2016-04-07 / Nature

NATURE

Spring Visitors Seek Mates
By Jack Kelly


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. Spring migration along the Atlantic Flyway has begun despite recent unseasonable weather events, and early migrants to our region have piqued the interests of local birders and nature enthusiasts. Wetlands across Aquidneck Island have begun hosting a number of foraging wading bird species such as great egrets, snowy egrets, glossy ibis, and black-crowned night-herons, which breed and nest in colonies on the islands of Narragansett Bay. These birds will soon begin the pursuit of mates and may be observed performing courtship behaviors.

Shorebirds such as sanderlings, ruddy turnstones, and dunlins which wintered along the beaches of our island, are beginning to show a change to breeding plumages. Soon these birds will depart to join flocks numbering in the thousands as they wing north to ancestral breeding grounds. Locally nesting piping plovers are returning to Third Beach and Sachuest Beach where the birds successfully nested last season.


A glossy ibis uses its decurved bill to probe the soft mud of a local marsh as it forages. The plumage of this species shows dark maroon with iridescent green and purple coverts when seen in direct sunlight. A glossy ibis uses its decurved bill to probe the soft mud of a local marsh as it forages. The plumage of this species shows dark maroon with iridescent green and purple coverts when seen in direct sunlight. Wintering waterfowl species have also begun to flock together for the long migration flights to Canada, Alaska and the Arctic Circle. Black scoters, surf scoters, and white-winged scoters are assembling in flocks in the waters off Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge and the Brenton Point region.

Horned grebes and red-throated grebes have begun the change to brilliantly colored breeding plumages, which will replace the drab gray and white feathers of the winter season. Grebes are an ancient family of species which may have originated in South America, where fossils dating up to 40 million years old have been discovered! Today’s grebes breed and nest in the freshwater lakes of western Canada and Alaska.


A snowy egret at Gooseneck Cove recently. The bird is displaying its breeding or nuptial plumes in an effort to court a mate. Note the yellow feet of this breed, often referred to as “golden slippers.” A snowy egret at Gooseneck Cove recently. The bird is displaying its breeding or nuptial plumes in an effort to court a mate. Note the yellow feet of this breed, often referred to as “golden slippers.” The call of nature to continue the circle of life is paramount to these sojourners regardless of the weather conditions.



A migratory greater yellowlegs stalks prey in the Gooseneck Cove salt marshes. The marsh system is a stopover point for many northern bound shorebirds which feed and rest within its confines. A migratory greater yellowlegs stalks prey in the Gooseneck Cove salt marshes. The marsh system is a stopover point for many northern bound shorebirds which feed and rest within its confines.

Return to top