This June Enjoy the Beauty of Birds on Long Island Sound with the Seaport Association

Bird Cruises are one of the most popular excursions operated by the Seaport Association in Norwalk. Although Connecticut is a small state, it is rich in birdlife with more than 430 different bird species to spot. If you are a veteran or novice birding enthusiast and want to add seabirds to your list, hop on board the C.J. Toth, a 49- passenger vessel with the Seaport Association on Saturday, June 11 and Sunday, June 12, and Saturday, June 25, and Sunday, June 26 from 8 am to 10:30 a.m. for the June Bird Cruises that welcomes adults as well as children.

An avian adventure on Long Island Sound in June provides a unique opportunity to see birds in their natural habitat. Every cruise is different because you never know what will fly your way, making this excursion an adventure in itself. The bird cruise in June offers different things to see than the bird cruises offered in May. June is the month when many birds breed making it the perfect time to look for birds where they nest. On this guided tour escorted by Will Schneck, a member of the esteemed Connecticut Young Birders Club, passengers will learn about local bird behavior and biology and, most importantly how to spot them. “One thing that we will be looking for is birds that are nesting, raising their families, resting, and feeding,” says Schneck. Among the types of birds, you may see on this eco-adventure cruise are nest sites and nest colonies of ospreys, and long-legged egrets with their graceful S-curved necks and long dagger-like bills, as well as playful American oystercatchers, herons, terns, gulls, and cormorants to name a few.

Another special feature of this cruise is the chance to spot birds at the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge on Sheffield Island. Here you will see a variety of habitats that support nesting and wading birds. This spot is known for its small population of herring and great black-backed gulls that nest along Sheffield Island’s rocky shoreline. The importance of the Norwalk Islands to wildlife, especially migratory birds is enormous, and the special Bird Cruises hosted by the Norwalk Seaport Association give nature enthusiasts, adults, and children alike, the chance to spot these magnificent seabirds up close with the added benefit of a knowledgeable guide.

Bird Cruise Details
Passengers are asked to arrive 30 minutes prior to the 8 a.m. departure. The vessel leaves from the Seaport Dock that is adjacent to the Stroffolino Bridge at the corner of Washington and Water Streets in South Norwalk. Parking is available at the adjacent lot or at the Norwalk Parking Garage. Tickets are available online in advance by clicking here and are $25 in addition to a small ticketing fee. The Seaport Association advises reserving your Bird Cruise early because these popular excursions sell out. Make sure you include your email when reserving your ticket. If the tour is canceled due to inclement weather the Norwalk Seaport Association will contact you via your email.

Before embarking on this cruise, be sure to pack sunscreen, your camera, binoculars, water and snacks, and your sense of adventure!

About the Norwalk Seaport Association

The Norwalk Seaport Association was founded in 1978 by a group of local citizens who had the vision to revitalize South Norwalk and preserve Norwalk’s maritime heritage. The Seaport Association offers a cultural, environmental, and historical journey to the Norwalk Islands. The Sheffield Island Lighthouse and the Light Keeper’s Cottage provide a unique historical and educational venue that strives to increase awareness, appreciation, and consideration for the environment and how the preservation of historic buildings contributes to our quality of life. The combination of the Lighthouse and the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge offers an unparalleled opportunity to educate children of all ages and adults about the importance of preserving Long Island Sound, our environment, and our maritime heritage.

Norwalk’s Sheffield Island Gets Ready For Summer 2022

Sheffield Island Lighthouse located off the coast of Norwalk has been renovated and maintained by the volunteers of the Seaport Association since 1978 so that summer visitors taking the Association’s ferry to the island can enjoy its’ unspoiled natural beauty. The outing to Sheffield Island is one of the most popular activities in Connecticut, not only because of the thrill of being out on the water but also for the chance to tour a historic lighthouse on the National Register and, explore a private island.

