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BIRDING THE SMALLEST STATE

Rhode Island

 

Rhode Island

Fieldfare is located in Rhode Island, the "Smallest State in the Union" USA. We are very fortunate here because, even though it is the smallest state, there are lots of great places to go Birding. Rhode Island is really not an island at all; the land is contiguous with the state of Connecticut to the west and Massschusetts (a popular birding spot) to its east. Narragansett Bay divides a lot of the land area plus there are a series of islands connected to Massachusetts. All this coastline provides a large proportion of beaches, marshes and wetlands for such a little state. The interior has a typical New England landscape, with alternating habitats of deciduous forest, some conifers and some areas of open grassland. With all this variety, one can surely find plenty of different birds and wildlife. Here are some of the locations around our state that are great to visit or at least make it worthy of stopping by on the way to Massachusetts.

During their Spring and Fall migration, many birds follow the Atlantic Coast Flyway, getting a ride on the Atlantic Gulf Stream. In the Spring, the first land some birds will happen upong is the southern coast of our state. In the fall, the same places serve as the last restaurant before the big flight south.

Lists of some interesting birds that have been sighted recently and their locations are posted in blue below . Birds that are listed are not commonly seen in RI or are not seen in such large numbers. (Updating as soon as we can)


Swan Point Cemetery, Providence, RI

Rhode Island has a smaller version of the famous New York, Central Park fallout area. In the spring, migrant songbirds concentrate in the wooded area of this cemetery on the east side of Providence; a blot of green in the middle of a city. Early spring mornings the place comes alive with birds and Birders. Warblers, Vireos, thrushes, and flycatchers announce their presence and it is easy to get around this normally quiet location. The cemetery stretches to the edge of the Providence River where you never know what you will see.

IMPORTANT NOTE: From May 1 through May 31, Swan Point Cemetery will open its gates early for walk-in birders. The main gate will open for 30 minutes, between 7:00 - 7:30 am, when birders may walk in. At 7:30 am, the gate will close while the guard attends to other duties. Birders already in the cemetery may stay. The main gate will reopen for normal operating hours at 8 am. Birders may enter through the main gate only. The south gate is for maintenance and cemetery personnel. Please be considerate of this being private property and the main reason for people visiting. Birders are asked to stay clear of all funerals, processions and services, and to give grieving visitors their privacy. All birders should park on Blackstone Boulevard and not on the entryway of the cemetery. Climbing over the wall is prohibited. Photographing gravestones is also prohibited. Birders and photographers are asked to stay away from nesting birds.


The Great Swamp, Kingston, RI

The unflattering name of this wildlife refuge is no reflection on the wonderful birds that can be found there. Historically the refuge is named to mark the location of a Native American battle. Its large wetland area is home to a longtime recovery effort of breeding Ospreys. The birds began using the utility poles that string a line through the middle of the habitat, taking advantage of the tall poles as nesting platforms. It is one of the seldom times that human interference benefited wildlife. Spring season you can get up close, using discretion, and see the layers of nesting material that have been piled onto each nest every year. Fuzzy nestlings can be viewed, popping up when the parents deliver their catch to the nest. More platforms have been errected to increase nesting success and the population has rebounded in the state.

The 2007 Osprey nesting season statistics were released by the RI DEM. Nests are monitored by volunteers which report their success. The nest monitoring began in 1978 when there were only 12 active nests in the state which produced only 13 young. In 2007 there were 108 active nests with 164 young produced. Good things come out of great swamps!


Napatree Point, Westerly, RI

Napatree Point is the sandy pennisula that stretches out from the very southern tip of of the state. It is a favorite place to watch shorebirds and some seabirds. There are always large flocks of shorebirds stopping off here during spring migration. This is one of the sites for seabird spotting too. Access is only by foot and it is a long walk out, so bring your lunch, drinks and sunscreen. Update 2013- After Hurricane Sandy, beach conditions have changed making for a more challenging walk.


Ninigret and the Charlestown Breachway, Charlestown, RI

Birders in RI who are refering to Ninigret in their bird reports are talking about a large area of the Charlestown coast that includes Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge, Ninigret Pond, and the Ninigret Conservation Area. The Conservation area is a strip of sand dune that separates the pond from the ocean. Nice flat sand on one side and thick vegetation on the other provide a stretch of open area to watch shorebirds, terns and gulls plus an area of scrub and short pines that attract songbirds. Piping Plovers and Least Terns can be seen here. There is not a lot of foot traffic to get to the far end so there is less disturbance for good viewing. (Parking is limited at the entrance and they do charge when in season)

A place in Rhode Island that attracts some unusual birds is the Charlestown Breachway. It seems to have some kind of magnet for the vagrants or the uncommon birds. The breachway is at the town's beach parking lot. Tides and weather have a big affect on what is happening at the spot and how accessible it is. Hiking into the flats on the northeast side sometimes is a wading experience but almost always worth it. In 2004 there were Black-necked Stilts, a Black-tailed Gull showed up here in 1996, and the very out of the way Mongolian Plover in 1999.


