Located approximately 31 miles south of Providence, the Succotash Marsh is an approximately 182-acre salt marsh located in the Village of East Matunuck, Rhode Island. The marsh is bordered by Potter's Pond and residential and commercial development associated with East Matunuck to the west, Gooseberry Island residential area to the East, the village of Snug Harbor to the north and Succotash Road/East Matunuck State Beach to the south. Succotash Road also bisects the marsh in a north-south direction. The marsh is an extensive unditched system that is subject to tidal exchange which occurs only through the Point Judith breachway which is located to the east of Succotash Marsh.

Ornithological Summary

The extensive salt marsh system of Succotash Marsh provides breeding habitat for a number of salt marsh birds including the Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow (Ammodramus caudacutus) Seaside Sparrow (A. maritimus), Willet (Catoptrophorus semipalmatus), and Clapper Rail (Rallus longirostris). Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes and T. melanoleuca), Semipalmated Plovers (Charadrius pemipalmatus), Least Sandpipers (Calidris minutilla) and other shorebirds frequent the marsh during spring and fall migrations. Least and Common Terns (Sternula antillarum and Sterna hirundo) feed in open water areas and tidal creeks 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. 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 which will result in a greater number of saltmarsh sparrow nest failures.

Stands of Phragmites on the northern edge of the marsh suggest nutrient and stormwater input/runoff to the system from adjacent residential development. Phragmites invasion of the marsh is detrimental to the high marsh habitat of the Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow as Phragmites begins to out-compete Spartina patens, Juncus gerardii, and other high-marsh vegetation

Ownership

The majority of the site is owned by the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. It is managed by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) as a wildlife management area. The remainder of the IBA is under private ownership.

Habitat

The Succotash Marsh is composed of open water, tidal flat, high marsh and low marsh zones. Areas around the marsh perimeter include upland grassland and coastal shrubland. Low marsh zones are dominated by tall form or low form salt marsh cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora). High marsh zones are dominated by salt meadow grass (Spartina patens), black rush (Juncus gerardii), and salt grass (Distichlis spicata). The marsh overlies glacial recessional moriane or outwash deposits. Small areas of this glacial till are exposed at the surface within the marsh as small islands vegetated with shrub and tree species. These small areas, along with salt pannes, tidal creeks, and intertidal flats add a diversity of habitat attributes that render this system important to a wide array of avifauna.

Land Use

The Succotash Marsh is operated as a state management area. Waterfowl hunting is permitted in the marsh. Outside of waterfowl hunting season, the marsh is often explored by ecotourists via kayak. The marsh is a renown birding destination in Rhode Island, but access is limited to surrounding roadways or via kayak.

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