Camera Icon

Rhode Island Blitz

Rhode Island

January 30, 2016

Tom Swochak

(Day 1)  Four cars brought 12 birders from Ludlow Plaza to Watchemocket Cove in Rhode Island where over a 100 American Wigeon were assembled in the mostly ice-free waters.  Also there were two Black-headed Gulls, one of which stayed and preened in the roosting gull flock, showing its head and black spots often.  Other ducks among the many geese were a raft of Greater Scaup, along with a few Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser, and Gadwall.  We moved on to Turner Reservoir, which was mostly iced, but still held good numbers of Common and Hooded Mergansers.

We headed south to Seapowet Marsh in Tiverton on the east side of the bay, where the refuge field held a stately Sandhill Crane.  It put on a great show of feeding and flying for the cameras.  The cove across the street held Goldeneyes, Buffleheads, Horned Grebes, and Common Loons.  Here we met Nick Russo, a fine, young birder and student at UConn, who joined the convoy for the rest of the day.  At Nonquit Pond we added 3 Ruddy Ducks, and 4 Pintails.  Then we headed back north, only pausing at Pardon Gray Preserve to scan the meadows and thickets, spotting Bluebirds and Meadowlarks.  A Fish Crow also called there, and a few Turkey Vultures circled overhead.

At Nanaquaket Point we were engulfed by a huge flock of Robins and Starlings.  We stopped for a noon break at Coastal Roasters, then crossed the bridge and headed south to St. Mary’s Pond, where a flock of Shovelers fed and flew before us, along with Ruddy Ducks, some Ring-necked Ducks, Gadwall, and Great Cormorants.  From there we made our way to Third Beach, where the seabirds took over.  Here in the broad bay were scattered Common Loons, Horned Grebes, Goldeneyes, Eiders, Red-breasted Mergansers, White-winged and Surf Scoters, Buffleheads, and Greater Scaup.  Searching the beach before us for food were a hundred Sanderlings, and down the beach at the stony edge of Sachuest were a dozen Ruddy Turnstones.  We moved to Gardiner Pond and had more Ruddy Ducks and two American Coots.  Then it was time to walk the trails that looked down on the ledges and rocks of Sachuest Point.  In a couple of hours we picked out Harlequin Ducks, Razorbills, Purple Sandpipers, and a Brant. With them were groups of Greater Scaups, Goldeneyes, and all three Scoters, plus smaller numbers of Red-throated and Common Loons, Horned Grebes, a Red-necked Grebe, Eiders, Buffleheads, Cormorants, and Red-breasted Mergansers.  Harriers hunted the nearby marshes and the fields where deer grazed.  The day ended with a get-together featuring snacks and refreshments, along with the bird tally and the telling of each observer’s best birds.  For dinner, some chose Mexican, others chose Applebee’s.

(Day 2)  After a fine breakfast at the Blue Plate Diner, we arrived at Beavertail on Jamestown Island at 8:30 a.m. and were faced with strong winds on the west side of the refuge.  The east side was better, but we still took shelter behind the buildings on the point.  A big surprise was the more than 75 Razorbills on the water and flying past the point into the wind.  We picked out several Gannets streaming with them.  Also unexpected were the numbers of passing and feeding Bonaparte’s Gulls.  There were rafts of Eiders and over a hundred Black Scoters with a few Surf and White-winged Scoters.  Red-throated outnumbered Common Loons.  Harlequin Ducks were feeding close to shore and Purple Sandpipers were feeding on the ledges or flying around.  As we drove out through the thickets and woods along the road, we came upon a large flock of Cedar Waxwings.  Then a stop at the marsh by Zeek’s Bait & Tackle produced Great Blue Herons and a Kingfisher.  At Point Judith there were more Bonaparte’s Gulls, scoters, loons and grebes among the surfers.  The Galilee area at high tide had a raft of Red-breasted Mergansers, some Bufflehead, and a few Common Loons, but few gulls.  Sunset Farm featured a huge flock of Starlings and Cowbirds, plus a Grackle and two Redwings.

We continued west to the Trustom Pond area, where we studied the feeder birds, which included a Rusty Blackbird.  At the end of a long walk to Osprey Point, the open water had only a few ducks, though one was a male Barrow’s Goldeneye.  We checked the roads in the area and managed to find another Northern Harrier.  Our last stop was at Perry’s Mill Pond, a small pond next to a home, where a Redhead had been reported.  Instead we got fine views of one male Eurasian Wigeon with the American Wigeons, plus some Ring-necked Ducks and Green-winged Teal.  Also, a nice variety of landbirds was found there, including two Brown Creepers.  We finally broke up and headed home with 83 species on our Blitz list.