Full Manisses Moon

Wed, 09/28/2011 - 4:18pm

October is a month of reacquaintances and stunning beauty.

Exhibit no. 1: It has been nearly a year since we’ve had the pleasure of greeting our old friend Northern Blazing Star (Liatris borealis). This lovely plant (both rare and native) thrives in some of the island’s most austere soils: morainal grasslands, which are sandy dry mixtures lacking rich organic material. A slow romp among the island’s grasslands and roadsides in late September and early October will reveal many encounters with this beauty. Typically this plant is one to four feet tall; and a single stem will support as many as 20 flower heads, each comprised of dozens of individual, tiny, tubular, purple flowers. On a recent scouting walk in search of my old friend Liatris borealis, I located at least a hundred plants in several locations. However, only one plant (within 10 feet of a home containing barking dogs) was found to have a complete stalk of 18-plus flower heads. All other plants seen while afield contained only one to three flower heads, and were cropped to within six to eight inches from the ground.

Exhibit  no. 2: With the onset of the fall bird migration, October provides not only the chance to see bird species not seen in months or even a year, but also the opportunity to see bird-watching friends that sojourn to our shores on an annual basis. At the Block Island Banding station I’m just as eager to see the Audubon Society of RI’s fall birding group, individual birders such as Hugh Willoughby, and the “MIT women” who have visited during the same week for decades, as I am to see the season’s first nuthatches, white-throated sparrows or myrtle warblers. All will return in October to see us through the winter.

Exhibit no. 3: October is rich with subtle beauty. The month starts with the island awash in goldenrods and ends with a landscape that is punctuated with clumps and fields of shimmering switch grass (Panicum virgatum). And in between these calendar dates, the shad leaves will turn coppery and golden, winterberries will turn red against spreading grey branches, and the stone walls will be edged with ochre-red-maroon-purple toned garlands of Virginia creeper, bittersweet and poison ivy. October will also bring spates of crisp air, and maybe a true Indian summer day (a 70 degree day following the first frost).

As an observer of Block Island days, I long ago pinpointed October 23 as THE most beautiful day in a Block Island year. Of course there are exceptions, but it is my experience that the combination of the season’s light, the subtle foliage change, the reflection of a late-day autumn sun against the clear royal and azure ocean, and the crisp, crackling air coalesce to create a stunning day on, or about, October 23.

Block Island October nights can be equal in their magnificence. The clear air can make the night sky shimmer with glinting stars. The peak of the Orionid meteor showers will occur between October 21 and 23. The best time to view these fast bright meteors will be between 11 p.m. as the constellation Orion rises in the east and before the moon rises (approx. 2 a.m.). What a great way to greet and welcome the return of Orion to our evening and night sky.

In keeping with this series of Animal, Vegetable, Mineral articles I propose adding a Block Island full moon name. Instead of the traditional “hunters moon,” the October full moon should celebrate the island at its most splendid beauty, and thus be named for the island itself: Manisses moon.

The following October events and Ocean View Foundations programs will reconnect you with the stunning — day and night — beauty of Block Island.


Oct. 4 and 18, at 8 a.m.: Crazy-as-a-Coot Bird Walk, call 595-7055 for location.

Oct. 12 – Full Manisses Moon

Oct. 16 – 12th annual Community Pot Luck

Oct. 22 at 7:30 p.m. – Night Sky Viewing, Hodge Preserve, Corn Neck Road (poor weather date: Oct. 23)

Oct. 23 – the most beautiful day in a Block Island year.

Oct. 26 – New Block Island Moon

Save the date: Nov. 6 – Mystery Walk Fundraiser, call 595-7055 to sign up.


Go to Oceanviewfoundation.org for schedule details & follow us on FaceBook!