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Prudence Island

Updated: Feb 1, 2019

Yesterday, I took the ferry over to Prudence Island for the second time. The ferry leaves from the end of Church Street in Bristol and the journey takes about half an hour. The first ferry of the day was scheduled for 5:45am but left at 6:00. I was the only passenger. The island was wonderfully quiet and tranquil as I explored it on my bike. I rode north from the town to the neck where the main section of the island narrows and connects to the north end. Some of the first birds I noted were Yellow-rumped Warblers and this species coninued to be the most prevalent throughout the day. Mixed into the flocks were a couple Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Black-capped Chickadees but not much else. In the salt pond at the neck there were good numbers of Canada Geese and small groups of American Black Ducks. Scanning the edge with my binoculars I managed to pick out a heron hunched by the water. The medium size and light brown color, crouched posture, and thick, sagging neck all pointed to an American Bittern. I snagged a photo, and zooming in confirmed my identification. A single Greater Yellowlegs stood casually nearby on a pensinsula of mud. The calls of American Crows began to get closer and soon there were a few flying across the road. An odd hoarse call joined the others and in seconds another crow passed quickly across the road, this one with a Merlin in hot pursuit with wings folded. Both birds went down behind the trees as the crow applied some evasive maneuvers. I don’t know if it was the Merlin that sent the geese into the air or not, but they were soon flying overhead in neat lines, honking their annoyance for some reason unbeknownst to me. The neck itself is an open area separating the woods of the main section of the island from the woods of the thin north end. A good stream of birds was passing from north to south, some flying high, and some making the jump from woods to woods. These were mostly American Robins, Blue Jays, and Northern Flickers. More Yellow-rumps were actively making their way south while a pair of Eastern Phoebes flycatched randomly. A Red-tailed Hawk casually flew past and very surprisingly, a Common Loon called from somewhere out over the water. Making my way up the north end, I stopped to watch a huge flock of gulls in a feeding frenzy over what looked like a school of fish. The fish would move and the birds would follow. One lone gull would find them and dive into the water and the rest would come screeching in as a large mass of wings. Most were Laughing Gulls mixed in with Herring, Ring-billed, and Great Black-backed. I tried hard to pick out another species but couldn’t find anything. Double-crested Cormorants joined in the frenzy also, with large rafts of immatures grouped here and there on the water. A Cooper’s Hawk took off from some low vegetation and passed by at eye level.

Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)

Further north I entered conservation land and explored another salt pond area and the barrier beach separating it from the ocean. There was barely anything to see, the only interesting birds being a Snowy Egret, and a Wood Duck which is very odd to see on salt water. Another area of the conservation land consisted of tall grass meadows interspersed with small cherry trees. This open land harbored two Field Sparrows which could easily have bred here over the summer, it looked like such perfect habitat. Another Red-tailed Hawk flew overhead, this one having a physical battle with an immature Peregrine Falcon.

Reaching the top of the north end I took a photo of a huge group of roosting cormorants on nearby Patience Island. I zoomed into the photo, searching for a Great Cormorant. I surprised myself by actually picking one out on the far left of the flock. It was clearly bigger, blacker and with a shaggier head with a white throat patch. More of these birds will be showing up now with the winter season approaching. Named appropriately, they are the largest Cormorant in the world. A single Chipping Sparrow jumped around an area similar to the one I found the Field Sparrows in. There seems to be a lot of land like this on the island, most of it being old farmland. A pair of Golden-crowned Kinglets foraged in some cedar trees.

Back down the island, I biked around the southern end a little bit, seeing some pine barrens, beautiful switchgrass plains, and some old rusted bunkers with concrete pathways like giant sidewalks. The birds were slow, but it sure was beautiful with red sumac leaves framing views of the bay.

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)

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