Expect a warm welcome on Sheffield Island

Seeing how beautifully maintained the island is, it begs the question, what goes into opening Sheffield Island for the season? The short answer is a lot! Linda Cappello, a long-time Trustee on the Executive Board has taken on the task of putting together a team of volunteers that get Sheffield Island ready for summer guests that take the Seaport’s ferry to it. “The first thing I do is visit the island prior to putting together a work party to see how the island and lighthouse have weathered the winter. I have to access if there are any particular concerns that need to be addressed in addition to the routine tasks that have to be accomplished each year before we open,” Cappello said. “I inspect the interior and exterior of the lighthouse and grounds to determine what tasks need immediate attention, as well as those that require eventual attention.”

On the initial trip to the Island, the work party spends about five hours cleaning the place up. Tasks like cutting up fallen limbs, painting picnic tables, cutting down all seagrass, and weeding the pathways are just some of the many things to do. Lighthouse tasks are a bit more challenging. All the windows, that were boarded up have to be uncovered, the gutters and downspouts have to be cleaned and checked for damage, the tower has to be checked, the lighthouse rooms have to be cleaned, and the furniture and displays polished and set -up for the season. The work party, consisting of 20 to 25 volunteers will go out to the island several times before Memorial Day Weekend in order to make sure everything is in tip-top shape.

Cleaning up the Brick Memorial Walkway in Front of the Lighthouse

When asked, why she organizes this seasonal pilgrimage, Cappello says, “It is my passion. I have cruised the waters of Long Island Sound and the Norwalk Islands for as long as I can remember. My father introduced me to the Sound when I was a child, and I have loved it ever since! If I could live on the Island I would! As for our volunteers, and we always welcome the help, just contact us. I think it offers them a unique opportunity for a good cause, especially if they have a love for Norwalk’s maritime history and Long Island Sound,” Cappello concluded. The work of course doesn’t end there. Throughout the summer season, the lighthouse has to be cleaned, the grass has to be mowed, and the shells along the pathways have to be maintained, along with a myriad of other tasks to keep Sheffield Island and Lighthouse welcoming for visitors.

This year, the Seaport Association is offering a sunset cruise on Thursday, May 26, Friday, May 27, Saturday, May 28, and Sunday, May 29 from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. A cruise to Sheffield Island is scheduled for Saturday, May 28, and Sunday, May 29 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Special bird cruises departing at 8 a.m. are scheduled for Sunday, May 15, and Saturday, May 28 and Sunday, May 29. Beginning in June sunset cruises will run from Wednesday to Sunday and three-hour cruises to Sheffield Island and Lighthouse will run on Saturday and Sunday. Starting June 28, cruises to Sheffield Island will run twice a day, Tuesday – Sunday at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. The vessel does not offer cruises on Mondays. For tickets and more information http://seaport.org.

Passengers are asked to arrive 30 minutes prior to departure. The vessel leaves from the Seaport Dock on 4 North Water Street in Norwalk. The dock is adjacent to the Stroffolino Bridge at the corner of Washington and Water Streets in South Norwalk. Parking is available at the adjacent lot or at the Maritime Center Parking Garage across the street from the dock. Tickets are available online in advance by clicking here.

Getting ready to welcome summer visitors

About the Norwalk Seaport Association
The Norwalk Seaport Association was founded in 1978 by a group of local citizens who had the vision to revitalize South Norwalk and preserve Norwalk’s maritime heritage. The Seaport Association offers a cultural, environmental, and historical journey to the Norwalk Islands. The Sheffield Island Lighthouse and the Light Keeper’s Cottage provide a unique historical and educational venue that strives to increase awareness, appreciation, and consideration for the environment and how the preservation of historic buildings contributes to our quality of life. The combination of the Lighthouse and the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge offers an unparalleled opportunity to educate children of all ages and adults about the importance of preserving Long Island Sound, our environment, and our maritime heritage.

