Friday, June 18, 2010

Edward Steichen Memorial Wildlife Preserve - BBS

This past Tuesday I conducted another breeding bird survey on one of Connecticut Audubon Society's infrequently visited sanctuaries: the Edward Steichen Memorial Wildlife Preserve in Redding. It is informally and affectionately known as Huckleberry Swamp. The site was the location of a prolonged and far-reaching ecological study by CAS and the Yale school of Forestry and Environmental Studies in the late 1970s. The detailed information in their report was all I had to prepare for my trip.

Unfortunately, the sanctuary's boardwalk system and trails were and are too costly to maintain. We would love to be able to remedy this situation but it is not possible at the moment. Therefore, I would only recommend a visit to those people who are able to handle very difficult, uncut, and treacherous terrain. You can get a decent view of some of the site by simply walking down Chestnut Woods Rd. as that forms part of the boundary of the 56 acres.

This, sadly, is about as solid as the boardwalk gets.

The now overgrown trail

It was difficult to see much into the swamp itself without getting into the water, though I did find several Wood Duck swimming around. Ducklings were present, too, representing a confirmed breeding record. They avoided my camera, though you can see a Wood Duck box in the back of the first photo below.

I kept an eye out for an interesting herps, mammals, or plants along my journey into the unknown. My mammal list included many Eastern Chipmunks and Gray Squirrels, White-tailed Deer, and Striped Skunk. I was pleased to see the deer had not caused too much damage to the understory from overgrazing. I saw a Common Snapping Turtle, Eastern Painted Turtle, heard Bullfrogs, and found this American Toad in a dried up vernal pool in the wetlands section of the property.

The preserve has old stonewalls along some of the boundary lines of the property, reminders of what once was centuries ago in our state.

While the swamp is the primary habitat, a small forested upland area is part of our preserve as well. It has a stream that empties down into the swamp. While I did not see any during this trip, it may be a good spot for a Winter Wren. The area by the start of the old boardwalk and this spot would both be good places to see American Woodcock - and I did flush one when I first arrived.

The upland area is home to Wood Thrush, Veery, and Ovenbird, among other typical forest species. Tufted Titmouse was recorded as breeding several times as I found multiple pairs feeding fledglings. Veery and Red-bellied Woodpecker were other forest bird confirmations.

View of the swamp from the end of the upland forest.

Another view of the shrubs and trees adjacent to and in the swamp

Huckleberry Swamp is a location with great potential. I hope that we will have the resources and time to be able to explore, study, and maintain this unique site in the future. Twan will likely accompany me on another trip there soon. Now that I have a "feel" for what it could hold I sense that we will uncover even more in this subsequent visit.

Photos © Scott Kruitbosch

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