2013-09-05 / Nature

Walk and Talk Tours Showcase ALT Efforts

By Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly, a native Newporter, is a wildlife photographer and nature enthusiast who enjoys sharing his experiences with others. Jack Kelly, a native Newporter, is a wildlife photographer and nature enthusiast who enjoys sharing his experiences with others. The Aquidneck Land Trust (ALT) is continuing its “Land Matters– Walk and Talk Tours” across its various preserved spaces in conjunction with other land trusts across the state during September. The tours are part of an educational program that allows the public to view and explore the properties that the land trust protects. The final tour in the series will take place at Newport’s Rovensky Park on Saturday, Sept. 14.

On Saturday, Aug. 31, ALT held a tour of one of its parcels that acts as a buffer zone for Bailey Brook in Middletown, a primary source of drinking water for Newport and Middletown residents.

The tour was led by Salve Regina University professor and ALT board member, Jameson Chace, Ph.D. “At the top of our list of priorities is the water quality of the Bailey Brook and the protection of its watershed. We are trying to establish a buffer zone of 50 to100 feet along the brook, south of East Main Road. This parcel is one of the real gems of our work in watershed protection, because not only does it provide a significant buffer, but it is a habitat for a number of migratory bird species,” Chace said.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird is revived. Ruby-throated Hummingbird is revived. For the professor of biology and environmental sciences, this unique combination of preservation and habitat offered an educational opportunity for Chace and his students. In September of 2012, Chace conducted an experimental migratory bird banding project with his students within the scrub brush/wetlands habitat. The program was very successful and the group banded 619 birds. Chace intends to continue and expand the effort this year during the fall migration cycle, extending the banding program through October.

Tori Chace watches her father, Jameson Chace, weighing a specimen bird. INSET: A banded American Redstart juvenile about to be released. (Photos by Jack Kelly) Tori Chace watches her father, Jameson Chace, weighing a specimen bird. INSET: A banded American Redstart juvenile about to be released. (Photos by Jack Kelly) As part of the tour, Chace gave the attendees an opportunity to observe the process in person. Six nets, approximately 6.5 feet high and 10 feet long, were set along the trails of the property. The fine, lightweight nets captured small birds on the wing and gently held them until they were extricated by project members. The birds were freed from the nets, placed in cotton collection bags, and taken to a nearby science station where they were identified, measured, and weighed. A U.S. Fish and Wildlife band was then placed on their right legs. Chace also determined the possible age of the specimens and checked their overall health. After the vital statistics were recorded, the birds were released back into the wild.

On one trip to the nets, the group discovered a juvenile American Redstart, a migratory warbler species. This species nests and breeds in Newport County as well as northward into Canada, and winters in southern Florida, Mexico, Central and South America. After its documentation and banding, the bird was released to continue its journey south.

Another interesting find was a Ruby-throated Hummingbird. This species is the only breeding hummingbird in eastern North America, spreading from the Gulf Coast to southern Canada. It migrates south and crosses the Gulf of Mexico to winter in the Yucatan Peninsula region.

The colorful, diminutive bird, only 3.75 inches long, lay still in the net and seemed to be in distress. Chace’s nine-year-old daughter who was on the walk was deeply concerned for the welfare of the bird and urged her father to save its life. Chace placed the limp bird in a cloth specimen bag and then placed the bag inside his shirt, close to his heart. When the group reached the science station, the professor filled a bottle cap with water and small pieces of an energy bar. He then removed the hummingbird from its bag and placed it in the palm of his hand next to the mixture. Within a very short time, the bird’s tongue began to lap at the concoction. Suddenly the bird flew from Chace’s hand, leaving a very relieved group of onlookers behind.

Chace explained, “When hummingbirds are stressed, they develop a sort of torpor. It resembles a state of short-term hibernation of sorts, so that the bird can reserve its energy. By first warming it and then providing it with sustenance, we re-energized the bird.” All of that seemed lost on his daughter as she just beamed at her father, the ear-to-ear smile on her face telling the story.

Professor Chace will be conducting the bird banding project for the next two months. Those interested in observing this program or volunteering their time are invited to contact Professor Chace by emailing jameson.chace@salve.edu or calling 401-341-3204. Migration Notes:

The various habitats of Aquidneck Island are teeming with life as many diverse avian species pass through our region of the Atlantic Flyway. Following ancient migration routes known only to the birds, these intrepid voyagers make passages of hundreds or thousands of miles as they wing their way south.

Flush with avian life, ponds, brooks, marshes and tidal areas also offer the ability to observe other animals such as mink, deer, muskrats, turtles, and frogs.

At Gooseneck Cove region, bird species such as wading birds, shorebirds, songbirds, seabirds, and raptors seek shelter and food within its boundaries.

Low tide in the marsh may allow for the sighting of female whitetailed deer leading their young to grazing areas on the other side of the wetlands. In late September it is possible to observe the occasional stag, with his seasonal antlers, passing through this region as mating season approaches.

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