Photos of the Long Island Sound

Issues & Actions

Milford Point and Wheeler Marsh

Location: Milford, CT

Anchor Site(s): Milford Point (part of the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge) and Wheeler Marsh Wildlife Management Area (WMA)

About the Site: The 23-acre Milford Point unit of the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge and CTDEEP’s adjacent 550-acre Wheeler Marsh Wildlife Management Area (WMA)  offer some of the finest wildlife viewing opportunities in Connecticut. The diversity of the Stewardship Area’s habitats, including intertidal mudflats, coastal barrier beach, sandflats, and marshes, are a haven for year-round and migratory wildlife. Restricted areas of the beach provide nesting habitat for rare birds such as piping plover, least tern, and American oystercatcher, while the Coastal Center at Milford Point provides access to the area and educational programs. Annually supporting between 10,000-20,000 migrating shorebirds, including semipalmated sandpiper, sanderling, and dunlin, the site offers extraordinary opportunities for wildlife viewing from land or non-motorized boat. Ornithologists believe that the populations of some shorebirds, particularly semipalmated and black-bellied plovers using this site, could elevate this site to national or continental bird conservation significance.

shaunCaptureShaun Roche of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, discusses the undeveloped coastline at Milford Point in Milford, CT and discusses the importance of this protected habitat. (Click photo)

 

milford pointJennifer Mattei, a biology professor at Sacred Heart University, discusses horseshoe crabs in Long Island Sound and the Project Limulus program she founded, at the Milford Point Stewardship Area. (Click photo)

 

Ecological Importance

  • The Nells Island brackish tidal marsh within the Wheeler Marsh WMA is the largest unditched tidal wetland in Long Island Sound.
  • The barrier beach at the Coastal Center is a rare type of ridge plain beach of alternating ridges and swales that formed as the beach prograded, or grew seaward. This ridge and swale system supports rare plant communities and supports rare plants.
  • Provides vital migratory bird stopover habitat, designated by the National Audubon Society as an Important Bird Area.
  • Among the many state or federally threatened and endangered bird species utilizing this area are American bittern, snowy egret, peregrine falcon, piping plover, and roseate tern.
  • Serves as a nursery for valuable wildlife such as the globally near-threatened diamondback terrapin.
  • Used by red bats (a Connecticut species of special concern) during fall migration.

 

 

Recreational Opportunities

      • Pack your binoculars and bird guide—Milford Point and the Wheeler Marsh are both excellent birdwatching sites. See how many different species you can correctly identify!
      • Launch your canoe, kayak, or boat into Wheeler Marsh from the small boat launch at the end of Court Street, Milford.
      • Spend a day fishing for juvenile bluefish, called snapper blues, or engaging in state-regulated waterfowl hunting at Wheeler Marsh.
      • Climb the observation platform at Milford Point for a stunning panoramic view of Long Island Sound and its wildlife.

Dive Deeper

      • Audubon CT: Milford Point and Wheeler Marsh
        Audubon Connecticut’s website provides a useful description of the habitat and wildlife in this Important Bird Area.
      • Connecticut Wilderness
        Browse photos of Wheeler Marsh to acquainted with the area, or learn about the various plants and animals found there using this photographic and informative species database.
      • Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge
        The official page for the Stewart B. McKinney Wildlife Refuge details the unique features of each of its 10 units (across 70 miles of coastline) and gives background on the Refuge’s origins.

Get Involved/Events

Field Notes

      • To protect nesting birds, parts of the beach are closed to the public during the summer nesting season.
      • CTDEEP bans the harvesting of horseshoe crabs at Milford Point.
      • The boat launch at Wheeler Marsh is open year-round to car top boating, kayaking, and canoeing, but is closed to motorized boats to protect nesting marsh birds from early March to late August. Contact the State Parks Division by e-mail at deep.stateparks@ct.gov or by phone at 860-424-3200 for specific dates.
      • Picnicking and sunbathing are forbidden on the grounds and beach of the Connecticut Audubon Coastal Center at Milford Point.

Return to the main Stewardship page

Did You Know?

      • Wheeler has the largest low coastal marsh habitat in Connecticut.
      • Of the 400 or so bird species in CT, more than 300 can be seen in Milford!
      • Milford Point is one of only three CTDEEP-recognized horseshoe crab refuges; the other two are Menunketesuck and Sandy Point, also Stewardship Sites.

Milford Point, Wheeler

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