Friday, December 14, 2018

Narragansett, Rhode Island

I have spent surprisingly little time birding Rhode Island over the years, especially considering how often I have driven through the state, particularly when I was attending Stonehill College in Easton, MA. Still, I know that the Ocean State has some fine habitat to offer birders. In fact, birding just over the CT/RI state line into Washington County, RI is a sad reminder that modest tracts of public ocean-facing land are so close to my home state...and yet it feels so far. Connecticut, of course, lacks a true sea coast, as we are essentially blocked by Long Island and Fishers Island. The Rhode Island coast doesn't really "stick out there" like eastern MA or Long Island, but it sure beats Connecticut, at least for those of us who feel drawn to the sea.

On this seasonable windless December day I found myself in Narragansett and aimed to spend the afternoon poking around the coastline. I'm quite sure this was actually my first time birding here, unless you want to count driving to Galilee to hop on a boat. This was as much a scouting mission as anything, with a particular focus on gulls (shocker).

At Narragansett Town Beach, upon pulling into the parking lot I noticed a fine adult BLACK-HEADED GULL among 50 or so Ring-bills. An eBird check shows this bird was first reported here about two weeks ago. This is a known stretch of coast for wintering BHGU.


Black-headed Gull

Down at Point Judith, a few trawlers were working offshore and were followed by gulls and GANNETS. Scoters and eider could be seen close to land, and a single RAZORBILL was with them.

Driving around the corner to Camp Cronin, a BARRED OWL was hunting in broad daylight from a fence along the road. On a return trip later in the day, two owls were working the same field. While we have had noticeable winter incursions of this species in the past, the current Barred Owl movement appears much more significant than any I can recall previously.

Barred Owl

From the Camp Cronin lot itself, some 5,000+ gulls could be seen on the breakwaters. Most were out of range of ID, but I did pick out a single immature ICELAND GULL.

The fishing port of Galilee also held some gulls that included a first cycle LESSER BLACK-BACKED.


Lesser Black-backed Gull

I really enjoyed exploring a new stretch of coastline, and close enough to home for a day trip, really. The gull numbers in the Galilee area were impressive and should get me back there sometime this winter for a more thorough scour. Gull numbers in CT generally remain modest until the plankton event begins in late Feb-early Mar, so this area could make a fine early-mid winter alternative.

 - NB

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