2015-11-05 / Nature

Change of View for Bird Watchers

By Jack Kelly


A trio of male mallard ducks takes to the air at Newport’s Easton’s Pond. (Photos by Jack Kelly) A trio of male mallard ducks takes to the air at Newport’s Easton’s Pond. (Photos by Jack Kelly) The change of seasons across Newport County also brings a change in the avian species occupying the richly diverse habitats of the region. Locally-nesting spring and summer residents, such as songbird, shorebird, wading bird, seabird, waterfowl and raptor species, have completed their mating, breeding and young rearing cycles and have departed the area for warmer southern wintering grounds. In their place, a wide range of hardy birds, better suited to New England winters, have begun to take up residence.

Waterfowl species, including ducks and geese which breed and nest on remote lakes and wetlands in Canada, Alaska, and the Arctic Circle, will spend the next five months or so on local ponds, wetlands, salt marshes and coastal waters. Ducks are highly gregarious and will form large flocks in the winter. Courtship routines for many breeds continue through the winter and early spring, and usually involve exaggerated head movements, calling, and flight displays by males or by both sexes. Most duck species show pronounced sexual dimorphism in plumage for most of the year, with the males more strikingly colored than the females.


A pair of ring-necked ducks feed in Easton’s Pond. A pair of ring-necked ducks feed in Easton’s Pond. While Canada geese comprise the prevalent wintering goose population on Aquidneck Island, other goose species that may be found mixed in with the large foraging flocks include cackling geese, the greater white-fronted goose, the snow goose, and the blue goose. Local bird watchers are always on the lookout for rare visitors, which in recent years included barnacle geese and a pinkfooted goose, stray migrants from Europe.

Whatever the season, Newport County has a vast array of wildlife to view and study. The dynamic changes that the fall and winter bring to our beautiful island also present great possibilities for spirited bird watching and a chance to observe species that most of the country doesn’t get the chance to see. Local wildlife groups, including the Norman Bird Sanctuary, Sachuest Point NWR, and the Audubon Society of Rhode Island, offer bird watching and wildlife exploration walks and lectures during this time.


A male hooded merganser lazily swims and forages at Easton’s Pond. A male hooded merganser lazily swims and forages at Easton’s Pond. For more information, visit asri.org or call 401-949-5454; normanbirdsanctuary.org or call 401-846- 2577 or contact Sachuest Point NWR at 401-847-5511.



A pair of green-winged teal rest while floating in an area stream. A pair of green-winged teal rest while floating in an area stream.

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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