Celebrate R.I. Natural History Week

Events from Nov. 2 – 10
Fri, 11/01/2013 - 1:26pm

Where better to celebrate Natural History Week than right here on Block Island?

The selection of the first week of November, by Gubernatorial Proclamation, seems especially fitting for us here. Keen observers will notice many changes in the natural environment in early November, not the least of which is the golden light reflecting off tawny and rubrus grasses, ornately adorned by tufts and cowlicks of seed heads.

In a walk afield you will note that the bird populations have shifted from colorful and flitty warblers and elegant shore birds to sturdy sparrows and sanderlings. Squealing and diving terns have moved on, and now — in early November — hooded mergansers and ruddy ducks have appeared. Just as the constellation Scorpio has now been ushered out of the night sky by the appearance of Orion, an age-old cycle of revolution.

These shifts occur in the ocean as well: lobsters and horseshoe crabs are moving to deeper water, and for the skillful angler striped bass are moving into striking distance from the shore.

The practice of natural history is based on curiosity and observation – basic skills that most possess, especially children, we are all potentially natural historians. Have you ever raised an ant farm, collected shells at the shore, arranged a wildflower bouquet, counted how many deer you saw in an evening or birds at a bird feeder, dug a piece of old peat out of a bog, or painted a landscape? If you have done any of these things you are a member of the legion of naturalists.

The practice of natural history observations is of course fun; it is also very useful. David Gregg, Director of the R.I. Natural History Survey explains it well:

“Without natural history, we would have no idea what species of animals and plants occur in the state, what the distribution and viability of their populations are, or whether that distribution and viability is trending up, down, or staying the same. We would have not data or language with which to describe the impact of climate change on our biological resources. We would not know whether any particular species was here historically or is in fact a potentially destructive, recently arrived, invasive pest or pathogen.”

To paraphrase a friend’s recent statement: field biologists are great! They are so passionate and industrious about their work. We all can be, and probably are, field biologists and natural history practitioners at some points in our lives. So, get curious and observant and enjoy the upcoming Natural History Week.

For more opportunities to celebrate Natural History Week join these Ocean View Foundation, and other’s, events and programs:

Nov. 5 at 8 a.m. Crazy-as-a-Coot Bird Walk

Nov. 8 at the Quonset O Club, RINHS will present a public lecture by Eric Dinerstein (Chief scientist with the World Wildlife Fund)

Nov. 10 at 1p.m. Elizabeth Dickens and Her Birds (guided visit to the E.D. bird collection at the Block Island School.