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.
deKoven House, 27 Washington Street, Middletown, Connecticut 06457
Mattabeseck Audubon Society—History
In the fall of 1972, six birders assembled in Dave Titus’ living room in Cromwell to organize a local chapter of the National Audubon Society. Those six – Dave Titus, John Maynard, William Howard, Jim Mockalis, Vince Marteka, and Alberta Mirer – became the founding members of the Mattabeseck Audubon Society (MAS). The chapter was officially incorporated in 1974.
2014 marked two decades of environmental activism and interaction. Old issues of the chapter newsletter, Wingbeat, reflect a diversity of members’ interests. As founding President Dave Titus put it, “We’re not just a bird club,” but birds have always played an important role in the chapter’s activities with hundreds of field trips in search of warblers, sparrows, shore birds, various migrants, and birds of prey, including eagles, hawks, and owls.
MAS chose the osprey as its logo, reflecting the return of this bird from the brink of extinction due to the use of DDT. The first version was created by Whit Vye. Mike DiGiorgio created the 20th anniversary version, with logo-type added by Pat Rasch, our Wingbeat producer.
MAS conducts the Salmon River Count as part of the annual Christmas bird census, sponsored by National Audubon, the biggest birding event in the world. The data collected by Mattabeseck during the Christmas count has helped identify impacts on bird populations here and everywhere. In the past, MAS has participated in Birdathons, breeding bird and summer surveys. Over the years, MAS has been asked to provide bird surveys for other organizations, municipal and non-profit.
Since 1986, MAS has taken on a more activist role to protect fragile ecosystems in northern Middlesex County from development. One threatened site was Deadman’s Swamp in Cromwell where, in 1980, Dave Titus had the bird sighting of his life, a rare Black Rail confirmed by noted ornithologist, Noble Proctor. As a result of Mattabeseck’s intervention to save this site, it is now part of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge.
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. However, the path to the viewing platform is often under water, and vandals have done much damage to the platform.
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. (Link to Carlson Sanctuary page)
Mattabeseck Audubon Society
David Titus 1973–74
William Howard 1974–75
John Maynard 1975–76
Vince Marteka 1976–77
Jim Mockalis 1977–79
Judy Bothwell 1979–81
Ron Klattenberg 1981
Clay Taylor 1981–84
Joanne Luppi 1984–86
David Titus 1986–88
Richard Moore 1988–90
Phil Parda 1990–92
Joe Morin 1992–94
David Titus 1994–96
Wil Bornman 1996–98
David Titus 1998–2003
Alison Guinness 2003–Present