Our Mission: The Mattabeseck Audubon Society, a chapter of the National Audubon Society, is committed to environmental leadership and education for the benefit of the community and the earth's biodiversity.

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The Helen Carlson Sanctuary — News Archives

Note: entries are in order from oldest-to-newest.

Swamp Azalea

AzaleaJune / July 2003 Volume 30 • Number 2:
The Helen Carlson Wildlife Sanctuary

We are continuing our battle with nature’s most industrious engineers – the beavers. They have been repairing the dam almost as soon as John Leshane has been able to dismantle it. We hope to have a real plan in place by the end of this summer so that our skirmishes will be over for good! With all of the spring rain, the sanctuary is wet but worth exploring. The cranberries (and what orchids are left) will be in bloom by the third week in June. Also to look for are the nodding trilliums along the left side of the trail before you get to the longest section of boardwalk. Fragrant swamp azaleas bloom in spring along the boardwalk and are followed by the sweet pepperbush in mid-summer. Please take the time to enjoy our sanctuary in spring and summer.

Marcy Klattenberg


Beaver DrawingSummer 2004 Volume 31 • Number 1:
Bog Beavers At It Again!


For those who visit the Bog Sanctuary, be careful. The beavers have cut down several large trees and are blocking the trail in many locations.


MAS Salamander Prowl

The popular annual MAS “Salamander Prowl” was a great success once again. Approximately 60 people of all ages enjoyed the night hike by flashlight out to the boardwalk area after first observing thousands of wood frog egg masses in the Phragmites near the road. Both the wood frogs and the spotted salamanders are explosive breeders. These two terrestrial species spend the rest of the year in the surrounding forest and return to breed in the bodies of water (vernal pools) that they were born in over a period of just a few days at the end of March or beginning of April. They then return to the forest. Both are protected species in CT and are listed by the DEP. This means that they may NOT be taken from their habitat. There are fines for doing so. We were concerned that one family was observed removing 5 adult salamanders from the Sanctuary.

Animals caught and placed in pans temporarily for observation were: spotted salamanders, wood frogs, newts, caddis fly larvae, isopods, a crane fly larva, and back swimmers. No fairy shrimp were observed this year.

Marcy Klattenberg


Summer 2004 Volume 31 • Number 2:
A Message from the President

As many of you know, MAS has maintained the Helen Carlson Wildlife Sanctuary (aka the cranberry bog) on South Road in Portland for nearly 30 years. Helen Carlson, a longtime resident of Portland, purchased the site and donated it to Mattabeseck in order to preserve the rare vegetation and protect the area from being mined for peat.

The maintenance program for the sanctuary includes annual mowing of the cranberry plots and sanding every 3–5 years to promote growth, as well as raising and lowering the water level to protect the plants. The unusual acidic nature of the environment here also promotes the growth of
other less common species, such as the carnivorous sundew and 2 species of orchid – calipogon and rose pegonia.

The maintenance schedule has been difficult enough to keep up because of fall rain, finding someone to mow, and the labor involved. Some time ago, we consulted the cranberry extension staff in MA, who provided us with information that helped us to do a good job of keeping 2 viable plots that were open to the public for picking in the fall. These plots were used for educational programs for students and adults as examples of this rare acidic bog environment.

SluicewayHowever, in the last several years, we have had a problem with beavers that moved into the bog, built a large dam at the sluiceway where we maintain control of the water level to keep the cranberries alive. They also built several small cataracts downstream to keep control over the water level. They like it high all the time in order to keep their lodge entrance under water. When the leaves are off the trees, you can see the lodge from the boardwalk on the south side of the sanctuary.

Consequently, it’s been a tough battle to control the water level to sustain the cranberry plots. If you have visited in the last several years, you’ve probably noticed that water is in the plots most of the time and fewer cranberries are produced and even fewer orchids are there. You have also seen that numerous large trees have been cut, some falling across the trail. Beavers are indiscriminate in their choice of what to cut. They have to bite trees to keep control of the length of their teeth. They also have to eat and keep their dam in good working order. Every time we take out the dam at the sluiceway to let the water out, they rebuild in a matter of days and not with the old material. They cut new trees and shrubs. They have cut rhododendron, laurel and other species that make the area unique.

The board of Mattabeseck has been wrestling with how to deal with our rodent inhabitants. We recognize that they are also unique among mammals, being second only to humans in creating new habitat, but they do what they do so well that they are changing the site. On September 19 from 1–4, the board will meet to address the future of the Carlson Sanctuary. If you have any ideas that you would like to suggest, please call one of the board members listed in the newsletter. We need your input.

