Biological Surveys and Species Lists


Deer in Meadow

winter plants

Highstead collaborates with researchers and local, regional, and national conservation groups to monitor plants, animals, and other organisms on its 140 acres of diverse habitats. Data gathered provide invaluable information on species population trends both at Highstead and in the broader landscape. Previous and on-going surveys have been conducted on the following groups of organisms: Birds, Reptiles/Amphibians, Mammals, Butterflies, Lichens and Plants.



Since 1997, local volunteers have monitored bird populations in Highstead's meadows and woodlands in coordination with state and regional conservation plans . Bobolinks have been a focal species in the meadow surveys, and data show populations at Highstead have generally increased over the past 10 years.

Of the over 400 bird species recorded in Connecticut, 90 species have been observed in Highstead's diverse habitats. Three species that once inhabited Connecticut have become extinct in the past 150 years: Passenger Pigeon, Heath Hen and Labrador Duck.


Forty five species inhabit Connecticut, and approximately 1/3 of these species have been seen at Highstead including the box turtle , a species of special concern in CT. In contrast to its bird and mammal fauna, Connecticut's herpetofauna has suffered no extinctions or extirpations in the past 400 years of European settlement. Nonetheless, several are threatened or endangered today.

Beginning in 2006, Dr. Theodora Pinou of Western Connecticut State University began surveying Highstead's wetlands for turtle diversity and population size, while simultaneously educating local high school teachers on field techniques and wetland ecology.


About 60 wild mammals inhabit Connecticut, 16 of which have been observed at Highstead. A number of species were extirpated from the state during European settlement, and all but two (mountain lion and timber wolf) have returned in recent years. Two new species, the Eastern Coyote and Virginia Opposum migrated into southern New England after 1900 and have become common at Highstead and ubiquitous across the region.



For over ten years Victor DeMasi of Yale's Peabody Museum of Natural History and Fred Schroeder of the Redding Conservation Commission have conducted butterfly surveys at Highstead as part of the North American Butterfly Associations's Annual Counts. Their work and the observations of others have documented some 36 of the 114 species that occur in Connecticut, including the long-distance migrating monarch.



Lichen are the fusion of two organisms: fungus and alga (or algal-like bacteria). In 2005, Doug Ladd of the Missouri Botanical Garden joined Richard Harris and William Buck of the New York Botanical Garden in a survey of Highstead's lichens. Their efforts yielded almost 100 species, more than half the species found in CT. Most of these species are foliose and crustose lichens that occur throughout Highstead's woodlands on rocks, trees, shrubs, and exposed soil.


Botanical surveys at Highstead extend back to its founding in the early 1980's. In 1984, Matt Kelty of Yale University did a forest "cruise" of the property , delineating the area into different forest types. That same year Virginia Weinland, a local botanical expert, surveyed the plants of the forested wetland prior to the construction of Highstead's pond. In the 1990's, Highstead's two acre field was intensively sampled as part of a Meadow Planting and Management Project . Most recently in 2004-2006, Highstead's woodlands were sampled for all herb, shrub, and tree species as part of a Forest Variation Project .