Monday, May 25, 2015

Avalonia Annual Meeting

Friday May 29, 2015. North Stonington Senior Center, 6:30 pm

By Beth Sullivan
Over the last year or so, Avalonia Land Conservancy has undergone some big changes and is making some great strides. From the ground up the organization is getting in step with new standards and practices.

Avalonia provides nesting opportunities for Purple Martins

We will always strive to acquire important parcels of land, to protect special habitats, and special species, create greenways, and foster an atmosphere that welcomes education and exploration and nurtures love of the land. We have embarked on some more active management projects. Rather than always letting the land sit still and be idle, sometimes outgrowing true optimal usefulness as a habitat, we have done projects that create improve habitats both for the plants and wildlife as well.
Avalonia dedicates a new preserve in North Stonington

Increased stewardship helps Avalonia

We have grown our stewardship teams, hardworking folks who care about the land and the organization, who work hard to maintain, enhance and make the trailed preserves safe and enjoyable for others.
Avalonia connects the trails in Groton

At Preston Nature Preserve the meadows are restored for wildlife

At the town level, the local committees are working to increase communication within their towns, to keep members active and informed, to increase membership and to make connections with other organizations which help us on our mission to manage and improve our preserves.
Groups of students learn about stewardship at Dodge Paddock
We have increased and formalized the standing committees. We can always use more representation and help: Stewardship, Acquisition, Finances, Governance and Planning, and Development. We have also added a Communications Committee that enfolds all aspects of social media, connecting with members and the public, developing outreach and education programs. We will have a super new website, being unveiled shortly, a blog, a newsletter that is rapidly turning to a new and improved digital format for quicker news and greater appeal. We are introducing an Instagram account for photo sharing as well as a photo gallery on the new website. As before, Facebook has continued to be the place to find updates on events, walks and news.
Avalonia provides opportunities to explore and grow outdoors

Land Trust Alliance accreditation planned

At the leadership level, Executives and the Board of Directors are streamlined and working together to work toward Land Trust Alliance accreditation. Getting the house in order is no small feat, and the rigors of doing so are making us all appreciate the challenges of being a successful, productive all-volunteer land trust.
Avalonia provided new Osprey platforms in Stonington Marshes
We welcome everyone to our Annual Meeting, Friday May 29, at 6:30 pm. Join us at the North Stonington Senior Center on Rt 2 by the Holly Green Plaza. We will report on the year’s achievements. We will introduce and elect our new or returning Executives and Board. Our speakers will be Doug Thompson and Jennifer Pagach, directors of the Goodwin Niering Center for the Environment at Connecticut College. We have worked with their students for three years now as part of their Service Learning course-a great collaboration.
Avalonia creaetd new young forest habitat
The beautiful quilt will be raffled off at 8pm. Tickets will be available at the event and are still available by contacting the Avalonia office or a town chair person.

Please join us, for this one night, or planning to make a commitment to an organization that is YOUR land trust, which would welcome your energy, skills and service!

Photographs by Beth Sullivan and Avalonia volunteers.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Goodwin-Niering Center Cleans Up The Dodge Paddock and Beal Preserve

 By Julia Serafin and Marissa Gildea

“Wow!” “This is amazing!” “The site is so beautiful!” “Conn kids should explore Mystic and Stonington more often.” These were common phrases heard as a group of Connecticut College’s Goodwin-Niering Center students and professors traveled to the Dodge Paddock and Beal Preserve on Sunday, April 19. The group of students and professors helped Avalonia members clean up the site for the third annual spring work day. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and the salty coastal breeze cooled off the hard working volunteers; it was the perfect day to be outside. The work day provided a different type of learning for many of the students who would usually be spending their Sunday buried in a library cubby finishing lab-write ups and finding literature for research papers. 

The GNCE Team hard at work.
Once we reached the preserve and jumped out of the Connecticut College vans, we put on our gloves, grabbed rakes, and got right to work. A small group of students raked and piled dead reeds. The rest of the students loaded brush, large tree stumps, and logs into trucks going to the dump. Beth Sullivan and others spoke to us about the brush we removed. We were happy to pile swallow-wort onto the truck after learning about how it confuses monarch butterflies. Marissa used her muscles to help Avalonia members saw a huge tree branch in half. Over three truck loads of brush were removed from this end of the site!

A truck piled-high! 

Mei and Moriah rake the reeds! 

As 1 pm neared, we took a much needed lunch break to refuel. While we munched on delicious entrees from the Pita Spot, vegetables, snacks, and cookies (Yum!), conversations included summer internships at sustainable farms, becoming a vegetarian, and preserve history. We were interested to learn that much of the preserve was used for an annual Easter baseball game. Also, we had fun delicately tip-toeing from one rock to another observing the sparkly blue water and serene snails. Playing with Anne Nalwalk’s dog was a big hit as well. BG was cute and cuddly!

The GNCE Dodge volunteers.
After lunch, we created a pile and loaded one last truck with brush. In addition, we searched the preserve for fallen tree branches. All of us were really happy with what we accomplished. We were able to refresh the site and create piles that can be removed in the future; we got more done than we thought we would! The preserve service was over, but the work day was not yet finished. On our way back to Conn College, we took a quick ride over to the Avalonia office. We enjoyed seeing what Avalonia works with outside of the actual preserves and snapped some pictures, too!

Photographs by Avalonia volunteers.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Avalonia Land Conservancy Annual Meeting May 29 features custom quilt raffle

Tickets can also be purchased at Tom's News in Stonington Borough.  There are only 80 tickets, so get yours today.