Alison Guinness


Winter 2005 Volume 31 • Number 4:
Helen Carlson Wildlife Sanctuary

Beaver DrawingIn the summer issue of the Wingbeat, you received information on the Sanctuary asking for input on our dilemma with the beavers. As a result of that, we were contacted by the Friends of Animals, suggesting that we consider their beaver baffling system. The board met on a beautiful fall day at John LeShane’s overlooking the sanctuary to discuss their suggestion and a number of other issues related to the sanctuary, including the boardwalk and mowing. After lengthy discussion, the board voted on several actions in order to maintain the site as Helen Carlson wished and control the other problems.

If you’ve been to the sanctuary lately, you’ve noticed that the water level is extremely high thanks to the beavers and the volume of precipitation we’ve had this fall. Consequently, the boardwalk was flooded, and mowing wasn’t possible. The board decided that the boardwalk should be closed off to eliminate any problems for visitors. Several sections were removed and signs were posted saying that the boardwalk is closed. Since then, the water level has risen even higher, and ice-skating may be the only way to get to it.

You may also have noticed that there are a large number of trees cut by the beavers especially on the south side of the sanctuary. The loss of canopy over the water, as well as the continued height of the water, at the sanctuary will change the entire ecosystem at the site. The board voted to take steps to regain control of the water and maintain the area for its original purpose—the continued presence of cranberries.

In the spring and summer, we plan to work with the Friends of Animals to construct the beaver baffling system. We also intend to rebuild the boardwalk. If you have any ideas for fundraising to pay for any of these projects or if you’d like to help, please contact any member of the board. Our goal is to create a maintenance system that will provide a unique wildlife experience for generations to come.
Alison Guinness

Field Trips: April. Salamander Prowl

Because of the high water conditions at the Carlson sanctuary, our annual salamander prowl is cancelled. Please see related report above in this Wingbeat.


Spring 2005 Volume 32 • Number 1:
Field Trips: Spring/Summer 2005

May 8 (Sunday 10:00 a.m.): A Bucktown Wetlands Walk

A wetlands walk in Meshomasic state forest and neighboring lands around the Helen Carlson Nature sanctuary will begin at the sanctuary at 10 am and will be a 3- mile and another optional 3-mile loop. Participants should wear hiking boots and bring beverages and food as desired. Call John LeShane for additional information 342-0658.


Summer 2005 Volume 32 • Number 2:

Carlson Sanctuary. If you’ve been to the Carlson Sanctuary on South Road in Portland over the last several months, you’ve probably noticed some major changes. Over the winter, the beavers had successfully backed up the water to an extremely high level, flooding into the Sogon property north of the sanctuary.

Skip Hilliker from the Fund for Animals took out the dams and lowered the water level considerably and installed a piping system through the sluiceway to drain the sanctuary. The sanctuary needs to be drained in order to maintain the cranberry plots. As I write this, the water level is very low. The boardwalk is over dry land, and we hope to be able to repair the collapsed and rotting sections and reopen the boardwalk by the end of the year. If you’d like to help with the reconstruction, please call 860-873-9304 to volunteer.


Spring/Summer 2006 Volume 33 • Number 1:
Helen Carlson Wildlife SanctuaryUpdate 2006
The boardwalk at the bog in the mid-1990sBoardwalk 1990s


For the last year or more, MAS has been committed to replacing the boardwalk and gaining control of the water flow at the Carlson Sanctuary. We thought we could overcome the beavers with a baffling system proposed by the Friends of Animals, which was emplaced during 2005.

As you may know, the summer of 2005 was extremely dry. This would have been an ideal time to replace the boardwalk, especially since the beavers left. No water, no beaver!

However, we first needed to obtain permission from the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection to work on the boardwalk because it was constructed on state land of Mashomasic State Forest. This came through in the fall of 2005, unfortunately too late to take advantage of the drought.

We next need to obtain a permit from the Portland Inland Wetlands Commission. We hope that will be accomplished by the time you read this update.

The Board decided to use TREX for the boardwalk because of its endurance and its grooved texture, which will reduce the slippery nature of the surface. Bob Ottersen of American Decking in Old Saybrook has been working with us on this aspect of the construction. Since this is such a huge project and we want it to last for at least another three decades, he suggested that we have an engineer put the project together. If you are or know someone who might be interested in working with MAS on this unique project, please call Alison Guinness at 860-873-9304.

We are also looking for someone with a small backhoe to dig out the sluiceway of all the debris collected there since the beavers took up residence and used it as a dam. If you know someone, again please let Alison know.

