Sharon and Sharon Not Alike
Sharon (Google Maps location)
February 25, 2012
There are a lot of Audubon Centers in Connecticut. Certainly not as many as there are in other states, but we have more than you realize. And, as is always the case with most everything I write about, it’s more confusing than you realize as well.
The National Audubon Society has three centers in the state: The opulent Greenwich Audubon (CTMQ Visit), the decidedly more rugged Bent of the River Center in Southbury (CTMQ Visit), and the one we’ll explore today in Sharon.
Heck, this is a good time to remind you that you can click on the various tags at the bottom of each post for CTMQ navigation. Like, “Audubon” for instance will take you to everything I’ve done “Audubony.”
Enough of that. Sharon’s center deserves 100% of our attention. Why? Because Audubon Sharon is a really great nature center in a beautiful part of the state.
The Sharon Audubon Center consists of 1,147 acres of mostly forest and includes 11 miles of trails and two ponds. The main Visitor Center building houses a small hands-on natural history museum, the Audubon Nature Store, and the Children’s Adventure Center. The immediate grounds include Raptor Aviaries, the Herb Garden, the Eleanor Loft Bird & Butterfly Garden, and a working sugarhouse (formerly an ice house).
On the day of our rather cold 2012 visit, having a 9-month old in tow precluded any hiking around. I will revisit in the future and check out the trails. However, there’s enough inside (and immediately outside) here to occupy children and adults alike.
We began in the Natural History Exhibit Room which, as they explain, “is a showcase of seasonal displays and live-animal exhibits with snakes, turtles, insects, birds, and a few others.
Visitors can watch our honeybees hard at work in their indoor hive during the warm months or relax by the large bird station viewing window during the cold months.” There were no honeybees out and about during our visit, but the large picture window in front of the bird feeders was a nice spot to relax.
We were treated to a downy woodpecker going at a suet block for a while. Does this make him a lazy woodpecker, or a smart woodpecker?
The room is large and well-signed. Having been to fifty other nature centers, I can’t pretend there’s too much unique out here in Sharon, but that’s fine. We have a finite amount of nature in Connecticut, right? There are some interesting history displays about Audubon Sharon and how it came to be at least.
I read up on that stuff while Hoang showed the boys the black snake and all of the other animals around the room.
So she didn’t get to learn that in 1961, Clement and Keyo Ford donated their Sharon estate to Audubon. Their vision was that their property, known as Bog Meadow Farm, would forever be a place where people of all walks of life could learn about and enjoy the wonders of nature, just as they and their children had done for decades. Thus, the Sharon Audubon Center was born.
“All walks of life…” I like that. Especially since I had a 9-month old who wasn’t yet walking and a six-year-old special needs kid who had just barely started talking. Kudos, Clement and Keyo Ford!
I always get mixed feelings about the reptile rooms… they are mostly pets that people couldn’t handle, which is lame… but it’s good they’ve found a caring home. The “Natural History Exhibit Room” is pretty much standard fare at Audubon and other nature centers across the state. But lo! Sharon Audubon has a downstairs – and it’s just for little kids!
Dubbed the “Children’s Adventure Center,” it was created with the idea that children will learn about the importance of water quality and watersheds. Noble. And certainly lost of my boys… but they sure had fun crawling through the tunnel to the beaver lodge.
And then there was a mom who had fun crawling through the tunnel to the beaver lodge:
There’s a large aquarium here as well, and some other fun stuff for kids, but I was itching to get outside to the best stuff: the raptor aviary! Audubon Sharon runs a wildlife rehabilitation clinic that takes in all types of animals in need of help. The aviary houses a bunch of birds who have been determined “non-releasable.” In other words, they’d get eaten or otherwise die a miserable death out on their own.
Here, there are almost 20 species of birds. And many of them are crowd favorites.
The majority of the birds are housed in large outside, predator-proof aviaries, filled with natural vegetation and various perching options. The birds serve as education ambassadors for their species, accompanying Audubon Staff to education programs at schools, community events, and other venues—teaching thousands of people about the importance of protecting these amazing animals and their natural habitats.
Let’s just look at a bunch of pictures.
Raptors are beautiful animals. Despite the cold and a passing snow squall, Damian actually had a good time viewing the birds. Calvin, for his part, just got carried around and was fine.
Of all the Audubon Centers in Connecticut, Sharon’s is definitely one of the best. I look forward to getting back out there and walking its trails as well. And in the future, when Calvin is mobile and more interested, he’ll definitely dig the raptors as well.