By Leon A. Sylvester

Connecticut’s landscape offers a diverse array of features and terrain providing ideal habitats for a wide variety of birds. While some species are migratory and only spend a limited amount of time here, more than 400 different species can be viewed throughout the hills, forests and salt marshes across our state.  Whether it’s birds of prey, waterfowl or songbirds you seek, here is our list of some of the greatest places in Connecticut to catch a glimpse at some of the rare and beautiful feathered creatures that visit us each year.

Coast Center marsh and observatory

Photo Credit: Leon A. Sylvester

Coastal Center at Milford Point
One Milford Point Road
Milford, CT 06460.
Hours: Tues-Sat; 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sun; Noon-4 p.m., Closed Mondays

The Coastal Center is an 8.4 acre wildlife preserve and bird sanctuary located on the shores of the Housatonic River and within minutes from I- 95.  It’s one of The Connecticut Audubon Society’s multiple locations and offers it’s visiting bird viewers; sand dunes, beaches and a 840 acre salt marsh to view the many species of birds which visit this location. Over three hundred different bird species have been documented at Milford Point and each year that number grows. In 2010, a White Tailed Kite was spotted at the center for several weeks.  This bird, which is native to the southwestern part of our country, is extremely rare in these parts and its presence brought bird watchers from all over the region to the Coastal Center.  The Center’s grounds are equipt with a variety of nesting platforms, boardwalks and a panoramic viewing tower. Visitors can expect to see a wide variety of coastal birds such as Terns, Sand Pipers, Herons, Egrets, Gulls and waterfowl.  Nesting Osprey can be viewed throughout the center’s grounds or via an in-nest web cam which is located on the Coastal Centers website.   Kayak and Canoe tours through the salt marsh are also offered here as are a variety of environmental and marine conservation based programs.

Ansonia nature and Recreation Center

Photo Credit: Leon A. Sylvester

Ansonia Nature Center
10 Deerfield Road Ansonia, CT. 06401
Dawn to Dusk  (office hours are Mon-Sat; 9am-5pm)
(203) 736-1053

Ansonia Nature Center is located on 104 acres of scenic countryside with over 2 and 1/2 miles of trails to be explored.  The center’s grounds consist of ponds, fields and a wide variety of plantings and natural vegetation including a butterfly and hummingbird garden located within the grounds.  Visitors will find a wide variety of native birds, migratory waterfowl and other birds such as hawks, owls and finch at this location.  The Ansonia Nature Center also offers bird watching activities and clubs as well as providing a variety of other outdoor and environmental offerings and activities.

The Shepaug Dam Observation Area
End of River Road
Southbury, CT. 06488
Dawn to Dusk

The Shepaug Dam Observation Area is located along the Lake Lillinonah section of the Housatonic River.  This location has several miles of trails to hike and explore and provides excellent viewing areas for wildlife and birds.  Visitors to the Dam will see a wide variety of species, including hawks, owls, duck, geese and other local birds.  The main attraction of the Shepaug Dam is, however, the Bald Eagles.  This location is famous for its substantial population of wintering Bald Eagles and offers guided viewing opportunities from December to March each year.  While this is the prime time to see these majestic birds of prey at The Shepaug, it is not the only opportunity.   Many of the wintering birds remain in the area all year and can be seen hunting and soaring above the riverbanks on any given day.

Other  Recommended Places to go birding;  Silver Sands Beach in Milford, Sherwood Island State Park in Westport,  Bluff Point State Park and Coastal Reserve in Groton and Sharon Audubon Center in Sharon.

Leon A. Sylvester lives in the Housatonic Valley and has been an avid boater and angler for over 25 years.  He is a featured weekly outdoor columnist in Hersam Acorn Newspapers throughout southwestern CT.. and is a founding director of FOTHR (Friends of the Housatonic River) which is a non-profit enviromental watchdog organization protecting the shores of the lower Housatonic River.  You can follow him on twitter @ Fishingreporter.