As for the beavers, those marvels of natural construction, as soon as the sanctuary filled with water, they were back. No dummies, they! Our baffling device has been outflanked with bigger and better dams downstream. We are trying to keep up with them, but it’s not easy. They are very good at what they do – experts in the field, forest, and bog!

More on the saga of the sanctuary as we move farther into the 21st century.

Alison Guinness


Winter / Spring 2007 Volume 33 • Number 4:
(Feel free to send us your comments)
Marcy Klattenberg – MAS member

Boardwalk/Beavers at the Bog
On Friday, 6 October 2006, 15 students from Rocky Hill High School and MAS volunteers spent over 4 hours working on the boardwalk and the beaver dam. Their effort was part of Rocky Hill High’s annual “Lend a Paw Day”, where students are sent out to surrounding towns to offer hard work and support in a variety of ways. MAS was the lucky beneficiary of 15 incredibly hard workers. Under the direction of Tech-Ed teacher Donald Brown, they were divided into 2 groups. Group 1 dismantled the first 2 sections of boardwalk at the beginning of the trail and then rebuilt it with a recycled composite material, generously discounted and cut by Shagbark Lumber and Feed Supply in East Haddam. The work was difficult and dirty (from all the rain) and required drilling, hammering and carrying heavy pieces. The second group spent the morning removing the debris pile from the beaver dam area and then enjoyed dismantling 3 sections of the beavers’ dams (all was rebuilt by the next day) allowing the water to flow out for a few hours at least!! MAS is deeply grateful for all of their hard work–they even chose to work right through their lunch break fortified by donuts and apple cider! MAS Board member and Rocky Hill Science teacher, Kimberly Antol, is the program coordinator for “Lend A Paw,” and we also express our sincere thanks to her for choosing our sanctuary as one of the day’s projects. Thanks also to Bill Guinness, who pre-drilled all the holes and transported all the material to the sanctuary for the event. It was an extremely rewarding and fruitful day for all involved!


Summer / Fall 2007 Volume 34 • Number 2:
(Feel free to send us your comments)
From MAS Member Joanne Luppi

Carlson Sanctuary Sightings
Late spring sightings at the Helen Carlson Sanctuary have included a Great Blue Heron, a Little Green Heron, and a pair of Canada Geese with two goslings. The water continues very high thanks to the diligent beavers.


Winter / Spring 2008 Volume 35 • Number 1:
(Feel free to send us your comments)
Alison Guinness, President

Carlson Sanctuary
Just when we’d given up on a viewing area over water at the Carlson Sanctuary, a miracle occurred. Last fall, we got a phone call from Elijah Huge, a Wesleyan architecture professor. He was looking for an environmental project for his spring class this year. He was originally thinking about a bird blind, but we suggested a viewing platform at the Carlson Sanctuary. After visiting the sanctuary – when the water wasn’t too high – he decided that this was something his students could do. They are now in the middle of the project, having visited the sanctuary and making several proposals for location and possible design. By the end of the semester in May, we hope that all or part of the new viewing station will be in place. We are very grateful to Elijah and his class.


Summer/Fall 2008 Volume 35 • Number 2:
The Carlson Sanctuary Viewing Platform

New Platform New Platform

It all began with a mid-winter presentation by Elijah Huge, Wesleyan University architecture professor, to the MAS Board of Directors. Would the Board be interested in an observation station placed strategically for greatest effect within the MAS-owned Helen Carlson Sanctuary in Portland? Professor Huge’s
students would be responsible for visiting the site, developing an appropriate design, and building the final product.

It seemed like a winning combination—MAS’s need for a new observation platform, and an opportunity for Professor Huge to give his students a hands-on
project to further their understanding of real-world architectural concerns.

The Board gave their unanimous approval. A series of visits to the Helen Carlson Sanctuary by Professor Huge and several students, accompanied by MAS President Alison Guinness, led to several designs that were eventually pared down to the winning idea.

The platform had to be made of durable, maintenance-free material. It had to be innovative and stylish while still functional. It had to come within budget. And it had to overcome the main physical constraint of the Sanctuary—water. Beaver dams have raised the depth of the water and made any engineering other
than the beaver’s own work very challenging.

Sign on Platform

At the end of April, Professor Huge and his students undertook the challenge. They labored enthusiastically throughout the month of May, aided by MAS volunteers who broke the beaver dams every day for a week, in order to lower the water level enough to allow footings to be sunk for the upper level of the observation platform.

By June, the platform—consisting of aluminum frames with cypress railings and seating, and recycled plastic flooring—had essentially been installed. There is some minor detailing to be completed, but the platform is functional and open to the public. MAS hopes everyone will enjoy the view, and the workmanship.