An entomologist in the field…and woods chasing Ladybugs

By Beth Sullivan
Last summer, I made the acquaintance of a very interesting man, Raul Ferreira, who sought permission to set up insect traps on the Perry Natural Area preserve for the purpose of studying beetle species, most notably those that live in forests and rely on wood and wood products for their food and life cycles. I met up with him and his family one day and was intrigued. At the end of the season, he sent his very academic report to me. I am still trying to turn it into lay person’s terms for identification purposes, but it was evident that he was enthusiastic about his findings, as well as teaching and sharing his love of beetles. This summer he will again visit Perry but will expand his study area to include Hoffman Preserve. This will be a great opportunity for us to expand our data base for that preserve as we think about doing habitat management for birds as well.

Can you identify these Ladybugs?  See the figure below to learn how.
A new passion has engaged him now, as well-the apparent disappearance of our native “Lady Bugs.” Truly a Beetle, and often called Lady Bird Beetles, they are recognized and loved by everyone, unless of course you get the fall invasions!
He sent me some information about a study “Finding the Lost Lady Bird Beetles,” which is calling on citizen scientists to document and report their encounters with ladybugs. The information that follows is reprinted with his permission with photo credits to the Lost Lady Bug Project. There is a full national website hosted by Cornell University here, but there is also a local effort centered here in CT and RI to help document our spotted friends.

You probably wouldn't recognize the pupa and larval stages as Ladybugs.

Another fun reason to get out and explore. Let the kids find the lady bugs. It is a great way to get families involved in a project for science…and get them outside! We need to grow future scientists and entomologists!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Osprey in our midst

By Beth Sullivan
As far back as I can remember visiting the shoreline, I have been intrigued by the Osprey. When we moved here in the early 80s, their population was still low after the steep decline in the 70’s due to DDT effects on their egg shells, diminishing their hatching successes.

Conservation Success

With the banning of DDT, their numbers have rebounded and far more people look to the arrival dates of the Osprey as their official sign of Spring. Some years they have been as early as March 14th or 15th. When the winds from the south are strong and consistent for several days they have a good push to arrive early…sometimes only to be met by snow and cold.
This year we experienced the long, deep cold, north winds dominated and the osprey did not make a real dedicated push to get up here until nearer the end of March. That was probably a good thing, as the waters were cold, and fish swim deeper, making catching them more difficult.
At Paffard Marsh, the Osprey are easily visible over the marsh. Photo by Dan Hall.

Excellent fish catchers, this Osprey pulled a large Catfish up from the bottom.

Through April they establish territories. Ospreys are very site-loyal, and mated pairs return to the same nest site over consecutive years. If one of the pair dies or does not make it back north, the lone mate will stay by the site and wait for another unattached one to arrive, or for a younger bird that may be nesting for the first time.
On a man-made platform with a predator baffle, Osprey have the best nesting success. Photo by Rick Newton.

In years long past, Osprey made their nest in trees, large snags near marshlands, mostly near the shore but occasionally inland in freshwater wetland areas. There have been instances of birds making nests close to the ground on old bridge structures; one was at Barn Island for years until the structure collapsed. Those nests are very vulnerable to predators. Another site on Barn Island near Avalonia’s Continental Marsh property has a tree nest. While it seems wonderful and natural to see it high in a tree, there is greater problem with predation from below (raccoons) and from above (Owls) who can sneak in more easily from wooded perches. Trees are also less stable and likely to break under the weight of a large nest.
This large nest is in an old tree snag at Henne Preserve.

All along the shoreline, man-made nesting platforms have become a common sight, and the birds adapted to them quite easily. There are very specific design plans provided by DEEP and several other wildlife agencies. Placing them on a marsh property also requires special permits, so it is not something any one can do on their own.
Osprey may choose utility poles for nest sites which can often be unfortunate for the birds.

Avalonia has a number of Osprey nests on coastal properties, and they are easy to view. Some require a little hike, others can be viewed from the car. As always, please do not cause the birds distress. If you notice they are agitated, or leave the nest even as you watch from a distance, it may be that they have less tolerance for disturbance, and you should back off. It is now egg laying time. Birds need to remain on the eggs to keep them warm. Once hatching occurs at end of May/early June, the parents will be busy feeding young. It is great to watch, but from afar. Bring binoculars or a spotting scope!
Majestic Osprey have had a come back since their steep decline in the early 70s. Photo by Rick Newton.

Osprey Nests on Avalonia Properties

Knox Preserve Stonington has a nest that is visible from the rocky Knoll and along the railroad track trail. Another is visible looking west along the tracks.
The nest on Paffard Marsh on Rt. 1 in Stonington is easily viewed from the adjacent parking area.
Downes Marsh in Mystic/Groton side along the Mystic River has an old and successful nest.
Henne Preserve in North Stonington is the site of the large freshwater wetland with a big nest in an old tree snag.
Cottrell Marsh in Stonington has an established nest that is visible best by kayak, and volunteers just erected a new platform there that is in the center of the marsh.
These Avalonia volunteers got a new platform way out on Cottrell Marsh. Photo by Jim Sullivan.

Woolworth-Porter Preserve on Wamphaussuc Point has had two new nest platforms erected in the last weeks. They are hard to see from land, as access is limited except from a small walk way down a private road. Neighbors there keep an eye on them for us and have reported that a pair of osprey have already begun checking out a new platform.
Location, location, location!

Photographs by Beth Sullivan unless otherwise indicated.