Jun 21, 2011
09:15 AMDiscover Connecticut
Coasting on a Summer Day
Now that summer's arrived, take a cool breath of fresh air not far from the madding crowd at the Audubon Coastal Center at Milford Point. This naturalist’s paradise is located on 8.4 acres of protected barrier beach on Long Island Sound at the mouth of the Housatonic River and next to the stunning 840-acre Charles Wheeler Salt Marsh and Wildlife Management Area. More than 315 different species of shorebirds and waterfowl have at least breezed through here, making it one of the best birding spots on the east coast. The center, which opened in 1995, keeps data on birds through its volunteer-run bird-banding station. A tour of the center’s exhibits and a look through one of the telescopes give you a glimpse of the variety of wildlife that live on the beaches and in the brackish estuary, and the friendly and knowledgeable staff stands ready to answer your questions. A climb up the 70-foot-high observation deck offers a panoramic birds-eye view of the salt marsh.
But for an upclose experience of the vast expanses and wildlife of the marsh, take one of the center’s guided family canoe trips (offered through October). As you paddle through the maze of inlets and channels bordered by tall grass, you feel the pulse of life around you. An egret stands tall, mute swans glide by, a young heron spreads its wings, red-winged black birds swoop and terns call out. Seagulls circle above a “boiling” school of bait fish attempting to foil a bluefish’s hunt for dinner. You get the picture—you have a front row seat at a superbly choreographed natural ballet with full orchestra. Two-and-a-half hours later, you'll be as relaxed as that sunning diamondback terrapin you saw, and ready for your next trip.
Make reservations, and be sure to call 60 to 90 minutes ahead of your scheduled paddle to check if the trip is still on. Weather, wind and tides can cause trips to be postponed. Happy paddling!
End of Milford Point Rd., Milford. For info, call (203) 878-7440 or visit ctaudubon.org/coastal-center-at-milford-point.