Our thanks once again to Professor Huge and the Wesleyan students!

There will be a dedication ceremony in the Fall, date to be announced (check our website www.mas-audubon.org).

Platform upper
A view from the top platform, looking down at the first tier, with its 2 levels of cypress seating, and floating recycled plastic decks.

Entering the platform on the first tier, which provides good views directly into the water.

If you look very carefully, you can find the carnivorous Round-leaved Sundew at the water’s edge along the path to the platform

Mushrooms, Azalea, Wintergreen
The frequent rains in June and early July brought out lots of mushrooms along the trails, as well as Swamp-Fly honeysuckle (actually in the azalea family), and flowering wintergreen.

Maps of and to Sanctuary
Here is the location of the new observatio plattform within the Bog.
At right is a locator map to get to the Bog in Portland.


Fall/Winter 2008 Volume 35 • Number 3:
Viewing Platform Dedication

We will have a formal dedication of the new viewing platform on Sunday, Oct. 19th at 2 pm. This will be an opportunity to meet Elijah Huge and his talented Wesleyan students, who designed and constructed the platform.

Emmi Mayr
Helen Carlson was an important person in the history of Mattabeseck Audubon. She donated the sanctuary property to MAS to protect the area from development. She also placed another parcel on William Street in Portland into a trust for Emmi Mayr, her longtime companion, and for MAS. Emmi would have lifetime use of the property until her death, at which time, it would transfer to MAS.

We are sorry to announce that Emmi passed away on Aug. 8th. The board will discuss the future of this land, and we welcome any suggestions you may have.

Wesleyan Architecture Students Create Innovative Green Structure for Audubon Society

Imagine this architectural challenge:—create a site-appropriate structure for a former cranberry bog covered with 3 feet of water;—use durable and sustainable materials and construction technologies as extensively as possible;—work within a budget and;—make it optimal for observing Redwing Blackbirds, Scarlet Tanagers, Hooded Mergansers, and the occasional Great Blue Heron.

The task would certainly be a considerable undertaking for a seasoned architect, but the Mattabeseck Audubon Society commissioned a group of Wesleyan students who were only a few weeks into their second college-level architecture class.

The result—SplitFrame, a bird-viewing platform in the Helen Carlson Wildlife Sanctuary in Portland, Conn.—will be celebrated by a reception for the project, to be held at the Sanctuary at 2:00 PM on Sunday, October 19, 2008. SplitFrame, capped an intensive semester-long process involving student research, design and client presentations. This ambitious project was undertaken during the university’s 2008 spring semester by sophomores, juniors, and seniors enrolled in Architecture II, the second in a sequence of undergraduate design studios taught by Elijah Huge, Assistant Professor of Art. The Architecture Research-Design-Build Studio is a new initiative for Wesleyan. As professor Huge explains, “The class was basically an academic triathlon comprised of design research, real world testing of conceptual work developed in the studio, and community-based learning. Going from sustainable materials and site research to project construction within a single semester, the process exemplified a successful collaboration involving wonderful clients, talented and committed students, and an incredible site.”

SplitFrame consists of two integral pieces—a floating Observation Deck and an elevated Viewing Station—connected via a hinged staircase. It is situated at the end of a long weir, a vestige of the wildlife sanctuary’s former use as a commercial cranberry bog. Working with only hand-held power-tools, all on-site construction was completed without the use of heavy equipment. Informed by research on sustainable construction technologies and building materials, design precedents, and the project’s 19-acre site, the studio worked collaboratively to develop and implement the project following the final client review in April. Mattabeseck Audubon Society President Alison Guinness notes, “We had been struggling with a way to provide an optimal experience at our sanctuary, especially since a colony of beavers had changed the site to such a degree that access was a serious challenge. This also became the challenge for Elijah Huge and his students, who have not only created a sustainable project but put in long hours under adverse conditions. When other students were enjoying the spring season, the architecture class was knee deep in mud and water, swatting mosquitoes, and dripping with sweat or rain.

We were impressed by their architectural skills, professionalism, and dedication to the project, and we are very grateful that our sanctuary is once again available for a unique environmental experience.”

Using an innovative pre-cast concrete pin-foundation system for the elevated Viewing Station and a floating aluminum frame assembly for the Observation Deck on the water, the project was designed to minimize its impact on the site, both in construction and over the projected life of the structure. Together, the two platform components provide an immersive site experience, bringing visitors out onto the water, and offering an overview of the sanctuary from the maple tree canopy above.

