just the last week or two, some of the things I have been waiting for have made an appearance:
Red-Winged Blackbirds singing their spring song and declaring territory and more and more Osprey establishing themselves on nesting platforms.
The local Phoebe has begun to call, though still not frequently.
The Tree Swallows at Knox Preserve have begun swooping over the fields and checking out nest boxes.
The Spring Peepers are really cranking up the volume on the warmer nights from vernal pools around town. I am amazed they can sing even on the most recent chilly nights.
The greening still seems delayed. Buds are only just swelling, and the Hellebores in the wet woods have not shown themselves yet.

A Red Winged Blackbird stakes a claim at Paffard Marsh. Photo by Dan Hall.

Osprey arrived at Knox nest site.

This Green Frog just emerged from hibernation. Wood Frogs and Peepers have been out for two weeks and already are chorusing.

It will be time to start some clean-up work out on the preserves. Winter snowbanks covered a lot of trash along North Main Street. I am so disappointed in those humans who don’t seem to think or care when they toss their garbage! We may have a group of young “Explorers” willing to help along Fennerswood Preserve. If you see them out there, give a wave and a thumbs up. Work will resume on repair and rebuilding of the walls along North Main Street as well. They look nice already with the snow gone and brush all cut back.
Work will resume on stone walls. Some signs need repainting.

Get to the Great Outdoors

As you get out to hike on the preserves, enjoy the sights and sounds. The next month will bring the flood of migrants here for nesting or resting on their way further north.
The warmer weather has also brought out ticks. After the wet winter and spring, we are being told to beware! Please take precautions while you are out in the woods and grassy areas.
A few things to think about please: as we get into later April, many species of birds and mammals will begin nesting in fields and shrubs. It will be time to exert good judgment and to refrain from walking through our field preserves. Please use only the trails that allow easier and better travel-better for you and for wildlife. Especially, please, this is the time to keep dogs on leash and under control. Loose dogs will frighten, threaten, and even kill vulnerable young animals and birds. They can cause adults to abandon their young or nest. Loose dogs in vernal ponds and in streams can destroy egg masses of Amphibians.
Loose dogs can disturb nesting creatures in brush piles, fields, and vernal pools.

Vernal pools shelter amphibians and egg masses at this time of year.

To protect ground nesting birds and small mammals please refrain from walking into fields.

Stewardship in high gear

We will also begin our stewardship efforts: maintenance, clean up on trails and, walks to check for winter damage. If you spot a problem, please call the office. If you can help with a work party or want to work on your own, contact the office, and you will be directed to a steward in your town for advice and guidance. There are other things to be done as well; our many signs can be freshened up with new coats of paint. If you have time, grab a garbage bag, don some gloves and pick up some roadside eyesores to help any-where you can.
Migrating Ring-necked Ducks stop on sheltered waterways on their way north.

Every little bit helps, whether it is an active act of stewardship or just walking the preserves with an open eye and understanding why they are “Preserves.”
Enjoy the coming spring!

Photographs by Beth Sullivan, unless otherwise indicated.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Collaborating for Waterfowl Conservation

By Beth Sullivan

Last year at this time, Dave Lersch, from Delta Waterfowl, walked with me along the impounded marsh at our Anguilla Brook Preserve in Pawcatuck. He was thrilled to see perfect Wood Duck habitat, and we were happy to reveal that we had a member family planning to make, erect, and monitor houses for us on that preserve. Those houses went up a little late last year for nesting use, but we are hoping the returning wood ducks will be checking out the new offerings this season. We will be making a trip out to check in the next week, now that the snow is off the trails and ice is off the marsh.
Wood Ducks are normally very secretive but can be lured out to feed on seeds and grasses. Photo by Bob Dewire.

Dave then contacted stewards Anne Nalwalk and Mac Turner in North Stonington and investigated the Deer Run Preserve as well as the Henne Preserve. Both are beautiful wooded wetlands, perfect for wood ducks.
Dave with Anne Nalwalk and BeeGee with nest boxes to be installed at Deer Run Preserve

Here is Dave’s report:

Ducks Today and Ducks Tomorrow

In a joint effort between Avalonia Land Conservancy and the Connecticut Chapter of Delta Waterfowl Foundation, Wood Ducks and other avian species will find much more accessible and safer nesting opportunities in Avalonia wetlands. Whereas much of the effort to sustain populations of waterfowl migrations focus attention in northern plains states and in Canada, Connecticut has its place in producing waterfowl that will breed, raise their young, migrate, and return to their origins to begin the cycle again. Dave Lersch, Chapter Chairman for Delta Waterfowl in Connecticut said, "Avalonia properties are some of the most potentially productive habitat for duck production. If we can help to increase their nesting success, we can dramatically increase populations of Wood Ducks and other birds that migrate along the Atlantic Flyway." Delta Waterfowl Research in North Dakota and Canada have shown that installing nesting structures reduce predation will increase nesting success by threefold.
Delta Waterfowl volunteer with three sturdy nest boxes ready to install.
One of the attached photos shows Chapter Co-Chair John (JP) Farnell putting the finishing touches on a Wood Duck nest box in Avalonia's Deer Run Preserve at Prentice Brook, Northwest Corner Road, North Stonington.. Within one hour after erecting the box, he observed a mating pair of Wood Ducks swimming under the nest. Additional Wood duck nest boxes are being erected on other Avalonia properties.
Nobody home, yet!
Approximately 11 species of birds, including Kestrels and Screech Owls, may also use these nests. The exact location of each nest box will be documented with the DEEP and checked and cleaned each year in the Fall/Winter months. The DEEP keeps records of bird types using the nests and the size of the clutch, among other data.
A Screech Owl find the nest box a perfect fit.


dditional information about Delta Waterfowl Foundation may be found on their web site at www.deltawaterfowl.org.

Habitat Conservation

While Delta Waterfowl is an organization the promotes safe and responsible hunting, they also concentrate on and fund habitat restoration and conservation. We appreciate their support for our conservation goals even though we do not allow hunting on our preserves.
Habitat at Henne is perfect for Painted Turtles and Wood Ducks.

We will keep an eye on these boxes and make reports as the season goes on. There are diagrams and plans for building Wood Duck sized houses on line. Even if you don’t have the perfect territory for that target species, you may be rewarded by a Screech Owl or Kestrel if you position it right!
A young steward installs a predator baffle below a nest box on Anguilla Brook Marsh Preserve.

Thank you Dave and John and Delta Waterfowl.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan unless otherwise indicated.