Summer Cruises to Sheffield Island

The recipe for a perfect summer night out is available every Friday night in July and August thanks to a partnership between the Norwalk Seaport Association, Mama’s Boy restaurant and the Norwalk Parking Authority. “Maritime Cruise and Cuisine” Fridays are returning for a third year offering participants a cruise around the Norwalk Islands followed by dinner at Mama’s Boy and convenient, safe parking at the Maritime Garage.

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The Maritime Cruise and Cuisine package includes a Norwalk Harbor sunset cruise with the Norwalk Seaport Association’s “CJ Toth” ferry, leaving from Sheffield Island Dock (located on the corner of Water St and Washington St) at 6:00 pm and returning at 8:00 pm. Guests then walk one block to Mama’s Boy Restaurant, featuring a gourmet twist on Southern food, located at 19 North Water Street, for a three-course meal. The package price is $57 per person plus reduced price parking of $2 for the evening at the Maritime Garage. Cruise and Cuisine Fridays run through August 29th.

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The Norwalk Seaport Association is also offering up plenty of family fun in late July and early August with the pirates at the lighthouse! The Pirates are coming to Sheffield Island on July 26 and 27 and August 2 and 3. Pirate Weekend activities are free, but participants must purchase round-trip ferry tickets to Sheffield Island. Tickets to the island are $22.00 for adults, $12.00 for children ages 4-12 and $5.00 for children age 3 and under, plus applicable service charge.

Bird watching Tours run through August 10 that offers visitors the experience to understand and explore the importance of Norwalk Islands and it’s many migratorial bird species. Larry Flynn, a master wildlife conservationist with DEEP will conduct these informative tours.

Scenic Cruises to Sheffield Island are offered through September. Trips to the island take visitors through the historic Norwalk Harbor area to the Island that offers unique views of the shoreline, a tour of the lighthouse and the chance to explore the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge or picnic on the beach. Tickets can be purchased online or at the dock. Remember to wear comfortable shoes with a closed heal or back strap; flip-flops are not allowed due to safety concerns.

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The boat leaves from the Sheffield Island Lighthouse dock located at the corner of North Water Street and Washington Street in Historic South Norwalk. Parking is available adjacent to the dock and at the Norwalk Maritime Center Garage.

For information and reservations, please call the Norwalk Seaport Association, 203-838-9444 or buy tickets online at www.seaport.org.

SEA ADVENTURES CELEBRATE SUMMER IN CONNECTICUT’S FAIRFIELD COUNTY

Hoist the sails on a tall ship. Explore an island. Trawl for lobsters and sea stars. Watch the sunset at sea.

Refreshing summer adventures at sea are a great way to celebrate summer along the Long Island shore in Western Connecticut’s Fairfield County. There’s something for maritime explorers of all ages.

Tall Ship Tactics

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Soundwaters, an environmental education organization in Stamford dedicated to protecting the waters of Long Island Sound, invites the public to set sail aboard their 80-foot, three-masted schooner Soundwaters most weekends through September. Afternoon sails from 3p.m. to 5 p.m. are ideal for families, with passengers invited to help raise the sails and to examine first hand the aquatic life that lives beneath the waves. Educators teach participants about the quality of the water, and how to test it.

Relaxing and romantic two-hour early evening sunset cruises are better suited to adults, who are invited to bring their own picnic dinners and beverages on board. Afternoon sails are $30 for adults, $20 for children; sunset cruises are $30 for all ages.

The Soundwaters is located on 333 Ludlow Street in the Stamford Harbor Park Marina just off of I-95. Information, schedules and reservations are available at www.soundwaters.org or by phoning 203-406-3335.

