2014-10-23 / Nature

Last Big Flight of Fall Migrants

By Jack Kelly


Hermit Thrush forages at the edge of thickets at Brenton Point State Park. Hermit Thrush forages at the edge of thickets at Brenton Point State Park. As the fall migration cycle comes to a close, recent favorable wind and weather conditions brought thousands of late season migratory songbirds, wading birds, seabirds and raptors through the varied habitats of Aquidneck Island. Flocks of songbirds included Common Yellowthroat, Palm Warblers, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and numerous sparrow species. Coastal habitats such as Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge, Norman Bird Sanctuary, Third Beach and the adjacent salt marsh region, as well as Brenton Point State Park, were extremely active with southbound avian visitors on the move.

A walk along the trails of the scrub brush and forested features of Brenton Point State Park revealed a multitude of mixed species vying for sustenance, and at times, their very survival. The park was electric with the calls of many breeds as the birds gorged on seeds, berries and insects during this stopover on a long journey. Overhead were Peregrine Falcons, Merlin Falcons, Sharp-shinned Hawks, and Cooper’s Hawks, which were waiting for an opportune time to strike the smaller birds. One Cooper’s Hawk made a daring dive towards a group of feeding warblers, but was forced to pull up and fly between two birders who stepped onto the trail as the hawk was about to seize its prize. Memorable encounters like this only add to the excitement felt by birding enthusiasts as they study the behaviors of wildlife in close proximity.


Brown Creeper forages for insects on pine tree in Third Beach area. Brown Creeper forages for insects on pine tree in Third Beach area. One of the many species observed at Brenton Point was the Hermit Thrush. This late fall migrant breeds and nests in the boreal and high elevation coniferous and mixed woods of the northeastern and western regions of the United States, southern Canada and southern Alaska.


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. Meanwhile, a surprise avian visitor was identified was a Swainson’s Thrush. Also a late fall migrant, this species winters well in Central and South America.

One unique breed appeared in the Sachuest Point area was the Brown Creeper, which uses its large feet and sharp toenails to quickly hitch itself up a tree in a spiraling, woodpecker-like motion, in search of insect prey. The Creeper’s specially-adapted decurved bill is perfect for pulling insects out of crevices. It will use its long tail as a brake as it scurries over the tree bark. One resident Creeper can occasionally be seen feeding in the cracks in of the building shingles at Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge Visitors’ Center.

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