2014-12-31 / Nature

Rose Island Habitat Restoration

By Jack Kelly

Oystercatcher flies over the shoreline of Newport Harbor. (Photo by Jack Kelly) Oystercatcher flies over the shoreline of Newport Harbor. (Photo by Jack Kelly) The Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation has launched a campaign to raise $100,000 for habitat restoration for migratory nesting birds on Rose Island. The island once hosted multiple wading bird breeds, but the past few years have witnessed a sharp downturn in populations during mating cycles. According to Newport resident and President of the Board of Directors of the Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation, Rick Best, “We have observed a steep drop in the numbers of Great Egrets, Glossy Ibis, and other heron species that nest on Rose Island in the spring and summer, through surveys conducted by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) and other conservation groups.”

Best cites the dense underbrush that has grown across the nesting areas over the past several years as one of the main impediments to nesting birds, as well as the possibility of increased human interference with avian populations. “We are working closely with Save The Bay, RIDEM, the Norman Bird Sanctuary, as well as Robin Webber of the Narragansett Bay Research Reserve on Prudence Island and biology professor Peter Paton of the University of Rhode Island, and others, in efforts to restore and improve the habitats on Rose Island. We have a plan to clear the underbrush, plant new cedar trees, and establish a barrier between lighthouse property and the wildlife preserve, in an effort to curtail human interference,” Best said. “We will also restrict access to these fragile areas during the most vulnerable times in March and April, when the birds are choosing nesting sites, and we will continue the restrictions through August. We will replace the wind generator with solar panels in the future to limit the noise impact on the wildlife.”

Another nesting denizen of the island is the American Oystercatcher. This large, unique shorebird is affected by human interference, and like many avian breeds, it will abandon its nest and young if threatened by encroachment. There has been an abrupt decline in the numbers of American Oystercatcher breeding pairs along the northern Atlantic coast in recent years, and biologists believe that loss of habitat and construction in coastal regions may be to blame.

Best hopes that the project can be implemented soon because another nesting season is only three short months away. “We are working hard on this project and we need the public’s help,” Best said. To make a donation visit indiegogo.com and search for Rose Island or mail any size donation to Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation, Box 1419, Newport, RI 02840.

Jack Kelly, a native Newporter, is a wildlife photographer and nature enthusiast who enjoys sharing his experiences with others.

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