Charles Island, CT, Off-Limits During September Restoration

Charles Island, CT, Off-Limits During September Restoration
Charles Island, photo Wikipedia.

Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) has announced that it will begin the next phase of a habitat restoration project on Charles Island, Milford, on September 2, 2014.

Restoration efforts will involve clearing of downed woody debris and diseased trees, as well as the control of non-native, invasive plants. Later this fall and again during the 2015 growing season, DEEP staff will plant a variety of native trees and shrubs selected for their salt tolerance, general growth characteristics, and fungal resistance.

During the restoration project, which will last for a few weeks, public access is prohibited on Charles Island.

SAT map
SAT map

Charles Island, a 14-acre wooded island off the coast of Milford near Silver Sands State Park, was designated both a Natural Area Preserve in 1999 and a Long Island Sound Stewardship Site in 2006 by DEEP due to its significant wildlife and coastal resources.  It also has been designated an Important Bird Area by Audubon Connecticut.  DEEP is collaborating with Audubon Connecticut, the Connecticut Audubon Society, and the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station on a science-based, multi-step approach to restore critical habitat on Charles Island essential to the long-term success of one of Connecticut’s largest heron and egret rookeries, or nesting areas.

“Management efforts at Charles Island are aimed at preventing the loss of nesting habitat used by great and snowy egrets, both state threatened species, and many other state-listed birds, such as the glossy ibis,” said Rick Jacobson, Director of the DEEP Wildlife Division. “The rookery has sustained significant damage from hurricanes Irene and Sandy, coupled with increasing numbers of invasive plants and a soil fungus. Without intensive restoration efforts, this critical nesting area will be lost.”

Trees on the island are used by herons and egrets for nesting and raising young. However, many of these trees are being smothered by oriental bittersweet and other non-native, invasive plants that grow aggressively and out-compete native plants, resulting in the direct death of nest trees and preventing regeneration of future nesting trees and shrubs This problem is further compounded by the presence of a soil fungus that attacks tree roots, coupled with strong winter storm—and hurricane—winds, resulting in the blow-down of most of the trees needed by these long-legged wading birds to raise their young. Taken together, these issues are having a devastating effect on the perpetuation of the rookery, and some species, such as the snowy egret, have begun to disappear from the island.