2016-02-04 / Nature

Diverse Habitats Reveal Wintering Species

By Jack Kelly


Two sanderlings probe the tidal line at Third Beach in search of minute aquatic prey. Sanderlings winter along the New England coast and nest and breed in the Arctic Circle. 
(Photos by Jack Kelly) Two sanderlings probe the tidal line at Third Beach in search of minute aquatic prey. Sanderlings winter along the New England coast and nest and breed in the Arctic Circle. (Photos by Jack Kelly) Aquidneck Island has a wide array of diverse habitats begging to be explored. The fields, meadows, wetlands, marshes, forests, scrublands, and shorelines host a bounty of varied species which will delight nature voyagers of every age. The recent unseasonably warm temperatures have allowed nature observers of every level of experience the opportunity to observe multiple species in their own unique dwelling places. Wintering species that flock to our region include sea ducks, songbirds, sea birds, shorebirds, raptors, and the occasional rare transient visitor. This winter’s continued mild weather offers a chance to view the majesty of the natural world in comfort.

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



A red-tailed hawk watches for prey from its perch at the southern end of the Norman Bird Sanctuary. These resident raptors feed on mice, voles and other rodents. A red-tailed hawk watches for prey from its perch at the southern end of the Norman Bird Sanctuary. These resident raptors feed on mice, voles and other rodents.

A late season female belted kingfisher has been sighted in the Gooseneck Cove saltmarshes perched atop the empty osprey nest. Kingfishers watch for small fish and dive down on their prey from above. Kingfishers are one of only a handful of species in North America where the female has more colorful plumage than the male. A late season female belted kingfisher has been sighted in the Gooseneck Cove saltmarshes perched atop the empty osprey nest. Kingfishers watch for small fish and dive down on their prey from above. Kingfishers are one of only a handful of species in North America where the female has more colorful plumage than the male.

A young deer grazes in the southern field of Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge on a recent morning. Deer are cud chewers and have the same digestive system as a cow, with four stomachs. A young deer grazes in the southern field of Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge on a recent morning. Deer are cud chewers and have the same digestive system as a cow, with four stomachs.

An American black duck swims slowly in Newport’s Easton’s Pond. This is a common duck species in the region, but its numbers declined sharply in the latter half of the 20th century due to habitat loss and other significant factors. Better conservation techniques and management practices assisted the breed in recovering population. An American black duck swims slowly in Newport’s Easton’s Pond. This is a common duck species in the region, but its numbers declined sharply in the latter half of the 20th century due to habitat loss and other significant factors. Better conservation techniques and management practices assisted the breed in recovering population.

The ruddy turnstone is an adaptable breed that may be found along many of the island’s coastlines. It forages in beach wrack for nourishment and may also be found near landfills feeding with gulls. The ruddy turnstone is an adaptable breed that may be found along many of the island’s coastlines. It forages in beach wrack for nourishment and may also be found near landfills feeding with gulls.
The dunlin is another wintering shorebird species along Newport’s beaches. This bird uses its long drooping bill to probe deep into tidal sands for aquatic invertebrates. Once known as the red-backed sandpiper, this bird goes through a dramatic plumage change in the spring when it develops a black belly spot and brick-colored feathers along its back.

The dunlin is another wintering shorebird species along Newport’s beaches. This bird uses its long drooping bill to probe deep into tidal sands for aquatic invertebrates. Once known as the red-backed sandpiper, this bird goes through a dramatic plumage change in the spring when it develops a black belly spot and brick-colored feathers along its back.



A group of mallards rests in the Gooseneck Cove saltmarsh after feeding on aquatic plants. Most ducks will sleep with one eye open, but one female seems to be keeping a watchful eye for predators as those in her flock rest. A group of mallards rests in the Gooseneck Cove saltmarsh after feeding on aquatic plants. Most ducks will sleep with one eye open, but one female seems to be keeping a watchful eye for predators as those in her flock rest.

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