Audubon Education Center, Bristol RI

I finally took the time to try to find the Audubon Education Center again. Last time I tried to find it was back  in the spring and I never did locate it. Got some great pictures of swans but didn’t find the center. So Today was a beautiful day, low humidity, a nice breeze, sunny, 80+…what more could you ask for on a summer afternoon? A good day to get lost…correction, go sight-seeing.

According to mapquest, and anyone who has ever used mapquest know that’s not the most reliable source, but anyway, according to mapquest the Center is about 30 minutes from my home. Perfect. So after lunch at about 1:30 I hopped in the car and headed off. Everything was fine until I got to the intersection of RT 103 & 136. There was supposed to be a RT 114 but there wasn’t any. I know where 114 is near the MT. Hope bridge so I drove down there.

I even crossed the bridge but there was no Hope St. I turned around in the parking lot for  Mount Hope Animal Hospital so I decided to stop in there and ask.

It was back over the bridge but just past Roger Williams University I took a left fork. That was RT 114 North. It’s a beautiful road. In fact the sign called it Scenic RT 114. It is also Hope St! Yeah, making progress, sort of. I was on the wrong end. The house numbers were in the 200’s. I was looking for 1401. Got a ways to go. Good thing it’s Scenic. 🙂

I made one stop because I spotted a great white egret in a pond by the side of the road. It was wading around and catching fish. It was getting a very good lunch. I sat on a stone wall and took pictures for a while.

It reminded me of my last trip to Florida. Finally I  figured it was time to move on or I wouldn’t get to the Center today either.

The road follows the coastline and then turns inland a little to pass through a section of little shops.

Leaving the “village” behind I eventually spotted the sign for the Audubon Center.

 It’s a beautiful new building with class rooms and a gift shop. Adult admission is only $6.00 and if you have AAA you get $1.00 off that. After I paid my admission I talked with a volunteer for a bit. Turns out that I didn’t have to pay the admission if I only wanted to walk the trail. That’s free. The admission is for the exhibits.

I didn’t mind paying it this time as I wanted to check everything out. The first exhibit was really cool. I could see kids getting a big kick out of it. Behind a darkened glass is a diorama of a cornfield. There are 3 lighted buttons. When you press them a section of the cornfield lights up. There’s skunk, an owl and a 3rd animal. Then there is the meadow exhibit and a Woodchuck Den that you can walk into and look around. There’s a salt marsh

 and a tidal pool.

They have raptors like hawks

and owls.

There’s a sculpture of the seals

that make their home in the bay and a huge Right Whale. The fish exhibits are live fish.

Leaving the center you follow the path to the trail and travel through all of the different habitats.

They have a butterfly garden too.

You enter through a hedge tunnel and find little benches where you can sit surrounded by flowers and watch the butterflies and bees. I saw loads of Monarch butterflies and even one yellow Swallowtail butterfly.

Growing up I collected  butterflies and I would have loved to see a Swallow Tail alive like that.

I wandered down past the meadow

and as I approached the woods that led to the marsh I spotted a large bird over the tree tops. I wasn’t sure if it was a hawk or an ospry but it was clearly a predator. I suspected a hawk because I think it was too far inland for the osprey but I could be wrong. It was out of sight very quickly so I turned my attention to the path entering the woods.

I liked the boardwalk over the marsh. It’s the longest part of the trail. It ends at Narragansett Bay. The grasses are taller than I am. There were wildflowers sprinkled through the cattail and sea grass.

The trail is about 7/10 of a mile so it isn’t long or hard, perfect for a leisurely stroll.

 I watched some boat traffic on the bay and then turned around to retrace my steps.

As I looked at the green algae-covered marsh I wondered if anything was alive in there with the water so low. As if in answer a little head poked up and there was a frog.

 I looked a bit more and spotted several other frogs. In the brush by the water I saw some kind of bird moving too.

As I left the forest to rejoin the meadow I spooked the same hawk again. This time it was a lot closer. It took off from the tall grass and brush right in front of the trees. I must have jumped a mile, I bobbled the camera and when I actually got it in my hands realized it wasn’t even turned on. Mr. Hawk wasn’t waiting around for me to get my act together so I missed a great shot.

I continued to trudge up the path as I mentally chastised myself for such a stupid mistake. Some wildlife photographer I’d make! Past experience has taught me to always be ready with the camera ON! See what happens when you break that basic rule?

Anyway a little farther up the path was a bench. I thought, I’ve seen him twice. He was clearly feeding  this time. If I sit quietly could I be lucky enough to see him a 3rd time? I decided to give him 1/2 hour to return. I got the camera ready and settled in to wait. It didn’t take 1/2 hour. It was only about 10 minutes when I spotted him winging back toward the brush. Unfortunately he was keeping the trees behind him and staying in shadow. No way to get a picture.

He flew into the trees and I just sat quietly waiting. Another 10 minutes went by. I was just about to give up when he shot out of the trees and up into the sky giving me a clear shot. Because of the angle of the sun it would have to be a silhouette but I’ll take what I can get.

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That was the last chance. He made a couple of passes over me and then took off behind the tree line.I could hear his “keee keee” call so I knew he was gone for now. It was almost 5 pm anyway and the Visitor Center hours end at 5 pm. Time to head home.

Going home I followed RT 114 north through East Providence until it crossed RT 44. I made a right on RT 44 and was homeward bound. Much easier  if a little longer than Mapquest’s directions.

The Audubon Educational Center is located at 1401 Hope St, Bristol, RI and is a great place to spend an afternoon.

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