2013-12-27 / Nature

Marvels of Wildlife Abound – Best of 2013

By Jack Kelly


Spring and fall migration cycles bring many shorebird species to our coastlines. This Lesser Yellowlegs is foraging for small invertebrates and insects in the wetlands behind the Third Beach parking lot. This bird has a body length of 10.5 inches and a wingspan of 24 inches along with its trademark yellow legs. They nest and breed in mostly freshwater habitats across Canada and Alaska, and winter along the southern Atlantic and Gulf Coast of the United States, as well as the coasts of Central and South America. Spring and fall migration cycles bring many shorebird species to our coastlines. This Lesser Yellowlegs is foraging for small invertebrates and insects in the wetlands behind the Third Beach parking lot. This bird has a body length of 10.5 inches and a wingspan of 24 inches along with its trademark yellow legs. They nest and breed in mostly freshwater habitats across Canada and Alaska, and winter along the southern Atlantic and Gulf Coast of the United States, as well as the coasts of Central and South America. During the past year, nature provided local wildlife enthusiasts and bird watchers with a wealth of opportunities to observe the beauty and majesty of the natural wonders displayed throughout our region. Many were able to view the colorful avian species that pass by Aquidneck Island during both the spring and fall migration cycles. This year presented me with many chances to capture these winged marvels in their own habitats, from the sevenfoot wingspan of a Bald Eagle to the tiny Ruby-throated Hummingbird with its 4.5- inch wingspan. Birding also presents the thrill of observing other forms of wildlife, including coyotes, deer, mink, rabbits, muskrats, foxes, and raccoons.


This colorful Wilson’s Warbler is among the tens of thousands of warblers, representing dozens of distinct species, that migrate through our area in spring and fall. These multicolored songbirds nest and breed across Canada and Alaska and winter in Central and South America. This particular species has a body length of 4.25 inches and a wingspan of seven inches. On a crisp mid-September morning, it was pursuing and catching insects on the wing in grapevines at Brenton Point State Park. It was also hover-gleaning insects from nearby leaves. This colorful Wilson’s Warbler is among the tens of thousands of warblers, representing dozens of distinct species, that migrate through our area in spring and fall. These multicolored songbirds nest and breed across Canada and Alaska and winter in Central and South America. This particular species has a body length of 4.25 inches and a wingspan of seven inches. On a crisp mid-September morning, it was pursuing and catching insects on the wing in grapevines at Brenton Point State Park. It was also hover-gleaning insects from nearby leaves. Jamestown Bird Count

The Conanicut Island Annual Winter Bird Count will be held on Saturday, Jan. 4 from 7 a.m. until noon, with an optional bird tour in the afternoon. Volunteers are asked to meet in the conference room of the Jamestown Police Station at 7 a.m., where teams will be registered and avian count zones will be assigned.


Dr. Jameson Chace, Ph.D., a biology professor at Salve Regina University, is utilizing local wildlife habitats as teaching tools and living laboratories for Salve students engaged in a number of scientific studies and experiments. Pictured is a juvenile Common Yellowthroat, a long range migrant, about to be released after banding and biological testing. Dr. Jameson Chace, Ph.D., a biology professor at Salve Regina University, is utilizing local wildlife habitats as teaching tools and living laboratories for Salve students engaged in a number of scientific studies and experiments. Pictured is a juvenile Common Yellowthroat, a long range migrant, about to be released after banding and biological testing. All area bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts are invited, regardless of experience. Anyone wishing to begin birding with a group of experienced avian enthusiasts is encouraged to attend. This is a great opportunity to begin a hobby or a lifelong pursuit of all things feathered. Last year’s count observed and catalogued 76 species across the island. Warm clothing is a must and binoculars and telescopes will be shared among participants. 
For further information, directions or questions call Candy Powell at 401-423-1492 or Evelyn Rhodes at 401-423-1254.


