SMITHFIELD – The snow is melting, purple crocuses are starting to peek out, and bird calls seem a little more active. It happens every year in New England, but you might find a little extra pep in your step no matter how many Rhode Island springs you’ve experienced.
If you’re chasing that spring-fever feeling this year, the Rhode Island Audubon Society is here to help. Audubon has announced its March and April schedule, with an emphasis on looking for signs of spring.
Kim Calcagno, Refuge Manager for the Powder Mill Ledges Refuge and Fort Nature Refuge of Rhode Island Audubon Society, said, “We have a lot of great programs coming up for spring. Now that we have some relief from the COVID restrictions, we look forward to returning to full capacity for shows like our annual Camouflaged Exgg Hunt, Watching Woodcocks, and all of our fun April school holiday week shows.”
“If you’re a budding birder, check out all of our spring birding programs,” Calcagno said. “We even have some ‘Birdwatching with your kids’ programs for families.”
Calcagno said Audubon has been busy preparing for the new season.
“In our shelters, we are preparing for the return of spring migrants,” he said. “All birdhouses have been cleared for cavity nesters such as bluebirds, tree swallows, tufted chickadees and wrens.”
She said conservation staff have been working on projects and repairs that are easier when trees are bare and water levels are low: marking boundaries, cutting grassland habitat, repairing boardwalks and removing invasive species.
Exactly what types of spring markers should you expect to see on local trails?
Calcagno said, “When the days are above freezing during the day and below freezing at night, it’s time to sugar the maple. The sap runs out and the buds swell and prepare to bloom.
“The scent of white snowdrop flowers is one of the first scents of spring,” he added.
If you’re heading out to see for yourself, Calcagno advised wearing boots in anticipation of muddy spring conditions.
“But when the first warm, rainy night of spring rolls around, it’s time for mass migrations of amphibians, such as spotted salamanders and wood frogs, to vernal pools to begin spring mating,” he said. “Hear the squawks of woodland frogs in March and then in April the high-pitched chirps of spring peepers. Nothing says spring like the cacophonous chorus of amorous amphibians.”
Spring indoor programs will also be offered, such as Pysanky (Ukrainian egg decorating) and Make Your Own Lip Balm.
Those looking to get more involved with Audubon this spring, beyond attending programs, will also have plenty of opportunities. Calcagno said Audubon’s new director of avian research, Charles Clarkson, will be looking for volunteers to help with some citizen science projects. He also suggests attending the bluebird monitoring training workshop and becoming a nest box monitor.
If you’re eager to sign up for organized programs, here’s a sample of what’s on offer to get you started. Full information on scheduling, cost, and registration can be found at www.asri.org.
• Wednesday Morning Bird Walks: Audubon offers Wednesday morning bird walks for small groups with naturalist Laura Carberry. Each week a new bird watching destination will be chosen. Prior registration is required. The location will be sent to registered participants in advance.
• Saturday Morning Bird Walks with Audubon: Audubon Nature Center and Aquarium, Bristol, April 16 and 30, 8:30-9:30 am Enjoy Saturday morning bird walks with Tom Younkin, Founder /creator of Kingbirder, an online contest for bird watchers and bird photographers.
• Paint and Sip: Audubon Nature Center and Aquarium, Bristol, Saturday, March 19, 7-9 pm Enjoy an evening of painting handcrafted forest sculptures while sipping on your favorite grown-up beverage. Participants will receive all materials and are encouraged to take their sculptures home. Light snacks will be provided.
• Pysanky Workshop: Audubon Powder Mill Ledges Wildlife Refuge, Smithfield, Saturday, March 19, 10 am to noon. Try the Ukrainian tradition of dyeing eggs called Pysanky. Participants will learn about egg design, planning, and dyeing. Flyers on where to get Pysanky tools and dyes will also be handed out. All supplies are provided. Participants will create an egg. Wear clothes that can get dirty as dyes are permanent.
