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Beauty Plus Rats: The Norman Bird Sanctuary

By Katy Killilea

hangingrockWe drove by it a million times on the way to the beach this summer. Now, at last, we have tried it.  And we loved it: the Norman Bird Sanctuary in Middletown. On a chilly Saturday morning, my family (two parents, two kids, ages 5 and 7) headed over to this gorgeous spot on Third Beach Road.

Let me tell you what the kids did: they joined a class (six kids in all) during which they touched a rat, portrayed a mosquito and a beetle in a living food chain, and went on a hike through one of the loveliest patches of squidgy mud in Rhode Island. Both kids had breathless, laughing fun.

Let me tell you what my husband and I did while the kids were in class: we hiked alone on some of the sanctuary’s seven miles of trails and discussed our mortality for two hours. Our choices were scaling Hanging Rock (pictured) or going to Home Depot to buy screws.  Obviously, we made the right choice and I barely remember why we thought we wanted screws. (Electrical outlets can go a few more weeks without their covers.)

Meandering and rat-touching were just what my family needed, and the Norman Bird Sanctuary delivered. I know we’ll go back soon.

The details:

norman-bird-sanctuary-logoNorman Bird Sanctuary
583 Third Beach Road, Middletown, RI 02842
Phone: 401-846-2577
Membership: $50/family.
Trail fees: $5/adult, $2/child. (Members and children under four free.)
“Eco Explorers” two-hour kids’ classes: $8/child (Less for members.)
See a complete listing of classes here.

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  • Thanks to you, a friend and her son joined me and my daughter on the most beautiful hike I’ve taken in Rhode Island. When we reached the end, the cynic in me whined, “Wow, it would be perfect if it weren’t for the roar of cars on a nearby road.” The roar was actually the ocean crashing on Second Beach. That shut me up. Can’t wait to return — probably for the Eco-Explorers class this Saturday.