Viewing Platform
Sunday, October 19, 2 pm

Platform Wesleyan brochure From Wesleyan brochure


Winter / Spring 2009 Volume 35 • Number 4

Deddication Ceremony

Bog Platform Dedicated to Vince Marteka

More photos from the Dedication of the new Vince Marteka Viewing Platform at the Carlson Sanctuary are posted on www.audubon-mas.org


Spring / Summer 2009 Volume 36 • Number 1:
HELP Wanted: Engineer

MAS is in search of an engineer who can design an effective beaver baffling system for our Helen Carlson Wildlife Sanctuary. We’ve had 2 systems installed by Skip Hilliker and Friends of Animals, but neither has worked. We’re hoping to find someone with experience with drainage systems. We do not want to completely drain the beaver pond, but we would like a system that allows us to lower the water level periodically in order to keep the trail open and grow a few cranberry plants. Please call Alison Guinness at 860-873-9304 if you know someone or have any ideas.


Summer/Fall 2009 Volume 36 • Number 2:
(Feel free to send us your comments)
From MAS Member Joanne Luppi

The Helen Carlson Sanctuary was featured in a month-long display at the Portland Library. A beaver skull and pelt, plus chewed wood evidence of their work were interesting to many children. Large photos of the new viewing platform, dedicated to Vince Marteka, were also shown. Mattabeseck’s new folding display board showed photos taken at the Sanctuary (known locally as the Cranberry Bog) as well as environmental information. A follow-up walk to the new platform was held on June 27. Participants were shown some of the special flowers and plants that grow at the Sanctuary. Birdsong and bullfrog croakings were all around the platform. Canada Geese are raising a family of five goslings at the Bog this year. The walk was led by Alison Guinness and Joanne Luppi.

Platform View


Fall/Winter 2009 Volume 36 • Number 3:
Lend-a-Paw Day at the Sanctuary

For the 3rd time, students from Rocky Hill High School came to the Carlson Sanctuary to help with maintenance as part of their community service program
called Lend-a-Paw. Twenty-two students, led by their teacher and MAS board member, Kim Antol, spread wood chips along the trails, repaired vandalism to the
viewing platform, cleared the trail of downed trees, removed fallen branches in the parking area, and took out 5 beaver dams to increase the flow of water through the sanctuary. When asked what their favorite activity was, they always say, “Dam busting.” Mattabeseck is grateful for their help, without which, many of these tasks would not get done.

Rocky Hill High School helpers  at Bog

Thank You from MAS
from Joanne Luppi

Mattabeseck Audubon Society is very grateful to Ben Srb and his employees of Primary Landscaping in Portland. Ben was able to haul the corn crib from the 400 William St. property to the Portland Historical Society’s Museum property on Main St. in Portland. This is one of the few corn cribs remaining in Portland and Mattabeseck donated it the Historical Society because of its historical significance. We also appreciated Ben’s removing an old car from the rear of the property for us.
Primary Landscaping has been more than helpful to Mattabeseck. Both this fall and last fall they have delivered a load of wood chips to the Helen Carlson Sanctuary. These chips were used by the Rocky Hill High School students to mulch the trail to the new observation platform. The students were amazing as they worked at the Sanctuary for their “Lend-a-Paw” day. Spreading of the chips was only one of the many tasks they completed.


Award PresentationWinter/Spring 2010 Volume 36 • Number 3:
Mattabeseck Audubon Receives DEP’s Green Circle Award

At the State Capitol in December, Mattabeseck received the Green Circle Award from the CT DEP for its sustainable viewing platform at the Helen Carlson Wildlife Sanctuary. Alison Guinness, president of Mattabeseck, accepted the award certificate for the organization from Commissioner Amey Marrella, as well as a statement signed by Governor Rell congratulating Mattabeseck and commending us for our “energy, enthusiasm and hard work in leading the way in preserving our natural resources.”


News from the Helen Carlson Sanctuary

The water level is again very high. To gain access to the viewing platform, it is best to wear boots. John LeShane will try to get some stepping stones in the low areas. Those pesky beavers are trying to turn the bog into a lake.

Besides the family of Canada Geese, a Green Heron and two Hooded Mergansers have been spotted at the Sanctuary this fall, along with many more common birds such as Chickadees and Tufted Titmice.

When winter really sets in and folks start thinking about ice skating, calling John LeShane at 860-342-0658 or Joanne Luppi at 860-342-1326 for a report
on the ice conditions would be a good idea.


Spring / Summer 2010 Volume 37 • Number 1:
News from the Helen Carlson Sanctuary

In mid-March, the Red-winged Blackbirds were singing at the Bog, but the water was so high that we needed boots to access the viewing platform. Just from the road, however, we spotted 7 Canada Geese. I wonder if that is last year’s batch of 5 goslings, plus parents? Will they nest again this year? The most beautiful sight, however, was two pairs of Hooded Mergansers cruising around in the flooded bog.