Deep Sea Secrets

Oceanic Research Vessel
Oceanic Research Vessel

Educators at the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk show and tell what goes on from the water’s surface to the bottom of the sea for passengers on the aquarium’s 29-passenger research vessel. Oceanic. Crewmembers drop the nets and passengers haul them laden with treasures for close-up views. The haul may include plankton from the surface and a variety of creatures from the muddy bottom, perhaps fish, crabs, lobsters, sea stars and other little-seen creatures. The catch is important since the observations are recorded as part of the on-going Long Island Sound Biodiversity Data Project. Cruises lasting two-and-a-half hours go out every day at 1 p.m. in July and August and on Saturdays at 1 p.m. in September and October. Cruises are $20.50 per person. Children must measure 42 inches to sail. For reservations, phone 203-852-0700, ext. 2206, during regular business hours; or email reservations@maritimeaquarium.org.

Island Adventures

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Board the Norwalk Seaport Association’s 49-foot catamaran C.J. Toth for a salty 45-minute escape to Sheffield Island. Passengers enjoy a special day of picnicking, tours of a historic lighthouse, shell hunting, and walks to view the colorful sea birds sheltered in the marshes and sandy shores of the Stewart B. McKinney Wildlife Refuge.

Vistas of Long Island Sound from the 44-foot lighthouse tower are among the island’s highlights. On a clear day, the views reach to the distant skyline of New York City.

Trips to Sheffield Island will run weekends through September 29 with boats leaving at 11 a.m., 2 p.m., and 3:30pm. Return trips are at 1:15 p.m., 4:15 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. Weekday trips at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. are also available through Labor Day, and the fare is $22 for adults, $12 under age12,

Clambake cruises depart at 6 p.m. every Thursday evening to September 26, returning at 10 p.m. They are a true New England dining experience in a festive tented pavilion on the lighthouse lawn. The menu includes clams, mussels, corn on the cob, and a choice of lobster, fish, steak, or chicken. Roundtrip cruise and dinner is $65 to $79 per person, depending on entrée. Tours of the lighthouse are included with dinners.

Special theme weekends include Pirates Weekend July 13, 14 and July 20,21 and Haunted Lighthouse August 10, 11. Early bird watchers can board special bird-watching cruises at 8 a.m. on July 6 and August 3. For details and tickets www.seaport.org or phone 203-838-9444.

For information about nearby events and a free copy of UNWIND, a full-color,
152-page booklet detailing what to do and see, and where to stay, shop and dine in
Western Connecticut, contact the Western Connecticut Visitors Bureau, PO Box 968,
Litchfield, CT 06759, (860) 567-4506, or visit their web site at www.visitfairfieldcountyct.com.

EXCITING HANDS-ON ANIMAL ENCOUNTERS ON LONG ISLAND SOUND THIS SUMMER

Oceanic Research Vessel
Oceanic Research Vessel

Go aboard The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk’s research vessel this summer to journey out onto Long Island Sound and discover first-hand “what’s down there?”

The Aquarium’s hands-on Marine Life Study Cruises offers exciting introductions to fish, crabs, skates and other animals brought up right out of the water and onto the research vessel Oceanic for examination.

The study cruises will depart on Saturdays at 1 p.m. through June 29 and will push off at 1 p.m. daily in July and August.

“Before people can be inspired to take actions to preserve and protect Long Island Sound, they first must understand what animals are in the Sound and how complex, diverse and alive this marine environment is,” said Jamie Alonzo, the Aquarium’s director of education. “Our best exhibits within the Aquarium can’t top the immediacy and impact of seeing dozens of animals come up out of the water right in front of your eyes.”

During each 21/2-hour Marine Life Study Cruise, animals are brought onboard from different water levels and bottom habitats of the Sound. A video microscope provides a magnified look at wriggly plankton gathered at the sunlit surface. Tiny crabs and worms emerge from a sampling of the anaerobic muddy bottom. A biodredge reveals a hidden world of sponges, snails and mollusks. And everyone inspects the trawl net’s bounty: varieties of fish and crabs, skates, lobsters, sea stars, squid and always a few surprises.

