Status: State-level Important Bird Area (IBA)
Ownership: Connecticut Dept. of Energy & Environmental Protection (CT DEEP) (Nehantic State Forest, Babcock Pond Wildlife Management Area, Devil’s Hopyard State Park, Seldon Neck State Park, Zemko Pond Wildlife Area, Beckett Hill State Park, and Eightmile Wildlife Area), The Nature Conservancy (Burnham Brook Preserve), the Town of Norwich Dept. of Public Utilities (land around Deep River Reservoir), East Haddam Fish and Game Club, Yale University (grounds of Sheffield Scientific School), Towns of Lyme and East Haddam, East Haddam Land Trust, other local land trusts, and many private landowners.
Site Description: The northern half of this IBA includes Devil’s Hopyard State Park, Babcock Pond and Zemko Pond Wildlife Management Areas, The Nature Conservancy’s Burnham Brook Preserve, forested land around the Deep River Reservoir, and approximately 1,400 acres owned by the East Haddam Fish and Game Club. The Southern half of the IBA includes the Lyme and East Lyme blocks of Nehantic State Forest, Seldon Neck State Park, Beckett Hill State Park, The Nature Conservancy’s Pleasant Valley Preserve, and the grounds of the former Sheffield Scientific School, a part of Yale University. Additional open space is held by towns and land trusts within the IBA. These properties are situated in a large-scale forest block comprising more than 60,000 acres of relatively undeveloped forest habitat and forming a nearly contiguous forested landscape. The IBA also overlaps with the Eightmile River Wild and Scenic Watershed.
Devil’s Hopyard is an 891-acre state park adjacent to the Burnham Brook Preserve, and includes very similar habitats and bird life to the preserve. The Connecticut Ornithological Association lists the Hopyard as one of the 10 best birding sites in Connecticut.
Babcock Pond Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is an approximately 1,500-acre state-owned WMA with a wide variety of upland and wetland habitats, ranging from mature deciduous woodlands to a large amount of shrub/scrub early successional habitats. Management of the area for game species, dependent upon early successional habitats, greatly benefits several non-game species of high conservation priority.
The 464 acres Zemko Pond Wildlife Management Area includes a pond, fields, early successional woodlands, mixed hardwood forest, wetlands, and beaver dams. Grasslands and early successional forests are being maintained by the state Wildlife Division to preserve habitat for a variety of birds, reptiles, insects, and small mammals, including the New England cottontail.
The 1,100+ acre Burnham Brook Preserve is mostly upland oak, hickory, and hemlock forest. It incorporates the Burnham and Strong’s Brook watersheds, and approximately 1 mile of the Eight Mile River, which empties into the Connecticut River at Hamburg Cove. Natural features include brooks, wooded vernal pools, red maple swamp, rocky ledges, large glacial erratics, and approximately 16 acres of open fields. Owned almost wholly by The Nature Conservancy, it is the Connecticut Chapter’s best-inventoried site, with years of research in diverse areas.
East Haddam Fish and Game Club is a 1,400-acre+ privately owned fish and game club. The primary purpose of the preserve is to provide habitat for harvested species of wildlife, but the variety of habitats that benefit game species also benefits several non-game species of high conservation priority.
The Lyme and East Lyme blocks of Nehantic State Forest have large areas of mature forest habitat. Forestry management activities in these blocks, including intentional burning, provide for a diversity of habitats from early successional to mature forest, thus increasing avian diversity within the forest. Terrain includes dry and moist forest types, wooded swamp and marsh, two ponds, and a utility right-of-way.
Selden Neck State Park is actually an island. Cut off from the mainland in the 1850s, Selden Neck has spent the better part of 160 years on its own as the largest island in the Connecticut River. The uninhabited, 607-acre island, bordered to the east by Selden Creek and by the Connecticut River to the west, is roughly 0.5 miles wide and 1.5 miles long. Except for the tidal marshes, the island is completely blanketed with lush woodland vegetation.
The Nature Conservancy’s Pleasant Valley Preserve is located to the east of Seldon Island and Northwest of Nehantic State Forest Lyme Block. This preserve, which is managed jointly by the Lyme Land Conservation Trust and The Nature Conservancy, provides trails through open fields and woodlands, and frontage on the Eightmile River. The protection of this land provides numerous environmental benefits, including protection of water quality of the Eightmile River, which in turn affects the habitat of several rare species.
The Eightmile River and its watershed have been designated as a National Wild and Scenic River System. The river is permanently protected from federally licensed or assisted dams, diversions, channelization, and other water projects that would have direct or adverse effects on its free-flowing condition and special resources. The Eightmile River watershed supports 150 plants and animals of high conservation value and nearly 100 significant natural communities.
IBA Criteria Met
- Site important to species of global concern: Both Cerulean Warbler and Wood Thrush occur in the Lyme Block. Wood Thrush are found throughout. Cerulean Warbler are reported along West Road in East Haddam; in the Zemko Wildlife Management Area, on Woodbridge Road, in Salem Valley, Tatson’s Woods Preserve, and Darling Road Preserve in Salem; Nehantic State Forest in East Lyme, Hartman Park, Jewett Preserve, Eno Preserve, and Mount Archer Woods Preserve in Lyme.
- Site important to species of continental or regional concern: During CT DEEP Cerulean Warbler and Worm-eating Warbler Callback Surveys conducted in 2011, the following birds were observed at 29 points: 20 Eastern Wood-Pewee, 5 Veery, 7 Gray Catbird, 1 Blue-throated Green Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, 27 Worm-eating Warbler, 31 Ovenbird, 13 Scarlet Tanager, 3 Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and 13 Eastern Towhee.
- From Askins et al., 2012, 20 Blue-winged Warblers, 7 Chestnut-sided Warblers, 22 Prairie Warblers, 15 Eastern Towhee, and 18 Gray Catbird were detected at 20 survey points in a powerline right-of-way located in this IBA.
- Site important to endangered or threatened species in Connecticut: Records of Whip-poor-will, Bobolink, Alder Flycatcher, Peregrine Falcon, Bald Eagle, Least Bittern, King Rail, and Brown Thrasher have been submitted to the Natural Diversity Database for this area.