Birding in Stratford

Stratford Bird Festival

Saturday, September 24th, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Stratford Point, 1275 Prospect Drive

Source: Audubon; Karin Doyle, Community Development Administrator, Town of Stratford; CTVisit

After a 10 year hiatus the Stratford Bird Festival is returning to celebrate Stratford Great Meadows, which Audubon lists as an “Important Bird Area”.

The event will take place on Saturday, September 24th, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will feature a series of walking tours hosted by professional birders and educators with the Connecticut Audubon Society, a Fairfield-based nonprofit that works to protect the state’s wild birds.

Two of the tours will take place at Stratford Point, while one will be held on Long Beach. Festival-goers interested in a walking tour should pre-register for a tour online. Each tour is capped at 25 participants.

Experienced and well-seasoned birders will host the guided walking tours throughout the day; pre-registration is required for tours. Information on walking tour registration and a complete schedule of the day’s events can be found at: www.CelebrateStratford.com

The Bird Festival is a family-centric event inviting beginner and experienced birders to enjoy a unique opportunity to view a varied number of bird species. With miles of riverfront, several hundred acres of tidal marsh, Connecticut’s longest barrier beach, and a beautiful shorefront on Long Island Sound, Stratford has been coined one of the best birding locations in Connecticut.

The festival will also include a children’s craft tent, food truck and presentations by Skyhunters in Flight, a showcase demonstrating the power of hawks and falcons, and a Secret Life of Owls, which promises to offer a closer look at the life of owls. There will be a series of backyard bird presentations, Beardsley Zoo exhibits, a children’s craft tent and the Down South Dawgs food truck. Parking is available on the Audubon CT property.

“With miles of riverfront, several hundred acres of tidal marsh, Connecticut’s longest barrier beach, and a beautiful shorefront on Long Island Sound, Stratford has been coined one of the best birding locations in Connecticut,” Karin Doyle said in a statement.

David Wright, the town’s historian and an experienced birdwatcher who is helping organize the festival, said officials began considering reviving the event after a rare juvenile snowy owl was spotted on a town beach last fall.

Crowds quickly flocked to the shore for a chance to catch a glimpse of the creature, which concerned environmentalists that the birdwatchers might disturb the vulnerable animal, but it also convinced the town there might be enough interest in a new bird festival.

Wright described the upcoming festival as a kind of experiment that will feature an array of family-centered activities, including a presentation he will host about the safest methods to feed birds.

According to Wright, about 300 different species of birds either live in or pass through Stratford in any given year. The list is made up of common birds like house sparrows, starlings and pigeons, but it also includes more interesting animals such as cardinals, blue jays, northern flickers and red-bellied woodpeckers.

He said Stratford’s wide variety of birds is largely due to its uncommon geographical features which allow for a diverse number of habitats that can support different species.

“Because Stratford is a very long and narrow town, you have shoreline birds that you would see in Lordship that you wouldn’t necessarily see in the north end,” he said. “It really is unique.”

Ornithological Summary of Stratford’s “Crown Jewel”

Great Meadows Marsh is a significant over-wintering area for waterfowl, especially Black Ducks. The rare Snowy Owl, threatened Short-eared Owl, and special concern Ipswich Sparrow, can also be found wintering here. It is a critical nesting habitat for special concern species Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed and Seaside Sparrow, Willet, and the threatened Least Tern and Piping Plover.

The site is also an important feeding area for wading birds such as the threatened Great and Snowy Egrets, after the young have fledged. Endangered raptors, such as Northern Harriers, Bald Eagles, and Peregrine Falcons, use this area as a feeding ground during migration and winter. The nearby airport lawns support breeding areas for the endangered Upland Sandpiper and the threatened Horned Lark. The site is a migratory stopover for the endangered Pied-billed Grebe.

Conservation Issues

Serious: Introduced animals, predators, habitat conversion, development, disturbance to birds or habitat, marine sand and gravel mining. Minor: Invasive or non-native plants, pollution. Potential: Hydrologic changes.

Ownership

US Fish and Wildlife Service, Town of Stratford, City of Bridgeport, Sikorsky Memorial Airport, private.

Habitat

Primary: Saltmarsh with barrier beach. Secondary: Non-tidal freshwater marsh (near airport), pond/lake (Frash Pond), estuary, marine, some forest.

Land Use

Primary: Nature and wildlife conservation, undeveloped. Secondary: Hunting/fishing, suburban/residential, urban/ commercial.

Other: Before the construction of Sikorsky Memorial Airport and other industrial and commercial developments, this marsh system was four times as large as it is today,
covering as much as five square miles.

The site is an important breeding area for the Atlantic Horseshoe Crab, and nesting site for a population of Diamond-backed Terrapins.

The tidal flats and offshore waters are also important for foraging and breeding finfish populations.

A large oyster seed bed is found between the marsh and Long Beach which serves as an economically important component of the Long Island Sound fisheries.

Several rare plant species, such as prickly pear, marsh pink, and coast violet occur
here.

The site has tremendous potential as one of the primary bird watching areas in Connecticut

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