2015-05-21 / Nature

Miantonomi Park Explodes with Color

By Jack Kelly

Red-headed woodpecker. (Photo by Bob Weaver) Red-headed woodpecker. (Photo by Bob Weaver) A cacophony of avian calls and songs greeted a score of early morning birdwatchers recently in the wooded reaches of Newport’s Miantonomi Park. Known for its diversity of deciduous and coniferous trees, the park is a natural stopover for numerous songbird species migrating to the north for breeding and nesting season. Rated as one of the best regions in southern New England for observing warbler migration, the park also hosts other migrants, as well as a substantial year-round and wintering avian population. “The vast majority of these birds migrates at night, and put down close to dawn in the park, where they forage for insects and rest for the next leg of their journey,” commented Newport native and longtime birder Matt Grimes.

Grimes and his fellow adventurers listened intently to the avian chorus overhead and began to pick out the particular calls or songs of a number of warbler species. The small songbirds could be seen flying about the trees, flashing a myriad of colors that included hues of blue, yellow, green, red, black and white. As the group spread out along the trails, whispered reports and directions could be heard from the observers: “Black-throated blue, black-throated green, northern parula, blackburnian, ovenbird, and over here a bay-breasted!” The hungry migrants were feeding from the ground level vegetation and up to the top of the forest canopy.

Curious birders observe the birds at Miantonomi Park. (Photo by Jack Kelly) Curious birders observe the birds at Miantonomi Park. (Photo by Jack Kelly) Grimes zeroed in on one particular area north of the Memorial Tower where a chestnut-sided warbler had been sighted the previous day. Listening intently and scanning the nearby trees, he found his quarry feeding on insects from the leaves and branches of a maple tree. “Great bird, and right where I was told it would be,” he said.

Magnolia warbler (Photo by Bob Weaver) Magnolia warbler (Photo by Bob Weaver) Another group was searching for a rare migratory visitor, a red-headed woodpecker, that had been observed foraging in oak trees near the tower. This species, once plentiful across the southeastern United States, has seen a rapid decline in population over the last decade due to development and the loss of nesting sites to European starlings. Noted local wildlife photographer and nature enthusiast Bob Weaver was busy capturing images of this striking bird, as well as other colorful specimens such as magnolia warblers and blackburnian warblers. "They are very active at this time of the morning,” Weaver said.

As the morning progressed, temperatures cooled and light rain showers fell on the birders. However, the turn of weather did little to dampen their resolve. They pressed on, cataloging dozens of species in the habitat’s boundaries, while enjoying the bounty of nature’s beauty. According to many in attendance, it was a good birding day.

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. Migration Notes:

The common tern colony has returned to Gooseneck Cove for the seventh consecutive year and appears to be in the process of courtship and nest building. An apparent first-year pair of osprey has staked out the nesting platform at Gooseberry Beach, adjacent to the Cushing property. These magnificent raptors have been in the courtship and nest building stage of their new relationship for the past two weeks, and can be observed fishing together over the Lily Pond and Gooseneck Cove salt marshes.

For the latest migration reports, visit the Audubon Society at asri.org or call 401-949-5454. For any questions or information on migratory birds, visit allaboutbirds.org.

Birds sighted at Miantonomi Park

American Redstart
Baltimore Oriole
Bay-breasted Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Downy Woodpecker
Eastern Kingbird
Eastern Towhee
Great-crested Flycatcher
Magnolia Warbler
Northern Parula
Red-eyed Vireo
Red-headed Woodpecker
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Wood Thrush
Yellow Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
and many more

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