The Great Meadows estuarine system, located on Stratford's West Shore, East of Bridgeport Harbor, is comprised of barrier beach, ditched and unditched saltmarsh, filled wetland and upland. About sixty percent of the marsh is low marsh dominated by saltmarsh cordgrass, and forty percent is high marsh with saltmeadow cordgrass. The area also has several small fresh or brackish ponds, salt pannes and tidal mud and sand flats. The area contains the largest block of unditched saltmarsh (about 225 acres) left in Connecticut. The barrier beaches, Long Beach and Pleasure Beach, are part of a two-mile coastal barrier beach system that is migrating landward. This beach contains sand dunes, tidal wetlands and sand flats. Five rare plant species are found along this beach.
Great Meadows Marsh is a significant over-wintering area for waterfowl, especially Black Ducks. The rare Snowy Owl, threatened Short-eared Owl, and special concern Ipswich Sparrow, can also be found wintering here. It is a critical nesting habitat for special concern species Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed and Seaside Sparrow, Willet, and the threatened Least Tern and Piping Plover. The site is also an important feeding area for wading birds such as the threatened Great and Snowy Egrets, after the young have fledged. Endangered raptors, such as Northern Harriers, Bald Eagles, and Peregrine Falcons, use this area as a feeding ground during migration and winter. The nearby airport lawns support breeding areas for the endangered Upland Sandpiper and the threatened Horned Lark. The site is a migratory stopover for the endangered Pied-billed Grebe.
Serious: Introduced animals, predators, habitat conversion, development, disturbance to birds or habitat, marine sand and gravel mining. Minor: Invasive or non-native plants, pollution. Potential: Hydrologic changes.
US Fish and Wildlife Service, Town of Stratford, City of Bridgeport, Sikorsky Memorial Airport,
Primary: Saltmarsh with barrier beach. Secondary: Non-tidal freshwater marsh (near airport), pond/lake (Frash pond), estuary, marine, some forest.
Primary: Nature and wildlife conservation, undeveloped. Secondary: Hunting/fishing, suburban/residential, urban/ commercial.
Other: Before the
construction of Sikorsky Memorial Airport and other industrial and commercial
developments, this marsh system was four times as large as it is today,
covering as much as five square miles.
The site is an important breeding area for the Atlantic Horseshoe Crab,
and nesting site for a population of Diamond-backed Terrapins. The tidal flats and offshore waters are also
important for foraging and breeding finfish populations. A large oyster seed bed is found between the
marsh and Long Beach which serves as an economically important component of the
Long Island Sound fisheries. Several
rare plant species, such as prickly pear, marsh pink, and coast violet occur
here. The site has tremendous potential
as one of the primary bird watching areas in Connecticut.