Updated: Thursday, 11 Aug 2011, 2:07 PM EDT
Published : Thursday, 11 Aug 2011, 7:46 AM EDT
Milford, Conn. (WTNH) - In a little corner of Milford nature bursts into full view. A meeting of three diverse ecosystems where freshwater from the Housatonic River merges with an 840-acre salt marsh, and Long Island Sound is just a few hundred yards away.
"We are on an incredibly important, unique and very rich barrier beach here," said Milan Bull, senior director of conservation and science at the Connecticut Audubon Society.
That site is where the Coastal Center at Milford Point sits. It's one of several sites and facilities managed by the Connecticut Audubon Society, the oldest conservation organization in the state.
"It's just a beautiful place," Bull said.
It's a place for young and old to learn about animals, the environment and our surroundings. An observation tower draws visitors up a spiral staircase to see the landscape beyond.
"Every season, almost every week there's something new here," Bull said.
Like the white-tailed kite witnessed here just last year, or a breeding osprey whose perch is monitored by a webcam for visitors to use. In all about 310 species have been spotted here.
"I guess the best way to put it is, if a rare coastal bird is going to show up in Connecticut it arrives here first," Bull said. "It's an amazing place.
So is the eight-acre Smith-Hubbell Wildlife Refuge and Bird Sanctuary that sits next door, offering protection for animals and native plants alike.
"Amazingly, in this tiny little space, there's all kinds of endangered species and rare species that need these type of habitats and don't grow anywhere else."
"We've got a number of nesting shore birds here that are pretty rare," said Frank Gallo, the Center's Director.
Those birds find safety in this stretch of beach. A place to study habits through the use of banding and observation.
"There's all sorts of things we can learn when identifying an individual."
But keeping this fragile ecosystem strong is a struggle, especially in the face of invasive plants.
"This dune grass is supposed to be here but these bushes growing up in the dune ... have escaped from people's plantings from trees and actually we've been cutting them back for a long time," Gallo said.
And that can only happen with the help of volunteers and funds.
"We try to instill a love of nature and a love and appreciation of what we have," Gallo said, "and at the same time let people understand that if we don't do something to protect this it's going to go away."
The Connecticut Audubon Society’s Coastal Center at Milford Point is open every day except Monday. The bird sanctuary is open every day from dawn until dusk. For more information and directions visit http://www.ctaudubon.org/coastal-center-at-milford-point/
To learn more about all of the programs the Connecticut Audubon Society offers visit http://www.ctaudubon.org/