Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Connecticut Audubon Society Names Alexander R. Brash of Riverside as New President

Alexander R. Brash, a longtime conservation leader and Connecticut resident with an extensive record of success managing non-profits and government agencies, has been named president of Connecticut Audubon Society.

A skillful birder who is as comfortable scoping seabirds as he is in a meeting room, Brash will take on the task of continuing and expanding Connecticut Audubon Society’s many recent successes, including the delivery of first-rate educational programs, conservation-focused advocacy campaigns, and the sustainable management of its preserves.

Brash will start as president of Connecticut Audubon Society on September 9, taking over for Robert Martinez, who retired in late August after a decade as president of the organization.

Brash comes to CAS from his previous position as senior director for the northeast region of the National Parks Conservation Association, a non-profit that works to protect and support America’s national parks, where he had been since 2004. During his tenure there, he opened the Northeast Regional office, built a strong and diverse team, developed an impressive array of programs, and helped raise more than $40 million for the organization.

Previously he held positions with the New York City Department of Park and Recreation, including as its chief ranger and head of its Natural Resources Group.

A resident of Connecticut for much of his life, Brash has lived in nearly each corner of the state, and now resides in Riverside.

There's much more information about Alex and about Connecticut Audubon Society's goals on our website, here.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Happy Herping

Last week I had the opportunity to spend time in the field with renowned naturalist Geoffrey Hammerson, author of the acclaimed book Connecticut Wildlife - Biodiversity, Natural History, and Conservation (Hammerson, 2004).  Our time was spent searching for anything scaly, slimy, shelled, slithery, squirmy, or a combination thereof, as long as it was of the taxonomic Subphylum Vertebrata – animals with backbones.  And yes, you guessed it, to be more accurate, our query were amphibians and reptiles (Orders Amphibia and Reptilia (often referred together as “Herpetofauna”).  Last week’s weather made for pleasant field work, and we spent one afternoon and four mornings visiting sites in central Connecticut looking for these wonderful creatures.  

Our time in the field took us to a variety of habitats and within various preserves and conservation lands. Among the Amphibia, we had no trouble finding Green, Wood, Pickerel, or Bull Frogs in the wetlands, and American Toad in the uplands.  Northern Dusky Salamanders and Two-lined Salamanders were often found in some of the woodland streams we searched, and Red-backed Salamanders were encountered under fallen logs on the forest floor. Sweeps of seasonal pools using a D-net within forested areas often netted us Eastern Red-spotted Newts, Green and Bullfrog Tadpoles, and larval Spotted Salamanders. 
Spotted Salamander - (Ambystoma maculatum)

Among the Reptilia, Painted Turtles were the easiest to spot, as they were often on display basking in the late morning sun at many of the ponds we visited. At one particular pond, Geoff waded into waist deep water, bent down with both hands under the water surface, and stood up holding a full grown adult male Snapping Turtle!   

Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) - Haddam, CT
Snakes were harder to find, and even harder to capture, suggesting that most don’t want to be noticed, and once they are, they beat a hasty retreat. This proved true for the snakes we encountered in our travels such as Ring-necked, Garter, and especially the sometimes grumpy Northern Watersnake. 

Northern Watersnake - (Nerodia sipedon) resting among water lilies (Nymphaea odorata) and water shield (Brasenia schreberi)
But the highlight of my week in the field with Geoff was when he found a Northern Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix) – one of Connecticut’s only two venomous serpent vipers (Family Viperidae)! Geoff found the copperhead basking on a rock pile within a utility corridor with herbaceous vegetation. (The Eastern Timber Rattlesnake is the other venomous viper that can be found in Connecticut.)

Northern Copperhead - (Agkistrodon contortrix) – Middlefield, CT
Northern Copperheads are not a species listed in Connecticut’s Endangered Species Act (CTDEP 2010), but nevertheless, they are recognized as a species of Greatest Conservation Need in Connecticut’s Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy (CTDEP, 2005), and they have been reportedly declining in the state for some time (Klemens, 1993). Despite their ability to use their hypodermic needle-like fangs to administer a lethal dose of venom to their preferred rodent prey, Northern Copperheads are not a major threat to humans hiking in Connecticut’s woodlands.  For one, they are somewhat range- and habitat-restricted (not every large forest tract has a population of copperheads) and secondly, as Hammerson writes in his book: “…copperheads are passive and reclusive. They never aggressively attack a person, but will strike defensively if molested.” 

