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Wildlife Observation & Photography

Great Meadows aerial viewThe Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge provides many opportunities for photography and wildlife observation.

Salt Meadow Unit The approximately 2 miles of trails at Salt Meadow in Westbrook wind through grassland, forest, and marsh habitats. The 9 acres of shrubland and fields provide a view of woodcock, bluebirds, tree swallows, wild turkeys and numerous species of butterflies and dragonflies. Down at the marsh you can expect to see great egrets, glossy ibis, snowy egrets, belted kingfishers, osprey and many other species. If you are lucky, you just might catch a glimpse of a red fox, a coyote, or a red tailed hawk. The refuge hosts many wildlife events at Salt Meadow throughout the year, some in partnership with Potopaug Audubon Society . These events have included owl and woodcock walks, live birds of prey and bird banding demonstrations, history presentations, and many other interesting programs. 

Sheffield Island Unit The trail at Sheffield Island allows visitors to view a tidal saltwater pond which is utilized by egrets and belted kingfishers. The island is also heavily used by white-tailed deer. Adjacent to the refuge on Sheffield Island, the Norwalk Seaport Association maintains a historic stone lighthouse and keepers quarters. Tours are given of this lighthouse by the Norwalk Seaport Association for a nominal charge. For more information on ferry availability, please visit The Norwalk Seaport Association website

Outer Island Unit The pink granite (also known as schist) which dominates the geology of Outer Island Unit in Branford makes for spectacular photographic opportunities. While on the island, it is also likely that you will see common terns and roseate terns feeding off shore, while American oystercatchers, green herons, great egrets and snowy egrets feed below at the water's edge. The island is open to the public daily mid-May to mid-September. Large groups who would like to make a reservation to visit the island can find out more information here.

Great Meadows Unit Located in Stratford, this largest wetland in the state has a nature trail where visitors may see northern harriers, red breasted mergansers, black ducks, pied billed grebe, great blue herons, and numerous other bird species. 

Milford Point Unit The overlook at Milford Point allows visitors the opportunity to view the 9 acre barrier beach. Shorebirds such as sandpipers, oystercatchers, least terns and even the Federally-threatened piping plover may be spied from the platform. To decrease disturbance to this fragile area, wildlife viewing must be accomplished from the observation deck or the very tip of the peninsula. Fishermen and visitors may walk to the tip of the peninsula by way of a marked fishing access, but are deterred from climbing on the fragile dunes. 

Falkner Island Unit Falkner Island, off the coast of Guilford, is home to thousands of terns each season from April through August. It is closed to public visitation due the fragile status of the Federally-endangered roseate terns that nest there. However, the refuge conducts an open house each September to allow visitors an opportunity to view the research camp and a historic lighthouse commissioned in 1802. The lighthouse, research facility and the natural beauty of the island allow for many photographic opportunities. 

Calf Island Unit Calf Island in Greenwich is open to the public throughout the year from 1/2 hour before sunrise to 1/2 hour after sunset for wildlife dependent opportunities such as wildlife observation and photography. The bird life there is tremendous and opportunities for guided tours or overnight environmental education are available. Call the refuge headquarters at 860-399-2513 for more information.

Last Updated: Mar 05, 2014
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