Nearby, on Isinglass Hill Road, in Portland, a Pileated Woodpecker is busy excavating a mammoth hole in a tree right beside the road! Perhaps not the best site for raising a family.


Summer / Fall 2010 Volume 37 • Number 2:
News from the Carlson Sanctuary

Calipogon and Rose Pogonia Orchids, SundewThis is a lovely time to visit the Helen Carlson Wildlife Sanctuary. Birdsong is everywhere, with the warblers sometimes drowned out by the Redwinged Blackbirds. Recent sightings include a Wood duck, a Green Heron, and a Mallard family.

Take a magnifying glass so that you can see the amazing structure of the Sundews (photo below) along the edges of the ditches. Don’t forget to search for the beautiful pink flowers of the Rose Pogonia (above left) and the Calopogon (above right), our two terrestrial orchids.

Sit up on the viewing platform and enjoy the sights and sounds of the Bog.

Recently, we photographed the 2 orchid species which now grow along the path to the platform.


Fall / Winter 2010 Volume 37 • Number 3:
(Feel free to send us your comments)
From MAS Member Joanne Luppi

SANCTUARY—Before the heavy rain of Oct. 1, the water at the Sanctuary was quite low. Lovely white pond lilies were viewed in the southern section of the bog, adjacent to the grass parking area. 


Winter / Spring 2011 Volume 37 • Number 4:
(Feel free to send us your comments)
From MAS Member Joanne Luppi

Winter Skating at the Sanctuary
With the arrival of cold weather, let’s get out and enjoy some fresh air in a lovely old Cranberry Bog, the Helen Carlson Wildlife Sanctuary. If in doubt about ice conditions, call John LeShane at 860-342-0658 or Joanne Luppi at 860-342-1326.


Summer/Fall 2011 Volume 38 • Number 2:
(Feel free to send us your comments)
From Board Member Joanne Luppi

High Water at Bog / Looking for Eagle Scout
The water is higher than ever! We are looking for an Eagle Scout candidate to re-build the first section of the boardwalk. One needs boots to get to the viewing platform. Plans are in the works to do something about the access path.


Fall/Winter 2011 Volume 38 • Number 3:
(Feel free to send us your comments)
From Board Member Joanne Luppi

High water continues at the Carlson Sanctuary: We are still looking for an aspiring Eagle Scout to take on the project of rebuilding the first section of the boardwalk. The Fiedler family of Portland is making plans to construct a walkway to our viewing platform.


Winter / Spring 2012 Volume 38 • Number 4:
(Feel free to send us your comments)
From Joanne Luppi, Board Member

Winter Skating at the Sanctuary
With the arrival of cold weather, let’s get out and enjoy some fresh air in a lovely old Cranberry Bog, the Helen Carlson Wildlife Sanctuary. If in doubt about ice conditions, call John LeShane at 860-342-0658 or Joanne Luppi at 860-342-1326. The water is very high, thanks to the beavers and the fall storms. The beaver lodge is obvious, even from South Rd.


Spring / Summer 2012 Volume 39 • Number 1:
Upcoming Field Trips: Spring and Summer 2012

August 18 (Saturday, 2:30 p.m.)— An Afternoon at the Helen Carlson Bog
Meet at Brownstone Intermediate School parking lot, Portland, at 2:30 pm. Bring snacks, beverage, a folding chair, and spotting scope if you have one. We hope to see butterflies, frogs, Green Herons, Flycatchers, and migrants traveling along the edge of the forest. This will be a lazy afternoon of birding and relaxation on the platform at the Helen Carlson Bog. Bring waterproof footwear in case the path to platform is flooded. Group will be limited to 6 so please call or e-mail. Larry lvn600@hotmail.com or call 860-304-5240.


(Feel free to send us your comments)
From Joanne Luppi, Board Member

Helen Carlson Sanctuary Update
The Helen Carlson Sanctuary (the Cranberry Bog) has become a lake. The water is higher than ever. We are still hoping to have some sort of bridge constructed so that we can access the viewing platform without boots! There was a Great Blue Heron there, too, just the other day, as well as a Canada Goose. Perhaps the Geese will nest there as they did last year. The unusual Muscovy Duck that had been living at the Sanctuary for several months, came to a sad end. No one really knows if a coyote, fisher cat, or what killed it, but the outcome was that two mature Bald Eagles came to feast on the remains. The neighboring children are mourning the demise of the King of the Bog, as they called the duck.

