Greenways for the Birds!

As part a regional trails planning initiative to design and construct a greenway from Derby, CT north to Torrington, CT along the Naugatuck River, the towns of Thomaston and Watertown, CT formed local groups to cooperatively plan a trail route and secure funding to design and construct sections of trail through their respective towns. As part of an application for grant funding under the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) administered by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), a Natural Diversity Database (NDDB) review is required due to historical records of several endangered, threatened and special concern species within the planned project area.
Thomaston – Watertown Naugatuck River Greenway Project — Breeding Bird Survey and Habitat Evaluation was done during Spring/Summer 2015 by Jeremy Leifert –Town of Thomaston, Land Use Administrator. The Survey Report was completed January 2016. The report summarizes a survey of avian species in a 2,000 foot section of the proposed trail from Route 262 (Frost Bridge Road) in Watertown north to Old Waterbury Road in Thomaston. Of specific concern in the surveys was the Alder Flycatcher (Empidonax alnorum), a species of special concern in Connecticut that prefers shrubby habitat near streams, ponds, and open wetlands. The purpose of this survey was (1) to identify the presence of any Alder Flycatchers during the breeding season (2) identify prime habitats typically preferred by the Alder Flycatcher and (3) identify any other endangered, threatened, special concern bird species or species of Greatest Conservation Need (GCN).

Note: This is an edited version of the full report from Jeremy Leifert.

The following is a summary of the species and number detected within 50 meters of the points during the survey periods: Gray Catbird Veery – 9, Baltimore Oriole – 9, House Wren – 8,
European Starling – 8, Tufted Titmouse – 11, Ovenbird – 11, Red-Bellied Woodpecker – 1,
Prairie Warbler – 1, Black Capped Chickadee – 11, Red Eyed Vireo – 29, White-Breasted Nuthatch – 1, YellowWarbler – 32, American Redstart – 20, Song Sparrow – 19, Common Grackle – 1, Killdeer – 1, Northern Mockingbird – 1, Hooded Merganser – 1, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher – 1, House Sparrow – 1, Common Yellowthroat – 8, American Robin – 7, Northern Waterthrush – 6, American Goldfinch – 6, Eastern Towhee – 5, Chestnut-Sided Warbler – 5, Blue Jay – 4, Mourning Dove – 4, Chipping Sparrow – 4, Downy Woodpecker – 4, House Finch – 3, American Crow – 3, Black and White Warbler – 3, Tree Swallow – 2, Scarlet Tanager – 2, Common Merganser – 2, Broad Winged Hawk – 1, Eastern Wood Pewee – 1 and Eastern Phoebe – 1

Conclusions & Recommendations — While historical records show the presence of the Alder Flycatcher within the vicinity of the project area, none were detected in this survey. Small pockets of the Alder’s preferred breeding and nesting habitat - shrub and alder thickets along riparian zones - are present along the study route. Presently, habitat fragmentation and disturbance due to the adjacent highway as well as off-road vehicle use on the existing trail negatively affect the likelihood of successful nests is the vicinity of the trail.

One state special concern species, the Broad-Winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus), was detected within the project area. As Broad-Winged Hawks tend to avoid nesting in areas with excessive human disturbances, such as the adjacent Route 8 highway and off-road vehicle disturbance along the project route, the project area is unlikely to support a successful nest.

Species of Greatest Conservation Need (GCN)- The list of detected species was reviewed for species of Greatest Conservation Need (GCN) as listed in the latest Connecticut Wildlife Action Plan. The Plan categorizes species of conservation concern as “important”, “very important” or “most important”.

One species listed as “most important”, the Prairie Warbler (Setophaga discolor) was detected. As a bird of shrubland and early successional forest along forest edges, the habitat within the survey area appears to be marginal when compared to the preferred breeding and nesting habitat of this species. Efforts should be made to preserve the small pockets of shrubby edge habitat areas near the project site.

Several “very important” species were detected within the project area. These include the Chestnut-Sided Warbler (Setophaga pensylvanica), Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus) and Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea).

Additionally there were six different species listed as “important” that were detected during the surveys: Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula), Black and White Warbler (Mniotilta varia), Eastern Wood Pewee (Contopus virens), Northern Waterthrush (Parkesia noveboracensis), Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapilla) and Veery (Catharus fuscescens).

The majority of these species utilize a mix of edge habitat and interior forest habitat with varying preferences for understory density for breeding and nesting. Minimizing removal of existing trees and shrubs is recommended to preserve existing habitat and provide cover.

The Bottom Line Is— There are at least 40 species of birds that inhabit the woodlands along the Naugatuck River in Thomaston and Watertown. The future Greenway Trail will provide an excellent opportunity for the public to observe these beautiful, winged wildlife.

There are more than 275 species of birds that are residents, seasonal or pass through the Naugatuck River Watershed each year, thus the following is a summarized list of the most common birds.

Large & Medium Size Birds
Bitterns, Cormorants, Crows, Doves, Ducks, Eagles, Egrets, Falcons, Geese, Gulls, Grebes, Hawks, Herons, Loons, Osprey, Owls, Ravens, Rails, Swans, Vultures,

Land Game Birds
Grouse, Pheasant, Quail, Wild Turkey, Woodcock,

Likely to be seen on, in and/or by water:
Kingfishers, Bitterns, Cormorants, Ducks, Eagles, Egrets, Geese, Gulls, Grebes, Herons, Loons, Swans, Osprey,

Popular “Song” Birds
Bluebird, Bobolink, Cardinal, Catbird, Cedar Waxwing, Chickadees, Finches, Flicker, Flycatchers, Grackles, Grosbeaks, Killdeer, Mockingbird, Nighthawk, Nuthatches, Sparrows, Swallows, Tanagers, Water thrush, Warblers, Whip-poor-will, Woodpeckers, Wrens,

Photos by Joseph Savarese
The photos by Joseph Savarese may not be reproduced with out his permission.