Fish aren’t the only animals that have returned to the Naugatuck Valley since river cleanup began 30 years ago.
Mink, muskrat and otter can be found along its banks. So can wood turtles and box turtles, mergansers and wood ducks. And as areas along the river have become more forested, woodland bird species including rose-breasted grosbeak, wood thrush and veery have found new homes.
“We also have ravens in the Naugatuck State Forest. They like to use the cliffside to nest,” said Corrie Folsom-O’Keefe, the important bird area program coordinator for Audubon Connecticut. “I’m 37 and I grew up in Naugatuck. We didn’t have ravens 20 years ago.”
With the return of fish have come the birds who prey on fish. Blue herons are an increasingly common sight, and ospreys, which used to live just along the coast, now have five active nests between Ansonia and Naugatuck.
While there are no known active eagle nests along the Naugatuck, bald eagles do hunt in the valley, especially in winter when they come down from the north.
A bald eagle’s nest perches high on a hill in Seymour overlooking the river, but it has been inactive for at least a couple of years.
Another raptor that has moved into the valley is the peregrine falcon, which has been seen observed on billboards lining Route 8 in Waterbury for close to 10 years.
The falcons are believed to be living under the bridges in the Mixmaster, but no one has yet found the nest, said Jenny Dickson, a wildlife biologist for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
“Peregrines don’t hunt fish, but they do eat other birds. They’re taking advantage of that migratory corridor, which means other species are using the river,” said Dickson.