Tag Archives: Connecticut

Summer at Stewart B. McKinney: Crabs, birds, and more!

This post is part of of short summer series featuring blog posts from our Hispanic Access Foundation interns. Today, we are hearing from Ivette Lopez, who has been working at Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge in Connecticut. Read more posts in the series here

During the summer at Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge, I spent plenty of time outdoors at our different refuge and urban sites! In late May, we hosted Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. for Zeta Days, an initiative that encourages members to visit a national wildlife refuge. Our local chapter joined us on an island tour of the refuge.

Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc. and friends enjoy a beautiful day on the refuge’s Outer Island Unit.

On the tour, everyone learned about the history and wildlife of Falkner Island and Outer Island. At Falkner Island, we used binoculars to observe the nesting terns from the boat. Participants learned about the endangered roseate/common terns and their threats such as the black-crowned night heron and habitat loss. Then we sailed across Long Island Sound to Outer Island, where we toured the island’s habitats and enjoyed lunch. It was a beautiful day to be outside!

In June, we had youth from New Haven also visit Outer Island as a part of our urban wildlife refuge partnership. Every year, the refuge offers the Nature of Learning Program to schools across Connecticut. This year five New Haven public schools participated the program, which includes two in-class lessons and a final field trip to the refuge’s Outer Island Unit. During the months of April and May, students learned about their local wildlife refuge, migratory birds, and adaptations through interactive lessons. Some students searched for the invasive Asian shore crab on the rocky beach as a part of a study, while others looked through their binoculars for great egrets, cormorants, and other shorebirds. Other activities included seining for marine wildlife and looking at artifacts from Outer Island.

A fourth grade student from Columbus Family Academy holds an invasive Asian shore crab during an activity on Outer Island.

Aside from providing educational activities on the refuge’s island unit, I also spent a lot of time in New Haven connecting students to their local nature preserves and parks. In early June, Conte West Hills Magnet School first graders had their final expedition to the Quinnipiac Meadows Preserve. Over the last year, students have learned about different aspects of the salt marsh such as the habitat, wildlife, and food chain. Once we arrived at the salt marsh, every student received a pair of binoculars for bird watching. We walked down the trail, saw several osprey flying overhead, and used our binoculars for a closer look at the osprey’s wingspan, bill, and talons. At the marsh, students had a fun time picking up fiddler crabs and mussels!

Conte West Hills Magnet School first grade class enjoy the salt marsh at Quinnipiac Meadows Nature Preserve in New Haven.

Across town, third graders at King Robinson School have learned about the Service and our mission throughout the school year. For our final trip, we walked right next door to explore one of our urban wildlife refuge sites, Cherry Ann St. Park. Over the years, this site has been transformed from an area covered with invasive species and trash to a park with a playground, trails, and native plantings. Students toured the park and learned more about the forest, the freshwater, and meadow ecosystem. We also used binoculars to identify birds at the park such as the American robin, the cardinal, and we even saw a heron flying overhead! At the end of the lesson, everyone had a great time running around the playground. It’s been such a busy and fun summer!

Third graders use the viewing platform to search for wildlife around Cherry Ann St. Park!


Fishing Follows Me

Today you are hearing from Anna Harris, project leader at Maine Ecological Services Field Office

I grew up alongside the Connecticut River in New Hampshire, but it wasn’t until I spent a summer in Montana that I truly become a fisherwoman.

My shift at the dude ranch in Big Sky ended by 3pm, so every afternoon I was off exploring the range. The Lodge was Orvis Endorsed, meaning there were some of the best guides in the world spending their summers guiding clients in boats and on the banks of the Yellowstone, Madison and Gallatin. World class trout streams surrounded me. Since it takes years to become one of the top guides for Orvis, many junior guides were willing to take anyone out on the water, even willing to teach me how to fly fish.

My ethic became catch and release. My rod became a 9 foot 5 weight. My attire now included boots, waders, a vest and net. I brought my new fishing accessories back east as I returned to West Virginia to start my senior year at University.

West Virginia has incredible waters. The Bluestone River in south central WV, the North Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac, and Seneca creek were some of my favorite waters to explore.

Moving to Virginia meant finding new water. I started to fall in love with fishing for native brook trout. Small streams in the Shenandoah National Park became my passion. I’d spend weekends fishing Jeremy’s, Cedars and Big Run and camping in the park.

Moving closer to Washington D.C. meant finding new water and new fishing gear. Luckily D.C. has many organizations active in recruiting anglers to the area. Between Trout Unlimited and the Tidal Potomac River Fly Rodders, many fishermen and woman were willing to share their fishing spots with a new-to-the-area angler. I increased my rod to an 8 weight and changed the tackle to include Clouser Minnows and the “SpongeBob square pants” fly in order to catch small mouth bass and shad around the Capital.