While searching for signs of a visiting owl, refuge nature walkers were also treated to sightings of Red-necked Grebes, Horned Grebes, Harlequin Ducks and other waterfowl. One group encountered a very docile female deer, which stood by the side of the trail chewing her cud. Other visitors sighted mink scrambling along the rocky shores or swimming after prey in the waters near Island Rocks. While searching for signs of a visiting owl, refuge nature walkers were also treated to sightings of Red-necked Grebes, Horned Grebes, Harlequin Ducks and other waterfowl. One group encountered a very docile female deer, which stood by the side of the trail chewing her cud. Other visitors sighted mink scrambling along the rocky shores or swimming after prey in the waters near Island Rocks. 
Coyotes are a very sensitive subject in our communities, but the fact is that they are here and will be for quite some time. This large alpha male walked into an area where I was attempting to photograph a Least Bittern, an extremely shy and nocturnal member of the heron family, which escaped into nearby reeds. While I was dismayed at losing the quarry I had long sought, I was intrigued by the coyote that had come to drink from the freshwater pond. He stared at me for a long moment through goldenyellow eyes and then vanished into the nearby scrublands. It was an exciting encounter with a keen predator. 
Photos by Jack Kelly Coyotes are a very sensitive subject in our communities, but the fact is that they are here and will be for quite some time. This large alpha male walked into an area where I was attempting to photograph a Least Bittern, an extremely shy and nocturnal member of the heron family, which escaped into nearby reeds. While I was dismayed at losing the quarry I had long sought, I was intrigued by the coyote that had come to drink from the freshwater pond. He stared at me for a long moment through goldenyellow eyes and then vanished into the nearby scrublands. It was an exciting encounter with a keen predator. Photos by Jack Kelly


Adult Ospreys that nest and breed on Aquidneck Island usually arrive in mid to late March, depending on temperatures, wind direction and weather conditions. The Osprey pairs spend the spring and summer raising their young, teaching them to fly and fish so that they can survive on their own. Ospreys are the only birds of prey that eat live fish exclusively and the young must master this skill in order to survive a migration of thousands of miles to South America. The juvenile Osprey in this photo, with a wingspan of five feet, was one of two that spent three weeks in the Gooseneck Cove/Lily Pond area this past September refining its fishing techniques. It was amazing to watch as it circled and hovered over the marsh before plunging down to capture a pogey in its talons. Adult Ospreys that nest and breed on Aquidneck Island usually arrive in mid to late March, depending on temperatures, wind direction and weather conditions. The Osprey pairs spend the spring and summer raising their young, teaching them to fly and fish so that they can survive on their own. Ospreys are the only birds of prey that eat live fish exclusively and the young must master this skill in order to survive a migration of thousands of miles to South America. The juvenile Osprey in this photo, with a wingspan of five feet, was one of two that spent three weeks in the Gooseneck Cove/Lily Pond area this past September refining its fishing techniques. It was amazing to watch as it circled and hovered over the marsh before plunging down to capture a pogey in its talons.


The Golden-crowned Kinglet nests and breeds in boreal and high mountain forests across southern Canada and winters in mixed woodlands of the United States. It has a body length of four inches and a wingspan of seven inches. Males have orange feathers within the golden crown that are raised when agitated. These birds forage for insects and larvae, often hanging upside down to feed on insects in needles or pinecones and occasionally hovergleaning prey from these same areas. The Golden-crowned Kinglet nests and breeds in boreal and high mountain forests across southern Canada and winters in mixed woodlands of the United States. It has a body length of four inches and a wingspan of seven inches. Males have orange feathers within the golden crown that are raised when agitated. These birds forage for insects and larvae, often hanging upside down to feed on insects in needles or pinecones and occasionally hovergleaning prey from these same areas.


Historically, the best places to observe Snowy Owls in our local area are at Island Rocks at Sachuest Point refuge, the wetlands behind Third Beach and near Gardiner’s Pond, and among the dunes of Sachuest Beach in Middletown and Beavertail State Park in Jamestown. However, over the past few years Snowy Owls have also been sighted near Newport Harbor, as well as along Ledge Road and Brenton Point State Park in Newport. Historically, the best places to observe Snowy Owls in our local area are at Island Rocks at Sachuest Point refuge, the wetlands behind Third Beach and near Gardiner’s Pond, and among the dunes of Sachuest Beach in Middletown and Beavertail State Park in Jamestown. However, over the past few years Snowy Owls have also been sighted near Newport Harbor, as well as along Ledge Road and Brenton Point State Park in Newport.


Local marshes and wetlands host hundreds of migratory wading birds such as Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons and other like species. These birds nest and breed on the various islands of Narragansett Bay and feed across the region. The Great Egret and Great Blue Heron were actually working together as the two foraged for small fish in Gooseneck Cove. The efforts of both birds were sufficient to satisfy their hunger. Local marshes and wetlands host hundreds of migratory wading birds such as Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons and other like species. These birds nest and breed on the various islands of Narragansett Bay and feed across the region. The Great Egret and Great Blue Heron were actually working together as the two foraged for small fish in Gooseneck Cove. The efforts of both birds were sufficient to satisfy their hunger.


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.



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