Bald Eagle with prey at bog

Photos courtesy of John LeShane


Summer / Fall 2012 Volume 39 • Number 2:
Upcoming Field Trips: Spring and Summer 2012

August 18 (Saturday, 2:30 p.m.)— An Afternoon at the Helen Carlson Bog
Meet at Brownstone Intermediate School parking lot, Portland, at 2:30 pm. Bring snacks, beverage, a folding chair, and spotting scope if you have one. We hope to see butterflies, frogs, Green Herons, Flycatchers, and migrants traveling along the edge of the forest. This will be a lazy afternoon of birding and relaxation on the platform at the Helen Carlson Bog. Bring waterproof footwear in case the path to platform is flooded. Group will be limited to 6 so please call or e-mail. Larry lvn600@hotmail.com or call 860-304-5240.

(Feel free to send us your comments)
From Joanne Luppi, Board Member

Helen Carlson Sanctuary
If you hope to access the viewing platform at our Sanctuary (the Cranberry Bog) you will need footgear that can get wet. We are currently exploring ways to build a bog bridge, with a floating section at the end that meets the platform. The pallets that some well-meaning folks keep adding to the path are not really very safe, so use caution.

You can see the beaver lodge from the platform, and also note that the “bog” is now more like a lake, complete with pond lilies!

The Canada geese have raised a pair of goslings this spring. Watch for the Green Heron also. Many woodland birds will entertain you with their songs. Don’t forget your binoculars!

Note: There is a Bog Field Trip on Saturday, August 18, at 2:30p.m. See page 2 for details.


Fall / Winter 2012 Volume 39 • Number 3:
Field Trip Reports

Afternoon at the Helen Carlson Bog [8]/18/12:
Six attended this trip and a neighbor joined us for a total of 7. On the way to the platform we saw a Water Snake which swam away as we made our way up the path. From the platform, we saw butterflies, dragonflies, and plenty of frogs. Not a lot of bird activity, but we did have great views of Green Herons up close and in the scope. Another nice surprise was a sighting of Spotted Sandpipers. An Eastern Wood Pewee and a Eastern Phoebe traded turns landing on a branch. Wood Ducks and Chimney Swifts were seen flying and a Great Blue Heron was parked in a tree. Other birds in the area included Belted Kingfisher and Rubythroated Hummingbird. We also spent some time watching Red-bellied Woodpeckers and Northern Flickers at the forest
edge. Overall, it was a relaxing trip and opportunity to show some people the bog platform for the first time. We noted that this would be a good place to do some stargazing as well. Total number of bird species: 24.


Winter/Spring 2013 Volume 39 • Number 4:
(Feel free to send us your comments)
From Joanne Luppi

Skating / Beavers at the Bog
Grab your skates and come to the Helen Carlson Sanctuary. People were skating on Jan. 5. We hope the ice will hold. If in doubt, call John LeShane at 860-342-0658 for ice conditions. Beaver activity has increased at the Sanctuary. John LeShane reported that beavers had activated the lodge closest to the viewing platform. This past year, they reoccupied the old site near the old boardwalk and another nearby lodge.


Spring / Summer 2013 Volume 40 • Number 1:
(Feel free to send us your comments)
From Joanne Luppi

What’s New at Helen Carlson Sanctuary

The water is higher than I have ever seen it in over 50 years. The resident pair of Canada Geese are there. A pair of Hooded Mergansers were swimming across the back of the area near the lawn, as was a beautiful male Wood Duck. There were several pairs of Mallards, and Red-winged Blackbirds were singing loudly.

Until the water recedes from all the rain and melting snow, high boots will be necessary to access the platform.

There is much evidence of beaver activity—they are in the process of felling a large tree at the beginning of the berm that leads to the spillway.


Joanne LuppiSummer / Fall 2013 Volume 40 • Number 2:
Joanne Luppi

It is with great sadness that we say farewell to Joanne Luppi who passed away unexpectedly in June. She was a longtime MAS board member, past president, and sanctuary committee co-chair, but Joanne was more than that to the greater MAS community. Having taught for many years in Portland, Joanne always knew who could help with whatever the problem was at the sanctuary whether that was mowing, trail maintenance, or garbage removal. Many of Joanne’s past students were called upon to assist with other MAS activities. She led many field trips to the sanctuary, and folks came from miles away to attend her annual feeder bird walks. Joanne was also a tireless participant in the Salmon River Christmas Bird Count. We will miss her input and support.

For J.L.

