Hotspots Near You

38. New Canaan Nature Center, New Canaan, Connecticut

More than 175 species can be found at this small, diverse hotspot in southwestern Connecticut.
By Frank Gallo | Published: 2/22/2008

New Canaan Nature Center is one my favorite inland birding areas in spring and especially fall. The site is perfect for someone on a tight schedule because it offers considerable habitat diversity in a small place.

Each spring, Common Loons migrate over. American Woodcocks display at dusk behind the greenhouse in March. Butterfly Field supports nesting Indigo Buntings. Winter Wrens take up residence under the boardwalks in late autumn; it’s odd to hear their kip, kip call coming from underfoot. The nature center is a meat-and-potatoes kind of place, where new species are added slowly and savored over time. One Sunday morning, I saw my life Northern Wheatear perched on a yellow bulldozer behind the center. Over the years, the park has seen King Rail, Sedge Wren, and even a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.

Autumn is my favorite time. Cold crisp days in September and October bring plenty of landbirds and migrating hawks, sometimes by the hundreds. The observation platform to the west of Kiwanis Pond and the fields by the Sugar Shed provide the best views.
Frank Gallo

Frank Gallo is associate director of Connecticut Audubon’s Coastal Center at Milford Point and author of Birding Connecticut & Rhode Island (Falcon, 2008).

 

38. New Canaan Nature Center, New Canaan, Connecticut

Directions

The New Canaan Nature Center is a 40-acre environmental education center and sanctuary in New Canaan, 35 miles from New York City. From Norwalk, take S.R. 123 northwest for 3.3 miles to East Ave. Turn left, drive half a mile to Main St., and turn right. After 0.2 mile, it becomes Oenoke Ridge. The center is 0.4 mile up the road on the left.

At a Glance

Click on the coordinates below to view location:
41°09’13.17N 73°29’58.00W

Habitat

Open wet and dry meadows, old fields, upland hardwood forest, arboretums, wood swamps, small cattail marsh, ponds, butterfly and herb gardens, lawns, and apple orchard.

Terrain

Mixed, mostly level or mildly sloped. Small steep hill near the entrance. Over two miles of well-maintained trails; boardwalks over most wet areas. Can be muddy in places, especially in spring. Most areas wheelchair-accessible.

Birds

More than 175 species. Breeding: Wood Duck, Red-tailed Hawk, Yellow- and Black-billed Cuckoos, Tree Swallow, Northern Flicker, Hairy, Red-bellied, and Pileated Woodpeckers, Great Crested Flycatcher, Warbling Vireo, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, Wood Thrush, Eastern Bluebird, Yellow Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Indigo Bunting. Migrants: American Woodcock (spring), thrushes, orioles, Scarlet Tanager, vireos, kinglets, more than 25 species of warbler, sparrows, Bobolink, blackbirds. Raptors in fall. The weedy fields fill with sparrows in autumn.

When to go

May to early June and late August through October best for migrants. September and October for raptors.

Amenities

Restrooms and water fountains in the nature center and greenhouse. Birds of prey exhibit. Downtown restaurants and shops a quarter mile away. Occasional bird walks (see website or call).

Access

Town park. Admission free (donations encouraged). Trails open daily dawn to dusk. Nature center open 9-4, Monday through Saturday.

Tips
In the morning, bird entrance road’s oak trees, then descend into valley and work north. Check Dinosaur Swamp for nesting Wood Ducks. Deer ticks present, so tuck pants into socks.

For more info
New Canaan Nature Center, (203) 966-9577
Connecticut Ornithological Association

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