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If you are ever traveling up the East Coast and want a beautiful and quaint
place to bird -  I would recommend Block Island, 12 miles off the coast of
Rhode Island.  I just returned from a family vacation there (yes, we were
book-ended by both Hurricane Bill and Tropical Storm Danny - but neither
caused a problem), and was able to work in a little birding.   The island is
further off the coast, but in between Long Island and Nantucket.   Only has
900 year around residents (population swells during tourist season); has no
chain hotels or restaurants (but a Starbucks and Ben & Jerry's), several
historic hotels and many B&Bs and summer rental homes provide lodging.
During settlement times, almost all trees were cleared for farming and short
rock walls were hand-built to define the acreage.  Today the rock walls are
protected and really add character to the island - since 1980 a huge
conservation effort has resulted in  43% of the land now owned and protected
by conservation groups.  Most vegetation is thick, compressed,
berry-producing bushes and vines - catbirds, waxwings, and robins galore!
In fact, we picked enough blackberries in our "yard" to make a cobbler for
ten!

 

I had been monitoring the Rhode Island list-serve and communicating with Tom
Margarian, staff with Cape May but stationed on Block Island for a radar
research project.  He agreed to take me out one morning in exchange for a
donation to the conservancy effort --- a fair trade indeed.  I had hoped for
two lifers but he got me an unexpected four -  Roseate Tern, Great
Cormorant, Common Eider and Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow (did they drop
that "sharp tailed" designation also?).   There were several hundred Common
Terns with a few Roseate's interspersed.   Mudflats at low tide in the Great
Salt Pond also contained Ruddy Turnstones, Willets,  Oystercatchers, and Red
Knot.  He also gave me a good tour of where seabird watches take place, and
the best spots for warblers during migration. Great birder and gentleman.

 

Most trails throughout the conservation areas are open to the public.

 

I missed the shearwater migration by about 3 weeks; but still saw some
Wilson Storm-petrels and a Gannet in the ferry crossing.  And the warbler
migration is yet to come, but I had a very enjoyable birding experience.
Chris from the Nature Conservancy is a year-round resident and really
intrigued me about a winter visit - he said their Christmas Bird Count
regularly reports 80+ species, with lots of common eiders, and an occasional
murre, Dovekie, and Razorbill.   

 

Great beaches, sailing, surfing and boogie boarding; lots of clamming,  many
people biking or renting mopeds to get around - cars come over on the ferry,
no car rental available on island.  

 

Just a delightful place to visit; thought I would share in case anyone is
going that direction.

 

Jean Leonatti
Boone County, Columbia, MO
[log in to unmask] 

 


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