Established in 1993 through a bequest of Howard and Althea Clark to the National Audubon Society, The Bent of the River Audubon Center is situated along the banks of the Pomperaug River in Southbury, CT. Encompassing a wide variety of relatively undisturbed upland and wetland habitats, this 609 acre (with an additional 87 acres in conservation easements) historic estate serves as a model land management preserve dedicated to environmental education, research and bird conservation. The site contains exceptional habitats for birds and other wildlife, including extensive areas of shrub/scrub habitat, grasslands, upland and floodplain forests as well as wetland complexes and eight vernal pools. Acquisitions by the State of Connecticut and Town of Southbury have conserved 760 acres of land adjacent to the refuge. These acquisitions make a nearly contiguous swath of protected land between Lake Lillinonah and the Pomperaug River, including George C. Waldo State Park and lands owned by Northeast Utilities. Additional protected lands are situated on the opposite shore of Lake Lillinonah (700+ acre-Paugussett State Forest). The Bent of the River is also in close proximity to the 600+ acre Southbury Training School site, offering unique opportunities to coordinate land management practices on a landscape scale.
The wide variety of habitats present at the Bent of the River, including a mix of northern and southern habitat types, and various successional stages, allows for tremendous diversity of nesting species. Eighteen species of warblers have been recorded in the nesting season. Currently a sizable population of Blue-winged Warblers nests at the Bent (~10 nests were found in 2005, more pairs are likely nesting outside the project area), and current land management activities are likely to increase the amount of habitat available for this species. In May 2002, a pair of Golden-winged Warblers were observed acting territorial in one of the cedar fields on the property. Significant populations of several other early successional species of conservation concern also nest at the Bent, including, American Woodcock (significant migratory stopover habitat as well), Black-billed Cuckoo and possibly Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Eastern Kingbird, Gray Catbird, Prairie Warbler, Eastern Towhee, Field Sparrow, Indigo Bunting, and Orchard Oriole. The Deciduous woodlands also host healthy populations of several species of high conservation priority, including, Red-shouldered Hawk (1 pair), Cooper's Hawk (1 pair), possibly Sharp-shinned Hawk, Hairy Woodpecker, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Great Crested Flycatcher, Veery, Wood Thrush, Black-and-White Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, Ovenbird, Louisiana Waterthrush, Hooded Warbler, Scarlet Tanager and Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Common Ravens (special concern) have been regularly recorded and may nest in the area, and there have been several reports of Cerulean Warblers. Other species uncommon in Connecticut that have been recorded in the nesting season include Ruffed Grouse, Hermit Thrush, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Blackburnian Warbler, and Northern Waterthrush. A significant population of Chestnut-sided Warblers is present on land directly adjacent to the sanctuary.
The acquisition of the 760-acre Southbury Affiliates property adjacent to the sanctuary by the State of Connecticut and Town of Southbury was a significant step towards protecting the integrity of the forest habitats of the Bent of the River. This may also provide additional opportunities for early successional management in the vicinity of the Bent of the River. Between the newly State and Town-acquired parcel land trust holdings and the 600+ acre Southbury Training School site, there is much opportunity to coordinate land management efforts to provide a wide variety of early successional habitats on a landscape scale. For example, habitat management schedules could be coordinated to provide a variety of successional stages across the landscape much more effectively than if the management of individual properties is considered alone. Recently, 34 acres of agricultural hayfields adjacent to the IBA were protected in a partnership with the Southbury Land Trust and the Land Trust is actively working to protect additional lands proximal to the sanctuary. Additionally, Audubon has acquired the adjacent 93-acre Sachem's Ridge property and a 2.5-acre in-holding in the last two years. There is still one small privately held in-holding remaining, but there is limited potential for development of this parcel. Degradation of the riparian habitat and water quality in the Pomperaug River due to water diversions and/or discharge of sewage effluent are a potential issue. The Pomperaug River Watershed Coalition was established to help protect this critical resource, the offices of which are located at the Bent of the River.
~650 acres owned by Audubon Connecticut, adjacent 760 acres are owned by town and state. Additional adjacent and proximal undeveloped lands are unprotected.
Primary: Deciduous forest, shrub/scrub. Secondary: Conifer forest, river/stream, fields.
Land Use: Primary Environmental education, nature and wildlife conservation. Secondary Other recreation or tourism, research.