Happy Earth Year!

Early Roots of Earth Day

By: Nora Hulton

Although the first official Earth Day didn’t take place until 1970, the framework for an environmental revolution had been building for decades. A huge catalyst for this ecological movement was the 1962 publishing of Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring”. Carson was a marine biologist who received her Master’s Degree in Zoology from Johns Hopkins University in 1932, and later went to work for the US Fisheries Bureau, where she also wrote articles on marine life for their periodicals. In 1941, she published her first book titled “Under the Sea Wind”. It was followed in 1952, by the bestseller “The Sea Around Us” and in 1955 by “The Edge of the Sea”. These early writings were largely geared toward regaling the public on the wonders within our natural world, but Carson found herself increasingly drawn into the emerging research directed at the indiscriminate use of pesticides and their purported threat to the environment.  

Post-World War II saw a marked shift in agricultural and municipal pest control practices, and the use of “miracle” insecticides had proven to be a game-changer, especially in food production. As chemical companies touted the effectiveness of their synthetic chemicals in combatting crop pests, a small sector of the public was questioning the impact they were having on wildlife and humans. The inexplicable death of many birds and the increase in cancer were two major concerns. After four years of research, Carson released “Silent Spring”, a controversial writing that exposed the devastating impact DDT and other commonly used chemicals were having on the natural world. “Silent Spring” unwittingly became the bellwether of the environmental movement and after 60 years it still wields the same influence over newer generations of environmentalists. Few know the story, however, of Carson’s stoicism when faced with the wrath of the billion-dollar chemical companies she so boldly challenged. From attacks on her character to public questioning of her qualifications as a woman scientist, her critics worked ardently to destroy her credibility, often using the adjectives “emotional” and “hysterical” in their description of her. Carson, however, was abundantly prepared for this barrage of vitriol and was able to deflect the opposing opinions with substantiated facts. As the science world took notice, and venerated professionals rose to her defense, her mission gained steam, and eventually John F. Kennedy ordered the President’s Science Advisory Committee to explore these issues. As a result, Carson became indirectly responsible for several policy changes concerning pesticides and indirectly influential for the formation of the US Environmental Protection Agency. Unfortunately, Rachel Carson died on April 14, 1964, six years before the first Earth Day, an event that most would agree can attribute its origins to her life’s work as a defender of the planet.  

Earth Day is but a snippet of a massive movement that should not be condensed into a day, a week, or even a month. Earth Day was created to remind us of the ideology and practices we should be living by every day of the year. With that concept in mind, I feel it’s fitting to end this piece with a thought-provoking quote from Rachel Carson herself: 

"Man's attitude toward nature is today critically important simply because we have now acquired a fateful power to alter and destroy nature. But man is a part of nature, and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself. We are challenged as mankind has never been challenged before to prove our maturity and our mastery, not of nature, but of ourselves."  

New Pheasantry!

By: Logan Connor

As we approach spring, the staff at RWC is getting excited to break ground on the new pheasant exhibit. Thanks to many generous donations throughout the year, the Conservancy has reached its goal of funds needed to construct the Pheasantry and fill it with several threatened and endangered species. The pheasantry will be a large facility and will be the first of its kind in the Northeast. It will house some of the rarest birds in the world and will be the next step in conservation for our organization. As Ripley continues to diversify the flock, pheasants are an addition to the collection that will do exceptionally well here in Litchfield, and due to the bright and eccentric colors of male pheasants, will bring a year-round pop of color to the facility.   

Historically, the Conservancy has worked with several pheasant species, but until now has been unable to dedicate an area to breeding and conservation action. Over the winter, aviculturist Logan Connor traveled to the Toledo Zoo to visit their large pheasantry and gather ideas. It was also very beneficial to see husbandry practices used at another facility. Logan was able to return to the Conservancy with a wealth of useful information to be applied to the building and long-term care of our pheasants.   

As with everything today, the price and availability of lumber and other building materials is proving to be a bit challenging, but we are continuing with our plans and hope to begin construction in early spring. With the completion of the pheasantry we will become a leader in pheasant conservation action and education throughout our area. We hope to see all our guests during the 2022 visitation season and look forward to showcasing the facility and displaying our newly acquired pheasant species. 

Earth Year!

