Kestrels Nesting at Hauser Preserve

Weantinoge is extremely lucky to count Art Gingert among its volunteers. Art has installed four nesting boxes on Weantinoge preserves. In July 2019, kestrels nested in the Hauser Preserve nesting box for the first time! Kestrels nest in cavities but lack the ability to excavate their own. They rely on old woodpecker holes, tree hollows, and rock crevices, but they will readily take to nesting boxes if they are properly situated. Male kestrels will identify several options to show the female and the female kestrel will make the final choice.

The American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) is North America’s smallest falcon and a beautiful dynamic bird. You can spot kestrels along the edges of open fields, where they hunt for their prey of insects and small animals. Kestrel populations have declined because of land clearing that removes the dead trees they favor for nesting, vanishing meadow habitat, and increased pesticide use that kills their prey. If current trends continue, the kestrel population could decrease by 50% by 2075. What will help kestrels thrive into the future? Protecting land from development, maintaining open meadow habitat for them to hunt, and thoughtfully placed nesting boxes to replace dead trees lost to clearing or windstorms.

The first indicated that kestrels had nested was on June 23, when Art visited and found a clutch of five eggs. Kestrels incubate their eggs for 26 to 32 days. After hatching, the nestlings will spend 28 to 31 days in the nest. When we returned in mid-July, only two of the eggs had hatched, the nestlings were both females and Art banded both. Banding nestlings is a way to help study the populations of birds. Art identified several clues that suggest these were young kestrels, perhaps even first-time parents.

  • It is not uncommon for younger adults to raise only two, or three nestlings, after starting quite late too. Perhaps it takes them longer to find unclaimed nesting sites.
  • The nestlings were young for mid-July, these parents got off to a late start.
  • They also had to evict other birds before nesting. They nested atop a trampled starling nest, and there were also six abandoned, undeveloped Eastern bluebird eggs in a small nest cup in a corner of the box.

Last July’s successful nesting of kestrels at Hauser means that we have had successful fledging of young kestrels from each of the four Weantinoge nesting boxes. Art says, “The only frustrating thing is that kestrels are still declining and threatened, and we are not likely to have them in residence each year even at high-quality habitat sites like Whippoorwill Farm and the Blass pasture.” We’re hoping that they return this summer.  At Hauser, hikers can use binoculars to watch the nesting box from the walking path along the north side of the meadow. Click here to learn more about this preserve.

Background on Bird Banding

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service administers the nationwide bird banding program, headquartered at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland. It’s a program that dates to the 1920s.  All banders apply for a permit and are required to submit their reports of banded birds annually. Placing numbered aluminum bands on the legs birds has provided fascinating, and important, information about the age, distance traveled, and site fidelity of birds over many decades. In fact, J.J. Audubon placed tiny silver wires on the legs of eastern phoebes at his small farm in eastern PA and watched to see whether any of the birds returned to nest in the same area (they did). Art has been banding birds since 1974 when he was a wildlife sanctuary manager and biologist for the Miles Wildlife Sanctuary, now the Sharon Audubon Center. In 2019, Art banded 149 kestrel nestlings in 26 Connecticut towns!

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service administers the nationwide bird banding program, and if you find a banded bird (dead or alive) you can report the band number online, and receive an official document telling you what species of bird, where it was banded, by who, how old the bird was.

Our Merger with BOSLI: Lasting Conservation through Partnership

Weantinoge Heritage Land Trust, Inc. has announced the
completion of a merger between itself and Brookfield Open Space Legacy, Inc. (BOSLI)
effective as of October 31.

Weantinoge, the surviving entity of the merger, is the largest land trust in Connecticut and the
18th largest land trust in the United States by the number of lands conserved. Founded in 1965,
Weantinoge permanently protects 10,300 acres in Litchfield and northern Fairfield Counties,
including 12 public hiking preserves; 29 working farms; and 42 miles of rivers, lakes, and
streams. In addition, Weantinoge offers free education programs to more than 2,000 children and
families annually. Weantinoge is a nationally accredited land trust with the Land Trust
Accreditation Commission. For its commitment to conservation excellence and education it has
received a 2013 EPA Environmental Merit Award and a 2017 Working Lands Alliance
Pathfinder Award.

“Weantinoge has worked closely with BOSLI for a number of years and this merger is a natural
next step for our two organizations,” said Catherine Rawson, Executive Director of Weantinoge.
“Through this merger Weantinoge will ensure BOSLI’s land assets are protected in perpetuity.
Combining our efforts also enables us to more efficiently provide services and benefits that our
members care most about, such as improved public access to natural lands. We are pleased to
work even more closely with BOSLI and the community of Brookfield.”

