Trip Report – Rhode Island Coast – Feb 14, 2015

Rhode Island Coast Field Trip Report

Five brave club members ventured to the RI coast on this cold and wintry day, despite the threat of an approaching storm.  Confident that there’d be time for some good birding before the snow began to fall, we met at the commuter lot in Branford at 7 am and headed northeast.  We were not disappointed.  We saw lots of great birds.

Our first stop was at Seaside Drive in Jamestown. A drake Barrow’s Goldeneye had been seen there several times earlier this winter.  When we arrived, we were discouraged to find much of the bay frozen over.  However, after a short search, we found the Barrow’s Goldeneye in a small patch of open water.  He was a handsome bird, with distinctive markings.  We also saw Surf Scoter at this location.  Our next stop was at Beavertail State Park. Here, we were treated to excellent views of Common Eider, Black Scoter, and Harlequin Duck, all feeding and floating in the water close to shore.  We also saw Brant, Great Cormorant, Long-tailed Duck, Red-breasted Merganser, Bufflehead, Red-throated and Common Loon, Horned Grebe, and Purple Sandpiper here.  We made a good study of an adult Iceland Gull that has been wintering at the park and compared and contrasted it with the nearby Herring Gulls.  We were pleased to see two Killdeer on the beach as we drove north away from the park on the way to our next destination.

Given the forecast, we elected to head west along the coast next, rather than go further from home by going to Sachuest Point.  We probably missed out on seeing a Snowy Owl by doing so, but we ensured that we would get back to CT before the blizzard hit.  So, we drove west, stopping on Cards Pond Road on our way to Moonstone Beach.  The road has several farm fields and is a good place to see grassland species and sparrows.  We saw a Snow Bunting in a flock of Horned Lark along the road and some of us got to see a coyote run across the road, too.  We didn’t stay long at Moonstone Beach, but we did see a Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, and Red-shouldered Hawk flying over the marsh while we were there.  Our next stop was the nature center at Trustum Pond NWR.  Uncommon species seen there included a male Purple Finch, a male Eastern Towhee, and a flyover Black Vulture.

A visit to Ninigret NWR led to our seeing the Lesser Black-backed Gull there.  Presumably, this is the same individual that has been there for the past several winters.  Much of the bay was frozen over there, but the small amount of open water was full of waterfowl, mostly Common Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, and Bufflehead.  There were Greater Scaup and American Wigeon, and a few other species as well.

Our last stop was the best and most surprising. We visited Weekapaug Ponds and Canal and the nearby farm on Noyes Neck Road.  Once again, there was limited open water, but the waterfowl were concentrated into a small area, making for some exciting viewing.  We were delighted to see eight (!) Redhead duck at this location, as well as a drake Eurasian Wigeon. There was also a pair of Northern Pintail, a female Common Merganser in the pond, and a Snow Goose that flew in briefly to join the Canada Goose flock there. At the farm, there was a huge grain pile that was partially uncovered and was mobbed by hundreds of birds desperate for food, given the snow covered fields and frozen waters.  We saw hundreds of geese and ducks there, including the Snow Goose, five Northern Pintail, and American Black Ducks.  There was also a huge flock of Horned Larks there. It took a while, but we eventually found some rarities in that flock, namely a Lapland Longspur and an American Pipit.  The number and variety of birds seen at this grain pile was truly astounding.

So, on a trip where we didn’t see alcids or owls, we had a great time and saw lots of great birds.  We saw a total of approximately 70 species on this cold and threatening day.

Chris Loscalzo

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