This year we are excited to turn Earth Day into Earth Year! RWC has decided to extend Earth Day with three clean ups in April, followed by one each month on (or around) the 22nd at 11:00AM.  Our clean ups will be located around waterbodies in an effort to further our mission of conserving wetlands and waterfowl.  We will be posting clean up locations on our social media pages, so please feel free to join in on these monthly events. If you have any questions or a suggestion for an area that needs cleaning up, please email Andrew at: aocampo@ripleyconservancy.org

RWC staff got an early start on March 22nd cleaning up areas along Great Brook and the Housatonic River in New Milford. Remember, Earth Day is every day!

Breeding Spotlight:

Red-Breasted Goose

(Branta Rugicollis)

By: Andrew Ocampo

The Red-breasted Goose (RBGO) is an Arctic Siberian breeding species that migrates south to the Black Sea during the winter. In the Arctic, RBGO will typically create nests that are well-concealed shallow indentations in the ground. Clutch sizes vary but are typically 4-5 eggs. RBGO will nest in small colonies of 4-5 pairs with females incubating the eggs and males guarding them. RBGO have also been observed nesting near nesting birds of prey. This symbiotic relationship has improved RBGO nesting success with species such as peregrine falcons and snowy owls hunting predators that might normally predate on RBGO or their eggs. At the Ripley Waterfowl Conservancy (RWC), RBGO begin nesting in May with goslings hatching in June. Over the last few years, we have seen increased breeding success when our breeding pairs of RBGO are kept in smaller colonies rather than a large flock. We enjoy providing our birds this natural enrichment that encourages behavior that is observed in the wild.   

Currently the RBGO is listed as vulnerable in the wild by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). RBGO have a relatively small population and gradual population decline has been observed. More monitoring is needed to identify population trends and to accurately understand the species' needs.  

Ripley’s Approach to Stormwater Management Through Low Impact Development 

By Nora Hulton 

As our world becomes more developed, the amount of impervious surface increases in the form of pavement, cement, and asphalt roofing. When rain hits these surfaces, it runs off at a rapid rate and follows gravity to the nearest storm drain. From there, it is usually fed into a local water body while carrying all the pollutants it has picked up on its journey. This is a “lose-lose” situation, as surface water is vulnerable to contamination and precious rainwater doesn’t get the chance to infiltrate the soil and recharge groundwater supplies.  

As technologically advanced as we’ve become, Nature always holds the winning card regarding rainfall. It is impossible to squeeze rain from the skies, but we can, however, implement practices that will trap and purify the water that does become available to us. Properly executed, these methods enable us to build our freshwater reserves so that the effects of a future drought may not be as profound. Ideally, these strategies work to mimic nature’s system of cleansing and storing water, and are collectively known as Low Impact Development (LID). LID is the terminology used when referring to the natural approaches implemented when managing stormwater run-off.  

Unquestionably, clean, fresh water is a critical necessity when breeding and caring for waterfowl. This need, especially in the face of drought, was exceeding the Conservancy’s heavy reliance on well water. It became all too clear that we needed to find a new method of sourcing the necessary water as a severe drought gripped New England in 2016. In October of 2019, we installed an innovative two-part system to conserve this precious resource; a rainwater harvesting and storage tank structure.  

This system is simplistic in that it “runs” on gravity. The rainwater is sourced from the roof of the rearing barn where a network of gutters has been installed to collect and route storm water into a 17,000-gallon underground storage tank. This stored water is then used to clean and fill many of our ponds and to top off the water that circulates through Aviaries 1 and 4. This is a shining example of Low Impact Development (LID), as well as Ripley’s dedication to water and wetland conservation. In 2022, thanks to a grant from the Ellen Knowles Harcourt Foundation, we will be installing interpretive signage and integrating this feature into our educational programs to properly highlight this sustainable model of natural resource management.   

Ripley Duck Camp 2022!

Limited spaces available for Ripley’s Duck Camp – July 2022!  

  • Ripley is offering four weeks of half-day Summer Camp sessions for children entering grades 3-6 and grades 6-8 (in the Fall of 2022). Camp days are interactive, educational, and lots of fun!  
  • Exciting outdoor adventures where you'll learn about nature, wildlife, waterfowl, conservation, and more on the beautiful grounds of the Conservancy.  
  • AM & PM Sessions are available: MON-FRI: July 11-15 - July 18-22 - July 25-29 
  • Each session includes outdoor exploration, hands-on activities, experiments, games, crafts, and interaction with our amazing flock of 400 birds from around the world! 

Visit our website for more information and to Register

| Ripley Waterfowl Conservancy | P.O. Box 210 | 55 Duck Pond Road | Litchfield, CT 06759 |

Ripley Waterfowl Conservancy is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. We rely on the support of donors like you. Each contribution directly supports Ripley's mission.

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