Sharing Their Passion

A Father-Son Duo Teaches Us About Our Avian Visitors

Darting through the woodlands, it lands on a branch overlooking the trail, its bright orange body stands out against the surrounding green. Avery Cotton grabs his camera while his dad, Newell, adds the bird to their digital checklist. This Scarlet Tanager is just one of nearly 100 different species they have seen at Land Trust preserves.

“The Land Trust properties are incredible places to watch for birds” said Avery, a freshman at New Canaan High School and budding ornithologist. During the spring migration, Avery and Newell visit the properties three or four times per week to see what’s flying through. “We don’t want to miss out on seeing a rare bird that may be migrating through.”

Like many, they find peace while out in the woods. “Going birding allows us to get off of our screens and focus on nature. It’s a good way to relax and have fun” explained Newell.


Avery and Newell are now adding their observation to eBird, a global citizen science project sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

“When we first started visiting Land Trust preserves, we realized that there were no documented bird sightings on the eBird app” explained Newell. “We wanted to help the Land Trust, and its visitors, have a better understanding of what birds are using the preserves.”

Thanks to Avery and Newell, and amateur birders like you, four Land Trust preserves have been designated as birding “hotspots” on the eBird app.

Bird enthusiasts from across the region visit these hotspots, especially when a rare bird is spotted by an eBird user. With each observation, our knowledge about these birds, their populations, and their migratory patterns grows.


One of Avery’s favorite things about birdwatching is the opportunity to teach others. “We often bump into people who are curious about what we’re doing or what we are looking at. It’s fun to teach them about the birds.”

“Without the Land Trust’s protected woodlands and managed meadows, many of these beds simply would be here for use to observe and enjoy.” -Newell Cotton

Avery and Newell are also hoping you will get involved. They are working with the Land Trust to develop entry-level birding programs, and encourage you to use the eBird app to record sightings when out on walks. Stay tuned.