Study Cruise aboard the Oceanic
Study Cruise aboard the Oceanic

Maritime Aquarium educators involve participants in the processes, from sorting through samples to helping to pull in the trawl net and returning animals to the water.

Besides being fun and eye-opening, Marine Life Study Cruises also contribute to local scientific research. Water-chemistry and weather readings are taken. And details about the animals brought onboard are entered into the Aquarium’s Long Island Sound Biodiversity Project, a database of physical and biological features available online to teachers and researchers.

Also during the study cruises, as part of a Horseshoe Crab Census conducted by Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, The Maritime Aquarium tags and records data about all horseshoe crabs collected.

“Boat rides are always great for some family fun, but the animal encounters and learning opportunities make our study cruises even more memorable,” Alonzo said.

Cost of a Marine Life Study Cruise is $20.50 per person ($18.50 for Maritime Aquarium members). All passengers must be at least 42 inches tall.

Reservations are strongly recommended; walk-up tickets will be sold space permitting. The Oceanic can accommodate 29 passengers.

Marine Life Study Cruises also are available for weekday charters for schools on field trips, summer camps, Scouts and other groups at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Cruises depart from the dock near the Aquarium’s IMAX Theater entrance.

To reserve your spot on a Maritime Aquarium Marine Life Study Cruise or for more details, go to www.maritimeaquarium.org or call (203) 852-0700, ext. 2206. For area information www.visitfairfieldcountyct.com

Kayak to Cockenoe Island on Aug. 18

On Saturday, Saturday, August 18, from 1-3:30 pm the Westport Historical Society is hosting their 3rd annual kayak tour to Cockenoe Island lead by author David Park. The tour group will meet at Longshore Sailing School, Longshore Park, in Westport Connecticut. The cost to participate is $20 for non-members of the Historical Society and $18 for Members. The Raindate is August 19. Kayak rentals are available from Longshore Sailing School, for reservations, call 203-226-4646. Intermediate level kayak ability is required.

Cockenoe Island, is a 28 acre island one mile off the coast of Westport. The tour will be led by David Park, board member of the Norwalk River Watershed Association and author of the guidebook “Kayaking in and around the Norwalk Islands.” This year, the tour is being offered in conjunction with the Westport Historical Society’s current exhibit “The Sound and the Saugatuck” which runs through September 1st.
Cockenoe Island is open to the public thanks to the hundreds of Westport residents and town officials who fought against the proposed construction of a nuclear power plant back in 1967. The plan was brought forward by the United Illuminating Company who had purchased the island a year earlier from the Smith family, the owners of the island at the time. After the plan was defeated, the town of Westport purchased the island as open space and it is now enjoyed by all types of recreational users and nature enthusiasts. The acquisition was heralded as a significant conservation victory for the nation by Life Magazine.

The tour group will land on the island for a stroll and hear about how the Saugatuck River watershed effects the water quality of Long Island Sound and wildlife of the Norwalk Islands. Cockenoe Island is of particular interest because of the current conservation efforts and successful nesting colonies of egrets, herons and terns

Copies of “Kayaking in and around the Norwalk Islands” is available for $10 at the WHS Remarkable Gift Shop, 25 Avery Place in downtown Westport.

About the Westport Historical Society

The Westport Historical Society, founded in 1889, is an educational organization dedicated to preserving, presenting and celebrating the history of Westport, Connecticut. It is committed to increasing awareness of the importance of preserving our town’s heritage and its historic buildings and landmarks.

Wheeler House is the Society’s headquarters, at 25 Avery Place, Westport, Connecticut, was purchased in 1981. The house, built in 1795, was remodeled in the Italianate style in the 19th Century and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Connecticut Register of Historic Places. The house has three Victorian Period rooms and a gift shop. The only octagonal-roof, cobblestone barn in Connecticut, which is on the property, was completely restored over a ten-year period and houses the Museum of Westport History displaying a diorama of the town as it looked toward the end of the 19th Century. For additional information on programs visit www.westporthistory.org.