Not Just One Bald Eagle, But Five!

A second-year Bald Eagle (left) and a third-year bird (right) overlooking North Cove on December 15, 2021 

Previously, Bald Eagles seen at Salter Grove have been rare and solitary. It was therefore a great surprise to see five of them around North Cove the morning of December 15, 2021. 

During 90 minutes of observations from the causeway the eagles were mostly at rest, enjoying the sunshine on the large rocks and breakwater near Marsh Island, or roosting in two very tall tree crowns above houses on the western shore. They must have dined well recently because none of the eagles bothered to steal fish from gulls busily feeding nearby. Despite their majestic bearing, Bald Eagles are well-known kleptoparasites!

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A Summer of Surprises

There has been a number of surprising sightings at Salter Grove this summer!

Birds

Bald Eagle by Ian Ohara

Immature Bald Eagles have been sighted now and then during the winter months over the park. However, in early August, a few visitors got to see a mature adult perched in the black oak southeast of the entrance to the causeway. It was photographed as it flew off by Ian Ohara, a graduate student in the Environmental Studies Department of the University of Rhode Island. 

Friends of Salter Grove member Jason Major was on scene as well and captured cell phone video of the eagle perched in a tree just east of the causeway path entrance:

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Wild Flowers from Four Continents

Many of the plants at Salter Grove are wildflowers from other continents! Here, however, they are usually considered weeds because they readily colonize waste areas and lawns. Rarely are they given a second look before they are pulled up or mown down. Some of these are quite interesting and have been showcased east of the parking lot.

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Potential Pre-Colonial Tree Relicts

Measuring potential champion black oak after some banter about where the tape should go 

We learned about Matthew “Twig” Largess and Nathan Cornell in the Warwick Beacon where they were featured as seekers of old-growth forests. The woodland at Salter Grove is relatively young, but there are some unexpectedly large trees in the park so we invited this arboreal dynamic duo to assess them on Saturday, March 27.

They were joined by FoSG coordinator Peter Becker and nature trail volunteers, Carolyn Hardie, Nick Pasterino, Billy McGovern, Nancy Sumrall, and Marina Wong. Twig and Nathan examined and measure the suspected old-growth trees and provided a great deal of information in two short hours. 

We may have a champion black oak north of the parking lot. Our visitors were quite impressed by the very large black gums surrounded by numerous smaller individuals along the pond trail. 

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Romancing the Stone

As a preliminary to a geology section in our developing online nature trail guide, Jonathan Alvarez, a geologist from EA Engineering in Warwick, kindly shared his knowledge of features found at Salter Grove.

It is truly a shame that so many of the exposed rocks have been defaced by juvenile graffiti that obscures a fascinating geological history. Even birds know better than to foul their own nest! Please help us to realize our park’s potential as an outdoor classroom by leaving no trace of your visits.

Jonathan explains how conglomerates, sometimes referred to as puddingstone, are metamorphosed sedimentary rocks. These are part of the Rhode Island Formation and are Pennsylvanian in age (298-323 million years old). These conglomerates formed in a turbulent environment similar to a river bottom where the rounded cobbles and sandy matrix eventually were compressed through burial. During the Pennsylvanian Period, Rocky Mountain-sized ranges occurred east and west of the present Narragansett Bay, and their erosion produced enormous quantities of sediment that filled the space between, including wide river basins similar to the San Joaquin or Sonoma Valleys.

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Wanted: Historic Photos of Salter Grove

Source: hippostcard.com. No copyright infringement intended. 

The above view of Rock Island from what is currently known as Audubon Hill shows an interesting slice of Salter Gove’s history from the turn of the previous century.

At least three houses, long since gone, are visible on the island. Riverside, in the background, is already quite developed.

The circled trees are probably individuals of tree-of-heaven, which was introduced from China to the United States in the late 1700s as an ornamental plant. At Salter Grove, scattered individuals can now be found at the edge of the woodland south of the parking lot.

We would like to illustrate more of such historical changes in the Guide to Salter Grove website being developed. If you have photographs that you are willing to share we’d like to hear from you.

Please send scanned copies of your photos with all available information (dates, locality in park etc.) to guru@saltergrove.org. We would also welcome personal accounts of activities and times spent at the park in years past to add to our understanding of the park’s evolution.