Surveys - Accessing land

Private lands comprise over 70% of our state. In some instances, you may want to access private land in order to complete surveys in your block(s). Please, do not trespass. Often a simple knock on the door will gain you access to private land for birding, and, in doing so, spread the word about the atlas project.

Generally speaking, it is unlikely to be a fruitful endeavor to try to access private lands unless it is a relatively large piece of land or it contains a specific habitat type (e.g. marsh or shrubland) that is not found elsewhere in the block. In some blocks, however, key habitats occur only on private land, so finding certain species may depend on the cooperation of landowners. Use your judgement as to whether a private parcel is unique or large enough that not being able to survey it will leave a gap in the census of the block.

Seeking access to private land: Before accessing private property, make sure you have permission to be there. Our experience is that many landowners are receptive to birders surveying their land as long as we are respectful. Some people may not want us on their land, however, in which case limit your birding to other parts of the block.

Tips that may increase the willingness of landowners to provide access include:

  • Contact the landowner prior to the day on which you intend to begin surveys.
  • Identify yourself as a volunteer with the Connecticut Bird Atlas before making the request.
  • Let the landowner know when you want access, when you will arrive (especially if it will be early), how many will be in your party, and what your vehicle looks like.
  • As appropriate, assure them that you will close gates, will not disturb livestock or crops, and will avoid driving on muddy roads.
  • If they seem interested in birds, offer to provide them with a list of the species you find.
  • A brief thank-you note to show our appreciation after your visit will help ensure continued access.

Once the atlas project is explained, many people are interested enough to ask questions and share information about the birds on their property, which can often help you find out which species are there. For example, many landowners may have heard owls at night, which you could easily miss in a short visit. If a species you were unable to find is identifiable from a landowner’s description, you could submit that data as an incidental record.

There may be instances when folks want more information about what you are doing, or have questions about liability. We have a letter of introduction that you can use to answer some of these types of inquiries from landowners.

If someone does refuse access, respect their rights. There are no circumstances under which it is OK to trespass to collect atlas data.

Utility company lands: For large landowners, such as water and utility companies, the DEEP Wildlife staff is making enquiries to seek access for atlas surveyors. More information about this will be forthcoming soon. In the meantime, we suggest that volunteers should not contact utilities, so that these companies are not inundated with multiple requests.

Public lands: Clearly much atlas work will take place on publically accessible lands. With this in mind, the maps we have created for each block show all of the public lands recorded in the DEEP database. These maps should assist you in determining where privately owned parcels lie within your block. If you have a smart phone with the Google Earth app on it, you can also download the public lands data layer as a .kml file from the Block Map page, which will allow you to load the information into Google Earth.

Information on land ownership is also available on the state's regional Council of Government web sites, many of which have GIS data viewers that allow you to determine the owner of any property. The map here will help you determine which region applies to your block, and this site provide links to each region’s web site.

Please note that public land is not necessarily open to all public access, and that you should check the details for any sites you want to visit. Also, note that municipal open space tracts and land trust tracts may not be shown on these maps (especially if there have been recent changes), but in the field are often posted as such. A quick call to a town hall or land trust headquarters is often all that is needed to gain access to these sites.