Located approximately 2.5 miles west of Newport, this IBA is a 78 acre subset of the larger Marsh Meadows Wildlife Preserve which is nestled in the center of Conanicut Island in the community of Jamestown, Rhode Island. The IBA is bounded by a golf course to the south, the Newport Toll Station on State Route 138 to the east, Farmland to the north, and Narraganset Bay West Passage to the west. North Road in Jamestown, RI bisects the marsh. Great Creek, the main tidal creek that drains the marsh, flows beneath North Road via a small span bridge.

{link:For IBA map, click here.|http://www.audubon.org/bird/iba/maps/RI/RI3485m_MarshMeadows09.pdf}

Ornithological Summary

Marsh Meadows provides breeding habitat for a number of salt marsh birds including the Saltmarsh and Sharp-tailed Sparrows (Ammodramus caudacutus and A. maritimus), Willets (Catoptrophorus semipalmatus), and Clapper Rails (Rallus longirostris). A platform erceted on the north side of the marsh is used annually by nesting Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus). Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes and T. melanoleuca), Semipalmated Plovers (Charadrius semipalmatus), Least Sandpipers (Calidris minutilla) and other shorebirds frequent the marsh during spring and fall migrations. Least and Common Terns (Sternula antillarum and Sterna hirundo) peruse the open water areas and tidal creeks looking for mummichogs, killifish, and other small piscine prey, as do Belted Kingfishers (Megaceryle alcyon). Long-legged waders are abundant during spring and summer and include such species as Great and Snowy Egrets (Egretta thula and Ardea alba), Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodius), Little Blue Heron (Egretta cerulea), and Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus). Fringing scrub/shrub zones provide habitat for mimic thrushes, Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus), Common Yellowthroats (Geothlypis trichas), and Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia), plus a plethora of migratory passerines during spring and autumn migration. Swallows congregate in the area and stage here before continuing southbound migration in autumn. A number of waterfowl also find suitable habitat within the marsh tidal creeks. They include American Black Duck (Anas rubripes), Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), Gadwall (Anas strepera), American Wigeon (Anas americana), Canada Goose (Branta canadensis), and Buffleheads (Bucephala albeola). Other species occur with less regularity.

Conservation Issues

Sea-level rise threatens the marsh as development in the upland has encroached to the edge of the marsh preventing the landward migration of the marsh with increasing sea level. Under this scenario, the high marsh habitat zone is prevented from moving landward and thus subject to more frequent flooding and floods of longer duration resulting in greater number of Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow nest failures.

Upgradient and adjacent farmland, golf course, roadways, and residential development are a potenital source of nutrients and stormwater input/runoff to the system. Nutrients entering the system can encourage the spread of common reed (Phragmites australis). Phrgamites invasion of the marsh is detrimental to the high marsh habitat of the Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow since Phragmites can out-compete Spartina patens, Juncus gerardii, and other high-marsh vegetation species used by Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrows for nesting.

Ownership

This IBA contains the Marsh Meadows Wildlife Preserve. Within this marsh are lands owned and maintained by the Audubon Society of Rhode Island, lands under ownership of the Town of Jamestown, lands under private ownership (approximately 12.1% of the total IBA), and lands subject to conservation easement (approx. 25.2% of the total IBA).

Habitat

This site contains an extensive salt marsh habitat with high marsh dominated by Spartina patens, Juncus gerardii, and Distichlis spicata and low marsh dominated by Spartina alterniflora. Tidal creeks, mosquito ditches, salt pannes, and peripheral shrubland ecotone grading to coastal deciduous forest are other habitat features. Mud flats along the tidal creeks are exposed at low tide at various reaches of the creek, and a small beach area is located at the mouth of Great Creek, the tidal creek that bisects the marsh.

Land Use

A large portion of the site is maintained as a wildlife sanctuary by the Audubon Society of Rhode Island. A significant portion of the IBA is under private ownership but subject to a conservation easement. Nearly half the IBA is owned by the Town of Jamestown but used as a natural/conservation area.

A bait shop is located along North Road within the IBA. The marsh is accessed via the bait shop parking lot or up Great Creek via boat. Fishermen and ecotourists often access the marsh via Great Creek.

A golf course borders the refuge to the south. To the north, the refuge borders an active horse farm.

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