BOSLI, also founded in 1965, is an all-volunteer, non-profit land trust having stewardship of 167
acres of protected land in Brookfield. As stated by Louis Memoli, President of the Brookfield
Open Space Legacy, “BOSLI has a legal obligation to forever protect and maintain our nature
preserves but it has become increasingly difficult to accomplish this mission. Over the past few
years, BOSLI has relied heavily on Weantinoge for guidance, staff support, grant applications,
project management, and their volunteers. It has become apparent to the BOSLI Board of
Directors that we can no longer live up to our legal responsibilities alone and that the future of
Brookfield’s open space will be better served by merging with Weantinoge. We believe that this
is a prudent and our best option to ensure that Brookfield’s open space is forever preserved for
the benefit of the community and for the education and enjoyment of its residents.”

BOSLI will be integrated into the Weantinoge organization and its board members will remain
actively engaged in preserving and protecting Brookfield’s private open space as part of
Weantinoge’s mission. Both organizations were in a strong financial and governance position at
the time of the merger. As a result of the merger, Weantinoge has taken on the management of
two public nature preserves with hiking trails.

The two organizations will celebrate the merger at Weantinoge’s Annual Meeting on Saturday,
November 23 from 10:30 AM to 12:00 PM at the Kent Community House, located at 93 North
Main Street, Kent, CT. This event is free and open to the public. For more information or to
RSVP, please contact info@weantinoge.org.

Weantinoge Awarded Grant to Combat Invasive Barberry

Weantinoge was awarded a $10,000 grant from the Iroquois Pipeline Operating Company to remove Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) from trail corridors at five preserves.
As invasive plants go, it’s hard to find something more irksome to hikers than Japansese barberry. Originally imported for ornamental purposes, the shrub quickly spread into forests. Deer will not eat it, but birds love the berries and spread the seeds far and wide.
Japanese barberry can form dense thickets that change the chemistry of the soil so that native plants cannot grow. Shielded from predators, mice, and the Lyme-infected ticks that feed on them, thrive in the dense, humid microclimate that the plants create. Ticks carrying Lyme disease are 12 times more common in barberry thickets than natural forest. Barberry thickets are almost impossible to hike through, and their thorns inflict painful scratches. Once established, the plant is difficult to eradicate. Despite the harm caused by barberry, this plant is still sold in Connecticut! This grant will enable Weantinoge to focus on specific trail corridors and remove barberry from 10 feet on either side of the trail.
Fear of ticks keep many people out of the woods and away from outdoor recreation. Research overwhelmingly supports the physical, psychological, and spiritual benefits of spending time in nature. Weantinoge is committed to using the best available science to steward our lands and improve our trails so that people can reap the many benefits of time in nature.
The five preserves targeted by this grant are the Kahn Preserve, James Morrissey Preserve, Mount Tom Preserve, the Tory’s Cave and Hunt Preserves, and the Pratt Glen Preserve.

Pratt Glen Open Again!

Wind damage from the May 2018 macroburst closed Pratt Glen, but the Pratt Glen preserve is open again thanks to the hard work of our volunteers including Ryan Libby of Brookfield! Ryan’s work at Pratt Glen was part of his Eagle Scout project. Ryan and his scout leaders built foot bridges and crossings through muddy areas, cut back barberry from the trail, cut down leaning trees, cleared the trail of debris, and reblazed trails.
His feat is especially impressive because he completed this stewardship work while balancing the demands of his senior year of high school and a job. Ryan also rerouted the trail segment from Ashwood Lane to the stream crossing. An updated trail map is in the works, but hikers can follow the blue blazed trail.
The Pratt Glen Preserve, which shares a border with BOSLI’s Birch Rocks Preserve, has always been a popular trail because of the serene views of Lake Lillinoah.
Ryan graduated from Brookfield High School and will be attending Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and plans on joining the Air Force. We wish him the best of luck!

Weantinoge Awarded Grant for Exterior Repairs on the Smyrski Farm

Good news for Smryski Farm’s white barns. Weantinoge has been awarded an $8,000 grant for exterior repairs to these historic structures that are used by Mayapple Hill Farm and Stuart Family Farm, LLC. Mayapple Hill Farm and Stuart Family Farm use the barns to store hay and equipment, and Mayapple Hill Farm raises their Coopworth sheep in the barns as well. Read more.
The Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation worked with the 1772 Foundation to vet projects and awarded grants to 23 organizations. Investing in the barns ensures that they can continue to be used for agriculture and preserves the rural character of Merryall Road.

Summer Internships!

Weantinoge is hiring two paid Stewardship Interns to work 30 hours per week (each), June 3, 2019, thru August 16, 2019. They will be based in Weantinoge’s Kent, CT office and be trained and managed by Weantinoge’s professional staff. Work will take place at Weantinoge preserves and at preserves owned and managed by Bethlehem, Litchfield, and Warren Land Trusts. This is a unique hands-on opportunity to learn about land and public preserve management, trail construction and maintenance, GPS/GIS, and other important stewardship work at different organizations. These internships are funded by a grant from the Connecticut Community Foundation as part of Weantinoge’s partnership program.

