On Wednesday, I did a trip with my dad down to the south coast of Rhode Island in search of some target birds. Our first stop was in a small neighborhood in Middletown, just north of Newport. A Painted Bunting had been visiting some feeders in a few back and front yards. I didn't have much hope as we pulled into the neighborhood and we sat in the car wondering what to do. I got out and walked around a bit, scoring nothing much except a single Common Grackle, a first for the year. I checked a driveway where I heard a Lapland Longspur had been feeding on a spread of bird seed. No luck with the longspur but instead there was a Savannah Sparrow, another first of year. Checking back at the original address I heard about for the bunting, there was a man shoveling outside and I asked him about the bird. He was very nice and told me the bird had been visiting his feeder regularly but he hadn't seen it for the past couple of days. He suggested I could go into the garage and look in the mirror out the back door at the feeder setup. He had a mirror arranged next to the door so you could watch the feeders without flushing the birds. I watched for a couple minutes until another birder showed up. Just as he got to the door, a flash of bright red popped into the small tree between the feeders. The bunting stayed for a few seconds and flew off. What luck! I ran to get my camera and waited at the door until the bird showed up again. I secured a few photos through the glass and decided to move on when the bird didn't show up for a few more minutes.
From there we continued south to Newport. A bathroom stop turned into an involuntary perusal of the inside of the oldest library in the country. I hoped for alcids on the cliff walk, but I didn't hold any high hopes. Our first stop along its length came up with Lesser Scaup, Black Scoter, American Wigeon, and Great Cormorant as some of the highlights. At the southern end we found Harlequin Ducks and Horned Grebes but not much else. Black Scoters numbered in the hundreds and passed now and then in small flocks. No alcids were to be seen. Across the bridge to Jamestown we had many ducks at Fort Getty, but no Barrow's Goldeneye. A Merlin and a single Sanderling at Mackerel Cove Beach. At Beavertail State Park, once again not an alcid to be seen. Black Scoters and Common Eiders numbered in the hundreds, and rafts of them rode the swells coming into the cliffs. Horned Grebes were mixed in here and there. Horned Larks or Snow Buntings also weren't to be found, even though the wind had blown areas of ground free of snow.
Across another bridge and headed down Rt 1 two birds flew towards us over the highway. As they got closer I began to pass them off as crows until one lifted up into the wind and began to dive with force towards the other. As they passed directly overhead I could see through the skylight of the car the large size and diamond tail of a raven as the crow above it continued to harass it. Along Card's Pond Rd in South Kingstown we came across an immature Red-shouldered Hawk perched directly above the road. Shortly after we found a flock of fruit-eating birds consisting of Cedar Waxwings, Eastern Bluebird and American Robins. Scanning a flock of hundreds of Canada Geese in a nearby field I failed to pick out another species. A feeder in front of a house brought in a large flock of 90 Horned Larks from a field across the street. Small groups of the larks would venture to the feeder, only to fly back to the field when flushed by a car. Scanning the flock of larks several times I surprisingly failed to pick out a Lapland Longspur, a bird I thought would be a given in a lark flock this large in this area. Searching through the sparrows in the thickets around the feeder I finally managed to pick out an immature White-crowned Sparrow. Moonstone Beach was beautiful but very quiet. The water was dead calm and it was fun to investigate what the rising and falling tide had done to the snow and ice on the beach. The feeders at Trustom Pond NWR held a Yellow-rumped Warbler visiting the suet feeder and a male Eastern Towhee which scratched at the seed on the ground for a couple minutes before disappearing. I photographed the birds here for a while, testing out my flash in the dim lighting.
On the way back to Rt 1 we pulled over for a quick view of Perry's Mill Pond where there was a flock of 15 Northern Pintail and 2 American Wigeon among the Mallards and American Black Ducks.
All in all, it was a very good day with 1 lifer and 6 year birds.