Block Island Flora & Fauna: Comments on Identification

Sun, 07/31/2016 - 3:00pm

The worse my drawings were, the more beautiful did the originals appear.

John James Audubon


     To know – recognize and name – Block Island’s flora and fauna is a huge undertaking; possibly impossible. However, like any large endeavor, the trick is to approach it in small steps, and enjoy the little bits of progress: and, the Ocean View Foundation can help.
Flora – Of course there are thousands of plants to be found and identified on the island. There are two ways to start learning them: one is to get a field guide of wildflowers of New England from the library or bookstore, or check out GoBotany on the internet. The second way – and arguably, the more enjoyable and successful way – is to attend Ocean View Foundation’s Wild & Native Wildflower Walk. This weekly stroll around the O.V.F Pavilion site will introduce you to the wildflowers of the week, will discuss the micro habitats and ecosystems of Block Island’s landscape and which flowers are found there, and will discuss the difference between native plants, introduced and naturalized plants, and invasive plants.
Fauna – Now for the critters, again, there are thousands to be seen – but very few mammals. One of the most interesting things about the fauna on Block Island is, what is not here: no squirrels, no fox, no opossum, no groundhog, no-most-small-mammals-found-on-mainland. Deer, mice, rats, muskrats, meadow voles: yes. However, there is no shortage of animals on, and around, the island. Lots of marine mammals, fish and crustaceans can be seen in the inshore waters. There are three types of snakes, three types of turtles, and three species of amphibians on the island’s land mass and wetlands; and, of course, many avian species such as birds and bats spend part of their life cycle loosely tethered to the island. And then, there are the insects: beetles, moths, butterflies, bees, wasps, ants – oh my!
To identify the fauna, you will need several field guides and/or internet resources. Or, better yet, you can learn about a new Block Island animal each week at Ocean View Foundation’s Art & Nature. A live model – turtle, snake, moth, meadow vole, fish, etc. – colored pencils, and paper will be provided for a relaxing morning of nature sketching and learning about the critter of the day.
Whether learning the name of a new flower, or noticing that painted turtles have webbed feet, these Ocean View Foundation programs will delight you with new revelations about this island oasis. And, with each new discovery you will become intrigued by what else there is to learn about the island’s unique ecosystems. You may even discover that knowing the species’ name is not nearly as rewarding as appreciating its beauty and the wonder of its existence.
Note: OVF’s Wild & Native program is held every Monday at 11 a.m.; and Art & Nature is held every Friday at 10 a.m. Both programs are held at the Ocean View Pavilion, in the Old Harbor, off Water St. For information: call 401-595-7055, or go to