Located approximately 40 miles southwest of Providence, RI and approximately 14 miles east of New London CT, this IBA includes a barrier beach system approximately 0.5 mile long with high beach, foreshore, primary dunes and back dune zonation. The barrier beach lies oceanward of a coastal pond which contains no permanent breachway to the ocean.

The IBA is located between the Misquamicut Section of Westerly, Rhode Island to the east and the Village of Watch Hill to the west. The beach is accessed via the western Terminus of Atlantic Avenue or via a trail from the Misquamicut Country Club.

{link:For IBA map, click here.|http://www.audubon.org/bird/iba/maps/RI/RI3475m_MaschaugIBA.pdf}

Ornithological Summary

This site supports the largest number of breeding Piping Plovers in Rhode Island. An average of 40.5 young/year have been fledged from this location over the past 6 years and therefore the site is likely to be a source of birds for suitable breeding areas in nearby Connecticut, Fisher's Island (NY), Block Island (RI), and other areas along the southern Rhode Island coast, such as Weekapaug Beach, the Ninigret Beach Management Area, and Moonstone Beach.

The barrier beach within this IBA also provides suitable nesting habitat for Least Tern (Sternula antillarum), with numbers fluctuating between 88-214 adults/year recorded over the last six years. The coastal pond provides feeding and roosting sites for long legged waders such as Great Egret (Ardea alba), Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) , Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias), Green Heron (Butorides virescens), and Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax), as well as shorebirds, gulls, terns, and waterfowl.

Horned Larks (Eremophila alpestris), Snow Buntings Plectrophenax nivalis), and Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis),including the Ipswich subspecies use the barrier beach as migratory stopover and wintering habitat. The open waters offshore of Maschaug Beach support wintering congregations of waterfowl including: scoters Melanitta spp.), Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis) , Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator), Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus), Common and Red-throated Loons (Gavia immer and G. stellata), and Common Goldeneye(Bucephala clangula).

Northern Gannets (Morus bassanus)follow migratory schools of predatory fish (Striped Bass, Bluefish) along the nearshore waters during November to Early December.

Conservation Issues

This site, although privately owned, is located between two rather densely developed summer beach vacation developments. Foot traffic often spills over onto Maschaug Beach and nesting species must compete with humans and are susceptible to injury from foot traffic, vehicular traffic, direct predation by human pets, or opportunistic predators attracted by the presence of humans (e.g., gulls, crows, foxes, skunks, raccoons, and opossums).
Natural threats include erosion during coastal storms, sea level rise, and hurricanes, all of which can alter the shoreline and potentially cause a loss of nesting habitat. However, these same natural processes are also an inherent component of the barrier beach system and may also serve to create new nesting sites. Therefore, the threat level of the natural processes is rated lower than those of human origin.

Ownership

This IBA lies within land owned by the Misquamicut Country Club from Ocean View Drive, oceanward to the highest high tide elevation.

Habitat

This site is a barrier beach system with foreshore, beach strand, primary dunes and back dune zonation. The beach strandprovides suitable nesting sites for Piping Plover and Least Tern. The barrier beach separates a series of coastal ponds, including Maschaug and Little Maschaug Ponds, from the Atlantic Ocean (Block Island Sound).. These coastal ponds contain a narrow fringe of coastal shrubland on their landward (northern) shores, beyond which the vegetation is constrained by either a roadway (Maschaug Pond) or golf course fairways (Little Maschaug Pond). On their ocean (southern) shorelines the ponds contain more extensive vegetation zones associated with the back dune system of the barrier beach. Evidence of historical storm washovers are apparent as fingerlike projections of upland protruding into the open water areas of the pond.

Land Use

This IBA is part of a private golf club. Members of the club use the area for passive recreation split roughly evenly among swimming/sunbathing, fishing, birding, and other passive recreation.

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