Tag Archives: Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge

Building a garden paradise for pollinators in Rhode Island and in your own backyard

This week is National Pollinator Week (June 19-24), and here at the USFWS we are excited to be joining in on the celebration because we know how critical it is to keep pollinators around. They are incredibly important to human life, as they are essential to growing the food we eat. According to a 2016 study from the USDA, more than 90 species of U.S. specialty crops require pollination. If you eat honey, peaches, berries, or even coffee, thank a pollinator. But unfortunately, their numbers are declining, which could eventually impact the availability of these dietary staples. The good news is that you can help protect them by providing the habitat and food resources they need to survive!

So what can you do to help? It’s simple: build a pollinator garden. With a little planning and some shopping, you can design and build your very own pollinator garden and play host to so many wonderful pollinators, including bees, butterflies, birds, bats, and other small animals and insects.  All it takes is a little work, and you can provide a versatile habitat for these animals.


Credit: Susan Wojtowicz/ USFWS

Tips to starting your pollinator garden:

Use plants native to where you live 

Native plants attract native pollinators. A successful and thriving pollinator garden needs to have both. Native plants are great because they are already adapted to survive in the local climate and soil, and attract the right pollinators.

Unsure about the plants native to where you live? We have provided you with a list of plants native to the Northeast Region (New England states and eastern New York) and to the Mid-Atlantic Region (Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.). You can also visit your local garden store or nursery for recommendations on the types of plants that are best suited to your area.

Plant in clusters to create a “target’ for pollinators to find

Birds, bats, bees, and butterflies (and many others) can’t pollinate a flower if they can’t find it. This is where you can help: try planting large, concentrated clusters of the same plant species, rather than one single plant. This makes it easier for passing pollinators to see them and stop.


While this photo wasn’t taken at a pollinator garden it is a good example of using a variety of plants to attract pollinators. The two plants shown are Jesup’s Milk Vetch (the lilac-colored flower) and Red Columbine (the red and yellow flower) both of which get help from pollinators. Credit: USFWS

Interested in attracting butterflies to your pollinator garden? Here are 7 tips for creating a successful monarch butterfly pollinator garden

Use a variety of plants in your garden

Like us, pollinators need a place to rest and a place to eat. You can help provide this oasis by planting a mixture of native host plants and nectar plants. This variety will provide the necessary food and shelter that many different types of pollinators need to survive. Make your garden habitat a one-stop-shop for pollinators.


Skipper butterfly on a garden phlox at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Philadelphia, PA. Credit: Frank Miles/USFWS

If you want to learn more about how to create a pollinator-friendly landscape click here

Avoid or limit the use of pesticides in your garden

Remember that harmful chemicals have no place in your garden habitat. Pesticides can kill more than the target pest; they can also kill the very pollinators you are trying to attract. If you find you are having a pest problem, try introducing native predators (for example, praying mantis) into your garden and let them eat the pests.


Credit: Susan Wojtowicz/ USFWS

Still needing inspiration?

We have good news! With close to 72 National Wildlife Refuges in the Northeast region alone- from Virginia to Maine- you are all but guaranteed to find a amazing example of a pollinator garden near you.

One of these incredible pollinator gardens is at Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge in Rhode Island. Here you can explore four native-plant pollinator gardens designed for different environmental conditions including: a shade garden, wet garden, sun garden and butterfly garden. Visitors are encouraged to walk among the beautiful native wildflowers, grasses, and shrubs abuzz with bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and songbirds, and take in the plants, animals, and habitats native to the State. The gardens are located next to the Kettle Pond Visitor Center.

Check out these photos taken at the garden at Ninigret NWR below

Or you can attend a public tour of the native plant garden at Ninigret NWR on Saturday , June 23 and learn how you can incorporate native plants to your garden.

We hope this has inspired you to build your very own backyard pollinator garden.


Reflecting on Latino Conservation Week

Over the last two weeks, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to work in the Service’s Northeast regional office in External Affairs (EA). My primary focus during my time in EA was writing blog posts for this blog. I am especially proud to have covered Latino Conservation Week for my first authored blog post, as part of my personal mission is to engage, educate, and inspire people of all ethnicities to appreciate and conserve wildlife.

Latino Conservation Week, a Hispanic Access Foundation initiative, is of paramount importance for providing underrepresented communities with opportunities to connect with the environment. I truly believe that a passion for conservation is developed through personal experiences with nature, and Hispanic Access Foundation interns work to develop and execute events to foster this development. I was fortunate to have been able to attend two events during the week hosted by fellow interns Ivette Lopez and Michael Bonilla.

I visited the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge in Connecticut for Ivette Lopez’s “Explorando la Naturaleza: New Haven Community Visit to Outer Island” event. For many of the 36 LEAP summer camp kids, traveling to Outer Island via boat was a first time experience. Their bravery and excitement was an inspiring way to kickoff the day.

Ivette Lopez pauses for a photo with participants who just collected crabs for the first time! Photo by Kelsey Mackey.

Upon arrival, the kids participated in a birding workshop where they learned to use binoculars to identify bird species that inhabit the island. Additionally, the kids learned how to sample water and test for water quality parameters, including pH. My favorite part of the day was when the kids were asked to collect crabs from the beach. Many of the participants had never had the opportunity to see crabs up close, never mind touch them! At first there were many screams and shrieks as kids got close to touching the crabs, but after just minutes they were eager to collect as many crabs as possible. It was extremely heartening and fulfilling to witness the transformation in these kids, in just a matter of minutes! They went from being genuinely afraid of these sea creatures to enthusiastically moving rocks to uncover the biggest crab they could find. Being able to witness their shift in perspective toward wildlife was a true honor, and instilled an incredible sense of pride in me to be able to be a part of such a powerful movement- Latino Conservation Week!

I also visited Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge in support of Michael Bonilla’s event, “Enseñame a Pescar: Providence Community Visit to Kettle Pond / Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge”. Michael led local families and Providence YWCA kids on guided walks around Kettle Pond, where participants learned to identify and distinguish native plant species, amphibians, and birds, many of which they had never seen before. Michael showed the kids how to use binoculars, and how to “silently” walk through the forest in search of birds. It was especially great to see the kids struggle to contain their immense excitement each time a bird was spotted, as they clearly wanted to jump for joy! It really exemplified how enthusiastic and passionate they were about seeing a different bird species for the first time, but also their ability to recognize the importance of respecting the birds’ environment as not to disturb it. They understood that minimizing disturbance was for the mutual benefit of both the bird and themselves, an invaluable lesson to encompass at such a young age on coexisting with wildlife. It was an imperative reminder that today’s youth are the future of conservation, and experiences like these help inspire them to love and appreciate nature, and to work to protect it throughout their lifetime.

Michael Bonilla leads a guided bird walk. Photo by Kelsey Mackey.

It’s opportunities like these that connect people with the natural world, and inspire them to become environmental stewards to ensure a future where people can have these same experiences with nature. For the participants, the Latino Conservation Week events instilled excitement toward interacting with the environment, and created positive, lasting memories for years to come. Thank you Ivette and Michael for bringing these opportunities to the New Haven and Providence communities, and for highlighting the Latino passion for the outdoors, role in conservation, and improving the lives for this generation and the next!

Follow these incredible interns all summer as they share their stories of conservation and outreach!