63. Meigs Point Nature Center Museum

The Fish Scale: Do, Re, Meigs!
Madison
(Google Maps Location)
July 12, 2008

mq63k.jpgIf you go to Hammonasset Beach just once a year, please visit this excellent nature center. If you go several times a year as we do, please make it a point to visit at least once. It really is one of the better nature center museums I’ve seen thus far in the state. Plus, it has the unique beach front location allowing for some different-than-the-usual flora and fauna.

Hammonasset Beach is, of course, Connecticut’s largest beach (CTMQ visit here) and offers much more than melanoma. The Meigs Point Nature Center is one such thing and it’s great. You want to know what else is great? The CT DEP’s website explaining the geology of the Meigs Point area. It’s pretty impressive when you realize there are only a few rocks in the whole park and yet, the DEP was able to write a good deal about those few rocks.

mq63a.jpgBut we had Damian with us and the only interest he has in rocks is throwing them into creeks. So we went straight inside to the Nature Center. It was surprisingly crowded – both with visitors and with animals!

As the “Friends of Hammonasset” website says, “Meigs Point Nature Center is an exciting and vital environmental learning center open to all ages at Hammonasset Beach State Park, one of the most beautiful sites within the Connecticut State Park system. Many of the programs at the Nature Center are funded through donations from the Friends of Hammonasset.

mq63b.jpgThe Nature Center is host to a variety of native animals, including: turtles, snakes, amphibians, crabs and fish.
Most of the animals at the Nature Center are non-releasable because of previous injuries or for other reasons, and are very well cared for.

In season, there is a Touch Tank that allows some of the smaller wonders of the sea to be brought inside for up-close viewing and learning. The animals in the Touch Tank are rotated in regularly & then back into the Long Island Sound.

mq63c.jpgReally? Do people really care about salamanders and mummichogs in captivity? Injured or not? I do note their clause, “or for other reasons” which to me means, “or for other reasons like we caught them and you like seeing them in tanks so that’s how it goes.” And I’m glad; for there are a LOT of animals here.

Outside, there are a couple little nature trails and a butterfly garden. There is also something called a “Friendship Pond” but since we don’t want Damian to grow up to be a hippie, we steered clear of that.

Once inside the main room, we noted the bank of computers and nice flat screen plasma television showing nature films. Consistently, for some reason, nature centers and Audubon Society museums have the best televisions. (You can compare and contrast at my picture list of such things here.) But aside from that, there were lots of cool displays about the local wildlife.

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I was rather impressed with the level of the explanations on the accompanying signs. There was a great display discussing the problem of invasive species and what that means for Connecticut’s native plants and animals. There is an entire wall displaying the skulls from potential park denizens. Tides are explained and there was a wall with a wave-action-beach-creation display.

mq63d.jpgThere is also a lot here regarding all the local bird species, which is something this park is well-known for. In fact, I picked up a handy “Birds of Hammonasset Checklist” and I’m blown away by the variety of birds that one may see here. Loons and grebes and ibises? Kestrels and coots and woodcocks? Oh my! And did you know that whip-poor-wills are in a family of birds called “goatsuckers?”

Hardly Chupacabra in shape or size, why is that? Because European farmers in times past thought the birds’ mouths were just the right size to latch onto a goat’s teat and suck out all its milk during the night. The family members’ habit of flying about at dusk and just before daylight added to their mysterious reputation. Cool. (So says this website).

mq63g.jpgIn the adjoining room, one finds a ton of aquariums. They are impressively clean and well-presented. In them, there are many kinds of snakes and turtles and crabs and such. Even Damian was digging it for the most part.

Downstairs is the aforementioned touch tank. It mostly contains the typical clams and starfish and harmless anemones. But Meigs Point ups the ante a bit with an interesting little fish with a habit of popping out of the water to say hello. I don’t know what kind of fish it is, but it looks a lot like an Oyster Cracker to me. But I can’t imagine it really is because they have rather powerful jaws and the thought of my son’s fist being mistaken for an oyster is crazy to me.

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So if anything is lacking at this nature center, it’s a sign telling me what kind of fish that was. But something tells me the immensely brilliant CTMQ readership will weigh in to help me out. (They did; see below)

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The Friendly Mystery Fish*

*A mystery no more… CTMQ Dad offered up what I believe to be the correct answer: A sea robin.

Back upstairs and we noticed a very highly detailed large diorama of a local woodland. There was a bear in there, but it didn’t come out in our pictures… oh well. You know how we love us some bears.

Overall, Meigs Point is an excellent addition to your day at the beach.