Despite the menacing appearance of this snake in the photo, it was not threatening us.  Pit vipers have the ability to dislocate both of their upper and lower jaw bones from their skull, so that they can swallow prey larger than their normal mouth opening, and so that the four bones can work independently of each other to work the captured prey back into their mouths and into their throat.  Once prey has been swallowed, the jawbones are re-articulated.   The snake in this picture is realigning its jawbones, and not – as many might assume – threatening to bite us.  

-- Anthony Zemba, Director of Conservation Services - Conservation Biologist / Certified Ecologist  
Photos by Anthony Zemba/Copyright Connecticut Audubon Society

Connecticut Department of [Energy and] Environmental  Protection (2005). Connecticut’s Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy. Developed by the Connecticut Department of Natural Resources in consultation with Terwilliger Consulting, Inc. October1, 2005. 

Connecticut Department of [Energy and] Environmental  Protection (2010). Connecticut’s Endangered, Threatened and Special Concern Species. State of Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, 2010. :

Hammerson, G. A. (2004). Connecticut Wildlife. Biodiversity, Natural History, and Conservation. University Press of New England, Hanover. 465pp.

Klemens, M. W. (1993). Amphibians and Reptiles of Connecticut and Adjacent Regions. State Geological and Natural History Survey of Connecticut. Bulletin  No. 112.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Red-banded Hairstreak (Calycopis cecrops) - Orange, CT                                            Photo copyright: Sean Graesser

"Lepping" along at Turkey Hill

At the Turkey Hill Preserve in Orange, CT we are currently conducting field surveys in support of a Conservation and Management plan for the Town Conservation Commission. While out surveying for odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) and lepidoptera (butteflies and moths) I caught something different out of the corner of my eye. I saw a larger hairstreak (butterfly) with a funny suspicion it might not be an everyday CT “lep”. Well, my suspicions were confirmed when a Red-banded Hairstreak (Calycopis cecrops) fluttered up and landed in front of me.  I was only able to get the one photo and could not relocate it

The Red-banded Hairstreak is a more southerly ranging species. However, its range is beginning to expand northward in recent years. They can be found in open fields and forest edges. They have a few preferred nectar sources including common yarrow (Achillea millefolium), sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia) and common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). Hopefully, others will be able to enjoy this amazing species in CT this season.

Sean Graesser
CAS Conservation Technician

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Sharing our Shores: Managing Municipal Coastal Resources for Birds and People

Least Terns are among the vulnerable birds that nest on Connecticut's beaches. Photo by Scott Kruitbosch/Copyright Connecticut Audubon Society The Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds, in cooperation with Connecticut DEEP Wildlife Division, is pleased to offer a free half day workshop for municipal officials and interested board and commission members facing the challenge of managing coastal resources for birds and people.

The workshop is designed to increase understanding and expertise regarding beach nesting birds such as the Piping Plover and other coastal species; explain local responsibilities for protecting these birds; share strategies and best management practices with shoreline colleagues; and finish the day with a guided tour of beautiful Milford Point, an area that provides habitat for several species of protected shorebirds and numerous other species.

The workshop is free and includes a morning classroom session followed by lunch (provided) and an afternoon guided beach walk at Milford Point. We hope that you will join us to learn more about our coastal waterbirds and how your community can help them thrive.

WHAT: Shorebird Workshop for Municipal Officials
WHEN: Tuesday, August 13 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.; RAIN DATE: August 16
WHERE: Margaret Eagan Center, 35 Matthew Street, Milford, CT, & Guided walk at Milford Point
WEATHER: Due to the field walk, rain will postpone the event until August 16.

RSVP and questions, please contact: Sandy Breslin at or (203) 264-5098 x306.

The Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds is a joint project of Audubon Connecticut and the Connecticut Audubon Society in cooperation with CT DEEP and USFWS. Learn more about our partnership and activities at:

This workshop is made possible through the generous support of the Long Island Sound Study and Toyota TogetherGreen.

Photo by Scott Kruitbosch/Copyright Connecticut Audubon Society[/caption]