For the birds: Sanctuary opens in Cove Island Park

For the birds: Sanctuary opens in Cove Island Park
By Vesna Jaksic, Stamford Advocate, Oct 19 2006
STAMFORD -- For more than 15 years, Stamford residents and wildlife enthusiasts Patrick Dugan and Michael Moccio have been going to Cove Island Park with their binoculars and cameras, spotting nearly 300 bird species and more than 50 types of butterflies.

They were there yesterday and had a big reason to celebrate.

A part of the park that used to be called the "stump dump" because the city used it as a dumping ground for brush, logs and trees has been turned into a sanctuary. Yesterday, the city held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open the Cove Island Wildlife Sanctuary, which aims to provide food and shelter for the many migratory birds that pass through the area.

The area has been cleaned up and now has 5 acres of meadow, 2,000 feet of stone dust pathways and more than 1,000 trees and shrubs. The entrance features a bike rack and a kiosk where visitors can get brochures and record what species they observe on a chalkboard.

For Moccio, a dentist, and Dugan, a maintenance manager, the sanctuary was a vision born many years ago that came true yesterday.

"We're really happy and proud the area has been preserved," Moccio said. "The diversity of the area is great here. You'd have to go 20 miles in either direction to find such diversity."

"You never know what you'll find," added Dugan, who has contributed pictures of birds such as the great egret and yellow-rumped warbler for the information kiosk. The two also have created a brochure about the park's birds, which has information such as how often they are observed and in which season they typically appear.

In 2001, Bird Life International, a global alliance of conservation organizations, designated Cove Island Park and Holly Pond as an "Important Bird Area," or IBA.

Last year, the city used a $500,000 state grant in honor of Stamford resident and former speaker of the state House of Representatives Moira Lyons to build the sanctuary.

More than 50 Stamford residents and city officials, including Mayor Dannel Malloy, attended yesterday's opening ceremony. Visitors of all ages said they liked what they saw.

"I remember it used to be a big junk place and now it's a nice nature place," said Alex Collins, 10. "I like to come here and look at all the birds and where they live."

With Long Island Sound at one end and ponds, rocks and trees scattered throughout the area, the site also offers a soothing atmosphere, Director of Operations Tim Curtin said.

"It's a place to appreciate wildlife as well as to reflect," he said. "It's passive recreation."

Few municipalities have dedicated such sanctuaries, which help birds with their long and perilous journeys, said Patrick Comins, director of bird conservation for Audubon Connecticut.

Cove resident David Winston, who has been leading a committee that works with the city to maintain and enhance the sanctuary, said he believes the site will help residents appreciate wildlife and continue to be an important stopping ground for birds.

"Birds used to come here when it was nothing but weeds," he said. "Imagine what is going to happen when this place is wall-to-wall bird food."