• Signs of Spring: Audubon Caratunk Wildlife Refuge, Seekonk, Massachusetts, Sunday, March 20, 8-10 am Join naturalist Joe Koger on a nature walk exploring the fields and woods of the Caratunk Wildlife Refuge. Look for emerging plants, nesting birds and animals along the way. Dress for the weather, wear sturdy walking shoes, and bring a bottle of water.
• Woodcock Walk: Audubon Caratunk Wildlife Refuge, Seekonk, Massachusetts, Friday, March 25, 7-9 pm Join Audubon for an early spring afternoon walk to observe the unique courtship display of the Woodcock . Dress for the weather and bring a flashlight.
• Audubon Camouflaged Egg Hunt: Powder Mill Ledges, Smithfield, Saturday, April 9, check-in at 9:30am, egg hunt is 10-11am. Quickly learn how well the eggs camouflage themselves. Children exchange their found eggs for a prize to take home, with special prizes for “golden egg” seekers. Participants must bring a basket or bag. This event is rain or shine, so dress warm and for the weather. This program is offered at various Audubon locations.
• Woodcock Watching — Dinner and Tour: Audubon Powder Mill Ledges Wildlife Refuge, Smithfield, Friday, April 1, 6-9 pm Join Audubon for an evening dedicated to the mysterious Woodcock. Start at Powder Mill Ledges for a soup and salad dinner and an introduction to this bird and its mating flights. Then venture outdoors to either the Powder Mill Ledges or the nearby Newman Wildlife Refuge to see and hear mating flights and songs. Wear sturdy shoes, dress warm, and bring a bright flashlight.
• Bluebird Monitoring Workshop: Powder Mill Ledges Wildlife Refuge, Smithfield, Saturday, April 9, 1-2 pm Love Eastern Bluebirds? Please consider volunteering with Audubon to monitor their populations this spring and summer. To help conserve this species, Audubon is monitoring its abundance on its wildlife refuges from April through August. The workshops offer information and training to potential volunteers. No experience necessary. Everyone is welcome.
• Make Your Own Lip Balm: Audubon Nature Center and Aquarium, Bristol, Sunday, April 10, 10-11:30 am Join an Audubon naturalist and herbalist and learn how to make your own lip balm in this one-hour class. Discover the uses of various ingredients and learn recipes. Each participant will make a can of lip balm to take home.
• Birding for Kids: Caratunk Audubon Wildlife Refuge, Seekonk, Massachusetts, Tuesday, April 19, 9:30-11 am An Audubon naturalist will share basic birding skills with kids. Families will learn how to identify local birds year-round and some migratory species through sight and hearing, as well as how to use binoculars, field guides, and phone apps. Explore the trails of Caratunk and discover the world of bird watching! Please dress for the weather and bring a mask. Binoculars will be available to borrow during the program. Parents must accompany children.
• Bluebird Nesting Walk: Caratunk Audubon Wildlife Refuge, Seekonk, Massachusetts, Saturday, April 23, 9-10:30 am Learn all about the beautiful eastern bluebirds. Discover their natural history and learn to identify them. Head out into the fields to watch these birds in action and check out their homes and neighbors. Please dress appropriately for the weather and bring binoculars if you have them.
• Earth Day Fairy Globes: Audubon Nature Center and Aquarium, Bristol, Saturday, April 23, 6-7:30 pm Celebrate Earth Day by creating a unique and magical fairy scene to hang in your home . All materials will be provided, but feel free to bring any small items you’d like to include inside your balloon. Light snacks will be provided.
• Frog Night: Fort Audubon Fort Wildlife Refuge, North Smithfield, Thursday, April 28, 7-9 pm Hear the calls of spring peepers and wood frogs found in the wetlands. You may also hear barn owls or watch beaver activity. Be sure to dress for the weather and bring a flashlight.
More schedules, including a full schedule of April school break events, can be found at www.asri.org.
Audubon shelters are also open to the public for free hikes from dawn to dusk daily.
“It’s time to shake off the winter doldrums and get outside for some fresh air and exercise,” Calcagno said.