… she should have died hereafter;
there would have been a time for such a word…

Macbeth, Shakespeare

The fields were spread open like a book;
A sign was put out: strawberries coming soon.
Sunlight reflected skyward from the plants;
The fruit, like rubies, were the gifts of June.
Beside tall grasses in the river lowland
The milkweed huddled, bees drunken by their scent;
The knots of joe-pye and purple ironweed
Trembled with longing as butterflies came and went.
Within the bog the buttonbush bristled,
The rays of the sun reflected the damselflies’ wings.
Along the path where mountain laurel bloomed,
A vibrant rufous-sided towhee sings.
The orchids blossomed, flushed with pink;
The hairy sundew glistened in the soft, pure air;
The wind on the water seemed to call your name,
Reminding one of the lilies floating there.



Fall / Winter 2013 Volume 40 • Number 3:
Albino Burmese Python Found in Portland
(Headline from the Rivereast News Bulletin August 23, 2013)

Dear former owner: I had always thought of you with no little emotion, for after all, you were my benefactor since birth. I appreciated my regular meals of rats and other rodents, which you provided me with. I was proud of my robust growth and assumed you were also pleased. My personality reflected my contentment. Always docile, I readily tolerated your handling of my smooth, muscular body.

But one day (did I commit some indiscretion I was unaware of?) you suddenly decided to abandon me in some unfamiliar wilderness called the Helen Carlson Sanctuary, a kind of bog. I was immediately perplexed. And although it was still summer, I felt cold at night and the water was somewhat chilly to my Southeastern Asian taste. And I became hungry. There were these awful tank-like turtles that snapped at my flanks. The days passed and I knew that my survival was in jeopardy.

One day, however, a kindly passerby discovered me. Soon a rescue team was set in motion. At first I didn’t understand their motives and I became elusive. But finally, exhausted, I curled into a ball on top of what is called a Tussock sedge. Thus exposed I allowed myself to be captured.

I am now a star attraction at Rainforest Reptiles Shows Inc. and I appear all around the nation to help educate people about myself, and others like me. I am very well treated and content.

I am sorry to have disappointed you, but I must plaintively ask: did you have to rid yourself of me so unceremoniously, without concern for my welfare? I would never have done that to you, were the situation reversed and I had control over your destiny!

Larry Cyrulik


Winter/Spring 2014 Volume 40 • Number 4:
Mattabeseck Audubon Society Celebrates 40th Anniversary

View from platform / Rose Pogonia / CranberriesPlatform / Rose Pogonia / Cranberry

The Helen Carlson Wildlife Sanctuary, located on South Road in Portland, is Mattabeseck’s primary land holding. It was acquired through a donation in the late 1970s from Mrs. Carlson, a long-time Portland resident, who purchased the site to ensure its preservation. The sanctuary was managed as a commercial cranberry bog from 1850 until 1950. A nature trail with boardwalks was constructed with grants from the Rockfall Foundation and a private donor during the summer of 1978. Students from Long Lane School in Middletown constructed the walkway under the supervision of MAS. Their names can still be seen inscribed on a sign at the entrance to the nature trail.

Since the arrival of beavers in the 1990s, the sanctuary has changed greatly. The once common bog type plants, such as sundews, orchids, and cranberry flowers, have declined. While species that inhabit deeper open water are now present. Much of the trail created by the Long Lane students is now under water. A state of the art, sustainable viewing platform was designed and constructed by students from Wesleyan University in 2008 to circumvent the changes caused by the beavers.

Over the years, the sanctuary has been visited by hundreds of people, including students from area schools and colleges. It has served as an educational site and a location for field trips, as well as a peaceful oasis and skating rink when weather conditions are right.

Maps 2014


Winter / Spring 2016 Volume 42 • Number 4:
Helen Carlson Sanctuary: An Update

Visitors may have encountered a bewildering array of obstacles to their edification of the sanctuary. First, due to the fluctuating water level of the bog, courtesy of the resident beavers, the viewing platform has been left unaccessible most of the time. Also, vandals have attacked the platform like hoboes on a hot dog, kicking-out boards, leaving trash, and decorating the wood work with hatchet blows. A non-descript, edgy, and unsafe cobbling of wooden skids and debris has been gifted to us leading out in a jumble of war-like trash along the berm.

Also, a large tree has fallen by the shed and main entrance to the trail at the westerly end of the sanctuary.

What are the plans? The board of directors is receiving quotes from contractors with regards to bridging the gap to the viewing platform. A floating dock system that could adapt to fluctuating water levels is envisioned. The mess of wooden skids could then be removed. Any remaining dips in the berm could then be covered with well-constructed walkways.

A tree removal contractor has been enlisted to deal with the downed behemoth when his schedule permits.

As the saying goes: all things in due time.