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Cost: Free (after paying to get in the state park)
Hours: Let them explain
Food & Drink? There is a bad beach snack hut (aren’t they all) just across the road
Children? Absolutely
You’ll like it if: You like saying mummichog as much as I do
You won’t like it if: “Ewww! Snakes!”
Freebies: None

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For the Curious:

Friends of Hammonasset
Chupacabra
Cool picture at the actual Meigs Point
Oyster Cracker (Toadfish)

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15 responses to “63. Meigs Point Nature Center Museum”

  1. dick hemenway says:

    Steve

    It is a little hard to tell from your picture with the reflections on the glass, but it looks like an angler fish, named so because it dangles a small bit if skin (artificial bait) attached to the end of a spine sticking out over its mouth to attract small fish that it then sucks into that wide mouth. I could do better with trout any day!

  2. Theron Knapp says:

    Steve, This is great! I have been to Hammonasset so many times and have never even seen this. I will stop by the next time I am there. Thanks for the article.

  3. honeybunny says:

    I guess the mice are happy to have that sign up.

    hb

  4. Richard Murkland says:

    Great article on one of my favorite places in Connecticut! I especially liked the “Cool picture at the actual Meigs Point” link at the end. :D

  5. Rob says:

    No hissing cockroaches? Then it can’t compare to the Nature Center we went to (which had the Osprey cam)

  6. martinet says:

    We love the Nature Center and always take our kids there on our yearly excursion to Hammonasset. This year we were grateful to find a lovely wall poster with a picture and explanation of the very same pinkish jellyfish (“lion’s mane jellies”) that we had seen floating in the waves the day before.

  7. Elyssa says:

    I have gone here before and it is really cool! It was hard to leave! My mom did NOT like the snakes though.
    I would advise this place!:-)Bye

  8. deadhead1217 says:

    What’s wrong with hippies?! Friendship pond sounds like a friendly place not a ‘hippie’ place…and your ‘mystery’ fish is is a sea robin..although it does have some spines, it will not harm u and it even sings if held correctly with gentleness and care…hence the name sea robin…and im a proud hippie and i know all that…

  9. Michael says:

    “…and offers much more than melanoma.”

    So, you’re saying that the beach offers much more than a form of skin cancer – a cancer that claims thousands of lives.

    Isn’t this a poor choice of words?

    I am disappointed that the CT Museum Quest would permit this on their site.

  10. Steve says:

    As one who burns very, very easily, melanoma is something I’m very concerned with. I’m not a beach person as a result of this. I view lying about on a beach all day as perhaps the best way to contract skin cancer.

    So yes, I’m saying at Hammonasset one can spend some quality time in the Nature Center as an alternative to lying around frying in the sun.

    I’m not exactly treating cancer lightly or making light of those who contract it.

  11. thomas says:

    I have been a regular visitor to meigs point since the late 1950′s, when my family spent several months each year camping in the long term areas. I remember visiting mr. and mrs. bunker [the camp manager and his wife] at their summer residence [what is now the nature center]and years later seeing meigs point camping done away with. I miss the old small pavilion that was at the edge of the marsh where the birders blind shack is now, where we used to watch movies, and have “record hops”, etc. But time marches on, and i am glad the old manager’s house has been used for such a worthwhile cause all these years. i always stop in and visit the wildlife in the nature center whenever i am in the park, and tell everyone i know to visit it as well.

  12. r buckingham says:

    Would like to know if the nature center is open through the month of December & what the days/hours would be. Thanks! Email to: rab47@hotmail.com

  13. Steve says:

    When you get around to asking the right person/blog, let us all know.

  14. Carlos says:

    In the 1960s my family and I were frequent campers in Hammonasset Beach. The first time in 1962 we arrived at the campground late in the afternoon after a long drive from Montreal. The place was fully booked. But Mr Bunker felt pity for us and allowed us to camp in Meigs point camping for a one week stay even though Meigs point camping was designated a “long term” camping section of the overall Hammonasset Beach campground. He was a professor of Modern languages in one of Connecticut’s colleges, but worked as a camp manager during the summers.
    Mr. and Mrs. bunker were the sweetest people on earth. Every year they would invite us for supper in what is now the Meigs Point museum. I was thought that the Meigs point campground was the nicest, but alas it is now overgrown by nature.

  15. Marguerite says:

    I camped at Meigs Point in the 1960′s as a child for many years for the full summer. I loved it there. The Nature Center house we called Mr. Bunkers House as he was the director of the Meigs Point Camping.Our family the O’Briens made the Cover of the Sunday Hartford Courant Magazine in color 1965 , showing the full family packing up the tents at the end of the season. I have and always will have very fond memories of Meigs point, Mr. & Mrs. Bunker and Hammonasset Beach.

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