Work will be performed outdoors in various weather conditions and on rugged terrain, as well as indoors in an office setting.

Housing is available.

Click here for a full description and application instructions.

New Milford Hiking Resource

Seamus McKeon, pictured here with daughter Molly, is a New Milford resident and a long-time Weantinoge volunteer who has helped us blaze and map trails, under the supervision of his trusty companion Babu, a black lab.
Seamus and his wife Lydia raised their family in Roxbury where they enjoyed the Roxbury Land Trust’s trail system. In 2007, Seamus and Lydia moved to New Milford. For Seamus, when the seemingly simple question, “Where can I walk my dogs?” didn’t have a straightforward answer, it launched a passion project to find and map New Milford’s public trails.
Seamus began mapping Weantinoge preserves and then enlarged his focus area, discovering that New Milford offers over 27 miles of trails for residents to explore! Not content to stick with hiking trails, Seamus expanded his project to include information about which scenic dirt roads are a safe and enjoyable walk or bicycle ride. Seamus explained, “Dirt roads can bring people closer to nature, and are easier to navigate for older people, families with young children in strollers, or anybody who has reduced mobility.” Seamus says two things made his project possible 1) inspiration from John Baker’s book of Kent trails and 2) training by Weantinoge’s Paul Elconin on the iphone-based app MotionXGPS.
Next, Seamus moved from land to water. An avid kayaker, in 2016 Seamus participated in the Housatonic Valley Association’s Source to Sound event and came away energized about the river’s possibilities for New Milford residents. Put-ins for kayaks and canoes can be found along the Housatonic, but information about how long users can leave their car without getting a ticket was harder to find. Seamus has gathered information on where it is safe for paddlers to leave their car.
Thanks to Seamus’ dedication and effort, this information about New Milford’s hiking trails, scenic dirt roads, and boat launches will is available on New Milford’s website, click here, then choose “Boat Launches and Hiking Trails”! Seamus sits on the town of New Milford’s Economic Development Commission and the New Milford Bike and Trails Commission, where he represents the interests of the town’s outdoor enthusiasts. Based on his mapping project, there’s a lot to explore. Weantinoge is happy to be part of this public network of trails.

Safeguarding the Future of Farming in Warren

Since 1965, Weantinoge has conserved more than 2,800 acres of farmland across Northwest Connecticut.

This critical work will continue in 2019, in part, through an innovative partnership between Weantinoge, the Town of Warren, Warren Land Trust, Lake Waramaug Task Force, and the Northwest Hills Council of Governments on a project called Warren’s Farming Future.

Together these partners received a $22,800 grant from the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, which will also leverage an additional $18,885 of in-kind support. The funds will be used to develop a long-term plan to support farm viability, sustainable farming practices, and farmland conservation in the Town of Warren.

Warren’s agricultural history predates the Revolutionary War, and its farming heritage and scenic beauty are beloved by residents and visitors. Warren’s Farming Future will help ensure the Town retains the economic, environmental, and quality-of-life benefits derived from its finite and irreplaceable farmland. Further, sustainable farming practices will help to protect the clean, natural waters of the Town, which is located within the watersheds of Lake Waramaug, as well as the Shepaug and the Housatonic Rivers. Warren’s Farming Future is an opportunity to support the continuation of a farming legacy that is deeply valued by the community and fundamental to its social and economic well-being.

New Farm Conserved: A Farmland Protection Success Story

This summer, with Weantinoge’s help, Bud Wright permanently protected Comanche Hill Farm, 34 acres of prime farmland on Stuart Road East in his town of Bridgewater. The land was protected with a conservation easement with the Connecticut Department of Agriculture’s State Farmland Protection Program (FPP), which pays farmers for the development rights on their farms.

Weantinoge assisted Bud in the conservation process every step of the way, including preparing the application and maps, assisting him with the easement’s configuration on the property, and monitoring the project with the Department of Agriculture until the acquisition was complete.

Since 1965 Weantinoge has permanently protected 29 farms and 3,000 acres of farmland soil in Northwest Connecticut. Through its investment of resources and partnership with the Department of Agriculture, Weantinoge has accelerated farmland protection in Litchfield County by enrolling eight farms, including Bud’s, in the State protection program over the past two years alone.

Comanche Hill Farm is part of a swath of farmland that stretches from Northrup Street to Town Line Road. This farmland is key to Bridgewater’s rural and agricultural character and heritage.

Interested in enrolling your farm property in the FPP program? Contact Paul Elconin, Director of Land Conservation, at paul@weantinoge.org.