South County Area, RI

There are many beach areas in South County that provide great locations for birding. Here are a few to start.(we're working on this list) Scarborough Beach
Narragansett
Green Hill
Galilee


Trustom Pond and Moonstone Beach, South Kingstown, RI

A wonderful thing that has happened in Rhode Island is that with federal protection, hard work by professionals and dedicated volunteers, RI has a breeding population of Piping Plovers. Moonstone Beach is one of the areas that is highly protected and monitored for their preservation. Nests are located early in the season and cordoned off with predator (and human) exclusion barriers to help guarantee successful nesting. Without violating any code of birding ethics, one can observe the fuzzy precocial nestlings duck under their parent's protective wing. Moonstone does not have many visitors due to limited parking.

Standing at the entrance to Moonstone Beach there is a view of the south side of Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge, the entrance is down the road around the corner. This refuge is a great place to see a whole variety of birds due to its diverse habitats. The tree foliage and new crop of insects on the trees at the entering trails draw the sing-songing warblers looking for food and announcing their brilliance. Woodland trails turn to a managed open field, with successfully nesting Eastern Bluebirds and Tree Swallows and other grass preferers. Walking all the way to the pond is always rewarding (make sure to carry-in your scope). Trustom Pond is a shelter for migrating dabbling ducks, coots, and long-legged waders. There can be large flocks of Ruddy Ducks and mergansers, Green-backed Herons and the occasional Bittern. The pond is also a favorite spot for Northern Harriers that ride the breeze coming up and over the dunes from Moonstone.
Update 2013 - the pond was breached by Hurricane Sandy and it is currently a tidal inlet.


Beavertail Jamestown, RI

Jamestown is an island in the middle of Narragansett Bay that has bridges to link the eastern to the western part of the state. The rocky, south tip of the island overlooks the turbulant waters forming at the mouth of the bay. Terns, gulls, and other seabirds feed in the churning waves. A large area is set aside here for wildlife viewing and recreation. This is one of the good locations to see overwintering, less common seabirds or the ones traveling early. It seems as though the birds here fly back and forth to another location just to the east; Sachuest Point.


The Osprey web cam in Jamestown and its archives


Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge, Middletown, RI
Update- After Hurricane Sandy this Refuge is closed to visitors due to dangerous trails. Still closed Spring 2013.
Fines will be issued to tresspassers. Birders hope this refuge can be fixed and opened soon- it is being missed.

If you are looking for an exciting place to go birding, this is a Rhode Island Gem! Sachuest Point is at the tip of a pennisula jutting out at the south end of the Sakonnet River on the east side of Aquidneck Island, known more commonly as Middletown and Newport. This is one of the three National Wildlife Refuges in Rhode Island and it, like the others, is at the shoreline. The difference is Sachuest sits high enough over the water so it is possible to see seabirds in the distance.

Early in the spring, it is possible to see Razorbills, Northern Gannets, and maybe a passing Atlantic Puffin. If the winter migrants are still hanging around you can almost be assured of sighting Harlequin Ducks, Scoters, and Loons. Regularly you can find a variety of ducks on the more sheltered eastern side like Mergansers, Scaup, Bufflehead, Goldeneye and the occasional Barrow's Goldeneye. The scrub and open field habitat attract Eastern Meadowlarks, Tree Swallows and Bluebirds.

This is and unusual spot for raptors in the state. Northern Harriers are seen all the time but the refuge is also a stop over for Short-eared Owls, and in those irruptive years that we have migrants from the deep Artic cold, this where a Snowy Owl may show up.(not in 2004)

It has a large newly renovated visitor's center with staff, facilities, and gift shop. Dress for a range of temperatures. One side of the refuge can be 10-20 degrees cooler than the other, and have a stiff breeze.

Sachuest Point NWR Web Site


Block Island, RI

KNOWN FOR GREAT FALL BIRDING! Block Island is part of Rhode Island and it really is an island. Located just off the coast and visible from most of the shoreline on a clear day. It has a national reputation for being one of the best fall birding spots on the Atlantic flyway. In the fall songbirds see this dot of land as the last jump-off location before heading south for the winter. They tend to hang around a little bit longer then than they do in the spring when they are in a rush to get down to business nesting. It can be a good spot to bird in the spring, but it is even better in the fall.
Block Island NWR Web Site


For the Weekly Rhode Island Rare Bird Alert sponsored by
the Audubon Society of Rhode Island visit our friends at:
The Virtual Birder

    Fall 2008 sightings

    Highlights of RECENT RARE OR UNUSUAL SIGHTINGS IN RHODE ISLAND AND NEARBY MASSACHUSETTS
  • Snowy Owl - Sachuest Pt area, Nov. 19th, Westerley Nov 21st
  • Cave Swallows - Westerley


FIELDFARE is now offering a discount to Birding Clubs
See the details...

 

We hope to continually add to this web page, so check back at another time.




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