A History of the Hartford Audubon Society


On May 8, John Sage, long-time Secretary of the American Ornithological Union, gives a lecture on Connecticut birds at the Historical Society. Following the lecture, a group meets and appoints a “Plan for Organization” committee. Ten days later, on May 18, 1909, about sixty people attend the inaugural meeting of the Hartford Bird Study Club in the lobby of the Wadsworth Atheneum. Albert Morgan is elected as President and Arthur Powers as Secretary and Treasurer.

CW Vibert is at the center of many of the club’s activities from 1913 to 1938. CW alerts his Hartford friends by phone whenever he sees good birds at the marsh near his house on Main St in S Windsor. They arrive by trolley, get off at Station 41 (near Vibert Rd), and use his house as a base for an impromptu field trip. His beloved marsh and the surrounding meadows and agricultural fields are now known as Station 43.

The Club begins participating in the nationwide Christmas Bird Count (CBC), a mainstay of the Club's program ever since. The CBC provides an annual "snapshot" of trends in the status of bird populations across North America.

The Club is incorporated as a non-profit, tax-exempt organization. This enables it to accept donations of land to be set aside as wildlife sanctuaries. Tax-exempt status also stimulates the growth of the Club's endowment by making possible large gifts, such as the one presented to the Club by Mary French.

Alex Bergstrom guides a major bird-banding program and launches the tradition of overnight trips to Maine, Massachusetts and Maryland.

Walter Charsky leads the first annual overnight trip to Cape Ann and Plum Island.

The Club's legal name is changed from the Hartford Bird Study Club, Inc., to the Hartford Audubon Society, Inc. Around the same time as the name change, Hartford Audubon initiates serious discussions with the National Audubon Society about forging a formal link between the two organizations. However, no final agreement is reached.

Hawkwatching in Connecticut takes off as a serious endeavor, thanks in large part to the efforts of HAS members Gerry Mersereau and Don Hopkins. After the discovery of the raptor migration patterns in New England, a series of hawkwatching events is organized at prominent observation sites including HAS’s own site on Booth Hill in West Hartland.

The popular “Beginners Walk at Station 43," now offered four times a year, is started by Sam Fried in 1991. Over the years, HAS has hosted over 350 birding trips to Station 43.

As the 21st century begins, Hartford Audubon moves into the digital era in a big way, with its own website, Facebook page and an array of email forums designed to enable HAS officers and members to communicate efficiently with one another. (Long gone are the days of dialing up the "Voice of Audubon" once a week to hear postings of unusual bird sightings.) As digital cameras become more powerful, mobile phones proliferate and eBird is launched, HAS members move right along with the times and adopt the latest in digital technology.

The first county-wide "Big January" contest takes place and is an immediate hit. The goal — to find the largest number of species in Hartford Count — leads to a friendly competition, with HAS members swapping reports. Two years later, a "Golden Grebe" award is added, for finding the most unusual bird.

Hartford Audubon marks its 110th anniversary in January with a gala series of events, hosted by the Wood Memorial Library. They include a polished lecture by guest speaker Patrick Comins, Executive Director of Connecticut Audubon, a field trip along nearby Vibert Road and a festive potluck banquet. November of that year sees the long-awaited launch of Hartford Audubon's totally redesigned website, the culmination of an effort led by Board member Tom Robben. In the near future, the website's membership page will accommodate online applications for new memberships and renewals of existing ones.

The year of the Great Pandemic saw the members of Hartford Audubon Society, like their fellow Americans and people around the world, take drastic steps to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus.  All club trips and gatherings were canceled until the fall, while the Annual Meeting (sans banquet) was conducted via Zoom.  By observing social distancing — a phrase new to us all — as well as birds, HAS members managed nevertheless to get out into the field.  We added reports to the growing Connecticut Bird Atlas database, but, more importantly, we found solace in the company of our feathered companions during a difficult time.