I met my husband through fly fishing and together we explored trout streams in Maryland including our favorite limestone stream, Beaver Creek.  We began to travel around the east coast together, learning new forms of fishing and finding new waters to wade in.

Together we moved west in 2014. Oregon is an anglers paradise. We had the opportunity to fish for steelhead, salmon and cutthroat trout. Unlike many of the states I’d fished in back east, we could fish any time of year, for many fish species. The waters of Oregon, with the diversity of fish species and river access, make it one of the most incredible places I’ve ever lived for fishing.

Now we are back east, closer to home, in Mid-Coast Maine. The bugs have been unbearable but the brook trout fishing has been phenomenal. Meeting and sharing stories with anglers along the St. George River has reinforced my sense of connection to the river and the state.

As I’ve moved around the country, I realize that no matter where I’m headed or where I’ve came from, there is always a place to fish. I continue to find my solace on the water, a connection to the community, and a fondness for casting a line into the water waiting for a tight tug, a hard hit or the rise of a fish after my fly.

Hook, line and sinker: Cops and kids connect through fishing

Fishing off the docks at Riverside Park in Hartford, Connecticut. The park, which is open to the public, provided a great location for the city's first Cops and Bobbers, Hooks and Ladders youth fishing event.

Fishing off the docks at Riverside Park in Hartford, Connecticut. The park, which is open to the public, provided a great location for the city’s first Cops and Bobbers, Hooks and Ladders youth fishing event. Photo Credit: USFWS

“I want to catch a fish!” These words filled the air on a hot August morning as more than 40 youth from Hartford, Connecticut took park in the city’s first Cops and Bobbers, Hooks and Ladders fishing event at Riverside Park.

The Cops and Bobbers, Hooks and Ladders program aims to get urban youth outdoors, teaches them to fish, and connects them to nature, while at the same time, fosters positive relationships with law enforcement and safety professionals in their community.

The event was an outstanding success thanks to all the partners who coordinated and supported the program.

Staff from Connecticut's Dept. of Energy and Environmental Protection CARE program instruct youth on how to properly coast with the fishing poles.

Keith Syrett, an interprestive guide with Connecticut Dept. of Energy and Environmental Protection instructs youth on how to properly cast with the fishing poles. Photo credit: USFWS

The City of Hartford Police and Fire Departments contributed time to help the young anglers cast, bait hooks and reel in any fish they caught. Staff from Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s angler education program taught kids how to cast, tie knots and identify fish. The Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge educated kids about the Connecticut River Watershed through its Watershed on Wheels traveling exhibit. And the Wilson-Gray YMCA and Family Center helped transport kids from their neighborhoods to the park in order to participate in the event.

These happy young anglers are all smiles as they receive their new fishing poles and other "goodies" provided to participants at the event. Photo credit: USFWS

These happy young anglers are all smiles as they receive their new fishing poles and other “goodies” provided to participants at the event. Photo credit: USFWS

Riverfront Recapture, a non-profit organization that maintains Riverside Park and other city parks, provided a great location to hold the event, and worked with Bass Pro Shops to donate a rod and reel to every participant.

Members of each organization also spent time, energy and money planning, organizing and gathering resources so that all kids who attended the event would have a meaningful experience connecting with diverse groups within their community.

A Hartford city officer helps and enthusiastic young angler as she casts her pole into the river. Photo credit: USFWS

Hartford City Officer Christopher Chanaca helps an enthusiastic young angler as she casts her pole into the river. Photo credit: USFWS

“We are teaching our youth that the Connecticut River is a tremendous fishery, right in their back yard. Through this exciting collaboration we are giving them tools to enjoy their free time and learn about their natural environment”, said Craig Mergins, Directory of Community Event and Engagement at Riverfront Recapture.

Kids got a close-up and personal look at the city's fire and safety equipment while also talking with firefighters and EMTs. Photo credit: USFWS

Kids get a close-up and personal look at the city’s fire and safety equipment while also talking with firefighters and EMTs. Photo credit: USFWS

The program also supports the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnerships. By partnering with police and fire departments, the Conte Refuge hopes to create connections within urban communities in the Connecticut River watershed. Through these connections, the Refuge aims to encourage urban youth to feel comfortable in nature and foster a love of the outdoors.

Ideally, with a new fishing rod in hand and the skills they learned at the event, these young kids will continue to fish, carrying with them the desire to protect and conserve our natural world, not only for themselves, but for generations to come.

Photo credit: USFWS

Photo credit: USFWS