Monthly Archives: May 2024

Farmgirl Roadtrip: A Beautiful Place

Spring is in full force in New England. Everything is fresh and green, flowers are blooming, and migratory birds have returned. The winter, with its calm and quiet of snow and rest is gone, replaced by the happy sounds of movement and new life. 

One of my favorite towns in Connecticut is Southbury. With many restaurants, stores and various businesses, an antique district, and a population of around 20,000, Southbury is bustling. Nestled within the town is a special place, bursting with true natural beauty. 

While all four seasons are amazing, there’s many things to do in New England after winter’s thaw. Each Spring, I look forward to going to my hometown’s Earth Day celebration with my longtime dear friend and neighbor, Susan. This year, we stopped by the Audubon Society’s booth. There, we picked up some wonderful brochures, information on birds, and a colorful poster. One brochure we received was the trail map of the beautiful Audubon Center Bent of the River. Since it was a pretty, cool spring day, we decided to take a walk, and headed to the next town over – Southbury, to enjoy the scenery. 

Often referred to as a “hidden gem”, Bent of the River is breathtaking. When we arrived, we wondered how it was that we had both lived nearby with our families for so long (over 25 years) without knowing about this spectacular site! Part of the National Audubon Society, Bent of the River’s mission is to “conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats”. At 700 acres, the sanctuary’s acreage has increased over time. Different areas of the land boast various points of interest, including areas thriving with native and wild plants, a glacial rockslide, a seasonal waterfall, and several meadows – habitats that unfortunately are becoming more rare in Connecticut. Next to the parking lot is an area known as the Medici Wildflower Meadow.

Parts of the trail, such as this wooden bridge, looked like something out of a storybook.

Bent of the River feels like you are in another world, and time has stopped. It’s peaceful and quiet, while at the same time gifting visitors with the melodic sounds of singing birds. With 34 sanctuaries across the United States, the Audubon Society is only the fourth to inhabit the land in Connecticut at Bent of the River. 

Eleazer Mitchell purchased land that now includes the Audubon sanctuary land, from the last chief of the Pootatuck Native Americans in the 1750’s; Mitchell Family Farm is still an active part of Southbury today.

In 1934, Althea and Howard Clark purchased five hundred acres. Althea was very conservationist-minded, and upon her death in 1992 bequeathed the land, along with its house and barn, to the Audubon. In 1993, visitation at the time was private, by appointment only.

In 2001, the “red barn“ became what is now “The Center”. The Sanctuary, now always open to the public, 363 days a year until sunset – is closed to visitors on only two days in the late fall and winter. The house is now home to the live-on caretaker of the property, the Land and Facilities Manager. 

On our recent visit, the first birds we noticed were a beautiful pair of ducks swimming along the Pomperaug River, the sound of the flowing water adding to the peacefulness. 

Along our walk, we stopped many times to take in all of the various natural beauty around us, sustainably maintained. Senior Center Manager, Robin Ladouceur, says there are “550 acres of mixed forest, with over 153 species of birds”.  Through special habitat management, The Center tries to “diversify the species of trees and manage shrubby meadows to aid early successional birds such as the blue winged warbler, the prairie warbler, indigo bunting, and field sparrow, to support bird nesting.” They also strive to rejuvenate the natural understory, due to grazing deer that also call the area home. 

Can you spy the nest in this tree?

Creatures besides birds call the Bent of the River sanctuary home. Visitors may also see muskrat, beaver, and mink along the river. 

We spied this non-venomous beauty on the side of an old, large tree. Don’t worry, she is just showing curiousity, no aggression, and this photo was taken from a distance with a zoom.
These trees are full of praying mantis cocoons, a beneficial insect and signs of a healthy habitat.

There are many educational, scouting and volunteer opportunities to be found at The Center, as well. On the day we visited, Boy Scouts were camping, working on a badge. There are also various adult classes, and summer day camps for kids. Information is available at the Center or on the website.

We passed several other groups of hikers and families. One woman we met was sitting on a picnic bench at the barn, taking photos of one of the nearby birdfeeders. She marveled at how she had “never seen so many beautiful cardinals at one place”. 

It was a lovely time spent with my friend. After a few hours, we headed back to the car, refreshed and rejuvenated from our visit. There is nothing as good for the soul as time spent in nature. I can’t wait to go back and bring my family to see what other birds, wildlife and flora are thriving, especially at various times of the year. The Audubon Center Bent of the River is truly a beautiful place!

I hope you enjoyed this visit! Wishing you all a beautiful Spring season! Remember to let me know that you were here by leaving me a comment below!