Mountain laurel in bloom

Mountain laurel in bloom
Mountain laurel is in bloom at West Rock, as seen on the Gold Trail.

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Animals at West Rock

West Rock has the birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles and insects that one would expect to find in south central Connecticut. Park users are likely to hear these animals more than they see them because the animals can typically spot us and move away long before we see them. People who are alone are more likely to see animals than those in a group, which is naturally noisier. Many animals are active at night when the park is closed to users. As I encounter animals and take clear pictures, I will upload them to this website.
Remember that wildlife should be enjoyed at a distance. If the animal moves away, that is a sign you are too close. Dogs should be kept on a leash to keep them from chasing and otherwise harassing wildlife. Also remember that wild animals are wild and should be left at the park. In addition to being a park rule, it also is a good ecological practice. However, I do not think anyone will complain if you take home ticks with you!


Birds

A red-tailed hawk rests on a branch in February 2015 along the Red Trail,
as it ascends to the South Overlook.
This peregrine falcon had a "scratch" (a falcon version of a nest) along the western cliffs overlooking Konolds Pond in November 2011. West Rock has a pair of nesting falcons, which nested in 2015 on top of the cliff and successfully had a baby.
Three catbird eggs can be seen in this nest made from grape vines along the relocated section of the Red Trail by Farm Brook Reservoir, July 2015.
Two baby catbirds nap in their nest along the relocated section
of the Red Trail by Farm Brook Reservoir, July 2015.
An adult catbird forages along the relocated section of the Red Trail, July 2015.
Catbirds can easily be heard by their loud cries that sound a bit like cats.
The image is fuzzy due to the long zoom combined with low light.

Amphibians

Pickerel frog, Red-White Trail near Farm Brook, Oct. 2015.
They are the only known poisonous frog in the United States.
Their skin can excrete a toxic that is mildly irritating to skin and mucous membranes.


American Toad, Red-White Trail near Farm Brook, Oct. 2015. These toads easily blend into the leaf litter, a good reason to stay on the trail.

Redback salamanders are revealed after a rock is removed from the White Trail in April 2015. They were moved to safety off-trail where they could crawl under another rock. Remember that salamanders are wild animals and should not be collected as pets.

Reptiles

A box turtle suns itself along Baldwin Drive in summer 2014.

Insects

A monarch butterfly rests in an oak tree in the open field by the Hill Street parking lot, October 2015. The field has many milkweed plants, which provide food for the butterflies.
A milkweed bug feeds on a milkweed pod in the open field
by the Hill Street parking lot, October 2015.

Links about Animals

  • Information about wildlife at West Rock may be found in an article entitled "Connecticut Wildlife: Biodiversity and Conservation Status of Our Vertebrate Populations." The article was written by Stephen P. Broker, who is a science educator, and a member of the Board of Directors for the West Rock Ridge Park Association. The article is published on the website of the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute. According to a statement from the website, "The Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute is an educational partnership between Yale University and the New Haven Public Schools designed to strengthen teaching and learning in local schools and, by example, in schools across the country." Article website: http://www.yale.edu/ynhti/curriculum/units/2005/5/05.05.03.x.html
  • If you have seen or heard a bird at West Rock and want help identifying it, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has an extensive database organized by bird, including photos, sounds and videos: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/search.aspx
  • Birds of Prey in Connecticut: A Guide to Finding and Understanding Hawks, Eagles, Vultures and Owls, written by Gene Billings, was published in 1990 by Rainbow Press. In the short online previews available online, West Rock is found on 13 pages. I have no other information about this book, which may be purchased.
  • The Bears Are Back: Getting to Know Connecticut Bears is a website about the return of black bears to Connecticut. The website is produced by the University of Connecticut and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Among the pages is a list of towns where bears have been sighted. None were reported in Hamden or New Haven in 2015. I have not heard of bears at West Rock, but it would not be surprising if they live there, or soon will be there, as they continue to expand their range. Website: http://clear3.uconn.edu/viewers/bears/ and http://www.cteco.uconn.edu/projects/bears/index.htm#storymap

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