Thom Smith | Naturewatch: Scientific treasure trove in Connecticut store


"Getting away" for a weekend needn't be tedious, especially for those living along the coast, spending a couple days in the mountains, or we who live in or among the mountains spending a weekend at the shore. I find it especially relaxing when tourists ebb like the tide after Labor Day. For us, long weekends are a Godsend not to be wasted doing yard work when in three and a half hours one can be walking along a sandy beach.

In the early days of the aquarium at Pittsfield's Berkshire Museum, I would be content with one-day trips to gather live specimens along the Connecticut coast in places like Stonington and Mystic and the many salt ponds and tidal flows along Route 1; places like Old Saybrook, where in late summer and early autumn when the water was at its warmest, we would gather seahorses and even more southern fishes, including green file fish that followed the Gulf Stream north to be captured by the low tide in shallow pools.

My latest visit was centered in downtown Niantic, Conn., where I was told I would find a shop named C.E.L. at 321 Main St., where I would discover fossils, minerals, ancient artifacts (Indian arrowheads, included); even biological specimens preserved in suitable-size glass vials, and small mummified animals, all items I was interested in when actively collecting. It is a shop of antiquities and oddities for all tastes and even "fills the bill" for parents and grandparents of young scientists and naturalists. Even now, I keep an eye out for such places, rare as they might be. "Where can we get ...?" questions are more common than you might imagine for Naturewatch.

When I walked into the shop, I was immediately surprised by the assortment of spectacular fossils that ranged from the coffee table or cabinet variety to less expensive treasures for children of all ages.

After introducing myself to Craig Lessard, who with his wife, Ellen, nine years ago opened the unique emporium featuring esthetic, artistic and scientific artifacts. Cabinets contain animal skeletons, mummies, antique microscopes and other scientific tools, preserved specimens, art, antique toys, semi-precious jewelry, and more that will appeal to one's esthetic sense to the strange and gothic. There is even a small assortment of minerals. Our 4-year-old grandson was thrilled with the dinosaur models and was given a diplodocus to learn about before returning to the shop next summer. "Education, is just as important as sales" said Lessard.


Just a quick note to let you know I saw a mature eagle at Plunkett Lake in Hinsdale on my way back from the recycling center yesterday. That, on top of the two sightings of an eagle flying over my yard in Hinsdale, tells me they are spending time in this area. To me, that is very exciting.

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— Nancy, Lenox, Mass

She also wrote:

I have never had so many hummingbirds. I have two feeders — one in front of kitchen slider and one in front of a slider in the TV room. I had four females on the feeder with two flying around. I know the males are very territorial and some will sit in the lilac tree and drive the others out, but I didn't think the females would do that, but there was one today that did. They are so interesting.

A: Late in the season, it is more likely to see several ruby-throated hummingbirds together, mostly females. And in late summer, both sexes tend to be more tolerant of each other, hence you will sometimes see them in numbers. If you have seen videos with many hummers together, it is usually western species.

Q: A doe and two fawns have been coming in my yard eating the hosta. Today, the two fawns were here for a half-hour and I never saw the doe. I am concerned that something has happened to the doe. The fawns still have their spots. Can they survive on their own?

A: As for the fawns, youngsters left alone are just that, they are rarely abandoned by their mother. According to Massachusetts Wildlife biologists, a doe may leave her fawns for six to eight hours. And, if frightened herself, may keep an eye on them from a distance for as long as 24 hours. Fawns will retain their spots until the fall molt and will stay with their mothers for one to two years. Females may stay longer than males.

Thom Smith welcomes readers' questions and comments. Email him at or write him care of The Berkshire Eagle, 75 S. Church St., Pittsfield, MA 01201.


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